Restoring Catholic Culture (Guest: Dr. Anthony Esolen)

Dr. Anthony Esolen joins Crisis Point to talk about Catholic culture: what it is, how we lost it, and how we can regain it. Specifically, Dr. Esolen speaks of the need for Catholic parishes to rise up and provide opportunities for young people to live out a healthy Catholic culture.

Restoring Catholic Culture (Guest: Dr. Anthony Esolen)

Dr. Anthony Esolen joins Crisis Point to talk about Catholic culture: what it is, how we lost it, and how we can regain it. Specifically, Dr. Esolen speaks of the need for Catholic parishes to rise up and provide opportunities for young people to live out a healthy Catholic culture.

Links:
• Magdalen College for the Liberal Arts
• Out of the Ashes
• The Hundredfold

Watch on Odysee:
https://odysee.com/$/embed/restoring-catholic-culture-%28guest-dr./01d0fa5ae7f13db140c8bdef2e9368c4c54c6ceb?r=HLGCLo1rHRvLW78kgdQuAyRvrSnevmvH

Watch on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/embed/1bbBdJwUkog

Transcript:

Eric Sammons:

Hello, and welcome to the Crisis Point Podcast, I’m Eric Sammons, your host, and the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, before we get started with today’s podcast, I just want to remind people to like, and subscribe to the channel wherever you listen to it, wherever you watch it, I really appreciate that, and it lets other people know about it. Also, I just want to bring up, I appreciate people consider donating to Crisis Magazine, http://www.crisismagazine.com/donate, we accept all types of payment, including even cryptocurrency, so however you want to donate to us, we do appreciate, it helps us keep doing what we’re doing.

So today I have a great guest, I have a very special guest, Dr. Anthony Esolen, he is a contributing editor to Crisis, but that’s probably the least amount of what he is, he’s a professor, and writer, and residence at Magdalene College of Liberal Arts, he’s the author of many books, which we’ll probably bring up a few today, one of my favorites is “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child,” that was written a number of years ago, but I really enjoy that one, his most recent I think is “In The Beginning Was the Word: An Annotated Reading of the Prologue of John,” which I am currently reading, I hope to maybe have a review of that at some point at Crisis, I also have to mention that he is my wife’s favorite author, which my kids think is funny since I’m also an author, but she makes it very clear she’s always loved Dr. Esolen’s work. Well, welcome to the program.

Anthony Esolen:

Thanks Eric, it’s great to be here.

Eric Sammons:

So what we want to talk about today is the idea of culture, restoring culture, restoring specifically Catholic culture, I know America is not a Catholic country, but we do have some Catholic cultural artifacts, I think, within us, and we want to talk about what it means to restore that culture, how do we go about doing that practically? But I think in general, let’s talk first about just what do we mean by when we talk about culture, and that sounds very highfalutin to some people and stuff, what do we really mean when we talk about building a culture, what are we trying to do when we talk about culture?

Anthony Esolen:

Well, I’m a great fan of a couple of authors in the mid 20th century who were pointing the way towards this problem that now which is the very thing itself, culture, is shriveling, it’s fading away, others say I have in mind, Catholic authors, Father Romano Guardini, and the French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, they saw in the offing after World War II, not that long after World War II either that the true thing culture was being replaced by what Gabriel Marcel, mass society, right? So people by the millions listening radio programs, watching the same television programs, reading news sources from only a couple of different venues, right? Union Reuters and AP, and well, losing the very human thing itself, culture, and I think that they were onto something, I think that they were right.

Joseph [inaudible] talks in much the same way about the modern world as a world in culture or vanishing culture. If you go back to the verb that gives rise to the word “cultura” in Latin, we’re talking about tilling a field, carefully tending to the soil, right? Because you want something to grow from it, you don’t want to just use it, abuse it, and then move on to something else, it involves a lot of care, and this is intergenerational, I mean, you don’t just say, “All right, we’re going to do this, and then we’re going to move on,” culture takes into account the distance, it looks forward to the future, right? So if you don’t have… If I can put it this way, and I had this way many my writings, right? I mean, if you are this strange people that the world has never seen before or your children are not singing the songs that their grandfathers, and grandmothers sang, you’ve got a problem, okay?

If they’re not reciting by heart the poems which were also songs that their grandparents recited, then something’s very odd here, okay? This is the outlier in human history, this has never really been the case before, even before a people would have [inaudible] songs and poems, which would be passed down from generation to generation, and almost all of that is gone now, the musical heritage is gone, the poetic heritage is gone, most of the arts are gone, they’ve established little niches for themselves in the Academy, which is poison or in the art industry, the art museum industry, but really, it’s not a thing of the people, which it always had been, and there were basic cultural things that we are not getting done at all, forgetting about arts and literature, we don’t even manage to get the boys and girls together to enjoy each other’s company, and then to get married, we’re not even doing that, I mean, we’re failing at the fundamental human task of survival beyond [inaudible], that is to get children and to have those children drive, because rooting from you good habits of life, they’re getting married young, they were having… Don’t even manage to do that, and that… Well, I would say that makes us unique in the history of men, a uniquely colossal and inhuman failure.

