Rest in Peace Charlie Gard

Little Charlie Gard passed away last week.  He died in the hospital because his parents were not permitted to take him home to die in the peace of home.

What kind of evil is it that claims to be magnanimously keeping an individual’s best interests at the heart of its decisions, but won’t let that person be cared for by the people who love him most in all the world — his parents?  Won’t let that person seek alternative care elsewhere, even when it has been offered by more than one hospital and doctor, and generous strangers have donated over million dollars for his care?  Won’t let that child and his parents have the comfort of having clergy visit and pray with them?  Won’t let him, in the end, die at home?  All this in the name of doing what is good and right for that person.  We know best… your wishes, your family’s wishes, are irrelevant… we are the ones with power… you will submit…

Jenny Uebbing had this to say about Charlie and what happened to him and his family (a good summary of which can be found here):

But, but, he was going to die anyway. Extraordinary means! The Catechism says! Etc. Etc. Etc.

True. All true. And yet, his parents wanted to pursue further treatment. His mother and his father, the two human beings who, entrusted by the God with whom they co-created an immortal soul, were tasked with the immense, universe-altering task of making decisions on his behalf.

It’s called parenting.

And when the state steps over the bounds of parental interests – nay, tramples upon them – insisting that government knows best what is best for it’s citizens, (particularly when government is footing the medical bills as is the case with the socialized NHS) then we should all of us, no matter our religions or our socioeconomic statuses or our nationalities, be alarmed.

Charlie Gard was a victim of the the most heinous sort of public power struggle: a child whose humanity was reduced to a legal case and an avalanche of global publicity. And no man, not the President of the United States or the Pope himself, could do a thing to turn the tide in little Charlie’s favor once the momentum was surging against him.

The British courts and the Great Ormond Street Hospital, convinced of their own magnanimity and virtue, ruled again and again against the wishes of Charlie’s parents, frustrating at every turn their attempts to seek a second option, to try experimental treatments, to spend privately-raised funds to secure care for their child not available in their home country.

To no avail.

Charlie Gard, baptized earlier this week into the Catholic Church, went home to be with Jesus today. His innocent soul in a state of grace, we can be confident of his intimate proximity now to the sacred heart of Jesus and to the sorrowful heart of Mary. May his parents feel the comfort of knowing that they fought the good fight, and that they brought their child to the font of eternal life by baptizing him into Christ’s Church and surrendering him into heaven’s embrace as he passed from this life.

And may they find, through the powerful intercession of their little son, now whole and free from suffering, the grace to forgive his tormentors and executioners here on earth.

Charlie Gard, pray for us.

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Antifa picks another target

Antifa, perhaps bored by their usual targets or just lacking something to do, has added a Catholic men’s conference to their list of “hate groups” deserving of being shut down. Since they have no grasp on what truth means, they have no problem spinning a theological conference designed to help men become better husbands and fathers into a woman-hating, white supremacist organization.  If the facts don’t fit your narrative, just ignore the facts!

Church Militant, the organizer of the conference, addressed the Antifa threat in a a press release:

FERNDALE, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) – Church Militant, a 12-year-old Catholic media apostolate, with headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, is coming under attack by Antifa-related protestors claiming the religious organization inspires a “culture of rape” and is “white supremacist.”

The group Michigan Peoples Defense Network (MPDN) is planning a demonstration at Church Militant’s third annual Strength and Honor Conference, to be held in Sterling Heights, Michigan on Saturday, August 5. The conference is entirely theological in nature, offering talks on the essential role of sacrificial masculinity required of Catholic men to be good husbands and fathers. MPDN’s aim is to shut down the event.

In a further effort to intimidate, MPDN is holding a press conference on the sidewalk in front Church Militant studios Friday, July 28, right by the front door, announcing the August 5 protest.

