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What It Takes For Faith To Survive

Greetings from the sickbed. I had not realized how sick I had gotten in Italy until I returned home and was safe to crash. And crash I did. My doc has prescribed an antibiotic for this sinus infection. I’ve noticed that since my three-year bout with mono, my immune system is fragile, and even a cold often turns into something worse. So, my apologies for light posting. The real tragedy of all this, of course, is that when I’m in Austin this weekend, I will not be able to drink margaritas. Verily, we dwell in a vale of tears.

I wanted to say a little something more about faith in light of having watched Spotlight yesterday (read my impromptu essay from the airplane, which I posted yesterday; [1] still can’t get over the fact that it’s possible now to have Internet on a transatlantic flight). I intend these words for all Christians — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — because I want you to benefit from the hard, hard lesson I learned. We are all going to face times of serious trial in the age upon us, and we should prepare ourselves. As a matter of fact, I think it was providential that I saw Spotlight after this grace-filled time in Italy, among inspiring Catholics. Let me explain.

As I have said before, as a Catholic, I was not prepared for the darkness of the child sex abuse scandal. Father Tom Doyle warned me early on, at the beginning, that if I proceeded down this path, I was going to come face to face with darkness that I could not even imagine. He told me this not to discourage me, but to warn me to prepare myself.

I thought I was prepared for anything. I really did — this, because I knew my faith. I knew it logically. I affirmed all its propositions, and strongly — that is, with an act of will. I thought that would protect me.

It did, for a while, but ultimately I quit believing in those ideals. No, that’s not quite right: I found myself unable to affirm those ideals. It was sheer exhaustion. This is not something that had ever happened to me with anything before, and I didn’t understand that it was possible. This is what can happen to you when your faith is too much inside your head.

The time I just spent in Italy helped me see this more clearly. For the monks, as for the lay Catholic Tipiloschi [2] in San Benedetto del Tronto, the faith is not only propositional, but also a communal way of life. I trust that I don’t need to explain how this plays out for monks, but among the Tipiloschi, it is an extraordinary thing (see here for more details [3]). Theirs is a lay Catholic community that is wholly committed to following Church teachings. They are thoroughly orthodox in their Catholicism, but they’re not angry about it. Do you hear me on that? They are not angry about it. 

Living out their faith has a contemplative dimension, including formal group study of Scripture, the lives of the saints, and the Catechism. It also includes prayer, confession, spiritual direction, and, of course, frequent mass. They live out their faith by running a classical Christian school for the community’s children, as well as for others (they keep the tuition low so working people can afford it), and doing all kinds of charitable work in the community, especially involving their children in these things. And they meet often to feast, to garden, to sing, to play, and enjoy being with each other. The shocking thing for American eyes is how normal this all is for them. And in turn, I’m shocked that I’m shocked: this is how life in Christian community is supposed to be, but so rarely is.

I mentioned to Marco Sermarini, my host in SBT, earlier this week that if I had had in my Catholic life the monks of Norcia to give spiritual guidance and the Tipiloschi to live out the faith in daily life, things might have gone different with me and my Catholic faith. I had to make it clear that I am irrevocably committed to Orthodoxy, settled into Orthodoxy, and deeply grateful for the gift of it. But it bothers me that I didn’t enter Orthodoxy serenely, having concluded after passionless reflection that the case for Orthodox Christianity is stronger than the case for Roman Catholic Christianity — as if I were a judge deciding a case. No, I became Orthodox to save myself from drowning in anger, fear, and despair. I am very grateful to be Orthodox, and despite my love and admiration for the people I spent time with in Italy, I don’t have the slightest desire to return to Catholicism. I will walk along side my Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters with joy and gratitude, but I’m on the right path, and am not leaving it. I hate to harp on that, but I just want to be clear here, because a lot of people, both Catholic and Orthodox, are confused about this.

To return to the point (a point that is valid for Orthodox and Protestant Christians as well as for Catholics): if there is no prayerful, contemplative dimension to your Christianity — because after all, the Christian life is about becoming fully united to Jesus Christ — then you run the risk of becoming like the tribal Catholics in Spotlight. That is, you risk becoming people who idolize the tribe (community) and its chieftains, even if it means sacrificing the ideals that the community is supposed to embody. If “being Catholic” (or Protestant, or Orthodox) requires you to turn a blind eye to the rape of children, or some other grave sin and crime, then you may as well adorn yourself with a millstone and jump off a cliff into the deep blue sea. Life in community is not enough in itself; in fact, as we see in Spotlight, it can lead you to make a false god of the community, such that you, in effect, murder the true God.

