Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
(I have been writing a book called Santa's Diary. One of the entries deals with a familiar fellow.)
The question I dealt with yesterday about retirement is often linked with another question (sometimes stated, often not): If I ever stopped being Santa Claus, who could take my place?
Mind you, I am Santa only by the will and grace of God. The Lord could just as
easily choose someone else to play my role.
When I look back at history, I see so many people who could play the role. Francis of Assisi, for example. There was a man who had the Christmas spirit. (Though that dear little man would have a hard time fitting in my suit!) And, of course, Charles Dickens is often credited with helping to save Christmas. I fear he might have failed the "saint" test, though.
But If I had to pick just one person, it would be Gilbert Keith Chesterton.
Ho! There’s a man who could fill my suit! In fact, they’d have to let it out!
But beyond his physical size, he was a man who truly loved Christmas.
He wrote essays about it. He cited the feast again and again in his works. He wrote poetry about it.
And he appreciated me. Rather, he appreciated what I represent.
In writing about the loss of a sense of faith in one essay he said, “Father Christmas was with us when the fairies departed; and please God he will still be with us when the gods return.”
Yes, in all modesty, I must admit that all the stories that have grown up around me help to keep alive the sense of wonder and magic, the belief in something that can’t be explained, even in a time when faith is treated as something embarrassing.
In one of his books he wrote, "Father Christmas is not an allegory of snow and holly; he is not merely the stuff called snow afterwards artificially given a human form, like a snow man. He is something that gives a new meaning to the white world and the evergreens, so that the snow itself seems to be warm rather than cold.”
Perhaps that is part of the magic. Not my magic, of course, but the magic of belief.
As for those who don’t believe, he wrote in one essay, “Personally, of course, I believe in Santa Claus; but it is a season of forgiveness, and I will forgive others for not doing so.”
How like the man. That spirit was one reason why even the people he debated respected and loved him. That is part of what would have made him a good Santa.
We met a couple of time. In one essay he described one of our conversations, though, of course, he changed some things around to suit his purpose. He had us meet in a toy shop and had me lamenting the modern world. The conversation actually took place during a meal in a tavern. And I seem to recall some of the lamenting was on his part.
I remember fondly the first time I met him as an adult.
I was in his home delivering gifts (some items for his toy theater), when he walked into the room. I sank back into the shadows, and he did not see me. Even if I hadn’t sunk into the shadows, I’m not sure he would have seen me anyway. As usual, he was lost in thought.
He stopped in the middle of the room, and said loudly, questioningly, “Slipper.”
I looked at his feet. Sure enough, he had only one slipper on.
“Slipper,” he said again.
Then suddenly he walked over to a tall bookcase and reached up to the top.
He brought down a slipper, and a book that had been under it, propped open.
He looked at the book, reading a little from the open page. He chuckled, and then walked out of the room, slipper and book in hand.
I reminded him of the moment years later. He did not remember it.
But he did remember the toy theater items I brought.
Yes, Chesterton would have made a fine Santa.
Of course, given his absent-minded ways, who knows what gifts would have ended up where. Why, if he was bringing a book to someone, he might have just sat down to read it, and when the children rushed down to open their gifts on Christmas morning they might have found him still sitting there, reading, and laughing out loud.
Very Santa-like image, I’d say.
Saturday, December 18, 2021
C.S. Lewis observed in - Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories:
“An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. . . . We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.”
Friday, December 10, 2021
Freelance writer Shemaiah Gonzalez has a wonderful take on Advent, using Chesterton as a focus ("Chesterton: Advent waiting is a gift"):
Writer G.K. Chesterton appreciated how waiting could be a gift. To Chesterton, waiting opened possibility:
“Around every corner is another gift waiting to surprise us, and it will surprise us if we can achieve control over our natural tendencies to make comparisons (to things that are better rather than things that are worse), to take things for granted … and to feel entitled!”
To see her full essay, go to Chesterton: Advent waiting is a gift
Friday, December 03, 2021
Friday, November 26, 2021
Should Fyodor Dostoevsky be counted as one of the "Friends"?
Monday, November 22, 2021
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. That tragedy naturally dominated the headlines, so it's no surprise that the death of C.S. Lewis the same day did not get as much attention.
I was alive then, though quite young. Still, I knew that Kennedy was our President. I remember the principal of my Catholic grade school coming on the P.A with the sad news and sending us home.
I had at that time never heard of Lewis.
I did not really encounter Lewis until 11 years later.
In the fall of 1974, I had taken a leave of absence from college as I dealt with various confusions in my life - including spiritual ones. Raised as Catholic, I had strayed from my faith - though it still played a role in my life. Indeed, that fall I somehow got hired as a "peer counselor" by a Catholic agency in New York City. My "salary" was a small stipend, and a rent-controlled apartment on the Lower East Side near the group home where I was to work.