The claims by MPDN are completely false and unfounded. The claim that Church Militant is a promoter of white male supremacy is immediately contradicted by the following facts:

  • Church Militant has legal immigrants (including first-generation immigrants) employed in key roles.
  • Half the organization’s departments are headed by women (one who is a legal immigrant)

Additionally, the claim that the conference is about “men’s rights” is a deliberate distortion. The conference is about men’s obligations, not “rights.”

Church Militant absolutely condemns and abhors the lies and violence that have become the hallmark of the Antifa movement, which MPDN members associate with on social media. Church Militant is not a hate group; MPDN is the real hate group, trying to intimidate religious organizations into silence and shut down a conference meant to help men become better husbands, fathers, sons and brothers by fostering the virtues of humility, charity and sacrifice.

Church Militant is further disturbed by the group’s thinly veiled threats of physical violence present in the language of their site and Facebook page. This kind of discourse cannot be allowed to stand in a civilized nation.

Church Militant is open to discussion with anyone, and have indeed made this a hallmark of the work conducted here for a dozen years, but we will not be cowed by lies and thug tactics becoming so commonplace on the Left.

Let’s hope an organization called Church Militant won’t be cowed and won’t let their conference be shut down.

Proving yet again that facts do not matter to Antifa, look who one of the organizers of the men’s conference is:

Christine Niles, a Vietnamese immigrant who helps run… [Church Militant] expected to spend this week preparing theological materials and getting ready for the group’s annual conference for men.

Instead, Niles, who is editor-in-chief of Church Militant, has been in consultations with local law enforcement after learning that a left-wing group is drumming up support to shut down the conference, which will take place on Aug. 4-6 at locations in Ferndale and Sterling Heights, Mich…

The theological conference causing controversy, titled “Strength and Honor,” is billed as “offering talks on the essential role of sacrificial masculinity of Catholic men to be good husbands and fathers” and to equip attendees with tools to “gain the spiritual and mental tools to be strong leaders among the faithful.”

Did you catch that?  A Vietnamese immigrant woman is the editor-in-chief of Church Militant and one of the main organizers of the men’s conference with the goal of focusing on sacrificial masculinity and teaching men to be good husbands and fathers.

To Antifa, this equals a hate group that “promotes a hateful, anti-woman message,” a “culture of rape,” and is “white supremacist.”  In a Facebook post about the planned demonstrations against Church Militant, they added this:

“Many of the church’s points are lifted from or are identical to ‘men’s rights’ discourse, which focuses on reducing women’s agency and reproductive rights… The community will picket and protest to shut down the hateful messages spread at this conference… The church also peddles racist, anti-Muslim rhetoric, painting Muslim migrants and refugees as sexual predators… As the radical Christian right rises in America, having supported Donald Trump’s campaign of hatred against the most marginalized, it is more vital than ever that the community stands against hate draped in a cross.”

What strikes me most about this statement is the ignorance.  Many of the church’s points are lifted from… the men’s rights movement?  That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard… aside from ignoring all the facts right in front of their faces that contradict every statement they make.

Ms. Niles responded in a statement on behalf of Church Militant:

“The real bone of contention that MPDN has with Church Militant is not the spurious claims and lies it’s telling, but the positions we take on morality and decency… Church Militant is not a hate group; MPDN is the real hate group, trying to intimidate religious organizations into silence and shut down a conference meant to help men by fostering the virtues of humility, charity and sacrifice.”

If a religious group hosting a conference to promote the virtues of humility, charity, and sacrifice can become a target of Antifa, no one with conservative and/or Christian positions is safe.

And they say there’s no war going on against Christians and conservatives…

 

Nice Guys Finish Too

The Nice Guy Syndrome:

Recently, a well-known liberal political commentator died. Eulogies poured in from his friends and colleagues, praising him as a man with a kind word for everyone, with a ready smile, and with a generous heart. He was a nice man, they said. This is no doubt true, and one does pray for his immortal soul.