One of the reporters featured in the film says that he was raised Catholic, but quit practicing the faith. He always hoped to return to the faith one day, but now, given what he’s seen, he cannot bring himself to do it. It’s an excruciating scene, and actor Mark Ruffalo makes you feel the agony of lost hope. It must be said, though, that people who keep the faith at arm’s length like that, thinking that one day, one day, they’ll get it together and come back — they aren’t going to make it. I know a lot of Christians like that, people who are cultural Christians, with vague intentions of Getting Serious about it again. They will not last through what’s coming.

What does this have to do with the Benedict Option? I mentioned to Marco on Monday that I appreciated the sense of balance in the Rule of St. Benedict. He said he wasn’t sure what St. Benedict meant by “balance.” He said that the way he sees it, either you are with Jesus, or you aren’t. Either he is at the center of your life, and everything is organized around serving him, or, well, what’s the point? Either be radical, or don’t be at all. You can’t bracket your faith off from the rest of your life. To that I would add that in our post-Christian culture, either you will be radical in the sense Marco means, or you won’t be Christian, because it will cost too much, and be too difficult.

I think of the Tipiloschi as an ideal Benedict Option community because they appear to have achieved a good balance of active and contemplative life as lay Christians. You have to have both. And this is hard to do! But it’s necessary. As I go forward on the Ben Op book, I now have it more clear in my mind what kind of ideal I’m trying to lead people (including myself) towards. It was so, so good to see it in action, both in the monastery and among the lay people. It can be done; I know this because it is being done right now. Watching Spotlight on the flight backand having to revisit in some sense the reason why I lost my Catholic faith, and might have lost my Christianity entirely had things continued, gave me deeper insight into the challenge we all face, and will face. Believe me, you do not want to discover your own failures as a Christian when you are put to a hard test. Now is the time to prepare yourself and your community for the difficult future ahead. 

Obviously I don’t know each of your readers personally, but I’d say it’s a pretty good guess that many of you are like I was in the year 2000, when Father Doyle warned me about the malign power of the darkness I was just starting to explore. I thought I could withstand anything. I was prideful in my faith, and I was smashed by that trial. Whatever your faith tradition, my warning to you is: don’t take anything for granted. You don’t know what’s coming. You think you know, but you don’t. You think you can imagine from where the attack might come, but you are almost certainly deceiving yourself. Learn from my mistakes.

 

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29 Comments To "What It Takes For Faith To Survive"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 2, 2016 @ 6:35 pm

For the monks, as for the lay Catholic Tipiloschi in San Benedetto del Tronto, the faith is not only propositional, but also a communal way of life.

This is one of the rocks and hard places of a religiously diverse nation, state, city, neighborhood. I’m glad I’ve grown up around people of many different faiths, and that we could all play together as children, live next door to each other, attend the same schools, work at the same jobs, amicably…

…But one of the real attractions, even to a heterodox Protestant like me, of a community where everyone is of the same faith is that it becomes feasible to integrate your faith into your daily life in a much more substantial way.

A good example, to objectify the question, is Muslims praying facing Mecca five times a day. To do that almost requires either that you live in a community where everyone is Muslims, or you run your own business — but even then you have to put non-Muslim customers on hold in the middle of a busy day. If most of the employees are not on that kind of schedule, it is very difficult to work a production schedule around it. Whereas, if everyone does that at the same time every day, its natural and routine and life is built around that schedule.

In Medieval Europe, there were many days of the year where life literally came to a stop in order to celebrate a saints day or other religious holy day, all day. It might involve street fairs and commerce, or not, but it was all about the traditions of that day. Both capitalism and Puritanism of course found this terribly inefficient and therefore immoral. But having seen the 24-hour connected rat race too many are immersed in now, it has considerable attractions.

