I don’t know if Rod Dreher’s upcoming book on the Benedict Option will include a manifesto like his 2005 Crunchy Cons did, but I can imagine it being something like the following from Thomas Merton’s 1951 book Ascent to Truth:
The only thing that can save the world from complete moral collapse is a spiritual revolution. Christianity, by its very nature, demands such a revolution. If Christians would all live up to what they profess to believe, the revolution would happen. The desire for unworldliness, detachment, and union with God is the most fundamental expression of this revolutionary spirit. The only thing that remains is for Christians to affirm their Christianity by that full and unequivocal rejection of the world which their Baptismal vocation demands of them. This will certainly not incapacitate them for social action in the world, since it is the one essential condition for a really fruitful Christian apostolate.
I was reminded of this quote while continuing my own personal ressourcement, or “return to sources,” of many of Merton’s works. Merton was a key piece in my eventual embrace of Catholic Christianity some 20 years ago. He he also proved indispensable in grasping the essence of Benedictine monasticism, which also figured heavily in my first year as a 23 year-old adult Catholic. I spent my final year in college studying at St. Martin’s Abbey, where I got my first, sustained taste of lived monasticism.
I really think that if the Benedict Option is to have deeper meaning and significance, it has to be rooted in the deeper, richer currents of the Christian spiritual traditions. The monastic tradition, which Merton was consciously and deliberately placed himself, is perhaps the oldest of the spiritual traditions in the Church. Additionally, how can the Benedict Option live up to its name if it isn’t rooted in the very same tradition to which St. Benedict himself also belonged?
In the coming months, I’ll be refocusing the blog and my time (or lack thereof) spent with it. Some of that focus is already reflected in the Regula Fide and Regula Vitae sections of the site. The overall goal of the site is to press more deeply into that world of Christian monasticism and look at how it can be incarnated outside of a celibate cloister. That’s really been the a central theme in most of my adult life and I am committing myself to renewing that focus for the remainder of it.