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Catholics, Orthodox, & Ben Op, Part 2

A reader writes:

I’m a Roman Catholic Seminarian studying for the Priesthood. I really appreciate your work. I just wanted to a) respond to your post b) ask you a question.

I think that you are essentially right; Catholicism and Orthodoxy both have the tools to survive the upcoming storm. But like a man with a big beautiful garage full of wonderful wood-working gear, it won’t really matter what fancy tools we have unless we use them. I think there are increasingly more young men studying for the priesthood (in the Catholic side of things) who are very faithful and orthodox Christians, and who want to use the tools at hand. Most of them are associate pastors and seminarians right now, but hopefully we will see some changes in the near future at the parish level.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that things will be easy for them. They will have to deal with a Church infrastructure designed in the 19th century which is rapidly fading; we have too many churches, built in a time when people had to walk to get to church, and not enough parishioners to support them all. I know a young priest who has four country parishes to minister to and is the vocation director for his diocese. I don’t know how he will be able to build a rich Catholic community with all that work, but by God he is trying.

Additionally, I notice in the commentary that some readers think that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is not capable of providing the rich liturgical backbone for any Ben Op community. I would disagree, though I will admit I understand why they say that; there are a lot of boring masses, and a lot of study, silly things can happen in a parish during the mass. But I think that the Ordinary form, done with reverence, can be just as powerful as any other Liturgical rite out there. I might be a little biased though, that is the rite I am studying!

Which leads me to my question: What should pastors and those studying for the priesthood do to build up rich, fervent communities of dedicated Christians? It sounds strange, but you often hear about discussion about what the Laity can do (which is fantastic) but I am thinking about the Ben Op from a pastor’s point of view.

What a good question. It brings to mind something a Catholic parish priest friend told me 15 years ago: that the laity has no idea at all about the crisis coming their way — meaning the priest shortage. The numbers don’t lie, he said, but the laity carries on as if what they have today is going to go on forever.

Anyway, I agree with you about the Novus Ordo, believe it or not, because I have seen it celebrated with great reverence — especially by Father Paul Weinberger out in Greenville, Texas. Making a successful Ben Op dependent on the Traditional Latin Mass is unnecessary and futile. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the TLM for Catholics who want it. I just don’t believe it’s strictly necessary. That said, that’s not an argument for me, but for Catholics.

What could priests and pastors (including Evangelical pastors) do for the Benedict Option? Here are some thoughts that come to mind:

    • Prepare their congregations for hard times to come. No need to get all End Times about it — that would be counterproductive. But start talking in concrete terms about how important it is to double down on studying Scripture, church teaching, church history, and the lives of the saints.
    • Build a culture of prayer and contemplation. Spiritual progress does not come without inner stillness, which is something very difficult to find these days. Churches tend to be very good at teaching people how to be Martha (that is, active in the world), but not so good at teaching people how to be Mary (that is, still, contemplative, present with Jesus). For many of us (this is certainly true about me), we think that we are doing the Lord’s work when we are reading theology or blogging, et cetera, when in fact we may be undermining ourselves and our Christian commitment by neglecting our prayer lives.
    • Talk about what makes Christians different from the world, and the risk of losing our distinctiveness, and indeed our faith, through assimilation. Far too many of us prefer to live in a bubble, thinking that everything will always be this way. It won’t be. Which distinctives are important to hold on to? Where is the threat of assimilation coming from? How do we meet it?
    • Take your parish school to the classical model. It falls to the Christian churches to preserve the heritage of the West. More importantly, classical Christian education provides a powerful counternarrative to what the world says the human person is. Education will be a prime locus of resistance to post-Christianity.
    • Encourage community building, in part through doing traditional liturgies, communal prayers, and feasts. We need to thicken our communities, including our ties to the church of the ages, by reacquainting ourselves with traditional Christian culture. Read this Robert Louis Wilken essay for an idea of what we need to be doing.  [1] I just received this e-mail from an Evangelical who runs a school:I attended a well-regarded evangelical seminary. While there we learned that one of the great errors of the old missionary movements was the transmission of culture in addition to the Gospel.Why it did not dawn on me (or anyone else) that the moment we cross a border with a book, we are importing a culture, I do not know. I suppose only knowledge heavy, analytical math types (my seminary had many) would think they can reduce the Gospel to the affirmation of propositions. To this day, many evangelical seminarians are great analyzers of the text but have trouble putting it back together into a story that affects the culture and inhabits a people. Do Greek Orthodox believers have discussions about leaving culture behind while taking the Gospel?After reading you and Jamie Smith, it is clear that culture is much harder to divorce from the Gospel than many had hoped or envisioned. There are cultural practices that either support or do not support Christianity. In typical evangelical Protestant ignorance, we abandoned traditional culture and norms without realizing that something would necessarily take its place! Its like abandoning liturgy but having the same you’ll-be-damned-if-you-change-it order of service every Sunday.

      It is obvious to me now as a school principal that if we are going to direct the loves of our children that culture is the very thing we need to preserve. The practices of the old tradition were amenable to the necessary philosophical underpinnings of Christianity. Unfortunately, our youth programs in churches abandoned any adherence to the norms and traditions of Christianity and adopted progressive views of education from public schools. Youth group often amounted to nothing more than having a good time with emotive moments of commitment while transferring Christian content and encouraging children not to do bad things.

