Catholic in the Ozarks responds to The Benedict Option

Shane Shaetzel,  a member of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society board, has a lengthy and interesting post at Catholic in the Ozarks responding to Rod Dreher’s latest book The Benedict Option.

He writes:

The problem is modern Western culture — Modernism — and this is what is discussed in the book The Benedict Option. Our Modernist culture is just too overwhelming for parents to be able to do their jobs anymore. It is virtually impossible for parents to raise godly children, in the self-sacrificial Catholic faith, when the message of the world (even the message of consumer Christianity) is that of self-gratification. Like ancient Rome, the culture is destined for collapse. It’s hard to say if or when such a collapse would be political, but it most certainly is cultural.

On a personal side note, living here in the Bible Belt of the United States, I am constantly hearing local Protestants refer to the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as some kind of “turning point” for the culture, and they fully expect things to get better now. I’m sorry to report to you that our Evangelical brethren are sorely mistaken on this, and will be in for a rude awakening sometime in the not-too-distant future. Politicians cannot solve this problem. Those who believe the election of Trump marks some kind of cultural turning point are sadly deceiving themselves.

So with a culture that is overwhelmingly Modernist, wherein Catholic parents have no choice, what is this Benedict Option in modern terms? No, it’s not what you think. It’s not about going out into the wilderness to live as the Amish do. I suppose that might be a viable choice for some, but certainly not for most. For the average Catholic, the Benedict Option heavily involves your local Catholic parish.

The Catholic parish must be revived, or rebuilt, to become a truly communal place, as it was originally meant to be. Catholics can no longer look at Catholicism as just one aspect of their lives. Rather, they must now look at it as their entire lives. Catholicism can no longer influence us. It must define us, and yes, the local Catholic parish is the key to making this whole thing work. Without it, any attempt at a Benedict Option will fail miserably.

Go on over and read the whole thing.

And while we’re on the topic of Rod Dreher, who writes at The American Conservative, and is always interesting, I came across this piece of his at the site.

It is a review of a book by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow   

Dreher writes:

Harari understands that modernity has a way of dissolving all inherited sacred stories. Here is a key paragraph that is incredibly important:

“Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.”

Read that again. Think about it. What he’s saying is that ceasing to believe that there is fixed meaning in the universe leaves us in an unstable situation, but it gives us more agency to remake the world in our own image. Very few people are what Damon Linker calls “honest atheists” — that is, atheists who understand what it means to surrender the meaning that comes with theism. Most of them end up becoming sentimentalists of some sort or another — and that is the fate of Yuval Noah Harari, who is an incorrigible nostalgist for the future.

He believes that having been freed from the old myths is a very good thing indeed, because it liberates us to do what we like. Harari believes that capitalism is a force for good in the sense that it responds to human desires. Human desire is good. The desire to be free from pain, suffering, and death is good. Therefore, anything done in service of those goals is good. He eagerly anticipates the power of redefining what it means to be human that will soon be delivered to us via science and technology.

9 thoughts on “Catholic in the Ozarks responds to The Benedict Option

  1. I totally disagree with you, here in the Archdiocese of Boston, Catholic parents do have a choice ! No more is this reflected in our vibrant Catholic School tradition and every morning at my local parish there is ongoing instruction of Catholic youth from our parish – kindergarten to high school- in the Faith. And our Massachusetts’ Citizens for Life initiative includes many Catholic youth at its forefront. It just takes commitment on the part of the parent ! Many parents however, Catholic and non- Catholic alike are just coping out on their parental responsibility ! Nothing new here …. since “Modernism” what ever the form …. has had to be countered at every Epoch of human development !


    • Not to paint too rosy of a picture, but at Saint Joseph’s here in the West End …. I should have typed every “Sunday ” morning ! Still —- it is so nice to have the whole parish hall filled with the young “Faithful ” at work !


    • I really wish that were the case.

      But, unfortunately, here in the Archdiocese of Boston, many of our parishes and canonically “Catholic” schools are full of adults who pay lip service to the faith while adhering to the world’s values and lifestyle, led by clergy who pretend that all is well while preaching homilies that parlay very clear scriptural texts (“Jesus said, ‘You are either with me or against me…'”) into sentences of vacillation and paragraphs of doublespeak that bring conviction and conversion to nobody. Heaven forbid that the clergy of a parish should ever dare to step on a parishioner’s toes! The result is that the student body of a typical public high school has a much higher percentage of virgins than the student body of a typical Catholic high school.

