June 20, 2011

G.K. Chesterton, again!

Gilbert Keith Chesterton died 14 June 1936. I just came across several excellent quotes honoring this great man:

Chesterton is dead! That is to say and
Englishry shrunken; death upon a day
was not content with More but took
   his heir.
~Robert Farren: ‘Chesterton.’

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“IT seems to me that Gilbert Chesterton at his baptism was visited by three fairies. Two good and one evil. The two good fairies were the fairy of fecundity of speech and the fairy of wide appreciation. The bad fairy was struck dead as she entered the church---and served her right. He was blessed in knowing nothing of the acerbities which bite into the life of writing men.”

~Hilaire Belloc: Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters.

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“HIS mind was oceanic, subject indeed to a certain restriction of repeated phrase and manner, but in no way restricted as to the action of the mind. He swooped upon an idea like an eagle, tore it with active beak into its constituent parts and brought out the heart of it. If ever a man analyzed finally and conclusively Chesterton did so.”

~Hilaire Belloc: Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters.

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“WE are in some danger today of underestimating our debt to Mr. Chesterton, of forgetting the impact which his books made on the minds of young men who were infected by the fallacy of Victorian rationalism. In those distant days many people still cherished the futile hope of reconstructing a positive ethical system on the basis of mere negation. Mr. Chesterton’s destructive criticism of the Huxleys, Brandlaughs and Haeckels of our youth was as devastating as it was brilliant, and its value would be more widely appreciated today if it had not been so completely effective.”

~Arnold Lunn: Now I See.

June 15, 2011

"Blessed" G.K. Chesterton?

Interview on Possible Beatification of English Author
By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, JULY 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is well known for his clever and humorous writing, and his thought-provoking paradoxes. But he might also become known as a saint, if a proposal to launch his cause of beatification goes forward.

ZENIT spoke with Paolo Gulisano, author of the first Italian-language biography of the great English writer ("Chesterton & Belloc: Apologia e Profezia," Edizioni Ancora), about the origins of this proposal. Here, Gulisano explains why Chesterton might merit recognition as a saint.

ZENIT: Who is promoting this cause of beatification?

Gulisano: The cultural association dedicated to him, the Chesterton Society, founded in England in 1974 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the great author's birth, with the idea of spreading awareness of the work, thought and figure of this extraordinary personality. For years now, there has been talk of a possible cause of beatification, and a few days ago, during an international conference organized in Oxford on "The Holiness of G.K. Chesterton" -- with the participation of the best exponents in the field of Chesterton studies -- it was decided to go ahead with this proposal.

ZENIT: Why a beatification?

Gulisano: Many people feel there is clear evidence of Chesterton's sanctity: Testimonies about him speak of a person of great goodness and humility, a man without enemies, who proposed the faith without compromises but also without confrontation, a defender of Truth and Charity. His greatness is also in the fact that he knew how to present Christianity to a wide public, made up of Christians and secular people. His books, ranging from "Orthodoxy" to "St. Francis of Assisi," from "Father Brown" to "The Ball and the Cross," are brilliant presentations of the Christian faith, witnessed with clarity and valor before the world.

According to the ancient categories of the Church, we could define Chesterton as a "confessor of the faith." He was not just an apologist, but also a type of prophet who glimpsed far ahead of time the dramatic character of modern issues like eugenics. The English Dominican Aidan Nichols sustains that Chesterton should be seen as nothing less than a possible "father of the Church" of the 20th century.

ZENIT: What are his heroic virtues?

Gulisano: Faith, hope and charity: These were Chesterton's fundamental virtues. Moreover, he was innocent, simple, profoundly humble. Though having personally experienced sorrow, he was a chorister of Christian joy. Chesterton's work is a type of medicine for the soul, or better, it can more precisely be defined as an antidote. The writer himself had actually used the metaphor of antidote to define the effect of sanctity on the world: The saint has the objective of being a sign of contradiction and of restoring mental sanity to a world gone crazy.

ZENIT: What is the cultural, literary and moral contribution that Chesterton has left to British society and to Christianity?

Gulisano: When Pope Pius XI was informed of the death of the great writer, he sent a telegram of condolences through his secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. In the telegram, he mourned the loss of a "devout son of the Holy Church, rich defender of the gifts of the Catholic faith." This was the second time in history that a Pontiff would attribute the title "defender of the faith" to an Englishman. Perhaps the secretary of state did not realize the ironic parallelism, which would have sparked in Gilbert one of his proverbial guffaws -- but the other Englishman was Henry VIII, the man who inflicted on the Church in England its gravest and deepest wound. Chesterton tried to again bring England, and also the world, closer to God, the faith, reason.

ZENIT: What is your opinion on all this?

