August 18th, 2013On the Holiness of G. K. Chestertonby Joseph Pearce
I was interviewed yesterday by the Spanish on-line magazine Religion en Libertad on the news that Chesterton's cause for beatification is being taken up by the Bishop of Northampton. The interview has now been published:
For those who do not speak Spanish, here's the full text of the interview in English:
1. Do you think that there are founded reasons to consider that Chesterton ought to be beatified and canonized? Which would be those reasons?
I believe that there are many valid and bona fide reasons to consider Chesterton for beatification. The way in which his life and work exemplified the indissoluble union of faith and reason would be one valid reason; another would be his work as an irrepressible apologist for the Faith; yet another would be the manifold fruits of his labours as an evangelizer which are made manifest in the many people he has brought and continues to bring to the Faith. I am but one of many who can claim that Chesterton, under grace, was the biggest single influence upon his conversion.
2. How was his life of piety? Did he pray usually?
Chesterton did not write very much about his own spiritual life because he saw his vocation as being an engagement with the follies and foibles of secular culture as a means of bringing people to the truth of Christianity. As such, we don't have many insights into the nature of his piety or his prayer life. It is, however, implicit from his writings and from the testimony of those who knew him that he had a living and loving relationship with Christ and His Mother. His piety is best expressed in his poetry, especially in his moving anthems of praise and devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to his mystical attachment to the primal innocence of the Christ Child. His spirituality represents a potent union of the Franciscan and the Dominican, especially in the way in which his life and work exemplifies the romance of the former and the ratio of the latter.
3. Do you know if he experienced some mystic moments in his life? If so, did he write about it?
Although it is not clear that Chesterton experienced mystic moments in the sense of particular moments of supernatural revelation, it is evident that he was a true mystic in the manner in which her perceived the miraculous presence of God in His Creation. Chesterton experienced reality with the wonder that can only be experienced by the humble of heart. His melding of the wisdom of the sage with the innocence of the child is an example of the way that he exemplifies the unity of sanity and sanctity.
4. If Chesterton was beatified, a really hard polemist will be beatified! Do you see a contradiction in that?
I don't see Chesterton as a hard polemicist in the sense that his polemics were hard-hearted. He wrote of his relationship with his brother that they were always arguing but that they never quarreled. This is true of his relationship with everyone with whom he crossed swords polemically. He argued with many people but he quarreled with none. Indeed, one of the best arguments for Chesterton's being worthy of beatification is the way in which he fought the enemies of the Church without making enemies of them. His life shows that he succeeded in obeying the toughest of Christ's commandments, that we love our enemies. Chesterton loved his enemies so much that his enemies couldn't help loving him. Two of his biggest enemies, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, loved Chesterton dearly, even though he attacked the ideas for which they stood vociferously. This is a true mark of Chesterton's sanctity.
5. Are there other saints that were also polemists?
Many saints have been polemicists. Many of the great saints of the Counter-Reformation used rhetoric to confute the errors of the Reformation. Amongst English saints and blesseds, we think of St. Thomas More, St. Edmund Campion and Blessed John Henry Newman as examples of holy men who used their polemical gifts to defend the Faith.
6. How was the Chesterton's way of discussing with other? Did he fail in charity? Was his humour a way to make the words and concepts non-offensive for those with whom he polemized?
It should go without saying that even the saints were sinners. Only the Blessed Virgin is sinless. All other saints had to struggle against their weaknesses. There was a brief period following the death of his brother in which Chesterton can be said to have failed in charity in his expressions of bitterness towards those whom he felt were responsible for persecuting his brother. This was, however, in the years prior to his reception into the Church and does not negate the overall picture of his life as one lived in caritas.