Who Stands Up for These Marginalized?

Today (September 19, 2015) at 3:30 Eastern, Robert Royal will appear with host Raymond Arroyo and TCT contributor Father Gerald Murray on EWTN to discuss the Holy Father’s arrival in Cuba. Check your local listings for the station in you area. UPDATE: Bob’s first report, on the pope’s arrival in Cuba, may be read by clicking here.

You want people on the margins? The neglected, the invisible?

Last Sunday I was waiting in a diner for a former student of mine, one of my favorites, and his wife, whom I hadn’t met before, and who was carrying their first child. While I was waiting, I glanced over at another table and saw something remarkable.

It was a boy and a girl who had just sat down. They couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, and they might have been as young as sixteen. He was no body-builder, but he was tall and well set up, as they used to say, clean cut, no tattoos. She was slender and pretty, with long dark hair. As he was talking to her, his cheeks were flushed with delight, and he was beaming from ear to ear. She was smiling happily and sweetly in return. They might have come to the diner straight from church, as I had. They shone out with innocence.

They might have been somebody’s father and mother, a long time ago, before they had determined that their delight in one another’s company was really love, before they had decided to make that company everlasting, and before they had sealed their love and their vows with the full-hearted and full-bodied gift of themselves.

So what was remarkable about them? Reader, friend – when was the last time you saw such a couple?

Then my young friend and his wife arrived. He had not known God at all until he experienced a sudden and shattering vision during the summer before his freshman year at college. He spent that summer reading the Bible and pitching himself with all his considerable resoluteness into a new way of life.

It is seven years later. He’s been working for the Coast Guard, hard physical work, from Nova Scotia to the Falkland Islands, and from the Dominican Republic to the Mediterranean. They don’t even have a chaplain or a small chapel on board ship, he tells me, and sometimes one of the men will mock him when they come upon him kneeling in prayer. I doubt that the mockery is ever too serious, though, because this young man has, shall we say, a formidable presence. Not that he minds it.

So I chatted with them also about their plans, and he looked upon her with pride and protectiveness, and she looked upon him with admiration and delight. Again it was purity, right and just, though purity as having come through the smoke and bitterness of the world.

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Why are these sights so rare?

I notice that the American president has made sure that Pope Francis, when he comes to visit the White House, will meet a man representing a group that is now always at the center of attention. Even should you descend into the depths of the newspaper, the sports pages themselves, they are there.

Not one day goes by without our hearing about their problems, their demands, their accusations, their mostly invented cultural history, and so on. Sometimes, as in the case of the man whom the president has elevated to brief celebrity, they proudly spurn the teachings of the Church. Sometimes they proudly follow those teachings but demand that everyone applaud them for doing so, and notice them, even change the way they raise children on their account.

I’m tired of it. And I grow downright angry when I consider the people about whose welfare no one ever troubles himself.

Think of the boy and girl at the other table. Now name for me one single social custom, one single local ordinance or state law, one single common work of literature read in the high schools, one single august pronouncement from the episcopal heights, one single session of prelates in council, one single social institution, one single jot of advice given to them from their teachers of “health,” one single word of encouragement or guidance or praise from the media or the mavens of art or those voluble blockheads in the academy, that will show, not even gratitude for their purity, but awareness that such young people exist?

Or if they are acknowledged to exist, here and there, are they not mocked, assaulted by the whores of pornography at a thousand virtual street corners, and rejected by their peers?

Who pays them any mind?

C.S. Lewis once wrote that if we really understood the purposes of things, we would see that all of politics and economics and technology exist so that a couple of friends can chat about good books at their leisure; or, as I’d say, so that a mother and father can sit quietly on the back porch as they watch their small children play; or so that a boy and girl, over the moon for one another, can have lunch at a diner and never once think of the lewd, the squalid, the hard-hearted, the licentious, or the base.

So also I might say about our pastoral directives as regards youth and sex. These are the people we must assist, and not take for granted that they will survive the current onslaught of falsehood and wickedness. We want every diner in every little town in the country to be graced with the laughter of innocent young people in love. What are we doing to see to it?

