#ActonU – Day 2-3: Economics, Benedictine Option, and Physics

Day 2 (aka 1st full day) of Acton U was replete – as always – with great presentations.   In the afternoon, I went to a talk about the Benedictine Option.  This is not about the arrangement of candles and Crucifix on the altar as proposed by Pope Benedict.  This has to do with the idea that we might, or could, or should withdraw and live apart from mainstream society.   The talk drilled into what Rod Dreher has offered.  The presenter offered some insights, tactics from the life of John Paul II about how to deal with persecution that is here and that is coming.  She concluded with the proposal of a Marian Option.  There was a lively Q&A.

In the evening, we heard an address by Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith, which combined economics and, I’m not kidding, particle physics.  It was a tour de force.  Someone needs to get this talk to Benedict XVI, who would appreciate it enormously.

Today, this morning, we started out with a Sung Requiem Mass.

Sorry, the photo is a bit small:


Mind you, there is also an Ordinary Form Mass going on at the same time down the hall, concelebration and all that.   I think there is also a Protestant prayer gathering, too.

Lot’s to do today, so I had better get to it.

Meanwhile, a glimpse of one of the book laden tables.  The titles tantalize.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in On the road, What Fr. Z is up to and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kathleen10 says:

    The Benedictine Option sounds intriguing, Fr. Z. Please do share details when you can. That type of response certainly may be necessary soon. Perhaps if we end up with a President Trump, it will not, but as far as it looks now, everything hangs in the balance here. We’re no doubt going to be in a bad way here in the US if this tyrannical and atheistic administration is allowed to continue via a Clinton presidency. It will only ramp up. She’s had a fine tutorial in fascism.
    On a lighter note, a table full of books for sale is an exhilarating sight!

  2. KnitFoole says:

    I’ve heard about the Benedictine Option, the most recent article I read was over at Aletiea by John Burger. I don’t know if Aletiea is a good source. But from there you can glean more. I’m more curious about what a Marian Option may be.

  3. Clinton says:

    I recognize the recent paperback edition of von Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is
    stacked behind the “Classics” sign. Now there’s some truth in advertising!
    It’s such a sure-handed condemnation of socialism I wouldn’t be surprised if within
    a few years some of our nation’s universities didn’t start publicly burning it…

  4. JesusFreak84 says:

    The Benedictine Option, in this context, sounds like what I’ve been hearing out of “preppers” (usually Evangelical) since Obama was corinated, I mean elected. The idea of just cutting away from society, except for electricity and very basic internet, is getting more tempting every day, and after Orlando this past weekend, I’m hearing folks float that who just the day before would’ve called it crazy.

    Also curious what the Marian option is o.o

  5. lmgilbert says:

    ” In the afternoon, I went to a talk about the Benedictine Option. This is not about the arrangement of candles and Crucifix on the altar as proposed by Pope Benedict. This has to do with the idea that we might, or could, or should withdraw and live apart from mainstream society.”

    Forty years ago I was advocating this basic concept to our charismatic prayer group under the form of a Catholic charismatic kibbutz. Nobody bit, obviously, but I still think the kibbutz concept could be tweaked in a Catholic direction. The idea would be to be self-sufficient as the Benedictines are, to have our property in common, to live in a community of households. This, of course, is already being done, but not by Catholics.

    This is from the Wikipedia article on the Hutterites:

    “Hutterites practice a near-total community of goods: all property is owned by the colony, and provisions for individual members and their families come from the common resources. This practice is based largely on Hutterite interpretation of passages in chapters 2, 4, and 5 of Acts, which speak of the believers “having all things in common”. Thus the colony owns and operates its buildings and equipment like a corporation. Housing units are built and assigned to individual families but belong to the colony and there is very little personal property. Lunch and dinner meals are taken by the entire colony in a dining or fellowship room. Men and women sit in a segregated fashion. Special occasions sometimes allow entire families to enjoy meals together. Individual housing units do have kitchens which are used for breakfast meals.”

    Again, obviously this basic model would have to be tweaked in a much more Catholic direction, but there is a lot we could learn from them.

    That said, there are many other ways and degrees to which we can withdraw from society. Surely, the home-schoolers are showing the way.

    But to my mind we need above all to unplug from the mass media. Without polling and without any research whatever I have no fear of being incorrect in saying that all of our fallenaways were formed primarily by the mass media. And our children, the future fallenaways, continued to be formed by them. One has only to open his eyes and look. Drive by any high school, Catholic or not, when it lets out. Are they listening to EWTN, do you suppose?

    Meanwhile Catholic parents continue to be very concerned about “the culture” even as they are on their way to Best Buy to buy an even larger entertainment center so that they can continue to pipe that culture into their homes, but in an even more spectacular fashion.

    “We cannot hide our heads in the sand” is the mantra driving this stupidity. That and televised sports. This has to do mostly with the supreme importance of fitting in and being one of the guys. If we are going to “withdraw,” this is the place to put in the wedge. My experience is that many mothers would love to get rid of the TV for the sake of the children, but the fathers cannot live without it. This attachment is routinely supported from the pulpit, and when the new bishop arrives in town he will make sure to put on the cap of the local team to let everyone know that he, too, is one of the guys. So much for being ” a people set apart”! And when one drives by the rectory at 9PM, the same ghastly light is flickering behind the curtains as in every other house on the block.

    If we are going to withdraw, the only leadership can possibly come from shepherds who have already withdrawn, for the sheep are completely mesmerized— catechized ever more thoroughly by the world, titillated by the flesh, and led away captive by satan. Or do we think that our children who are living in sin are on their way to heaven?

  6. KT127 says:

    Pope Benedict _earned_ the Benedictine Option. He is an older man, has health problems and has done a tremendous amount for the Catholic Church.

    As a whole, the Catholic Church has not earned the Benedictine option.

    We have not been a serious voice in mainstream society for 30 years, maybe more. I can tell you in my small town in America the Catholic Church was practically a non-entity beyond the parish grounds (talking to others all over the country this seems to be a common experience) expect in cases of wanting to help the poor. Helping the poor is great, but the poor don’t make policy. But the Church made very little effort to counteract the secular voices and mainstream culture when it came to the middle class.