But there, precisely, is the rub: he was subject to divine judgment. This “nice guy” had strongly supported the usual panoply of secular causes, even, at one point, mocking Catholics Rick and Karen Santorum for their expression of grief after the death of their baby. To the extent that the late pundit had had influence, he used it to promote an agenda that arrogantly rejects the Gospel.

Baseball manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher famously said: “Nice guys finish last.” That may or may not be accurate, but we do know that everyone, nice or not, “finishes.” We all have an expiration date. We are wise, therefore, in celebrating the counsels and consolations of those whose examples lead us along the right paths.

That the deceased political pundit – and we – will face judgment (Heb 9:27) is nowhere to be seen or heard in the encomiums offered about him. Although we can understand the wisdom of De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Don’t speak ill of the dead”), we must also refrain from praising and honoring those whose lives and legacies repudiate what is objectively morally true.

Here, also, is the kernel of the argument against Catholic colleges’ giving honorary degrees to men and women who, by word and deed, lead or prompt us into what is evil. (cf. Eph 4:17)
Nice guys are sincere, we hear. Nice guys are tolerant, we are told. Nice guys are “authentic,” as a confused Jean-Paul Sartre put it. That there can be sincere rapists, tolerant drug dealers, or authentic terrorists; that abortionists can be pleasant people; that those planning a political paradise marked by eugenics and euthanasia can simultaneously be loving grandparents – all these things testify to what Hannah Arendt famously called the “banality of evil.”
Nice guys – with the occasional exception of “nice” political pundits whose fingers are in the air, monitoring the wind direction of the day, eager to join in the platitudes of the chorus – refrain from self-promotion and just want to get along. Nice guys, usually, are plain and simple men.

In Robert Bolt’s play about Saint Thomas More, however, Bolt puts these words into the saint’s mouth as his jailer goes about his peremptory tasks, ignorant of a higher duty, and demanding pity because he is only a “plain, simple man”: “Oh, Sweet Jesus! These plain, simple men!”

Nice guys – “these plain, simple men” – thus have done, and can do, great evil because of apathy, because of unwillingness to seek the truth and then to do it. Truth obliges. Knowing the truth requires us to act in that truth – to “do” the truth. (James 1:22, CCC 898) If being a “nice guy” means that we must be wishy-washy or apathetic about knowing and serving truth, then we must be as disagreeable, as dyspeptic, as possible.

Plain, simple men rarely bother themselves about pursuit of truth, but “believers do not surrender. They can continue on their way to the truth,” wrote St. John Paul, “because they are certain that God has created them “explorers” (cf. Eccl 1:13), whose mission it is to leave no stone unturned, though the temptation to doubt is always there.

Leaning on God, they continue to reach out, always and everywhere, for all that is beautiful, true and good.” (Fides et Ratio, 21) “There exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that,” the saint wrote, “to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known.” (Veritatis Splendor, 34)

The notion that there is no truth or that, if truth were to exist, it would be unknowable, compels the kind of moral relativism which is so much cherished by nice guys who run from the duty to admonish the sinner. (Luke 17:3).

Smiling nice guys are legion: we find them in parliaments and in pulpits, in chancelleries and in colleges, in the public square and in religious synods.

But if I do not trouble myself about the truth – about its certainty in Christ – then I need not concern myself about doing the truth, about testifying to that truth by what I say and do, and thus risk alienating those very people who see me as a “nice guy.”

The Vatican II “Declaration on Religious Liberty” asserts that “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.”

Such adherence to truth may mean that the world may hate us (Mt 10:22) and, horribile dictu, not mark us as “nice guys.” As usual, though, Chesterton had it exactly right in his observation that Christians are not hated enough by the world. Too often, we are “nice guys.”

Are things really quite so grim?

Jonathon Van Maren thinks so.  His recent blog post is entitled “Grim poll: Conservatives are losing catastrophically on every single issue…except this one”

If certain enthusiastic public figures are to be believed, there is a wave of iconoclastic and libertarian youth who are fed up with political correctness and ready to turn the Left on its head. When I attended a campus event featuring the recently disgraced and even more recently resurgent Milo Yiannopoulos last fall, he made the claim loudly and boldly: “I might be the only one who has noticed this trend, but young people hate the Left. I have thirteen-year-olds emailing me. I even have children attending my campus events.”