I might put it this way. Why are we doing all we can to ensure that such youths are as rare as diamonds? If we give all our attention to people whose desires are out of order with their bodies, smiling upon Sodom and grinning with Gomorrah, hypocritically and heartlessly saying that we wish to be merciful, we implicitly join the gang of their high school peers who laugh at them. We imply that they are chumps. And eventually, God forbid, even those last few innocents may come to agree.

Margins? Come see the deserted village.

 

Senior Editor’s note: Beginning today (3:30 Eastern)), Robert Royal will appear with Raymond Arroyo (and Fr. Gerald Murray) on EWTN to cover the journey of Pope Francis to Cuba and the U.S. Please take special notice of the banner below that will appear above each daily column during the duration of the pope’s New World travels. By clicking on the banner, you’ll be able to read Bob Royal’s reflections about the trip, updated daily, and also see links to media events of note. Where else but at TCT? – Brad Miner

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Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. He directs the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

  • StatusQrow

    Thank you for expressing something that’s been in my heart for so many years I can’t begin to say; it seems the innocent have always been forced, without their even realizing it most of the time, to be their own cheerleaders in the face of temptation.

    One wants to see compassion shown to everyone who falls. But when the innocent are left to fend for themselves because those who should be protecting their innocence are off to show the world how tolerant they can be of sinners, a tragic injustice is done.

    I recall a recording artist back in the eighties who released an album with the title: “You Gotta Sin To Be Saved.” Starting with the president, we give young people the impression that “you gotta sin to be noticed” and they eventually come to the conclusion that they’ve gotta sin to be loved, and finally, with some exceptions, they choose to sin to be saved.

    While I’ve prayed for it in a hundred different way for years, I long to see and will now specifically pray for “every diner in every little town in the country to be graced with the laughter of innocent young people in love.” Thank you, again.

    • Nancy Lynne

      Your words are so true. I have had those same feelings. My sins and failings aren’t serious enough or showy enough to be noticed or to warrant any guidance or support to achieve holiness/saintliness. It is disheartening.

    • Nancy Lynne

      Your words are so true. I have had those same feelings. My sins and failings aren’t serious enough or showy enough to be noticed or to warrant any guidance or support to achieve holiness/saintliness. It is disheartening.

  • Michael Dowd

    Outstanding article Anthony. How very sad it all is when these young folks who are trying to follow the way of Christ in their life and marriage are undermined by society, our politicians, and most of all by our Church leaders especially, most recently, in the person of Pope Francis by his failure to encourage those who are trying to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. We must pray every day for those, in particular, who are trying to live the faith of the Catholic Church with so little support from their shepherds. And to pray for the shepherds who appear to have forsaken the flock.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    Funny how when you see purity, as happens when you see the beautiful, it clicks…as if that is how you were made and the purpose for which you were created.

  • Stanley Anderson

    When our son was around seven years old, we were at a coffee place listening to a local musician play. Sitting at a table nearby were two teenage couples, seemingly of the sort you describe above, and my son suddenly piped up, “It’s easy to tell which ones are the girls.” My wife and I wondered if this were the best time and place for the expected topic, but I cautiously asked “How is that?”. He answered gleefully, “They have long hair and bright eyes!”

    “Whew!” we both thought. The expression “long hair and bright eyes” became a catch phrase around our home. I wonder what equally charming and innocent expression might describe the boys? Or such young couples in general? Perhaps “shining out with innocence,” as you wrote above might do.

    • bernie

      On the first day of my first real job, I met this lovely girl . I told my parents that night about her and her big bright blue eyes and softly curled hair. Two months later I asked her to marry me. She went to heaven three years ago after 60 years and left me surrounded with life. Prof E. almost made me yearn to do it again, but one lovely girl with blue eyes is enough for any man.

      • MairinT

        You were blessed with 60 years Bernie. My husband and I had 28 years before the cancer took him away. But, he, a really good man, had taken the final step into the Church a short time before he died. What a beautiful holy death…Our sons and I witnessed the amazing passing of a soul into the arms of Our Lord. Like a miracle.

  • Stanley Anderson

    When our son was around seven years old, we were at a coffee place listening to a local musician play. Sitting at a table nearby were two teenage couples, seemingly of the sort you describe above, and my son suddenly piped up, “It’s easy to tell which ones are the girls.” My wife and I wondered if this were the best time and place for the expected topic, but I cautiously asked “How is that?”. He answered gleefully, “They have long hair and bright eyes!”

