Sarah Metts published an article “Fighting Evil Like the Cure of Ars” (Catholic Exchange 08/04/2015). In brief, the article postulates that the way to fight evil in the world (abortion, murder, oppression, violence, etc.) is simply to be holy. She sites work by Peter Kreeft where he states our enemies are not “liberal media, anti-catholic bigots, or even the culture of death, but fallen angels and sin.” To fight those enemies we need Saints like “The Cure of Ars.” St. John Vianney lived at a time when Catholicism was clearly counter-culture in France. In his example, he attracted sinners to his confessional booth from all over the world by his holy life. The article neatly points out our path to sanctity maybe a little more humble (prayers, confession, mass, help the poor).
The article connected to me on-going pieces in the American Conservative by Rod Dreher on the Benedictine Option. In essence, he is challenging the catholic faithful to learn how to live in a culture that is fundamentally counter to our values. We cannot all retreat to monastery life and live according to Benedictine rules, but we can create enclaves within the culture by living holy lives and attracting “barbarians” to the light.
The idea is to retreat to an interior spiritual life that is deeper in meaning and practice, deeper than catholic rituals that at times come to feel like civil religion as opposed to instilled spiritual belief. Or at the very least, a reason for a bull horn and a political stance. The article quotes Richard Rohr’s quote from Falling Upward: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better….I learned this from my father St. Francis, who did not concentrate on attacking evil or others, but just spent his life falling, and falling many times into the good, the true, and the beautiful. It was the only way he knew how to fall into God.”
As a catholic I can do more by living my life in pursuit of sanctity via prayer, sacraments, confession, good deeds, study, and vigilance than I can by attacking the counter-culture. And trust me I am not claiming any victories here in my pursuit of sanctity, what little victories I have had were given to me on a silver platter and my epic failures were primarily my own inventions – or at least with my consent.
When we live happy lives in harmony (as well as model how to virtuously deal with suffering), help the poor, and practice our faith we can attract more converts to our kingdoms door and God’s grace will do the rest.
The Benedictine Option is not casting aside our role in the communities, it is arming ourselves within a counterculture with the tools to remain faithfully oriented to God. A lot of fancy terms, saints, and philosophers come into play. You can simplify it by a using the four gospels often and praying directly with God. Still, the lives of the Saints provide us with role models of sacrifice and simplicity as well – but they would be the first to say turn your eyes to Jesus and God, not to themselves. Veneration not idolization!
“Personal Holiness changes the world.”