Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chesterton - The Wedding Feast

"And, meanwhile, any one Catholic peasant, while holding one small bead of the rosary in his fingers, can be conscious, not of one eternity, but of a complex and almost a conflict of eternities; as, for example, in the relations of Our Lord and Our Lady, of the fatherhood and the childhood of God, of the motherhood and the childhood of Mary." - Where All Roads Lead

I'm not sure if Chesterton was one to pray the Rosary. I can imagine him starting to pray with a Rosary and getting lost in reflecting on some obscure topic he would somehow be able to link to a particular mystery, to the material of which the Rosary was made, or to a bee buzzing about the room.

He certainly knew of the Rosary - as the above quotation shows. Moreover, his great poem, "Lepanto," is about a victory many believers credit to the Rosary (along with a shift in the wind - a prayer-wrought miracle?).

Perhaps those wiser in the ways of Chesterton will know of some essay or poem dedicated to reciting the Rosary - or at least a reference to Chesterton's personal Rosary.

I am certain that he would not have known the Luminous Mysteries. They were promulgated in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. The Baptism of Jesus; The Wedding Feat at Cana; The Preaching of the Kingdom of God; The Transfiguration; The Institution of the Eucharist.

Those mysteries are meditated upon on Thursdays. As I said my Rosary this morning, I thought of Chesterton. I'm not sure that's what Pope John Paul had in mind, but so it goes. The mind at prayer goes where it will.

It was the second mystery that made me think of Chesterton.

The Wedding Feast. The Miracle of the Wine.

I smiled.

Chesterton appreciated food - even cheese - and drink, and joyful celebrations. I pictured him at the wedding, relishing that miraculous wine, and perhaps composing an ode to it that he would leave as a wedding gift.

As a poet himself, Pope John Paul might have appreciated it.

Chestertonian at the New York Times

I hesitatingly renewed my subscription to New York Magazine last month. I really like the magazine, but it leans left and at times is too risque to have around my children. My first post-lapse issue came yesterday. One of its first features: A profile of the New York Times’ new columnist, Ross Douthat (entertaining pdf link). I’d been reading Ross Douthat for a few years, primarily in The Atlantic. I always liked his stuff and thought, “Where has this guy been? We seem to think a lot alike, and not just because we’re both conservative.” It turns out the guy is a Catholic convert and a fan of G.K. Chesterton (it’s not often you see a Times columnist identify GKC as one of his “heroes”).

Once you read Chesterton, you start to think differently. Maybe that’s why the guy resonates with me.

By the way: He’s only 29.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A different view of G.K.

G. K. Chesterton

When Plain Folk, such as you or I,
See the Sun sinking in the sky,
We think it is the Setting Sun,
But Mr. Gilbert Chesterton
Is not so easily misled.
He calmly stands upon his head,
And upside down obtains a new
And Chestertonian point of view,
Observing thus, how from his toes
The sun creeps nearer to his nose,
He cries with wonder and delight,
“How Grand the sunrise is to-night!”

by Oliver Herford
from Confessions of a Caricaturist

(I stumbled across this at and thought I'd share.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ohmmm..........This is what Im thinking about Chesterton today

It might be surprising for some to find out that I have read a great deal of the Dalai Lama's books in English. I find him a fascinating figure. He handles himself very well on the world stage, and has made a very strong case for his nation's plight before the world. As I read my way through life, I want to make a point of knowing about the world's full intellectual tradition.

And Chesterton has to do with

Chesterton was one of the first to notice how some of his contemporaries were attracted to Buddhism. Those familiar with Chesterton's corpus of works probably do not need quotes, be he wrote several ILN articles on this point as well as a fairly well thought out section in Orthodoxy where he makes a point of how some of the English elites of his time had glamorized Buddhism and taken it at face value, and were willing to overlook the social, political, and moral ills of Asia but not the cultural failings of the West......honestly we should realize that the whole human race is fallen.

The Dalai Lama has done several books with psychologists and researches seeking dialogue between Western Science and the Buddhist understanding of the inner person. Ive read a great deal of this, and the same double standard that Chesterton notices still exists. The Dalai Lama is a wonderful communicator, and a vibrant person, but most of what he says that researchers really pick up on are elements of practical spirituality and mystical philosophy no different than what is found in the classical Cistercian, Carmelite, and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The cultural baggage of Christianity seems to weigh down those truths, and certain classes of people will only listen to a different source........whom they idolize to the point of editing. There is an article I read years ago online that I wished I would have saved to my hard-drive which alleged that the Dalai Lama has written chapters on sexual ethics for some of his books, but that Western publishers refuse to print in final editions. Buddhism and some of the other Eastern systems are far more prudish and "repressive" than Christianity.

