I enjoyed a discussion recently with some priest friends on the Benedict Option, particularly as this applies to education. How much do we ‘retreat’ from the world and its current anti-Christian, even anti-rational, culture, now immersed in a widespread iconoclastic historical revisionism, smashing an images or words that ‘offend’ their rather sensitive sensibilities.
There is much to be said and pondered on this, but suffice to say two things on this rather chilly first morning of September. First, the Benedict Option is primarily interior. That is, all of us must retreat within our souls, forming a citadel of ‘silence’, described in mystical terms by Saint Catherine of Siena; a place where we can be alone, docile and open to the Word of God, as Cardinal Sarah’s recent ‘Power of Silence‘ makes clear. How far that ‘citadel’ extends into the exterior will depend much upon circumstances, primarily our vocation, where and how we live, the virulence of the anti-culture around us, and so on. One can be a saint even in the midst of a very fallen world immersed in any kind of hedonism, as attested by so many missionaries in history. But even these hardy souls, like Christ’s first disciples, needed a place to ‘rest and retreat for a while’.
Second, one thing the Benedict Option will not be is comfortable, again as Sarah reminds us in his 365 meditations. We must develop an interior and exterior asceticism, training our minds and bodies to be detached from the world, and open to God. The monks, Benedictine, Carthusian and the rest, do this rather explicitly, or they should, and we should to some extent imitate them, as the followers of Saint Paul followed their own teacher, and as Saint Paul did of Christ. There are some difficult and bold choices we are all going to have to make, whatever our path in life, as the culture turns more against us, or more properly against Christ and His truth.
Speaking of which, I heard an interview this morning with Ian McKellan, who plays Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series (as well as Magneto in X-Men), both of which roles, especially the former, have been made him fabulously wealthy and famous.
Sir McKellan (yes, he has been knighted) is a fine actor, well trained in Shakespearean dialogue and stage work from the large to the intimate, and this comes across in his films, with his rich and finely modulated voice, and his capacity to command the camera, as well as the audience. Sadly, he is also a homosexual, and quite open and ‘proud’ of this ‘identity’, which he hid for many years (not ‘coming out’ until he was just shy of 50).
Here is the rub: McKellan admitted that he uses his fame and fortune, as well as his benign ‘Gandalf’ identity, to travel the world giving talks, especially in schools, speaking to the young, advocating for that rather euphemistic expression of ‘gay rights’. The background offered for this missionary endeavour was the fact that homosexuality was technically illegal when Ian was a young lad (almost no one had been prosecuted for a long time, and the law officially struck down in Britain in 1967, as it was in Canada in 1969).
All right, so homosexuality is no longer against the law, but ‘gay rights’ are about far more than simply ‘leave us alone to do our own thing’. Rather, they seek full blown-acceptance, with all that entails: ‘Gay’ marriage, and anyone daring to write, say or even hint that there might be something wrong with sodomy should be silenced, shut down (although McKellar was rather ambivalent on ‘marriage’ and children, relishing the fact that he has never had to ‘change nappies’. One wonders). Dare we say that professing, even holding, such views should be made illegal?
The normally acerbic Stephen Sackur, the host of the BBC show Hard Talk on which the interview aired, was all fawning and compliant, not like his usual self, and almost certainly not like he would be interviewing an intelligent and thoughtful Catholic such as, say, Cardinal Sarah, something that will likely never happen on the BBC, or CBC for that matter. The laughter and applause for Gandalf-McKellan was heartfelt and warm. On the contrary, such men as Sarah are ignored by the world and left in silence, at least as far as the mainstream media goes, which I don’t think the good Cardinal minds all that much.
Sad to see that Tolkien’s benevolent ‘wizard’ (a term, in retrospect, the author said he might have avoided had he foreseen the resurgence of paganism and the occult) has now been morphed into Gandalf the Gay, for the actor and the persona are now nearly one and the same in the minds of so many. Sad also that McKellan is using his influence to mold the minds of the young, and not in a good way.
All we can hope is the that books stand on their own, for those who relish a far richer and fuller experience than Peter Jackson’s imaginative CGI-fest, filled with stilted dialogue, oft-hammy performances and comedic shtick (toss the dwarf?), to say nothing of the actors whose behaviour leaves much to be desired (see Viggo Mortensen’s own recent movie fiasco, amongst others).
As Saint Paul says in today’s readings in his letter to the Thessalonians: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you should abstain from fornication; That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour: Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:
You don’t need a wizard to tell you that, and any of them that says otherwise, is on the dark side of the force.