    Now we are reaping the rewards. Our culture and our government are hostile to Catholics? You don’t say. Our laws are promoting sin and not giving as much protection to the Catholics? Really, it is a great mystery as to how that came about.

    I learned about abortion in 4th grade. I learned the Catholic teachings about abortion in 8th grade when an offhand comment sent my parents into a rage. The arguments for abortion were subtle and insidious and pushed on us for years. You want to talk about all those evil women who don’t care about their bodies, their children or their sexuality……they got to that point brick by brick and the only way we’ll get them back is if we have enough patience to help them tear all of those bricks down. That’s just abortion- the lack of integrity, the lack of generosity, the promotion of pride and ego, the misinformation about history and Christianity. It was taught over years and there was very very little to combat it.

    These kids would have been our allies. They wanted to be good people and as children they had a natural curiosity about ethics. It’ll be a lot harder to reach them now they are adults with affection for sin. But they aren’t murderers, yet. They have not yet decided to stand aside while the devil comes after us.

    Catholics (here in the US) seem to want to believe we are living in a time of great persecution. Really? We got our nose bloody and our feelings hurt and we are already talking about running away and living as hermits.

    How can we do that? We are the Church Militant. Our fellow citizens are also Children of God. Our job is to FIGHT not run away. Yes, we are surrounded by moral decay and very confused adults. So what?

    Yes, I know none of us know exactly how to fight this. I know a lot of us try and find our arguments ineffective and we get battered in the process. I know we need more leadership, and more strategy. I know personally I don’t have enough background in theology, philosophy, rhetoric and psychology to always make wonderful arguments. I can stand to learn a little finesse. But I refuse to give up our people as damned. They aren’t dead yet, and neither are we.

    Please don’t run away. It will be so much harder without your support.

  7. chantgirl says:

    KT127- I have more of a duty to my children than society as a whole. If society has become morally dangerous to the point that our children’s spiritual lives are at stake, parents have to think about ways to limit society’s influence. If that means withdrawing kids from public or Catholic schools because they are spiritually harmful, that is a parent’s right. If it means moving closer to a parish where spiritual abuses do not abound, that is a parent’s right. As parents we are accountable for our children’s souls.

    I would suggest that withdrawing our children from the world when they are young to form them in a normal and holy environment will better equip them to handle the world and evangelize as adults. Otherwise, we have the blind leading the blind. The home should be a place to fortify and build them before they are expected to handle the immoral onslaught of our society.

    Do nuns who withdraw to the convent not evangelize the world? St. Therese is the patron of missionaries even though she lived tucked away in a convent. Also, we see a pattern with many saints in which they withdrew from the world to face their sinful natures, encounter God, and do penance before they embarked on an active ministry.

    I would be interested to hear about the Marian option.

  8. Allan S. says:

    “Marian Option” – More please! What is it and how would it work?

  9. benedetta says:

    It sounds nice, but the Benedictine Option is just a pipe dream. Some Catholics are capable of taking care of their family and maybe one or two others but the vast majority no matter how tough they talk or act are simply incapable of doing what is necessary, sacrificial courageous creative leadership. The ghettos can only hold out for so long. The enemies of the Church get this. These are not things taught in your rich suburban happy clappy small group. The great majority of priests and laity haven’t a clue and dwell in a safe haze of beige halcyon denial.

  10. robtbrown says:

    Vernon Smith attended Wichita North HS, whose other grads include Barry Sanders, Lynette Woodward (Naismith Hall of Fame), and Curtis McClinton (a member of KC Chiefs Ring of Honor, scored the 2d TD in Super Bowl history, and is a grad of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Govt).

    He also has an MA from KU. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

  11. robtbrown says:

    KT127 says:

    Pope Benedict _earned_ the Benedictine Option. He is an older man, has health problems and has done a tremendous amount for the Catholic Church.

    As a whole, the Catholic Church has not earned the Benedictine option.

    Uh, I think the Benedictine option is named not for any pope but for St Benedict. Benedict of Nursia was a student in Rome c. 500 who left the city because of the dissolute life there. He finally settled in a cave in Subiaco, where he lived for 3 years, later emerging to found monasteries and be the father of Benedictine Monasticism, life led according to his Holy Rule.

    He is co-patron of Europe.

  12. Semper Gumby says:

    That table of books certainly looks inviting.

    The “BenOp” talk, and the Marian Option sound interesting. There is, of course, a range of thoughtful perspectives on not only what is to be done in our present predicament, but what the term “Benedict Option” itself even means. Here’s a few article titles that expand on Dreher’s theme, these authors all make good points, but some have an axe to grind.

    -The Dominican Option by CC Pecknold at First Things

    -The Escriva Option by Austin Ruse at Crisis Magazine

    -What Would Jeremiah Do? by Samuel Goldman at The Imaginative Conservative

    -The Benedict Option or the Benedict Arnold Option? by John Zmirak at The Stream

    -There is no Benedict Option by Bruce Frohnen

    -It’s not the Benedict Option it’s the Benedict Options by PE Gobry at Patheos

    -The Benedict Option or the Gregorian Option? by Fr. Liaugminas and Sheila Liaugminas at Catholic World Report. This article makes an interesting case that Dreher’s Benedict Option should in fact be called the Noah Option, and what is needed today is actually the Gregorian option.

    Interesting reading, and I have been informed that someone wrote an article titled The Francis Option.

    Ok, that’s enough. But I am waiting for someone to write The Joshua Option. Or better yet the Genghis Khan Option where we drive our enemies before us, seize their cattle, and hear the lamentations of their women. And now, I think it’s time for Norcia beer, but a pint of Guinness sounds good too.

