The Benedict Option and the Grid of Grace

by Fr Richard Heilman | July 13, 2015 10:59 AM

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4

A couple months ago, I wrote an article entitled, “The Grid of Grace Is Down[1].” In it, I pointed to an excellent article by Dr. Brian Kopp that asks, “The Culture Wars Are Over?[2]”

Here, Dr. Kopp states,

“Re-evangelizing a de-Christianized culture is orders of magnitude more difficult than the initial spread of Christianity in a mission field. A pagan culture that has never been evangelized is (at risk of offending politically correct post-Christian sensibilities) a demonic culture, and the initial work of the missionary is to cast out the demons and build a Christian foundation so that the Gospel may flourish and souls be saved.”

Dr. Kopp then goes on to say,

“We have hard work ahead of us, work that must be accompanied by prayer, fasting and sacrifice. And we desperately need effective tools in this work. Reform of the culture will take place mainly through moral education. The truth has not gotten lost, we just have to open our eyes to see it again by shining light on it. The question is HOW do we open eyes?”

How, indeed.

Much is being written today about the “Benedict Option[3].” Some take this to its extreme and speak about moving into Amish-like communities, thereby insulated from the world. But I tend to agree with those who see this more of a movement back to once we once had … what I call “Powerhouses of Grace!”

Just this past weekend, we heard the from the Gospel of Mark that the Apostles were sent out to preach the Word, but this Word was accompanied by supernatural events. Why did our Lord deem these encounters with the transcendent realities as necessary to awaken souls, while we discount them as fantasy, fiction and myths?

 

The Grid of Grace

As I wrote in my earlier article, “We place blame on poor catechesis – and that may be part of the problem – but one rarely hears about the lack of ‘hunger for the truth.’ Yes, we must educate, but where is the ‘hunger’ to ‘be’ educated? That comes from someone who is filled with grace!

Not only that, but where is the ‘real talk’ of spiritual warfare? You see? I believe evil is running unabated in our times because, as the passage from Matthew 12:43-45[4] states, there is a spiritual emptiness that evil has come to fill.

An image I often use to describe this is, ‘Power Grid of Grace.’ There was a time, only 50 years ago, when we saw …

*Monasteries sprinkled across the country
*Brimming Catholic Schools everywhere
*Convents flourishing
*Homes filled with prayer and devotions
*Churches open all day as many made “chapel visits”
*Parish devotions, such as Holy Hours
*Amazingly reverent Masses everyday

The image used in the post (above) is one that shows the many cell towers throughout the United States. It’s not hard to imagine that, at one time, a similar map to this would indicate all of those powerhouses of grace mentioned above … a kind of ‘Power Grid of Grace.’

Friends … the ‘Grid of Grace’ is down – a kind of supernatural force field – and the darkness of evil is penetrating our land at an alarming rate.”

 

The Devil’s Strategy

The first major strategy from the father of lies is actually as old as the Garden of Eden itself. It is simply to convince us we do not need God (Gen. 3:5-6), nor do we need His strength and His power (Eph. 6:10).

In modern times, we have witnessed this in the effective campaign of militant secularists who have sought to de-mythologize our faith, a flat out rejection of the supernatural power of God. Once the devil has us convinced that we can challenge him under our own natural power, or simply deny that he even exists, he’s cut us off from the only real power capable of defeating him: God’s supernatural grace.

More and more common is the modern “secularized” version of religion that sees it reduced to a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. Some seminaries seem to focus on training therapeutic practitioners rather than theologians. In other words, instead of seeing Jesus as God with us — a real and ever-present source of supernatural love and grace — He is reduced to a historic figure we simply emulate as a model in our efforts at self-actualization.

Our ancestors and all of the saints knew all about this supernatural power and strength and that being in a state of grace was the armor of God that was to be treasured and protected at all cost. Sacred scripture sees this Divine Life in God (state of grace) as the “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:44-46).

Today we see program after program, book after book, DVD after DVD, and the same diminishing amount of folks are drawn to these. All the while we persist with our cheesy, effeminate, horizontal, man-centered liturgies that do little, if anything, to assist souls to “participate” in the grace offered in the Source and Summit of our faith … it is like sprinkling water upon a rock. Uninspired, these souls remain empty and vulnerable to the infiltration of the darkness of evil.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen understood our first priority …

Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

With the removal of virtually everything, over the past 50 years, that inspires and even awakens the soul to engage supernatural realities, we have become lulled into a spiritual slumber … an acedia or sloth that is now seen as normative among the vast majority of practicing Catholics (leaving aside, for now, those who have completely disengaged). We have diminished our Catholic faith to nothing more than a (NGO) … Non-Government Organization. There is no power!

Furthermore, we have accepted the hogwash from present day Church leadership who believe, as Protestants do, that we can “read our way out of this thing.” Yes, sola scriptura in all of its forms. Sure, we need to know our faith – and many do not right now – but the problem will not be solved by “force-feeding” the bible, catechism, programs, etc. to the sleeping, slothful souls who are simply wholly disinterested and bored with the lot of it.

 

The Benedict Option for the Laity

It is time for us to the “Nineveh Thing.” We must set aside our foolish pride as the “generation that transcends all generations,” and take our cues from our ancestors and the humble, “devout” remnant among us. These are the ones who recognize the modern-day failed experiment of vapid and banal liturgies as a poison (or, at the very least, a sleeping pill) for their souls and the souls of their loved ones. These are the ones who understand the launching point for a vital and energetic spiritual life begins with humble “obedience.”

Yes!! They want to do it precisely God’s way. And so, they look to their ancestors and the saints … how did they obey? They see that, first; they embraced and loved the sacraments, devotions and sacramentals of our amazing Catholic faith. They love and appreciate these as the beautiful jewels of our Catholic faith. They are the proven way God has revealed as “the way to obey.” They are the way we humbly offer ourselves to God. And, therefore, they are not a poison or sleeping pill, but a “stimulant” to awaken the free flow of grace in their lives. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

You see? This is what the “Benedict Option of the Laity” once looked like. No, it is not a time for us to recede from the world, but a time to “Restore the Local Church and the Domestic Church” as mighty powerhouses of grace!!

These are the ones who have their homes adorned with such things as crucifixes and pictures of the Holy Family; these are the ones whose prayer life is alive with the many practices and devotions[5] we inherited from mighty saints before us. These are the ones who talk openly about God to family and friends on a regular basis. These are the ones who cannot leave home without rosary in hand, as they depend upon the power of such things as Holy Water and Blessed Salt and Benedict Medals. These are the ones who frequent Confession, understanding that a collection of small sins leaves them prone to commit the bigger ones. These are the ones who dedicate their lives and the lives of their family to the mission(s) of their parish. These are the ones who truly live “God fearing” lives, as every decision they make is weighed against whether it is pleasing to God, as they fear ever disappointing God, who they love so much!

Once we restore the home and parishes as powerhouses of grace, we will then see these souls pulsating with the very life of God – grace – and then, we will see them hungry, once again, for “the more” of their faith. Hunger emerges from a soul filled with supernatural grace!

This is the real “Benedict Option.”

Endnotes:
  1. The Grid of Grace Is Down: http://www.romancatholicman.com/the-grid-of-grace-is-down/
  2. The Culture Wars Are Over?: http://www.onepeterfive.com/the-culture-wars-are-over/
  3. Benedict Option: http://www.worldmag.com/2015/06/rod_dreher_explains_the_benedict_option
  4. Matthew 12:43-45: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2012:43-45&version=DRA
  5. practices and devotions: http://www.romancatholicman.com/category/daily-habits/

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