Ignoring for a moment the obvious problem with a child attending an event put on by the self-described “Dangerous Faggot,” this sort of optimism is entirely unwarranted—unless, as is obviously the case with Milo, you do not see moral issues as indicative of national health overall. On that front, Americans continue to shift to the left, and continue to abandon Judeo-Christian values—if they even know what those are anymore. Gallup recently released new polling data for their annual Values and Beliefs poll, and the results were very sobering.

He goes on to talk about all the “sobering” data points covering views on marriage, sexuality, the family, etc. — all with predictable and completely unsurprising revelations. None of this is news.  How did Van Maren miss that we were no longer living in a Christian society, that we had long since passed into a pagan one?  That traditional Christian morality is not the standard by which most people live shouldn’t be surprising or discouraging.

He notes that the polls didn’t show a large increase in support of abortion, which he believes is due to massive efforts of pro-lifers to educate people:

On every moral issue, social conservatives are losing ground—except for abortion.

Looking at the raw data, it’s hard to see where someone like Milo Yiannopoulos gets his optimism from. He may not care about most moral issues—his relaunch party, after all, featured male and female strippers—but even on free speech and free markets, the numbers look grim. Millennials are embracing socialism, rejecting the fundamental idea that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are bedrock values in a democracy, and turning university campuses into totalitarian safe spaces that exclude any idea they find threatening to their fragile progressive worldviews.

The truth is that an entire generation has grown up more or less disconnected from the Christian past of the West, and that activists must fight tooth and nail to educate the public on each and every issue. We see what happens when massive educational efforts are undertaken: On abortion, we are not losing ground—and even under the most pro-abortion president in American history, over 300 laws were passed on the state level. Pornography, while still prevalent, is now attracting the ire of government bodies across the West who are recognizing it for the public health crisis it is. Social conservatism as a worldview may be on the fringe, but there are many, many opportunities to change that.

Here Van Maren recognizes that kids have grown up in a non-Christian world; so why the surprise at the poll results?  His faith in the “raw data” of the poll is misplaced. Polling isn’t exactly a hard or perfect science (anyone remember 2016?).  Who’s to say we really should trust a poll’s conclusions over our own observations or the anecdotal evidence presented by someone else?  Then he talks about millennials, but Milo isn’t talking about millennials; he’s talking about the next, even younger generation. It can also be noted that Milo specially said he didn’t have any proof, any hard data for his hopeful statement, but that it came from his experience of meeting and talking to, and receiving messages from young people.  Milo isn’t the only person who has noted this trend of the younger generation leaning more conservative.

Even the one place where Van Maren strikes a hopeful, positive tone, he’s probably at least partly wrong.  You can understand why, being part of the pro-life movement, he would be quick to attribute the lessening support for abortion to the efforts of the prolifers.  I hope he’s right that all those efforts have helped, that education does help. But there’s something else powerful that is influencing young people to turn conservative: they have seen and felt the consequences of their parents and others leading a life without conservative morals or standards.  They may be the unwanted children of selfish parents, the products of divorce or homes where they never had two parents to begin with.  They may have seen older siblings or relatives or friends make terrible choices and suffer for them.  Those with eyes to see can see the wreckage caused by abandoning traditional morals.  And the liberals, feeling assured of victory, have turned up the heat too fast; things they are pushing for are so obviously against nature that people with will to think for themselves can see we are headed in the wrong direction.  But cultural trends do not reverse directions overnight.  The problems we are seeing today began long before Van Maren was born.  Some would argue they began even before his parents were born.

Van Maren himself is a contradiction to this poll.  He’s young, conservative, Catholic, pro-life and fighting for it.  And surely he works alongside other young people.

