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Starting To Build The Benedict Option

Hello all, I’ve just arrived in Bologna for tonight’s event here. I am scrambling to approve comments and post a few blogs before heading off. I just saw this from Reader MarkVA:

It is truly wonderful how God has arranged the chessboard so far:

(a) Admid the crisis in the Catholic Church in America and elsewhere, one thing that stands out crystal clear is that we, the laity, must take the initiative to preserve the Faith. For the time being our clergy is mired in ambiguity, suspicion, and investigations, and as a group not good for much other than the sacraments. We can keep the pressure up, but only they can sort themselves out;

(b) At about the same time, Mr. Rod Dreher has provided a strong and practical blueprint for us, the Catholic laity, on how to survive the general crisis of Faith, and rebuild it from its present ruin. It is a time tested, historically well grounded, and rigorously articulated argument that follows St. Benedict’s thoughts and actions, who himself followed the Holy Spirit;

(c) We now also have an implicit, but robust, Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat for The Benedict Option [1] from a close associate of pope emeritus, Benedict XVI. This is as much as we could have hoped for!

In my view, these three things complete this circle. From now on we must begin the actual building of the Benedict Option communities – the planning phase is drawing to a close;

The position of the local clergy on this is auxiliary at best. We can start by extending the bonds of friendship and solidarity to an ever widening circle in our church – and go from there. At last we can meet a few times a month, bring food, and get to know one another.

This is exciting! I have talked on and off for over a year about the need for a Benedict Option website as a central clearing house for people interested in the Ben Op — ways for them to meet each other, to share resources, etc. But it costs money, and it would require time to administer it — neither of which I have.

change_me

Still, we have to get going, somehow. Thoughts?

I strongly encourage you to buy Leah Libresco’s great new book, Building The Benedict Option [2], which is full of practical advice. If you live in or near New York City, Leah is going to be presenting the book at a First Things event on Thursday September 13, 7pm [2], at the magazine’s offices. To listen to and be around Leah is really inspiring. Don’t miss this.

Archbishop Gänswein, Pope Benedict XVI’s longtime secretary, said that The Benedict Option [1]comforts him amid the Church’s  crisis, and inspires him. Read his remarks here. [3]Judging by his extensive comments, that’s because the book acknowledges the depths of the crisis, and offers reasons for real hope (versus shallow optimism). Please don’t sit around and wait for the institutional Church to get its act together, or wait to be told what to do by your pastor (this is true for all Christians, not just Catholics). Gänswein said that “the hour of the sovereign laity has struck” — meaning that it’s time for the faithful laity to lead the Church out of this dark wood.

Let’s do it! I’ll be spending this coming Sunday with some young Italian families near Milan who are trying to do just that. I’ll report back.

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "Starting To Build The Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By Xenia Grant On September 12, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

Rod:

If you go to Milan, please venerate the relics of St. Ambrose.

[NFR: I did last time I was there, with James C. I hope I get to do it again. — RD]

#2 Comment By Lisa On September 12, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

Amen to the above.

We are living in the midst of the Lord of the Rings, this is an existential fight. Some of us are called to go into Mordor like Frodo, others to fight on the battlefields to save Middle Earth, but the rest of us are stuck in the Shire just trying to keep it together. Being prepared for what is to come is the best way.

Oremus pro invicem!

#3 Comment By Dan R On September 12, 2018 @ 2:14 pm

I think that a Benedict Option reddit page would be a good start. A full-blown website would be cool, but would be a lot of work to start and keep working, while reddit is free and easy to set up and moderate. All you need a is a critical mass of users to make sure there are enough worthwhile conversations there.

#4 Comment By Stan Shinn On September 12, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

Hey Rod! I’m a fellow Eastern Orthodox Christian and a long-time webmaster and designer of many high end websites. I’d be happy to build and administer a BenOp website for free. Working on a local BenOp group myself in DFW. Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss. Also I’m @stanshinn on Twitter.

[NFR: Would love to Stan. Let me get back from this book tour and we’ll talk. — RD]

#5 Comment By grumpy realist On September 12, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

Stick a budgeting program somewhere in there and you’ll get the Millenials interested as well. Quite a lot of young people on the left who are Dave Ramsey fanatics.

