On Unemployed Youth and Forgotten Elderly


alzheimers_elderlyThere’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 – analyze 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 forever 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, and violence. The list is extensive. Sadly, many Christians are oblivious to and actually condone these behaviors.

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.


This article originally appeared on Catholic Insight and is used with permission.


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  • Hello Terry,

    Here’s the full quote from Pope Francis:

    “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one
    nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crashed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

    So it really seems as if he is saying the same thing you are: when a society
    lacks hope, it cannot function, and a society that cannot function is a description of the modern world par excellence.

  • noelfitz


    You always give us sound solid articles, thanks.

    you disagree in charity with the pope. Also I would disagree with you very mildly, and also with charity and respect. The pope said, as you quote, “the most serious evils that afflict the world in recent years are youth unemployment and the solitude in which the old are left”.

    The solitude of the old is often not their fault, it is not due to their
    purposelessness always, or to their love of self and things.

    I am reminded of Shakespeare who noted “unregarded age in corners thrown” (As You Like It) and also wrote “how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child”.
    (King Lear).

    The solitude of the elderly is often a disgrace, and if we can we should
    minimize it.

    • Terry

      Kevin and Noelfitz, thank you for your comments. I appreciate your input. When this post appeared elsewhere, the comments were diverse, reflecting a wide viewpoint. I think that’s great. Pope Francis is opening dialogue we may not otherwise have and for that I am thankful (especially this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend). You’re right, the solitude of the elderly is a terrible disgrace. I see it everyday when I go to work and from experience, I feel there there is much work to do in this area.