“Saint” Chesterton?


Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (b. 29 May 1874 – d....

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (b. 29 May 1874 – d. 14 June 1936), English writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Worth noting: Pope Francis appears to be pro- the canonization of G. K. Chesterton, says Stratford Caldecott in this interesting article.

 

Caldecott relates the current pope’s interest in canonizing the great apologist and influencer of C S Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and so many others,

 

According to EWTN News and the Catholic News Agency, a letter to Mr Thompson from the Argentine ambassador who heads a Chesterton group in Argentina noted that the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, “encourages us in our aspiration to see the initiation of the Cause of Chesterton to the altars.” Not only that, but Cardinal Bergoglio, since elected pope, approved the text of a private prayer for the canonization of Chesterton.

 

We’ll just have to wait and see, but there is an English bishop who is doing more than that:

 

Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton is “sympathetic” to those who desire to see Chesterton canonized and is “seeking a suitable cleric to begin an investigation into the potential for opening a cause for Chesterton.”

 

This development is a long way from actual canonization, but  its announcement by Dale Ahlquist at a meeting of the American Chesterton Society was greeted with “huge cheering and applause and great emotion.”

 

Caldecott does a good job in the article of explaining the Catholic view of sainthood:

 

The reason the Church declares someone a saint is to propose them for our imitation and veneration. If the Church judges that they are close to God, we may be confident that their prayers are effective, and seek their intercession for our needs on earth.

 

While I do not buy the cult of particular intercession by saints (though quite convinced that the “cloud of witnesses” is indeed cheering us all on), what it leads to in Caldecott’s reflection is a gesture toward a case for Chesterton’s holiness, which is what needs proving in any case for canonization:

 

Deeply devout and much loved by everyone who knew him–even his enemies in debate–he seems to have been exemplary in his kindness, as well as blessed by a supernatural intelligence that shone through his voluminous writings. He was not infallible (saints don’t need to be that), but he was surely holy, and if he is not in heaven there seems to be very little hope for the rest of us.

. . .

If Chesterton is a mystic, he is so by the preservation into adulthood of a childlike wonder at all things. “I had in childhood, and have partly preserved out of childhood, a certain romance of receptiveness, which has not been killed by sin or even by sorrow.” This childlike wonder was intensified into a philosophy of being that chimes with that of Saint Thomas Aquinas, on whom he wrote one of his greatest books. For all philosophy begins with wonder, and (as he says elsewhere) “thanks are the highest form of thought”. If he is a saint, it is because he lived this Christian philosophy with his whole person, not just in his head. Father [Robert] Wild [author of The Tumbler of God: Chesterton as Mystic] believes he demonstrated “a new type of sanctity,” one that combined the love of God with a love of things in the world.

 

Meanwhile, as a Chesterton fan and sometime attender of the Chesterton Society HQ meetings here in St. Paul, reading the piece has made me want to go to England and visit the new home of the Chesterton Museum, just as soon as I can! Says Caldecott:

 

Here in England, the great Chesterton archive and museum compiled by Mr. Aidan Mackey over many years has found a home at last. After years of being looked after in Mr. Mackey’s home in Bedford, and later (for more than 15 years) at our Centre for Faith & Culture in Oxford, it has now been installed in what we hope will be its permanent home–the new library of the Oxford Oratory, alongside the Oratory’s extraordinary Newman archive. The Fathers of the Oratory still need funds to construct the shelves and establish a full-functioning study centre (philanthropists please take note), but the first step is completed.

The collection itself has long been a place of pilgrimage for researchers and admirers–and thanks are due to the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture at Seton Hall and to the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire for keeping this material together over the years and making it accessible in Oxford, even before a permanent home could be found for it. The collection includes, not just the books, of course, but the toy theatres, the drawings, the marginalia, the typewriter, and the walking sticks that make Gilbert himself so vividly present to the visitor.

 

What fun! Something to do while waiting for the giant, creaking machinery of the Roman Catholic Church to decide whether, in future, we will be speaking of “Saint Chesterton.”

 

 

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