Other than being overly pessimistic and incorrect in his interpretation how we are losing the culture war — rather we have already lost, but perhaps have hope of rebuilding from the ashes — he is wrong about Milo.  Previously, I had noticed that he was particularly critical of Milo (and the Alt-Right) as unacceptable for Christians to follow.  He objects to Milo’s lifestyle, vulgar humor, and that he isn’t very nice to people.  Van Maren also tends to exaggerate Milo’s behavior (can you believe that’s possible?!): Milo’s re-launch party, as aired on youtube (surely Van Maren didn’t have an invitation?), did not have “male and female strippers.”  Milo calls them “models” for his photo shoot, and they are scantily, and one might say tastelessly, clad (and waving prop guns around), but they do not strip any clothes off which I think would be the definition of “stripper.”  They might be strippers elsewhere, I don’t know, but at Milo’s party they were just eye candy — which is problematic in its own way, but let’s not over-exaggerate things.

I was surprised to see Van Maren had actually attended a Milo speech so I read what he had to say about it.  It was the same old attitude so many on the Right have towards those they deem impure.  They are like Pharisees who don’t want to associate with sinners for fear of contaminating themselves.  Milo is definitely a sinner, but Jesus frequently ate with and talked to sinners.  Jesus did not worry about being made unclean.  God often uses sinners and unlikely people to carry out His work, sometimes even people who do not know Him.

It doesn’t matter to Milo’s critics on the Right if he is effective or that we really need to reach people where they are — and where they are isn’t necessarily ready to listen to Christian moralizing or preaching.  Milo has a point about reaching people with humor and fun (even if he does take it a bit too far at times); humor and fun are attractive, especially to young people.  Free speech, for which Milo has made himself a standard bearer, is an important battle.  If Christians are silenced completely, there will be no chance of educating people or changing hearts and minds through dialogue.  Milo is an ally in that battle, even if he is a public sinner.

Offense Taking is Immature

I’m not sure I understand exactly what our obligation to “not give offense” is when everyone is hair-trigger offended all the time.  But the rest is interesting.

“Being offended is a sign of immaturity because it’s an unwillingness to acknowledge and live in the truth”

“To choose to be offended is to choose to be a victim”

Is old film the answer to forming our children’s imaginations?

Anthony Esolen thinks so.  Our children need not just our example or direct teaching to form their imagination and moral sense, but good art, including film.  If it isn’t explicitly religious or moralizing, all the better.

Why the Miley Cyrus generation needs the old movies…urgently:

For I find this black mark impinge the man,
   
That he believes in just the vile of life.
   
Low instinct, base pretension, are these truth?
                   
– Robert Browning, from The Ring and the Book

…we should welcome our allies wherever we may find them, particularly among the creators of films that celebrate marriage and innocent life, piety and faithfulness, before such things became controversial. The unconscious witness of people who are not party to our current confusion can be most powerful indeed. A film like Penny Serenade, about a marriage that hangs by a thread, between a good man who is a failure at work and a good woman who cannot bear children, has more to say to us about not tearing asunder what God has joined together, than any number of lectures in theology…

Here someone will object that the people who made those films were often not at all pious. Some of them did things that, if you knew about them, would make it almost impossible for you ever again to take any pleasure in their work. What then separates them from the people who make films now? Aren’t they all sinners like the rest of us? And cannot bad people make great art?

Yes and no. There are sinners who feel the pain of their sin because they acknowledge how far they fall short of the glory of God. That might have described the hard-drinking, fist-throwing Catholic director, John Ford; and the womanizing Gary Cooper, who became a Catholic shortly before he died, partly because of the example of Ford. But then there are sinners who are numb to their sin, because they no longer acknowledge the glory of God. They are like the wicked man whom Robert Browning’s pope describes in the quote above. They believe “in just the vile of life.” For them, all piety is sanctimony, all patriotism is bigotry, all chastity is prudishness, all innocence is naïveté, all tradition is hide-bound, all judgment is arbitrary, and all love is but selfishness with sugar.