Some things can be arranged. I grew up in a city where the school district negotiated with all the local churches that Wednesday there would be no after school activities, and churches that wanted to do mid-week youth religion or confirmation classes would do so on Wednesday. But if there are enough different entities scheduling activities throughout the week… The culture doesn’t have to be anti-religious, it just pulls in so many directions there is no clear time to take to integrate prayer, contemplation, study, daily and weekly ritual…

Its a difficult conundrum to resolve. And one difficulty is that children will of course want to know “Mommy, why can’t I go to the ___________ on ]Friday / Saturday / Sunday]? I have two chess students who never get to tournaments, because the tournaments are on Saturday, and their families belong to a Seventh Day Adventist Church. Occasionally tournaments are on Sundays, and that keeps the less secular Christians away.

What to do?

#2 Comment By Ryan On March 2, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

Thank you for your frank and sober words. I am finding that a regular discipline of reading, pondering, and praying through the Psalms is strengthening my spiritual roots immensely. As Psalm 112 puts it: “The righteous man is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” There’s a reason the Psalms were (and are) so central to Benedictine spirituality.

You note that the Tipiloschi school keeps tuition low so that many can attend. Do you know how it is they keep tuition down? Do members of the community subsidize scholarships?

[NFR: I believe they do fundraisers and have a network of donors. — RD]

#3 Comment By Fr. Frank On March 2, 2016 @ 6:52 pm

I get what you’re saying about the Catholic abuse scandal. My abuse was by my Baptist preacher. I went to the Episcopalians. (Nobody ever accused me of having good sense and spiritual “strategerie.”) The fact is, your Apostolic Church and mine can and do agree, “We know where the Church is; we do not know where She is not.” We must all love one another, because the time is short.

#4 Comment By Fr. Frank On March 2, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

It may well be that true communion will be restored when we are again forced to go months or years between communications between our hierarchs and the parishes. That would be this paleoconservative’s dream! The Faith, The Family, and The Land.

#5 Comment By Liam On March 2, 2016 @ 7:04 pm

1. Unsolicited observation about your illness: of course, a rhinovirus isn’t treated by an antibiotic, but you may have a more or less permanent but variable respiratory bacterial infection, which crests when you have a rhinovirus. Anti-biotics have their own risks, but managing respiratory problems to avoid risk to good sleep hygiene is an important lever for all your systems. (Be sure to avoid blue glowing devices for at least an hour before going to bed, and bright light generally.)

2. As important and gripping the issues facing Christians as an organism, I think you fall into the trap many professional Christian American commentators and preachers fall into: you neglect how *normal* it is for a growing maturing Christian soul (btw, NOT limited to adults – children can experience this too, and have no one to explain it to them because their elders don’t know or are afraid to engage it) to experience spiritual dryness, desolations and lack of consolations and dark nights of the sense and soul, which can be far more frightening to admit for American Christians than something more spectacularly terrifying as the Scandal. The latter has bones you can wrap discernment around; the former often is notably lacking in them. Raising this issue seems to be something that gives most American Christians hives. One of the revolutions in Catholic spirituality after Trent was to adapt monastic experience about this to lay life, but that became more ossified and esoteric in the 19th and 20th centuries – I would suggest that this must be part and parcel of any fundamental renewal. And it will be more alien to American culture than what you experienced in Norcia as such – because American Christianity (including Catholicism for the most part, even before Vatican II) is all about consolations, to put it crudely – every American Christian seems to think it’s normal to find a *home* for their faith. Not really: that’s not the universal signal grace for every Christian in this plane. Rather, many are called to what I call the path of Abraham and Sarah watercolored in Hebrews 11 – ” They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Unfulfilled desire can be one of the most powerful signs of the presence of God (something the Jesuits have traditionally been particularly good about explicating); however, that doesn’t mean all unfulfilled desires are so – some can downright destructive, so it’s always a matter of case-by-case discernment. (More patience, not just with God but with self and others….)

I don’t write this from a position of superiority about it. Just sharing some distilled thoughts from decades on the journey.

#6 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 2, 2016 @ 7:07 pm

Rod, Rod, Rod.
This piece really is incredibly insightful. We’re navigating in stormy waters, and you’re right: we mustn’t delude ourselves that we’re the captain. At most, we are the ship’s boy. Our faith is weak and need support.
I mentioned that during my late teens I took a vain pride in being an agnostic rationalist. Then, somehow, I was struck by the fact that I hadn’t heard anything as deeply, as profoundly human as the words of Christ. So entirely, truly human that it couldn’t be other than divine.
But how many times have I failed Him, how many have I faulted. They are countless. Your warning is a harsh, but welcome call to humility and watchfulness.
Stand strong in your faith. I’m sure that the Church will, sooner or later, return as one.

