Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rochester Chesterton Conference - revisted

I attended the Rochester (NY) Chesterton Conference September 29th. It's the ninth such conference hosted by the local Chesterton group, and it was one of the best attended ones I've been to. The picture below was taken as people were coming in after a break. Many of these empty seats were actually full. 
The theme of the days was "History Matters," and we were treated to a number of fine presentations - all delivered with typical Chestertonian levity and wisdom.  

Lou Horvath of the Rochester Chesterton Society served as emcee. 

The day began with Christopher Check of Catholic Answers giving us a witty history of the Battle of Lepanto, and then dramatically recited Chesterton's Lepanto - from memory! He deserved the round of applause he received. 

David Higbee of Rochester's St. Irenaeus Center then explored the implications of the appearance of Mary at Fatima. Fatima was a wake up call, he said, and suggested that maybe we still need to wake up. The path to heaven is a narrow one, he noted: "I pray more of us will wake up and pursue that narrow way."

After lunch, writer and editor Joseph Pearce was welcomed warmly, and not with the customary pretend abuse, which took him off guard. (The "abuse" is a running joke, which he always takes in good humor.) Once he recovered, he talked about the history of true England - Catholic England - dating back to Roman days. 

And then there was Dale Ahlquist, who allegedly has something to do with the American G. K Chesterton Society - President or some such thing. Beside talking about the fish that got away, oh wait, different talk. Actually, Ahlquist talked about Arthur, The Most Famous King Not in History.  Ahlquist pointed out how important Arthur has been celebrated throughout English history up until the modern era, and briefly analyzed the significance of Excalibur, the Round Table, and the Holy Grail. He brought Chesterton in, of course. He also humorously referred to the Dark Ages as the "unlettered interlude in history" (a couple of times, savoring the words).
But getting serious, he warned that the Dark Ages are returning. We are witnessing the return of an age of barbarians. But he also reminded us that the Church is the thing that brought us out of those first Dark Ages - and the Church remains.
Indeed, amid all the humor and the wit tossed about by the speakers and during conversations between talks and at lunch, there was a subcurrent of concern about the direction our nation and society are taking. A Dark Ages and a return of barbarians? Maybe.
Overall, a great conference. On a lighter not, after all my years of attending the conferences and entering the raffles, I finally won something: A wonderful Chesterton tee-shirt! And, of course, I bought some books. Plenty of fine reading awaits
And maybe some extra praying as the barbarians draw nearer.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rochester Chesterton Conference

It's coming! It's coming!

The annual Rochester Chesterton Conference is scheduled for Saturday, September 29, at St. John Fisher College in Rochester (actually, in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, but close enough).

More details to come.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Belloc and me: Birds of a tar and feather?

This morning while showering a thought occurred to me.

Thoughts often occur to me while showering. I usually grow frustrated because I can't immediately write them down, and always feel that by the time I get to pen and paper I've lost that perfect wording that had come to me as water poured down upon my head. And, of course, shower-inspired ideas are open to being described as all wet.

Be that as it may, today something occurred to me about Hilaire Belloc.

Belloc is, of course, linked with G. K. Chesterton. I am a great fan of GKC. I own dozens of his books and collections of his newspaper essays. I read him regularly, often in sips, getting interrupted and having to mark my spot in whatever book or essay I'm reading. But I always come back, and eventually finish whatever I'm reading, enjoying the experience.

Not so with Belloc. I have tried to read him, but I can't seem to warm up to him, nor have I been able to finish many of his essays and books (except his poetry). As with Chesterton, I am often pulled away while sipping Belloc's prose. But unlike Chesterton, I often do not return to finish, or even feel a desire to do so.

I've wondered about that. Is there something amiss in me. (Okay, that's a given.) People I respect swear by Belloc. Why do I feel I'm more likely to swear at Belloc?

But as the water washed away the shampoo in my eyes this morning, that thought I alluded to earlier struck me.

Maybe I have a hard time warming up to Belloc because he reminds too much of me.

Belloc earned the nickname "Old Thunder" because of his combative style. Chesterton could argue, then make friends with his foes. I can imagine him heading off to the pub after a debate and tossing back a few  with whomever he had recently been arguing. Belloc seemed more likely to argue and turn friends into foes. If he showed up in a pub where his foe was drinking, I could imagine Belloc getting a drink tossed in his face.

When if comes to arguing, I am like Belloc. I fight well, fiercely, unrelentingly. I'm like a dog that clamps my jaws on my opponent's argument and refuses to let go until my opponent gives up, flees, or dies. Along the way I antagonize, I enrage, I create bad blood with whomever I'm battling.

As a result, I've alienated friends. I've kept other people from becoming friends. I've ended up wearing out my welcome in many places.

And I get sworn at. (So far no drinks tossed in my face, though.)

I am not happy about this.

So when I read Belloc, maybe I see too much that reminds me of things I don't like about myself.


Or maybe that idea really is all wet.