Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Are Evangelicals Beating Us?

Evangelicals at Hillsong Church in Baulkham Hills, Sydney, Australia

Photo Credit: Ben Rushton

Before I was Catholic, I was Anglican. But before I was Anglican, I was Evangelical, and I have a secret. My secret is that Catholics were the easiest targets to pull out of the Church, and convert to Evangelicalism. Sadly, a good number of the Catholics I pulled out (when I was an Evangelical) went on to have a strong anti-Catholic streak, much worse than anything I ever experienced as a cradle Protestant. I don't believe I put this anti-Catholic streak into them. I think it developed on its own, organically, from having left the Church and a natural human tendency to want to justify that.

So the question is why? Why are so many young Catholics converting to Evangelicalism? And why do Evangelicals so easily pull our young people away from the Church?

The Modernity answer is clueless. This assumes that it must be the praise music, guitars, drums, and emotional worship that does it, along with a happy, non-judgemental, "I'm okay, you're okay" pop-psychology preaching. This retro-1970s solution is not only tired and worn out, it's also inaccurate. It isn't the music, worship style, and pop-psychology message that pulls young Catholics out of the Church. Nor is it these things that make Evangelicalism so successful. For four decades now, we Catholics have been redesigning our parishes, and renovating the mass, to appeal to this mindset. It's not working. It never worked, and it never will work. Because it misses the mark entirely. It seeks the solution to the problem in aesthetics and sentimentality. Neither aesthetics nor sentimentality were ever the problem to begin with. Not only does it misdiagnose the problem, but the proscribed cure is worse than the disease.

The Traditional answer is a bit closer, but still misses the mark. Traditionals assert that the problem is poor catechises and bad liturgy. They would have us believe that if we would just go back to the pre-Vatican II Church, things would be better. There is, of course, an element of truth to this, and we certainly would be better off with more traditional liturgy and catechises, but that alone isn't enough. My Lutheran forefathers, from long before Vatican II, easily converted Catholics as well, and some of them even bragged about it, as late as the 1950s. Not all was well within the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II, and I assert the Church needed some of the reforms of Vatican II desperately. Yes, I assert that Vatican II was necessary -- but incomplete and far too vague. As a result, this lack of clarity and closure from the council opened a door to something far worse. Like Pope Benedict XVI, I assert that the public message of the council was hijacked by the media, and as far as the public mind was concerned, it was made into something it was never intended to be.

When it comes to the question of why young Catholics are leaving the Church, Traditionals overshoot the answer, and the Moderns shoot in the wrong direction entirely. Both are missing it. That's because the answer is so simple that both could easily hit it, if only they knew exactly where it was. Where is it? It's right at their feet actually. It's literally under their noses.

What is it?

It's simple really. Evangelicals are kicking our tails because they teach their people how to have a personal relationship with God the Father. That's what we're missing in the Catholic Church.

You see, there is nothing in that message that is anti-Catholic. In fact, it's probably the most Catholic message there ever was. Jesus came to atone for our sins, so that we may all have a relationship with God the Father as he does. With the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and receiving the physical body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we are brought into the Trinity, literally elevated right to the Father's throne, and given the opportunity to know him and love him -- personally.

For some strange reason, however, most of our priests and catechists stop there. They explain the mechanics of how it works, this theosis or divinisation of the Christian, but then leave the implication of that message almost completely untouched. Most Catholics today couldn't tell you the first thing about what it means to have a personal relationship with God the Father. The Holy Spirit indwells us, the Holy Eucharist feeds us, and we are brought into the Holy Trinity literally body and soul, only to be left standing at the foot of the Father's throne not knowing what to do next. We speak with him in one voice during the "Our Father" prayer, and then we are silent. Please tell me, what kind of relationship grows in silence? What kind of a marriage exists when a husband and wife never speak to each other? That's what we are lacking, and that is why Evangelicals are kicking our tails with young people. It has nothing to do with the loud music, laser beams, fog machines, or non-judgemental message. It has everything to do with the fact that Evangelicals have unwittingly stumbled onto a Biblical truth that Catholics have for too long ignored, or just taken for granted. These Evangelicals are teaching our youth how to have a personal relationship with God the Father. We Catholic parents have prepared our children for this through the sacraments, only to have them stolen away from us at the last moment, because somebody else taught them the meaning of it all before we did. Here's the irony folks, Evangelicals are so successful because their using our own message against us. They've taken the core message of Catholicism, a message that many of us forgot, claimed it as their own, and are now using it to clobber us.

