Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Ignatius "Lepanto"


In addition to the wonderful talks and getting to interact with fellow Chestertonians at the Rochester Chesterton Conference, one of the joys is perusing the books/magazines/etc. for sale. Dale Ahlquist and Joseph Pearce are almost always there hawking their books and materials.

Last year, Dale brought along the Ignatius edition of  "Lepanto" that he had edited, and that included explanatory notes and commentary..

Even though I had read the poem before, I bought the book. I finally got around to reading it this week. 

I can't say enough about the book. It brought the poem to life.

The wonderful notes explained references and context, and linked the poem to passages from Chesterton's other works. Brandon Rogers nicely explained the background for the poem, Colonel Melvin Kriesel offered a military analysis of the battle, William Cinfici describe the aftermath, and Dale provided some analysis of the poem. 

The edition also includes two of Chesterton's essays - "The True Romance" and "If Don John of Austria Had Married Mary Queen of Scots." Again, I had read these previously, but it was nice to link them with the poem.

I can't wait for this year's conference to see what delightful books they will be hawking this time around.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Crisis Magazine: Book It


Crisis Magazine - "A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity" - has been featuring a series of articles about some of our favorite authors.

The recent articles include:

The magazine - to which one can subscribe online for free - has had any number of wonderful articles. Just consider some of these titles:

Was Shakespeare Catholic? (Pearce again!) (He also has a series of "Nutshell" articles about a variety of books) 

Real Marriages Are Founded on God, Not Government

Inviting Us to Participate in Sin - (on the synodal process!)

Weapon of Choice - (The Rosary)

She-Hulk Shows Why Feminism Is Not the Answer

I suspect if Chesterton were around today he would be a frequent contributor. 

The magazine is well worth checking out. 


Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Patron Saint of Television!


There's a legend that St. Clare 
appeared at the '36 World Fair.
Some folks at the television display claimed they did see
on the screen the face of the fair saint from Assisi.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Chesterton on EWTN


EWTN rebroadcasts this wonderful show Monday mornings at 6:30. What a pleasant way to begin the week. 

Though it is odd seeing Dale without a beard!

Friday, August 05, 2022

The 100th anniversary of Chesterton’s conversion—and its ripple effect


Dale's article printed in Catholic World Report

Because GKC became Catholic, I became Catholic. And so have countless others.

When G.K. Chesterton was received into the Catholic Church one hundred years ago, on Sunday, July 30, 1922, it was big news. Except it wasn’t. It didn’t quite qualify as “news” because nobody knew about it. The two priests who received him into the Church – Fr. John O’Connor, his long-time friend who was also the inspiration for Chesterton’s immortal fictional detective Father Brown, and Dom Ignatius Rice, a Benedictine monk from Douai Abbey – vowed to say nothing about the ceremony. Not for any religious reasons. They just wanted to see how long it would take the press to find out.

It took three weeks.

And it was big news when it was finally reported. Except it wasn’t. At least for part of the reading public. Many of them thought Chesterton was already Catholic. After all, he’d been defending the Catholic Church for years, and taking the Catholic position at every turn, on every topic, and in every controversy. And he’d already written two dozen popular stories featuring the aforementioned Father Brown.

But there was also many Chesterton admirers and devotees who were genuinely surprised because they refused to believe he would ever do something so inconceivable as actually joining the Catholic Church. This group included both Catholics and non-Catholics, from his best friend and faith Papist Hilaire Belloc to his good friend and philosophical opponent George Bernard Shaw who had long made fun of what he called Chesterton’s “Roman Catholic hobby.” When Shaw heard the news, he fired off a letter to his debating partner saying, “Gilbert! This is going too far!” And Belloc, in genuine and pensive awe, wrote: “I never thought it was possible.”

The reaction within the Church of England, to which he belonged, also ran the gamut. When the local vicar in Beaconsfield heard the news, he said, “I’m glad Chesterton is going over to Rome. He was never a very good Anglican.”

On the other hand, an editorial in the Anglican weekly, The Church Times, said what was strange about Chesterton was not that he had become Catholic, but that he had remained so long in the Anglican communion. The growing liberalism within the Church of England was driving away the educated laity, and had never “attracted one educated man to the church” but rather “robbed that church of the genius of G.K. Chesterton.”

In contrast, the Catholic papers were ecstatic. THE TABLET’s headline crowed: “THE HOMECOMING OF MR. CHESTERTON.” It likened the conversion to that of John Henry Newman, and expressed happiness over having Chesterton’s happiness in the Church. “He will not let the devil have all the frolic.” But it also expressed what many felt: that Chesterton would not change.They wanted the same Chesterton they had already come to know; not a new one, just a Catholic one.

Chesterton called his conversion “the chief event” of his life. And we can say that in his writing and in his public persona, he didn’t change. In fact, there is not a discernible difference in his post-conversion writings from his pre-conversion writings. Except there is. He does in fact take on specific Protestant doctrines and is more specific in his rebuttals of them. He had always challenged Calvinism, but he zeroed in more on Luther. He had always demonstrated a mastery of Scripture but took apart the “Bible-worshippers” whom he found as small minded as the “Bible-bashers.”

He said there were ten thousand reasons, but they all amounted to the same reason. It was because “The Catholic Church is true.”

But when asked, these were some of the other reasons he gave.

The most striking answer: “To get rid of my sins.” Only the Catholic Church can do that.

