As I was leaving Arlington this evening I decided, despite the wet and slushy weather, to Uber to K Street for Leah Libresco’s talk on her book, “Building the Benedict Option,” at the Catholic Information Center.
I remember when she shared that she was writing this as a sort of practical manual for implementing Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option”, and so it was great to see the book in print last night.
Libresco lives with her husband in New York, and spoke about that experience as an entree to her book. How does a Christian cultivate and be a part of good community in a place like that? How do we do it anywhere? In a time when our devices only sometimes genuinely connect us, how do we really connect? Working together, eating together, praying together, in the simple presence of others—that’s a way to start living a better way. Asking “What do I do alone that I could do with other people?” is a way to start that Libresco spoke about. Another is, “What do I do privately that I could do publicly?”
Building the Benedict Option is a combination spiritual memoir and practical handbook for Christians who want to build communities of prayer, socialization, and evangelization in the places where they live and work.
Beginning when the author was a new convert, she desired more communal prayer and fellowship than weekly Mass could provide. She surveyed her friends–busy, young, urban professionals like herself–and created enriching or supportive experiences that matched their desires and schedules. The result was a less lonely and more boisterous spiritual and social life.
No Catholic Martha Stewart, Libresco is frank about how she plans events that allow her to feed thirty people on a Friday night without feeling exhausted. She is honest about the obstacles to prayer and the challenge to make it inviting and unobtrusive. Above all, she communicates the joy she has experienced since discovering ways to open her home (even when it was only a small studio apartment).
The reader will close this book with four or five ideas for events to try over the next few weeks, along with the tools to make them fruitful. From film nights to picnics in the park to resume-writing evenings, there are plenty of ideas to choose from and loads of encouragement to make more room in one’s life for others.
“There are so many more people in the world,” Libresco said at one point, “that we’re called to love that we could be encountering.”