We are to have a relationship with Our Father in Heaven. That's what it's all about. That's what the Church is all about, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, the Saints, the liturgy, the hierarchy, all of it! It's all about having and growing in a personal relationship with God the Father. It's about knowing him as "Our Father," as our Abba (meaning our "Daddy"), and learning to love him as Our Daddy. Jesus said if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. So we learn to know the Father by learning to know the Son. Yes, it really is that simple. And yes, it just doesn't get any more Catholic than that!

Yet for some reason, this core of our Catholic Christian faith, this essential kernel of what makes us Catholic, is so neglected in our parishes, that when young Catholics today are asked about their personal relationship with God the Father, they just look at you with a blank stare. They have no idea what you're talking about.

How could this have happened? How could we have so carefully prepared them for a relationship with the Father, in both sacrament and catechises, and then forgot to tell them what it's all in preparation for?

Personal is not Private

Now I should stop here and clarify something. Personal does not mean private. Evangelicals often fail to differentiate on that. So much so, that many Evangelicals believe having a personal relationship with God is the same as a private relationship with God. In other words, they see no need for being part of a community. This is why a growing number of Evangelicals have stopped going to church entirely, and are now "worshipping God in their own way" outside of a traditional church setting. The apostles specifically commanded the early Christians to meet together, and not forsake their weekly gatherings to break bread (celebrate the Eucharist). Some of our misguided Evangelical brethren have taken their ideology too far here, and have become popes and bishops unto themselves, having created a "religion" of their own making, far more ritualistic than anything in Catholicism. It is, in their case, a religion of one.

You see, the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is not made with individuals. Rather, it is made with a group, or a community, specifically the Church. So our relationship with God the Father comes about because of, and through, our relationship with the Church. We must be active members within the Church, in order to realise and receive the full relationship that God intends to have with us. Those who have cut themselves off from the Church have put themselves in an impaired state. They cannot fully realise, nor fully receive, the entire relationship God wants to have with them.

Still also, a number of Evangelicals equate the word "relationship" with anti-religion. Under this false and ridiculous pretence, they assert that you can't have a relationship with God if you're involved in any kind of religion. Case in point; many of these Evangelicals would claim that Catholicism is too ritualistic, and therefore too religious. Thus, they would pontificate, that it's impossible to have a relationship with God when you're a Catholic, because Catholicism has too much religion. This of course is preposterous. God is the inventor of the most complex religion in the world -- Judaism -- with 613 commandments to follow. By making the assertion that God opposes religion, they are effectively claiming that God opposes himself. Jesus never opposed religion in the gospels, nor did he oppose ritual. Rather, he commanded his apostles to follow the rules of the scribes and pharisees. He just instructed them not to follow their hypocrisy. That, you see, was Jesus' biggest problem with the religion of his day. It wasn't the religion of Judaism itself. He was, after all, a good Jew. Rather it was the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his time, who made an outward appearance of religion, but obviously didn't believe or practise it. All throughout the New Testament, we are instructed to follow the "traditions" of the apostles, and yes, that means religious traditions. You see, religion (true religion that is) and relationship, are not opposed to one another, as some misguided Evangelicals assert. Both religion and relationship are actually complementary to each other.

Because of these abuses, within Evangelicalism, Catholics have a tendency to react in the opposite direction, rejecting the Evangelical message outright. They say it's about a relationship not religion, and then we react without thinking, saying "No! It's about religion stupid!" as we ignore the relationship part.

