On Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option

The New Yorker has a deliciously long piece about Rod Dreher’s latest book The Benedict Option by Joshua Rothman. Well worth the most-enjoyable read.  An example:

He and his wife converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and, with a few other families, opened their own Orthodox mission church, near St. Francisville, sending away for a priest. It was Dreher’s Orthodox priest, Father Matthew, who laid down the law. “He said, ‘You have no choice as a Christian: you’ve got to love your dad even if he doesn’t love you back in the way that you want him to,’ ” Dreher recalled. “ ‘You cannot stand on justice: love matters more than justice, because the higher justice is love.’ ” When Dreher struggled to master his feelings, Father Matthew told him to perform a demanding Orthodox ritual called the Optina Rule. He recited the Jesus Prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—hundreds of times a day.

Two life-changing events occurred after Dreher began the regimen of prayer. He was alone at home one evening, lying in bed, when he sensed a presence in the room. “I felt a hand reach inside my heart and put a stone there,” he said. “And I could see, in some interior way, that the stone said, ‘God loves me.’ I’d doubted all my life that God really loved me.” A few months later, Dreher stopped by his dad’s house to organize his medications. Ray was sitting on the porch, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. When Dreher leaned down to kiss him on the cheek, his father grabbed him by the arm. Tears were in his eyes. “He was stammering,” Dreher recalled. “He said, ‘I—I—I spent a long time talking to the Lord last night about you, and the transgressions I did against you. And I told him I was sorry. And I think he heard me.’ ” Recounting the story in the back seat of the car en route to D.C., Dreher still seemed astonished that this had happened. “I kissed him, and said, ‘I love you.’ ”

I have not read the book yet, though I regularly read Dreher’s blog over at The American Conservative and have read many reviews of and reactions to The Benedict Option.

Shane Shaetzel recently wrote about it over at his blog Catholic in the Ozarks and the book’s relevance to to Catholics.

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. So with that said, what are some things Catholic families can do to bring the Benedict Option to your local Catholic parish…

Ordinariate parishes and communities may have the disadvantage of having members who live far away from the church where Sunday Mass is held.  But some of the ways Ordinariate members can deepen their sense of community is through the practice Morning and Evening Prayer every day—and, when possible in families, or with some neighbors.  There is a button up  on the right-hand side of the blog that says in green:  Morning and Evening Prayer. Click on that button and it’ll take you to John Covert’s excellent site that lays out for you all the Psalms, readings and collects of the day.  John is a member of the Boston area group that has combined the former Anglican Use parish of St. Athanasius with St. Gregory the Great, an ordinariate parish under Fr. Jurgen Liias who retired.

Anyone want to chime in on the Benedict Option and what role if any Ordinariate communities can play in becoming arks to ride the flood of modernity?

UPDATE:    Rod Dreher responds to the New Yorker article on his blog here.


3 thoughts on “On Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option

  1. Are you taking the position that getting into an ark to ride out the “flood of modernity” is the only accepable Christian project?


  2. It’s a great profile of Rod Dreher. I’ve read the book and an an obsessive reader of Rod’s blog. As I’ve said before, the Ordinariates are in many ways a Benedict Option type project. And as Br. John-Bede Pauley and others point out, Anglican spirituality itself is intrinsically monastic and Benedictine (see here for example: http://fullhomelydivinity.org/articles/benedictinespirit.htm ).

    But I think it would be extremely worthwhile for Ordinariate communities to think about how they can become more intentionally Benedict Option oriented communities. In Chapter Three of Dreher’s book, he discusses eight key Benedictine monastic practices, distilled from the Rule of Saint Benedict as he observed being practiced by the Benedictine community of Nursia, Italy, that he thinks all Christian communities would do well to emulate. Those are: order, prayer, work, asceticism, stability, community, hospitality, and balance. Now, I see a lot of these ideals reflected in the Ordinariate which in many ways was doing the Benedict Option before the Benedict Option was a thing. But it is worth reflecting on how we can be even more consciously Benedictine and Benedict Option oriented communities. Another useful source is Matthew Dallman’s short book (available on Kindle) The Benedictine Parish, which describes the effort to revive a dying Episcopal parish by rebuilding its spiritual life around the practices of saying the office and building up a core lay community rather than building the church around “programs”.

    Liked by 1 person

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