Gulisano: Reading Chesterton, whether his novels or his essays, always leaves the reader with great serenity and a sense of hope, which certainly does not come from an immature and worldly optimistic vision of life -- which in reality couldn't be farther from the thought of Chesterton, who carefully denounced all the aberrations of modernity -- but rather from a Christian conception, the virile strength of the religious experience.

Chesterton's proposal is to take all of reality seriously, beginning with the interior reality of man, and to confidently make use of the intellect, that is to say, of common sense, in its original sanity, purified of every ideological incrustation.

One rarely reads pages that speak of faith, conversion and doctrine that are so clear and incisive, while being free of every sentimental or moralistic excess. This comes from Chesterton's attentive reading of reality; he knew that the most harmful consequence of de-Christianization has not been the grave ethical straying but rather the straying of reason, synthesized in this critique of his: The modern world has suffered a mental fall much greater than the moral one.

Faced to this reality, Chesterton chose Catholicism, and affirms that there are at least 10,000 reasons to justify this choice, every one of them valid and well-founded, but able to be boiled down to one reason: That Catholicism is true. The responsibility and the task of the Church then consist in this: In the courage to believe, in the first place, and therefore to denounce the paths that lead to nothingness or destruction, to a blind wall or a prejudice. An undoubtedly holy work, and the holiness of Gilbert Chesterton, which I hope the Church will recognize, already shines and sparkles before the world.

[Translation by Kathleen Naab]

© Innovative Media, Inc.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-26454?l=english

June 14, 2011

In memory of G.K. Chesterton

Homily given by Monsignor Ronald Knox at the Requiem Mass for Gilbert Keith Chesterton on June 27, 1936. (Chesterton died June 14, 1936)

Blessed are they that saw thee, and were honoured by thy friendship. For we live only in our life, but after death our name shall not be such (Ecclesiasticus 48:11).

THE man whom we laid to rest the other day in the cemetery at Beaconsfield was one of the very greatest men of his time. If posterity neglects him, it will pronounce judgment not upon him, but upon itself. He will almost certainly be remembered as a great and solitary figure in literature, an artist in words and in ideas with an astounding fecundity of imaginative vision. He will almost certainly be remembered as a prophet, in an age of false prophets. He warned us, in spacious times, that human liberties were threatened, and to-day, human liberties are in debate. He warned us, in times of prosperity, against the perils of industrialism, and industrialism is labouring for breath. He warned us, when imperialism was a fashion, that nationalism was a force not easily destroyed; today nationalism is the shadow over men's hearts.

Whether he was a great author, whether he was a true prophet, does not concern him now-he lies deaf to the world's praise, and secure from its catastrophes-nor does it concern us here; we are met, as Christians, to say farewell in our own fashion to a fellow-Christian who has outstripped us in the race for eternity. The most important thing about Chesterton (he would have been the first to say it), the most distinctive quality in Chester- ton, was a quality which he shared with some three hundred millions of his fellow-men; he was a Catholic. The public discovered him in the early years of the century; it was not till twenty years later that he discovered himself. There is a legend, told of his absentmindedness, that he once telegraphed home the words, "Am in Liverpool; where ought I to be?" And it took him fourteen years after the publication of his book 0rthodoxy to find out that he ought to be in Rome.

I hope I do not wrong such a man, in preaching his panegyric, when I confine myself to considering the position which belongs to him as a religious force: what Catholicism meant to him, and what he meant to Catholicism. In the case of a meaner man, we should be content to celebrate his domestic virtues, his inconspicuous acts of charity. But Chesterton moved, though with the personal simplicity of a child, in a world of apocalyptic images; he saw his religion everywhere; it mattered furiously to him. What he did, is in God's hands; what he was, is matter of gracious recollection to his friends; it is the effect which he made on the world that claims the world's attention, and its gratitude.

I would speak first of the influence which Chesterton's earlier works had, on young men for the most part, and on Protestants. And it is the only claim I have to stand here, in the place of older and closer friends, that at the time when his earlier works were published I was myself a young man, and a Protestant. I think it is true to say that the generation which grew up between the turn of the century and the Great War had a tendency, all the time, to react in favour of religious orthodoxy. The triumph of evolutionary materialism had seemed complete; the faith of Englishmen was laid out for burial, with the cynics, the pessimists, the positivists driving the last nails in its coffin. There was a reaction, of which we should hear more if the events which began with 1914 had not decimated it, and left its less characteristic specimens to represent it. I do not wish to discount the influence of other religious leaders, Anglicans like Scott Holland, or Catholics like Hugh Benson. But the spear-head of that reaction was a man so plainly on the side of the angels that you did not stop to enquire whether he were an Anglican or a Catholic, G.K. Chesterton. The brilliance of his work, the wideness of his appeal, set the fashion in favour of a religious attitude which the fashion of an earlier age had derided. He was conscious, himself, of that change of atmosphere when he wrote the introduction to his book, The Man Who Was Thursday. It is an extraordinary book, written as if the publisher had commissioned him to write something rather like the Pilgrim's Progress in the style of the Pickwick Papers. And the poem which introduces it is a song, not of triumph, but of release from tension in the middle of a conflict.