The Catholic message is simple. It's not an either/or thing. Catholic Christianity is about having a personal relationship with God the Father, made possible by the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic religion is complementary to this, and in fact, it strengthens this relationship and facilitates it. In turn, our personal relationship with God strengthens our religious practise, and gives it more meaning and purpose. Relationship and religion are not an "either/or" thing. Rather, they are a "both/and" thing. Our Catholic religion complements our personal relationship with God, and likewise our personal relationship with God complements our Catholic religion.

Intentional Discipleship

Having a personal relationship with God the Father means becoming an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ. Now exactly what does that mean? - "intentional disciple?" It means making a conscious choice, daily, by your own free will, to learn everything you can about Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings, for the purpose of applying these things in your life, all for LOVE of him.

A disciple is more than just a student. A student is merely a learner, meaning somebody who goes to school, learns something, and then goes home to carry on with his life. A disciple, on the other hand, is much more than that. A disciple is somebody who lives with his teacher, talks to him daily. Shares meals with him regularly. Sleeps in the same house as him, and spends every waking hour with him. A disciple is one who is totally dedicated, 100%, to learning and living everything he can about his teacher, to the point of becoming just like his teacher, in the very spitting image! That's a disciple! Far too many Catholics are students and not disciples.

This is what we must do as Catholics. This is how we beat the Evangelical juggernaut at it's own game, because you see, it was never really their game to begin with. It was our game all along. We just forgot how to play it. The Catholic Church is the Church of monasteries and convents. It's the Church of clerical celibacy and religious vocations. It's the ultimate in having a personal relationship with God through intentional discipleship.

What does this mean for the average lay Catholic today? It's simple really. We don't need to join a monastery or convent. We don't even need to join the priesthood, and we don't need to take a vow of celibacy, unless of course these things are one's individual calling! Rather, what we need to do is simply CHOOSE to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We need to CHOOSE daily, on a daily basis, to learn everything we can about Jesus and try to become like him in every way we can, within our own limited means, and station of life of course.

Obviously, if we're married, we need to stay married and love our spouse. Obviously, if we're employed and holding down a job, we need to do that to support our families. Gallivanting off into the wilderness to pray is not what I'm talking about here. Rather, I'm talking about making a conscious choice to spend the rest of our days learning about our Master, and trying to emulate the virtues he taught us. All the while, like anyone in a relationship, we need to talk to our Master regularly and personally. This is where Catholics have a hard time. We're very comfortable reciting the "Our Father" prayer and saying the prayers of the Holy Rosary, but we seem to have a hard time just talking to God one-on-one in a very honest and personable way. Yet it is necessary.

Here's a suggestion. Open your daily prayer time with God by reciting one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be. Then just start talking to God. Tell him about your day. Tell him about your trials, worries and frustrations. Then tell him about all the good things that happened too and what you're thankful for. Granted, he knows all this stuff already, but the truth is, he likes hearing it from you. He wants to know your perspective. He likes hearing your voice! After all, he made your voice. Right?

Uniting the Catholic Factions

Today, the Catholic Church is more divided than its been in centuries, and as I've said many times, it is in real danger of schism. The Moderns would like to take the Church in one direction, while the Traditionals would like to go back to the way it was. While I personally tend to lean toward the Traditional mindset, I am forced to admit that some Modern innovations aren't necessarily bad, and might even be helpful.