  13. benedetta says:

    I’m just going to be honest. Small, intentional Christian communities are already doing this, in spades, above and beyond what the Catholic media is even able to discuss or conceptualize, and certainly way beyond the typical programmatic offerings and pious platitudes offered in lieu of solidarity in your average American parish. And this is why, even without the Eucharist, their communities grow in spades in N and S America in this moment. Catholic communities tend to throw things at people classified according to income, and they tend to program people into oblivion, and yet. Many people leave and find it wanting. They find some big things missing. They encounter a huge hole in terms of credibility between tradition whether with a larger t or this is our personal parish tradition, rhetoric, and the Gospel. Christian communities tend to encounter people, personally support individuals or families in problem solving from the practical to prayer to well you name it, and walk with going the extra mile as the Good Samaritan, all without the benefit of the Eucharist and the sacraments. Fear of the Lord prevents me in sloganizing the teaching about salvation outside “the Church”. I know that the writings of BXVI and many others ring true on this. The tribal mentality, the program program program and the “Mass is enough for you” excuses become tired, and, at best are simply unable to respond to reality. I say this with great sadness for the Church. As well, Christian communities often help young people (as in middle to high school) start to begin to understand what a commitment to Christ, or a response to the Gospel might well look like in the most personal and practical and daily life concerns. Whereas, well….

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    benedetta, what a ugly old can’a worms. lol.
    You are correct. Protestants do this better, so much so that I look at them with some longing sometimes. I listen to a Franklin Graham, who has turned out to be every single bit the evangelist his father is, was, and yet he is a man completely of our time. He is right now traveling to every state in the union and having prayer rallies, imploring people to give their lives to Christ and praying together and asking God to have mercy on our nation and world, particularly in light of Islam and immigration. He’s asking for repentance and for people to stop sinning so they don’t have to go to Hell. He appears to understand completely the relationship between our sinful culture and world and what we are seeing with our own eyes. He gets it.
    Imagine that.
    While he is doing that, I am positive I don’t need to recount what all our church is saying and doing. Frankly, we are a weak shadow of the witness for Christ these Protestants are. They do talk the talk and they do walk the walk.
    Way back when Obama was running for King, when he was a senator of a mere four months before he started running for president, it was said that in the American south the people there were “clinging to their guns and religion”. Obama said it, I believe, mocking Christians, as usual. As it turns out, they were the smart ones on both scores.
    We have some great priests and Bishops, but we have far too many of the other kind.
    Looks like we are almost out of salt.

  15. benedetta says:

    Kathleen10, interesting, thanks for that. I think that American Catholics in this moment, when faced with a problem, the standard response is to run away from it, as fast and as far as one can, in case it is catching. Yet, we still triumphantly hang our lace curtains. The standard response is put your name on a slip and toss it in the wicker basket with the bow on the altar, and we will pray for you…blech. The Christian communities, and some are not really that small, instead of running in fear from a problem, they face, with fortitude, compassion, brains, practical help, and are ready for incoming…whether it’s wounded or the attacks. They act as if all of this is quite expected. You know…as if Christ told them there would be days like this. They just calmly pick up and carry on with what resources are available. Meanwhile, it’s the handshake on the way out of Mass of beige niceness. Between the one and the other there seem a lot of really decent opportunities to live the full Gospel there. Like I said, even with the “outside the Church” and “salvation” part, fear of the Lord prevents me from denying that most of them are holier, equipped with the Holy Spirit, and in God’s great wisdom might just get there way ahead of the rest of us. Who would have thought. If people are concerned that other people are leaving in droves, well. And funny thing is, when you go to these other “we are trying to live the Gospel here for real” places, well you look around and there are an awful lot of Catholics. I say, we look to what they are doing in terms of any livable sort of Option.

  16. Luvadoxi says:

    Oh benedetta–you are speaking to me in my need right now. The non-Catholic Christians make the most of the holy written Word of God, which Catholics seem allergic to–I somewhat sympathize because after my conversion to Catholicism I was hesitant to read Scripture for fear of misinterpreting. I shouldn’t have feared so much, and trusted God more. And although some don’t acknowledge having sacraments, they do have baptism and marriage. Oh, how I wish we could all set aside our differences and fight the spiritual warfare together! I too am tired to the apologetic talking points, such as how we hear so much Scripture in Mass. We hear, but do we absorb and teach it? No.

  17. Luvadoxi says:

    that’s “tired of” not “tired to”. Maybe I’m just tired! :)

  18. un-ionized says:

    Benedetta and Luvadoxi, I’m with you. I have gathered informally my own intentional community of misfits from all the other intentional communities. Time will tell the results.

  19. robtbrown says:

    benedetta says:

    I’m just going to be honest. Small, intentional Christian communities are already doing this, in spades, above and beyond what the Catholic media is even able to discuss or conceptualize, and certainly way beyond the typical programmatic offerings and pious platitudes offered in lieu of solidarity in your average American parish. And this is why, even without the Eucharist, their communities grow in spades in N and S America in this moment.

    Catholic parishes, exc FSSP parishes, are determined geographically. On the other hand, Protestant churches are determined ideologically: If you don’t like one church–or feel at home there–you change. Catholic parishes, once united, have been split wide open by dissention: There are people who are serious about the Catholic faith and others who are in favor of women’s ordination, same sex unions, abortion, etc.

  20. benedetta says:

    I wonder if we Catholics do not presume upon and take our sacramental grace and the Real Presence much too much for granted, and, whether it does not inspire us to awe and recognition of who we are and what are responsibilities must be. Of course there are plenty of pastors out there who would toss sacred scripture and assert the Eucharist as sufficient for everyone (these are the ones who say that there are “many truths” and not One Truth), and I don’t see that the data showing the acknowledgement of the Real Presence, just on ordinary terms, among Catholics, is changing all that much. Perhaps if we share a little scripture more often with our confreres in these communities, the Eucharist could become that much more awesome and, well, real. Of course when one goes to the average beige parish one does not really see that the throwback of Christ’s Body whilst strolling along in shorts and flipflops connotes much even a momentary reflection or awareness of who we are and who He is. Our pastors seem none to troubled by that. And yet, the believers armed with the Gospel and little else seem to accomplish much more and many difficult things with very little institutional clout. I think there is a smug self satisfaction and self congratulation that goes around, that one may take the Eucharist, even daily, and be flippant with respect to the Lord’s “amen, amen” commands and directives. Such as the millstone, for instance. And shall we talk about tithing and sacrificial giving, to furthering the Kingdom, not just in “mission” territory but indeed dangerous places to speak of the Holy Name?