But we were young; we lived to see God break their bitter charms;
God and the good Republic came riding back in arms;
We have seen the city of Mansoul, even as it rocked, relieved
Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind believed.

The direct effect of that reaction, in stemming the tide of religious liberalism, has been in great part obliterated by the War. Its indirect effect, in producing conversions to the Catholic faith, made itself fully felt only during the War, when the annual figure of conversions went up from eight thousand to ten, and from ten to twelve, where it has remained ever since. Meanwhile, the prophet who had acted as a signpost for us, directing us to the true destination of the soul, remained himself outside the Church, content to fight a lonely battle for the philosophy he could see was right, but could not see was ours. What changed him, then, four years after the Armistice? What was the new momentum which lent impetus to his thoughts so that he no longer believed, being blind, but saw? I never yet knew a convert who could give a precise answer to that question. To give a precise answer, we should have to understand, as we shall never understand it here, the economy of God's grace. We can only say that if it were possible to deserve the grace of conversion, Chesterton had deserved it for years as no other man did; and if he had to wait so long for it, there is hope in that for many a waiting soul, perhaps for some waiting soul here, which still cannot see the end to its despairs.

Meanwhile, what had happened was, to Chesterton himself, admirably clear. He had the artist's eye, which could suddenly see, in some quite familiar object, a new value; he had the poet's intuition, which could suddenly detect, in the tritest of phrases, a wealth of new meaning and of possibilities. The most salient quality, I think, of his writing is this gift of illuminating the ordinary; of finding in something trivial a type of the eternal. And it was a gift of vision he himself valued. In the first of his books which really made a name for him, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, the story opens at a moment when a Government clerk, walking behind two friends in town coats, suddenly sees the buttons on their coats as two eyes, the slit underneath as a nose-line; he has a vision of his two friends as two dragons walking backwards away from him. There is a law (he says in that connection) written in the darkest of the books of life, and it is this: If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.

That was what happened, when Chesterton was converted. He had looked for the thousandth time at the Catholic Faith, and for the first time, he saw it. Nothing in the Church was new to him, and yet everything was new to him; he was like the man in his own story who had wandered round the world in order to see, with fresh eyes, his own home. That it was his home, neither friend nor foe had doubted; men did not even dare to whisper of him, the old, pathetic lie that converts are unhappy. Whether his work as a Catholic has been as influential as the work he did when he was only a defender of Catholics, is a question hard to resolve. He was no longer the latest fashion; he had reached the age at which most men have said their say; his health had begun to decline, and he was overworked, partly through our fault. Nor, I think, will the world ever give a just hearing to one who has labeled himself a Catholic. But this I will say, that if every other line he wrote should disappear from circulation, Catholic posterity would still owe an imperishable debt of gratitude, so long as a copy of The Everlasting Man enriched its libraries. This I will say, that whenever I ask an enquirer whether he has read any Catholic books, his answer regularly begins, "I've read some Chesterton, of course."

We live only in our life, and after death our name shall not be such; few men of our time could refuse that epitaph to Gilbert Chesterton. Meanwhile, blessed are they that saw him, and were honoured by his friendship; they found in him a living example of charity, of chivalry, of unbelievable humility which will remain with them, perhaps, as a more effective document of Catholic verity than any word even he wrote. But the familiar voice, with its high chuckle of amusement, will reach us no longer; he, whose belief in immortality was so publicly influential, can give us no whisper of reassurance, now that he knows. Only, we know what he would say if he heard the suggestion that nothing remains of him beyond what was interred at Beaconsfield.

The sages have a hundred maps to give;
They trace their crawling cosmos like a tree;
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free;
And all these things are less than dust to me,
Because my name is Lazarus, and I live

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-from The Chesterton Review, 1990.


Chesterton page by Church of St. Teresa, Beconsfield, UK.

June 1, 2011

The Heavy Cost of the Bush-Obama Murder Rampage

By Anthony Gregory
June 1, 2011

IN EVERY election cycle, the politicians love to pretend there is a difference among them on the foreign policy questions. Yet on these issues of unsurpassed importance, we see the Democrats and Republicans are all part of the same bloodthirsty gang.

On the superficial level of presidential politics, Obama and Bush appeared light-years apart. They play opposites in the DC-approved official culture war between those who pretend to be genuine red-blooded Americans of the heartland and those who feign an understanding of the beleaguered urban minorities and oppressed underclass, when in truth both perfectly embody the same Wall Street-Pentagon-friendly power elite. This is most clearly seen in their virtually identical approach toward empire.

