Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Mass is Tiresome?


Eating, Drinking and Praying — G.K. Chesterton and Christmas

Joseph Pearce in the National Catholic Register -

Eating, Drinking and Praying — G.K. Chesterton and Christmas| National Catholic Register: Chesterton had the good sense to treat Christmas as if it were the very center of history

The author most associated with the joy and glow of Christmas is obviously Charles Dickens. Apart from the perennially popular A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote several other Christmas-themed novellas, most notably The Chimes and The Cricket and the Hearth. In his book on Dickens, in a chapter entitled “Dickens and Christmas,” G. K. Chesterton lauded “Dickens’s great defence of Christmas”: ...

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Man Who Love Christmas

(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.”

When I was a teacher, there were indeed certain books/plays that I read again and again because I was teaching them. Among those books were To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, several of Shakespeare's plays (Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, MacBeth), Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. 

But outside of teaching, there are only a few works I have read more than one. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia come to mind. Chesterton's Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man are works that I have also reread.

But now that I'm retired, I have more time to read, and I've begun to reread some of the works I read at some time in the past - sometimes as much as 50 years ago. I recently reread The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, and a series of dystopian novels like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. There are a few others I have read in the last year and a half, but right now I'm more focused on some of the great works I would like to reread in the future. Among them are: 

The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House by Charles Dickens
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Utopia by St. Thomas More
The Republic by Plato 
The Confessions by St. Augustine
The Divine Comedy by Dante

I'm sure there will be more title that will occur to me. I will mix them in as I also read works i've never read before. I hoep to find among those new books more that I will want to reread.

After all, I don't want to be an "unliterary" man.


Friday, December 10, 2021

Chesterton: Advent waiting is a gift

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

Dr. Seuss Clerihew

Dr. Seuss
was fond of tippling fermented mulberry juice.
This helps to explain a thing or thing two,
such as that cat's hat and Horton's who.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Dostoevsky - Friend?

 Should Fyodor Dostoevsky be counted as one of the "Friends"?

In reviewing a book about Dostoevsky, Chesterton once wrote:

"The one thing this Russian (Dostoevsky) loves is Liberty. The one place where he finds it is in … no, not Christianity… Christ. Compared with that, he cares nothing for anything. He was one of the two or three greatest novelists of the nineteenth century. And he cared for nothing but Christ who had made him free. It is worth thinking about."

As a fan of both Chesterton and Dostoevsky, I'm certainly willing to admit a Russian to the circel fo friends.   

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Chronicles of Narnia Saved My Faith!


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

C.S.Lewis and Fairy Tales

“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” - C.S. Lewis

Friday, November 19, 2021



“Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word “progress” than we.”  - G. K. Chesterton

Friday, November 05, 2021

We could use a man like Chesterton today ...


"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

An Amateur Blogger

 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

Books about Distributism

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

I've read the Chesterton books. I'm currently reading Rerum Novarum. Pearce's book is on my shelf of books to read. 

I'm sure there were other books cited, some by other authors, but I don't recall them. I suspect
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

Black and White and Chesterton


At the Rochester Chesterton conference I picked up a copy of Chesterton in Black and White. It's a collection of previously uncollected early Chesterton essays from Black and White and The Bystander

In the first essay, "That Black Is, in a General Sense, White," Chesterton discusses the nature of paradox, contending that paradoxes are actually quite common, "built into very foundations of human affairs," as exhibited in "universal and ordinary arrangements, historic institutions," and "daily habits." And he goes on to state, "As a matter of fact, it is the ordinary view and language which is paradoxical."

Chesterton uses the example of the word "white." A person may be described as "white," but that person is not really white. Nor are "white wine" or "white grapes" actually white. 

He continues in that vein. While he is discussing linguistic "paradoxes," however, the essay got me to thinking about language and how we use - or misuse it. Words become vague or distorted in meaning - sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally.

Take the word "love," for example. The word has been so overused that its meaning has been twisted out of shape. Thus I can say I love coffee, or the Buffalo Bills, or clerihews, or my wife. Obviously, there are varied levels of meaning or intensity. Indeed, my love for my wife is far deeper and richer than my love for those other parts of my life.

