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Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.
Andrew Haines writes over at Ethika Politika concerning the charge of how the Benedict Option assisted in the nomination of Donald Trump. The debate back and forth over at EP is worth reading, though the actual efficacy of the so-called Benedict Option is barely up for debate… as few people seem to be observing the idea in actual practice.
Haines is of course correct against the critics of the Benedict Option in one salutary regard: the idea that it should produce some sort of instantaneous effect on culture is, perhaps, the very problem that the Benedict Option is seeking to address — culture isn’t something you pop in a microwave. It takes time.
This having been said, even in an era of recusancy, it has never been the particular calling of Catholics to withdraw from public life. Perhaps more than anything else about the hard vs. soft Benedict Options, this is the one aspect that strikes me as the most peculiar, the most deleterious, the most harmful.
St. Edmund Campion was a Jesuit priest and martyr during the English Reformation, one who defied the Anglican priest hunters in an era hostile to religious freedom. Campion was eventually drawn and quartered for his activities, but his salutary gift to future generations would have to be the now-famous Campion’s Brag.
In an era far more hostile to the Catholic faith than our own, Campion’s solution was not to retract, but to engage:
My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors—in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.
The Benedict Option is safe; the Campion Option is bold. The former is made for monks; the latter made for men.
Naturally, neither option is mutually exclusive. The calls for Catholic identity in a world growing increasingly hostile to sacred religion in favor of secular religions remains true.
And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.
The rise of authoritarians in a world lacking all connection to Truth is a grave concern in the modern age. While it is premature to blame the Benedict Option, it is growing increasingly clear that withdrawing from the public square is no option at all. Something to bear in mind as the seeds of the New Evangelization begin to take root.