Eric Sammons:

It is interesting because that touches on all aspects of society really, because it touches on obviously the arts, it touches on schools, it touches on families, touches on communities, on parishes, all these different things, because I think about my own upbringing, and I feel indicted a little bit rightly so, because I grew up… I went to public schools, I didn’t live near where my grandparents lived, we’d go visit them once or twice a year, and maybe hear a few stories, didn’t really know my upbringing that well, my whole family grew up in the south, and I grew up north of the Mason-Dixon line, didn’t really know other than some jokes about, “Oh, we’re on the wrong side now,” but that’s about it, but I don’t really know my own culture, because it’s like I just went to public schools, learned the facts, and that was it, and it seems though what you’re really saying is that culture, the way it’s passed on, it seems more by osmosis than somebody standing up there and telling you, “This is your culture,” right?

Anthony Esolen:

Yep, the most fundamental thing about it is that it’s lived… Hold on for a second as I pick up a book, okay? Sometimes when people challenge me, and they say, “You’re really talking about something that’s quite elite,” right? I say, “No, I’m not, I’m talking about what is in ordinary human experience,” okay? And then I pick up, for instance, one of my bound volumes of the Century Magazine from the late 19th century, and early 20th century, Popular Magazine in the United States, all purpose magazine, Serialize novels by Mark Twain appear in it, if you want Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and you want to read it before it gets to the library in a book form, you get the Century Magazine, ri…? Excerpts from Huckleberry Finn printed in the Century Magazine, so this a magazine’s for everybody, right? At random, and I find articles on science, on religion, on poetry, on art, on music, on American history, on World history talks with Napoleon, Paris, the giant Tierra del Fuego in South Amer… Article on Oliver Cromwell, article composer, Meyerbeer, talks with Napoleon again, just short story, and so forth, things are in this, and I will bet that this magazine which… Okay, the most popular magazine in the United States at the time would be difficult for most college graduates to read now, okay?

You were a 14 year old boy, and you wanted to read the next excerpt of Huckleberry Finn, this is where you went, okay? But college graduates would find it difficult going, and not just because the vocabulary is taxing, but because there’s a whole wealth of general knowledge that the authors just take for granted, I mean, they take for granted that you know a lot of things, and they don’t take for granted that you’ve learned them in school, they take for granted that you’ve learned them just from living, from occasionally poking your nose into a book or a newspaper, and so almost all of that is gone, and what’s more poignant still, I find it also in these magazines, is their description of a common human life, right? That is filled with things that seem to come to us from a different universe, okay? But are deeply cultural things, and as you say, they’re not things that you learn in school, right? They’re part of the lived habits of the people, they bind the people together, such as we are not bound now.

So for instance, there’s an article in here by the urban reformer, Jacob Riis, he’s wrote the book about “How the Other Half Lives,” right? And it’s about a mid-winter in New York city in [inaudible], part of it describes the tough life that you have if you live in one of the tenements, and the [inaudible], right? Because people have cold stoves or wood stoves, there’s always danger fire in the winter, and that’s a terrible thing, but on the other hand, these people did for fun when it snowed in the New York, it’s an amazing thing, I mean, all night long, the kids, and young people would be outdoors sometimes with their elders too, sing sledding or tobogganing down one of the hills in Manhattan or coasting on ice, and a slide of ice that’s on the road, and it really is all through the night, because he says, “There you’ll see the strong youth of America well into the daylight hours, so on a good snowy night, all night long, and into the early morning,” okay? And the policeman he said would wink or look the other way.

How is this even possible? Well, it’s possible because everybody [inaudible] for granted, there are certain things you do, and certain things you don’t do, and everybody also takes for granted that life is to be lived together, and not only the little house over here, and the little house over there, there’s a great deal of social trust here entirely missing now. I mean, imagine you could have your child taken away from you if he was sledding down a road in the middle of the daytime without supervision, these kids were out all night, and into the next morning, it’s a… Yeah, so we’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do.

Eric Sammons:

What do you think was the-

Anthony Esolen:

I’m not-

Eric Sammons:

[inaudible] say, what do you think was the… What’s the root cause? Because in listening to you, I feel that some finger has to be pointed at just simply the development of technology in a sense of, for example, highways, and cars, and the suburbs, and the spreading out, and the ability to communicate without being actually physically close together, communicate at least the basic information, because just use known example, we moved away [inaudible] my parents, I’d say moved away, before I was born, away from home, a hundreds of miles away, because they could just drive back if they wanted to, but really that had maybe twice a year, and then just living out in the suburbs, the neighborhoods that most people live in, you don’t really have that close a connection technology with television, and mass communications, you sit at home in front of the blue screen all day, I’m just kind of thinking of all these things as you’re talking that are those some of the root causes, and maybe makes it sound luddite, I know, but it just seems that those things didn’t really help keep the culture.