Another answer was the sober realization that the Anglican Church wasn’t Catholic. “I always believed in the Catholic view of Christianity, at least I have believed it for twenty years. Unless the Church of England was a branch of the Catholic Church, I had no use for it. If it were a Protestant Church, I did not believe in it. In any case the question is whether the Church of England can claim to be in direct descent from the medieval Catholic Church …

“It appears to me quite clear that any church claiming to be an authoritative church must be quite definite when great questions of public morals are put. Can I go in for cannibalism or the murder of babies to reduce the population, or any other scientific and progressive reform? Any church with authority to teach must say whether it can be done. But the Protestant churches are in utter bewilderment on these moral questions.”

One of the moral questions was contraception. When Anglican bishops became champions of what Chesterton called “a low and poisonous trick, not far removed from infanticide,” he realized they were taking a position that was essentially heathenism. They were speaking with no unity, no authority, and could not denounce open immorality. He wanted to be part of the Church Militant. As he explained to his mother, he was joining “the one fighting form of Christianity.”

He was accused – and dismissed – as having a romantic attachment to a love of ritual and the aesthetics of the high Middle Ages with its Gothic Cathedrals reaching towards heaven.

But in a letter to a man named Bertram Hyde, who had raised these very concerns and asked him truly why he became Catholic, Chesterton responded: “I ought to say first that, saving the grace of God, my own conversion to Catholicism was entirely rational; and certainly not at all ritualistic. I was received in a tin shed at the back of a railway hotel. I accepted it because it did afford conviction to my analytical mind. But people can see the ritual and are seldom allowed to hear of the philosophy. About ritual itself I think the truest thing was said by Yeats the poet, certainly not a Catholic or even a Christian; that ceremony goes with innocence. Children are not ashamed of dressing-up, nor great poets at great periods, as when Petrarch wore the laurel. Our world does feel something of what Wells says, because our world is as nervous and irritable as Wells himself. But I think the children and the poets are more permanent.”

Three years later Bertram Hyde was received into the Catholic Church.

Which brings us to the ripple effect of Chesterton’s conversion. G.K. Chesterton might be one of the greatest makers of Catholic converts of the last century, and the ripples continue to be felt.

Here is just one ripple. Because GKC became Catholic, I became Catholic. Here’s another ripple.

Because I read Chesterton and became Catholic, I did a television show about Chesterton on EWTN. And because lots of people watched that show, it helped lead to a revival of interest in Chesterton. And also, many people who watched that show became Catholic, or became more Catholic.

But here’s another ripple. Because I became Catholic, my wife became Catholic, too, that is, she returned to the Catholic Church in which she had been baptized and confirmed, but it was a faith she had never really lived, until we both embraced it. We had the great pleasure and blessing of getting married again, by having our marriage validated by a priest. And because we became Catholic, for some reason we had four more children. And because we had those children, we eventually started the first Chesterton Academy. And because we started the first Chesterton Academy, there are now almost 50 other Chesterton Academies in five countries, with more schools in the works. These schools have led to young men becoming priests and young couples getting married in the Catholic Church, and revival of Catholic classical education across the country and across the world.

(Editor’s note: This essay was first posted on July 19, 2022.)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Jill Biden


Jill Biden
went for a ride in
a San Antonio cab and asked, "What's the best place to go
to get a good breakfast taco?"

Monday, July 18, 2022

C.S. Lewis Quotations

G.K. Chesterton is one of the most quotable figures of modern times.

One of the men influenced by him, C.S. Lewis, is also eminently quoatble. And, in keeping with that Chesterton influence, some of his quotations sound as if they could have been said by GKC.

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.”

“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

Here’s a few more from Lewis.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

“I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning...”

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
     - The Magician's Nephew

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career. ”

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
     - Mere Christianity

“She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression.”
     - The Screwtape Letters

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.”
     - Mere Christianity

“Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.”

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”
     - Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not.”

Thursday, June 30, 2022



The prophet Amos
became justly famous
not for his cookie baking skill,
but for proclaiming God's will.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

What's Wrong with the World


Chesterton Is Right About What’s Wrong With the World

BOOK PICK: New edition of 1910 classic packs relevance today.

‘What’s Wrong With the World’ was written more than 100 years ago.
‘What’s Wrong With the World’ was written more than 100 years ago. (photo: Sophia Institute Press)

Sophia Institute Press has just republished a book with a title that is as perennial as it is thought-provoking: What’s Wrong With the World by G.K. Chesterton. 

Essentially a book of political philosophy, Chesterton lampoons, with forensic wit, what were then faddish ideas in Edwardian Britain. His four targets are: large corporations, even bigger governments, feminism and education. These and the then thinking underpinning them are the public “wrongs” he identifies, alongside an overarching one, namely, man’s fallen human nature. 

First published in 1910, one may well ask: What does What’s Wrong With the World have to say to today’s world? 

Depressingly, the same wrongs are with us still, if receiving fresh expression in the 21st century. Helpfully, Chesterton not only identifies “what’s wrong” with the world but also points out that what people, often erroneously, think is wrong, and then wherein lies the cure of the world’s ills. ...

You can read the rest of this fine review/essay from the National Catholic Register here - 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

A Gilbert/Chesterton Clerhew Book?

I got the online edition of the May/June issue of Gilbert - the print edition has het to arrive - and discovered one of my clerihews is in it.

Robert Burns 
Hid behind some ferns. 
He feared that he might be shot 
By the husband of an auld acquaintance he forgot. 

— Lee Strong, Rochester, New York

As always, I'm pleased when the good folks at Gilbert publish one of my clerihews. Over the years, they have published a number of them, for which I am grateful.

