Monday, April 30, 2018

Part 2: Clear Creek Community and The Benedict Option. My Experience.

(EDIT:  Preface: to be very clear I am not judging individuals on a subjective level, but critiquing the issues that remain in their project to form a "Catholic Community."  My knowledge is limited, though I have visited Clear Creek about 35 times in the last 18 years, which I believe informs me well enough to echo the concerns I've heard from laity and clergy alike) 

My Experience:

I have a lot of good memories visiting Clear Creek over the years.

I remember sitting in the little cottage of a Clear Creek resident, enjoying some of their homemade bread and humor.  A few months later this person moved out of the area.

I also remember having lunch and a swim with a family,  just behind their family cabin around the corner from the monastery.  They had a huge ranch raising grass-fed, organic beef.  A year or so later, they also moved out of the area.

I also remember in the early 2000s sipping a beer visiting the self-made cabin of an older resident.  He mused and laughed at the sometimes odd happenings surrounding the growing community.  And he and I thought we probably added our own bit of weirdness, looking back on our conversations.

I also remember deer hunting in the back acreage on another family's ranch.  The only live animal I saw was a rabbit, which I spent about half an hour chasing through the woods trying, unsuccessfully, to shoot.

I've sat with another family outside their first homestead out at Clear Creek -- a temporary home made from a bus they drove into the woods -- drinking coffee by the fire.

Yet, I join the ranks of those who never quite harmonized with the place.  Maybe because I don't wear flannel and suspenders?  :)   Or drink too much diet Coke (a CC commentator objected to my "addiction," albeit with playful sarcasm)?  :)   Or emphasize the biblical admonition to "live IN the world, but not OF the world."  I never figured out exactly why, except indirectly listening to the mixed tales of priests and other laity who have visited the area over the years, or attempted a transplant to the area.

The Idea of a Village?

As I said in my last blog post, I support in theory this idea of forming a community around a monastery, as long as it is truly trying to be an actual community and not just a virtual reality shire, or collection of private cliques. 

It would be an error of Christian, political philosophy to think that a SOCIETY is not more than the sum of its parts, as if it does not rise above the level of the PRIVATE, to the level of the PUBLIC.  Or that Christian communities are now reduced to the domain of the private, isolated, and secluded.

But what is an actual community?  By its very nature, it is PUBLIC.  This goes back to the pre-Christian version of St. Thomas Aquinas, who Aquinas greatly relied upon -- Aristotle.  Aristotle explained in his book Politics how a body politic comes into existence.   

First is the institution of marriage, which gives rise to the institution of a family.  But when families congregate and start sharing resources, values, and beliefs, they become an actual PUBLIC ENTITY.  That is, not a collection of private circles divided by ideologies, like happened in America between the "North vs. the South."  At first a handful of domestic homes congregate to generate a hamlet;  then the hamlet grows to include some kind of community center and some basic kind of government to be an actual VILLAGE.  To fully appreciate that terminology, you'd have to siphon out the medieval overtones, albeit of historic importance, and arrive at the political essence represented by those terms.

So far, Clear Creek is at best a hamlet, which would make it a public entity. But it doesn't fully take on the form of a body politic or real, actual community until it has some form of government and public meeting place (and I don't mean the monastery parking lot).  

That might strike a nerve to those of decidedly libertarian persuasion, but then if those who actually want Clear Creek to become an actual Village, or small town, with a parish and economic center, for their progeny, then the answer is a traditional Catholic theology of government and society.

In application, that would mean a town center, with parish, school, market place, etc.  And if there is genuine hope and plan for a Catholic Village, or whatever you want to call it, then there has to be a realistic, concrete process of actualization to make that a visible, tangible reality.  Especially if you want to avoid the pitfalls nearly every attempt at a "Catholic community" has fallen into.  Wouldn't you agree?

The Monk's Vision for a Village Community:

Which brings us to the whole project Abbot Anderson, Fr. Bethel, and the other founding monks of Clear Creek have been trying to carry out, as an extension of the cultural philosophy of their Master, John Senior, who taught them at the Integrated Humanities Program (IHP) at the University of Kansas.   Someone is free to challenge me on this, but it has always been a part of the Clear Creek/Seniorista vision to see an actual, real Catholic Village formed around and near the walls of its cloister.

As I did when I first started visiting Clear Creek at the turn of the millenium, I still in theory support that vision.


Most of the families out there are now new to me, but I still keep in contact with some of them.  And,  sometimes I see Clear Creekers at Sunday Mass in Tulsa.  

This upcoming Village conference is a good thing, minus the heterodoxy of one of its speakers.  I would never tell people they should move back to the city or state wherever they came from.  Having been an active Friend of the Monastery, volunteer wise, from about 2000-2007, and still visiting there maybe once a year, there is still a part of my soul invested in the place.

One day soon I'd like to make a small cabin as a weekend retreat to hunt, fish, and pray with the monks.  I wanted to make a retreat with the monks back in March, but tried to make reservations just before wanting to come.  It ain't like it was in the old days.  It seems you need to make "reservations" months in advance, and that the numbers of visitors have really increased over the last few years.

I was there for the Catholic Man Show campout in October, and Men's Work Day in March.  Hope to visit again soon, to catch up with the monks and buy some of their excellent cheese.  Maybe before the blistering heat of the summer, which seems even more intense out at CC.

But I do think there are certain aspects of this Catholic community worthy of critical discussion in combination with support.  I've already made my own observations.  So my next segment about CC won't be so much my thoughts, as hopefully that of Mr. Tom Montgomery, who I am hoping will concede to a podcast interview about his advise for the CC community, but for all Catholics of our Local Church.  I think he is probably one of the most senior members of the wider Latin Mass community of Eastern Oklahoma, going back to the 1980s, not to mention possibly one of the wisest and holiest traditional Catholics in our area.

P.S.  If you want to know the best swimming hole on Clear Creek, or want to give feedback about these posts, feel free to email me at