Anthony Esolen:

No, they… In large part, they did not help, they presented certain opportunities, but they also presented certain dangers, right? So we had this… I’ve now come around to the opinion that it is a wonderful new art form to film, the motion picture for 30 years in the United States, it had a golden age, that coincided with the age of the self-imposed code, okay? From 1935 to about 1965 movies that are real works of art, and wholesome works of art, not decadent into a disease, great works of art, for instance, “The Godfather” are great works of art of a very decade in a kind, I think, but in any case we had that, but people were not quite aware of how much of a threat it would end up being of something peculiar that’s cultural, I was talking to my wife about this the other thing, back when the Black pitcher, Satchel Paige, very late in his career joined the Cleveland Indians, because he’d been in the Negro leagues, they finally broke the color barrier with [inaudible], so the Indians signed Satchel Paige, and Larry Doby, and a couple of other players, had been barred from Major League Baseball before.

And Paige gets on the team, one of the first things he’s asked by one of his teammates when he hears Satchel speak, when he hears his speaking voice is, “Hey, Satch, can you sing?” And Satch says, “Oh, of course I can sing.” “Would you like to sing? We’re getting together a barbershop quartet.” And Satch says, “Sure, I’d like that.” They did, and this is not peculiar, this is the kind of thing that guys did, and these four Cleveland Indians would before ball games at home go behind home plate when they had a little bit of time, and serenade with their impromptu barbershop quartet songs, okay? That’s-

Eric Sammons:

I can’t see Barry Bonds doing that.

Anthony Esolen:

… another story, but they are completely different first. No, you get [inaudible] Barry Bonds, but you can’t see anybody doing that now, because nobody knows any songs thing, but it was still the case, the amazing thing is not that there was a group of guys there singing, but that the ball players would take a little bit of time out before a game, and do that, that was a little bit of a surprise, but I’m not a surprise at all, right? If you said, “Hey, there are four guys over there, and they sing together,” you’d say, “Well, so let’s do that.” Now that would be something, right?

Eric Sammons:

Absolutely.

Anthony Esolen:

The church should have been more aware of the dangers, and this is where I take the Council fathers at Vatican II, I read the Vatican II documents, and I see they were somewhat aware of the unprecedented threats to human flourishing that the contemporary world posed, and yet the documents are pervaded with a kind of modern optimism, and I don’t think that often was at all justified, the circumspection was justified, and there was a lot of that in there, it’s like right at the time when the ’60s, when so many fundamental human things are either going to be lost or they’ve been riddled with termites, and nobody’s been noticing how weak they have become, and once they’re going to collapse, and the technology has been… And we should have been more aware of it, and have been better prepared to meet its challenges, to avoid it when it needed to be avoided, we cited by it, and everybody was blindsided, but now I don’t think there’s any excuse, we’ve had a century of rapid technological change, and it’s the television that has been around years, no more excuses on that score, and we should really know better, and we don’t. Catholic schools stick computer screens in front of school children-

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, [crosstalk]. I was on a school board of a small Catholic school years ago, Elementary school, and I was the computer programmer at the time, and I remember they were saying, “Hey, let’s get computer training to these kindergarten kids, and first grade kids,” and they looked at me like I would support them, because I’m a computer programmer, I’m, “Are you kidding me?” They wanted to like stick these screens in front of kindergarten kids, this is a Catholic school with pretty good Catholic school too, and they just didn’t see it though, and this is 20 years ago, even then I think they should have seen it, but now it’s, “Do we really [inaudible] want kids in front of screens more?” And they think that somehow that… Because you still see that today.

Anthony Esolen:

[inaudible] at all, when are they going to learn how to read a good book, right? Or sing or play a musical instrument, build a garage or dig a well or go fishing or climb trees or get up a ball or anything human, what possible advantage does the screen has to children? The threats, the filthiest stuff imaginable is just a typewritten word in one click way.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, when you read things from the 1960s, and including the Vatican II documents, I almost feel sorry for the optimism they had, that they had this great optimism that… And it was kind of weird because they’re coming out of World War II, you’d think after all that evil being perpetrated, they would realize the human conditions is not the greatest, but yet they had this optimism, and you can tell is based upon this idea of technological advancement somehow brings about human advancement, just automatically, that because we have better technology now, we’re going to go to the moon soon, all these things, somehow that makes us as humans better, but you said today, I don’t see how people can associate those two things together anymore.

