On Unemployed Youth and Forgotten Seniors

Posted at Catholic Insight

Thomas Cole's "The Fall of Rome"

Thomas Cole’s “The Fall of Rome”

There’s a great line in the book: Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know, by Diane Moczar. In writing about the downfall of Rome, she quotes an historian’s description of the Roman Empire before its demise: “a terrifying sluggishness of the whole population.” For me, this phrase denotes aimlessness, a lack of motivation and initiative; a sense of malaise and apathy. She further elaborates on the economic crisis, political corruption, sensual depravity, decadence, disregard for human life, worldliness of the clergy and pagan practices that characterized life in the empire. The worst thing is, she is describing the Catholic world of the Roman Empire.

If we fast forward to today, we realize that nothing much has changed, other than the fact that Roman Catholicism is just one of many world religions and belief systems. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In his most recent controversial interview, this time with Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis explains that “the most serious evils that afflict the world in recent years are youth unemployment and the solitude in which the old are left.” Undoubtedly, these are serious problems, but in charity, I have to disagree with the Pontiff. In my profession, I’m trained to see things symptomatically – analyse the symptoms in order to arrive at the diagnosis; assess the individual and figure out what the problem is. That same principle can be applied to many different scenarios, including what ails the world.

Without any disrespect to Pope  Francis, it seems to me that these two “evils” are the result of a greater problem. In other words, they are symptoms of a serious disease, a morbidity that has reached epidemic proportions. The illness aptly described by the historian as sluggish is purposelessness.

In the First Communion class I teach at my parish, we are discussing why God created us. In words that even a seven-year old can understand, the answer is:  ” God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (thank you, Baltimore Catechism) That is our purpose.

Sadly the world has, to a great extent, forgotten this. That’s why we have the rampant symptoms of abortion, euthanasia/assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, broken families, violence. The list is extensive and many Christians are oblivious to and actually condone these behaviours.

The two greatest commandments that Jesus taught us in order that we may know and live purposeful lives have been replaced by love of self and love of things. To my mind, that is the greatest evil. Not only do the unemployed and the lonely lack a place in our hearts, but so does God.

When we set out to determine why there is a problem, we look for the root cause. We don’t just focus on the sky high blood sugar, we treat the body’s inability to produce sufficient insulin. We don’t limit our care to the swollen feet and ankles, we address the issues of vascular and cardiac insufficiency. Likewise, we don’t just pinpoint youth unemployment and lonely elderly, we tackle the malignant evil that plagues the world.

The remedy, as understood by First Communion catechumens is to know, love and serve God in this world so we can be with Him for eternity in the next.

Source: Moczar, D. (2005). Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know. New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press.

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17 Responses to On Unemployed Youth and Forgotten Seniors

  1. SaintlySages says:

    Concerning the problem of social evils, yours is the better analysis by far. God bless!

  2. stclementmom says:

    “Likewise, we don’t just pinpoint youth unemployment and lonely elderly, we tackle the malignant evil that plagues the world.” — in “just pinpointing” these two issues, isn’t the Holy Father helping some of us who may not be as far along our path to holiness have a rock-solid place to put our first tentative step towards knowing, loving, serving God? Might not many accidentally discover Jesus and grow to love him as they encounter the next unemployed youth or lonely old person? I often find it difficult to visualize what “knowing, loving, serving God” looks like in real life.

  3. Jesse says:

    Great insights!!! All true. And the underlying reason why individuals and on a larger scale cultures have forgotten or lost the true purpose of their lives is due to the break down of the family and the introduction of relativism and secularism in modern education. The very word education contains the Latin word “ducare” meaning to lead. Well if parents are the primary educators and they aren’t informing their children of life’s true purpose and if teachers in schools are not sharing that message -and in fact aren’t allowed to even if they wanted- how are young minds and future adults ever going to be lead away from the lure of the world and all its temptations. People must- like you are doing with your blog- share the light of truth to those who are left in darkness. There are two great hungers in the world…a hunger for knowledge and of course a hunger for love.

    • Thank you for your comment and thank you for bringing up the points about family breakdown and parents as first educators. Pope Francis has just announced announced an extraordinary synod on the family. Hopefully the synod will address how we can protect our families from increasing secularism that threatens to destroy the traditional family unit.

  4. ubique lucet says:

    This is indeed part of what unsettled me about Pope Francis’ interview with Scalfari. While I believe that the Holy Father’s point was to find common ground and dialogue on that basis, there were missed opportunities for him to go beyond that, and state how the truths of the faith answer our deepest needs. Not that he could expound at length, but at least say enough so that the Church isn’t reduced to simply another “actor” in the social arena.

    His approach could be well attuned to some circumstances — e.g., if we’re engaged in discussions with non-believing or non-practicing friends over a lengthy period of time — but in the context of a media splash, the takeaway sounds more like confirming people in relativism or indifferentism.

  5. I have one of Diane’s books. I find this insight though very good. We have forgotten God and that’s the problem right there.

  6. Nancy says:

    Thank you. Oh, thank you. With absolute charity and respect and goodness, you have spoken truth. I needed to hear this so badly. Thank you, thank you.

  7. dgcree says:

    Hi Terry,
    I agree with your diagnosis and I’m equally sure the holy Father has already addressed the issue of love and service to God, early in his pontificate
    The problem is because of this apathy, when one approaches the subject of God one is told as I was this past monthand have been on a number of occasions, “Don’t talk about God”, a not uncommon encounter these days. I would ask your prayers and the prayers of your subscribers for the person(s) concerned.
    When one is faced with this sort of attitude, one has to change ones, approach [ painful though it may be ] and exhibit God’s Love via love for ones neighbour.
    I’m sure this is what the Holy Father is doing, I’m equally sure he is well aware of the prevailing wind.
    Lets keep the Holy Father in prayer, he has an unenviable and arduous task ahead of him but with the help of Almighty God, he cannot but prevail.

    • I’m sure you’re right Don, although sometimes his approach and answers are confusing, not just to the Catholic faithful, but to everyone else. Prayer is a powerful. I’m sure most of us pray for Pope Francis every day – it is an unenviable job. I talk about that in next Tuesday’s Catholic Insight post.

  8. It is culture of despair,the majority of people are living aimlessly . .They are building an iron wall between themselves and the grace of God.Great post,and very inspiring.Greetings and blessings.jalal

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