Saturday, May 5, 2018

Part THREE: Clear Creek and the Benedict Option. Seniorism gone Awry? Case for a Parish.


See part One HERE, and part Two HERE.  These blog posts seem to have gone viral here in our Local Church, looking at the stats, which is good because the de facto Clear Creek Catholic Community is a part of our Local Church after all, and I stand by the facts and perspectives I've so far expressed.  I hope to see its serious issues addressed and resolved, and for the Project to succeed.  

To address any potential naysayers, my approach is to lay out facts as I know them, observe patterns as I see them, and take a step back for perspective to see how the whole appears, and share that perspective with others.  This is just ONE of an estimated 300 MILLION blogs on the world wide web (LINK).   If you like it, please share with others;  if you don't, there are 299,999,999 other blogs you can read.

But, I highly recommend blogging for Catholics who like to write, and want to express their "sense of faith" about what is happening in our Church and society.  A certain professional Catholic gentleman, a reader of this blog, who lives in the Diocese of Oklahoma City, agreed.  I wrote a post about his vision of a Catholic Blogosphere HERE, as a thank you for the gift of a Dell laptop he mailed me.

John Senior's Poetic Vision for Founding Catholic Communities (i.e. akin to today's term "the Benedict Option"):

You could call me a Seniorista.  I support in theory starting Catholic Communities based on the Benedict Option.   If John Senior articulated a certain philosophy, let's call it Seniorism for short, then I subscribe to it, not as a dogmatic ideology, but rather a set of points and approaches to the "restoration of Christian culture."  I love John Senior and his books - they changed my world.  The Death of Christian Culture,  The Restoration of Christian Culture, and The Restoration of Innocence (unpublished).   I also read Poetic Knowledge by his student James Taylor, who I once attended Mass with at the same parish.

When I was a teacher once upon a time, his "poetic knowledge" approach to education was inspirational.  Because of his poetic philosophy, I would take my students on immersive nature hikes, and while we dissected animals in lab, I would emphasize love of how God designed living things more than memorizing anatomical facts...thanks in large part to the inspiring reflections of John Senior.

I myself turned away from a lifestyle too much based on modern technology, to a more integral, natural, and holistic lifestyle including gardening and fires in the fireplace.

Saying that, then, as a past frequent visitor of Clear Creek, I am familiar with the Clear Creek "Seniorista'" approach to forming their community over the course of years and decades, in a "poetic" and "organic" way...that is by those certain families and founding monks sharing the poetic vision/writings of John Senior for a "Catholic Village."

Seniorism gone Awry?

Yet, as I discussed in part One and Two of this series,  some things have gone awry there, as evidenced by the lack of support the Community gave to Bishop Slattery in his attempt to establish a Public, Parish Community for the families.  While John Senior did call for a restoration of "the poetic," he never said to reduce learning and experience down to the poetic, or to primarily form communities through organic evolution.  At least I don't recall anything like that in his books.  

What Senior did do in his books was remind the reader that there are four levels of knowledge, from the bottom up:  the poetic, dialectical, rhetorical, and scientific.  He was calling for a realist restoration of the poetic, as the foundation for higher thinking.   

"Poetic knowledge," as detailed by Dr. James Taylor HERE, a professor and former student of Senior, is the kind of knowledge that comes with experiencing the subject you are studying in a subjective, introductory way.  For example, before a child learns about where butterflies fit into Kingdom Animalia, and the taxonomic criteria for doing that, they spend time with their mother in the garden or playground chasing and imitating butterflies.  

However, poetic knowledge as defended by Senior, is a means to a higher end.  The adult then, still immersed in the poetic experiences of life, has learned to subordinate the subjective to the objective, the poetic to the logical and rational, and therefore to subject the natural processes of organic development to planned, reasoned out, and implemented projects of a public society... a Catholic Community formed around a Benedictine monastery. 

The actualization of an official Catholic Community, requires then a logical and rational process that clearly goes above and beyond the subjective and poetic.  

Abbot Anderson at Clear Creek's 2017 "Idea of a Village" Conference.   The theme was The Benedict Option:

The Clear Creek Community Paradox:

But, I think there are some valid questions, I would personally ask Abbot Anderson (feel free to forward this to him):

Has this John Senior/Benedict Option/Village project gone in a different, unintended direction than originally envisioned?  The majority there are not members of a parish,  bound to any local pastor.  How can the Community become stable without that necessary, ecclesial center? 

Was it the plan of the monks to become the canonical pastors of the families they sold land to, who they encouraged to move to Oklahoma to form this Catholic Community?  

In the early years, say the first decade of its foundation, where were the plans to provide for a Public, Parish Community??   It was only later after many years that Bishop Slattery attemped a parish, which he later shut down for lack of support from the Community. 

Is it not an integral necessity of the life of  Catholic families to be subject to a pastor and priest who has binding authority over them?  To gather together on Sundays around a particular altar, in a particular public place, around a particular pastor and priest who offers for them the Holy Sacrifice?  Who then makes themselves available for baptisms, first communions, marriage preparation, catechism, visiting the sick and dying, and the other multiple tasks of a parish priest?

The paradox, then, is:  how could the Clear Creek monks encourage the actual formation of a lay Catholic Community around their monastery, but not foresee the need for an official parish/parish priest, to ensure a normal Catholic community life?   Why in the past could they not assign/call just one priest to be the public, pastor for these souls??  

Surely the Bishop would approve.  Surely one monk-priest assigned to a parish down the road would not alter the contemplative life of the community.   If anything,  it would help preserve it from unnecessary intrusions into the silent, cloistered life of the Benedictine monk.  


Start a parish there.  The Catholic Church morally and spiritually requires Catholic families to be active members of a parish.  

If in fact the Church is what generates a Christian society, as the monks are trying to restore, then it is a Public Parish that will generate an authentic, balanced, and successful Catholic Village out at Clear Creek.

There are new, younger families there who can ask the Bishop and Abbot to try again in starting a proper, local Catholic church there.  If not now, then one planned for the future. 

The Comment Section is open, and will be moderated.  Or, feel free to email me at:  (I use a pen name for professional reasons).

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