zenpundit.com » monasticism

Archive for the ‘monasticism’ Category

On the events in Paris, Rod Dreher and the Benedict Option

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — contrasting the ideal with “this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world” ]

A few weeks back I read a piece by Rod Dreher around the concept of a Benedict Option recently, and liked it well enough that it sits in a special folder I have labeled 3 Major Papers, waiting for me to find the time to write it up in detail, offering my own suggested buttresses and side chapels to Dreher’s overall quasi-monastic structure. The Option itself derives from a paragraph in Alasdair MacIntyre‘s book, After Virtue:

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers? they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless very different — St Benedict.


Here’s my koan, as of yesterday, hearing the news of the multiple attacks in Paris and following Twitter to peer and pierce as best I could through the immediate fog towards the kernel of the matter. It takes the form of two tweets, the second in response to the first:



My immediate reaction, dismayed at Dreher’s tweet, is to agree with Laura Seay‘s response. And I’m far from alone in this, as a glance at some other responses to Dreher easily confirms:



So that’s the koan, the paradox — and that’s the way I lean on it.

Except that Dreher in a piece titled Refugees & the Paris Attacks, wrote again, today, and made some points that tip me towards the other side of the koan / coin:

Hesepe, a village of 2,500 that comprises one district of the small town of Bramsche in the state of Lower Saxony, is now hosting some 4,000 asylumseekers, making it a symbol of Germany’s refugee crisis. Locals are still showing a great willingness to help, but the sheer number of refugees is testing them. The German states have reported some 409,000 new arrivals between Sept. 5 and Oct. 15 — more than ever before in a comparable time period — though it remains unclear how many of those include people who have been registered twice.

Six weeks after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s historic decision to open Germany’s borders, there is a shortage of basic supplies in many places in this prosperous nation. Cots, portable housing containers and chemical toilets are largely sold out. There is a shortage of German teachers, social workers and administrative judges. Authorities in many towns are worried about the approaching winter, because thousands of asylum-seekers are still sleeping in tents.

The contrast between the ideal and the real couldn’t be greater: God’s in his heaven — and the devil is in the details.


As for that “pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world” — WB Yeats in his poem, Blood and the Moon is describing Bishop Berkeley:

                                                      that proved all things a dream,
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem,
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme…

It amuses me that when I look the phrase “pragmatical pig” up to make sure I quote it accurately, Google wants to correct it to “pragmatic pig” — doesn’t that massive AI know its Yeats well enough at least to have caught on to his marvelous catch-phrase?


More on Rod Dreher and the Benedict Option as time permits and place allows..

Sunday surprise: House of Cards meets monks and sexy riot grrls

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering if the same mind (Beau Willimon?) suggested both? ]

Two very different modes of factual reality found their ways into the fictional world of House of Cards, Season 3, American version, and I found the two choices pretty interesting. I’ve recently found clips relating to both on YouTube, so here they are for your consideration:

Pussy Riot:


Tibetan monks:

Taking those two choices together is a bit like juxtaposing Gregorian chant and punk rock — which, come to think of it, is pretty close to what I was getting at in my first ever Riot Grrls post, Pussy Riot, Holy Foolishness and Monk Punk.


Contemplation and activism — poles apart, or one the mainspring for the other?

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — my title is taken from the book of Job — known to Islam as the prophet Ayyub — chapter 38 verse 7 ]

Let’s begin with Qur’an 22. 40:

SPEC Quran 22.40

I can deeply appreciate a perspective as respectful as this.


Consequently, I am even more deeply saddened when the Islamic State tears down the crosses atop churches —

SPEC DQ china is

than I am when the Chinese do the same exact thing..


And I’d suggest that the phrase “were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques” as indicating that those who check / repel / drive back those others who demolish such places of worship, do so in accordance with the divine will..

Here, members of the Islamic State bulldoze a monastery..

bulldozing Mar Elian

Such acts, then, should be checked, prevented, surely, by those who honor the Qur’an.

The question that remains is how best to accomplish this.


Likewise, there is the phrase about “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned”..

Apparently, the “name of Allah” was “much mentioned” in monasteries and churches at the time of the Prophet, and we may therefore wonder why Malaysian Muslims would wish to ban the use of that name by Christians —

SPEC malaysia

— when as KL Chan pointed out in his recent LapidoMedia post Do Muslims have a monopoly on the word Allah? — even if we ignore the clear evidence of the Qur’an itself,

One of the oldest evidences of Christian use of the word ‘Allah’ can be found in a Bible translation from 1514.

That’s two years after Michaelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and three years before Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.

As Usama Hasan says, it’s a fiasco.



