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Isolation, Witness, and Beauty: Three Quotes for Community

In her book Building the Benedict Option, Leah Libresco Sargeant offers some ideas about how to gather together with others to seek God. Let these three selected quotes stir your imagination for the ongoing task of dwelling with God and neighbor.

On Isolation

The atomized nature of modern life makes it possible to become a hermit unintentionally. This situation is a big departure from the history of hermits. At the time of the Desert Fathers, a monk who wanted to live alone had to get the permission of his spiritual father, because living alone, just he and God was not something to undertake lightly. It was an unusual calling that required exceptional spiritual discipline. Living one’s faith alone, without preparation, is the religious equivalent of trying to run a marathon without so much as a jogging habit as preparation.

On Witness

We sing songs together, we break bread, we spill out into the streets in processions all because we live in hope, longing to find our home in heaven with our Lord. Too often today, people know our faith primarily by its list of “thou shalt nots,” but they should be able to see in our lives some reflection of the One we have said yes to. Sometimes, the simple fact of our joy is a countercultural witness. It can help someone who couldn’t otherwise imagine giving up whatever is standing between him and the Church: sleeping in on Sunday mornings; feeling solely responsible for his strengths; having premarital sex. Or at least he couldn’t imagine giving those things up and feeling hale, happy, and whole as a result of the renunciation.

On Cleaving to Beauty

Another time, my husband and I, exhausted by vituperative news cycles, threw a poetry-recitation night at our house. We wanted to make more space for beauty in our lives and the lives of our friends. We chose to make a recitation night, rather than a reading night, requiring our friends to memorize the poems they wanted to share. Our goal was to let all our friends who attended make space for beauty not just in our home but also within themselves. They would need to carve out time to learn (or relearn) the poems they were going to recite, and, as a result, they would walk away from our one-night event still carrying the poem within themselves, holding on to something beautiful that could not be taken from them.


Leah Libresco Sargeant is a convert from atheism to Catholicism. Her conversion story is told in Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer. In her second book, Building the Benedict Option: A Guide to Gathering Two or Three Together in His Name, she offers practical tips for gathering and praying with others.

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