I do not often consult the site’s statistics, so it was with some surprise that I noted we had over 3000 posts and more than 1000 followers, with something like 85,000 comments. Some colleagues who know of my connection with this place have queried why I bother with it, and why I spend any time here rather than on more prestigious endeavours I might devote that time to. Part of the answer is duty. I was asked to take on this site, and having said I would, I am not one to let people down. The other part is to do with the small community gathered here. Across a number of years many of you have become friends, and being of an irenic caste of mind myself, I find the somewhat eclectic nature of this community a welcome thing. The Internet can easily become either an echo chamber or a battle-ground, not least where religion is concerned; indeed, some of the intra-Catholic sniping is enough to make anyone wonder what the point of being a member of such a Church might be. Despite its occasional asperities, this site has turned into a place where Christians from a variety of backgrounds can share their experiences, and write about them without having to worry too much about trolls.

I have noticed a series of blog posts elsewhere where bloggers write about the difficulty of keeping a blog going, and I must say I have much sympathy with them. I am blessed here, in the absence of Jessica and Geoffrey Sales (who, incidentally, sends his best to all who remember him, but is busy caring for his wife), with friends who will write their pieces, and would like to thank Neo, in particular, for stepping into the breach on numerous occasions; which is not to say I am not grateful to Scoop, Nicholas, Philip Augustine and Fr Malcolm for their contributions, because I am – they all help give this place its unique flavour.

As I was looking at the statistics, I also noted that the blog began in May 2012, so by the standard of these things it has been about quite a while, and many of the early followers are no longer running blogs. That’s understandable. We all, perhaps, only have so much we want to say, and even the best and most creative amongst us repeats material. But the dialogue here, as for example about what it means to ‘be saved’, is helpful precisely because it draws in people who do not share one’s own theological predilections. Like many, my theology is largely the result of reading and discussion across the years, and there is nothing systematic about it. In some ways that’s a good thing, as it keeps the mind open, but the mind can be too open in so far as there never was a heresy that did not come to someone from their own ‘personal’ understanding of the Faith. That’s why, for me, the Church is the necessary corrective.

That last is, of course, one of the reasons why some of the intra-Catholic dialogue can be so bitter. When people know there is faith with a teaching magisterium, they understandably get upset to find that some of those within it look as though they are trying to undermine it. Much is heard about ‘mercy’ at the moment. One mercy would be an end to such things.