      Take the entertainment god as an example. The love for unbridled and unabated entertainment enabled by the always-on-Internet has been co-opted by many youth pastors. All the while, this god requires us to think only of the pleasures of entertainment while ignoring that we are physical and spiritual beings with an obligation to self-sacrificial works which ennoble the soul. What good does it do to teach Christian content in a medium which teaches that pleasure is the ultimate goal of existence?

      In my experience, Catholics are no better at this (despite having more resources), and neither are a lot of Orthodox churches. We all have to do better. All of us.

    • Bring back fasting. Catechizing congregations on the importance of asceticism is critically important. All Christians used to fast at the appropriate times in the church calendar. They should again. It’s important.
    • Don’t fear hard teaching. You will offend lots of people if you talk about what the church teaches, especially in the areas of sin that are most likely to have captured your congregation. If people leave, they leave. They were bound to do so anyway. If you preach right, you will call some to repentance, and you will encourage those who are trying to do the right thing — and especially you will encourage parents who are trying to teach their kids the faith. They (we) need to know that the church is behind us.
    • Present the Christian life as a pilgrimage and an adventure. As something that cannot be reduced to rituals and moralism. As something that offers a real and powerful alternative to the emptiness of mainstream post-Christian culture. I did not know until I was an adult that there was more to Christianity than that, and that it was accessible to me as an ordinary believer, though I would have to work at it.
    • Talk about real life. One grows weary of sermons that are perfectly good on paper, but that have no apparent application to the challenging lives people actually live.
    • Challenge your congregation to get its hands dirty. I often tell the story about sitting around my Brooklyn apartment circa 2000, griping with some Catholic friends about the mediocrity of the institutional church and parish life. There was an orthodox Catholic priest present, and he said, “Everything you say is true, but you know what? That means that you guys have to step up.” He told the story about how his parents, raising him in the 1970s, could see the collapse of catechesis in their parish, and took it upon themselves to educate him and his siblings in the faith. The priest continued, “You can go onto Amazon.com tonight and order a library that Aquinas couldn’t have dreamed of, and have it delivered to your door. The resources are out there. Stop complaining and do something for yourselves.” I’ve never forgotten that. You, as a pastor, cannot be expected to do it all yourself. We in the laity have to step up. It was true in 2000, and it’s especially true in 2017.

Those are some thoughts off the top of my head. What do you orthodox Catholic, and believing Orthodox, readers think? Do you have some more suggestions? If you want to see the church liberalize, please withhold your comments on this thread.

(I wouldn’t mind hearing from conservative Evangelical readers too.)

87 Comments (Open | Close)

87 Comments To "Catholics, Orthodox, & Ben Op, Part 2"

#1 Comment By Caroline Gissler On February 15, 2017 @ 6:35 pm

How are you going to weave Hispanic Catholicism, on the way to becoming the American Catholicism, into the Benedict Option, remembering that not all of us speak Spanish nor are we all comfortable with Hispanic devotions. One might ask the same about Filipino American Catholics.

#2 Comment By Peregrinus On February 15, 2017 @ 6:43 pm

He is absolutely correct about the Orindary Form. I am Orthodox, so I am used to all the razzle-dazzle of the Byzantine rite, in English. But I attended the ordinary form mass at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Portland, OR just this past Sunday for the Arvo Part festival performed by Cappella Romana. Nine of their choir members sung Part’s Missa Syllabica (the Orindary of the Mass) while the priest celebrated the ordinary form in English facing the altar. It was sublime and convinced me that the liturgy among Catholics is far from beyond recovery, and that the TLM is honestly not all it is cracked up to be. A reverent NO is far preferrable to a by-the-book TLM; again, I say that as an Orthodox and not as an insider who has to deal with felt banners and God knows what else on any given Sunday.

By the way, the priest gave an incredible homily. The house was packed with irreligious who only came to hear Part’s music. But this did not stop Fr. John from sharing his experience the day before at the anti-Planned Parenthood protests. Not only this, but gave a firm but gracious presentation of traditional Christian morality (insolubility of marriage, sanctity of life, etc.) – all of this in the heart of one of America’s most radicalized cities in one of the bluest states! He would have soon convinced me to become a Catholic, myself. May such courage mark the leadership of tomorrow’s church and all Christian communities.

#3 Comment By Art Deco On February 15, 2017 @ 6:58 pm

The suggestions are fine. Cannot say about Orthodoxy. Eastern-rite Catholic clergy in my observation commonly undertake a number of items on this list (e.g. promoting fasting), if not the whole monty. As a rule, Novus Ordo clergy will not do these things. Because they just don’t feel like it.

#4 Comment By dominic1955 On February 15, 2017 @ 7:15 pm

From the time I was in and from my priest friends near and far, if/when the time comes when all priests will have to really worry about is keeping the Faith and not keeping up appearances for the old guard of the deanery, the Tridentine Mass is going to be the go to. All of them celebrate the NO because they have to and pastor situations of right now make it necessary. I would have even happily celebrated it for most of the time had I been ordained A diocesan priest.

A rite born of rebellion and throwing off the shackles of tradition can hardly be counted on to pass that tradition on.