#7 Comment By James C. On March 2, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

I always thought it funny, Rod, that I joined the Catholic Church at the same time as when you abandoned Her—ten years ago now. I sometimes wish I had found the Church earlier in my life, during my traumatic childhood, when I really, really needed the Faith.

But at the same time I think that it was also a blessing that I entered when I did. I came in with no illusions and with both eyes open. And like you with Dante, sometimes our souls are not yet ready.

#8 Comment By Liam On March 2, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

Rod

Cross-posting partly from a comment I made on the Spotlight thread, it occurs to me that this anthem setting of Isaiah 40 may speak to you personally as you bear the perduring mystery of your illnesses.

[4]

Have You Not Known?
By K. Lee Scott (b. 1950)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you that the everlasting God dwells on high in starry splendor? His glory is unspeakable; his power shall never fail.

Refrain: They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and never faint.

To whom will God, the Lord, compare? Who can stand his equal? By his word he formed the heavens; by his power he ever sustains them. Vain rulers perish hopelessly; strong nations come to naught.

Then why complain, O Israel? Why downcast, O Jacob? Do you think he does not see? Is your way now disregarded? His knowledge is unsearchable, his wisdom strong and sure.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you that the everlasting God neither tires nor grows weary? Even youths shall stumble helplessly, the young grow weak and faint.

—Isaiah 40:21-31

#9 Comment By Grumpy Realist On March 2, 2016 @ 7:49 pm

Siarlys– I wonder how much of this is because our society really doesn’t put family at the center, and particularly not by comparison to the demands of our corporations.

We need to take risk away from families and put it back on the corporations. If you’re a corporation and you want to outsource your labor to a different country, fine. However–you should be responsible for supporting all the workers you have thrown out, at the very same salaries, until they find jobs in the area that are at least as good.

#10 Comment By Brendan On March 2, 2016 @ 7:55 pm

I am probably one of those to whom you refer. I gave up going to Mass due to being oncall 24×7 for IT systems, and have never returned.

The IT Panopticon never sleeps, and the techniques used to sustain it inhuman. Google “Plantation slavery scientific management” sometime. Even the techniques of meditation and prayer are co-opted for productivity improvement (Mindfulness at Work) instead of divine Communion.

Once we get microchips implanted into the brain (already here folks!) to increase efficiency what hope humanity? If the Panopticon culture is hostile to Christianity, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide – not even your own mind.

Do not be pleased that the internet/panopticon/Eye of Sauron is available on transatlantic flights.

#11 Comment By James Bradshaw On March 2, 2016 @ 8:10 pm

“… having to revisit in some sense the reason why I lost my Catholic faith, and might have lost my Christianity entirely had things continued”

If the self-professed “One True Church” is this fallible and capable of error (if not evil), why is it not conceivable that the books these men claim to uphold as Truth may contain errors or mistakes?

To reject this possibility is to insist that some men were infallibly able to hear God’s voice, understand what He was saying and to be able to translate the meaning and intent of those words to the rest of the world.

It seems unreasonable to me. Yet, this is exactly the position of Bible-believing Christians everywhere.

This isn’t an argument for atheism. I’m simply asking how we discern the prophets from the con artists when both make the same claims and both are equally as unverifiable.

#12 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 2, 2016 @ 8:55 pm

Rod, this will absolutely wreck my public image but I just happen to have a spare healing machine laying around doing nothing. You are going on it.

#13 Comment By thomas tucker On March 2, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Don’t fall for the old wives’ tale that you can’t drink alcohol if you’re on antibiotics (unless it’s metronidazole.) Have a margarita.

[NFR: Really? REALLY?! Oh man, that makes me so happy. Readers, you may not know this, but Thomas Tucker is a physician. — RD]

#14 Comment By Ryan Booth On March 2, 2016 @ 9:13 pm

Either be radical, or don’t be at all. You can’t bracket your faith off from the rest of your life. To that I would add that in our post-Christian culture, either you will be radical in the sense Marco means, or you won’t be Christian, because it will cost too much, and be too difficult.

That’s a great insight. It’s also at the heart of David Platt’s book, Radical, for which I can only give the highest recommendation. Rod, you should really have Radical on your BenOp book list, if it isn’t already.

