Author Rod Dreher, is his book “The Benedict Option” argues that the best way to fight the growing secularism and hostility to Christianity that most of us see in our home countries is to go back to the example of Saint Benedict of Nursia.
Saint Benedict of Nursia, looking at the moral collapse following the fall of Rome in the 6th Century, chose to retreat from the world and build communities based on the order and stability that Christianity offered. The existence of these communities is credited with saving Christianity and Western civilization.
Dreher points out that watered-down Christianity, a secular culture that is hostile to Christian values and general apathy of Christians themselves, make it advisable….maybe even necessary….that we build our own separate communities.
It is certainly easy to get discouraged and feel that you are swimming against the tide….such as the Charlie Gard case, where the government dictates what care parents can give their child. Or where Catholic doctors and nurses are obliged to violate their consciences in order to practice their profession. Or sidewalk counselors are threatened with arrest. Or even some of our own clerics who have strayed from the teachings of the Church.
However, something we may have forgotten was that Christianity was never meant to be easy, and unfortunately, surface Christianity has become too easy in many places. No one stops you from attending Mass or practicing your faith….until you take it out of the church building. But, of course, the building is not the Church, we as Catholic Christians are the Church.
What is often missing, though is a sense of community. In fact, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook has taken the place of churches in providing a sense of community, and sadly, he is probably correct in many cases.
Although retreating to a monastery might appeal to some (and they may even feel called to it), it is not practical for most of us. We have jobs, children (or grandchildren) to raise, responsibilities that keep us in the world around us. And, of course, we are called to be “a light unto the world” rather than withdraw from it.
Archbishop Charles J. Caput has written a similar book on the subject, “Strangers in a Strange Land”, as shown here on the left.
We highly recommend it.
And in reality, what Dreher is proposing in his book is similar: rather than hide out in a monastery in the forest, we remain in the world, but withdraw from those things which are so harmful to our spiritual life.
Some simple things you can do that can be your own Benedict Option:
† Turn off the TV and read a book.
† Start a prayer group
† Plan a weekly social event with other like-minded Catholics.
Thus, we become our own community, or “Benedict Option”.
So how does all of this relate to travel? We suggest you go on a pilgrimage or retreat. Traveling to a local shrine, taking a pilgrimage, whether near or far away, can be a way to help renew our faith and to be in community with fellow Catholics.
There are many opportunities…a retreat center nearby, a group pilgrimage to various shrines, or just a personal pilgrimage as shown on our blog.
Being around other Catholics offers a chance to re-charge your batteries…..not so much in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense. You realize that you are not alone in the struggle. And, of course, if you travel to on a pilgrimage you will be with other Catholics, participate in Mass in other cultures, see just how universal the Catholic Church really is, and how you fit in to this world-wide community.
And that, really, is what “The Benedict Option” is all about.