Welcome to the Ink Desk

Enjoy the ponderings of the Star's contributors and add your own thoughts. As this section develops, we hope it may become a medium for an exchange of ideas among those who are working towards the cultural revival.

  • August 5th, 2014The Catholic Writers Guild Conferenceby Dena Hunt

    I just returned from the CWG conference in Chicago, not so much fired up to write as restored by the camaraderie of other writers. True, there were workshops on writing, publishing; there were “pitch” sessions with a few publishers (which don’t mean a thing to me, since I couldn’t sell water to someone dying of thirst.) There were panel discussions and presentations on such topics as handling rejection, maintaining perseverance—or on philosophical topics such as composition of art vs. representation. But, for me, the great benefit of the CWG conference is the chat, the constant conversation with people who are as lop-sided as I am, who spend too much time reading, who can’t resist story-telling, people who are the best audience in the world for other story-tellers because they are natural critics—those who have a natural reflex to edit, augment, suggest, in ways that are always constructive. There is an indescribable feeling of benevolence amongst Catholic writers. We actually crave each other’s success.

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  • August 4th, 2014Belloc’s Grandson, Dom Philip Jebb, RIPby Joseph Pearce

    Having just returned from this year's rambunctious Chesterton Conference, I was pleased to receive an e-mail from Kirk Kramer, giving his own personal reminiscences of Hilaire Belloc's grandson, Dom Philip Jebb, who entered into his eternal inheritance a few weeks ago.

    I also had the honour and pleasure of meeting Dom Philip at Downside Abbey as part of my research for my biography of his grandfather. Apart from speaking with fondness and eloquence about Belloc, he offered some delightful anecdotes about the great convert poet, Siegfried Sassoon.

    I've been meaning to write my own tribute to Dom Philip Jebb but my travel commitments have prevented me from doing so. As such, I'm grateful to Kirk for sending his own memories and also two obituaries from British newspapers, all of which I'm pleased to post below.

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  • August 4th, 2014The Cult of Chesterton and the Grace of Godby Kevin O'Brien

    MYSTICISM in its noblest sense, mysticism as it existed in St. John, and Plato, and Paraceleus, and Sir Thomas Browne, is not an exceptionally dark and secret thing, but an exceptionally luminous and open thing. It is in reality too clear for most of us to comprehend, and too obvious for most of us to see. Such an utterance as the utterance that “God is Love” does in reality overwhelm us like an immeasurable landscape on a clear day, like the light of an intolerable summer sun. We may call it a dark saying; but we have an inward knowledge all the time that it is we who are dark. - G. K. Chesterton

    Every year The American Chesterton Society Annual Conference is filled with grace.

    "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ," said St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:1).  But a certain 300 pound cigar smoking saint could have said the same.  And that is why we love him and his writings.

    There is no way to describe the blessing these conferences are.  I have tried in the past and I always fall short.  But this year a few things struck me.

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  • July 30th, 2014When Nice Turns Nastyby Joseph Pearce

    Is nice nasty? Is it nasty to be nice? All is revealed in my latest piece for the Imaginative Conservative:


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  • July 30th, 2014The Mysterious Grace of Conversionby Kevin O'Brien

    I was an atheist at age nine.  I was spiritual but not religious at age 18.  I had a surprising and profound conversion experience when I was 36.  And on July 30, 2000 - fourteen years ago today - my wife and I were received into the Catholic Church.  I was 39 at the time.

    I later learned that that was the same date that G. K. Chesterton was received into the Catholic Church, 78 years prior, in 1922.  More than any other person, Chesterton, by God's grace, and his writings, had made me a Catholic.  So the fact that Divine Providence arranged for me to come in, unwittingly, on his anniversary was a great and humbling honor.

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  • July 30th, 2014Word on Fire and Beauteous Truthby Joseph Pearce

    I'm pleased to announce the publication of my interview with Jared Zimmerer for Fr. Robert Barron's website, Word on Fire:


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  • July 28th, 2014Beauteous Praise from the Heart of Belloc Countryby Joseph Pearce

    I have been greatly heartened by some fulsome praise for my latest book from the very heart of Belloc country, i.e. Sussex in England. I hope that visitors to the Ink Desk will permit me the self-indulgence of sharing it.

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  • July 28th, 2014Beauteous Truthby Joseph Pearce

    Having just returned from a mini-speaking tour of northern California which culminated with my participation at this year's Napa Institute Conference, I'm delighted to find this review of my latest book on Randy Hain's Integrated Catholic Life website: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2014/07/randy-hain-joseph-pearce-and-beauteous-truth/

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  • July 25th, 2014A “Gay Catholic Romance Novel”?by Dena Hunt

    I’m particularly gratified with this review of The Lion’s Heart from Aletia. The novel is new, and while reviews have been good, it’s always a pleasure to hear from a reader who just seems to “get it,” regardless of how they title their reviews:


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  • July 24th, 2014Parsing Tolkien’s Letter on Love and Romanceby Kevin O'Brien

    Tolkien's amazing letter to his son Michael deserves a closer look.  Here it is again, with some commentary by me in boldface.  


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  • July 22nd, 2014Joseph Conrad’s Prince Romanby Daniel J. Heisey

    Thirty-one years ago in the journal Conradiana, C. F. Burgess had an essay, “Conrad’s Catholicism.”  As Burgess noted, critics tend to dismiss the notion of Joseph Conrad’s Catholicism, preferring to see him as a secular unbeliever.  As with any great artist, Conrad can get projected onto him the image of many of his admirers.