  21. KT127 says:

    Of course, everyone has the choice to do whatever they wish. That’s why I said “Please don’t”

  22. Luvadoxi says:

    The irony is I came back to Christ through an evangelical Church and Bible studies (particularly Beth Moore–have to give credit where credit is due), by seeing the connection between the Old and New Testaments, and the Bible passages in context. And then the Lord showed me the truth of the Eucharist and I was absolutely overwhelmed. Seeing the Mass in the light of faith is amazing–and many of the passages in a Mass do relate to each other. However, there’s no follow-through–a serious lack of faith–or among those who do have faith, many just want to diss Protestants (whom they lump all together as a group). I can’t believe after 12 years I lost my first love, but I’m praying to get it back.

  23. KT127 says:

    I’m sorry but the “my child” argument really bothers me.

    Where does it say you only have to love your neighbor if you are childless? How is it good for your child if you are ignoring their peers?

    Why shouldn’t children also be witnesses for Christ? Sometimes children are the most powerful messengers. Your child could help someone learn to share, or extend much needed kindness to another child. Your family could be an example of another way to live.

    God doesn’t leave us without protection. We have the sacraments. We have our daily prayers. We have our priests. And we always, always, always have Christ. The more of us out there and active in our society the stronger and safer we will be.

    We have a lot of friends. They may not love our church. But this country is still full of good and wonderful people who still help neighbors and try to be good people and improve their cities. They are going to be more likely to care about protecting our religious liberties when they think “Well, the Catholics are strange but you know So-and-so down the street is Catholic and they are pretty great people. I know it is important to them.”

    If their imagine of Catholics is those people who live off by themselves they aren’t really going to go out of their way to help us. Why should they? We don’t help them.

  24. chantgirl says:

    KT127- You are twisting my words. I never suggested that parents don’t have any responsibility toward neighbors. However, as a married woman, my first responsibility is to God, then my husband and children, and finally society. If society has become a toxic place to raise children, it is my right and duty to raise them where they can safely grow until they are strong enough to withstand the culture.

    I live in a neighborhood, not the country. However, many of my neighbors are Muslim (Bosnian), and I am polite and friendly to them all the while remembering that I am an infidel in their religion, and that their religion encourages violence against people like me. I can do my neighbors more good by praying for them than any other interaction.

    As for withdrawing, we don’t have cable, we don’t have smart phones, the kids don’t have access to the internet, we homeschool, we choose which friends our children can hang out with, and we go to an EF parish with a network of support. We don’t live on a compound in the country. We have withdrawn the children from a lot of society’s influence while living in a pretty populated area.

  25. flyfree432 says:

    This is my first year at Acton. I’m looking forward to your talk tomorrow!

  26. Gilbert Fritz says:

    Catholic (and other) communities built from scratch tend to have a bad track record. Community can’t be built, it has to grow. And “fleeing to the fields”, moving to the country, makes it even harder on families; we are isolated enough without that.

    I think we need to start really, seriously, building community where we are, even if that is in the middle of the city. We need to have a core of Catholics who really feel that they are a tribe, who will support one another through thick and thin, where nobody can go hungry or end up on the street unless they all do, where members live a simple, if not completely self sufficient life. And then these Catholics need to become involved in every local activity, service, and event, so that they become respected and well know, without compromising their values. These communities need to find creative ways to make livings, to go over to a barter type economy, to escape the increasing economic persecution. We need to make do with less, before we are forced to. We need to be ready to support and house our pastors, when our church loses its tax exempt status. When disaster strikes, we want Catholics ready to take the lead in our communities.

    Many people are afraid of the collapsing economy and society, others are afraid of totalitarianism. Who knows where all this will end. But no matter what happens, these types of community can help us weather the storms, physical and spiritual.

    But to do this, we have to minimize our infighting. We need to concentrate on the big stuff; the Creed. Some people think all fiction is evil. Others can’t get along with those who say “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost.” Others can’t seem to believe that good people may have different economic or political views then they do. Is a red veil proper? What about a HAT in church!

    We can’t turn into a circular firing squad; there are lots of real enemies out there.

  27. robtbrown says:


    I think you’re underestimating the contribution of most faithful Catholics. Do you have children? Those who do are busy with their families.

    It’s not uncommon that parishes collect clothes for the missions and have food pantries for those in need. There are also those who teach CCD classes–and there are retired volunteers at Vincent de Paul centers and soup kitchens. I have known women who have spent years working in Birthright, counseling young women.

    Tithing? I know a parish that took up a collection after Katrina, then sent a $20,000 check to New Orleans.

    Have you done much reading on the Faith. How much have you read of the likes of CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, and Dom Hubert van Zeller? Have you read much about the lives of saints, e.g., Ste Terese, Mother Seton, Mother Cabrini, or Mark Twain’s bio of Joan of Arc?

    BTW, have you ever spent a week at a contemplative monastery?

  28. HealingRose says:

    robtbrown- speaking of what Catholics are reading, I have been recognizing how much “new age” healing or secular psychology has been poisoning people, especially women with all of these bestselling books. Like you mentioned also, I personally love reading about the saints.

    Talk about media poisoning the youth! I am a single mom of three kids, so homeschooling is not an option. My two oldest children are given tablets in school now to use 24/7 during the academic year. I don’t even have a computer in my home! I seem extreme to modern standards by not allowing cell phones, computers, cable TV, or access to social media. I have all of my televisions locked so any programming rated TV-14 or higher cannot be viewed. As much as I may seem to shelter my kids, I also believe in starting to prepare them at a young age for the world. From a very young age they started to know what abortion is, about STDs, why contraceptives are dangerous, and about why abstinence is best. When they were starting to talk about human sexuality in school, I was informing them in detail about abortion and STDS, with pictures. From an early age they also learned about addiction and why it is so destructive. I want the ugly truth about the consequences of sin burned into their minds so that there is no question about what is right and wrong.

    Children are confronted with things at such an early age now, no matter how much we try to control it or try isolate ourselves or them. I want them to be leaders among their peers, so that when (not if) the time comes that someone they know is questioning having an abortion, tries offering them a joint, or whatever other worldly vice comes along, they will be prepared to help educate their peers and others in a way that can have a big impact.