#15 Comment By Johan On March 2, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

“if there is no prayerful, contemplative dimension to your Christianity … then you run the risk of becoming like the tribal Catholics.”

This has recently dawned on me also, perhaps unconsciously through absorbing your writing. In the church and denomination I attend, religion is de-facto defined in terms BUSYNESS, or even WORKAHOLISM, and CRUSADES to bring social justice to the world, and of course KEEPING THE MACHINE RUNNING. Knowledge, insight, meditation, wisdom, peace? What are those? Not on their radar screen. I now find this type of religion quite unappealing. I have made an inquiry at a local Catholic retreat center to see if I as a non-Catholic can attend a retreat, but so far no response. This is something I’m attracted to though.

#16 Comment By ludo On March 2, 2016 @ 10:46 pm

“Whatever your faith tradition, my warning to you is: don’t take anything for granted. You don’t know what’s coming. You think you know, but you don’t. You think you can imagine from where the attack might come, but you are almost certainly deceiving yourself. Learn from my mistakes.”

***

“According to the perspective of civil religion, the goal of governments should be the worldly public happiness of their people. This means that any politics or policy that demands sacrifice in this world to be compensated in some “beyond” is illegitimate.
While the idea of “worldly” happiness transcends the human order of things into the natural world, it never leaves our human existence in our human universe. The reality is that we are a part of nature; nature is not a part of us. Hence the God mentioned in the civil religion of the Declaration of Independence is called “Nature’s God”.
This means that modern natural science, which is the way we can come to know Nature’s God, has an important role to play in a republican civil religion. The civil-religious function of natural science is to uphold and defend the belief in the eternity of nature.
What does this belief have to do with the pursuit of public happiness and eternal life? Well, recent advances in the scientific study of the universe have suggested that nature, rather than being created out of nothing in a single event, is characterised by a rhythm of expanding and contracting parallel universes.
This civil religion of Nature’s God offers a scientifically and politically sound alternative to counter the interpretations of eternal life that spiritual religions offer.
If these scientific theories are correct, then one thing seems to follow: everything that did not happen to you in this world, everything that you regretted doing or omitting to do, everything that has led you to place your faith in “another” world, paradise or beyond, has happened to you not once, but countless times.
In a parallel existence, in some other version of this universe, which may or may not be this very life that you are now living, you have always been happy, you have always “made it to the top” – in fact, you are eternally there.
The idea of eternal recurrence may very well contain the deepest meaning of worldly happiness: if nature contains an infinite number of variations of you, the life you are living is neither the only one you shall ever live, nor is it a life for which you need to seek redemption by sacrificing your life or that of others.”

[5]

But this “Eutopian” notion of an unending constellation of worlds simultaneously recurring, though, most significantly, not concurring, can in a manner perceptively mirror for us their infinity of possibilities, while, as said, remaining ever suspended in an unceasing rotation of static (or at least exceedingly strictured) un-mutuality (i.e. encapsulating discrete totalities of lives directly divorced from their mirror selves by the normal laws of cosmology). This condition, if it is in fact so, must necessarily imply an opposite corollary–which most likely, if not inherently, doubles in its negative intensity and impact the good potential force of the first:

Namely, darkness has an infinity of dimensions from which it can approach; it is not impeded by the ostensible discreteness/staticity (as far as normal human power is concerned) of cosmological dimensions; if any force (excepting the Divine) can (and therefore likely facilely does) “bleed” into other dimensions it is “darkness,” and yet it is precisely such an invocation of other dimensions that the aforementioned atheistic commenter advocates in lieu of all established traditional faiths (Christianity, needless to say, included).

#17 Comment By DeclinetheEnjoy On March 3, 2016 @ 2:12 am

Please take care of yourself. As we get older, I think we really underestimate how frail we can be. We don’t change in our minds, but our bodies love to remind us of that, with something as simple as a common cold becoming an effort. Hope you get well soon.

The human condition is that claiming spiritual authority over others leads often to abuse, especially in small communities. You’re trying to say ” no, only tribal people abuse/defend abuse, Christians who are contemplative as well will be fine.”

It doesn’t matter if you are contemplative or not, it matters that you understand the potential for abuse and limit the power anyone has. You can’t just make a narrative of tribal Catholics turning a blind eye, because its human nature to want to protect things close to your or more reasonably doubt extraordinary claims and want to think the best of people.