As I've been getting up in years, I've been thinking about compiling some of my poems and publishing them, possibly in individual books for different genres, one of which would be of my clerihews. I spoke with an illustrator about the clerihew book, then back in March I contacted Dale Ahlquist to see if it might be something the Chesterton Society would be interested in publishing. I also mentioned that I thought a large collection of clerihews published in Gilbert would be great.

Dale responded that someone had actually contacted him about doing that, and asked if I would be open to some of my clerihews being included. 

I immediately said yes, and offered to help the person. I also wondered if this was something being done now, or if it might be a while before such a book could be put together. Dale said he had to dig up the email from the person, but given all the hats he is currently wearing  acknowledged that time was not something he did not have a lot of. So the book is down the road. 

I haven't heard anything since, so I don't know the identity of the person who contacted Dale, and if/when the book will be pursued.

I'm still interested in helping. I'd love to be part of the process of compiling and editing it. There have certainly been many wonderful clerihews written by various poets and published in Gilbert over the years. The "Clerihew Corner"  is one of the first features I read when an issue arrives.

So if that person reads this blog, let's talk!

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Charles Williams in New Oxford Review

In the most recent issue of New Oxford Review (May 2022)there's a wonderful article about Charles Williams.

Charles Williams in Letters & Remembrances - LOVE DURING WARTIME - By Cicero Bruce

"... Williams’s part in this prolific exchange is accessible thanks to the dutiful research of Roma A. King Jr. King’s edition of Williams’s personal correspondence, published in 2002 under the title To Michal from Serge: Letters from Charles Williams to His Wife Florence, 1939-1945, includes representative selections, painstakingly transcribed by King, from nearly 700 hurriedly handwritten letters. In them we hear Williams at his best — as faithful Christian, loyal husband, caring father, and generous friend — and, occasionally, at his worst — as one who loved human beings but sometimes found them intolerable. What resounds above all else is the voice of a man “honestly struggling,” as King puts it in his introduction, “toward the light beyond the darkness.” ...

The article gives us insights into Williams's faith and fears during the war and separation from Michel due to that war. It additions to excerpts from the letters exchanged with his wife, there is praise for/assessment of Williams by W.H. Auden, Dorothy Sayers, and C.S. Lewis.

A good read.

Saint Matthias Clerihew

The replacement Apostle Matthias
was chosen by lot, not by bias.
Alas, except for his selection.
he's eluded all other historical detection.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Saint Austin Review and Chesterton


Anyone who frequents G.K. Chesterton event in the U.S. has encountered Joseph Pearce. He is frequently one of the featured speakers, and will generally have a table with some of his books for sale.

Some of his books. The man, in the spirit of Chesterton, is prolific. He seems to come out with a new book every other month. One wonders how he has time for dinner with his wife.

Pearce writes extensively, and often with a Catholic or religious focus, about literature and writers, o - with books about such figures as Shakespeare C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Pearce is also co-editor of The St. Austin Review (StAR), a Catholic review of culture and ideas with an aim of "Reclaiming Culture." Each issue has a theme - often focusing on a particular writer or movement. including Shakespeare, Dante, Tolkien, Sigrid Undset, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, and, of course, Chesterton. The writing is intelligent and insightful, sometimes even challenging. 

The most recent issue again turns to Chesterton, taking the title of Pearce's own highly-regarded biography of Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, and using it as a focus for the issue.

Among the articles:

"The Wisdom and Innocence of G.K. Chesterton" by Joseph Pearce
"What Chesterton Has Meant to Me" by Father Peter Milward, SJ
"On What the Mind is For: The Many Delights of Reading Chesterton by Father James V. Schall, SJ
"Chesterton on Mirth" by Christina Colombo
"Little Children, Keep Yourselves form Idols: Possessive Love in Chesterton and Lewis" by Elizabeth Peterson
"Chesterton, Chaucer, and The Canterbury Tales" by Jonathan Thorndike
"Portrait of a Dean: Crossing Swords With Chesterton" by Thomas Banks
"1922: Chesterton, Nosferatu, and the Spirit of Modernism" by K.V. Turley
"Narnia and the Childlike Chesterton" by Father Dwight Longenecker
"The Chesterton Moment Revisited" by Father Benedict Kiely 

I look forward to reading these and the other articles and poetry in the issue. Indeed, StAR and Gilbert are the two periodicals I get that I always read from cover to cover. Of course, I am a fan of Chesterton, a writer myself, and a former English teacher who took the classical approach of linking literature, music and art in my lessons. 

If you have not already discovered StAr, give it a try. The next time Pearce shows up at a Chesterton event go to his table - he generally has some sample issues.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Becoming Boethius: The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis

Church Life Journal has a fascinating essay by Jason Baxter about C.S. Lewis as a medievalist. (And Chesterton gets mentioned!) 

"Perhaps to our surprise, this third Lewis, the medievalist, emerges in the 1962 list that he shared with The Christian Century. When Lewis replied to the editors, he mentioned ten books that shaped his sense of vocation and his philosophy of life, some of which we would expect: 1) George MacDonald’s Phantastes; 2) G.K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man; 3) Virgil’s Aeneid; 4) The Temple, by George Herbert; 5) William Wordsworth’s Prelude; 6) Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy; 7) Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy; 8) The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell; 9) Descent into Hell, by Charles Williams; and 10) Arthur James Balfour, Theism and Humanism. Some of these books, even if they have been largely forgotten by us, make sense in light of Lewis’s interest in apologetics. ..."

The essay is an adaptation of the introductory chapter of The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis: How the Great Book Shaped a Great Mind.

You can read the full essay here.

