Not an escape, Rod Dreher says, but a chance for Christians to regroup
One way the Anselm Society hopes to help change that is by “creating the next generation of Christian art and literature, the notion of having shared stories or art or music that’s a product of your tradition and your community that says something about who you are and teaches the next generation of who you are,” Brown said.
On a much smaller scale—and less of an “organization”—is a personal approach to the BenOp being undertaken by a Catholic lay woman. Leah Libresco, a convert from atheism and a writer, explained in a recent talk that after graduating from college she was looking for a way to deepen her faith and form better community relationships. Then talk of the BenOp came onto her radar screen, and she was intrigued. But she noticed that lots of people discussing the Benedict Option were talking in terms of grand projects that would take years to implement.
“I wanted to try to think of ways we could build Christian community in small ways and in the near future,” she said. She tried thinking of “interesting and useful things I could do in this spirit of building up community, of finding places to live Christian life together that strengthen us as Christians and that let us strengthen each other.”
She began by inviting friends over to her DC apartment for dinners once a month. The evenings included time for prayer and discussion. The group, which has grown to about 50 people, also gets together for book discussions, debates, play readings and other activities. Not everyone comes at the same time.
As the community was coming together, they tried to determine who has resources to help build up the group: some had large living rooms, others liked to cook, others had cars. One man piped up that he is clinically depressed, and that that might be a resource if someone wanted to talk about it. “Then others offered things that were difficult for them, such as eating disorders or alcoholism,” Libresco said. “Seeing people offer their cross as a gift is everything you could ever ask for.”
Libresco’s “little way” of a Benedict Option provides a good model for people to follow, if they don’t have the resources to start or move to a community such as Clear Creek.
And while Alasdair MacIntyre has become a sort of patron saint of the Benedict Option, the Anselm Society’s Brian Brown identified someone from an earlier age who predicted such a movement might take place: the English poet T. S. Eliot. In his 1937 work The Idea of a Christian Society, Eliot looked at the choice between pretending that nothing has changed since the Middle Ages and completely conforming to the world around you. “He said the way forward it neither of these,” Brown said. “The way forward has to be finding a third option that recognizes the realities around it but still manages to hold fast to what matters most to its traditions.
“That’s kind of the line we’re trying to walk, challenging people to organize their lives around things that really matter,” Brown said. “I think Anselm’s most significant contribution so far is shaping the imagination, so that if a person has changed imagination he has changed values, which in turn is going to have influence on the next generation of priests. Someone who’s a 10-year-old now is going to be raised in a different church environment than his parents were, valuing different things, understanding his tradition better, and having a better ability to be a better steward of the institutional legacy.”
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John Burger is Aleteia’s news editor.