From a lecture delivered by Abbot Michael John Zielinski at a Benedict Option conference in Italy. The Italian original is here, and can be listened to in Italian in the video above. Below, the English translation, via Google:
And now what do we do?
It is the question that I often hear even among my monks, even priests and some bishops. In the statistics, however, lay young and old among those who ask will be in the first place.
And now what do we do? One of the answers, with due reservations, could be the book released March 14, 2017, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. A book starring in numerous conference debates, and described by David Brooks of the New York Times as the most prominent and most discussed religious book of the decade.
It presents itself to readers as a strategic proposal to help Christians find their identity and live their faith in Jesus Christ as is offered to us by the Rule of St. Benedict.
And here I would like to underline the importance that this book gives about the necessary fidelity to the evangelical following of Jesus Christ and to the novelties of forms that this fidelity creates and offers in all times.
The Benedict Option is a proposal to intentionally live Christian life in the Western world that is now an antagonist of Christianity.
In a world rooted in an ethical relativism and religious syncretism, Rod Dreher turns to Benedict of Norcia and to the Holy Rule written by him. While Saint Benedict is the blessed hope, the option we find in the book’s title allows Dreher to enter into a debate of great responsibility towards the human person and the times we live. In fact, reading the criticisms made by the director of Civiltà Cattolica, I ask myself: in a modern vision where freedom is transformed into a capacity and possibility to choose, why is this possibility denied to those who try to resist the modernity? The Benedict Option is in no way a form of vocational propaganda to become a Benedictine monk.
On the contrary, it is a call to all Christians to want to put into practice their fidelity to the spirit of discipleship, forming a new and vibrant counterculture by cultivating a series of practices, and creating small communities that are the reflection of a Christianity that is realized as a path of intelligence — intelligent freedom, not fleeing from the world, but with great devotion in the spirit of thanksgiving. They know that they are called in a responsible way to work with evangelical audacity in a project of a new evangelization in the world.
If anything, the idea of a community is not so much the question of a building or even a monastery, but as St. Benedict says, it is a way of life. This path to life, this path of freedom, however, requires different virtues such as order, prayer, work, asceticism, stability, community, hospitality, balance and above all discretion. Only those who are blinded by some ideological vision that unfortunately in many parts of Europe has meant the end of the Church can say that the Benedict Option is an escape from the world.
… Monasticism is the response that the Holy Spirit gives to the world, but also to the same Church that has made too many compromises. It is the quest to renew this countercultural anti-conformist spirit in order to rediscover and live the Christian form, which is waiting to be renewed and revolutionized again through a return to a Christian journey. This is the most authentic and sincere hope for the reform of the Church.
These are hard times, the night is deep , but it is only when it is dark that the first light can be seen.
I challenge anyone who says that Christianity has not lost its moral strength and credibility in the West, thus giving space to a culture that is openly anti-Christian. Even pastry chefs are not left alone. It is good to ask whether, by agreeing to the politically correct culture of this culture, we are also contributing to the suicide of man.
Dear ones, man will never reach perfection except through grace. We see with the naked eye the tragedy of this humanism without God that grows more and more every day. I wish the Church was done with the presumed prophets and cloister-communist teachers and even less catho-fascists, but I hope for Catholics of the Roman Church who opt freely for following Christ.
In the rule of St. Benedict presented by the option, Benedict presents himself in a truly revolutionary way as a valid guide for the laity, both in private and professional life in a flat world where the gaze is totally horizontal. In the coming years we can not exclude even physical persecution. Christian schools will begin to be attacked, as are hospitals and all other Catholic and Christian institutions. Slowly, as we enter an increasingly obscure age, our task is to seek forms and strategies that allow us to be and remain Christians. That new Pentecost announced in January 1959, by St. John XXIII has not yet arrived in the churches,
Despite this , we also know that it will have to continue to celebrate by awaiting the sacred hope when a new era will be born. I do not think we are at the end of the world, but I certainly believe that we are at the end of a world. From the joys and hopes, from the sadness and the anguish of these years, a peaceful and pacifying voice has been raised every now and then, but at this time there is something that does not come back.
Something went wrong and many are desperate. As a monk, I know that solitude and silence are the means to draw the highest of humanity’s pure goals: a great gift, a beautiful gift and a true gift, indeed the only gift that the Church is able to offer the world today and to God always. And here the cell and book are not an escape from the world, but rather places created and donated for those who truly love the world.