by Fr Richard Heilman | June 16, 2015 2:12 PM
A concept that seems to be appearing more and more these days is what is called, “The Benedict Option.” Eric Sammons, over at One Peter Five, writes about it …
” … as our culture rides the slip-and-slide to paganism, many Catholics and other tradition-minded Christians are starting to recognize the signs of the times and are asking themselves, ‘What is the proper response to the rapid decline of civilization – and rapid increase in anti-Christian bigotry – that we see all around us?’ One idea that is gaining more and more traction is the ‘Benedict Option.’
The Benedict Option was originated by former Catholic and now Eastern Orthodox writer Rod Dreher (who should, by the way, come back to the Catholic Church). It is an idea that takes St. Benedict and his way of life as a model for how to respond to a decaying, and hostile, culture. Anxious about the state of affairs in the West, Dreher proposes that we must establish communities that will preserve the faith in the coming Dark Ages, just as the founder of Western monasticism established his monastery among the cultural ruins of a dying civilization.”
Eric Sammons then strikes on something that is key for all of us, going foreword …
I am personally quite attracted to this concept. By homeschooling, having a large family, seeking out a solid parish, and trying to avoid the rot that is pop-culture, I (and others who have made similar choices) already live the Benedict Option in ways both large and small.
YES!!! It is time for us to restore the “fortresses of faith” that were once commonplace for Catholics living in the world. This “Benediction Option” was once in full force in days gone by. Sure, there are a few who are called to the strict sense of monastic living, but I am referring to a kind of “monasticism of the laity” that was so prevalent only some 50 years ago.
While the monks and nuns had their monasteries, hidden among the woods and hillsides around our planet, ordinary run of the mill Catholics had their local church and their domestic church that, for them, was a kind of monastery, with their own “monastic rule for laity” to follow. While the world was becoming unhinged all around them, they remained constant in their “spiritual disciplines” and they had the strong support of community, by way of their local parish. You see? I believe it was this “support and discipline” of the laity that gave the era preceding ours the mettle to be so remarkable that they have been immortalized as the “Greatest Generation.”
Eric Sammons reveals that, today, we have “an ‘in-house’ problem with any implementation of the Benedict Option …
… we simply aren’t strong enough to practice it. As a generation that has mostly faced, at worst, nothing but ‘soft persecution’ in the midst of material plenty, we have grown flabby. We live in a Church of felt banners, insipid homilies, and tolerance for sin. One of the primary traditional means to strengthen our spiritual life – mortification – is no longer practiced; in fact, it is ridiculed as a relic of a bygone era. For most of us, just the basic fasting the Church requires on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is considered a high hurdle. Is this really the generation that can joyfully endure a true persecution, in which our jobs, our freedom, even our children are on the line?”
St. Maximillian Kolbe once said, “Not in mortification, not in prayer, not in labor, nor in rest, but in obedience is the essence and merit of holiness.” What was the “Monastic Rule of the Laity” in an era gone by? OBEDIENCE!
In a very real sense, this “obedience” may be the most difficult form of “mortification” for folks today. We have been coddled for all of these past 50 years. And, we have been programmed to believe we are the bestest, most wonderfulest generation that has ever lived, and we simply know better than every generation before us. So, throw out the old ways of worship, the old ways of praying, the old ways of serving, because our generation “has arrived!” Now we can’t sit still unless the band at Mass is entertaining, and the newest, most coolest DVD “program” comes out to thrill our spiritual senses. Of course, many just left the practice of their faith because “it just didn’t mean much anymore” and, no matter what I do (or don’t do) or what I believe, God is cool with that because, you know, He is all-loving.
In the feature photo for this post, you are looking at a family heirloom. That was my grandfather’s daily missal from the late 1950s. When you open his missal, all of the holy cards begin to spill out. Some were favorite prayers and favorite saints, but many were memorial holy cards from the funerals of friends and family he knew. One of the holy cards was from his son’s (my Godfather) ordination day.
Yes, that’s right, the “Monastic Rule of the Laity” had very much to do with praying daily, with the saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and for loved ones who were the beneficiaries of the graces that came from my grampa’s prayers.
This connection with the saints and holy souls made that generation Navy SEALS, in terms of spiritual warfare. Having lost this discipline, along with so many of the other spiritual disciplines common among that previous generation, we have become a generation of Girl Scouts, in terms of spiritual warfare.
So, this will be our mission. In our effort to recover the Navy SEAL-like spiritual strength of the Greatest Generation, we (our “Special Forces Training” group) will be exploring at and restoring the “Monastic Rule of the Laity.”
NO CROSS, NO CROWN!
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