G. K. Chesterton and The Eternal Thank You

In a biography of G.K. Chesterton published in 1943, Maisie Ward tells of this remarkable trait of the great convert and Catholic apologist:

“(He) liked everybody very much, and everything very much. He liked even the things most of us dislike. He liked to get wet. He liked to be tired. After…[a particular period of] struggle he liked to call himself ‘always perfectly happy’. And therefore he wanted to say “Thank You”.

To God. Chesterton loved life. He loved even the harsh struggles of life. It is no wonder he wrote wonderful biographies of both St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas; for, in a way, Chesterton was a combination of both. He relished the exquisite wonder and simplicity of being, so dear to Francis; and, understanding how messy and complicated the other side of life’s embroidery is, he loved the necessary and earnest intellectual joust, knowing perfectly well the dire matters which were at stake.

And loving life, the redoubtable Chesterton wanted to say “Thank You” to the Father; to the Heart of the universe. It was this desire to say the eternal “Thank You” which led Chesterton out of the bog and miasma of agnosticism. In a striking little poem which he early penned in his notebook, Chesterton wrote:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera
And grace before the pantomine,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink

And so much did this big man with the big heart love life, that at the end of a day he could write:

Here lies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And tommorow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Clearly, these could only be grace-dilated eyes which were so opened to the wonder of being and which could dwell within the same mortal house as the artful combatant in abstruse matters of eternal importance.

For Chesterton, though, there could be no question of conferring divinity on matter or worshipping his own subjectivity. He knew that to leap from the joy of existence to the worship of created reality, like so many do today, is to ensure the triumph of nothing but the nihil, of nothingness, and much worse.

His was a joy grounded in God, who is the Good, the True and the Beautiful. His joy resounded and rebounded back to the Origns of being, to the personal God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth; it was not rooted in the almighty self. For this joy can only repose in love. Such joy, received from our Maker, is not the opposite of suffering; it is what redeems and transfigures suffering! It is what enables a man not only to sing, but even to fight, when necessary (because few knew how dark the times were becoming as Chesterton did). If this man wasn’t a Doctor of the Church for our time, I’ve never known one. — SH

—- But Was Chesterton An Antisemite? No.


Virtues Gone Mad

G.K. Chesterton wrote,

“The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage.

The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.” — G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


Don’t let the incursions of dystopia get you down. Carry your notepad as you walk through its streets, observing it, noting it, painting it, writing poems and objective, maybe wry, essays about it, as in other eras Dickens, Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn and Blake and so many others did. Write, draw and paint the truth for your children and grandchildren if for no one else now, until this hallucination crumbles too, like, all Utopias, must.


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