My “Benedict Option” Reading List: A Response

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Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option Reading List post today was the perfect response to the recent barrage of critics of the Benedict Option (most recently here, today).  It inspired me to post my own list.  Note the whole left stack is monastic sources dating back to St. Athanasius’ biography of St. Antony of the Desert, one of the biggest influences on the early monastic movement.  Many on the lower left comprised the core of my Monastic Studies comprehensive exam reading list. I also think Thomas Merton is absolutely essential to any Benedict Option considerations since he thought and prayed so deeply about his own Benedict Option.

The list is missing a couple of key books that are MIA in the house or the bindings weren’t photogenic:

  1. Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary by Fr. Terrence Kardong, OSB.
  2. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection translated by Benedicta Ward and preface by Metropolitan Anthony
  3. The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study in Monastic Culture by Jean Leclerq, OSB
  4. Both of Esther de Waal’s Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict and Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality.

One of the most surprising elements of criticism surrounding the Benedict Option is that they don’t seem to be much aware of St. Benedict, monasticism, or the monastic tradition.  If a Benedict Option is going to truly be a Benedict Option and not a Francis Option or Dominic Option or Teresa Option (which would all be great options!), then it by definition needs to be deeply informed by the Benedictine monastic tradition.

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