The apartment had apparently been an office for the agency at some point. There were only a few items of furniture. But there were master keys to a number of other empty apartments in the building and the one next door that the agency controlled. Searching through those apartments I managed to scavenge enough to furnish my apartment.
One item of furniture that was in the apartment when I moved in was a small bookcase with a few books in it. I didn't pay much attention to specific titles at first.
Shortly after I began working the group home I got involved with a small theater group developing a musical (that was later produced off-Broadway!). There I met a young lady, and soon we were dating. The young lady introduced me to her circle of friends, and I began to socialize with them
They were all big fans of Ayn Rand, and my girlfriend and her friends repeatedly recommended that I read Rand.
I read The Fountainhead and began Atlas Shrugged. The more I read, the more uneasy I felt. It was as if a sour, hollow place was growing in me.
One day as I headed off to work, I stuffed some dirty laundry into a bag; staff was allowed to do their laundry when the residents weren't using the washers. Thinking I might have a chance to read over lunch, I threw Atlas Shrugged into the back as well. When I got to the home, I hurriedly emptied bag into the washer forgetting the book was in there, turned on the machine, and went off to do some house duties.
When I returned later, Atlas Shrugged had become Atlas Pulped.
The pulp was mixed all through the clothes, and it took a long time to get all of it out. I interpreted it as a metaphor for what reading Rand was doing to my mind and my soul.
I stopped reading Rand.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.
At Christmas, by careful scheduling, I managed to get more than a week off from work. I decided to spend Christmas with my parents, but, not having a car, I had to take the bus to where they lived in Western New York. I knew I needed something to read on the bus, and now free from Rand, I wondered what I should bring. It's then that I scanned that bookcase in the apartment and discovered the complete set of The Chronicles of Narnia.
I had heard of them - friends in youth groups had mentioned them - and looking for something lighter than the sludge that had been Rand, I figured some children's books would do just fine.
Over the next week - on the trip upstate, at my parents', and on the way back - I finished all seven of the books. I couldn't put them down.
Those books fanned the embers of my almost dead faith.
When I got back to New York. I quickly realized I had to stop seeing the girlfriend and her friends because of the negative influence they had on me. I also realized I needed to read works that nourished my soul.
That's when I read in quick succession The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, The Confessions by St. Augustine, and Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton.
Those three books led me back to my Catholic faith. I even later entered the seminary, though I did not get ordained, and eventually became a Secular Franciscan.
Since then, I have also been an avid reader of both Lewis and Chesterton.
So today I remember and honor C.S. Lewis, whose little "children's books" saved my faith.
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Friday, November 05, 2021
"One of the most important cultural figures in the last century was G.K. Chesterton; an astonishingly prolific writer, speaker and defender of Christianity. ..."
So begins "The courage, creativity and charm of GK Chesterton" in The Christian Post.
It's not an in-depth op-ed - just a general but positive overview by Canon J. John.
"We could certainly benefit from having men and women like Chesterton today, who can defend the Christian faith with courage, creativity, and charm."
Worth a read.
Friday, October 29, 2021
At the most recent Rochester Chesterton Conference I bought a copy of Chesterton In Black and White. The book is a collection of early (1903-04) Chesterton essays from the magazines Black and White and The Bystander.
Many of the essays foreshadow topics he would address in his later writings such as humor, fairy tales, and, of course, paradox.
For Black and White he wrote a series of essays on "The Decline of Amateur Professions."
In one of the essays he defines an amateur "as a man who does a thing because he enjoys doing it."
He had individual essays on the following "amateur professions:" Dancer, Critic, Actor, Politician, Educator, and Soldier.
I suggest another profession to include: Blogger.
Blogs were once quite popular - including this blog. In addition to contributing to this blog, I've had personal blogs - on one of which I still post to on a regular basis. Our local newspaper also had community blogs for various town and groups. I was the blogger for my suburban town, and also contributed to a "men's" blog.
Alas, social media has moved on, and so most blogs became passe. I quit my newspaper blog gig, and a few years later the newspaper shut down all its community blogs.
I joined this blog in 2006. At the time there were a number of other contributors - I was responsible at that point for posting on Thursdays. I liked the idea that I was the man who was Thursday!
Gradually, as blogging faded away, so did the other contributors. (Being talented individuals, they have likely gone on to better things.) Since 2014, I've been the only person to continue to contribute to this blog. and for a long time I was irregular about doing so. Indeed, in 2019 there was just one single post concerning the Rochester Chesterton conference that year.