However, bickering between the two main factions isn't going to solve anything. What will solve a whole lot of things is if we all get back to what Catholic Christianity is really all about. It's about having a personal relationship with God the Father, because Jesus Christ made that possible, and allowing the hierarchy and sacraments of the Church (the Church Jesus created) to lead us deeper into that relationship with the Father. That's what it's all about! I believe if we all started focusing on that, we could unite the Catholic factions, fulfil the lost intentions of Vatican II, and show the Evangelicals what it REALLY MEANS to have a relationship with God.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Rise of English Catholicism

Our Lady of Walsingham
A Popular English Catholic Devotion Commemorating an Apparition of the Virgin Mary in England

In the April 12, 2017 edition of the National Catholic Register (EWTN's official newspaper), Peter Jesserer Smith published an outstanding article outlining the inside story on the creation of the Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans. He writes...
Benedict XVI gave a tremendous gift to the English-speaking world in 2009, when he finally realized a dream centuries in the making, and established a permanent canonical home for groups from the Anglican tradition seeking to enter the Catholic Church with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus
Today, the Catholic Church has three Personal Ordinariates — informally known as the “Anglican Ordinariates” — that preserve the Anglican patrimony in their Catholic parishes, communities, and religious orders. These Personal Ordinariates have the only English form of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Francis, called Divine Worship — an actual English form, not an English translation of the Latin Mass — written in traditional, poetic “Prayer Book” English. Each Personal Ordinariate covers a region of the globe (Oceania, the United Kingdom, and North America) and is headed by a bishop or ordinary who falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 
Read the full article here.
Smith makes a very important observation. What we effectively have here is a whole new form of the Roman Rite, that really isn't that new at all. In fact, it's very old, and when I say old, I mean ancient. You see, much of Divine Worship is based on the old Sarum Use, used in England prior to the Reformation. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about a Use or Form of the Roman Rite which is actually older than the Tridentine mass. Now granted, the old Sarum Use was said in Latin not English, and Divine Worship is not an exact replica. It is different, but it has many common points of reference, just as it has common points of reference with the Trindentine mass. It is its own thing. Those looking for an exact English translation of the Latin Tridentine mass will be disappointed. Those looking for another modern vernacular of the Novus Ordo mass will be disappointed. It is none of these things. It is rather something entirely different, and it's based on many elements from the old Sarum Use as preserved through the centuries in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

What's it like? Well, let me tell you. It's very traditional by contemporary Catholic standards. Mass is commonly celebrated with the priest facing the altar together with the congregation (ad orientem). Communion is typically served on the tongue while kneeling. Sometimes the method of intinction is used, where the priest dips the host into the precious blood before placing it on the communicant's tongue. The gospel reading is done in the centre aisle amongst the congregation. The prayers are a little different. The responses are a little different. Most importantly, all of it (prayers and responses) are done in Sacred English (thee, thou, thy, etc.)

Divine Worship Mass - Celebrated by Bishop Lopes - Oct. 23rd, 2016

This is now an official form of the Roman Rite, on par with other forms, such as the Tridentine and Novus Ordo, commonly called the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms of the Roman Rite. Thus Divine Worship is a third form, which is distinctively English. Whereas the vernacular translation of the Novus Ordo mass is just that -- a translation of a Latin text -- in contrast Divine Worship is a Vatican approved English text in and of itself. Smith continues...
The CDF’s guarantee means the faithful of the Church, from now until Christ returns in glory, understand that the Anglican patrimony (and what in the Ordinariate is a truly restored English Catholic heritage that runs through the Anglican tradition all the way back to St. Augustine at Kent) is not just a treasure for the Personal Ordinariate, but is a treasure that belongs to “the whole Church.” 
Read the full article here.
As is pointed out here, what we have embodied in the Ordinariates and Divine Worship is the authentic Anglican Patrimony as restored English Catholicism, as it has developed from the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury until now. It is, in a very real sense, the heritage of every English-speaking Catholic in the world. This may sound strange to some, but its not so foreign when we consider how much the Anglican Patrimony already plays into Catholicism in the English-speaking world, even outside the Ordinariates. For example; when we pray the Lord's Prayer during the vernacular English Novus Ordo mass, this is how it's commonly said or chanted...

