One less reason to dislike Thomas More

In his good piece on the “Escriva Option,” Austin Ruse mentions that he dislikes St. Thomas More:

I am reminded of one of the reasons I do not care for St. Thomas More (heretical, I know). More longed to have been a Carthusian, who are tougher even than the Trappists, and he imposed Carthusian practices on his family including, cruelly I think, interrupting their sleep at 1 a.m. to chant the Night Office. Such a thing is not natural for someone in the lay state.

His point is well taken, but his view of More may be mistaken.  We tend to interpret such things through the lens of our own sleep customs, forgetting that sleep worked very differently before about the year 1800. Before the advent of artificial lighting, people slept in two segments.  They would sleep for a while, get up for a while in the middle of the night to do this and that, and then sleep for a long time again.  So the middle of the night was a common time for story telling, love making, prayer, and so on and so forth.  Wikipedia lists some of the studies on this; another helpful presentation is here.

Notice that the custom of prayer in the middle of the night has almost died out even in monasteries.  The reason we lay people find it strange to get up and pray at 1:00 a.m. these days is not that we’re lay people, but that we live in these days.  St. Thomas More was not being cruel; he was not even being unusual.

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No need to drop “Benedict” from the “Benedict Option”

Over at Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse has written a nice piece about the “Escriva Option.”  I get Ruse’s weekly Letter from the UN Front, but their tone is so hyper that I usually ignore them.  This article, however, is worth a read:  he urges that one way to pursue Dreher’s “Benedict Option” is by following St. Josemaria Escriva.  The more ways we can get of describing and approaching what is needful in our times, the better.

But there is one point where I want to take issue with the article.  He makes a big deal of saying that laypeople should not look to religious orders for the way to live the lay state:

The question becomes: is St. Benedict a proper model for the laity? Whether there is withdrawal to the mountains or not, the implication of the Benedict Option is that laymen can somehow follow a monastic model. Certainly there are third order Benedictines, there are even third order Trappists, though I suspect they are chattier than those behind the walls. But, laymen need not ape the practices of those we may think are spiritual athletes to live out our vocation as laymen.

Continue reading “No need to drop “Benedict” from the “Benedict Option””

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