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  • July 22nd, 2014Stratford Caldecott: Go With Godby Michael Lichens

    On July 17th, Stratford Caldecott fell asleep in the Lord after a long battle with prostate cancer. Already, many have written great words of mourning for one of the most powerful voices of Catholic cultural renewal. The author of several books (and a contributor to many more) and the co-founder and editor of Second Spring, a Catholic journal he and his wife Léonie long edited along with the UK/Irish version of Magnificat; it is hard to put into words how much of an impact this man of Christ had on so many. This is especially hard for me, as Mr. Caldecott was a friend who greatly encouraged my own work and how I view Christ in the world. In short, I am of the opinion that we will never be thankful enough for the great work of Stratford Caldecott.

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  • July 21st, 2014The Arabic Writing on the Wallby Joseph Pearce

    In between travels. Just back from Florida and soon destined for California. In haste. Here's my latest for the Imaginative Conservative:


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  • July 21st, 2014It’s that business of pronouns again…by Dena Hunt

    …and I keep coming back to it. As ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes it seems that what we need most of all is a good lesson in grammar. Okay, so I’m a caricature of an old maid English teacher. I wear reading glasses on the bridge of my nose, and I even wear my hair in a bun sometimes (though I never stick a pencil it.) But look at all the woes that could be remedied if we paid attention to our pronouns. What is this third-person we use so reflexively? Ever notice reflex> reflexive> reflexive pronouns? Well, it’s a stretch, I admit, but-- Every single complaint one has against one’s mate, friend, parent, child, or anyone “other,” has to be—first of all—recognized. How does recognition happen? It is a re-; i.e., repetition, of cognition—which means knowledge, knowledge in the sense of familiarity, something we know by personal experience of it. We must first possess cognition before we can go for recognition.

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  • July 21st, 2014Tsar Nicholas II—Saint or Egomaniacby Brendan D. King

    It is far from uncommon to find admirers of both the House of Romanov and of Tsar Nicholas II. He is seen as a loving family man and a well meaning, but ineffectual ruler. As this post shall reveal, however, there was also another side to the personality of the Last Tsar.

    Throughout the Great War, the French Ambassador to the Russian Imperial Court, Maurice Paleologue, kept a detailed diary. Following his return to France, M. Paleologue published his diary in three volumes. In 1925, George H. Doran & Company published an English translation under the title, "An Ambassador's Memoirs." 

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  • July 17th, 2014Memory Eternal, Stratford Caldecottby Michael Lichens

    I just received word that Stratford Caldecott, a good friend to many of us here at StAR, has fallen asleep in the Lord. There will be many more good words and articles written about this amazing man. He was a true man of faith, a lover of theology and comic books, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Please join us prayer for him and for his dear family. 

    Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your servant, Stratford Caldecott,who has fallen asleep, in Your Kingdom, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering. In Your goodness and love for all men, pardon all the sins he has committed in thought word or deed, for there is no man or woman who lives and sins not, You only are without sin. 

    For You are the Resurrection, the Life, and Repose of Your servant Stratford, departed this life, O Christ our God; and to You do we send up glory with Your Eternal Father and Your All-holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

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  • July 17th, 2014To Live is To Loveby Kevin O'Brien

    I have been hired to write a short biographical drama on the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

    And although I believe she had a strong influence upon me (behind the scenes) at the Chesterton Conference in Emmitsburg, Maryland four years ago, it has taken her a while to grow upon me.  But the more I read of her, the more I like her.  She was, among other things, a woman who valued Friendship most highly among all earthly blessings.

    And this insight of hers in particular strikes me.  She wrote it as a note to herself on the back flyleaf of a book she was reading, The Following of Christ.

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  • July 16th, 2014The Gleam in the Eyeby Pavel Chichikov

    A few days ago I clicked on a radio interview concerning Siegfried Sassoon, the English poet who wrote so powerfully about his combat experiences in World War One. The specific subject was a poem called Atrocities, which was edited before publication to remove some of the most blunt and brutal lines. It was, after all, war time. Here is a reading of the poem and the interview:


    As the BBC writes: [The original] “version was heavily censored by publishers, with euphemisms such as 'How did you do them in?' replacing 'How did you kill them?', and other lines removed altogether.”

    The subject is the slaughter of prisoners.

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  • July 16th, 2014Famous Film Stars and the Faithby Joseph Pearce

    I've received an e-mail from Spain suggesting that I write a book about film actors and directors who are Catholics. Here's my reply:

    I think your idea for a book about Catholic actors and film directors is excellent. Unfortunately, as a British literary scholar, I know very little about American films. There are, however, two new books that overlap with your suggestion. The first is Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line by Karen Edmisten (Our Sunday Vistor, 2013), which focuses on several famous film stars and directors and which is reviewed in the latest issue of the St. Austin Review; the second is The Mississippi Flows into the Tiber by John Beaumont, a comprehensive study of American converts to Catholicism: 

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  • July 14th, 2014Hilaire Belloc on EWTN?by Joseph Pearce

    No, he has not been reconstructed through computer generated images.  Actually it is Scott Bloch of the Belloc Society on EWTN's "The Journey Home" this evening. I understand from Scott that a good portion of the program is dedicated to his conversion story (from Hollywood kid to John Senior godson) but that a surprising portion of the show is dedicated to Belloc because the host, Marcus Grodi, is quite the Belloc fan. 

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What are your thoughts on the subject?