That said, I don’t see this happening over night or even completely. The NO will indeed soldier on in a more reverent fashion. That said, you can only trad it up so much before you come to the realization that you just as well go to the TLM. Same deal if you want to get serious about living the calendar, fasting, pilgrimages etc. The new calendar excised much of that. If some had withered, the answer wasn’t to get rid of it but rather reinvigorate it.

I had an interesting conversation with a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor about what he called the “historic Western lectionary” or what I’d call the TLM lectionary. We both had a sense that while much separated us still, we will probably end up working together more and more in the upcoming collapse. Ecumenism took the wrong route, a path of least resistance kissy face nonsense. Let the dead bury their dead. We need to build bridges with serious Christians instead of having photo-ops with collared worldlings.

#5 Comment By SJ On February 15, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

Why are Churches so poorly equipped to deal with addiction which is in Classical Christian parlance – simply idolatry?

That might be a good place to start.

For the Orthodox – read Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos’ “Orthodox Psychotherapy” to gain insight into who we are as Orthodox – and the business of what the Church, priests and the laity are supposed to be about.

#6 Comment By catbird On February 15, 2017 @ 8:30 pm

Drew,
I just made a move from one state to another. In the first state I was a member of a largish Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod church within walking distance of my house. We used Divine Service setting 2, had outstanding sermons, sang hymns that were maybe 40% Lutheran, 50% general evangelical, and 10% pre-Reformation, and knelt to take communion wine from little shot glasses.

Once we’d decided on the house, we just found the nearest LCMS church, a 10 minute drive away, and became a member. Now we use Divine Service setting 1, have pretty good sermons, sing hymns that are may 60% Lutheran, 30% general evangelical and 10% pre-Reformation, and we kneel to take communion from a common communion cup.

Really, not a big change.

So I hope you had some other reason for going from Evangelical to Orthodox.

#7 Comment By Curious Reader On February 15, 2017 @ 8:46 pm

Cradle Orthodox: some questions; and I’d really like answers.

Do you go to liturgy weekly?

Is your Christian identity central to your life? Or is your ethnic identity central to your life? Or some combination?

Do you seriously believe that ethnic Orthodoxy, either in the US and Canada, or in the “old countries” is healthy?

If the answer to the above question is yes, what evidence do you have?

If it’s no, do you have any ideas as to why it might be unhealthy?

Is connecting one’s faith to one’s ethnic or national identity mostly positive, neutral, or mostly negative? Why?

Why do you find the zeal of the converts so irritating? Is it because of them, or is it because (at least in some part) because it sheds an unflattering light on ethnic Orthodox?

I could go on; this could be a very fruitful discussion; but that’s certainly enough to start with. And I really am curious about the answers.

An anecdote: I (semi-cradle Eastern Christian; convert to Orthodoxy) once asked the usher at my parish, “Are the Slavic members of the parish allergic to communion? About half of them almost always leave sometime between the Cherubic hymn and communion.”

#8 Comment By Rich Kennedy On February 15, 2017 @ 9:38 pm

Hats off to Sam M! Dan R, your description of parish life with various families reminds me of my early to middle age adulthood time at a large, affluent conservative Baptist church barely staying out of fundamentalism.

I swear, we are all more alike than different. There are some few doctrines (I’m a high church Anglican now) I would resist that keep me from being Catholic, but that is beside the point. If things are to become as dystopian as some of us think, some of our differences will recede.

Much of what we all complain about really is a matter of taste. To be clear, doctrine is, and should not be. For example, the last straw at that evangelical church mentioned was going to praise teams twice a month on Sundays. I wanted something MORE formal with some air in the program for contemplation reflection/confession.

Latin, Greek, Russian, English, Spanish;organ, guitars, a cappella might become irrelevant if the Faithful are driven underground. It is the Holy Spirit, third head of the Trinity that binds those of us bound in various groups. When the time comes, He will bind the Faithful of various groups as needed. If we are willing.

Also, much time has been given to how evangelicals can learn from Sacramental and Reformed traditions and their histories. If there is one thing not yet mentioned that all can learn from evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Church in particular, is Church Growth.

There is a lot of new thinking on this, just as much academic thought tends to refresh every 20 years or so. Thom Rainer has led the charge starting with Simple Church in the previous decade.

The new thinking on this urges reflection, repentance, and laying all that one might think necessary and/or pleasing on the altar, so to speak so that God can work unimpeded in one’s life as well as the life of the church/parish/fellowship. This resonates with pious evangelicals. I believe it can be “translated” for the rest of us.

The point is to sort out the crucial from the pleasing but secondary. Many of us do this all the time in our lives and family life, but rarely in fellowship. I would say that it can be horrifying. But it might be necessary.

This is not about core doctrines of any tradition. This is about clinging to modern and cultural characeristics. This is a real problem among the maddening variety of Protestants and evangelicals.

I imagine ethnic distinctives can be a challenge. I know they are in Anglican circles. The first line of resistance among orthodox Episcopalians I’ve received has been about that English stiff upper lip. This from gregarious, faithful Americans rarely of British descent.

There may come a time when many of us posting today might find a gaggle as desparate this group as the only option. Maybe not, but appealing to the prompting of the Holy Spirit will go a long way towards being selfless, other-directed, and willing to work with each other on issues and in services where we can to be salt and light in a world with dwindling supply of both.