Monday, April 11, 2022

A Scottish Connection

In his autobiography, GKC explained that his mother came of “Scottish people, who were Keiths of Aberdeen” - hence his middle name. He noted that “partly because of a certain vividness in any infusion of Scots blood or patriotism, this northern affiliation appealed strongly to my affections; and made a sort of Scottish romance of my childhood”

He did not dwell on his Scottish roots - he viewed himself as English - though he did have a fondness for Robert Louis Stevenson. And he did discuss Mary, Queen of Scots, including an essay (reprinted in the Ignatius edition of Lepanto) called "If Don Juan of Austria Had Married Mary Queen of Scots." I'll deal with that essay in a later post..

In All Things Considered, he did include an essay dealing with Scotland, declaring in it “I am quite certain that Scotland is a nation; I am quite certain that nationality is the key of Scotland.” 

Here is the essay:

Edward VII. and Scotland

IHAVE received a serious, and to me, at any rate, an impressive remonstrance from the Scottish Patriotic Association. It appears that I recently referred to Edward VII. of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, under the horrible description of the King of England. The Scottish Patriotic Association draws my attention to the fact that by the provisions of the Act of Union, and the tradition of nationality, the monarch should be referred to as the King of Britain. The blow thus struck at me is particularly wounding because it is particularly unjust. I believe in the reality of the independent nationalities under the British Crown much more passionately and positively than any other educated Englishman of my acquaintance believes in it. I am quite certain that Scotland is a nation; I am quite certain that nationality is the key of Scotland; I am quite certain that all our success with Scotland has been due to the fact that we have in spirit treated it as a nation. I am quite certain that Ireland is a nation; I am quite certain that nationality is the key to Ireland; I am quite certain that all our failure in Ireland arose from the fact that we would not in spirit treat it as a nation. It would be difficult to find, even among the innumerable examples that exist, a stronger example of the immensely superior importance of sentiment to what is called practicality than this case of the two sister nations. It is not that we have encouraged a Scotchman to be rich; it is not that we have encouraged a Scotchman to be active; it is not that we have encouraged a Scotchman to be free. It is that we have quite definitely encouraged a Scotchman to be Scotch.

A vague, but vivid impression was received from all our writers of history, philosophy, and rhetoric that the Scottish element was something really valuable in itself, was something which even Englishmen were forced to recognise and respect. If we ever admitted the beauty of Ireland, it was as something which might be loved by an Englishman but which could hardly be respected even by an Irishman. A Scotchman might be proud of Scotland; it was enough for an Irishman that he could be fond of Ireland. Our success with the two nations has been exactly proportioned to our encouragement of their independent national emotion; the one that we would not treat nationally has alone produced Nationalists. The one nation that we would not recognise as a nation in theory is the one that we have been forced to recognise as a nation in arms. The Scottish Patriotic Association has no need to draw my attention to the importance of the separate national sentiment or the need of keeping the Border as a sacred line. The case is quite sufficiently proved by the positive history of Scotland. The place of Scottish loyalty to England has been taken by English admiration of Scotland. They do not need to envy us our titular leadership, when we seem to envy them their separation.

I wish to make very clear my entire sympathy with the national sentiment of the Scottish Patriotic Association. But I wish also to make clear this very enlightening comparison between the fate of Scotch and of Irish patriotism. In life it is always the little facts that express the large emotions, and if the English once respected Ireland as they respect Scotland, it would come out in a hundred small ways. For instance, there are crack regiments in the British Army which wear the kilt—the kilt which, as Macaulay says with perfect truth, was regarded by nine Scotchmen out of ten as the dress of a thief. The Highland officers carry a silver-hilted version of the old barbarous Gaelic broadsword with a basket-hilt, which split the skulls of so many English soldiers at Killiecrankie and Prestonpans. When you have a regiment of men in the British Army carrying ornamental silver shillelaghs you will have done the same thing for Ireland, and not before—or when you mention Brian Boru with the same intonation as Bruce.

Let me be considered therefore to have made quite clear that I believe with a quite special intensity in the independent consideration of Scotland and Ireland as apart from England. I believe that, in the proper sense of the words, Scotland is an independent nation, even if Edward VII. is the King of Scotland. I believe that, in the proper sense of words, Ireland is an independent nation, even if Edward VII. is King of Ireland. But the fact is that I have an even bolder and wilder belief than either of these. I believe that England is an independent nation. I believe that England also has its independent colour and history, and meaning. I believe that England could produce costumes quite as queer as the kilt; I believe that England has heroes fully as untranslateable as Brian Boru, and consequently I believe that Edward VII. is, among his innumerable other functions, really King of England. If my Scotch friends insist, let us call it one of his quite obscure, unpopular, and minor titles; one of his relaxations. A little while ago he was Duke of Cornwall; but for a family accident he might still have been King of Hanover. Nor do I think that we should blame the simple Cornishmen if they spoke of him in a rhetorical moment by his Cornish title, nor the well-meaning Hanoverians if they classed him with Hanoverian Princes.