Anthony Esolen:

No, I don’t see how either. The great technological advancement, I have to confess, has been the computer, the microprocessor, and so on, otherwise all the great lofty dreams of technological improvement that were dreamed up in the ’60s, none of them have come to pass, right? We don’t all have our own airplanes, we are not setting up a colony on the moon or on Mars, I wonder whether the pace of technological advancement as regards physical object, buildings, and so forth, I wonder if that really is proceeding or if it is not got outside of the computer, and computer like things, where has been the great technological in my lifetime, right? Since in the last 60 years, where has it been? And yet worrying about whether human beings would be subordinated to the tools they were using, those worries have been with us since the middle of the 19th century, and wise people have constantly been saying, “Listen, you need to take stock of this.” Okay? It’s things we shouldn’t just think that these things happen automatically, and whatever they do, they do, we should not consider human beings to be the tail that the technological dog is wagging, right? We should be in control of technology purposes, for human purposes, and if it no longer serves the most human things, then we should not use it, we should get…

Why would you want a tool that makes your life less happy than it was before or less human? And these things…. The church had the wherewithal to one hand what was going on, and… Well, largely churchmen too are product of their times, now we are dealing with, I think the church is led by people who themselves are very thin, culturally, right?

Eric Sammons:

Right.

Anthony Esolen:

And they… Yeah [inaudible], for instance, about bringing beauty back to the lives of ordinary Catholics, and it’s almost impossible, what can you talk about to… We at Magdalene College, we try to introduce students or reintroduce them to works that should be part of any decently educated human being or Catholics heritage, part of their heritage, right? These things should be a matter of course, right? It should be a matter of that they’re conversant with the great poetry, and their mother tongue, that they’re somewhat familiar with great works of art from the West, especially Christian works of art, that they’re somewhat familiar with the nearly 2000 years of Christian hymnody, probably they’re not, so we try to make up for that deficiency, that should be energetically trying to make up for that deficiency or to rebuild after the color has been reduced to sticks and rubble.

But it’s nearly impossible to talk to people because they’ll immediately get nervous, and they’ll say, “Well, you’re an elitist,” which is to miss the point entirely, and they… Well, partly they get nervous, because nobody likes to be shown up, I mean, nobody likes to be told he had a lot, there’s all these perfectly ordinary human things that you don’t know how to do, because nobody knows how to do them, because of this… I’ve had to learn so many things in the artificial way, right? After the fact, which part of my life, when I was a kid growing up, [inaudible].

Eric Sammons:

Now let’s talk practically a little bit about how we can… Obviously none of us are going to completely restore the culture of the world on our own, but what can an individual like a family, what can we do practically, parents who are listening just or individuals to help start the process, I mean, obviously sending to a college like Magdalene College sounds like a great option, but even before that, in the home, what can… Because remember the parents aren’t educating you, like you just said, none of us are, and so what can the parent… Let’s say a Catholic family who probably goes to a parish that… Let’s just say is culturally thin as well, and what can they do to try to restore culture, at least in their own families?

Anthony Esolen:

Okay, we can take this in a number of directions, right? So just scatter shot off the top of my head, go outside, okay? Things outside, get dirty outside, grow garden, cut trees down, climb trees, build hut, do things outdoors, okay? Get food outdoors, live a human life outdoors, do it with as many people as possible, right? Get together… Let the kids go outdoors, throw them outdoors, tell them not to come back in until supper time, get lost, go do something, okay? Read good books, they don’t have to be the highest classics, get John Senior’s list of “The Thousand Good Books,” and he said, “Good books, not great books.” Some of them are great books, but he put them on the list because they’re good for the soul, and they should be part of people’s heritage, right? Start reading good books.

You don’t know how to play a musical instrument, learn how to play one, you don’t know how to sing, learn to sing, sing together, get together with a group who like to sing, right? Do things, get away from whatever is as much as you can, all right? In the parish, “Hey, you know what would be nice?” If it would be nice if [inaudible], and if you sang the authentic texts of the hymns instead of [inaudible] mutilated is usually embarrassingly, and stupidly so, versions of the hymns that are in gather, and worship for, and glory and praise, and hymns are [inaudible], call them generally, hymns are us, even the traditional hymns, what few managed to survive in, have been mangled, all right? They… Sometimes they’re almost unrecognizable, but they’ve been mangled. Sing the real stuff, get rid of the slop, and bring back real hymns, and those include folk hymns, because what has been passed along is folks in Catholic churches, in English speaking countries, in my lifetime folk music that show tune music for off Broadway musical or something, there’s not folk music.