    I would love during a Sunday homily for a priest to show a PowerPoint presentation with actual pictures and video of an abortion. Or maybe have a homily that is two sentences long saying, “The bread and wine during the Eucharist is the real Presence of Christ, NOT a symbol. If you still don’t understand it, then see me after Mass,” after which he drops the mic and sits back down. Another homily I would love to see is the priest with a stack of popular new age books. He goes through each book and at the end asks for a show of hands who has read these. Of course most hands will probably go up. At this point he drops the entire stack on the floor in a big thud and informs everyone point blank these are against Catholic teachings and explains why they should be avoided. We don’t need to isolate ourselves in communities! We need to stop being lukewarm! Time to wake Catholics up!

    What is all this about all Christians need to unite because we are all basically the same???? That is completely wrong thinking! It is like saying we all believe in one God, so either way is okay. That’s not true. Even a lot of Catholics will be going to hell for being lukewarm, so I would think it would be that much harder for non Catholics who don’t even recognize Our Lady and don’t have Confession or the Holy Eucharist. This is not about a worldly political “freedom of religion” fight, it is a fight for souls!

    We need to get in the habit of going to Confession more than the obligated once a year! Go weekly before Mass! I’ve been trying to do this with my family more consistently. The grace and the mercy that comes through regular, frequent Confession, attending EF Masses, and praying the Rosary is so beyond any words I could use, so I won’t even try. (And as you might guess, I’m not usually someone short on words.)

  29. benedetta says:

    robtbrown, your interrogation of me is entirely unnecessary to discuss the points, but, fwiw, I pass your litmus test with flying colors. LOL. The first statement of yours though that Catholic families are “busy with their own children” intrigues me. Because a lot of Christian communities are similarly busy, and have upwards of 9, 10, 11 children, and yet, they do not proffer that as an excuse to neglect the Kingdom, and what they do is not just, stop at the soup kitchen once in awhile, leave a bag of canned goods for collection at the parish door, in other words not just phoning the faith in according to the present formula of our programs but rather they are the creative minority.

    All of what you say is nice and true enough. Still, the part about running from and not facing the problems squarely with Christ’s gratuitous and overabundant love remains unanswered. I was not doing a compare and contrast. My point is that all that the orthodox Catholic communities aspire to and admire and discuss, sometimes as a dream, like these Options, is being done already, in abundance, in these places, and not to the minimum to check off on the to do list. As well I don’t see this notion of, I have a large family therefore I am exempt from getting my hands dirty in the most difficult attacks on our Faith…and this pride that self canonizes. Rather, I see the large families and a humility that says, I’ve only done as required as a servant and there is much more given this commitment I have already made that I can do. I’m sorry for the troubling news. It makes me quite despondent really with respect to the state of the Church in the U.S.

    As I said I wonder that we are not just on autopilot concerning the great gifts of Real Presence and sacramental grace. If these Christians are giving abundantly and building up the Kingdom in every way we admire, without it, then, we are not really meeting the minimum standard of the Christian life. When one adds the Real Presence to that Gospel standard one should expect…look to see…experience…well….

  30. JonPatrick says:

    Just a comment about the Benedict Option, as I understand it. It is not about cutting ourselves off from the world like a Catholic version of the Old Order Amish. It is more that we are “in the world but not of the world” and that we might need to hava community that we can withdraw into for mutual support and reinforcement of our faith, but that we still continue to interact with the world. After all if we cut ourselves off, how can we evangelize and help others to hear the message of the Gospel?

    If you want to read more about Rod Dreher and his vision of the Benedict Option, he blogs frequently about it at the American Conservative. By the way, he is a former Catholic who converted to Eastern Orthodox but still has a lot of “Catholic” in his blogging.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Even if a President Trump wouldn’t suddenly go leftist (who knows what his agenda really is),

    a Clinton presidency seems to me, at worst, an enemy to face.

    A Trump presidency, by contrast, an irresponsible guy running amok in our own barracks, even if it is our barracks he is in, and in addition something that’ll damage the Conservative reputation for years to come.

    I hope it would turn out different. But were I American, I wouldn’t want to take that risk.

  32. Imrahil says:

    That was a comment directed at the dear Kathleen10’s first one.

  33. Imrahil says:


    I tend to subscribe to what Gilbert Fritz is saying, though I don’t mind building some refuges somewhere for those to move to who would like to.

    As to the Hutterites: I think the eating should be, in a Catholic manner, the other way round: usually in the family, sometimes (called, I hear, “Sunday coffee and donuts” in America) together, and then (we are not prude) men and women nicely mixing with each other.

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    “All of what you say is nice and true enough. Still, the part about running from and not facing the problems squarely with Christ’s gratuitous and overabundant love remains unanswered.”

    There is much that I can say, here, but it would take an essay to do so. First of all, the Husserites, Amish, and Mennonites are all offshoots of the Swiss Anabaptist movement of the 16th-century. The Anabaptists (re-baptizers) were an enthusiastic cult-like group. By enthusiastic, I mean so-called, “spirit-filled,” or what we might call, today, charismatic. The sociology of such groups, as shown time and time again in history (and I can cite many examples), tends to be isolationist. The isolationism is not born of a generous spirit so much as the realization that they have a different view of man. Indeed, in these groups, contrary to the Catholic notion that grace builds upon nature, in these groups, grace destroys one nature to build another -they assume, a perfected nature (which history has proven, time and time again, to be false and I can provide many examples). Groups such as these almost, inevitably, die out, or, as in the case on the original Anabaptists, go off the deep end because they lose tough with their humanity in the search for the promptings of what they think is the Spirit. I recommend Mnsr. Ronald Knox’s book, Enthusiasm, for an historical look at these sorts of groups.

    By contrast, the Benedictine movement was born of a generous spirit. Benedict, first, mastered his own heart, then invited others to do the same, by allowing grace to temper nature. In any authentic movement of the Spirit, as one grows closer to God, the impulse to reach out to others grows, as well. St. Therese is the Patroness of the Missions, not because she was cloistered and grew spiritually in isolation, but because, as she grew, spiritually, the longing in her heart to reach out to others grew, also, to an heroic degree. The growth of the Benedictine spirituality pre-supposed the desire to grow in holiness, not as a means of running away from the world, but as a means of sanctifying the world. Do you not know that a little leaven causes the whole dough to rise?