My examples of love cited above are all innocuous. But there are other uses of "love" that turn the meaning of the word on its head. Love can be taken as just a physical act - to make love - that really has nothing to do with the true meaning of love. When it comes to sexual matters, in fact, love is often used as an excuse rather than a reason. A person might declare he is showing love when he is cruel, violent, or destructive. Just look at some of the actions of terrorists who act out of love of country or of faith. 

There are many other possible ways in which language is manipulated. Take the example of two people going for a walk in the woods. Birds are singing, insects and frogs are chirping, the breeze is rustling the leaves. Suddenly one of the persons unhappily blurts out that it is too quiet. It is certainly not quiet, but that person is unhappy that these sounds he is used to and desires are not there. But because it is not what he wants, he fails to see and appreciate what is there. Thus the word "quiet" has assumed a meaning separate from objective reality. It is now defined subjectively.

Which is one of the problems of our age. Words are more and more viewed through subjective lenses. They are too often set adrift from the "universal and ordinary arrangements, historic institutions," and the "daily habits" that once helped to define them, and to give them solid roots.

Thus words like "choice" or "family" or "racist" are cut of from their traditional, common sense meanings. We can have politicians say our borders are closed because the official ports of entry are closed, even though a mile to the east or west of those closed ports people are freely and in large numbers crossing that border.

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.

In such an unstable verbal world, one might end up as Chesterton notes with an honest official actually speaking the truth, and then being accused of just making a joke, of saying something fantastic, and subsequently subject to reproach. In these less gentle times, that person might lose his job, be hounded on social media, perhaps even suffer a physical attack.

Indeed, we seem to be living in a dystopian time where words are deliberately manipulated to destroy and to control. Motherhood becomes a negative thing, for example, interfering with one's life and career, or becoming a kind of vulgar insult. A time where war is peace, or at least good business. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

But fortunately there are still some folks who have enough common sense to recognize that nothing is completely black or white.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

C. S. Lewis and change


“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” - C. S. LEWIS

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Fr. Leo Hetzler (Rochester Chesterton) Conference

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.

Lou Horvath provided the opening comments. and continuity

Ted Janiszewski discussed the poetry of the Psalms.

Jonathan Thorndike (introduced by Joseph Pearce) discussed Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales

Joseph Pearce talked about poems every Catholic should know. 

And then the conference concluded with a dramatic reading (led by Dale Ahlquist) of selections from Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse.

It was a typically delightful Chesterton conference, full of inspiration and laughter and ... Christian joy. 


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Mystery Clerihews

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.

Meanwhile, Hillerman's Navajo mysteries inspired the following:

Officer Jim Chee
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

A Chesterton hymn that fits our times

O God of earth and altar

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

Live like a Hobbit? Some hobbits approve!


'Lord of the Rings' actors voice their support of Italian pastry chef's plan to build a Hobbit-inspired pub and solar-powered shire

That's the headline.

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

Here's the story about some of the actors from the movies appreciating his effort. 

In the story, Gentile says, "I have always loved fantasy literature and movies, Dungeons and Dragons, and video games," he said. "But at some point in my life, I felt like I was living the adventures of others and not my own. I decided that I, too, would live my life like a character in the movies and books I loved so much."

Hmm. Given reality these days, maybe living in a fictional world for a while might be a reasonable choice.

Saturday, September 11, 2021


To be honest, I don't know much about the play - and I've not heard of the movie coming out until now. 

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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:

Harriet Beecher Stowe
dealt slavery a blow
with a powerful novel that "started a war,"
sadly few read it any more.  

I don't know for sure when I wrote it, but i suspect it was when I taught Uncle Tom's Cabin a few years back.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

He liked us, he really liked us!

"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

On the Road with C.S. Lewis

 “One road leads home and a thousand roads lead into the wilderness.”- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Chesterton and the "superstition" of science


Unfortunately science is only splendid when it is science. When science becomes religion it becomes superstition. - G. K. Chesterton

Friday, August 20, 2021

This Blog Still Exists!


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.