Notebook

Freethinking

At the age of 92, George Bernard Shaw pronounced this considered judgement upon his friend, the formidable (and admirable) Abbess Laurentia McLachlan of Stanbrook: ‘though you are an enclosed nun you have not an enclosed mind’. Twenty-four years earlier, in 1925, when Shaw had contended that the Catholic Church has not space for Freethinkers, Dame Laurentia objected: ‘I said that to my mind no thinker was free as a Catholic – the limitations being in the direction of good sense and ensuring right thinking; it is not freedom to be able to think contrary to objective truth.’

About to make profession, at nineteen years of age, Dame Laurentia and her novice companion received a note from Dom Laurence Shepherd, a monk who had done much to affirm the community’s contemplative vocation: ‘Tell them they must be saints. They must be grand Benedictines of the seventh century.’ A call heeded.