The problem with American Christianity is that so few self-proclaimed Christians act as such. NOT helped by the cover-ups, obviously. You’ve got a population who claims to be more virtuous and noble than the rest and with the authority to tell others what to do–and then said population turns out to be as sleazy and corrupt as those they are sneering at. No wonder no one believes Christians’ protestations of virtue.

Fix your own lives first. THEN you can try to fix others.

#6 Comment By Kat On September 12, 2018 @ 3:08 pm

How about crowd sourced funding for a website? Blog there also and get ads to pay for the site management. I would definitely give to kickstarter BenOp website project.

#7 Comment By Calee Lee On September 12, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

I have some ideas on how to implement this. Let’s talk in a few weeks.

#8 Comment By MK On September 12, 2018 @ 3:39 pm

actual building of the Benedict Option communities – the planning phase is drawing to a close

I’ve heard the community lament my entire life …yet watched the excitement wane faster than the New Year’s crowd at the gym by February!

We can start by extending the bonds of friendship and solidarity to an ever widening circle in our church – and go from there. At last we can meet a few times a month, bring food, and get to know one another.

My family has been serious about change (in a BO way) for over a decade now, yet we’ve taken the opposite tact: pull back. Create a small enough circle to find solidarity within. Focus on lifestyle change until you have enough to offer others, and let things grow from there if God desires.

Why? Nothing else works, because we moderns are too far gone. We are spiritually slothful, sexually deformed, family-broken, media soaked, eating processed crap…and fat as hell. All this is rooted in sin. Community cannot survive within this framework.

Everyone feels the pain and wants the quick fix. But the only real solution is slow and serious lifestyle change. The individual, the couple, then family, then extended family, then friends…and only then community. We have 50 years of damage to undo. Unity will only be found over time within moral fundamentals: no divorce, big families, shunning processed foods, killing materialism and TV, praying & working out daily. Only by living right is there enough community health to widen the circle.

When to expand the circle? When our lives are in order. When we have 5 yrs of daily prayer under our belt. When we have 5 yrs of healthy BMI. When we have 5 yrs of strong, unified, working family traditions. Then the circle can start to expand. And make a real difference.

#9 Comment By Sherri Edman On September 12, 2018 @ 3:51 pm

I really enjoyed Libresco’s book. From my Goodreads review:

“This book is such a tonic: cheerful, practical, and encouraging. I generally think Rod Dreher is on track with the Benedict Option, but his book has a tendency to gloom [sorry, Rod! I know that’s not your intent. Perhaps I should say I had a tendency to gloom after reading it]. So this makes a good and welcome companion volume.

I love practicing hospitality, and my husband and I have been intentional about offering our home as a place for community to be rooted, so I appreciated Libresco’s practical wisdom, both in dealing with others– there’s always that one socially inept person you struggle to love– and with her own limitations.

I will admit to being a little concerned, going in, that I wouldn’t find much of use here because practicing hospitality and cultivating community as the mother of six children means I operate under significantly different exigencies. Before I had children myself, I was blind to those exigencies. I’m sure, looking back, that I was in my cluelessness deeply inconsiderate of my friends who had small children. Libresco seems free of that, though– one of her charms is her humility and intention to consider others’ lives rather than just doing what works for her. I wish I’d had that level of wisdom and caritas when I was in her life stage.

The final chapter alone is worth the price of the book, especially the portions on running to God and the special love that characterizes (or ought to characterize) Christian communities.”

Also: Be encouraged! We’ve been trying to solidify something BenOp-ish in the Philly area. It’s slow going, but I think we’re making progress (if any readers are in Philly– particularly northwest Philly– and want to connect, I’d love to do so). After our current Bible study concludes, the next book discussion for our church home group will be the Benedict Option. Our tiny Anglican parish is replanting from Wayne, half an hour away, to a new location just a mile from our home in Germantown. Our rector and his family are shopping for a home in our neighborhood. And tonight we are having dinner with new friends whom we hope can be part of the community we’re trying to cultivate in our home and this section of the city. We’re still not sure what the contours of such a community will look like even a year from now, but we are excited about the possibilities. And I’m sure you have many readers in different cities in similar circumstances, looking around and saying, “Well, let’s see how we can make this work.”