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

Take note of the Sacred English words "art" and "thy." It's exactly the same in Divine Worship. How very interesting that Rome saw fit to translate the Lord's Prayer into Sacred English, even in the 1970s vernacular translation that uses Common English (or "modern" English). I mean, think about it. The words "art" and "thy" appear nowhere else in the English vernacular Novus Ordo mass. They only appear in this prayer, and that's because it's an appeal to our linguistic history and heritage -- our Anglican Patrimony. English-speaking Catholics have been using Sacred English for this prayer, straight out of the Anglican prayerbooks, officially in the mass, ever since the vernacular English translation was commissioned in the 1970s.

However, it's been going on a lot longer than that -- unofficially. Pick up just about any copy of the Daily Roman Missal 1962 and what you'll find is the old Tridentine mass officially in Latin on one side of the page, translated unofficially into Sacred English (not Common English) on the other side of the page. For decades prior to the Novus Ordo mass, English-speaking (Anglophone) Catholics learnt the "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Glory Be," and scores of other prayers in Sacred English. The same is true of the first English translations of the Catholic Bible. I'm speaking specifically of the Douay-Rheims Bible, which is entirely in Sacred English, just like the Anglican King James Version. In fact all English Bibles, produced in previous centuries, used some variation of Sacred English, commonly found in Anglican prayer books, because that was THE standard for all English religious text. Every English-speaker knows this deep down inside. Sacred English is the language of poetry, music and theatre. It always has been. It is our most treasured vernacular, because it represents the highest and most precise diction the language has to offer. We offer God only our best, and that is why it's called Sacred English, or as the Anglicans sometimes say "Prayerbook English." (Read more about Sacred English Here.) We can see, however, by the abundance of Sacred English used in unofficial liturgical translations, Scripture and prayers, prior to 1970, that the Catholic Church has already been in the business of preserving some aspects of the Anglican Patrimony for a very long time. Perhaps there has always been a recognition by Rome that there is something there. There is something about Sacred English, as exemplified by the Anglican Patrimony, that is worth preserving, and so Anglophone Catholics have been preserving some aspect of it all along.

With the creation of the Novus Ordo liturgy in 1970, it was only natural for Rome to translate it into the most common and popular vernacular. That is, after all, the primary purpose of the Novus Ordo translations, to bring the liturgy of the mass into the common tongue. Thus it was translated into Common English (or what many mistakenly refer to as "modern English"). Yet even then, a nod to the Anglican Patrimony was given with the Sacred English translation of the "Our Father." Every single English-speaking Catholic gives that same nod when the "Our Father" is recited (or chanted) during mass. And this is where Smith's article hits a home run...
But rather importantly, as the bishop pointed out, the CDF stands as the guarantee that the liturgical traditions of the Personal Ordinariates are fully Catholic in every sense of the word. No one can say otherwise, or tell lifelong Catholics that the spiritual patrimony of the Personal Ordinariates is not for them, because the CDF stands behind it. Any Catholic who wishes to adopt this spiritual patrimony knows its Catholicity comes guaranteed by Rome. 
Read the full article here.
Did you catch that? "Any Catholic who wishes to adopt this spiritual patrimony knows its Catholicity comes guaranteed by Rome." Pause and let that sink in.

Any Catholic may adopt this spiritual patrimony -- ANY Catholic. Stop. Let that sink in.

"No one can say otherwise, or tell lifelong Catholics that the spiritual patrimony of the Personal Ordinariates is not for them."

ANY Catholic may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony as guaranteed by Rome. Presumably, it would be mostly English-speaking (Anglophone) Catholics who would be most drawn to it, but by no means is it just limited to them. ANY CATHOLIC may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony -- any Catholic.

Are you Catholic? If yes, you may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony as guaranteed by Rome. That's the only prerequisite. Are you Catholic? If the answer is yes, you qualify to adopt the Anglican Patrimony as your own personal spirituality.