    The Benedictine option is NOT new. Whoever gave the talk should read Morris West’s book, The Clowns of God – published in 1981 – which was part of his, Vatican Trilogy (In the Shoes of the Fisherman, The Clowns of God, Lazarus). In the Clowns of God, the Pope has a vision of the Parousia, in which the world is in ruins. He resigns from the Papacy and begins to secretly build enclaves of Catholics (and others) to survive the coming apocalypse.

    In our modern times, what is called for is NOT a retreat from the problems in society, but, rather, a retreat from the things that are causing the problems and, in my opinion, the single biggest thing causing it is a religious outlook based on sentimentality instead of logic. Do not look to our Protestant brethren as exemplars. Look to Bishop Sheen, to Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, to the day when Catholicism was clear and systematic, reasonable and logical. My guess is that 80% of pew sitters and Cafeteria Catholics, when push comes to shove, will answer a doctrinal question by appealing to sentimentality or consequentialism, rather than by an axiomatic approach. Good logic can be absolutely devastating to mere emotionalism and can expose it for the weakness it is.

    Unless one studies history, one might not realize that the ideological conflicts of today are nothing new. Indeed, the exact same rhetoric was heard in G. K. Chesterton’s day. Indeed, he wrote a book called, The Superstition of Divorce, of which, Dale Ahlquist, of the Chesterton Society, writes:

    “In 1918, Chesterton wrote a series of articles called “The Superstition of Divorce” for the New Witness. The essays were published as a collection under the same title in 1920. He said it wasn’t supposed to be a book, but a pamphlet, and the object of a pamphlet is to be out of date as soon as possible. “It can only survive when it does not succeed.”

    Unfortunately, it survived. Chesterton’s warnings about the rise of divorce have gone unheeded, warnings best summed up in his prophetic line: “The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.”

    This was in 1918 – just after WWI. Indeed, the effects of WWI and WWII on society, in general, are scary similar. It is the curse of youth, especially of youth in times of technological change, to think that not only are they discovering the wheel for the first time, but the truth, as well. If you want to change society (but you will have to suffer, now, to do it), you must learn to engage it, like Surak of Vulcan or St. Thomas Aquinas – with cool, dispassionate logic and a firm grasp of what is reality. It has been the fundamental shift in Catholic theology in the last century to substitute sentimentality for reason. Reason need not be cold, but it must be clear. It is this lack of clarity and lack of the commitment to the clarity of truth which has so destroyed modern society. Sadly, certain soft sciences, like psychology (this is not to pick on a field that is trying to be of service to suffering individuals, but to call them to examine their foundational thinking, for parts of it are incoherent) have lead the charge to change society’s focus from reason to emotion. The rise of advertising, especially in passive media, such as television, have had similar effects. The appeal to emotions has, then, spilled into politics, as well.

    We will lose if we retreat, if the retreat is not merely strategic, but from despair. Protect your kids from the early educational system (I realize that is ironic, given that I am an educator, but, still). Teach them good epistemology and philosophy. There are many smart people out there who are, nevertheless, moral and ethical idiots, because they have not studied the failures of the past and sought the consistency of truth.

    The sad thing is that there are, probably, some, in the Hierarchy, who are wedded to a view of man and man’s relationship to God that is incoherent and dominated by emotions. We will not win this battle in a single day. Wave after wave of good men and women will have to suffer and be killed, either in the flesh or in their reputation or in their relationships before we make in-roads, but if we are relentless in charity and determined in the truth, we will achieve a time of peace based on what is truly good – at least until Original Sin rears it head, again. The battle will never end in this life, because man will never be free from his weaknesses in this life. It is the loss of vigilance that allowed mere feelings to take control of us and it is a return to vigilance that will, ultimately, prove most fruitful in returning sanity to society, not withdrawing from it.

    In other words, be leaven, not leaving.

    The Chicken

  35. Max says:

    “Benedictine Option” and “Marian Option”… sounds very Cistercian to me. LOL. Seriously, the Cistercians/Trappists did a great job of integrating the Rule of St. Benedict with Marian theology. They were also outstanding farmers.

  36. Imrahil says:

    Thanks, dear Chicken, for the comment. (And the recommendation of Enthousiasm, though I already took an earlier recommendation and read it.)

  37. robtbrown says:


    Which contemplative monastery did you visit?

    I never said that having a large family exempts parents from participating in parish life. Rather, I said that they are busy raising their families. No doubt you agree that it is an especially difficult task because now children are bombarded with the anti-Catholic post modern culture. After the children are gone, parents are better able to do the things you mention, especially after retirement.

    IME, most Catholics, at least most American Catholics, have all they can handle just dealing with everyday threats to the faith. Anyone who has Liberal Protestant or atheist friends (in some cases, the same thing), as I have had, knows how tenuous those relationships can be. And then there is the workplace: When I first got into computers, I was told that if I continued to refuse to contribute to United Way (Planned Parenthood was an explicit recipient of UW funds–now just an implicit one), I could forget about promotion.

    If you are not satisfied with what you have found in parish life, you just might have to do it yourself. Daily mass and rosary, spending an hour at an adoration chapel, and reading the Breviary are solid foundations. If that’s not enough, look hard at a religious vocation: The Dominican sisters in Nashville and Ann Arbor are very good, also Mother Teresa’s sisters. If you want the strict contemplative life, there are some good houses of Carmelites and Dominican Nuns.

    I’m glad you have read Dom Hubert van Zeller? After I converted in 1970, I very much liked his little books.

  38. Gail F says:

    I don’t think the “Benedictine Option” is a good idea. However, I can see that it might end up being the only option we get.

  39. robtbrown says:


    IME, it’s all but impossible to tell a future President’s agenda from campaign rhetoric. And with Obama he has hidden his agenda behind habitual lying after he was elected.

    If you’re worried about NATO, the following might help. I have a friend who was Dep Commander of all US Forces in Europe. He said that during his time there Congresswoman Schroeder visited. Her first question to them was: “Why can’t these Euro-Weenies defend their own countries?” The generals were ready and a map was displayed showing that the world presence of US forces coincided with the presence of US business interests.

  40. robtbrown says:


    Your reference to anti-Church tendencies in society and lack of clarity in doctrine are not distinct. The battle in the Church for more than 50 years has been over the relationship of the Church toward post modern culture, which has become more and more anti-Catholic.

