Short answer: Christians exercise the Benedict Option when they strive to live apart from secular society, as much as possible, while forming a community with like-minded Christians. Saint Benedict left behind the sinful society of Rome to live in a remote location, first as a hermit, and later in a small community of Christians. He eventually formed monasteries which similarly sought to live in community, largely separate from the secular world.
Long answer: Benedict Option FAQ at The American Conservative
All Christians are called to be a light to the world, just as God became man in Christ to be our Light. And all human persons are called to salvation by Christ, through love of God and neighbor. So it would be gravely immoral to forget about the rest of humanity, and live as if they did not need our light. Even when men and women live apart from the world in religious communities, their prayers and sacrifices are offered for the conversion of sinners, and for the spiritual and temporal needs of everyone.
We each have our own calling. We are not all called to live apart from the world. So you must discern the will of God for your life. The Benedict option is not the path for everyone.
The world is becoming more and more sinful. But Christians must never use the term “Benedict option” to mean that we give up trying to convert sinners, and treat secular society as if it were hopeless.
On the other hand, Christianity always benefits from having some communities within secular society, communities which can form Christians in the image of Christ, and resist the progression of sinfulness in society.
Use of the term by Catholic schismatics
Some Catholics are using the term “Benedict option” as if the society they would leave behind were the institutional Church. They speak as if Catholics who oppose Pope Francis should form their own communities, separate from the rest of the Church, in order to resist his decisions on doctrine and discipline. And that use of the term is perverse; it is an offense against Saint Benedict and against Christ. If a group of Catholics form their own community, in a physical location or virtually, in order to ignore or resist the Roman Pontiff, they are in fact schismatics. And that is a grave sin.
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