After 9/11, Bush could have used his Republican bonafides to stress not pacifism but at least the humble foreign policy he had promised. We shouldn’t be "an arrogant nation," he famously said in his October 11, 2000, debate with Al Gore. "[O]ne way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you."

But instead, Bush used 9/11 as an excuse to expand the federal government more than had happened in decades, gut the Bill of Rights, and start two major wars to "democractize" Afghanistan and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands, maybe more than a million innocents, were slaughtered in his wars. He left America in low morale, bankrupted from his recklessness, bloodied from battle, with thousands of Americans having returned in flag-draped caskets.

Obama in 2008 gave even more lip service to foreign policy humility than did Bush in 2000, or at least was perceived this way, and somehow everyone believed it. He said Bush made a terrible mistake in invading Iraq. He said we could save a fortune and restore American honor by withdrawing.

Yet here we are, over two years into his presidency, and the mountain of corpses continues to rise. In Afghanistan, there were more civilian deaths last year than any time since the war began. In Pakistan, Obama has unleashed unspeakable terror with his drone attacks, deploying more than three times as many last year as Bush did in 2008. This killing spree has greatly exacerbated a refugee disaster, wherein a million or two have been displaced from their homes.

But of course, most Americans don’t care about the death of foreigners. Non-Americans are barely human. Yet even by purely U.S.-centric standards, the Obama model of war has amounted to a continuation of the Bush trajectory. My new Independent Institute policy report, What Price War? Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Costs of Conflict, goes into the numbers and cuts through the rhetorical fog of partisan nonsense.

Last year, 559 American troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is ninety more than died in Bush’s last full year – 2008 – in office. Both 2009 and 2010 were far bloodier for Americans in Afghanistan than any year under Bush. In 2008, Bush’s deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 155 died there – fewer than half of the 317 who fell in 2009 and fewer than a third of the 499 who fell last year.

Even conservative Americans should be alarmed by this, and liberal peaceniks should be horrified that their man has apparently increased U.S. belligerence from its 2008 levels, by which point U.S. casualties were winding down from their peak during Bush’s most lethal years. All Americans have to be concerned with the financial cost too. Obama repeatedly promised to save money from the Iraq adventure and devote the savings to other priorities – which he has, more or less. Yet the U.S. was going to begin drawing down in Iraq anyway: Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement in 2008, setting a timetable for Iraq similar to what we’ve seen followed under Obama.

Overall, the heightened violence in Afghanistan has meant a war price tag rivaling the worst days of war criminal George W. Bush. Even adjusting for inflation, in 2006, Bush was spending about $133 billion on his two wars in 2011 dollars. Last year, the cost was up to $170 billion. Then we have the record-busting Pentagon budgets that the Democrats have given us.

Obama could have gotten away with a more modest policy than Bush, simply by continuing on the path set at the beginning of 2009. But he wanted to show that the Republicans had "neglected" Afghanistan and so he tripled the U.S. troop presence, from just over 30,000 soldiers at the end of the Bush era to the 100,000 or so that are there now. This puts aside the vast increase in contractors, as I discuss in the report.

Obama has also bombed Somalia and Yemen and started a fresh new major war with Libya, in violation of the War Powers Act, the Constitution, and all semblance of common sense. So far, according to Defense Secretary Gates, the cost has been over $750 million. This particular battle costs about $40 million a month in direct costs, but I’m sure the Republicans are still patting themselves on the back for saving $5 million a year by cutting federal funding for NPR.

All of this ignores the more hidden costs of war: The uncounted thousands of innocents blown to bits and otherwise slaughtered because Obama doesn’t want to appear "weak" in Afghanistan; the civil liberties violations that have only accelerated under this president; the many thousands of Americans injured and psychologically traumatized; the economic opportunities vanquished because of the trillions in resources devoted to and destroyed in these wars.

Concerning all the permanent fixtures of the American state – the trillions in entitlements, the national police power, the Fed and the armies of regulators – Obama has continued and expanded upon nearly everything we had under Bush, just as Bush ramped up what he inherited from Clinton and on and on going back decades. Nowhere is the tragic bipartisan continuity in U.S. policy starker than in the area of war. Yet as I note in my paper, there was no reason to expect otherwise: candidate Obama said Iraq was a mistake, but he praised the horrible surge and voted to continue funding the war, vowing the whole time to expand operations in Afghanistan.

Millions thought Obama would bring home the troops, wind down the wars, stop killing so many civilians, and save money while he was at it. Sadly, the murder rampage continues without interruption, only with a greater emphasis on picking on some nations rather than others and a different rhetorical cloak to obscure the evil of the slaughter. Hawks decry Obama as a pacifist who hates American power and doves often praise him for being more thoughtful than his reckless warmongering predecessor. The only real question is which dishonest characterization is the greater obscenity.

Anthony Gregory is research editor at the Independent Institute. He lives in Oakland, California. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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