#9 Comment By Curious Reader On February 15, 2017 @ 10:19 pm

By the way, I understand the irritation about “zeal of converts” who, esp. in Slavic churches, sometimes try to outdo the cradle Orthodox in their ritual bows before the icons and such. But maybe that’s the flip side of something good; or so I tell myself when I, also a convert of sorts, get irritated.

Orthodoxy, and trad Catholicism (which I’ve experienced because I had one parent who was such) run the risk of mistaking the container for the contained; and converts sometimes double this risk. But this all falls within what we might term “the human margin.” Of course, perhaps national churches also fit into this; where exactly the limits are in what’s real and what’s accidental is something beyond human ken.

#10 Comment By G Harvey On February 15, 2017 @ 10:38 pm

Count me among those who think that the Novus Ordo cannot be the main Mass for a Catholic Church that not merely survives the coming super storm, but that rebuilds Christian civilization At its best, when it is celebrated ‘traditionally,’ the Novus Ordo remains ‘liturgy lite.’ The Novus Ordo is yet another shining example of the dumbing down that characterized the do-gooders of the 1960s.

#11 Comment By G Harvey On February 15, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

Elizabeth says:
February 15, 2017 at 3:49 pm
I think if too many good young RC men become priests, there will be no marriages and no children, and ultimately no one for them to teach. Congregations are already disproportionately female. If you know virtuous young men, try encouraging them to become husbands instead. (Fortunately, the Orthodox don’t have this problem!)”

Traditional Latin Mass parishes do not have that problem. Men attend Mass. I think that male Mass attendance at Novus Ordo parishes is so low in significant part because the NO reeks of something not quite manly, even when it isn’t ruined totally with altar girls. Men rather quickly start to opt out when anything starts to go feminist/effeminate.

Also, while the average NO Catholic family has followed the WASP pattern of using contraception and abortion to have as few kids as is seemly, TLM families tend to have many kids, which means many

#12 Comment By Cradle Orthodox On February 15, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

Cradle Orthodox: some questions; and I’d really like answers.

Do you go to liturgy weekly?
*No. I attend liturgy rarely. I go for the major holidays, funerals, and stuff like Cabbage Roll Day.

Is your Christian identity central to your life? Or is your ethnic identity central to your life? Or some combination?
*They are one and the same.

Do you seriously believe that ethnic Orthodoxy, either in the US and Canada, or in the “old countries” is healthy?
*It’s not a concern of mine. The theology needs no changing, so I don’t really see the point of this question. You don’t change theology and practice around the zeitgeist.

If the answer to the above question is yes, what evidence do you have?

If it’s no, do you have any ideas as to why it might be unhealthy?

Is connecting one’s faith to one’s ethnic or national identity mostly positive, neutral, or mostly negative? Why?

*Neutral, I suppose. I don’t really separate the two identities so I’ve never really contemplated it like that.

Why do you find the zeal of the converts so irritating? Is it because of them, or is it because (at least in some part) because it sheds an unflattering light on ethnic Orthodox?

*I feel that the overzealous converts are missing the point by trying to “prove” their selves. Prove what? And to whom? It’s a game show approach to theology, frankly.

I could go on; this could be a very fruitful discussion; but that’s certainly enough to start with. And I really am curious about the answers.

An anecdote: I (semi-cradle Eastern Christian; convert to Orthodoxy) once asked the usher at my parish, “Are the Slavic members of the parish allergic to communion? About half of them almost always leave sometime between the Cherubic hymn and communion.”

*Everyone observes in their own way. It is not for us to judge.

[NFR: Rarely goes to liturgy. Ah. — RD]

#13 Comment By a commenter On February 16, 2017 @ 12:11 am

Rod, I agree with all your ideas. Especially re fasting. Fasting is a skill-builder that changes our brains and makes us strong. That strength can be used for any divine purpose. In every other area of life, we accept that we need to exercise our self-discipline in order to grow stronger. It makes sense that the same would be true in our faith life.

I also agree that we need more of a culture of prayer, especially for our kids, who are usually immersed in a culture of pleasure. They will never hear the Holy Spirit unless we give them places and times of quiet prayer and contemplation. So, more adoration, more opportunities for confession, and so on.

Finally, I agree that parishioners need to accept that they must “get their hands dirty.” If you see something lacking in your Church, remember that you are part of the Church. It’s unfair to expect the one priest, who may serve 1000 or 5000 parishioners, to do everything. And if your priest isn’t perfect, don’t just armchair-quarterback him. Pray for him. He’s just a human like you.

Also, I think Catholics need to stop expecting everything to be free. The priest needs to eat. The parish buildings need light and heat and maintenance. The parish secretary needs to support herself. The communion wafers need to be bought and the nuns who made them need to be paid so that those nuns can also eat. The Church cannot charge for the sacraments but parishioners need to accept that we have a duty, in justice, to sufficiently support the people who provide the sacraments for us.

#14 Comment By James C On February 16, 2017 @ 1:01 am

A reverent NO is far preferrable to a by-the-book TLM; again, I say that as an Orthodox

And your reason? Language, aesthetics, or something deeper?

#15 Comment By BasilNova On February 16, 2017 @ 1:59 am

I second SJ’s recommendation of Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos’ writings. What do I want from my Orthodox priest? Show me how to purify my heart. How to repent. How to partake of the Divine Nature. All the rest is secondary.