You want folk? Go to the old hymnals, old hymnals are full of folk music, okay? They’re full of Bach and Mendelssohn, and Brahms themselves are full of folk music, and they’re also full of music that’s directly from the folk. Without Mendelssohn and Brahms, good… And they start to do that. I mean, there’s so much, I suppose… I intent about saying, get up together, reading groups in your parishes, because there are more fundamental uneven than that. Here’s one thing that is desperately needed in every single parish in this… Every single one. The boys, and the girls do not enjoy each other’s company anymore, and [inaudible] for that, because what they have seen by the time they’re 13 or 14 years old, has scorched their soul, all right? And they are taught to be wary of one another, to think of one another as liars, manipulators, predators, this is utterly unhealthy, okay?

They don’t think when they grow up, they’ll go out on dates, they’re not going to do that, nobody does that, that cannot happening, okay? Every single… They need to see to it that the young people, the boys and the girls, have wholesome ways of enjoying each company, one sex with the other sex, okay? Specifically as boys, and specifically as girls, not just indiscriminate teenagers, but as boys in jus… Where are the dancers? Okay. If you…

Let’s suppose you’re a teenager in the year 1960, before everything falls off the edge of a cliff, right? You’re a 17 year old boy, there’s a 17 year old girl, who has just moved into town, and she’s very pretty, and you would like [inaudible] with her, okay? What can you ask her to do? You can ask her to do all kinds of things, first of all, no big deal for you to ask her, because everybody does that, everybody expects it, everybody does it, okay? It’s just a common expected thing, so you do.

So where do you go? Well, you could go play miniature golf, footballing, you could go see a show, and won’t be foul, right? You can go see a movie or you can go to a dance, you can listen to cons, there are all kinds of things, and all kinds of places, almost all of that is gone, right? I mean, a little town as late as the mid ’70s, my little Podunk town in, oh, country of Penn, would still have dancers at least one every week during, and the spring, the early autumn, and things had already gone south by then, right?

But there were things, there were a lot healthier, 15 years, 20 years before, where are they now? Right? Not in no sense, and that’s just a one single feature of this tremendous fact which nobody in any capacity that I’ve seen in our church seems to have any awareness of that there is absolutely nothing here for an ordinary teenage boy, and teenage girl to do with one another, and so they don’t, and this means that if they obey the moral war, they are lonely, okay? And… I don’t even want to talk about that, because the things that are common now are almost unspeakable, so what has the church done? What have the done to provide wholesome ways of getting the young people comfortable with one another as the sexes, and getting them married, we’ve done almost nothing, I’m talking about fun things, I’m not talking about marriage preparation, which is kind of orthodontics, I’m talking about fun.

Eric Sammons:

And it sounds though to me in today’s culturally today’s society, one of the probably the best ways to do that is through homeschooling groups, because we homeschool, and at one point when we homeschool, we lived in an area where there was almost no other homeschoolers, and it was tough, I mean, it was tough for the kids, because like you said, there was just no opportunities for activities, but to say same time, we didn’t feel comfortable putting them in a public school where there were plenty activities, and they were all awful, and so it’s, “Okay,” well, we had to choose between those two bad options, and fortunately we live now where there’s more opportunities, but I think that seems to be one path forward is for homeschooling communities to hold these dances, hold various… Some ways for people to get together, I mean, unfortunately you can’t just send them out to the movies, because most of the movies are trash or whatever.

Anthony Esolen:

Not now. Well, parishes, right? They should be key players in this, they really think about what we used to have, there used to be the CYO, right? Catholic Youth Organization, and there was CYO basketball that was coast to coast, right? Is everywhere. The first basketball court in my little coal mining town was not built by the public school, it was built by the parish, father Comerford, a hundred years ago with family money, built a three-story parish hall, okay? He was thinking, right? I need the gainers, something wholesome, and interesting, and fun to do that doesn’t involve… Okay? Dusty coal miners after 10 hours of work down underneath or prone to get drunk, so he built a three-story parish hall, there was a Billiards room, right? There was a reading room, the small library, there were meeting rooms, four or…?

Okay, and on the third floor, a basketball court, and a theatre stage with curtain and lights, so that up there you could put on plays or concerts or you have a dance or you could play basketball, okay? And the public high school across the street… At the free use of that basketball court for their students, because they didn’t have one. Now obviously parishes, I suppose, can’t afford to do that now, and Father Comerford with his own money, his family money, but the idea is, let’s get the people together doing ordinary things that people do, get them doing them in a wholesome way, right? Nothing in the parish hall had specifically a religious nature, a pool, but it is a brilliant conception, right? There ought to be concerts, and dances, and ice cream socials, and ways for the boys, and the girls, [inaudible] each other, as boys, as girls, and get people married, to have young people have fun, having fun, and that’s… I mean, if we’re not doing that, the reading “Crime and Punishment” is not quite… I’m not… Let’s all read Dostoevsky, I love Dostoevsky…

Greatest novelist ever… I heard Charles Dickens, and yet, no, I don’t want everybody reading “Crime and Punishment” or their brother’s [inaudible] or spacement, not before they’ve had ice cream socials, and dances, and concerts, and all the human things, which are not in place.