Now it so happens that in the passage complained of I said the King of England merely because I meant the King of England. I was speaking strictly and especially of English Kings, of Kings in the tradition of the old Kings of England. I wrote as an English nationalist keenly conscious of the sacred boundary of the Tweed that keeps (or used to keep) our ancient enemies at bay. I wrote as an English nationalist resolved for one wild moment to throw off the tyranny of the Scotch and Irish who govern and oppress my country. I felt that England was at least spiritually guarded against these surrounding nationalities. I dreamed that the Tweed was guarded by the ghosts of Scropes and Percys; I dreamed that St. George's Channel was guarded by St. George. And in this insular security I spoke deliberately and specifically of the King of England, of the representative of the Tudors and Plantagenets. It is true that the two Kings of England, of whom I especially spoke, Charles II. and George III., had both an alien origin, not very recent and not very remote. Charles II. came of a family originally Scotch. George III. came of a family originally German. But the same, so far as that goes, could be said of the English royal houses when England stood quite alone. The Plantagenets were originally a French family. The Tudors were originally a Welsh family. But I was not talking of the amount of English sentiment in the English Kings. I was talking of the amount of English sentiment in the English treatment and popularity of the English Kings. With that Ireland and Scotland have nothing whatever to do.

Charles II. may, for all I know, have not only been King of Scotland; he may, by virtue of his temper and ancestry, have been a Scotch King of Scotland. There was something Scotch about his combination of clear-headedness with sensuality. There was something Scotch about his combination of doing what he liked with knowing what he was doing. But I was not talking of the personality of Charles, which may have been Scotch. I was talking of the popularity of Charles, which was certainly English. One thing is quite certain: whether or no he ever ceased to be a Scotch man, he ceased as soon as he conveniently could to be a Scotch King. He had actually tried the experiment of being a national ruler north of the Tweed, and his people liked him as little as he liked them. Of Presbyterianism, of the Scottish religion, he left on record the exquisitely English judgment that it was "no religion for a gentleman." His popularity then was purely English; his royalty was purely English; and I was using the words with the utmost narrowness and deliberation when I spoke of this particular popularity and royalty as the popularity and royalty of a King of England. I said of the English people specially that they like to pick up the King's crown when he has dropped it. I do not feel at all sure that this does apply to the Scotch or the Irish. I think that the Irish would knock his crown off for him. I think that the Scotch would keep it for him after they had picked it up.

For my part, I should be inclined to adopt quite the opposite method of asserting nationality. Why should good Scotch nationalists call Edward VII. the King of Britain? They ought to call him King Edward I. of Scotland. What is Britain? Where is Britain? There is no such place. There never was a nation of Britain; there never was a King of Britain; unless perhaps Vortigern or Uther Pendragon had a taste for the title. If we are to develop our Monarchy, I should be altogether in favour of developing it along the line of local patriotism and of local proprietorship in the King. I think that the Londoners ought to call him the King of London, and the Liverpudlians ought to call him the King of Liverpool. I do not go so far as to say that the people of Birmingham ought to call Edward VII. the King of Birmingham; for that would be high treason to a holier and more established power. But I think we might read in the papers: "The King of Brighton left Brighton at half-past two this afternoon," and then immediately afterwards, "The King of Worthing entered Worthing at ten minutes past three." Or, "The people of Margate bade a reluctant farewell to the popular King of Margate this morning," and then, "His Majesty the King of Ramsgate returned to his country and capital this afternoon after his long sojourn in strange lands." It might be pointed out that by a curious coincidence the departure of the King of Oxford occurred a very short time before the triumphal arrival of the King of Reading. I cannot imagine any method which would more increase the kindly and normal relations between the Sovereign and his people. Nor do I think that such a method would be in any sense a depreciation of the royal dignity; for, as a matter of fact, it would put the King upon the same platform with the gods. The saints, the most exalted of human figures, were also the most local. It was exactly the men whom we most easily connected with heaven whom we also most easily connected with earth. 

Friday, April 01, 2022

Be Alive As You Die

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
    - G. K. Chesterton

We’ve had a small late March snowstorm a couple of days ago. In Western New York, this is not unusual. I’ve experienced April snow here. 

There was enough snow I had to do a little shoveling of the driveway. 

I like shoveling snow. It’s a physical activity, albeit, a short-lived one. But it makes me feel …  virtuous. And there’s a sense of accomplishment as I clear a path for the cars. And it gives me time to think, to pray, to mull over my latest writing project or what I should have said (or might say).

When the snowfall is heavier, as it was earlier this year, I’ve even had to get out the small electric snowblower my daughters kindly gave me one Christmas. I like to shovel, but I’m not a masochist.

My wife, however, frets any time I go out to clear snow off the driveway. She is certain I will at some point have a heart attack and drop dead. Shovel in hand. She keeps bringing up the idea of hiring someone to plow.

When she brings this up, I usually respond I don’t want to hire a plowing service. And if I do drop dead, it’s actually one of the ways I wouldn’t mind going into the great beyond. It would be sudden; no lingering. 

Another way I wouldn’t mind going is mowing the lawn. It’s also an activity I enjoy for many of the same reasons I enjoy shoveling the driveway. And it’s another activity my wife frets about and repeatedly calls for hiring an outsider to battle the grass.

So far, I’ve held off giving in to her.

There’s also a romantic side to me, so if I had to go I wouldn’t mind if it was in some heroic way. I’m too old to be a soldier, a police officer, or a firefighter, so I wouldn’t go into the heavenly realms doing my job. But dying while saving someone during some kind of disaster - natural or man-made - would be a fine way to step into the light.

Another romantic way to go would be as a martyr. Yes, that might be slow and/or painful, but dying for my faith in such a way would make up for some (too many) sins in my past, and would (I hope) punch my ticket into heaven. 

I’ve joked that when my time comes, family members should just drive me deep into the Canadian woods, open the car door, and let me out to sit under a tree to welcome Brother Death. Of course, the fact that I might also have to deal with Brother Bear or Brother Wolf makes me reject this option. 

