Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Now I’d like to get in today’s Church Doctrine. Many of you know who St. Benedict is, and you know the life and times of St. Benedict, or you know a little bit about him. Perhaps you’ve heard Rod Dreher, the columnist at American Conservative magazine, write on endlessly about how we all need to go cloister ourselves at the top of some mountain like Monte Cassino in Italy and become part of this Benedict option.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Now I’d like to get in today’s Church Doctrine. Many of you know who St. Benedict is, and you know the life and times of St. Benedict, or you know a little bit about him. Perhaps you’ve heard Rod Dreher, the columnist at American Conservative magazine, write on endlessly about how we all need to go cloister ourselves at the top of some mountain like Monte Cassino in Italy and become part of this Benedict option. I don’t think that Dreher has actually fleshed out the Catholicity and the beautiful Catholicity that St. Benedict actually put into his option.
Remember, Benedict comes along at a time where Rome has yet to be consecrated to the Church. In other words, Benedict lived at a very precarious time in the history of the Christian people. It was St. Benedict that leads the people of Europe into living a life kind of like what I was just describing, that is built around an ethical, a Christian ethical point of view. At the time of St. Benedict, our Lord would have walked the Earth a mere 360 years before. He would have had knowledge from great grandparents or great grandfathers of Holy Mother Church to draw upon for the example of what Christ was like, what the teaching was like, what the apostles were like.
I found this excerpt in a book about St. Benedict and what he decided to do, written in part by Blessed Cardinal Newman. I thought I’d share it with you as today’s inaugural Church Doctrine.
He [St. Benedict] found the world physical and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore it in the way—not of science, but of nature; not as if setting about to do it; not professing to do it by any set time, or by any series of strokes, but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the work was done it was not known to be doing. It was a restoration, rather than a visitation, correction, or conversion.
Mike: Let me stop right there. That just flies in the face of everything we hear about today. [mocking] “We need a revolution. We gotta go back to this.” Perhaps instead of setting markers and doing all these things, winning elections, fundraising drives, building of this number, signing petitions, just work at the ethics part. Lead by example, which is what Benedict did. Back to Cardinal Newman.
The new world he helped to create [Mike: Remember, this is 4th century.] was a growth rather than a structure. Silent men were observed about the country or discovered in the forest digging, clearing and building; and other silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister tiring their eyes and keeping their attention on the stretch, while they painfully deciphered and copied and re-copied the manuscripts which they had saved. There was no one that ‘contended or cried out,’ or drew attention to what was going on; but by degrees the woody swamp became a hermitage, a religious house, a farm, an abbey, a village . . .
Mike: You see the progression there? Why don’t we just proceed from the point of view that what they have over there is not Christ-like, and why don’t we start building what is? You see that? You see the difference between pining away, [mocking] “This country has gone to hell in a handbasket.” Well, maybe it has, and it has, but you’re not going to fix it unless you start fixing it. Don’t talk about it, in other words, start doing it. That’s Cardinal Newman’s point.
. . . a farm, an abbey, a village, a seminary, a school of learning, and a city. Roads and bridges connected it with other abbeys and cities, which had similarly grown up, and what the haughty Alaric or fierce Attila had broken to pieces, these patient meditative men had brought together and made to live again.
And then, when they had in the course of many years gained their peaceful victories, perhaps some new invader came, and with fire and sword undid their slow and persevering toil in an hour . . . Down in the dust lay the labour and civilization of centuries—churches, colleges, cloisters, libraries—and nothing was left to them but to begin all over again; but this they did without grudging, so promptly, cheerfully, and tranquilly, as if it were by some law of nature that the restoration came . . .
Mike: In other words, even if you build it up and you start seeing the fruits of your ethical Christian labor, and you start seeing that it’s affecting positively, and you see the restoration of order, see the restoration of the moral code, see reverence return, lex orandi, lex credendi, as we were talking about order. You see people back to being fervent and reverent. Even if someone comes along and destroys it, okay. In other words, what Cardinal Newman is saying is this is part of life. This is how you live your life. The Christian keeps on doing it. He expects to be told no. He expects to be persecuted. He expects to have the village ransacked. He expects to have it assaulted. When it is, he repairs. He just starts all over again. We did it before. It’s what we will do now. It’s what we should do.
. . . and they were like the flowers and shrubs and fruit trees which they reared, and which, when ill . . . broke off.
Thus did the monks live and work after the eighth century had expired amid the flames the Danes had enkindled. Foremost in the work of restoration was Dunstan, whose name is writ large over the history of his times. To him and to his fellow-worker Ethelwold and to Oswald must be given the success of the revival. [Mike: I’m reading from a book that’s quoting Cardinal Newman.] Of the former, Cardinal Newman says:
“As a religious he shows himself in the simple character of a Benedictine. He had a taste for the arts generally, especially music. He painted and embroidered; his skill in smith’s work is recorded in the well-known legend of his combat with the evil one. And, as the monks of Hilarion joined gardening with psalmody, and Bernard and his Cistercians joined field-work with meditation, so did St. Dunstan use music and painting as directly expressive or suggestive of devotion. ‘He excelled in writing, painting, moulding in wax, carving in wood and bone, and in work in gold, silver, iron, and brass,’ says the author of his life in Surius, ‘and he used his skill in musical instruments to charm away from himself and others their secular annoyances, and to raise them to the theme of heavenly harmony, both by the sweet words with which he accompanied his airs and by the concord of the airs themselves.’”
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Mike: A different perspective there on the Benedict option, as we hear some people talking about. Instead of looking at it as a thing that ultimately has some sort of an option goal, the goal is as it always has been. For the Christian, the goal is the work. The goal is the life, living the life, doing the work, accepting the penance, making the sacrifice, loving the poor, loving your poverty, loving the charity. That’s a true Benedict option. Of that we ought to pray upon and hope we seek to begin – maybe we can even start today.
End Mike Church Show Transcript