    “Whew!” we both thought. The expression “long hair and bright eyes” became a catch phrase around our home. I wonder what equally charming and innocent expression might describe the boys? Or such young couples in general? Perhaps “shining out with innocence,” as you wrote above might do.

  • Nancy Lynne

    When I saw that revolting word, “marginalized”, I almost turned away; but Anthony Esolen was using it so I proceeded cautiously. That word usually refers erroneously to “the poor,” “illegal aliens,” the LGBT community.” There is a governmental poverty industry, there is religious support for, especially by the Catholic Church, and cultural support for members of these “groups.” These are not “the marginalized.” Anthony Esolen is right

    • RainingAgain

      These groups are in the centre of things and calling the shots.

  • Nancy Lynne

    When I saw that revolting word, “marginalized”, I almost turned away; but Anthony Esolen was using it so I proceeded cautiously. That word usually refers erroneously to “the poor,” “illegal aliens,” the LGBT community.” There is a governmental poverty industry, there is religious support for, especially by the Catholic Church, and cultural support for members of these “groups.” These are not “the marginalized.” Anthony Esolen is right

  • Rene

    Another “marginalized group” is the children of the divorced, whether having received an annulment or not. Will this group increase in size among Catholics after the recent reform of the annulment process? If the answer is in the affirmative, who is going to show mercy towards them?

  • Poor Sinner

    Thank you, Dr. Esolen, for your incisive critique. You are an inspiration to me as a man of letters. Indeed, our society has reduced everything to our baser instincts. I feel like a closet heterosexual, and I know I’m not the only one. Father William S. Bowdern, S.J., the priest whom the film the Exorcist was based upon, penned a treatise entitled The Problems of Courtship and Marriage. I try to adhere to the stipulations he lays forth therein, yet our society has shifted so far afield from the mores which he presupposes.

  • bernie

    What an insightful article ! Thank you.

  • GrahamUSA

    Friday before last I was driving through the crowded noontime downtown of the very affluent suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Birmingham. Standing next to his car with the driver’s door open, a Muslim man said his prayers. No one, walking or driving, seemed to notice. On the contrary the conscious response was not to have a response. I wondered later what the reaction would have been if I parked the car, stood next to it, pulled out my rosary, and had begun to pray. It isn’t just the behavior or the demeanor, but who is doing it. This is not an anti-Muslim comment. On the contrary, if only Catholics had the faith and conviction to be more public about our faith — beyond my Pro-Life bumper sticker. In fact I see many Muslim and Orthodox Jewish couples who are obviously devout, clean-living, and faithful in metropolitan Detroit. So, once again, what are Catholics so afraid of Why this mania to “fit in?

    • Chris in Maryland

      It is “arresting time” when we stop in our tracks to pray. That is why the Church has the tradition – now in the process of “being forgotten” – of praying the hours. When we stop tyo pray…we are reminding ourselves…and reminding others….that time does not rule us…work does not rule us…activity does not rule us…God rules us. Hence the power of “The Angelus” at noon-day.

  • veritasetgratia

    Well this weekend my husband and I have just returned home from a full-on Evangelical wedding. Not only was the marriage ceremony slow and thoughtful with various Scripture readings and drew people in, but at the Reception (for about 100), all the official speakers were talking about making Jesus the centre of your life – the ‘best man’, the brother of the bride, the bride’s father, the groom. I figure Jesus’ name was mentioned about 80 times over the 4 hour meal! I am not denying that the takeup rate of Jesus’ teachings is sadly wanting across the Christian scene today, but here were people witnessing to eachother about leading “religious” lives and that’s what we all need to be reminded to do! So the couples you describe – well that is what we just experienced seeing this weekend. God please strengthen Christians!

  • VP Mary

    The beauty of the sweet couple in the diner is that their relationship reveals a transcendent truth. Our secular society and sadly, church leadership is unconcerned and cannot be bothered by such ideals. The so-called popular people are too busy “tolerating” the disorderd choices of a society hellbent on personal self expression, thereby inflating their own sense of importance. Thanks and keep up the great writing Prof. Esolen.

  • DJK

    Solid, Tony, solid. As usual.

  • Maria

    Amen, brother.

  • Thomist

    Lord, please expose the general population to such well-reasoned apologetics! (pardon the redundancy)



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