    Some years ago Jacques Maritain wrote that we were no longer living in Christendom but rather in its corpse. For at least 40 years we have been watching the increasing rate of the putrifaction of the corpse.

    BTW, Opus Dei was expressly founded to see serious Catholics into the workplace.

  41. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    indeed I don’t think one can (necessarily) tell a future President’s agenda from his campaign rhethoric. Even someone who is not a habitual liar (Mrs Merkel isn’t) was once elected among other things to keep up nuclear power plants and the conscript army (at least the first more or less expressly), and ended up phasing out nuclear power plants and abolish the conscript army.

    But there’s one thing you can tell from campaign rhethoric and that is which kind of campaign rhethoric a candidate considers suitable in a campaign. And consciously pretending to be – well, sorry, it may be the fact that English is not my native tongue, but I can find no word less harsh for it: consciously pretending to be, well, primitive, is not better than actually being it. On the contrary, it is much worse.

    I’m not particularly worried about the Nato, though.

  42. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    You wrote:

    “Your reference to anti-Church tendencies in society and lack of clarity in doctrine are not distinct.”

    True. I was trying to discuss the underlying effects of Post-modernism without actually naming it. Post-modernism is inherently incoherent and will fall under its own weight of arbitrariness, but not before it hurts a lot of people. I do think that good reasoning and the appeal to the Natural Law might help some people.

    The Chicken

  43. benedetta says:

    I think a lot misunderstood my points above, and also wanted to turn my comments into some sort of interrogation as far as my Catholic creds, which is regrettable.

    I think the content of a lot of people’s responses just underscores my initial point on discussion of the Benedictine Option, or any Option for Catholics. What it discussed about it here and elsewhere is nearly all speculative or theoretical — i.e., fantasy or pipe dream. That one can consider the history leading up to this point, as well as note the contours of history really doesn’t establish anything at all. It’s just again speculation. That people do intentionally attempt to live near and around monastic communities to attempt to establish a different sort of lifestyle than typically on offer is admirable but this is a tiny number. The monastic communities that are frequently mentioned often themselves state in different ways that essentially their role is not to encourage or discourage this but that organic growth of a lay community associated with the monastery is generally something to be expected. This little phenomenon doesn’t at this point seem to show that much trending impact.

    As I stated initially, a lot has to come before people, large groups of Catholics, can begin to live any sort of Option. And, what I am saying is not that people should all go Protestant but rather that I have witnessed a lot of these very traits which Catholics idealize when they speak of these Options already happening in these communities, and not a little, and not super exceptionally, but quite obviously.

    There is a minimum level of Gospel practice within the community, as well as preparedness to do all that swimming against the culture of death for families and a community requires, that one really, well, almost never experiences in the typical American Catholic parish. I am not assigning blame and I certainly can’t proffer one book or three or an historical thesis on this, I am not qualified nor is that the point of combox discussions. But what I am saying is that there are places already doing what we seem to yearn for in a Benedictine Option, and without the monastery, and they are not at all insulated or in retreat but are, as I said, ready for incoming, be it attacks or wounded. Suffice to say. Again I guess.

    They are certainly not in retreat mode, however, one finds near universal concord on the uselessness of the present culture of death and the need to replace temptation to junk “culture” with what is good and true. I named other facets of what I observe.

    It’s an anecdote but via teaching in various homeschool coops over the years I’ve had opportunities to observe different churches’ ccd or in our confreres “Sunday school” set-ups. It’s quite interesting really, the contrasts. In many Catholic parishes, the buildings are in deplorable states, and not really kept up, not bright and cheery (read it doesn’t have to be expensive), whereas, our confreres often have just as aged facilities, and yet they more often make the most of what is there, like they care about what others think, new people, and little ones, who come in the room. But most interesting to me is to come in and look at what was written on the board, what was on the worksheet left behind, what materials were used…Our confreres have vivid depictions of scripture, encouraging, bright, engaging presentation….but always, scripture, rendered in usable relatable and intriguing formats. In our classrooms, lots of junk and trash strewn, dusty old never opened bibles, in a corner or in a closet, and, the presentation (if any) is well, in a word, confusion. No clarity. Little encouragement. It’s a lot of collage writ large. It’s a rorschach of make of this whatever you will and nothing will make sense and so why not give up. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

    As to “sentiment” versus doctrine, who can tell really? But like I said, if one is going to be prepared to squarely face, and not run, from what is already here, then, a lot more is needed, in the first place, and the solution won’t be from another program or method or to fantasize about what our ideal place would look like.

  44. robtbrown says:


    My first sentence was a mess. Congrats on making sense of it. I meant to say that anti-Catholicism in culture and lack of clarity in doctrine are linked. The latter is what happens when the MO of the former is applied to doctrine.

    As an unapologetic Thomist I obviously favor the use of Natural Law.

  45. robtbrown says:


    I’m not even sure it proves that. I think if you meet highly successful businessmen like Trump you would be surprise how smart they are. You would also be surprised how dumb they are.

    Trump is a non politician, and his big wins in the primaries didn’t do much to improve his political MO.

  46. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear benedetta,

    I hope you did not think that I was challenging you Catholic cred. The lure of small Catholic communities has been growing in certain parts of the world (most notably, in Lafin America) since the late 1980’s. I was reacting to the idea that the idea to separate from society can be either from defense or despair (the first being reasonable, in some cases) and I used a quote of yours to start my comment. Please, do not consider it an attack.

    I am an historian and this is definitely not the first time these small group suggestions have occurred in history, so there is some knowledge of their experiences, so not everything is mere speculation. Without an underlying charism, few of these groups survive for very long. I simply disagree with the speaker cited in Fr.’s comments about the wisdom of the Benedictine Option in the present age. The fact is that many prelates have not been trained in such a way as to really be able to challenge the current culture nor is the Church presenting a united front, as it did before Vatican II (realizing the underlying conflicts between Post-modern thought and Scholasticism pre-dates Vatican II).

    The current liberal mindset is like dealing with a bully and isolating into in-groups, like nerds protecting themselves from bullies is not, from what we know about dealing with bullies, the way to go, unless by forming small groups the bullies would leave them alone. Many recent examples show, however, that in this generation, liberal bullies will go after even peaceable men or groups if they don’t tow the line with whatever liberal cause is trendy, so I can’t see what is to be gained by the Benedictine Option.

