Thursday, January 26, 2006

Francis + Thomas = Chesterton

It seems to me as if the Ignatius combined St. Thomas/St Francis books of Chesterton's is a great marriage of the two important saints in Chesterton's life, although, naturally, only paradoxically.

Chesterton knew and studied about St. Francis all his life, starting from when his father read him a story at his knee as a boy. St. Thomas, well, there is no record of him studying the saint, yet when he wrote his biography, there sure seemed to be a good knowledge of him anyway.

Joseph Pearce, in his introduction to the second book in the Ignatius duo, has a fascinating comment about Chesterton being a synthesis of Francis and Thomas, laughter and humility, playing and praying. Laughter and humility, says Pearce, lead to gratitude. And gratitude was what Chesterton lived each day.


  1. Nancy, you have a typo: you misspelled "synthesis."

    "Editors never sleep"


  2. Back to the topic at hand. Regarding the lack of empirical evidence of Chesterton studying Aquinas, you don't need it. All you have to do is read Chesterton's biography of him. Reading it, you can't help but conclude that you're reading the work of someone who has studied and cultivated a devotion to the Angelic Doctor his whole life.

    Chesterton dictated roughly half the book to his secretary, Dorothy Collins, in one sitting. Then he ran out of things to say. He told Dorothy to go check out some books on St. Thomas from the library. After getting some advice from Fr. John O'Connor, she brought back a stack of books. Chesterton thumbed through the top book on the stack, went for a walk in his garden and, his mememory sufficiently jarred, dictated the rest of the book to her, again in one sitting.

  3. I do that just to keep you on your toes, and so you don't think too highley of me...

    I've read this (almost) description, though I think legend is coming into play. I recently read an account where they were working on it over the summer. Chesterton would say to Dorothy, "Well, should we work on Tommy?"
    So, it didn't happen quite in two sittings...

  4. The anecdote I related originated, I believe, in Maisie Ward's biography. I've never heard any account that gives a different version. But, as usual, I could be wrong.

    I'll never think too highly of you, especially when you misspell "highly." ;)

  5. O unsleeping editor, "mememory"?

    Ahem! (Let he who is without typos cast the first e-stone.)

    And it is good that we do not think to highley of ourselves...

    Q: Why does St. Francis call water "humble" in his "Canticle of the Creatures"?
    A: Because it always seeks the lowest place.

    Having been through 7+ million words of GKC, I feel rather certain that there were none of those books without typos. I have even found TWO in my Bible.

    But I am well aware of my own sins, of omission, transposition, and substitution, and far worse than these. "For your penance, read one chapter of GKC's Aquinas and one of his Frances, now make your act of contrition"...

    One wonders what it would have been like to go to confession with Father Brown.

  6. O unsleeping editor, "mememory"?
    Lack of sleep makes the editor tired. :P

    One wonders what it would have been like to go to confession with Father Brown.
    I am now plowing through all the Fr. Brown stories in the Penguin "complete" edition (which isn't complete). Last night I read "The Chief Mourner of Marne" and then went back and re-read the section in "The Queer Feet" where Fr. Brown confronts first Flambeau ("I do mean to threaten you, with the unquenchable fire and the worm that dieth not") and then the Twelve True Fishermen ("Strange, isn't it, that a thief and a vagabon should repent, when so many who are hard and frivolous go through life with no fruit for God or man?") and THEN I read "The Secret of Flambeau" in which he says Fr. Brown was the only one who ever told him why he stole, and that's why he quit stealing.

    Fr. Brown is always gentle, but his gentleness is like an earthquake when he defends the Sacrament of Confession. Being a member of the Work, I confess almost exclusively to Opus Dei priests, and I knew exactly what Flambeau meant when he said that about Fr. Brown. Not that Opus Dei priests are necessarily any better than any other kind of priests but, well, when it comes to Confession, they're in a class by themselves. I imagine that's what it would be like to have Fr. Brown hear your Confession.


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