When I look at the ways I wouldn’t mind dying, I think of Dylan Thomas’s admonition not to go gentle into that good night. Go down fighting. Don’t go with the current like a dead thing, as Chesterton noted, go against it like a living thing. Confront the forces of nature. Go against the currents of evil or the secular secular culture. Be alive, even as you die.

What I would not like is a slow, lingering slide into that good night. I’ve watched too many loved ones suffer in that way. My father, who in his youth had been a star athlete and even a heavyweight boxer, suffered a massive stroke and spent his last 13 years gradually losing his abilities to walk and to take care of himself. He ended up in a nursing home. He was aware of his decline, and it deeply troubled him.

That’s not for me.

Just give me a shovel and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Reflection on Andy Rooney and Chesterton


I’ve been reading a collection of short essays by the late Andy Rooney. Anyone familiar with his short commentaries for years on 60 Minutes will find these essays true to form.

I always enjoyed his commentaries. Yes, he was frequently cranky and a bit of a curmudgeon, but so am I.

When I think of the two men, I can imagine Rooney yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, while Chesterton would amble out and join in whatever game the young folks were playing.

As I read, I was suddenly reminded of the essays of G.K. Chesterton. No, not that Chesteron was cranky or a curmudgeon. He was passionate about issues and ideas, but he never showed in his writing the suggestion of anger that underlies some of Rooney’s. And their writing styles are very different. Colloquial language has changed over the years, and Rooney’s writing appeals more to a contemporary American audience demanding short sentences and simplified language. Rooney’s essays are also short when compared with Chesterton’’s. Again, shortness is more the style of contemporary Americans who are more used to sound bytes than sound explanations. Indeed, some of Rooney’s essays seem to end abruptly, almost at a point where Chesterton would just be warming up. And consequently, Rooney’s essays, while they often make valid points, don’t go far enough, certainly not to the depth of thought and insight a Chesterton essay offers..

But there were some things in Rooney’s essays that did remind me of Cheterton’s.

Rooney, like Chesterton, viewed himself as primarily a journalist.

While Rooney could be cranky with an edge of anger, he never seemed mean-spirited, even in criticizing others. In that, he was like Chesterton, who often made good friends of his foes.

The essays also tend to be very personal in nature - much as were so many of Chesterton’s. In the middle of a discussion of some international subject Rooney will suddenly insert a personal experience or memory inspired by the subject at hand.

But what struck me as most similar is that Rooney, like Chesterton, writes about everything, even commonplace seemingly trivial things. He does not necessarily celebrate them as Chesterton does, but he certainly is aware of them in a way most of us are too busy or oblivious to do so. In this particular collection, Rooney expounds on going to the dump, cookies, music, the Super Bowl, newspapers, cooking, semicolons, baseball, cars, and more. I don’t know if he ever wrote about things he found in his pocket, but you never know.

And as he writes about all these seemingly trivial things he often uses them as starting points to ruminate about the world and human nature. Indeed, as happens in some Chesterton essays, when you get to the end you have almost forgotten what he was originally talking about.

Of course, unlike Chesterton, he tended to focus on the negative, If, for example, both men ate a breakfast cereal, Chesterton would probably celebrate the creativity that went into making that cereal and use that as a jumping off point to expound on human creativity in general, while Rooney would more likely wonder about the chemicals and additives in the cereal and the possible negative effects of eating that cereal on his waistline.

I like both writers. I enjoy reading both. But I also recognize that while the essays of Rooney are of their time, the essays of Chesterton are timeless.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

G.K. Chesterton Became Catholic 100 Years Ago, Drawn in by Jerusalem and Our Lady

"On July 30, 1922, at the Railway Hotel, in Beaconsfield, England, G.K. Chesterton became a Catholic. In the absence of a local Catholic church, the Railway Hotel’s Irish landlady had allowed the ballroom to be converted into a makeshift chapel. It was there, beneath a corrugated-iron roof and surrounded by bare wooden walls, the 48-year-old writer entered into full communion with the Church.

What were the reasons for Chesterton taking this step?

And, given his thought and writings on Christianity for many years, why had it taken him so long? ..."

Monday, March 14, 2022

Tom Baker Clerihew

As an actor, Tom Baker
was more of a character than a heart-breaker.
But I think his Doctor is worthy of a clerihew,
even though at mention of his name some folks just say, Who?"

Robert Burns Clerihew

Robert Burns
hid behind some ferns.
He feared that he might be shot
by the husband of an auld acquaintance he forgot.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Judgment for Planned Parenthood

 “God Himself will not help us ignore evil, but only to defy and to defeat it.” 

I was recently watching Judgment at Nuremberg. If you have never seen it, it's a powerful film with some fine performance. Indeed, Maximilian Schell won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Interestingly, after finishing this move he portrayed Saint Joseph of Cupertino in The Reluctant Saint. Saint Joseph was not a bright light - and I couldn't help but wonder if Schell was inspired in any way by the nominated (as Best Supporting Actor) portrayal of a developmentally limited man by Montgomery Clift in Judgment at Nuremberg.

The movie raises  number of moral issues, including the culpability of government officials who did nothing to oppose the growing evil - and indeed were often complicit in it. The four judges on trial in the movie all had "rational" explanations for their crimes, including that they were willing to sacrifice people for the good of the nation.

The movie also addressed the issue of people who say they did not know the evil that was going on.

That ignorance may have been due to a number of causes.

Some people might  have been genuinely ill-informed, isolated, impoverished, caught up in mere survival, or mentally challenged that they really did not know. I have sympathy for them.

Others are harder to excuse.

Some people were lazy and relied on others to keep them "informed."

Some people deliberately tried to avoid becoming informed.