Eric Sammons:

I’m sure you’re probably familiar with Rod Deher’s book, “The Benedict Option,” and I think there’s some overlap here, I’m just kind of wondering your thoughts on that, because I think his point’s a little bit more political, I know, but it’s the idea that we’ve lost the culture wars, just we need to admit that fact, and then we rebuild the culture through these small communities, is what you’re saying similar to that or is there differences between kind of that idea of seeing us losing the culture wars, and building up a community through a St Benedict type way of these monastic communities, not that we would be the monastic communities, but you know what I mean? Something like that helps build the culture.

Anthony Esolen:

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of overlap, he wrote his book at the same time that I wrote “Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture,” and Archbishop Chaput wrote, and there’s a lot of overlap, and I’ve talked to Rod about these things, we had a [inaudible] about just this subject that Touchstone Magazine conference a few years ago, he understands that we’re not talking about separatism, right? Understands too that these are things that have to be done in a community, okay? About a family here, a family there or even a little tiny group of families here, and a little tiny group there, we’re talking about something bigger than that, I sometimes call them outposts sanity, okay? We can call them some fun too.

Eventually what you want is that people from the world, right? A world that really doesn’t even pretend anymore to have anything great to recommend it, okay? A world where nobody even pretends that everybody has a lot of near human fun, I mean, even Disney is grim, and sour, and bitter, they’ll say, “Hey, we’re missing something human here.” I think [inaudible] needs to be done in communities, and this is why the parish is so important, the parish is sort of ready made, okay? It’s got the land, it’s got a building, a reason for people coming together regularly, getting to know each other, it’s a lot of fun things are there that can be worked up, right? The one thing that I’ll say, and I think Rod would agree with this, is that it’s not so much that we’ve lost the cult as that we have lost, but there is no culture against which we are fighting, there’s a monstrosity there that goes sometimes by the name of a culture, but it isn’t real culture, it is a monstro… But it doesn’t make anybody happy, it does make a lot of people rich, it does make some certain people, it doesn’t make anybody happy.

And in that regard, we’re not fighting against some, we’re fighting against a great, big, nothing, a great, big vacuity, and emptiness, and rubble, okay? And so presents to us an unprecedented opportunity. Back in the old days, when you went to evangelize to people, they had pagan culture, and you had to strive with that, also presented you things to work with, because every culture would possess some measure of truth and beauty, now the thing over there had really nothing to offer, because is nothing, it’s a great big monstrous nothing which gives us a bit of an [crosstalk] that it’s harder.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I was just going to say it gives us a-

Anthony Esolen:

I’m sorry.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I was going to say there’s nothing to fight against in the sense that there’s nothing attractive about what’s going on right now, so if we actually present something attractive, which is probably what’s so frustrating, I think, about how the church presents yourself today, it presents yourself in the least it’s attractive way possible almost, and so, but if we really present ourselves in the most attractive way, it is something that people will be attracted to, because, I mean, our competition is like you said, “This monster is nothing.”

Anthony Esolen:

Yeah, let me give you an example, so at our school Magdalene College, right? All of the students participate in the choir, of them are always up there singing, all students participate to a large degree are really central to the whole thing, okay? So week or so before Christmas, about 40 or 50 of the students came down in front of my house here in town, and sang for us Advent hymns and Christmas carols, okay? And a fascinating thing happened, we’ve got new neighbors on one side of us here, haven’t really met them yet, strange, okay? Because in a normal human culture you’d have met them like the next day, but we’re not normal, I think they’re on the political left, at least their bumper stickers suggested, and other people across the street don’t seem to have any particular religion at all.

There’s these kids, they’re singing, and there’s singing in harmony, right? Boys and girls, young men and women singing in four part harmony, sometimes polyphonically, and it is immensely attractive, people are attracted to it before they even think, “Oh gee, what’s the ideology here?” They don’t even think that, they’re attracted to it, because it’s normal, it’s human, and people stopped, if they were walking past, they stopped or they came out door, because they heard it, and they stood out in a cold, and they listened to it, they didn’t know any of the kids, they listened to it, it’s, “Holy cow, how about that?” I only saw that in it and only once.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I think that’s a perfect example-

Anthony Esolen:

You need to multiply that by a hundred.

Eric Sammons:

Right, and if our parishes are presenting beauty, and obviously our homes, and things like that, those things are attractive to people, and like you said, it’s not a matter of thinking, first of all, what’s the ideology behind it? They’re, “This is just beautiful, I’m attracted to it, I think it’s neat.” I mean, it’s as simple as that.

