The most fragrant and blessed Christian presence on social media has entered into paradise.
Our heads are bowed; a thousand teardrops mingle with the rain, and the world is a little colder for her passing.
Sr Catherine Wybourne OSB was a Benedictine nun, prioress of Howton Grove Priory, Herefordshire, but known to tens of thousands on Twitter as the fun-loving, pontificating technophile Digitalnun. She had been ‘tidying her sock drawer‘ over the past month, since receiving the news that doctors could do no more for her. And at that sad announcement, a few Twitter fingers quivered as they typed their good wishes, and more than a few tears were shed in prayer and deep sorrow. But no obits, she pleaded. No nonsense, no fuss, and no blubbing over her minor travails: there’s stuff to take care of.
To her many adoring followers, it didn’t seem quite right or real that she might soon leave us. It wasn’t possible that this light might one day be put out. Why? Why take away this glorious social-media witness to grace and peace? Why so soon?
Why, Lord, why?
But as we troubled ourselves with ourselves, her mind was turned as ever toward others: their burdens, their pains, their practicalities, their prayer needs. She only wanted to care for others, and to fill the world with love.
She left a few thank yous and an apology:
The God in whom I believe is much bigger, and so much more fun, than we often allow him to be. I thank him for letting me be a Benedictine, which has been the supreme joy of my life, for the friendships he has inspired and the graces he has poured out on me despite my stubbornness and lack of co-operation. I ought to thank him for the difficulties, too, but I don’t ‘do’ piety. Brutal honesty is more my line. I know he understands.
..I’m sorry for the times I have hurt or offended people. I think I can honestly claim never to have done so intentionally and hope you will forgive me. Forgiveness and reconciliation achieve much more than division, condemnation or insults, and what our world needs now is surely a more lively sense of our common humanity and a readiness to change.
..My delight in poetry, music and the natural world is undiminished. My mind may be slower than it once was but I still enjoy engaging with ideas and arguments. I love the daily monastic round which is the weft and warp of my life. Our garden continues to be a source of joy and I remain quite soppy about dogs, P.B.G.V.s and Bassets Fauve de Bretagne. No surprises there! When I spoke to my sister on the ‘phone to give her my news, she gladdened my heart by laughing through her tears, so I hope my ability to see the funny side of life will continue. And if you don’t like my humour, tough. If I feel well enough, I may be online occasionally but there are many practical problems absorbing the community’s time and energy just now. So I suppose I’d better start tidying that sock drawer. Or maybe I’ll just go and talk to the dog.
Thank you for reading this. May God bless you all,
It is hard to grasp what a profound loss Sr Catherine will be to the Benedictine Nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery in Herefordshire; but truly, truly hard to express what a loss Digitalnun will be to the global community of Christian bloggers and tweeters. Her daily requests to know the prayer needs of tweeps were unending, and her prayers for the whole world were constant – even this morning, right to the end.
Digitalnun was breathing the Rule of St Benedict and interceding for people she had never met even as the Lord was whispering in her ear that it was time to come home. She just liked people, as her Twitter bio says. Actually, she loved people. She loved dogs, too. Here she is with Bro. Duncan, PBGV, who sadly died and used to tweet from beyond on his own Twitter account.
In the morning and in the evening, she filled the sewer of Twitter with the fragrance of Christ, and we are heartbroken.
Goodbye, dear Sister Catherine; our dearest Digitalnun.
May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs greet you at your arrival
and lead you into the holy City of Jerusalem.
May the choir of Angels greet you
and like Lazarus, who once was a poor man,
may you have eternal rest.