#16 Comment By Traveler On February 16, 2017 @ 2:34 am

Meh. I think some of the criticisms of Cradle Orthodox’s comments are pretty harsh, but I note that they come from converts themselves. I think that the great fault of converts at times is their lack of due respect for the strong component of enculturation that resides in cradle-co-religionists. To have been brought up in a particular faith tradition is very different from having converted to such later in life. It’s the difference between having been completely socialised in a tradition (even if one is merely a “cultural” what-have-you) or not. Add to this the element of ethnicity (and possibly language) that is always so close to culture, one can hardly expect a cradle-what-have-you to not be annoyed by times by people that may seem like actual *cultural* strangers to him.

A little understanding of the other point of view can’t ever hurt. And a greater understanding that a faith tradition is more than the technical aspects of its liturgy, sacraments and theology can’t ever hurt either.

Just sayin’.

#17 Comment By Erin Manning On February 16, 2017 @ 4:35 am

I’ve been wanting to post something here all day, but it’s been one of those days. What a great topic, and what a terrific discussion! Lots of great suggestions here already.

Mine may be a bit more pragmatic and a bit less philosophical. As many here already know, I am a cradle Catholic, 48, and by my best guess I’ve belonged to at least 20 parishes in my life (my parents moved a lot). I attended Catholic schools from first through 10th grade and was then home schooled; I graduated from a Catholic university as well. My family leaned heavily traditional but we were not seeking out indult Masses back in the day, and I honestly think the changes Vatican II envisioned were good ones (but like many I think they haven’t been fully implemented yet). My ideal Mass would be one that starts with the chanting of the antiphon (vernacular or Latin) and goes from there.

With that background, I share the view of the seminarian that there is nothing especially wrong with the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and I would add that the current English translation took care of at least half of the problems. The other half could go away overnight if the OCP Hymnals and the like were simply ignored in favor of singing THE Mass, not singing AT Mass. This has been a hard sell so far to elderly parishioners who still think that hymns which remind them of Peter, Paul and Mary (the group, not the Biblical figures) are hip and relevant and will draw in the young folk. That the young folk don’t like folk music or folk Masses, and haven’t for at least three and a half decades, seems to escape their notice.

Putting an OF Mass and an OF parish at the heart of a Benedict Option approach isn’t going to be all that much of a problem; a Benedict Option community might even guide the liturgical and musical tastes of the parish. The real problem is going to be the same one that has been festering for some time now. I would describe it as “coasting,” by which I mean the tendency of parishes and, especially, pastors, to assume that the world is roughly the same as it was forty or fifty or sixty years ago and to operate from that mindset.

To give examples of what I mean:

1. A priest happily announced that he now had one daily Mass a week that working people could attend! On Wednesdays, at 5:30 p.m. Because it’s still 1969 apparently, and people leave work downtown early enough to drive 45 minutes to a Mass that starts at 5:30.

2. Another priest tried a “coffee with Father” approach to introduce himself to his new parish. There were reminders and announcements and people were encouraged to show up. Honestly, Father seemed a bit hurt that only a relative handful of retired parishioners ever came…to a coffee hour scheduled on Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

3. One of my current pet peeves is that the two Catholic parishes closest to me schedule their morning Holy Day Masses at 8 a.m. Because a Mass that is over at 8:45 or so will let you arrive for work on time, or just a tiny bit late, right? Um…

4. On my tiny blog I discussed baptism preparation issues, and discovered that things were even worse than I had heard. Priests cannot simultaneously scold parents for waiting six months or so to baptize their children, and also tell them that there are no baptisms during Lent and that even if they are regular parishioners who are baptizing their fifth child they must take the mandatory classes, and they can’t take the class until the baby is born and they can’t bring the baby to class. Nursing moms have tried to explain why they need to bring the baby to class only to be told “Well, my mother always got a sitter…” because priests’ experiences of child rearing are often their memories of their own childhood (however long ago that was), not present realities (and this can cause problems in other arenas too, but the baptism class conundrum is a particularly vivid example).

5. Finally, if priests are going to give homilies about how important Confession is (and it is!) they really ought to consider scheduling parish confession times for more than half an hour a week. Even an hour isn’t enough for a large parish.

What does all of this mean? Another person said it above: priests must get to know their people. I think that the key to starting a Benedict Option parish would be to begin by conducting a parish life survey. Specifically you want to know parishioners’ ages, marital and family status, employment and working hours, sports and other time commitments, and that sort of thing. It does little good to schedule a daily rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament if you assume that most parishioners will be perfectly free to come every day at 3 p.m. (Oh, sure, the working men, the husbands and fathers, can’t come, but surely the women and the elderly people and all the school children can be there, right?)

Finally, I think that there is sometimes a tendency to assume that the reason Catholics, even regular Mass-attending ones, don’t want to come for Lenten observances or special Masses or parish socials (etc.) is because they are disconnected or selfish or lazy or too busy being entertained. There is little recognition that our global economy with its 24/7 schedules means that in a family, both mom and dad may be at work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (especially if you count time spent commuting) every day of the week. What little time is left over is spent on children and homework and extended family as well as the ordinary demands of housework and cooking and general maintenance of the family’s well-being. Guilt trips about not being available for parish or even Benedict Option things isn’t going to work; the Benedict Option needs, as one of its primary duties, to recognize that the way we live now really is unsustainable in so many ways. Yet most of us don’t live this way out of choice, but out of necessity, and would welcome a chance to find a better way.

