Good morning from Milan. I just finished a late breakfast, and will be headed over soon to have lunch with Julián Carrón, the leader of the Communion & Liberation movement. I’m really looking forward to this lunch, especially because I read Father Carrón’s book, Disarming Beauty, and found many points of convergence with The Benedict Option. On the other hand, I’ve heard that Father C. is critical of the Ben Op on certain points. In any case, it should be a fascinating lunch, and I’m quite blessed to have been invited by such a thoughtful host.
Yesterday in Milan I had a Ben Op event with Bishop Massimo Camisasca. I found him so warm and genuine. I was a little surprised this morning to see an interview with him in Il Foglio that contained this passage (translated by Google):
A few days ago, on 12 September, the tenth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s speech to the Collège des Bernardins in Paris fell, and those words on monasticism and the quaerere Deum , were echoed several times in the comments to the Benedict Option. If Msgr. Gänswein sees a sort of link with Dreher’s theses, Giuliano Ferrara – during the event organized by the Folio on Monday 11 September (which you can see here ) – he expressed some perplexities about it: they are two different things, he said. Does not the experience proposed by the book risk favoring a syndrome of encirclement in cutting the bridges with the world?
The bishop of Reggio Emilia answers: “If you read the Rule of St. Benedict there is no encirclement syndrome. He wanted simply and entirely to live Christianity. Thus St. Augustine, who had previously made his conversion coincide with the monastic choice, which he will try to live even once he has become a bishop. I too think that, in imitation of Benedict, we must build communities with a monastic framework, as I wrote many years ago, making this theme the center of my reflection and of my work over the last thirty years. A community with a monastic structure is not a closed place, which withdraws from the world. If he refuses certain forms of worldly life, he does so precisely because of greater solidarity and closeness to men and women all over the world. If he chooses silence – he adds -, it is not for contempt of the word, but to make disciples of authentic words. If he chooses common life, it is because he believes that we need to heal our divisions. If he chooses a certain distance, a certain virginity, from the frenzy of social networks and the chatter of today, it is because he wants to take care of things that do not pass. If he chooses the communion of goods, it is because he knows that nothing is given to us as ours and everything is for mutual building and for the poor “.
“In other words – continues Msgr. Camisasca – I do not see at all in the experience of what Benedict XVI has called ‘creative minorities’ a withdrawal from the world as a refusal of solidarity with the lives of other men, but on the contrary an even deeper awareness of the dramatic moment we are called to live, experienced with a heart full of light and joy “.
Well, I agree with this. The Ben Op is not a “refusal of solidarity with the lives of other men,” but rather insists that if we are going to join with other men as authentic Christians, then we must bring to that encounter a deep and living faith in Jesus Christ. And, in this post-Christian world, that means that we must be more “contemplative” in the sense of withdrawing from the normal life to live more ascetically and intentionally.
I have one more speech to give in Italy, in Genoa on Monday. I think I’ll write a new one to clarify this point.
Maybe the misunderstanding with Mons. Camiscalca — or not “misunderstanding,” but honest disagreement — comes from the fact that he is a leader of Communion & Liberation, which has a particular philosophical stance. As I understand it, CL is more positively disposed towards the world outside the Christian community than I am, in the Ben Op. I believe that there are clear contradictions between Christianity and “the world” (used in the Biblical sense), and that we Christians have to be clear about those differences, and be prepared to show another way of life to the world. And, if the world chooses to make us suffer hatred, rejection, even persecution, for our beliefs, then we must be prepared for that. This, in fact, is one element of the Benedict Option: to prepare for martyrdom, both white and red.
Anyway, I’ll ask Father Carrón today at lunch. I suspect that lunch will be off the record, so I may not be able to write about it. I will ask him, though. You should know that I’ve met so many CL people here on this trip, and have been extremely impressed by their spirituality and their friendship. There’s no doubt in my mind that CL is a fruitful kind of Benedict Option.