    Case in point – homeschooling is like a Benedictine Option for education and, yet, in Germany, it is being virtually outlawed as a form of brainwashing, because some parents teach their children that certain things are evil which society says are good.

    Let’s be honest – the Church screwed up, massively, in the early 1960’s in how it tried to relate to the advancing scientism in society and its turn towards the liberal notions of, “relevance,” caused so much disarray that no united front could meet the challenge of the liberal juggernaut. We can still turn things around, but not without wisdom and discipline in the truth from the top.

    I don’t think we are at the St. Libowitz level, yet, where we should start burying theology texts to preserve for after the apocalypse.

    The apocalypse is yet to come. This is merely the warm-up band. We still have time to unplug the speakers.

    The Chicken

  47. benedetta says:

    Chicken, thanks for that.

    robtbrown, I always find your commentary (and many others here as well) really interesting and encouraging. I just think that we don’t want to be in the business of interrogating as a substitute for dialogue or engagement on the issues. That’s what the (violent) left does, and sometimes in the parishes, and, it’s not charity or Catholic, it doesn’t solve anything, and, it can indicate that one hasn’t confidence in reason in their position or agenda — in other words that violent acts or hostile treatment or ostracism somehow is necessary to win an argument or accomplish some sort of goal, no matter how lofty or admirable. It’s just not a good way to operate. I’m not saying that this is what you are doing, at all, but we all know how the left engages in litmus tests to size up a target and then turns on them to make blood sport. Truth is better than that. The Faith is better than that. Human beings are better than that. Reason matters. I know you weren’t doing that but going down the interrogation road with someone you don’t agree with doesn’t serve the Truth.

  48. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Practical question: is it clear when and how Vernon Smith’s address will be available to the rest of us?

  49. robtbrown says:


    Any question I asked of you is a function of the fact that dissatisfaction with others in the parish goes nowhere . For the most part, we don’t t know the pressures that are on other Catholics. Many years ago I began to realize that many of the sweet elderly ladies that seemed so innocent actually had been through some serious crises in their lives–husbands who drank too much, fooled around with other women, spent time out of work, and children who had major personal problems.

    I have known people with little income who made huge sacrifices so that their children could go to Catholic schools. One woman would get her clothes from the Vincent de Paul center. She was, btw, so attractive that she would have looked great in a burlap sack. Her father, btw, was a suicide.

    I have a good friend who is extraordinarily devout, as ifsher family. A few years ago her husband not only lost his job but became all but mute because of it. Despite young children she had to return to work (both she and her husband are univ graduates) to support the family. The latest is that for the past several months she has been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the spine.

    I could go on and on. One young woman whose father kicked here out of the house aftern he became Catholic. She is a nun in France. And a Jewish friend whose family cut off communications with him after he converted. He is a monk at Clear Creek.

    And then there is the simple fact that with scandals and poorly formed priests and religious who do little except undermine the Catholic faith, it is a wonder that anyone goes to mass. One parish in my hometown had three consecutive pastors–the first left the priesthood, the second was a goof and homosexual whose boyfriend lived 35 miles away (two doors down from one of my best friends), the third was very popular and competent administrator who left the priesthood after it was revealed that he had affairs with high school grad boys he met while chaplain there.

    Now we have a pope who has made everyone understand that Petrine infallibility doesn’t apply to a pope shooting off his mouth.

    As I said, I applaud anyone who somehow makes it to mass in these times–even more, someone who drives 350 miles round trip every weekend to attend Latin mass (an old baseball and football teammate).

    If you don’t like what you find, you might have to do it yourself, either by spiritual reading, increased prayer life, or maybe even by driving hundreds of miles to attend mass.

  50. benedetta says:

    robtbrown, thank you for that I do appreciate the witness that you and your friends show to the Faith. As to that kind of a thing, and “diy” generally, I have been doing it for a long time and certainly advocate that others do so as well. I don’t mean to pretend that there are not individuals doing what you describe in many places, or that things are totally impossible (for nothing is impossible with God) but merely that we ought to be edified by the places that are not going it lone wolf style which I think are able to accomplish quite a lot for the Kingdom, in exactly the way we admire and aspire to. One can obviously take their child and go to where their Faith will not be set up for destruction, or even their own personal core. One does. But it’s not like there is no pushback for that. However, I would suggest that this approach is a bit of a cut and run, depending on the overall circumstances, and, sometimes, it can set up communities for destruction and not strengthening. As a long time participant and observer, I think that if we desire such Options then we need to get some minimum things in place, not as a means to an end, but as ends in and of themselves, or perhaps foundation, so that the next generation doesn’t have to nomad off in order to preserve their faith. The idea is to grow and not bunker in on one’s own. What I am saying is that there are places doing this ably, growing, and keeping the flock(s) together, and accepting new or sustaining damage, as the case may in fact be, and standing firm all the while. I think in this moment perhaps we need to stop the cut and run impulse and consider prudentially how to protect a flock, beyond one’s personal circle or whatever it may be as there is strength in communion, in numbers, and in solidarity, more than just one driving the hours to Sunday EF and back on one’s own in a place that is not where they reside and make their community. I am not throwing all this out lightly and without thought and experience(s). Rather I say it out of deep concern for what is already operative in our midst.

  51. robtbrown says:

    Benedetta says,

    . . . and in solidarity, more than just one driving the hours to Sunday EF and back on one’s own in a place that is not where they reside and make their community. I am not throwing all this out lightly and without thought and experience(s). Rather I say it out of deep concern for what is already operative in our midst.

    Did you ever think that he is driving all the miles to get what you seem to want in a parish?

    And I don’t think it is cutting and running any more than when St Benedict left Rome and went to live in a cave above an artificial lake created under Nero. Nor when Bruno, a priest teaching theology in Reims arrived in Grenoble and was led by the bishop into an area in the Alps called La Chartreuse.

    Also: I am not promoting the Benedictine option, but neither am I opposed to it. I am a convert out of an anti-Catholic milieu, so I’m used to living in the diaspora. Further, I have spent a good deal of those years with the thought of St Thomas, whose thought is replete with responding to objections.

Comments are closed.