I also noted that many of the other blogs listed on this blog as "Chestertonian Blogs" have suffered a similar fate. Most have not had posts in years. some no longer exist. Only one in the list has had a post this year - just one post.
Despite all that, I decided in August that I would try to keep this blog active. This is the 14th post since.
Because while they are an older form of social media, blogs still exist and still serve a need. Some blogs - ones hosted by well-known individuals, or devoted to a particular niche market, or focused on such topics as fashion or pop culture, and so on - remain popular. Some of those blogs even generate income in various ways.
This blog might be a "niche market" one in that it focuses on particular writers like Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and writers with ties to them. Not a big market, to be sure, but still one with a loyal following, and one that deserves greater attention.
In addition, a blog, being an "old-fashioned" kind of social media, fits right in with a Chestertonian embracing of traditional literary - or social media - forms.
Besides, I enjoy doing it.
I enjoy writing. I enjoy reading and writing about Chesterton and Lewis and their friends. I enjoy classical literature and education and matters of faith. I enjoy clerihews and paradoxes and fairy tales.
I am an amateur blogger - a noble and honorable profession.
Thursday, October 21, 2021
On social media earlier this day, I came across a post asking for advice about books that explained distributism, especially ones that might help to simplify the concept for those who are not economists or are not familiar with what distributism really is. A number of people had suggestions
I had to get off to Mass, so I did not read it in the depth it merited. And, of course, later when I tried going back to find it I could not.
Still, I do remember some of the titles. And naturally, there are some familiar authors cited.
Among the works mentioned:
Rerum Novarum: On The Condition Of Working Classes by Pope Leo XIII
What's Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton
The Outline of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton
Utopia of Usurers by G.K. Chesterton
The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc
Economics for Helen by Hilaire Belloc
Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered by Joseph Pearce
The Hound of Distributism by Richard Aleman and Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by Ernst F. Schumacher got mentioned.
Saturday, October 16, 2021
We end up with a Humpty Dumpty situation with those in power in some form declaring in a scornful tone, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." Which gives them all the control - as, I suspect, some of them actually want.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Saturday, September 25, 2021
After a two-year covid pause, Rochester hosted its 17th Chesterton Conference - now called the Fr. Leo Hetzler Conference in honor of the late Chesterton scholar.
The conference drew an enthusiastic crowd to St. John the Evangelist Church - St. John Fisher College, which hosted the previous conferences was not available - heard about Poetry: Fruit of Christian Joy.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
G. K . Chesterton, with Father Brown and The Detection Club, certainly plays an important tole in the history of mystery stories.
I am a fan of such stories - and not just of the Father Brown tales.
There are many mystery writers I like - like Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Ellis Peters, Ralph McInerny, Arthur Conan Doyle, Steven Havill, and Tony Hillerman.
Sayers has Chestetonian ties - and inspired this clerihew:Lord Peter Wimsey
was never deterred by evidence flimsy,
but his confidence suffered years of strain
when faced with the mystery of Harriet Vane.
studied the remains of a flea.
Although respect for nature is part of his Navajo beliefs,
he didn't appreciate this critter getting into his briefs.
I haven't tried my hand at a Sherlock Holmes clerihew. Maybe it's time!
Saturday, September 18, 2021
O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honour and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!
Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.
Friday, September 17, 2021
'Lord of the Rings' actors voice their support of Italian pastry chef's plan to build a Hobbit-inspired pub and solar-powered shire
Nicolas Gentile, 37, has lived like a hobbit on two-hectares of land in the Italian countryside for over a year. Giacomo Savini e Luciano Masiello/ Courtesy of Nicolas Gentile
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Thursday, September 02, 2021
While looking through a book I was thinking of donating to the library book sale (I'm in the process of culling my bookshelves to simplify my life), I came across a piece of paper on which I'd written this clerihew:
Sunday, August 29, 2021
"Unlike most eminent English literary travelers in America, whatever their political or ideological views, Chesterton actually liked the U.S.A., both theoretically and emotionally, and his grounds for doing so are worth knowing about."
Read the rest at National Review - Why G. K. Chesterton Liked America
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Friday, August 20, 2021
I just took a survey sent out by The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton. One of the questions listed online resources - and blogs were not mentioned.
Now I know blogs are often viewed as outdated. But they still exist - as does this blog. But when I decided to look at this one after completing the survey, I discovered no one had posted in almost a year - and I was the last to do so. Indeed, I had made most of the most recent posts.
When this blog began, there were a number of contributors. Each of them took a day on which he would try to post. I was invited to join, and I became Thursday. I liked that.
But I was not as consistent as I should have been, and in the last few years only popping in a couple of times a year. And the other members of the team basically stopped.
I will try to keep this blog on life support.