Sunday, December 30, 2007

Family Legacy?

I made it into my thirties without knowing this........

Was at a family function and one of our geneologist buffs told me that we are related to one of the 2 men executed as warlocks at the Salem witch trials.

Not particularly surprising, really explains alot.

If I remember correctly, upon hearing of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, instituted by the Puritans to commemorate their leaving England, Chesterton wanted to institute a similar holiday in England, celebrating the fact that they left.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas - Book Things

Sorry to have missed my regular Chaos.

Local library just had overflow sale.........amazing deals

Hardcover 50cents
Softcover 25cents

They are just trying to offload. Ive picked up some amazing stuff over the years.

This year I picked up a hardcover edition of the complete poetical works of Milton, and some of his more important prose and political tracts. Also picked up a hardcover, gorgeously illustrated edition of original middle English, but I can battle through it, I have contemporary editions of all the same material.

As far as GKCness.......Im making a resolution to read his small bio of Chaucer for New Years. I dont think it is very long regardless, just to get a feeling for his reactions.

And a QUESTION for the readership!!!

I got a $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Card for Christmas!!!

Im stumped what to do with it. Will take advice. Im leaning towards picking up a copy of Dore's Illustrations for Idylls of the King, but Ill take advice on what to do with the rest of it.

Thanks and God Bless.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Carol

By G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A surprising introduction

I was trying to teach my high school students about writing descriptively. We had a few examples in our book, but then I remembered one of my favorite descriptive passages: The opening chapter of Bleak House and its description of fog.

I knew I had an old “Everyman’s Library” edition – 1954, but first published in 1907 – that I hadn’t read in years. I found it in my bookcase at home, and brought it in the next day.

I read the passage. Then I happened to look at the introduction.

Yes, it was Chesterton’s. A treasure I didn’t even realize I had.

Somehow I never thought of Dickens as somehow like “mature potato“ or Napoleon, but Chesterton made it all work.

He talks of Dickens’ growing maturity as a novelist. And he praises the very section I read – “Dickens’s openings are almost always good; but the opening of Bleak House is good in a quite new and striking way.”

And in talking about Dickens’s use of the fog (of the air, and of Chancery), he observes, “He means that all the characters and all the events shall be read through the smoky colours of the sinister and unnatural vapor.”

Fancy that. Enjoying a great book not only for the book itself, but also for its introduction.

A little Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Schall at Dappled

Fr. Schall has written a GKCish piece for Dappled Things about Christmas. He opens with this lesser-known quote:
“Christmas . . . is one of numberless old European feasts of which the essence is the combination of religion with merry-making. But among those feasts it is also especially and distinctively English in the style of its merry-making and even in the style of its religion. For the character of Christmas (as distinct, for instance, from the continental Easter) lies chiefly in two things: first on the terrestrial side the note of comfort rather than the note of brightness and on the spiritual side, Christian charity rather than Christian ecstasy.”
- G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, 1906

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Great Giving

If you still can not think of what to give that special someone who already has a book shelve of Chesterton here is a great idea, Portraits of Grace: Images and Words from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, by James Stephen Behrens, OCSO.

Father Behrens is a Trappist monk at the monastery and a master photographer.

Photography is the most difficult of the art forms to create transcendent beauty because it is the easiest art to do – point and click. This is what still keeps the debate going on whether or not photography is an art or a craft.

Father Behrens has created art in this collection. He also has written short reflections to accompany the photos.

Good art or poetry takes the common and makes it divine or takes the divine and makes it common. Truly great art does both in the same piece. “The meaning of life is often hidden amidst the ordinary, asking only that we pause, look, ponder,” the author notes. All of Fr. Behrens art is good and some of it is great.

And by giving this gift you give twice because all the proceeds from the book’s sale help the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.

You can get this book at Amazon

Weekend Thoughts

Ive been thinking lately about the English-ness of Chesterton and its place in his Catholicism. As Americans, inheritors of the English language and other aspects of Anglo culture we could likely benefit from some reflection.

Olde England was Catholic to its soul. There are some in Chestertonia who delve into this deeply with the stories and legends of the old missionary saints and the role played by the monasteries for almost a thousand years. It also stands to note that the English model of governmental development reflected the development of doctrine in Catholicism to a certain degree. I hate using terms vaguely, but England, Britain, and the UK all mean specific things and I might accidentally interchange. To my point, the British government does not derive from a single document, like the US Constitution, but rather emerges from a long series of acts and motions over a period of time, beginning in general with the Magna Carta. At least that's what I was taught in school. This isnt a perfect parallel, but it does mirror the process of Catholic thought in many ways. This makes the sheer violence of the Tudor era unsurprising. An amputation, such as what the break away of Henry/Elizabeth was, is a very bloody thing by definition. I do not think that this is a point of historical minutiae or religious esotericism. There is a lesson to be drawn here that sexuality and power, particularly of the state, wield forces of persuasion stronger than a thousand years of tradition and entwined systems.