Maybe this is my distrust of community talking, but I think you more or less have to accept the human condition and realize nothing solves it, only weakens the damage. The Catholic church and to a lesser extent all churches don’t really internalize this due to the narrative of repentance and reformation.

#18 Comment By Mick On March 3, 2016 @ 5:59 am

If religious faith is ever going to play a significant role in American society, it must offer people comfort (not in a materialistic sense) and persuade by way of humble and understated example. The way religion seeks to influence society today is too often through scolding people publicly who are not religious or making crass connections between politics, Christianity and patriotism.

#19 Comment By Anastasia On March 3, 2016 @ 6:41 am

Thank you for this excellent post, Rod. There are dark days ahead, and we would be foolish to ignore it. We are entering another age of martyrs, as your icon of St. Maximillian Kolbe so aptly illustrates. But what is the seedbed for these martyrs, how are they being nourished? The pews are empty, the churches have sold out to New Age claptrap (a friend of mine calls it “newage,” to rhyme with sewage). Your Benedict Option makes more and more sense to me. My concern, though, is that your Tipoloschi experience will set the bar so high that ordinary Christians will throw up their hands in discouragement. That would be a tragedy. Yes, living in community is a wonderful thing, and how inspiring such places are. We have been equally inspired by the Monastery at Bose in northern Italy. But it has to be possible for individual Christian families to live out the Ben Op on a less grand scale, especially if they are isolated and living in a highly secularized society.

One thing I would highly recommend for small-scale Ben Op efforts, besides prayer and fasting and living the Eucharistic life, is reading the lives of the saints. We read every morning from a book by Robert Ellsberg called “All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.” Not all the people in Ellsberg’s book are canonized saints; not all of them are even Christians. But every one of them is an example of courage and sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds. A few days ago we read the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement. Today it was Blessed Katherine Drexel, who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and used her enormous inherited wealth to build schools for Native Americans and African Americans when no one else was even thinking of such a thing. We rarely get through one of these entries without tears, not because the stories are so sentimental (they aren’t) but because we can see how much work lies ahead, and what a cloud of witnesses there is for us to emulate.

[NFR: Thanks for this. The thing about the Tipiloschi is how unbelievably normal they are. They didn’t start this yesterday. They began as young Catholics back in the 1990s who shared the same faith, and the inspiration to live like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and make helping the needy part of their thing. There is no grand plan there; they just took things as they came, and still do. They didn’t start the school until 2008, I believe, because they saw a need for education that is more true to Christian teaching. I’ve got hours of interviews recorded, and I think that once I lay out the Tipiloschi life in the book, it will seem much more achievable. You have to start somewhere. The Tipiloschi strike me as very much like St. Benedict, who didn’t start out trying to save the world, but rather asked himself how he could live an authentic Christian life in his own time and place — and then set out to create those conditions. — RD]

#20 Comment By DS On March 3, 2016 @ 8:13 am

I second the recommendation of the book Radical by David Platt. It’s a call to act as if we really believe the things we say we believe, and it’s from a Protestant prospective. And it’s short and to the point — an afternoon read.

Lots of books make me think. This is the rare one that made me think about changing.

#21 Comment By skrifari On March 3, 2016 @ 8:24 am

Rod–And speaking of paths not taken: I’m sure I’m not the only long-time reader who has wondered what your life would have been like had you been exposed to serious, traditional Methodism. Our emphasis on a disciplined prayer life (hey, that’s where the name came from) seems like a good fit.

My personal guess: you’d have ended up in the same place (since it’s clearly a good place for you)but the road there might have been serener and less painful.

#22 Comment By Anastasia On March 3, 2016 @ 9:34 am

“…I think that once I lay out the Tipiloschi life in the book, it will seem much more achievable. You have to start somewhere.”

True. What I’m saying — I guess what I’m asking — is what is the essence of the Benedict Option idea? Is it the challenge of living in community with like-minded people (and it is a challenge — not everybody is fit for it by a longshot), or is it a way of life you can adapt on a smaller scale, a family, say, or even a single individual? Being at places like Tipiloschi, or Bose, can really fire you up. But is that the final aim? I bet there are thousands of folks who are living the Ben Op right now without knowing it. As you say, it just happens. Or as Dorothy Day put it, “It all happened while we were sitting around talking.”