Anthony Esolen:

Yeah, and fun, if your parish is big enough, and it… Of course, I wouldn’t have to add that qualifier, because there were so many kids that would matter if you had a small parent, shouldn’t be so many kids, but together a couple of baseball teams, and play each other every week or so during the summer. Get up, pick up baseball games, and don’t be embarrassed to say, “You know what? This is for the boys.” Okay? Don’t be embarrassed to say that, there’s no need to be embarrassed, some things you could get together, some things only, and then some things bring them together, and as the more people see these things, then people look at them, and they say, “You know what? I don’t know what they’re drinking over there at that table? But I want them to serve me some of what they’re drinking.”

And somebody will say, “Oh, you don’t want to be around with those Catholics, they believe this, they believe that…” Person might ultimately say, “Listen, I don’t even care what they believe right now. Right now, I don’t know what they believe, I don’t care what they believe, but I see this, they’re having fun, they’re doing something interesting. Big cow, it looks like those young people… I haven’t seen a boy and a girl holding hands in 15 years, and look, there it is over there, I don’t know what they’re drinking, give me some of it.” Right? Okay-

Eric Sammons:

I think, I was going to say-

Anthony Esolen:

… exactly we say, “We’ve got some special wine.”

Eric Sammons:

I think though… What I see in a lot of parishes, I see there’s a parish nearby, it’s this pretty large, it has lots of activities, but it doesn’t seem to be doing it all what you’re saying, what I mean by that is the people I know who… It’s not my parish, but I have some friends who go there, they’re just over scheduled with lots of different activities…They have their soccer meets, and they have a soccer field… They actually have a gymnasium, they actually have a soccer field, and things like that, but it just seems what happens is the families are just so busy, they’re just going from this to that, to that, and it just almost running around with like chickens with their head cut off to do all these things, and it’s a lot of it’s through the parish, so obviously that’s good, but that’s not… That doesn’t seem to be what you’re saying, so what’s the difference between over scheduling, and just doing all this, and having lots of activities, and kind of the life of the parish that you’re talking about.

Anthony Esolen:

The best thing about a lot of this is that it doesn’t need to involve signing up, once these things are well established, they go on, and you show up, if you feel like it, right? You just show up. Back in the old days, when there were lots of kids, and you had a little league in town, people would just show up to watch the game, they didn’t even have to have a kid there, they say, “Well, there’s game over there, going to take a peak, and just sit down, and what’s going on.”

If it’s a sort of regular on a Sunday afternoon in the summer that you have a ball game in the field, well, that’s… Again, this is not something that necessarily you have to commit to, we do too much of that, okay? Much of what I doubt needs to be established is intended at first, but when it’s healthy it has a life of its own, right? And you would just say to yourself, “Hey, I don’t have anything to do, let’s go on over to hear the music at the church this afternoon.” Right? Because there’s this girl I’d like to ask her to do something fun with me, what can I do? Well, the church is having ice cream, interesting, “Oh, okay, yeah, sure, we’ll do that, right?” It’s tough to get them started, but they’re healthy, they go on, and it’s not official in any way, it’s not a duty, right? Where’s the bowling alley, right? So many of these things are gone.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s for sure.

Anthony Esolen:

Where’s the bowling alley?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I mean, yeah, I think that’s the idea of… It’s not the scheduled activities that we’re breaking up our days with… But just, “Okay, let’s go find, let’s just have things to do, and you can choose to do them or choose not to do them.” Yeah, we’re going to, we’re getting-

Anthony Esolen:

We need to move more deliberately about this at first, but that kind of deliberation is in large part artificial, it’s necessary, but once things are established in a healthy way, we don’t need that anymore, it’s because we’re natural.

Eric Sammons:

I think we’re going to wrap it up here pretty soon, but I just wanted to… One more question I just wanted to ask was, if you’re a Catholic family, go your parish, you want to implement some of this stuff at your parish, this is the tough question, how do you go about doing, how do you approach the pastor just to say, obviously he doesn’t want more work to do, how do you approach a parish to say, “Hey, let’s do this or that, what’s kind of the best way, how to get started moving in this direction?”

Anthony Esolen:

You got me. I’m no great organizer, and I could never organize anything. I can hardly organize my day, I suppose you might go to say, “Father, young people don’t have anything healthy to do, we have a field here, how about a dance? Well, nobody knows how to dance well, let’s get together somebody who knows about dancing, old fashioned styles of dance, and maybe we can have some fun, not just dancing, but learning how to dance, what about it, Father?” And once he decides that the insurance company will allow it, there’s another problem.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, right.

Anthony Esolen:

Then go for it.

Eric Sammons:

That’s a great way to, I mean, just even learning how to dance, and things like that.