Some people were aware - partly, or wholly - but chose denial.

Some people were aware - partly or wholly - but chose to lie.

Some people were aware - partly or wholly - but were too afraid of potential repercussions to do anything. 

Some people simply didn't care.

The degree of quilt varied. Certainly the men on trial in the movie deserved to be sentence to prison. But the people of Germany - indeed, of the world - who allowed this evil to occur were not exempt from blame. 

As the Chesterton quotation that begins this post suggests, God is not on the side of those who ignore evil - for whatever reason. We are called to recognize and reject evil, not to wallow in ignorance. Indeed, as he observed, “We cannot be vague about what we believe in, what we are willing to fight for, and to die for.”

The movie and the cooperation with evil of so many people reminded me of the evil of abortion in our country. Some people have been directly involved in the killing of more than 60 million babies. Some allowed it to continue through elections, their refusal to acknowledge what organizations like Planned Parenthood really do, and by their failure to act to change the culture and the laws.

Too often they plead that they did not or do not know. Too often, they do nothing to become informed. And they allow the supporters of abortion to justify it because it is supposedly better in some way for individuals, society, the economy, and so on. Some call it a right, or a good thing.

It's like a 1984 twisting of language. 

We are seeing what Chesterton noted: “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

Although some involved with abortion have faced charges for related crimes, it is unlikely that others will face a tribunal like that depicted in the movie for the crime of abortion itself. After all, as those accused in the film could legitimately contend about what they did, while it may be a crime against humanity, it is legal. 

And those who plead ignorance will not be confronted with the evil they tried to ignore.

At least not in this life.

For in the end, there will be a Final Tribunal that with render a Final Judgment. 

Monday, February 28, 2022


On social media - a swamp I advise others to tread in cautiously - I've seen repeated debates over certain Catholic issues.

Usually, they are started by one side in the debates.

There are those who hate Pope Francis no matter what he says or does.

There are those who contend the only valid way to celebrate Mass is the Traditional Latin Mass.

There are those say only traditional hymns played on organ or sung by choirs are proper for Mass.

Tired of the endless stream of criticism - again, largely from one side - I posted:

All the squabbles over TLM vs. NO, contemporary (guitar) music vs. traditional organ hymns, Pope Francis vs. "Pope X" deemed more "orthodox," I think of The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis uses Screwtape to point out that the devil uses such squabbles to help undermine faith.

I added two quotations from Screwtape:

“Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.” 

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”

The response was as if I stepped on a wasp nest.

Oh, there were those who agreed with me - but even more who attacked not only me and my position, but Novus Ordo and Vatican II in general.

So many claimed that with NO the liturgical abuses are the norm, not the exception.

I pointed out that I regularly attend NO Masses that are reverent and liturgically correct.

One person suggested that I must attend a "magical unicorn parish."


I know that the TLM folks have a beef because of some recent statements and guidelines out of the Vatican. Though I think a few brought it on the whole because of the way they talk and act - as some of the responses to my postings show.

I know that most TLM folks - especially the ones I know - are faithful, devout people who don't run around pontificating with chips on their shoulders. 

As a musician, I know a lot of contemporary music is flawed. But there are also some wonderful new hymns out there - including some played on guitars. And I've been to churches where traditional hymns are played on an organ - and it sounds as if I'm at a circus. Musicianship is important!

I engage in debates with pro-choicers on a regular basis. To be honest, I find those debates less painful than these liturgical/Church ones. The pro-choicers are like the kid down the street who calls you a name. It may bother you - but not as much as when a relative or someone you considered a friend calls you the same thing.  

The Church is universal, and I think we need to accept that as long as people are following the rubrics, various forms are worship are equally valid, so we need to be careful how and when we criticize. If something is being done incorrectly, speak up. otherwise, we need to accept that we are not all the same.

There are more important spiritual issues that need our attention than what language one uses or what  musical instrument one plays.

As Screwtape notes, when we do this we play into his hands:

“The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat, which is already nearly gunwale under.”

Friday, February 04, 2022

Patriotism and Sport (and the Olympics)


