In honor of The Most Holy Name of Mary, the photo shows the blessing of a statue of Our Lady that someone left on our lawn last year.
I have been meaning to read Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: a Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation but, having read much about the book, pro and con, I would place myself on the “pro” side.
I am in good company.
Yesterday, in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein endorsed the book in a speech that has astonished the world. +Ganswein still closely serves the Pope-emeritus, but also Pope Francis as the head of the papal household. So everyone is paying attention to the speech because it may give insight into what Pope Benedict is also thinking about the current crisis in the Church. And I would like us to contemplate how our Ordinariate communities can become little beacons of light in building a Benedict Option as our culture becomes more and more hostile to the Christian faith.
And yet, the recent news from America, where so many souls have been permanently and mortally injured by priests of the Catholic Church, is worse than any news could be of Pennsylvania’s churches suddenly collapsing, along with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
And yet I remember, as though it were just yesterday, how I accompanied Pope Benedict XVI on 16 April 2008 to this National Shrine of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, where he so touchingly tried to rouse the bishops of that country by describing to them the “deep shame” caused by the “sexual abuse of minors by priests”, and “the enormous pain that your congregations have suffered as clergy have betrayed their priestly duties and responsibilities through such gravely immoral behavior.”
It was probably in vain, as we see today. The lament of the Holy Father could not stop the evil and not even the lip service of a large part of the hierarchy.
Like an exorcist, Rod Dreher is also familiar with this “mysterium iniquitatis”, as he has proven with his reports over the last few months, in which he also promoted the enlightenment of the scandalous history of the former archbishop of Newark and Washington like perhaps no other journalist. Yet he is not an investigative reporter. Neither is he a fantasist, but a sober analyst who has been following the state of the Church and the world alertly and critically for a long time whilst nonetheless retaining an almost childlike, loving view of the world.
That is why Dreher does not present an apocalyptic novel like the famous “Lord of the World”, with which the British clergyman Robert Hugh Benson shook the Anglo-Saxon world in 1906. Rather, Dreher’s book resembles a practicable guide to building an ark, because he knows that there is no dam to stop the Great Flood that has been flooding the old Christian Occident since long before yesterday, and to which America belongs for him as a matter of course.
My understanding of the The Benedict Option’s thesis is this: we are living in a post-Christian society where not only can we no longer expect to have our faith and lifestyle supported by societal institutions, but also we face outright hostility. While critics say Dreher is calling for people to withdraw from the world, he is in fact saying we need to form intentional Christian communities to provide a bulwark for our families so we can keep the faith and pass it on to our children. These intentional communities can be formed in the inner city or in a small town or in the country—the location is not the issue so much as the resolve to ensure we form groups that are serious about serious faith formation and living it out.
And, granted, not having read the book, I think of our little Ordinariate communities as ideal base camps for The Benedict Option. And when we look at Our Lady of Atonement in San Antonio, with its top notch Christian academy, and efforts elsewhere to attach a school to the church, we see a template.
Here in Ottawa, our parish is very plugged in to Catholic movements within the Ottawa archdiocese that are intentional about building community and encouraging living out the faith and we are closely connected with schools that offer a classical Christian education, such as Augustine College, and the Chesterton Academy of Ottawa where our pastor Fr. Doug Hayman teaches Scripture.
I would be interested in hearing from people who have read The Benedict Option for their opinion on how the principles in the book apply to the Ordinariates.
Now to Archbishop Ganswein and his amazing talk at an event in Rome promoting the Italian edition of The Benedict Option.
Here is a man at the pinnacle of the Catholic Church, a man who loyally served Pope Benedict XVI (and who now serves Pope Francis as head of his household), speaking in apocalyptic terms about the sex abuse scandal and the general loss of faith across the West. He praised my work on the Catholic scandal, and the work of independent Catholic journalists. He said that The Benedict Option is a prophetic work, “a marvelous source of inspiration,” and the source of the greatest consolation to him as he grapples with the meaning of the scandals.
Dreher has done perhaps some of the best overall coverage at his blog at The American Conservative of the unfolding clerical abuse crisis now reaching the highest levels of the Church with the revelations about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his decades of preying on seminarians.
Dreher left the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy after becoming so disillusioned in covering the last big sexual abuse crisis that he could no longer believe the Church’s claims about Herself.
Follow the link to read the entire text, but here are a few excerpts of +Ganswein’s talk.