Such people cannot make great art. They can be a part of great works of art only to the extent that they are borne up by the faith of better people around them. They cannot otherwise raise themselves out of the mud…

We wish not only to tell our children what the truth is, but to show it to them. This we can do by the example of our lives, but because children so often feel the need to place some distance between themselves and their parents, if only to win their separate identities, we must turn to others to confirm that truth. We can do much on our own to form their memories. We can do little on our own to form their imaginations. That is what good art and great art are for.

We cannot hand over their imaginative catechesis to people who, en masse, reject or despise our trust in God and in the coherence and beauty of the nature which God has created and sustains. That is not because they are bad people. As people they may be much better than their principles. It is because their principles are bad; the well is bad from the source…

And since, for most people, imagination leads and reason follows, we are fooling ourselves if we think we can ignore it. The forming of the imagination is not a part of a Christian education. It is a Christian education.

That does not mean that we turn to specifically religious art. Again, a religious vision of the world often strikes home more powerfully when it is like the fresh air, or like health…

But I hear an objection: “Our children cannot watch the old movies!” Their attention wanders if they are not regularly needled and sparked by noise, a visual and aural and neural overload, an induced Saint Vitus’ dance. If that is true, their imaginations need more than formation. They need healing.

Education and the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option has received a good deal of commentary recently.   Certainly we are living in post-Christian times.  This review makes me more interested in reading it.

In Fearing Dreher: Why the Benedict Option Scares Christians, Thomas Ascik writes:

But it is most interesting that Mr. Dreher barely talks about the curriculum of public elementary and secondary schools. He emphasizes, instead, the peer culture of the school environment. Christian parents may try very hard, but everything can be undone by “the toxic peer culture” of public schools. In addition, the parents themselves may neither understand nor be capable of resisting. The effects are pervasive. Mr. Dreher quotes communications to him from parents of children in public schools who describe the startling number of public-school students who have come to believe that that they are transgender or bisexual. In the bluntest statement of his whole book, and one aimed directly at Christian parents, Mr. Dreher asserts that “two or three hours of religious education weekly is unlikely to counteract the forty or more hours spent in school or school-related programming.” The conclusion: Christian parents should remove their children from public schools.

A senior in a large public high school located in a major western city recently told this reviewer that he did not know any Christians at his school. Now, since there are obviously students there who are Christians, that means that the Christian students never identify themselves as Christians nor say or do anything identifiably Christian. Plainly, those students think that a public school is not an environment where it is appropriate or even permissible to be an open Christian. So, we may ask, if you never express who you really are, aren’t you inevitably changing who you really are?

***

In order to combine Christian education with an education in the liberal learning of Western civilization, Mr. Dreher endorses the classical Christian school movement and gives both Catholic and Evangelical examples. If such schools are too expensive or not available, the alternative is to homeschool.

I couldn’t agree more that the public schools in our country are a disaster and the best thing you could do for your kids is to keep them out.  Here are a couple recent examples of the sort of negative influences in school he’s talking about.

A Florida teacher demanded her 9th grade student remove a cross necklace that she was wearing.  The teacher’s room is full of LGBT posters and rainbows.  She’s allowed to proselytize the kids, but the kids can’t even wear a symbol of their faith?  Although the girl obeyed the teacher’s demand at the time, she and her parents aren’t taking this without a fight:

Together with her attorneys, this brave ninth grader is asking for the right to express her faith, which is already guaranteed to her by the Constitution. Students should never have to check their beliefs at the school house door — or anywhere else for that matter.

Emily Zinos writes “A ‘transgender’ kindergartner registered at my kids’ school. That’s when the madness began.”  She goes on to describe what happened in her school district: the school’s attempts at accommodation, the “trans” kid’s parents suing anyway, school sponsored meetings telling the rest of the parents they had to comply and when these parents funded a meeting to counterpoint the school’s presentation, “Well over a hundred local pro-LGBTQ protesters came to the presentation, prompting the local police to send a sergeant and two patrolling squads as protection.”  Because tolerance, folks!