#10 Comment By Old West On September 12, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

Clericalism is not just about clerics. A lot of faithful want clericalism because church can then be something that the clergy take care of for the laity, while the latter do what they want to do. This can be a special temptation in liturgical traditions.

Even within families, there can be a similar dynamic.

I remember when a devout evangelical friend of mine married into a large ethnic Orthodox family, after converting to Orthodoxy. His wife told my wife and me with a bit of dismay that she thought they were being quietly designated as “the church family” within the extended clan–the ones who could be depended on to always be in church representing the family. And my friend could be the man expected to say the prayer before the meals at family gatherings.

This is obviously not good long-term strategy for a religiously healthy family, so they put a lot of effort into getting other family members more involved in their quite wonderful parish.

Maybe it’s not so bad that the clergy have mucked things up so badly in the RCC, forcing laity to get involved.

#11 Comment By Bill Beckman On September 12, 2018 @ 5:47 pm

The new ecclesial charisms and communities praised and heralded by John Paul II and Benedict are already “Benedict Option” communities. They are, in fact, the response of the Holy Spirit to the precariousness of our times. [4]

#12 Comment By Doug S. On September 12, 2018 @ 6:17 pm

Rod:
We met briefly at your talk you gave just north of Philly recently. I’m a systems admin and web guy by trade. What can I help with for a site?

#13 Comment By Jen On September 12, 2018 @ 7:28 pm

If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money and time, then you’ve got two options: a closed Facebook group or Meetup.com.

Meetup would be better for bringing people together face to face, but you’d need moderators in different cities who would be willing to volunteer to organize events, plus the $15/mo for the Meetup fee.

A Facebook group would be easier (and free), but may not lead to action.

#14 Comment By Antonio On September 12, 2018 @ 7:37 pm

Build in secret. It is already happening. No one can stop you.

#15 Comment By Anna On September 12, 2018 @ 10:08 pm

@Bill Beckman: “The new ecclesial charisms and communities praised and heralded by John Paul II and Benedict are already “Benedict Option” communities. They are, in fact, the response of the Holy Spirit to the precariousness of our times.”

This comment is tongue in cheek, right? If not, you haven’t been paying any attention. Virtually all those “new ecclesial charisms” have proven to have been founded by frauds and abusers (Maciel, Figari, Buela…). So I guess that leaves Opus Dei, but who else do you have in mind?

#16 Comment By Werd On September 13, 2018 @ 6:16 am

Just make a Reddit page, let Leah or one of your other trusted Ben Op friends be the moderator. That would be the easiest thing, and everyone (mostly) uses Reddit anyway.

#17 Comment By Xenia Grant On September 13, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

Rod:

I am glad you venerated the relics of St. Ambrose the last time you were in Milan. I hope, God willing, if I ever go to Italy, that I will go to Milan and pray before his relics. St. Ambrose is one of my favorite Saints.

#18 Comment By MK On September 13, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

Old West: A lot of faithful want clericalism because church can then be something that the clergy take care of for the laity, while the latter do what they want to do. This can be a special temptation in liturgical traditions. Even within families, there can be a similar dynamic.

Yes, yes, yes. Great comment. People are finally saying it!

Maybe it’s not so bad that the clergy have mucked things up so badly in the RCC, forcing laity to get involved.

Yes, and yes again. Vatican II was shunned by trads just because liberals used it to destroy obedience. It’s high time the orthodox laity rolled up their sleeves and get to work. The problem isn’t the clerics. It’s us. The clerics follow, in truth. They are too busy to do anything else.

Antonio: Build in secret. It is already happening. No one can stop you.

Exactly. Or at least, don’t expect help from the Church. What everyone misses is the need for personal moral responsibility and the painful yet required change in lifestyle. Why? Because it’s very, very hard. Boo-ho.