#18 Comment By Edward Hamer On February 16, 2017 @ 5:05 am

I’m resisting the urge to get into the Novus Ordo vs TLM debate, but it’s hard! Essentially the Catholic Church should have nothing to do with anything calling itself the New Order.

Anyway, I was thinking that marriage was one of the big areas where priests and parishes could make a big difference. If you want to get married in a Catholic church then you inevitably have to go through marriage preparation, so why don’t parishes use that opportunity to make some points clearly and forcefully? It’s a great chance to point out how true Christian marriage differs from the secular version.

Why not make NFP classes a compulsory part of it? Why not talk about the complementary roles of husband and wife, male headship and so on? Why not hymn the praises of Christian marriage rather than treating its distinctive elements as an embarassment?

To be frank, if a couple want to get married in your pretty Catholic church, then they need to do it on the Church’s own terms. They’re pretty much a captive audience for Church teachings (they can’t have the wedding they want without the preparation), so we should make it count.

The result should be a cohort of solid marriages which make a difference to parish life and provide a steady stream of new Catholics by the old fashioned method.

#19 Comment By anonymousdr On February 16, 2017 @ 6:58 am

Don’t have too much to add to Rod’s excellent suggestions.

@JonF

Great suggestion.

@UnkleChuckie

I know that many Greek Orthodox parishes and some “ethnic” Catholic parishes sell inexpensive lunches of traditional foods, or do really good lenten fish fries. I know that at least two of these one Maronite church lunch and one latino Fish fry have gotten noticed by the hipster food scene and are kind of a big deal even for non-Catholics in my area. I think they are doing important mission work. Good food can be just as important as good art/music.

@danr

I’d love to have someone like Douthat or MBD in my parish! But, I have tendencies toward being a pretentious doofus.

@curious

“Those numbers are sobering. Our parish here in Seattle is coming to terms with this now since our Priest is in his mid-70s, the other two in the area also have Priests of the same vintage. A lot of discussion and planning is already happening about sharing between the parishes. Oddly, the parishes themselves are well attended and the schools are bursting. Nobody wants to be a Priest, though.”

I was a very devout high school student—I had been an altar boy and then was a eucharistic minister and lector for my school’s masses. I got great grades and didn’t have a “serious girlfriend” (i.e. sexual relationship) in high school. I was outgoing and popular (class president, football team, etc.) No one ever asked me if I was thinking of the priesthood. Neither my pastor nor anyone from the school.

If the Church is serious about getting more priests (and I sometimes wonder if places like Seattle really are) they need to make an effort. Go up and ask people “Hey have you ever thought about being a priest?”. Have a “scouting program”. Ask the high schools and parishes if there are any “prospects”. Who is reading Chesterton and Benedict? Use your eyes and ears.

In college a seriously considered the priesthood, and spent a lot of time with a group of Dominican friars, went on some retreats with them etc. No one thought to ask, what is this 20 year-old doing hanging around us? Does he want to be a priest? If someone had just asked me and talked with me there is a good chance I would be a priest rather than a husband/father. I’m happy with how it turned out, but there is a real priest shortage.

Have a serious plan for vocations and don’t be afraid to just ask! I think that a lot of young men and women would be very flattered. In medicine, when we see a med student that we think would be a good fit we recruit them! Call them, send them emails. It works, sometimes.

#20 Comment By Drew On February 16, 2017 @ 7:40 am

catbird
Re: “So I hope you had some other reason for going from Evangelical to Orthodox.”

Let’s not be trite here. If you read my post, I state clearly that there were a number of reasons I became Orthodox. I was only focusing on one of them for the sake of this discussion.

I wasn’t trying to cast a blanket, but I was writing about a general experience/observation to add to the overall discussion. The difference in ecclesiology between Protestants, Catholic and Orthodox makes me wonder if one may be better suited to implement Ben Op principles out of the gate. That was my point.

Glad to know you’ve found a church you are happy with. A great and blessed thing indeed!

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 16, 2017 @ 8:14 am

“…the business of what the Church, priests and the laity are supposed to be about.”

That statement in itself seems so far from the language of the New Testament and Jesus’ words, unless you tend to think that they were only intended for a privileged hierarchy, not everyone.

Which is exactly how it worked out by the time of the medieval church, and sometimes up to this day. I personally remember Catholic priests telling Italian parishioners not to read the Bible for themselves, but to leave that to be interpreted for them, and who became deeply suspicious of anyone who did.

