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G. K. Chesterton

  • HEATHER KING

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer, lay theologian, poet, and philosopher, converted to Catholicism in 1922 and became one of its greatest contemporary apologists.


chesterton76His output was prodigious.  He wrote over a hundred books — among them Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man — as well as plays, short stones, novels, poems, and over 4,000 newspaper essays.

Corpulent, a lover of fine cigars, and notoriously absent-minded, Chesterton was said frequently to have called his wife Frances from a train station to ask where he was going.

He was also loyal, compassionate, and kind.  During a time when Frances was suffering from depression, he wrote to a friend to cancel a planned visit in favor of sitting for a few nights by her side.  "One of the mysteries of marriage (which must be a sacrament and an extraordinary one, too) is that a man evidently useless like me can yet become at certain instants indispensable.  And the further oddity (which I invite you to explain on mystical grounds) is that he never feels so small as when he knows he is necessary."

Married thirty-five years, the couple remained childless.

Almost everything he wrote is quotable.  All Chesterton fans have their favorites.

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and left untried."

Courage means "a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die."

"One can hardly think too little of one's self.  One can hardly think too much of one's soul."

Chesterton gave us Christ as poet, a troubadour with a dashing spirit of adventure, the Man of Sorrows characterized by knightly courtesy and sublime class.

Chesterton gave us Christ as poet, a troubadour with a dashing spirit of adventure, the Man of Sorrows characterized by knightly courtesy and sublime class.

"The prince of paradox," as Chesterton was sometimes called, reminds us that there is not a scintilla of haughtiness, stodginess, or falsity in our Savior: "For some extraordinary reason, there is a fixed notion that it is more liberal to disbelieve in miracles than to believe in them.  Why, I cannot imagine, nor can anybody tell me."

He posits that the je ne sais quoi element of Christ, that elusive characteristic upon which we can't quite put our finger, is mirth.

Chesterton's extraordinary ability to convey the strangeness of Catholicism allows us to say, "Yes, that's just it!" He invites us to a great romance in which the stakes are life and death.

In fact, a single passage from his Saint Francis of Assisi may have been responsible for my own conversion.

Rationalists, he noted, will find things like "the Stigmata a stumbling-block because to them religion was a philosophy."  But "[A] man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being.  He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness.  He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse.  He will do these things when he is in love....  Tell it as the tale of one of the troubadours, and the wild things he would do for his lady, and the whole of the modern puzzle disappears."

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Acknowledgement

king Heather King. "G. K. Chesterton." Magnificat (May, 2017).

Reprinted with permission from Magnificat.

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The Author

king king1 Heather King is a sober alcoholic, an ex-lawyer, a Catholic convert, and a full-time writer. She is the author of: Parched, Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding, Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Poor Baby, Stripped, Holy Days and Gospel Reflectionsand Stumble: Virtue, Vice, and the Space Between. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website here

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