      Of course, many of those virgins in the public schools are evangelical Christians, who really strive to live according to the scripture and to support one another in doing so.

      And I really doubt that this situation is unique to the Archdiocese of Boston, though it certainly is not universal.



      • On “virginity” I assume that you do have the data to back it up ? And I guess we are so lucky here in the West End in that our Priest does “step on toes” . The only issue that I associate with Boston – is in its devotion to the Kennedy Clan and thankfully that is as well changing !


  2. Leaving aside the so-called “Benedict Option” for the moment, it just makes me shake my head whenever most people say the word ‘modernism’. No one ever tries to define it (at least, I’ve never seen anyone try) before they talk about it. I’ve learned over the last 10+ years that it boils down to lying and sodomy. It’s what afflicts our society. Lying in the case of modernism involves disingenuousness, twisting the meanings of words, not keeping vows, and blatant falsehoods. Sodomy means both same-sex abominations as well as opposite-sex abuses of the bedroom like contraception.


  3. Bishop Barron’s thoughtful response to the Benedict Option is not to be missed:

    He ties it to the perennial struggle within Catholicism and Christianity generally between identity and relevance. In a nutshell, the more we cling to our distinct Catholic / Christian identity, the less we appear relevant to the mainstream culture, but the more we seek to be relevant to the culture, the more we risk losing our Catholic / Christian identity. On balance, Bishop Barron thinks that Rod Dreher is likely right, and that at this point in time what is more important is for Catholics and Christians to live more intentional “Benedictine” lifestyles in order to build up the resources we will need to be able to evangelize culture at a more promising time.

    To me it seems that the Ordinariates are very much a “Benedict option” project – they are communities formed by refugees from a religious community that seek to preserve the religious, liturgical, and culture patrimony of their religious past to be able to share it with the wider community in the future. They are building small parish groups, focusing on reverent liturgy, etc., all things that Dreher emphasizes in the Benedict Option.

    I think the Ordinariates could benefit from reading the Benedict Option and trying to implement some of its proposals. What would this mean, beyond the liturgy? Well, I would suggest a greater emphasis on the Divine Office, both as a collective and individual practice; more educational efforts – schools certainly, but also online and adult education programs – to be able to pass on the rich tradition of Anglican and Anglo-Catholic scholarship and show how it fits in with the broader patristic and Catholic tradition; more directly charitable activities reaching out to the poor – taking in refugees, helping with homeless shelters and soup kitchens, many of the things pioneered by Anglo-Catholic priests in the London docks in the 19th century. Right now building schools or charitable enterprises may seem beyond the scope of tiny Ordinariate groups, but this should be our aspiration, to form truly intentional communities that will not only answer the spiritual needs, but the intellectual, communal, and material needs of Ordinariate communities.

    Liked by 2 people

    • All that Mark C said, with the additional comment that I’d consider the Divine Office as being part of liturgical renewal (not “beyond” the liturgy), and that the primary emphasis in celebrating the Office publicly should be frequency/regularity/habit, rather than an effort to dazzle with the occasional Solemn Choral Evensong. Nothing wrong with the latter, of course, especially if resources permit both! We just shouldn’t neglect the power of a simple, very regular service, especially when most communities can’t afford fancy celebrations very often (if at all) anyway.

      The young, zealous priest at a local Eastern Orthodox church celebrates a public “reader’s Vespers” almost every day — very simple, not much “solemnity,” though he does chant parts of it. Almost no one ever attends (sadly), but at least it’s there, and I always find it to be such a great blessing when I happen to make it occasionally. I don’t think there’s a reason we Papists couldn’t start building up toward the same ideal, brick by brick, as resources permit. Here’s to speedy final approval of Divine Worship: The Daily Office!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the liturgical restoration directed by the Second Vatican Council clearly includes public celebration of the divine office as a regular part of parish life. Sadly, there are many parishes that have not caught onto this. But, even worse, I have encountered several diocesan parishes — and even a cathedral! — where laity gather faithfully to pray various hours from the divine office and the clergy of the parish do not participate. Rather, the clergy of such parishes should be leading, first and foremost, by their personal example of full and active participation therein! Here, the liturgical norm that the public form of celebration is to be preferred over private celebration when a rite accommodates both is what governs.



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