#23 Comment By JonF On March 3, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

Brendan,
I have known doctors who were on call too. Sometimes they have to step away and make a call, and sometimes they even have to head off to handle an emergency. But they still make it to church.

#24 Comment By Gwendolyn Sheldon On March 3, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

Why are you going to Austin? Is something happening in Austin that I’m not aware of?

Also, you can mix antibiotics and alcohol. Antibiotics were first used to treat STDs, but it’s hard to treat STDs if your patients go out and get drunk and sleep with the same prostitutes who gave them the STD that’s being treated. Hence the warning to avoid alcohol.

#25 Comment By GFC On March 3, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

Rod I gave you a hard time in one of the Trump threads, but no hard feelings – this was a beautiful piece and I got a lot from it. I will be passing it around. God bless you!

#26 Comment By Jeremy Hickerson On March 3, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

Great and helpful post, Rod!

#27 Comment By Brendan On March 3, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

“Well, recent advances in the scientific study of the universe have suggested that nature, rather than being created out of nothing in a single event, is characterised by a rhythm of expanding and contracting parallel universes.”

Sans evidence, it is mere speculation that avoids the fundamental question of Why is there anything at all? How did these multiple parallel universes in rhythm originate?

The basic issue, to me, is the recognition that Man is NOT the measure of all things – the rejection of Sophistry is foundational to Logic, Science and Theology (esp monotheism). No logically formed theory can ever be truly outside that metaphysics.

That metaphysics also includes the notion of Energy (Aristotle Metaphysics book Theta), potential and kinetic, and all of physics and most of science ever since has been improving theories of Energy. “Theory” and “Energy” both belong to monotheistic rational metaphysics, however complex and convoluted our perception is.

#28 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On March 5, 2016 @ 2:51 am

Mr. Dreher, I can well understand your emotions, but in any human of activity it is necessary to analyze the statistics of good and evil deeds.
If you for example take a medicine and education. Is there no abuse or errors?
I think there is, therefore, in the event of medical errors there are medical insurance or legal support for doctors. If the physician has harmed the patient, the insurance company will pay the damages. One or two cases, and for the third time the insurance company refuses to insurance and an unscrupulous employee will be dismissed. Priests resist the devil by the nature of their activities. The devil tempts. Not every priest is able to resist him. Sometimes the devil wins. Insurance for the priests should be created for these cases: if the priest caused moral damage – the insurance company will pay a substantial compensation. If the devil is not only tempting but already possessed a priest, and several sessions of exorcism failed. What to do then? It remains only one thing – it is necessary to burn the priest. Of course this is not a civilized way, but Giordano Bruno was burned for a much lower sin.
At different times, each society has its own requirements for a particular public institution. There were times when the church Inquisition burned beautiful women as witches, so they do not distract the men from God. Now same-sex marriages are registered in different countries. It is positioned as normal and of course modern society will not allow the fallen priest was burned in a furnace.
And this is right, because it seems to me that Catholic priests commit more good things than bad.

#29 Comment By Mac61 On March 6, 2016 @ 8:14 pm

I became Catholic during the papacy of John Paul II, very much because of him. The systematic sexual abuse/soul murder of children process at work worldwide in the church did not become known to me until later. I still cannot understand why John Paul ignored the reports that were in his hands as early as 1985–horrific details of nightmares he had the power to stop, but did not do so. His friendship with Maciel and his elevation of Law to high status just do not make sense to me. He is not a saint to have presided over these worldwide crimes against children and to have been so blind. Any feeling person who reads those details is livid. What in God’s name is wrong with this Church? I distanced myself from the church but never stopped being Catholic. I am on the edge of either embracing contraries and paradox and seeking a contemplative space within the 1970s pop liturgy, or maybe it’s time to move on to Orthodoxy. I do agree that if you allow yourself to be cut off from community, the relativistic secular world will tear you to shreds in short time. Despite some efforts by Benedict XVI and Francis, it still seems to me that the hierarchy still just doesn’t get it. In countries where there are no reporting laws, there is nothing to compel Catholic authorities to choose to protect children. Canon Law still protects pedophiles in most of the world. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, this must stop. To the poster above — we’ve heard the “it’s a few bad apples” argument before. Investigate the worldwide scope of this horror, and the responsibility lies at the door of the Vatican, 1985 — and probably well before.