Anthony Esolen:

Oh, how to dance? I don’t?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I definitely don’t. My kids have done some… They had some dance lessons classes at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I know, and they did some dances there, which was… That was nice, and they’ve learned some… I think those are good… I think even earlier than college age would be nice, at the high school age, and things like that.

Anthony Esolen:

Oh gosh, you should be learning that stuff when you’re seven or eight years old.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s true. Nobody does-

Anthony Esolen:

Really.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. I think-

Anthony Esolen:

It’s another one of the things that happens naturally in a healthy culture, nobody has to say, “Oh, what’s oh… Let’s plan on this,” it just happens, you didn’t take square dance classes in Tennessee, you just grew up learning.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, you just… Yeah, everybody did it.

Anthony Esolen:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

Well, let’s… Before we go, I want to ask you to let us know how we can find out about your books, is there a particular book that came out recently you want to promote or just how we can find out, and get… Obviously go to Crisis Magazine, I just want to make a note real quick, one of the most popular pages on the Crisis Magazine website is the author page, your author page on there, we get more hits on that page than almost anything else for me.

Anthony Esolen:

Really?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, it’s amazing, I guess when they search on you, they just see where they go, so… But yeah, so how can people find out-

Anthony Esolen:

Oh gosh, well, I think [inaudible]. People to check out Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts, both for sending your young people here, a wonderful place, and it’s quite healthy in all the ways that I’ve been describing, right? Or to, if you don’t have young people who are of college age to really strongly consider donating to us, to your Alma mater or your mater ferox, I mean, why donate to such places is usually gets the money, right? We could use the support, and use your prayer, and students, and that’s for my books, there’s… Well, the book that you meant is out and available running commentary on the first 18 verses of the gun, which Catholics used to hear at the end of every mass, the so-called last gospel, but for a rebuilding culture, this is one salvo of mine in that, it’s the book of… It’s a single poem, which is a book of poems, a hundred poems called “a Hundredfold.”

And if you’re afraid of poetry, don’t work… I write in traditional meters, and there are 40 pages of an introduction to explain how to read a poem.

Eric Sammons:

Very good.

Anthony Esolen:

Again, the sort of thing that you didn’t have to do in the old days, just as you didn’t have to teach young people how to dance, because they picked it up when they were growing up, but you do have to teach people how to do that now, and you do have to teach people what a poem is now, and I was, so I do this, and these are all centered upon the life of Christ, okay? And I really have meant it as getting it out there saying, “Hey fellow Christian Catholics, we need to take back a portion of culture too, because it too has been reduced to rubble, it’s been abandoned, well, let’s take it back.” Poetry, I mean, “Okay, let’s take it back.” The universal human art, no culture is without it, except for us.

Eric Sammons:

I’ll make sure I link to Magdalene college, and “Out of the Ashes,” and “The Hundredfold,” I know my wife has read “The Hundredfold,” we have that here somewhere, but I haven’t, so now I’m encouraged, because I admit it, I’m not a poetry guy, so now I’m going to be… I’m encouraged to actually pick it up, especially the part where you said explains how to read poetry, that’s the part I need.

Anthony Esolen:

Oh, I teach you what’s going on, and to wet your appetite even a little bit more, 12 of the poems are dramatic monologues spoken by some character in the time of Christ or shortly after, okay? So for instance, what would St Peter say to himself on that fateful night when he denied Christ after the cock crowed, and he wept bitterly, what’s Peter thinking? Well that’s one of the… Or one of the monologues or that blind man, Bartimaeus, after he’s been given his sight, what would he say? Or imagine that boy who had the couple of fishes, when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, now he’s a grandfather, and he’s telling his grandsons about what happened, what would he say?

Eric Sammons:

Okay, that sounds intriguing.

Anthony Esolen:

What does that man say? Or Mary, Joseph has passed away, Jesus has not begun [inaudible 01:01:10] yet, it’s early in the morning, he’s asleep, and she’s looking at him, and she’s still thinking a sword shelter her heart, she’s thinking about him, and she worries, what does she say to herself?

Eric Sammons:

Sounds very good, sounds excellent, I can’t wait to pick it up now. Well, thank you.

Anthony Esolen:

You have to tell me where you at.

Eric Sammons:

Yes, I will, I’m sure my wife loved it, so I’ll have to figure it out. I’ll have to pick it up now, so… Well, we’re going to end here, and I appreciate the time, and hopefully some practical tips for people, and I think it’s a very important topic, it’s kind of the underlying… We talk about a crisis, all the different issues going on, and we try to give minor things, but this is the current underneath it, that’s kind of pushing everything, and so this is how we kind of dig a little deeper into the current, and try to maybe change the course of the current more rather than just the things on that are floating on the top, which is what we normally deal with, so… Well great, thank you very much, and until next time everybody, God love you.

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