Something Ive thought about in the larger sense is that for as catholic and Catholic as England/Britain have been, their experience is still just a small part of the life of the universal Church. Paradoxically, it is the Angloness of Chesterton's Catholicism that has really opened my eyes to the fellowship we share with the ancient Syriac Churches, the Greeks, the Japanese martyrs, and continental Christendom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Again

This, by all accounts, has been a bad year for me. Filled with tragedy, disappointments and emotional upheaval, perhaps the worst year I have gone through. I sunk into a deep blue funk. Blah. Blah. Balh.
A couple of things have helped me turn around to start winning the battle of spiritual sloth. The battle turned on a few seemingly unconnected phrases. The first was remembering what my grandma used to tell me whenever I was down, “Ah, It feels so good to feel so bad.” The next was a line from a popular song “Life goes on after the thrill of living has gone.”

These phrases swirled around in my head as I watched the first Advent candle being lit. Both made me laugh. Grandma was right, she was very Franciscan in her thinking and Cougar was wrong, life is always a thrill. As our friend Gilbert would say, " An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."
The Church understands suffering and brings us comfort in many ways. One is with a sense of humor. Saint Steven (feast day Dec. 26) was named Patron Saint of stone masons and headaches. How can you not love a Church that would do that?
“Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.”

Yes, it is now Advent, the Word will be made flesh. The world receives hope. Yes, yes, it is the event that broke the back of the world and it is still reeling and still erect.

What could possibly be more of a thrilling ride.

Mencken on Wells and Chesterton

By E.J. Scheske

"A man with a head worth a pile of Chesterton heads as high as the Trafalgar monument."

That's H.L. Mencken, writing about H.G. Wells, dissing G.K. Chesterton.

Mencken was a Chesterton fan at first. In January 1910, he reviewed Chesterton's George Bernard Shaw with this type of high praise: "The cleverest man in all the world, with the second cleverest as his subject, is here doing his cleverest writing. . . Not since St. Augustine have the gods sent us a man who could make the incredible so fascinatingly probable."

HLM tired of GKC. Not too surprising. As GKC become increasingly Catholic, he probably became increasingly distasteful (and boring) to HLM.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Simply delightful

From Gerald Lynch's Leacock on Life:
In his time, [Canadian humourist/economist Stephen Leacock] shared the press’s more plentiful pages with such of his essaying contemporaries as H.G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, George Bernard Shaw, and G.K. Chesterton. Leacock and Chesterton met over a billiard game, which the two insisted on keeping private for its three-hour duration, and became friends. In a piece poking fun at a fad for getting at the private person behind the public figure [...] Leacock concludes a pretty funny catalogue with the news that the corpulent Chesterton is, in private, actually quite thin.
I'll likely be putting together a brief piece about Leacock for an upcoming issue of Gilbert, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for it in the future.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Thoughts

Greetings All,

Cant wait to read the new encyclical. Im glad to see some reference to it here.

Im noticing a wonderful trend in the Catholic blogs over the last couple months. Im sensing a bit of a turn towards the fullness of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. There are so many things we could lament and complain about when it comes to the Church , the nation, and the world, but Im seeing a great deal of appreciation of art, of the seasons, of beer and joie d'vive. This is what I think mature spirituality looks like rescued from a hundred different fundamentalisms.

A Clerihew...

Mitt Romney
Is not the enemy
Following Joseph Smith
Does not make him a Sith

er, ok. another one......

Barrak Obama
Is strong in Iowa
Oprah's best pitch
Can make Hilary a witch


Everybody have a great weekend and God Bless

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Giuliani Clerihew

With Rudy
you get Judy.
His former mistress, I must confess,
looks better than he does in a dress.
(i.e. - Giuliani is currently married to his third wife and his former mistress, Judith Nation. And yes, that is Giulini.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Morley on GKC

In 1912 Christopher Morley, then a 22-year-old Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, was shown a "real" book manuscriptthe first he had ever seen. It was The Victorian Age in Literature, "all," he remembered, "in Chesterton's strong curly hand." [Helen MckOakley, Three Hours for Lunch, New York: Watermill, 1976]

Monday, December 03, 2007


So, I'm back.


Reading through the Holy Father's latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, I came across a passage that contains a dramatic evocation of something that will be familiar to many of our readers. The whole document is worth reading, of course, but this passage in particular (from article 6) delights me:
The figure of Christ is interpreted on ancient sarcophagi principally by two images: the philosopher and the shepherd. Philosophy at that time was not generally seen as a difficult academic discipline, as it is today. Rather, the philosopher was someone who knew how to teach the essential art: the art of being authentically human—the art of living and dying. To be sure, it had long since been realized that many of the people who went around pretending to be philosophers, teachers of life, were just charlatans who made money through their words, while having nothing to say about real life. All the more, then, the true philosopher who really did know how to point out the path of life was highly sought after. Towards the end of the third century, on the sarcophagus of a child in Rome, we find for the first time, in the context of the resurrection of Lazarus, the figure of Christ as the true philosopher, holding the Gospel in one hand and the philosopher's travelling staff in the other. With his staff, he conquers death; the Gospel brings the truth that itinerant philosophers had searched for in vain. In this image, which then became a common feature of sarcophagus art for a long time, we see clearly what both educated and simple people found in Christ: he tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human. He shows us the way, and this way is the truth. He himself is both the way and the truth, and therefore he is also the life which all of us are seeking. He also shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life.
What am I driving at? Why:
"The Convert"
By G.K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
The second stanza, in particular, seems significant, especially given the attention paid in the passage above to Christ's status as the "true philosopher."

Further encyclical-based eurekas as events warrant.