The rest of Ms. Zinos’ article is interesting, especially that a group of feminists has joined the fight against transgender activism because of common ground of ensuring the rights of biological women.  Here is her conclusion about what’s happening in the schools:

institutionalizing gender ideology will require that schools ignore the evidence that it causes real harm to children. You can’t extol the virtues of gender ideology and question its soundness at the same time. By celebrating transgenderism as a valid identity, schools are promoting a body-mind disconnect that may very well bring on the gender dysphoric state they were attempting to prevent. And when the widely accepted “affirmative” medical treatments of gender dysphoria in children are both poorly studied and glaringly injurious, we have nothing to celebrate.

We’re building a school-to-gender-clinic pipeline that will feed this new pediatric specialty with young patients. There are now more than thirty gender clinics specializing in youth across the United States, and the young patients who are under their care are often given bone-destroying puberty blockers at eleven, potentially sterilized with cross-sex hormones at sixteen, and permanently mutilated by plastic surgery soon after that.

Make no mistake, schools that endorse and celebrate transgenderism as valid are endorsing child abuse.

Given examples like those (and those are only two, only the tip of the ice berg where trans-issues are but one problem among many), I’d say Dreher isn’t wrong about the state of education in America.  He also opines that most of the American colleges may be beyond saving – unless they are replaced by truer places of secondary learning.  What about his other ideas?

Mr. Dreher, who visited the Benedictine monastery at Nursia, Italy, in preparing his book, holds that the Rule is a “manual of practices, and its precepts simple and “plain enough to be adapted by lay Christians for their own use.” He derives eight main principles from the Rule and states why each would literally be a godsend for Christians in the modern, secular world. Against the disorder and loss of tradition of the modern world, the first principle is that it is order—ordered daily life, rather than today’s randomness—that sets the stage for “internal order.”

The second is prayer. “Prayer is the life of the soul,” Mr. Dreher quotes a Benedictine monk, and time must be set aside for it. The monastic emphasis on regular, daily prayer is the precisely needed antidote to the maniacal busyness of the contemporary world. Echoing the standard understanding of the role of prayer in Christian life, Mr. Dreher suggests that “if we spend all our time in activity, even when that activity serves Christ, and neglect prayer and contemplation, we put our faith in danger.”

Third, against the intellectualizing of everything today, Benedict’s Rule understands that the involvement of the body in manual labor is an essential part of human work. Again, Christians today, having been forced out of some of the professions, may have to resort to more labor by hand, Mr. Dreher concludes.

Fourth, contrary to the supreme modern principle of satisfying one’s own desires, “relearning asceticism—that is, how to suffer for the faith—is critical training for Christians living in the world today and the world of the near future.”

Fifth, even that most monastic principle of stability—that is, staying in one place—has some relevance to lay Christians, for what is the overall benefit of our constant mobility?

Sixth is community, the human architecture of a monastery, but also of a family, a neighborhood, a city, a society, and a polity. We readers might add to Mr. Dreher’s analysis the observation that we now increasingly live without a sense of shared life, without a “collective consciousness,” as Emile Durkheim put it. We are “free, equal, and independent,” but, pace John Locke, we are alone.

Seventh, contrary to Mr. Dreher’s critics and to a true understanding of the Rule, hospitality is a daily duty not only of monastic life but also of lay Christian life. Pilgrims and visitors are to “be received like Christ.” But hospitality, like all the virtues, must be practiced with prudence and according to the other principles of the Rule. A visitor cannot disturb or disrupt the community.

Mr. Dreher adds an eighth principle—balance, partly derived from the Benedictines but also from his own reflection and observation. By being too strict, some Christian communities have fallen apart or become “cultlike.” On the other hand, since abandonment to the will of God is the goal, Christian communities cannot be based on “spiritual mediocrity.”