With Pope Benedict in such trouble in the news in recent weeks, it makes me even more curious regarding the international double standard that mainstream culture seems to weave around these two figures.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Crazy Irish Friday....

Life responsibilities had me busy over the weekend, so I missed my usual day. But, this being the week of St. Patrick's day, all is well by the Irish calendar.

I deeply regret not having read Chesterton's Irish Impressions as of this date. I have seen some very good quotes pulled from it over a number of subject areas.

As I contemplate this upcoming holy bacchanal of a Saint's day Ive had a couple ideas really stick in my mind. One is the glaring paradox of the Irish Church having such a tradition of deep mysticism, yet at the same time a reputation for raucous brawling. I do not have the book available, but I remember Bishop Fulton Sheen doing a show on the Irish.

The second thing Ive noticed as I browse the internet and bookstores is just how much of a subculture there is in the area of celtic mysticism within New Age circles. Most of this is historically weak and philosophically weaker, but I will grant those adherents the benefit of having a sense of Zeitgeist. The age of our immigrant grandparents is over, but I do believe that we can capture the essence of their spirituality and the wisdom of their saints in a way deeper than they themselves carried by ethic convention alone.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weekend Thoughts

Throughout the world economic crisis of 1929, I find few instances where Chesterton directly spoke of the crisis itself. His works always seem to stress universals over particulars. I believe that this is a great deal of the reason why he is one of few writers from that time period still read today.

I am trying very hard to stay in tune with this example. I will teeter on the edge now and say that the last couple months have really taught me about democracy and freedom, as Chesterton would describe them.

I think we have finally burst a certain bubble of taboo. Everyone, even those with secure jobs, are uneasy. The "we are doing just fine" social cliche' has for the most part been discarded. Despite the fears and unknown qualities of the future, and as a veteran, I guarantee my paranoia is order of magnitude beyond most normal folks, there is a sense of freedom and liberty. I think we are learning and seeing democracy of the common man in a way our generations have never experienced. I think spirituality and real Christianity make so much more SENSE now that we have seen the utter emptiness of mammon. Indeed, it is only the Church which relieves us from the dreadful slavery to being a child of our age.

Friday, March 06, 2009


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theses—(games)w or d sb ro k en

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Kyro Cannot Stay Off Philosophers...

These last few weeks I have been thinking about thoughts, thinkers, philosophy, and Chesterton. A couple weeks ago I mentioned St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor. His "angelic" purity and freedom from passions gave him a mind of such clarity that I honestly believe he may have few peers in any field from any time or any culture. Thomas' dispassion colors his writing.

Taking this point, that personality paints ideas, I consider Plato. It is interesting to note that Plato , in his youth, was a Pankrationist. Ancient Pankration for all intents and purposes is the equivalent of contemporary MMA. Plato was a man who knew physical ruggedness. He understood the pressure of carrying an opponent's weight and scambling for limbs and countering wrenching maneuvers. If we really grasp this life experience of Plato, his philosophy takes a very striking direction(did I say "striking?" hehe). Platonic philosophy is a philosophy of mind and "forms." The classical criticism of Plato being ungrounded in the physical is diminished when we consider the whole Plato. His communication and expression is ethereal, but his inner experience of life was far far more gutteral and Earthy.

One of Chesterton's subjects, St. Francis of Assisi, embodies the above point. "Preach always, use words when necessary." -- This is a philosophy of a whole person. Personality paints idea. St. Francis wrote discourses on humility and simplicity by the spirit he carried performing the most mundane tasks.

Turning this view to Chesterton, I think it bears to remember that he had what would now be called developmental issues and a later breakdown. This inner turmoil led him to understand sanity and insanity, beauty and ugliness, normalcy and aberrations. I do not know enough of the details of his formative experiences, but those inner demons which he faced led him to a spectacular universal insight and a wisdom beyond any of the men of his time.

Taking this view of philosophy and ideas as the full reflection of a total person I find Christ to be an utter enigma. I have been thinking lately that the most haunting words of the New Testament are, "And who do you say that I am?" from Matthew 16. The Passion of the Christ takes on powerful meaning considering the totality of Jesus' words and actions. I think this is where many of us fail in apologetics. We know so many answers, and I admit I become frustrated over some of the ridiculous misunderstandings people have regarding Christianity and Catholicism. To merely be able to "define and defend" is insufficient. We can see from above that even secular philosophy cannot be adequately draught out in that manner.

Very humbling stuff.