The Beijing Olympics have begun. I’m not a big fan of the Winter Olympics in general, but I have in the past tuned in for some events.
There’s something about curling.
But this year I am boycotting the Olympics over China’s human rights abuses. Just to cite two of China’s many offenses, the treatment (genocide) of the Uyghurs and forced abortion, merit condemnation. I am saddened that the U.S. and other nations still sent athletes.
In 1908, Chesterton commented on nationalism and athletics – the kind of misplaced national pride we too often see with the Olympics.
Patriotism and Sport
I notice that some papers, especially papers that call themselves patriotic, have fallen into quite a panic over the fact that we have been twice beaten in the world of sport, that a Frenchman has beaten us at golf, and that Belgians have beaten us at rowing. I suppose that the incidents are important to any people who ever believed in the self-satisfied English legend on this subject. I suppose that there are men who vaguely believe that we could never be beaten by a Frenchman, despite the fact that we have often been beaten by Frenchmen, and once by a Frenchwoman. In the old pictures in Punch you will find a recurring piece of satire. The English caricaturists always assumed that a Frenchman could not ride to hounds or enjoy English hunting. It did not seem to occur to them that all the people who founded English hunting were Frenchmen. All the Kings and nobles who originally rode to hounds spoke French. Large numbers of those Englishmen who still ride to hounds have French names. I suppose that the thing is important to any one who is ignorant of such evident matters as these. I suppose that if a man has ever believed that we English have some sacred and separate right to be athletic, such reverses do appear quite enormous and shocking. They feel as if, while the proper sun was rising in the east, some other and unexpected sun had begun to rise in the north-north-west by north. For the benefit, the moral and intellectual benefit of such people, it may be worth while to point out that the Anglo-Saxon has in these cases been defeated precisely by those competitors whom he has always regarded as being out of the running; by Latins, and by Latins of the most easy and unstrenuous type; not only by Frenchman, but by Belgians. All this, I say, is worth telling to any intelligent person who believes in the haughty theory of Anglo-Saxon superiority. But, then, no intelligent person does believe in the haughty theory of Anglo-Saxon superiority. No quite genuine Englishman ever did believe in it. And the genuine Englishman these defeats will in no respect dismay.
The genuine English patriot will know that the strength of England has never depended upon any of these things; that the glory of England has never had anything to do with them, except in the opinion of a large section of the rich and a loose section of the poor which copies the idleness of the rich. These people will, of course, think too much of our failure, just as they thought too much of our success. The typical Jingoes who have admired their countrymen too much for being conquerors will, doubtless, despise their countrymen too much for being conquered. But the Englishman with any feeling for England will know that athletic failures do not prove that England is weak, any more than athletic successes proved that England was strong. The truth is that athletics, like all other things, especially modern, are insanely individualistic. The Englishmen who win sporting prizes are exceptional among Englishmen, for the simple reason that they are exceptional even among men. English athletes represent England just about as much as Mr. Barnum's freaks represent America. There are so few of such people in the whole world that it is almost a toss-up whether they are found in this or that country.
If any one wants a simple proof of this, it is easy to find. When the great English athletes are not exceptional Englishmen they are generally not Englishmen at all. Nay, they are often representatives of races of which the average tone is specially incompatible with athletics. For instance, the English are supposed to rule the natives of India in virtue of their superior hardiness, superior activity, superior health of body and mind. The Hindus are supposed to be our subjects because they are less fond of action, less fond of openness and the open air. In a word, less fond of cricket. And, substantially, this is probably true, that the Indians are less fond of cricket. All the same, if you ask among Englishmen for the very best cricket-player, you will find that he is an Indian. Or, to take another case: it is, broadly speaking, true that the Jews are, as a race, pacific, intellectual, indifferent to war, like the Indians, or, perhaps, contemptuous of war, like the Chinese: nevertheless, of the very good prize-fighters, one or two have been Jews.
This is one of the strongest instances of the particular kind of evil that arises from our English form of the worship of athletics. It concentrates too much upon the success of individuals. It began, quite naturally and rightly, with wanting England to win. The second stage was that it wanted some Englishmen to win. The third stage was (in the ecstasy and agony of some special competition) that it wanted one particular Englishman to win. And the fourth stage was that when he had won, it discovered that he was not even an Englishman.
This is one of the points, I think, on which something might really be said for Lord Roberts and his rather vague ideas which vary between rifle clubs and conscription. Whatever may be the advantages or disadvantages otherwise of the idea, it is at least an idea of procuring equality and a sort of average in the athletic capacity of the people; it might conceivably act as a corrective to our mere tendency to see ourselves in certain exceptional athletes. As it is, there are millions of Englishmen who really think that they are a muscular race because C.B. Fry is an Englishman. And there are many of them who think vaguely that athletics must belong to England because Ranjitsinhji is an Indian.
But the real historic strength of England, physical and moral, has never had anything to do with this athletic specialism; it has been rather hindered by it. Somebody said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on Eton playing-fields. It was a particularly unfortunate remark, for the English contribution to the victory of Waterloo depended very much more than is common in victories upon the steadiness of the rank and file in an almost desperate situation. The Battle of Waterloo was won by the stubbornness of the common soldier--that is to say, it was won by the man who had never been to Eton. It was absurd to say that Waterloo was won on Eton cricket-fields. But it might have been fairly said that Waterloo was won on the village green, where clumsy boys played a very clumsy cricket. In a word, it was the average of the nation that was strong, and athletic glories do not indicate much about the average of a nation. Waterloo was not won by good cricket-players. But Waterloo was won by bad cricket-players, by a mass of men who had some minimum of athletic instincts and habits.
It is a good sign in a nation when such things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is a bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on. Suppose that whenever we heard of walking in England it always meant walking forty-five miles a day without fatigue. We should be perfectly certain that only a few men were walking at all, and that all the other British subjects were being wheeled about in Bath-chairs. But if when we hear of walking it means slow walking, painful walking, and frequent fatigue, then we know that the mass of the nation still is walking. We know that England is still literally on its feet.
The difficulty is therefore that the actual raising of the standard of athletics has probably been bad for national athleticism. Instead of the tournament being a healthy melee into which any ordinary man would rush and take his chance, it has become a fenced and guarded tilting-yard for the collision of particular champions against whom no ordinary man would pit himself or even be permitted to pit himself. If Waterloo was won on Eton cricket-fields it was because Eton cricket was probably much more careless then than it is now. As long as the game was a game, everybody wanted to join in it. When it becomes an art, every one wants to look at it. When it was frivolous it may have won Waterloo: when it was serious and efficient it lost Magersfontein.
In the Waterloo period there was a general rough-and-tumble athleticism among average Englishmen. It cannot be re-created by cricket, or by conscription, or by any artificial means. It was a thing of the soul. It came out of laughter, religion, and the spirit of the place. But it was like the modern French duel in this--that it might happen to anybody. If I were a French journalist it might really happen that Monsieur Clemenceau might challenge me to meet him with pistols. But I do not think that it is at all likely that Mr. C. B. Fry will ever challenge me to meet him with cricket-bats.