Now, to be clear, that does not mean any Catholic qualifies to become a member of the Ordinariates. Membership in the ordinariates is a different matter of episcopal jurisdiction, governed by specific rules set down in Anglicanorum Coetibus, decrees from the pope, and the oversight of the Vatican CDF. So membership in the Ordinariate is a different matter. One must qualify, and to learn what those qualifications are, one must take a look at the rules here.

Still, one does not need to be a member of a certain episcopal jurisdiction (the Ordinariate) in order to personally adopt the authentic Catholic spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony. ANY Catholic may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony, and do the following, regardless of Ordinariate membership...
  1. Pray using Sacred English (thee, thou, thy, etc.)
  2. Use prayer books and devotionals derived from the Anglican Patrimony.
  3. Pray the Daily Office (see here).
  4. Fellowship with Ordinariate Catholics.
  5. Join the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.
  6. Join an Ordinariate parish (find one here, here or here)
Yes, Ordinariate parish membership is open even to non-Ordinariate members. In other words, it is possible (even fairly common in some places) for Roman Catholics, who do not qualify for Ordinariate membership, to nevertheless adopt the total spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony, even to the point of joining an Ordinariate parish. It happens all the time.

Regardless of whatever continent you're on, membership in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS) is open to EVERYONE, and this makes a very suitable alternative for Roman Catholics who love the Anglican Patrimony, but for whatever reason, do not qualify to be part of an Ordinariate jurisdiction. It connects Catholics to the life of the Anglican Patrimony on all three continents by way of a public blog, an ongoing journal, as well as access to occasional events and special materials. The ACS has more exciting things on the way. So whether you're a member of one of the three ordinariates, or even if you don't qualify to be a member, consider membership in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS),

You see, up until now, the type of Catholicism we have seen in North America is heavily influenced by Irish, Italian and Latino immigrants. There is a small French influence as well, but that's mostly limited to Canada. In the U.K., Catholicism has been heavily influence by the Irish. All this is well and good, and I would never dream to knock any of these fine traditions. They are lovely in themselves. In fact, I have a particular fondness toward Latino Catholicism, having been surrounded by it as a child in Southern California. However, there has been something big missing in the English-speaking (Anglophone) world for a long time. It's sort of like a great big hole in the Anglophone world. It's something that once was, but has been gone for a very long time.

What we have now in the restored Anglican Patrimony, guaranteed by Rome, is the rebirth of something very old -- English Catholicism. It seems new because we haven't seen it in a very long time. In fact, it hasn't existed in a unified state since the 16th century. It has, up until now, existed only in a fractured state, between High Church Anglicanism and Recusant English Roman Catholicism. So there is nobody alive today who remembers it in a singular unified state, as exists now in the restored Anglican Patrimony embodied in Divine Worship. Nevertheless, Rome has guaranteed it, and former Anglicans (now Catholics) attest to it as well. What we have here is a form of Catholic spirituality that is specifically geared toward English-speaking (Anglophone) people, which should be especially appealing to those living in North America, the U.K., and Oceania. Obviously, this form of spirituality is not for everyone, but if you're an English-speaking Catholic, at least take some time to learn your spiritual history and heritage. Rediscover English Catholicism!

*** Edits in grey, made for clarity. Hat tip to Mark C. in comment below.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benedict Option for Catholics

Mont Saint-Michel, French Atlantic Coast

There has been a lot of talk about the best-selling book: The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Catholic Answers Focus recently did an interview with the author, Rod Dreher, which you can listen to the podcast here. It's really quite good, and it's really NOT what a lot of people think it is.

Admittedly, when I first head of the Benedict Option, I was a sceptic. I still am a sceptic of the popular interpretation of it. However, after listening to Dreher on Catholic Answers, my opinion has changed a bit.