  • BibleGateway, Job 38.7,
  • Qur’anic Arabic corpus, Qur’an 22.40
  • Legatum Institute, China arrests Christians
  • Christian Today, Isis militants desecrate Iraqi church
  • Daily Mirror, ISIS Jihadists using a bulldozer
  • Perry, Malaysia Top Court
  • Usama Hasan, #Malaysia #Allah fiasco

  • My latest for Lapido: renewing the power of holiness?

    Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — The Dalai Lama and the Pope: two saints, sorta, astride a supposedly secular world ]

    Pope Francis & Dalai Lama 602
    HH Pope Francis, HH the Dalai Lama. Photos: Jeffrey Bruno, Christopher (CC BY SA 2.0)

    My latest post for LapidoMedia is titled The Dalai Lama and the Pope: renewing the power of holiness. It begins:

    TWO figures of undoubted moral stature now dominate world affairs. Each of them is a religious leader. Each is known by the title His Holiness, but seems to wear the title lightly.

    For neither of them is virtue a lost ideal, neither is morality a private matter.

    Each preaches compassion, consideration for the poor, spirituality above materialism, and the care of the natural world.

    What do these two men have in common, that distinguishes their voices from those of other office holders and persons of power and influence?

    Certainly, each has been featured in Rolling Stone, which indicates their popular appeal.

    Each one’s office has a long pedigree, and each just might be the last of his kind. Perhaps there’s a clue there.

    It concludes with:

    First contemplation, then action: this is the secret uniting heart, mind and hand which gives these two figures their appeal and stature.

    And the need to join together to combat climate change is one arena in which these two men are in strong agreement.

    The Guardian reports from Glastonbury, ‘The Dalai Lama has endorsed the pope’s radical message on climate change and called on fellow religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind.”’

    The Pope writes, ‘The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development.”

    Where will these two religious figures – moral icons of our age – lead our arrogantly secular world?

    To raead the whole thing, visit the Lapidoedia site.

    Ups and downs of the Catholic Order of Preachers (Dominicans)

    Friday, July 17th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — bearing in mind that ups and downs are transitory, and the eternal remains eternal ]

    In what was effectively a DoubleQuote in my terminology (see note below), Gregory DiPippo at the New Liturgical Movement blog today juxtaposed two articles about the Dominican Order of Friars. One had to do with a downswing in vocations to the Order, the other with an upswing.


    Fra Angelico


    First, the downswing: “the shortage of vocations in the order of Saint Dominic has reached dramatic levels.” Sandro Magister writes in San Marco Must Not Die:

    The fathers of the province of St. Catherine of Siena met again in chapter at the end of last May and reiterated to the superior general the request to suppress the convent of San Marco.

    If that were to happen, in the cloisters and in the cells wondrously frescoed by Fra Angelico (see above the Annunciation, from 1442) there would no longer be any friar to pray. From the library designed by Michelozzo, the first library of the modern era open to the public, the robes of the learned would disappear. What has been for centuries a cenacle of men of letters, artists, bishops, saints, would give way to a trivial guest house.

    The Masses in the church attached to the defunct convent would be officiated by someone from outside: from the not-distant convent of Santa Maria Novella, the only Dominican convent that would remain open in Florence.

    Second, the reverse: “The man who sets aside his personal dreams to more perfectly subject himself to God is not primarily saying ‘no’ to the world, but saying ‘yes’ to a renewed life with God.” The Dominican Dominic Bouck writes in First Things:

    After the ordination of eight of our brothers, there are over fifty of us studying for the priesthood or preparing to live life as a consecrated brother, about to be joined by fifteen more on July 25.

    Among those roughly 75 men are lawyers, a medical doctor, a congressional staffer, professional musicians, a radio host, several PhDs and professors, a particle physicist from Stanford, a former Google employee, a dean of admissions at a medical school, Ivy Leaguers, Golden Domers, and more who were successful in the world, but sought a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church, and desired to serve his people.


    It would be a tragedy for the Dominicans to close down their convent at San Marco, “as if the Franciscan friars were to decide to close the convent of Assisi” as Magister says — and in counterpoint, I’m heartened to receive news of an increased interest in the contemplative life here in the US.

    A note for Fr Augustine Thompson, OP, who writes for the NLM bog and is the author of the standard work on St Dominic’s brother friar, brother founder and friend, Francis of Assisi: A New Biography: my DoubleQuotes format is a format for the juxtaposition of ideas, based on Hermann Hesse’s concept of the Glass Bead Game, and philosophical kin, to my mind at least, with Peter Abelard‘s Sic et Non.

    Switch to our mobile site