The St. Benedict Option

This morning a friend forwarded an article from the National Catholic Register. The writer is a Father Longenecker who has had a revelation that perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from St. Benedict. He noted T. S. Eliot’s prediction that after the disintegration of Western society, civilization would be conserved and restored by a new monastic movement, as had previously happened at the end of the fifth century when St. Benedict of Nursia revitalized Christendom with his monastic communities.

St. Benedict of Nursia
St. Benedict of Nursia

Fr. Longenecker advanced his thesis by quoting from Eastern-Orthodox journalist Rod Dreher, who he states, “envisages a grassroots movement that echoes the witness of St. Benedict”. He quotes Dreher,  to the effect that the Benedict option calls for “a radical shift in perspective among Christians in order to “preserve the living faith through the coming Dark Ages.”

Longenecker paints quite a picture, stating that the “Benedict Option” calls for a radical shift away from “cafeteria Catholicism” to what he refers to as, “intentionally informed and aware Catholicism, more like an elite fighting force than a religiously themed country club.” But then he slips back into the post-conciliar errors when he describes such a proposed community, “The pastor and people would decide priorities based on the immediate needs of the parish members.” This indicates that he doesn’t quite grasp the whole “Benedict Option” at all. Consider refocusing from the “immediate needs of members” to the true focus: on discerning and following the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In a community based on St. Benedict’s spiritual rule,  the pastor and people center their lives on the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with total and uncompromising devotion to doing the will of Jesus Christ, King. In the prologue of his rule, St. Benedict states,

The Lord daily expects us to make our life correspond with His holy admonitions. … So brethren, we have asked the Lord about the dwellers in His tabernacle and have heard what is the duty of him who would dwell therein; it remains for us to fulfil this duty. Therefore our hearts and bodies must be made ready to fight under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God that He be pleased, where our nature is powerless, to give us the help of His grace. And if we would escape the pains of hell and reach eternal life, then we must, while there is still time … hasten to do now what will profit us for all eternity.

Therefore we must establish a school of the Lord’s service; … As we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts shall be enlarged and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments … persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death, we shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may be partakers also of His kingdom. Amen.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Roman Catholic Books)

In other words, a true Benedict Option would properly focus on discerning and doing the will of God alone. That is our sole need now and always. It is what is missing in all the post-conciliar blather about dialog, and ‘walking with” sinners. We are all sinners and should be aiming at “walking with” Christ, that is, taking up our crosses and following Him. But that is perhaps too much truth, too much reality. After all, Pat Archbold got sacked for too much reality. Humankind cannot bear very much reality…(T. S. Eliot)

Father Longenecker believes that the Benedict Option is already here, with a growing separation between Catholics, “more American than Catholic” and the emerging “Benedict Option” parishes, that are uncompromising and clear in their Catholicism. He even cites George Weigel who also believes that “well catechized and committed Catholics, ready to live out their faith in the midst of impending crisis are a positive sign of renewal in the Church. I heartily agree!

This is all so encouraging! My dear friend, Bernadette, who has 13 children, of whom two are priests, one is in seminary, and two are nuns, will be delighted to hear of this news. Bernadette and her husband have lived, since the late 1970’s, just such a life as Father Longenecker and Rod Dreher propose. In their small but fervent community of “schismatic” but well catechized and committed Catholics, they live lives totally devoted to and centered on the daily Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and live out their Total Consecration to Mary. They have never had television in their home, nor do they subscribe to the NCR, so I shall have to tell her about this striking development. In their Chapel, which is the center and strength of their community, they pray before every Mass for the Pope and the hierarchy, aware as they are of the terrible responsibility of the Vicar of Christ for the millions of souls entrusted to him.

Father Longenecker and Rod Dreher and yes, even pompous George Weigel, welcome to the Benedict Option, currently alive and thriving in the Chapels and families of the Society of St. Pius X !


Our Lady of Fatima, Immaculate Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, intercede for us and for all the Church!

Viva Cristo Rey!