What if I were to tell you the following...
  1. Contrary to popular opinion, we are NOT living through the Last Days of humanity. The coming of Antichrist is still likely centuries away. Everyone reading this will likely live to a ripe, old age (Lord willing), as will their children and grandchildren. So we need to start dealing with that reality again. Radical apocalypticism has only contributed to the problems of our Western civilisation, by causing Christians to mentally retreat from everything, in order to prepare for "The End."  
  2. The current spiritual/moral malaise the West is going through right now is NOT a passing storm. It's here to stay.
  3. We have entered a post-Christian world, and this is our new reality.
  4. We are NEVER going back to 1950s Catholicism, nor are we going back to 1940s Catholicism, nor 1930s, nor 1900, nor 1870, nor 1850, etc. We're not going back to any of that -- ever -- those days are over. It is done.
  5. Mainstream Protestantism is dying in the West, and will continue to die.
  6. Evangelical Protestantism is not far behind, and is in fact heading toward a total implosion that will eventually see its demise even quicker than Mainstream Protestantism.
  7. Eastern Orthodoxy is struggling, experiencing only short bursts of growth for brief periods of time, followed by periods of stagnation and biological attrition. 
  8. The mainstream Catholic Church is sinking as well, but at a slower rate. It is only now just beginning to experience the vocation and financial crisis that lay ahead. In the decades to come, dioceses all across Europe and the Americas will be downsizing! Catholic parishes and schools will gradually be sold off, as will diocesan-owned properties and assets. Parishes will be merged, downsized, and merged again. The main strategy of this current generation of bishops is now "managed decline."
  9. The mainstream religious orientation of tomorrow's generation in the West will be Secular and Islamic: more Islamic in Europe, and more Secular in the Americas. Christianity will gradually become a minority religion in these areas.
  10. This reality will manifest over the next generation. It cannot be stopped, and will not be reversed outside of a miraculous intervention from God himself.
  11. That intervention will likely come, eventually, because God is faithful, but when it does, the world is NOT going to automatically become Catholic again. That's not how it works. It's never worked that way in the past, and it won't work that way in the future. Rather, it will need to be re-evangelised, and this will take generations of solid faith and sacrificial commitment.
  12. The Western Catholic Church of today is unprepared to accept this challenge.
  13. The Western Catholic Church of today can't even stop its own haemorrhaging of youth leaving the Church, let alone reach out to the heathen youth of today or tomorrow.
Still, the decline of the Catholic Church in the West is not universal. There are places were it is growing. We have small, isolated, pockets in North America, as well as rapidly expanding dioceses in Africa and Asia. Looking at these communities may serve to help us. But first, we must understand the problem.

What is the problem?

The problem is modern Western culture -- Modernism -- and this is what is discussed in the book The Benedict Option. Our Modernist culture is just too overwhelming for parents to be able to do their jobs anymore. It is virtually impossible for parents to raise godly children, in the self-sacrificial Catholic faith, when the message of the world (even the message of consumer Christianity) is that of self-gratification. Like ancient Rome, the culture is destined for collapse. It's hard to say if or when such a collapse would be political, but it most certainly is cultural.

On a personal side note, living here in the Bible Belt of the United States, I am constantly hearing local Protestants refer to the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as some kind of "turning point" for the culture, and they fully expect things to get better now. I'm sorry to report to you that our Evangelical brethren are sorely mistaken on this, and will be in for a rude awakening sometime in the not-too-distant future. Politicians cannot solve this problem. Those who believe the election of Trump marks some kind of cultural turning point are sadly deceiving themselves.

So with a culture that is overwhelmingly Modernist, wherein Catholic parents have no choice, what is this Benedict Option in modern terms? No, it's not what you think. It's not about going out into the wilderness to live as the Amish do. I suppose that might be a viable choice for some, but certainly not for most. For the average Catholic, the Benedict Option heavily involves your local Catholic parish.

