The Soldier

When I see Anthony Esolen’s name I am compelled to read on.  Professor Esolen  teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College.  He has also authored numerous books.  Apparently Esolen has come under attack in response to a couple of recent articles he wrote.  James M. Kishiner of Mere Comments blog writes:

If you have benefitted from the writings of Touchstone Senior Editor Anthony Esolen–and there are many of us out there who have–you need to know that he is under severe attack at his school, Providence College, where he teaches Renaissance Literature. His “crimes” include 2 articles written for the Catholic web-magazine ‘Crisis’ which Rod Dreher links to in his post today at The American Conservative:

“We may wish to maintain a faithful presence in the institutions of culture, but that doesn’t mean the culture wants us there, or will let us remain without crossing lines that we cannot in good conscience cross. What then? At the present moment, the literature professor, Dante scholar, and orthodox Catholic Anthony Esolen is under severe attack at his own institution, Providence College, for having recently written a couple of essays criticizing the present conception of “diversity” on his Catholic campus, and reflecting on the persecutorial phase of our culture (here’s one, and here’s the other). Protesting students and even some faculty are attempting to drive him out of the college for wrongthink. They may not succeed, not if tenure means anything, but they are likely to succeed in making his life there hell, such that he would love to shake the dust off his feet and get out of town.   But where would he go?

Both of Esolen’s articles are worthwhile reads.  I particularly liked the second (“other”) one, titled “What Will You Do When Persecution Comes?”  Esolen thinks that Catholics will most likely belong to four categories in that situation: the persecutor, the quisling, the avenger and the soldier.   It is the soldier that interests me.  Esolen:

Last we have the Soldier. The Soldier complains about his superiors not because they give him bad orders, but because they give him no orders at all. He wants to do battle, and is willing to be led. He knows that war is hell, but that he and the Church have not sought the war. The war and the demons who lead it have sought the Church, to adulterate her or to kill her. The Soldier would prefer peace: he would prefer that his country might return to at least a worldly sanity, and grant the Church the liberty that she is owed and that redounds to the great benefit of the state itself.

The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but my generals must be perfectly wise.” Generals are never perfectly wise or perfectly anything else. The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but only if I do not have to share the field with these others,” which others may be traditionalists, the ecumenically minded, Protestants friendly to the Catholic Church, or Catholics who disagree with him on some political point. The Soldier is grateful for his brothers in arms, and if their uniforms are a little different from his, he figures that the Lord of Hosts will sort the matter out in the end.

The Soldier does not make light of the desperate situation. His name is not Pollyanna. But he remembers the words of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” The Soldier will not refuse a hearty meal, but he will not grumble if he has to fast. The Soldier is filled with thymos: his eyes narrow and look to the horizon; his nostrils flare and his heart beats with excitement; he sings Rise Up, O Men of God; he craves honor, most of all the honor of the Church; he does not care who calls him a fool. He is immensely attractive and wins the respect even of his enemies. He brings both men and women into the Church without that being his principal aim, because it is sweeter to spend one day in the field with the Soldier than a thousand in the halls of the wealthy, the powerful, the timid, the faithless, and the mad.

May God grant us the grace to be Soldiers—all of us, now. The war is here.

Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O men of God! His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God!  The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task; Rise up, and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where His feet have trod;
As brothers of the Son of Man, Rise up, O men of God!
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