#22 Comment By CatherineNY On February 16, 2017 @ 8:24 am

Maybe it will help if some of us share examples of beautiful and reverent liturgies that are not traditionalist. Here are a couple of examples from the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem, a French order that was founded in (gasp) 1975, and is not the order in charge of, among many other places, Mont St. Michel. So Rod, when you go to Mont St. Michel, this is an example of what you’ll see. I came upon the order in Vezelay, where the bishop had installed them to restore the basilica to the status of an actual, living Catholic church, instead of a museum of medieval art. And they did a great job, with glorious liturgies, all in French. Take a look and listen — the first video is of Lauds at Mont St. Michel: [2] and [3]. Tell me you wouldn’t like to be in a Ben Opt centered around one of this order’s communities! Maybe we should all move to Montreal. More on the order here: [4]

#23 Comment By Leslie Fain On February 16, 2017 @ 8:41 am

My husband bought me all six seasons of Downton Abbey. We’re completely hooked. One thing that has really captured my interest is the sense of community among the characters. The show takes place right in the years before Zimmerman wrote Family and Civilization. He was already seeing signs that the West was atomizing. While DA is a fictional program, it does seem to fairly accurately show a time when community was more the norm. Despite the class and age distinctions, everyone is up in everyone’s business. People are terribly concerned when they suspect someone else is about to make a serious mistake (let’s call it sin) and maneuvers to keep it from happening — or at least expresses concern this person is about to commit a mistake. I could probably cite 25 examples of this off the top of my head. Sure, a lot of it is done to spare scandal — but at least it’s done. Along the same lines, Morris Berman has written about the “Southern grandma,” the woman who politely tells you, your friends, the loud kids in the store to stop “making a$&k$ of yourselves.” We need Christian grandparents and godparents to cheerfully pry more, friends to lovingly offer sound advice when people are about to make huge mistakes. Actively talk your cousins out of divorce; invite your niece who is cohabitating to go to Adoration with you. Act as if you would if you really believed these people were about to fall off a cliff.

#24 Comment By Anne On February 16, 2017 @ 9:58 am

“Lent comes and goes without much noticeable difference other than no meat served in the cafeteria on Friday…Memorial feast days of martyrs come and go without a mention or a prayer.”

It may seem odd here, but this, and really the whole discussion, has given me a sense of deja vu. Very similar criticisms by reform-minded laymen used to appear in our diocesan newspaper during and after the Second Vatican Council. The lament was slightly different, but familiar: Laymen showed up late for Sunday Mass and left before Communion. Rosaries seemed far more in use than Missals. People seemed to be going through the motions, following church rules only to avoid mortal sin. Lents and meatless Fridays came and went with a noticeable disconnect between the small renunciations required and any real spirit of penance. Theologians looked at it through the perspective of emptying pews all over Europe: The Church had focused too long on sin and rules, and not enough on what it means to be a Christian.

In some ways, then, the BenOp movement might be seen not so much as a reaction against that earlier reform, but as a continuation. At least I recognize a common spirit…for better or worse.

#25 Comment By Gregory On February 16, 2017 @ 10:06 am

“What should pastors and those studying for the priesthood do to build up rich, fervent communities of dedicated Christians? It sounds strange, but you often hear about discussion about what the Laity can do (which is fantastic) but I am thinking about the Ben Op from a pastor’s point of view.”

Funny you should ask this question. The theme for the year in our small group for marrieds (Christian Family Movement) is: “What do Priests (and parish pastors) want *for* marrieds, and what do they and and the Church need *from* them?”

We scheduled 5 priest/pastors to come speak to us about that. Our next small group is on Feb 25th. You should come! Very Ben Oppy. 🙂 Friend me ‘n I’ll provide the deets.

#26 Comment By Gregory Martha Herr Obl.S.B. On February 16, 2017 @ 10:13 am

Here’s the announcement to learn about what pastors can do and ask of the laity:

[5]

#27 Comment By CatherineNY On February 16, 2017 @ 11:53 am

@Anne, I remember this as well. A lot of people here are much too young to remember just what things were like before the Council, the bad as well as the good, and I think the result is some magical thinking about how to fix the current problems: “It may seem odd here, but this, and really the whole discussion, has given me a sense of deja vu. Very similar criticisms by reform-minded laymen used to appear in our diocesan newspaper during and after the Second Vatican Council. The lament was slightly different, but familiar: Laymen showed up late for Sunday Mass and left before Communion. Rosaries seemed far more in use than Missals. People seemed to be going through the motions, following church rules only to avoid mortal sin. Lents and meatless Fridays came and went with a noticeable disconnect between the small renunciations required and any real spirit of penance. Theologians looked at it through the perspective of emptying pews all over Europe: The Church had focused too long on sin and rules, and not enough on what it means to be a Christian.In some ways, then, the BenOp movement might be seen not so much as a reaction against that earlier reform, but as a continuation. At least I recognize a common spirit…for better or worse.” More common spirit, less pigeon-holing of fellow Catholics as not up to the job of the Ben Opt, would be a good thing.

#28 Comment By Bernie On February 16, 2017 @ 12:03 pm

Fran Macadam, your deeply anti-Catholic rhetoric keeps showing up in one post after another. That’s your right, but when a pattern becomes obvious for all to see, your objectivity and motivation become fair game for being questioned.

#29 Comment By Rich Kennedy On February 16, 2017 @ 1:29 pm

Wait a minute. I await Rod’s book as much as the next guy and am therefore not completely familiar with the Ben Op idea other than some few display uss ions over the last few months. However, are we looking too narrowly here. Must we build completely sectarian communities in this concept?

I remember a while back, there was mention of small communities that were rather homogenous with good economic prospects. On the other hand, many of us seem quite unfamiliar with some of those a bit different within the same tradition. That is regretable, but given human nature, probably ubiquitous across all sects and traditions.

Must the Ben Op concept be so restrictive? What if communities developed, were maybe even recruited, or subtly advertised in such a way that evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, etc. folks might be attracted, settle down, and work together on the nuts and bolts of a thriving place to live according to some shared values while worshipping as they please.

