Another Benedict Option: a book review

St. Benedict has gotten some good press recently. Conservative columnist Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option (March 2017) arguing that Christians ought to segregate themselves from modern society in order to live out our Christian calling away from the corrupting influence of liberalism. Dreher’s thesis harkens back to Benedict of Nursia’s  monastic rule and the intentional and cloistered Benedictine communities he founded.

At-Home-in-this-Life_9-page-001-663x1024-1Jerusalem Jackson Greer discovered another ‘Benedict Option.’ In At Home in this LifeGreer describes how she dreamed of moving with her family to the country, so she and her husband could impart to their children the virtues of hard work and life on the land and mutual life. Unfortunately, their house in town didn’t sell, and as she listened to God’s voice, and the rule of St. Benedict, she heard the call to stay put where she was. Benedict’s call to stability (not moving from where you are planted) resounded louder than the call to withdraw. Greer was called to stay.

Greer’s book is one part memoir, one part DIY manual for life on the homestead, and one part spiritual disciplines guidebook. Greer shares honestly about her hunger for a deeper spiritual life, how Benedictine spirituality has shapes her practice, and the ways she has learned to embody Christian spirituality in everyday life (not that this is always easy). She takes us on a journey from her angsty desire to be somewhere else (e.g. a country farm), toward learning how to embody Benedictine virtues of humility, hard work and hospitality in ordinary life. She describes what she’s learned from the practices of stability, stewardship, silence, stillness, prayer, Sabbath, manual labor, mutual support, humility and hospitality, and along the way she gives us tips for painting walls, making laundry soap, patching sweaters with doilies, crafting prayer flags, starting worm farms and gardening, cooking (together), hospitality, and organizing garage sale fundraisers.

Greer is a different from me. She’s from the south and loves the country. I’m a North-Westerner and am a city boy. I was drawn into Greer’s story by our mutual love for Benedictine spirituality, and the writings of people like Barbara Brown Taylor, Wendell Berry, Kathleen Norris, Joan Chittister, Dennis Okholm, etc. I enjoyed reading her story about how the wisdom of St. Benedict works out in her everyday life and the ways she’s learned from stability, silence, humility and humbleness. Her description of learning to navigate meal preparation with her husband reminded me of some culinary angst my wife and I had early in our marriage. Greer writes with insight, vulnerability and a good humor. I enjoyed this book. I give this book four stars. ★ ★★ ★

Notice of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.

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