The Catholic parish must be revived, or rebuilt, to become a truly communal place, as it was originally meant to be. Catholics can no longer look at Catholicism as just one aspect of their lives. Rather, they must now look at it as their entire lives. Catholicism can no longer influence us. It must define us, and yes, the local Catholic parish is the key to making this whole thing work. Without it, any attempt at a Benedict Option will fail miserably. So with that said, what are some things Catholic families can do to bring the Benedict Option to your local Catholic parish...
  1. Abandon radical apocalypticism. That is not our calling folks. We are commanded to LIVE our lives, and LIVE THEM JOYFULLY, without fear. I have a book coming out this year which will help in this area. It's called A Catholic Guide to the Last Days. Yes, some bad things are coming our way, just as they did in previous generations, but it's NOT the end of the world.
  2. Home school your children. Remember, your goal here is to raise them to be good Christians, not little Einsteins. Just as parents who send their children to schools can get overly focused on academics, so can home schooling parents. Granted, we need to teach our kids to read and write, as well as math, history, science and other things. BUT, that should never be the focus of the homeschooling Catholic parent. FAITH is the focus, and it must be a FAITH OF JOY without fear. If you don't have this. Get it! Because you can't give your children that which you don't have.
  3. Set up a home school support group at your local parish. You don't need the parish to organise this for you. You can organise this yourself. Simply bring your priest into the loop and ask for his prayers. Naming him as your official chaplain will go a long way toward this. Some priests just don't get it yet, and a lot of them want you to send your children to Catholic schools instead. They need to be educated that Catholic schools simply don't work for all families. Home school support groups are not the same as cooperatives or academies. The latter focus more on academics. A support group is just that. It's a place where parents support one another, and children have time to fellowship and play. Occasionally some activities might be involved.
  4. Turn off the television, or at the very least, severely limit it. If you choose to have a television in your home, families should be very selective about what they watch. Spending hours on end, in front of the television, will corrupt any child's mind, and even some adult minds too. This didn't used to be the case, in the 1950s through 70s, but in recent decades, the culture has gone so overwhelmingly Modernist, that it cannot be redeemed. It can only be turned off.
  5. The same discretion must apply to movies, radio, Internet and video games.
  6. There should be no televisions or screens in bedrooms at all. This separates the family.
  7. If you have the Internet in your home, you MUST apply filters to internet accessible devices that children handle. Children must not be allowed to access the Internet in their rooms, or away from parental view. Parents must be in the habit of looking at their devices frequently and randomly, without warning. This will teach the children that they can never escape your supervision. In addition, ask the children to show you any material they think might be inappropriate. While doing this, teach them the skills they need to discern for themselves what is appropriate viewing material and what is not. Sheltering children from information will not last into adulthood. Like the Amish, sheltered children will simply go on worldly binges when they reach maturity and only some will come back to the fold. Rather, children must be taught to form good information searching habits instead, being taught the difference between right and wrong and why, which they can carry with them into adulthood. 
  8. Start working on community activities with your local parish. Bible studies and prayer groups are great, but I'm talking about something more here. For example; a community garden might be one option for men, women and children. Knitting, sewing and cooking groups might be some other options as well. Are there any hunters or fishermen in your parish? How about organising some group outings and bring back some meat for the parish as well. These can all be shared with the community, and even given to those in need. I know this sounds somewhat "Amish" in a way, but remember, I'm talking about parishes in the middle of urban cities too. Even people who live there sometimes go out on hunting and fishing trips outside the city. A donation of a deep freezer to the Church basement can supply a source of protein for parish members struggling with grocery bills, and the outings that made that protein possible can supply men (or women) with the fellowship they need to build each other up in Christ. Who knows? Maybe even your priest likes to fish or hunt!
  9. NETWORK with other parishioners, and start supporting their local businesses and trades.
  10. In addition to mass, plan a weekly Evening Prayer (Vespers) meeting, followed by a potluck or snacks. The same could be done with Sunday mass in smaller parishes. 
The point here is to make your local parish more than just a weekly stop for an hour-long mass, then back to the rest of your life. The point here is to make your parish your life entirely. That is the Benedict Option for Catholics. Alongside Dreher's book, another volume by Archbishop Charles Chaput should be consulted. It's called Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. I would recommend them side by side...


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press