Whatever Rod Dreher has done, he has seemed to have spawned a cottage industry of articles and books by people suggesting a saint to emulate over St. Benedict of Nursia. So I have seen so many articles doing exactly this.
Part of this is a natural reaction to his book since whoever he had set to mention as a pattern would be critiqued by others. Plus of course I have read much criticism saying that Dreher is suggesting retreating from society. This happened despite all the caveats in his book that this is not his intention or that St. Benedict’s model was the only model to follow. It is just the nature of the format of the title that provides a theme to build one, while also limiting the points he makes.
Having read the book, like so many others have mentioned, there is much to like along with things to have differing opinions on. All of which is to be expected. The first part of the book deals with a very pessimistic view of the current state of society and the last part deals with how we live our lives in this situation.
There are lots of areas where I share his pessimism about the culture at large and to a large part the prescriptions he notes. I can very well believe things will be quite dire culturally in the near to long term. Although I have read enough of Church history to not accept an idea of of a progressive slope to the bad or to the good. The heartbeat of history is all over the place with revivals, declines, and everything in between..
This did get me thinking generally about his advice. Much of which I think is practicable irregardless of the times you live in. In America and elsewhere where faith can be highly individualistic the “Me and Jesus” quickly become “Me” when other structures aren’t in place. Personal holiness must be job one in loving God and neighbor. Family life has to build on this and beyond this in community life. We need to both strengthen others and to be strengthened by them. The interconnectedness of all of this is so important. When a culture is on the decline so much more work has to be put into this. Easy to complain about structures not being there to support your faith. Yet we see the trails blazed by saints who lived in difficult times when these structures were torn down. Right now it is all so so easy to be a cultural critic while skipping being an inner critic.
Regardless of the times we live in we can become saints.
Ultimately all the saints followed “The Jesus Option”, they modeled Jesus in ways that reflected their personality and experience. Reading the lives of the saints is not the experience of reading a cookie cutter factory of holiness. We are able to relate to saints who have some of the same dispositions or experience as us, or sometimes because their virtues shine a spotlight on our vices we want eliminated.
There is no carbon copy path of sanctity where one path applies to all, other than that we must all trod the narrow path.
Each individual must discern based on their own strengths and weaknesses how to achieve this. The Body of Christ is exactly as St. Paul taught where we don’t need a plethora of just one part.
- Good times or bad: We must become saints.
- Good times or bad: We must build family and community life.