I’m enjoying these discussions, but it might be a big ask to focus only on those with whom we agree on every “jot and tittle”. What do you think, Rod?

[NFR: I completely agree that all orthodox Christians can and should work together when it is possible — and on many things, it will be possible. This is why I was very pleased to go talk to my Evangelical brothers and sisters at the SBTS, and will happily talk to anyone — Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, whoever — interested in hearing my message. But we shouldn’t feel compelled to give up doctrinal and ecclesial distinctives. I don’t foresee establishing *actual* Ben Op settlements, though if people want to do that, and feel called to do that, more power to them. I think it’s more achievable, though, to start small (in our own churches, schools, etc.) and build outward. — RD]

#30 Comment By Rich Kennedy On February 16, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

Sorry. Discussion morphed into display uss ions by spellcheck.

#31 Comment By Peregrinus On February 16, 2017 @ 2:08 pm

@ James C

Lest my comment be perceived as shallow, let me rephrase it. I found the NO, in this particular case, friendlier to my “Eastern” liturgical sensibilities and habits than the TLM. Vernacular, lay participation, and overall aesthetics had a lot to do with this. Hence, I conclude, the NO is not the abomination some Catholics make it out to be. That is all.

#32 Comment By JonF On February 16, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

Re: On Wednesdays, at 5:30 p.m. Because it’s still 1969 apparently, and people leave work downtown early enough to drive 45 minutes to a Mass that starts at 5:30.

Orthodox churches often have vesperal liturgies the evening before major feasts. And we have weekday Lenten services too. Most churches I’ve gone to have these promptly at 6pm. Which was fine for me when I worked downtown and was a little over a mile from church– though my church is an inner city parish with a largely suburban congregation. Now I’m twenty miles out in suburbia and the only way I can be sure to make there (facing a wall of traffic that is emptying out of Baltimore at that time) is if I leave work before five. I sometimes do (as for the Epiphany or the Dormition, two feasts I try not to miss), but it’s not something I can do a lot.

#33 Comment By grumpy realist On February 16, 2017 @ 6:39 pm

If you really want to coax people to services, you’re going to have to take on the American businesses that will discriminate against people who like JonF who need to leave work before 5 in order to reach services at 6 pm.

Heck, working moms know this problem already–leave early to pick up a kid from daycare, you get slapped as “not serious” and don’t get promoted.

It’s one thing to say “well, you have to make sacrifices for your religion.” It’s another thing if it means you get shoved into a no-track job and get let go as soon as possible.

#34 Comment By Pastor Brian On February 16, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

I think something like the Daily Office from the BCP is necessary for personal and family worship. And I say that as a Presbyterian, not an Anglican.

I also think Daily family worship (including scripture, catechisms, singing, and prayer) is absolutely vital. Pastors need to model that and urge others to it.

Counseling young couples not to encumber themselves with debt and not to get too wrapped up in the world’s race is also vital. You simply will not be able to afford to homeschool or privately educate your children if your mortgage, car payment, and assorted toy payments take all your income. My wife and I lived on one income and paid off debt and saved money with the other when we were DINKs, so we could be ready for child rearing.

I just spent an hour and a half with a family who came to my church from a dying mainline a few years ago. He manages our local grocery store, and his wife works part time and home schools their two daughters (both HS age.) They live out in the country, seven miles from town. I have asked him to stand for election and examination as a deacon. He is careful to instruct his family Daily in the Word of God and in our confessional theology. The family loves the Lord, loves each other, and loves the lost. The youngest daughter has asked me to help her find a short term mission trip to go on (preferably foreign.) She has some fairly significant autoimmune issues, but has a radiant smile and loves Jesus.

I drove away from wondering if I was worthy to pastor people like this.

#35 Comment By Pastor Brian On February 17, 2017 @ 1:37 am

I also gotta say, Rod, that you have given me a whole conceptual grid that has been enormously useful to me in explaining to my flock what is happening. I had the germ of an idea similar to BenOp maybe 8-10 years ago. But you exposed me to MacIntryre and Del Noce and Reiff and James KA Smith and Hans Borsema and countless others that gave me a credible intellectual grid for explaining these things, and authoritative sources to appeal to. Basically, if you recommend it, I read it. Just being a trail guide has been of enormous help to me as a clergyman, and has really given me a deeper appreciation of insights from other streams of Christendom that I wouldn’t have gotten from simply abiding in a Reformed and Presbyterian framework. Thank you.

[NFR: I appreciate that. We’re all in this together. — RD]

#36 Comment By JonF On February 17, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

Re: If you really want to coax people to services, you’re going to have to take on the American businesses that will discriminate against people who like JonF who need to leave work before 5 in order to reach services at 6 pm.

To be fair to my employers, who are nice people (it’s a small family-owned company) they’re OK with me leaving early occasionally– yes, I even explained the reason. I don’t however take advantage of that too often. I have some other things going on in my life as well that also require the occasional early out or late in. I don’t want to be the Employee Who Always Needs An Exception.

#37 Comment By Pastor Brian On February 17, 2017 @ 10:15 pm

@John F: or the pastor could just schedule the service 30-60 min later.

One of the best things I ever did as a pastor was to work at a BMW repair shop when I was between churches. It really helped remind me what it’s like to be a tired layman.