Saturday, September 22, 2018


 “Bind me not to the pasture 
Chain me not to the plow 
Set me free to find my calling 
And I'll return to you somehow
If you find it's me you're missing 
If you're hoping I'll return, 
To your thoughts I'll soon be listening, 
And in the road I'll stop and turn 
Then the wind will set me racing 
 As my journey nears its end 
And the path I'll be retracing 
When I'm homeward bound again.” 
“Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen Thompson 

We just got back from an extended weekend, part of which we spent in Eureka Springs, Arkansas celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary and part of it with a small group of fellow Christians at a retreat center on the shores of Table Rock Lake.

We didn’t do anything earth shattering. We celebrated our anniversary at the Bavarian Inn in Eurkea Springs. We had shared a wonderful evening there on our first anniversary in 1987. We loved it so much we’ve gone back three more times over the years, including this year. These brief interludes have given us the opportunity to look back at where we’ve been together and to spend time thinking of where we’re heading. The sights, sounds, atmosphere, and tastes have become familiar friends to us. There’s something very wonderful in seeing that, as the rest of the world spins madly around, there are places like the Bavarian Inn Inn that resist the temptation to join what has become the madness of modern life. In is own way, it’s actually quite radical in its approach to business. As soon as we came though the door, for example, we were greeted by a sign that read “cell phone free zone, thank you for your consideration.” The message conveyed is clear. “You’re entering an entirely different world than the one outside this door.” I’m sure a lot of American moderns would find that disconcerting or provactive. Nancy and I found it quite comforting.

The two days we spent at Table Rock Lake didn’t seem earth shattering either, but they were for me. When we first decided to go on the retreat, I just thought it would be nice to get together with the people we’d first met a bit over a year ago at their small church in Kansas City’s River Market. In the year we’ve known them, we’ve found them to be not only down to earth, but deeply committed to living their Christian faith in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. Our weekend conversations and prayers about faith and life and our respective “homeward bound” journeys were far more powerful and transformative than I could have ever imagined.

My introduction to them came about the same time I read what has become a very influntial book to me - Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option.” I’ve written about it before, so I won’t go into a great deal of detail about it in this column. Suffice it to say that Dreher sees that a Benedict type of model of Christianity is needed to revive a Church that has, according to him that has become stale, ingrown, motivated far too often by worldy ideas of power. The Church is becoming more wordly than the world outside the church doors.

I’ve given a lot of thought to what Dreher has written and I believe he’s right. Something’s got to give. 

Dreher recently spoke at a meeting in Lombardy, Italy about the Benedict Option. One of the most important things he said was that Benedict did not do what he did in the sixth century to “save the Church according to some kind of strategic-political project for evangelization. No, he did it to save himself, his relationship with God.”

 Dreher sees this as the crux of the matter for Christians today. “They need to be concerned with the faith itself before they become concerned with changing the world. How can we offer to the world something which we no longer possess ourselves? In short, Christian judgment and identity, a communal life rooted in the sacraments, prayer, and the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church are so challenged by the world in which believers find themselves today that they no longer know them or live them.”

I learned something very valuable during those few days away. It’s not my job to cure the Church’s or the world’s institutional ills. In fact, trying to fix them is a real diversion from the calling I originally embraced back in 1967. It wasn’t a call to be a trail blazer or a power broker. It was a call to follow Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, I can’t get so mired in the trappings and politics of this world that I lose my soul, calling, and true Home in the process.