A Man in Full

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I just learned that my friend John Moorehouse, who was also my editor at TAN Books, died of a sudden heart attack at home. He was 51 years old, and he leaves his wife and seven children. TAN has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family. Please pray for them.

I can see how our paths have crossed, as I try to sort out what the Church owes to John and to men like him. I know what I owe to him. He was a great editor, not meddlesome, but with a keen sense of what you were best at doing, and he could tell how it might appear to readers you were trying to reach. He was all encouragement. John lived up here in New Hampshire, only a few miles away from us, so every so often we would have a long lunch together, usually burgers and other such substantial food, while we talked about projects I might have in hand, and how he could move them along.

It was more than a professional concern he showed. It was personal. John knew that my family and I had suffered much when I left Providence College in 2017, where I had taught for twenty-seven years; a school that I had long loved. We bear the stripes on our backs laid on by the self-styled humane, by the boasters of their own tolerance. “A beloved place,” the current president wants the school to be, by means that would befit Orwell’s Ministry of Love: spying, backbiting, slander, and a Star Chamber.

That president has perhaps forgotten that people are made one only by what they share in love, and not by political action, which commonly springs from ambition, avarice, envy, vindictiveness, and hatred. And that without a commitment to the truth, a college is a college in name only. It becomes a swindle, an unjustly expensive credentialing machine, fleecing the people it pretends to serve. Marx, look in the mirror.

But when we were moving to New Hampshire, John and his family volunteered to help, again and again. The most remarkable thing of all: our mutual friend, Derek Tremblay, a former student of mine and the headmaster of Mount Royal Academy, where the elder children of the Moorehouse family go to school, drove all the way to Rhode Island a couple of times, with strong-armed Moorehouse boys among the helpers, to load boxes of books and other things into their van and bring them to our new house. Such a cheerful family; and if ever a school was a happy place, from what I’ve seen of it, Mount Royal Academy is such.

John Moorehouse

The connection there is important too. I had “met” John many years before, in print: he was the publisher of Catholic Men’s Quarterly. And he regularly wrote for it too, trying to appeal to men and boys first by the good things of their nature and the nature of the world around them. So there were articles on sports, good food and drink, hunting, classic films, and work, alongside articles on prayer, the saints, life in the Church, and Christ the Lord. I miss the Quarterly. As far as I know, no such magazine now exists. Perhaps some good Catholic man will pick up the hammer and continue the work.

In those days, I was running an informal men’s group at Providence College, which Mr. Tremblay sometimes attended. What the group and our discussions did for him, I leave for him to say; others have told me, privately, that what we did and what we talked about helped to keep them in a Church that otherwise seemed to forget that they existed.

We read articles I shared from Catholic Men’s Quarterly, Touchstone, Crisis, and First Things. We argued about them as men do, with good cheer, often contentious cheer, and that friendly opposition that is like nothing in our colleges now. We sometimes ended the meetings by going out for pizza. It was exactly the kind of thing that John was doing, in a different way and, at that time, clear across the country.

John Moorehouse was a good man, a faithful husband and father, a devout Catholic, and – what is rare enough in our time – great fun to be around. You could see it in his eyes and in the eyes of his wife and children. We sometimes met them on our way out of Mass on a Sunday evening at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, where I now teach, and where I hope to instruct his children as they come of age.

And that too brings something to my mind. John had tremendous energy and ability and intelligence, and a willingness to take risks. He could have been the chief of a big business. He could have been living the easy and secure life of a tenured professor. No ambition compelled him to produce his Quarterly. He did it, and he enjoyed it, because it was a good thing to do – and a necessary thing to do. He did it for the good of his fellow men and for the Church.

Others, flush with money, do so little, so very little. I used to say that a student would be unlikely to leave Providence College with his faith weaker than it was when he entered. That was a mark of high praise. My friends still at the college, almost to a person also the objects of vicious attacks, with their jobs on the line, tell me it is no longer so.

I could say that John did much with small resources, but it may be truer to say that the God who governs even in a grain of dust, who resists the proud and dwells with the humble, works miracles by those who hold to his truth, whatever their resources may be, even while the colossi crumble to dust.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. Among his books are Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and most recently The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire. Be sure to visit his new website, Word and Song.