Saturday, April 21, 2018
Clear Creek Community and The Benedict Option, Part 1. The Idea of a Village Conference.
Annual Clear Creek Conference, The Idea of a Village. June 30th, 2018:
I hear the Clear Creek community is having another annual conference with topics that relate to the idea of starting a Catholic Village around Clear Creek monastery, based in part on the writings of John Senior. Fr. Bethel, OSB, Abbey Prior, spoke last year, being the published expert on the thought of John Senior.
This year's featured speaker will be Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a married Catholic priest, Anglican convert, and blogger known for his defense of Amoris Latitiae, accepting its heresy that public, unrepentant adulterers can sacriligeously receive Holy Communion. Not to mention his reputation for portraying Catholic traditionalists as fundamentalists. (Most Clear Creekers are traditionalists, btw).
The Benedict Option:
I am all for the so-called Benedict Option in theory. The idea being for Catholics to live near each other, forming communities, distinct from the secular mainstream, in particular around monasteries. It is a noble idea. In the most general sense, I support some people considering this way of life.
There is historic precedence after all, i.e. during the so-called dark ages, those periods in the medieval period marked by barbarianism to the point many devout Christians gravitated towards living near monasteries. To form pockets of Christian civilization, distinct from the pagan culture around them.
And aren't we living in another dark age? it seems legitimate to at least consider the possibility of a Catholic village or neighborhood.
Monasteries were not only the source of Christian learning, and preservation of culture, they became a locus of social living, an institution that helped Christianize Europe. The Rule of St. Benedict in particular, as lived out in the Benedictine lifestyle, infused the Christian spirit into the hamlets, villages, and towns that often formed around them.
This phenomenon is well documented by most Catholic historians, including Cardinal Newman, and Warren Carroll whose now authoritative volumes on Catholic history are commonplace in many a traditional Catholic's library.
As are the books of John Senior, which were very informative for me in my "journey to Catholic tradition," eighteen years ago. In his The Restoration of Christian Culture, a must read, Senior advocates for Catholics to form communities around Benedictine monasteries, or to found Catholic neighborhoods in the city.
In other words, The Benedict Option.
Attempts at Catholic Communities:
There has been some very relative success. St. Mary's, KS is probably the best example. The town has 2000+ traditional Catholics for decades, most of the families sending their children to St. Mary's Academy.
But it also has its colorful history of nutters and infighting, and some would say cultish behaviors.
The Society of St. John fantasized about founding a medieval village in PA, with stone-oven bakers and juggling monks, but we know how that ended...
Star of the Sea community, in Arkansas, is a strange mix of charismatics and traditionalists. Having visited there, it did seem peaceable enough, but it was somewhat (behind the scenes) divided between the two factions, small, and lacking energy. The founder wanted a lay community of "Catholic pro-life activists" living the simple life in the country-side. It evolved into something quite different.
John Michael Talbot's Little Portion Hermitage outside of Eureka Springs, AR. Enough said. I trust most readers know about their eclectic blend of religion, spirituality, and vocations. That said, I do like to listen to some of Talbot's songs -- in my living room.
I'm sure there are dozens of other examples. I myself briefly considered joining a "pro-life community" in Wisconsin, before I came to my senses. It was called "The Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe" founded by Bishop Burke (later Cardinal) of LaCrosse, WI (it dissolved). I was 24, so I'm not too hard on myself for the frame of mind that motivates some young Catholics looking for an ideal, alternative environment, as was my thinking at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, they say.
The Clear Creek Village Project:
A few years ago, I read an article by Abbot Anderson, praising the project of forming a village around the monastery, as a way of returning to a more traditional, 19th century way of living. His words. But with all due respect, it struck me as overly poetic, and wishful thinking. Case in point, he was describing the design and construction of a "village store," where the CC locals can come together.
Well, it is 2018, and I've never seen or heard any sign of this Village Store in the 5-6 times I've visited CC in the last 2-3 years. Does it exist?
I am sure certain families have their sociable, private cliques, but I've heard maybe 10 first hand comments about major divisions that exist there. And I am a listener, not a meddler.
A good number have moved there believing the world is about to end. Some have followed a seer, directing them to live there and wait for the final tribulation.
Others have transplanted their families to a traditionalist, Latin Mass monastery, having little or no exposure to either the Latin Mass or traditional Catholics. Naturely then, there is division between the traditionalists and those who are more Novus Ordo Catholics.
Fr. Longenecker, for example, is a Novus Ordo rite Catholic.
Just shooting from the hip, how about:
1. The newer, young families re-boot the idea of starting a traditional parish near the monastery. There are a number of young, millenial-aged men with leadership abilities who can organize people, encourage them, and work for unity, since they do seem to be a de facto Catholic community already. And it is the nature of a local community of Catholics to form a "local church," in other words a "parish."
Chats in the monastery parking lot, and private cliques, just don't cut the mustard, if you want to aim for a "Catholic Village." There is a large supply of motu proprio-devoted diocesan priests, in their own limbo, who might jump at the chance of starting a parish there in the countryside, with permissions. And the new parish can integrate attendance at Mass between the parish church and the monastery. I am sure the monks would still support the integration.
2. Start first with a community center of sorts. A building. A public place. A convenience store/post office/pizza place. Something. It could be small, but accommodate a crowd. A public point of reference. A Village is a public thing, so to organically develop into a public thing, the private has to yield more and more to a public reality. Hence this public blog post.
3. If the idea is The Benedict Option, then follow the traditionalism of the Clear Creek monks, in preserving all things traditional: the liturgy, spirituality, culture, lifestyle, etc. Be united in Catholic tradition. Yes, there will be a place for private disagreements. But there will always be ideological differences between traditional and conservative Catholics today. The Novus Ordo Catholics need to yield to the traditionalist spirit of the Abbey and traditional Catholic locals.
4. Please, reconsider moving to Clear Creek IF:
a. You cannot adequately, financially support your family living there.
b. You want to live in Catholic Disneyland. There will never be a Catholic Disneyland, except in heaven.
c. You are planning to practice a "private Catholicism" in your home and closed, cliquish circle. These monks are called to a purely cloistered life, and cannot provide pastoral support. You have to try to form a parish, or travel to Tulsa for the Latin Mass and parish life.
I hope their conference is a success, and that they can form an authentic, traditional Catholic parish community around Clear Creek monastery. Having visited CC dozens of times over the years, that hollowed place will always have a special place in my soul.
(Part 2: hopefully an interview discussion with Tom Montgomery, 90 y.o part-time CC resident, and parishioner at Most Precious Blood in Tulsa, about his words of wisdom for a CC community)