Is It Time To Hunker Down?

If libertarians on the right worry about structural collapse, cultural and religious conservatives add a moral and spiritual dimension to the debate. Rising hedonism, waning religious observance, ongoing break-up of the family, and a general loss of cultural coherence—to traditionalists, these are signs of a possible Dark Age ahead.

Christians have been here before. Around the year 500, a generation after barbarians deposed the last Roman emperor, a young Umbrian man known to history only as Benedict was sent to Rome by his wealthy parents to complete his education. Disgusted by the city’s decadence, Benedict fled to the forest to pray as a hermit.

Benedict gained a reputation for holiness and gathered other monks around him. Before dying circa 547, he personally founded a dozen monastic communities, and wrote his famous Rule, the guidebook for scores of monasteries that spread across Europe in the tumultuous centuries to follow.

Rome’s collapse meant staggering loss. People forgot how to read, how to farm, how to govern themselves, how to build houses, how to trade, and even what it had once meant to be a human being. Behind monastery walls, though, in their chapels, scriptoriums, and refectories, Benedict’s monks built lives of peace, order, and learning and spread their network throughout Western Europe.

However, Dreher believes the future lies not in monastic communities as such, but intentional religious communities built up from the local level as parishes and family groups decide to focus on the essentials. He writes further on the subject here

In some instances, Benedict-Option Christians may seek to found new neighborhoods centered on communal worship. I think of the traditionalist Catholic community around Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, or of the Orthodox community around St. John Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska. Contrary to the claims of Benedict-Option critics, neither community is utopian and separatist, shunning the outside world.

For most of us, though, that degree of commitment isn’t possible, even if it were desirable. Our Benedict Option will express itself within institutions—churches, schools, para-church organizations, and so forth—whose purpose is to keep orthodox Christianity alive in the hearts and minds of believers living as exiles in an ever more hostile culture. These must be institutions that fulfill Flannery O’Connor’s dictum that you have to push back as hard against the world as the world pushes against you..

I believe he is right in assessing both a trend and a necessity. As a parish priest I am already seeing the trend. Nominal Catholics are increasingly not there anymore. I know of several families who have disappeared from our parish, for example, because they disagree with the church’s teaching on same sex marriage. If I preach the Catholic faith with clarity and charity those who want the fullness of the Catholic faith remain and grow stronger in their commitment. Those who were ambivalent about the church’s teaching but were happy to drift along are increasingly angry, distant and are removing themselves.

So be it.

At the same time those who wish to affirm the fullness of the Catholic faith are expressing an increasing desire to belong to a strong community that builds up that faith for them and their families.

Is it time to hunker down and be committed to such communities?

I think so.

Read Linker’s whole article here

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