A reader sent me a link to a 14 minute video of the 150th anniversary of the Erie Benedictines. Watching it makes me doubtful that they will have a 200th anniversary much less a 175th. The video even includes liturgical abuses such as glass chalices and performance art liturgies. A video in which the Catholic Church or Jesus are never mentioned. Just the typical talk of Zen meditations and Sr. Joan Chittister talking about how for the first time warfare now kills more civilians than military personnel (obviously not a WWII scholar). Their vibrancy in growth was talking about a 27 year old who had joined the order and and a 40 and 62 years olds who became lay members. One of the worlds easiest job is being a Novice Master for the Erie Benedictines. You can go years without having to anything to do at all.
What struck me most about this video is that they were nothing more than a community of social workers. They do good work for the poor and for others, but it seems divorced from the Gospel. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta disliked the term social worker and had said ‘We are not doing social work; this is God’s work.’ I don’t think the Erie Benedictines would have a problem with the term at all. By the video you would think that it was a promotional video for a retirement home. Old folks home or Benedictine Sisters would make for a difficult test for the outside observer. Another interesting thing I noticed that every single cross displayed in the video was a Christ-less cross. No crucifixes at all. Maybe this is truth in advertising since they have become a Christ-less community.
Can communities such as these be reformed or will they just die out? It seems to me that in the history of the Church that most reform happens from breaking off when an order has become lax and lost its focus on Christ. The Benedictines will live on but these branches will become footnotes in the history of the order.