The purpose of the Benedict Option is twofold and can be summed up by the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians when he exhorts them to strive for holiness: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; …For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you…But we exhort you brethren…to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody" (1 Thess 4:3-12)
While this succinctly describes the purpose of the Benedict Option—to put God first without “disregard” and to obtain holiness—it does not make clear how one ought to proceed from here; although it does leave hints, one of which is found in the last part of the verse. When St. Paul tells us to “work quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” he is giving us an idea as to how we ought to go about accomplishing the previous exhortation to “abstain from immorality” and to control our “own body in holiness and honor.” If working quietly and with our hands is the way to do this, then we can conclude at least one thing about the Benedict Option: there will have to be some distance between us and the noise of the world. Without this distance, the quiet that we ought to seek cannot be had.
This necessary distance has both a literal and metaphorical sense: First, distance must include a literal geographical distance (one cannot escape the smoke of a burning house unless one physically leaves the premises). Second, the distance we seek will have to be one that allows us to be independent of the modern ethos (i.e., “be dependent on nobody”). The former can be obtained by our own hands. The latter will demand a reorientation of the whole person, which can only be attained by right worship. And this of course is the ultimate end of the Benedict Option—to first glorify God in worship, and secondly, to obtain holiness in so doing.
While this option is a movement away from the ethos of modern culture and toward a deeper worship of God, it does not mean that we must all drop completely out of society, move to the desert, and let our political structures remain in the hands of the Church’s enemies without a fight. The Benedict Option is not the logical conclusion to the religion of Timothy Leary; it is not a “dropping out;” it is a means to spiritual integrity and the worship of God.
While the option is not a total seclusion, it does however hold that in a society so corrupt and ungrounded in any kind of transcendent moral system (apart from unbridled individualism), one must place oneself at a distance. In an atmosphere where the icons are half naked Disney princesses, the “leaders” are all but professed enemies of the traditional teachings of Christ and His Church (a profession would make things a lot easier), and Catholic education has fallen into the tyranny of entertainment, there must be some kind of separation.