#19 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 14, 2018 @ 12:33 am

It’s shaping up as a very Catholic thing, not something that evangelicals could participate in. But good luck to you all, anyhow, though there’s nothing in it for us, except to hope for your success.

[NFR: Why couldn’t Evangelicals participate in it, on their own terms? — RD]

#20 Comment By Mark VA On September 14, 2018 @ 8:18 am

Fran Macadam:

This is how it seems from where I stand, Traditional Catholicism:

(a) The current crisis of the Faith is most acute in my Church. It follows that the Catholic interpretation of the Benedict Option will dominate the discussions – for the time being;

(b) At the same time, all Christian denominations are afflicted by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, the express lane out of Christianity. The Benedict Option addresses this deadly malady;

(c) I believe that the Benedict Option, as it takes root, will develop a strong grass roots ecumenical component. Consider:

We, the Catholic laity, are having a “Protestant moment” – there is so much corruption among our hierarchy, it is beginning to dawn on many of us that we must carry the bulk of the Faith for a while. Also, we the laity, with our irresponsible clericalism, have contributed to this disaster with sloth. Echoes of 1517 – ironic, isn’t it?

At the same time, the general state of Christianity in the world is one of fragmentation. Our trumpets are not only weak, they are often painfully dissonant. This weakness and dissonance persist in spite of the admirable Evangelical zeal for Christ. It is something for of us, including the third and the youngest branch of Christianity, to contemplate;

The Benedict Option, if done right, will give us the time and the peace of mind to contemplate these things. I think we will conclude in our hearts that we have all failed in different ways. Somehow we must figure out how to be one, if we want to become more acceptable ambassadors of Christ;

(d) I suspect now is the rare moment when many lay Catholics are receptive to constructive and benevolent criticisms from our Protestant and Orthodox brethren. So, don’t tune out, Fran!

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 14, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

Why not?

The underlying theologies, apart from the Nicene Creed, have deviated so wildly. Veneration of “saint’s” bones and relics, the rosary, Marianism, priests, monasteries, the “sacrifice of the host – the Mass” – all these and more are anathema to evangelical Christians, who view them as idolatries at worst, spurious additions to the faith at best. Yet they appear crucial to the Roman Catholics most interested in a Benedict Option. Participating fully would mean having to convert to these unacceptable beliefs, which is not going to happen, though it seems that the most enthusiastic here are hoping for those very conversions – perhaps insisting upon it.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 14, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

Additionally, in the wake of such damning scandal, whatever credibility and Christian authority Roman Catholicism had retained in many evangelical minds, has completely evaporated as the disturbing truth about the hierarchy is being revealed. The instinct for faith preservation among those never a part of that organization is to stay well back, remembering we are spiritual heirs of those who left or were excommunicated by it – or worse.

[NFR: I’m sure it shocks and grieves Catholics to know that Fran Macadam is no longer capable of believing in their Church’s credibility. — RD]

#23 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 14, 2018 @ 3:48 pm

“[NFR: I’m sure it shocks and grieves Catholics to know that Fran Macadam is no longer capable of believing in their Church’s credibility. — RD]”

Well, I guess it’s good that they’re not dismissing the more important Rod Dreher’s opinion, although I think the grieving over that is more over the relentless exposure he has doggedly pursued. (Dreher as agent of Satan, and all that. Myself, they’d say I only report to lesser demons.)

I am sure from the comments that they don’t care much what any Protestant “heretics” think, let alone l’il ‘ol me. This is all Roman Catholic insider baseball at this point. They neither want nor need any support or belief from anyone outside, whether those sitting pat in the hierarchy or the laity upset in the pews. But don’t think that the negative effect on the public credibility can be dismissed as some personal oddball character flaw, or that it isn’t going to now be the norm among non-Catholic Christians, let alone the great wide world of unbelievers we are to spread the Gospel to. Were it not so, the pope wouldn’t have seen the exposure of corruption as the great danger to the hierarchy, that would bring the organization into disrepute, rather than admonishing to keeping it quiet to avoid grave scandal harmful to his clique.