Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ralph McInery on Schall on Chesterton

Schall is inconceivable without Chesterton. In GKC Schall found a model for most of his writings. The bulk of those writings are journalistic, obiter dicta on this or that, essays, reviews, presentations, what-you-will. Hilaire Belloc provided a similar model. Chesterton and Belloc dashed off essays on a vast range of subjects, often triggered by something as evanescent as a newspaper story, and morphing into delightful insights. There was an “Essay on Everything,” another “On Nothing,” and, inevitably, eventually, an “Essay on ‘On.’” We should not miss the note of sheer fun in all this. We certainly cannot miss it in reading Schall. Fun, but not frivolity. Schall has written that “the short, often lightsome essay is one of the greatest of literary and philosophical tools.” You need only read his own essays to be convinced of this.
McInery is convinced that Schall is the Chesterton of our times. What do you think?

H/T: John


  1. I actually think that Lorenzo Albacete is the Chesterton of our times.

  2. Sede vacante: There is no current "Chesterton of our times".

    Fr Schall is wonderful, but a priest can not properly fill the shoes of Chesterton.

  3. Excellent point, Joe. That rules out Father Albacete, as well, as good as either of them may be.

  4. I'm not sure I buy the argument that the largeness of our man Gilbert makes it impossible for anyone to ever "fill his shoes". If so, then there needs to be a different question apart from shoe size. (Reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch...).

    He is definitely carrying on the fight in the spirit of Chesterton. He would probably meekly demur being the Chesterton for our times; but it could easily be demonstrated he's a consistent voice for *common sense* and freedom.

    Essays, works extolling the virtue of play - extensive discussions of politics, philosophy and education - always in the chestertonian style (but still referring to a wide variety of sources) - makes him a treasure, even if not the same treasure as others are.

    Who else would write a book with 70+ words in the title?

    If you haven't read more than his Gilbert articles, you're missing out.

  5. Tzard: I don't believe we are saying that no one can fill Chesterton's shoes. Only that a common man, a regular guy sort, a working class man or woman, a more self-taught-type person (rather than a priest) should be that person.

    Schall is definitely a person like Gilbert. And yet, not like Gilbert.

    Does that make sense?

  6. Tzard: like I said, Schall is wonderful. I love to read him - both his Gilbert essays and his books. Yes, he is very Chestertonian.

    I agree with what Nancy says in the comment above, but would like to add that the New Chesterton needs to be in the world in a way that a priest cannot, and needs to be well known outside of the small circles of academia or the ACS.

  7. Well, Ok. But are we asking too much of one to carry the swordstick-sceptre that he be exactly like Chesterton?

    Is Chesterton a fully encompassing system of thought such that being excentric or deficient in one way is considered a heresy to chestertonianism? I would think not. Just like the Church, he may be too big in one way or small in another way, a monstorous person but overall he fits the lock.

    My thought is that a successor to Chesterton will keep his eye on the first things, but still may excel in one aspect or another. In a way, anyone can become the Chesterton for today - even if he not be a man of letters or widely educated or talented as our GKC.

    I'm also hearing contradictory requirements from Joe and Nancy. He's to be a common man and "in the world", yet be well known outside of certain circles.

    Are you looking for someone who is a superstar, or someone who lives like Chesterton taught? Someone who perhaps changes a few lives in his little hamlet where he lives rather than being a media celebrity spreading his message to a world who listens but does not hear?

    If you want *all* his qualities, you better find a multi-personage creature such as the chesterbelloc was. Perhaps the "americanchestertonsociety-ocerous"? or a "tyrano-acs-saurus rex".

  8. I have often thought that Mark Shea is a new Chesterton, in the physical aspect, he is big; in the journalistic aspect, he writes a lot; and in the religious aspect, he is also a convert.

    I would love for someone (I've thought about doing it myself) to engage the local papers in real conversation. However, I don't know that a Chestertonian type journalist could make it in these politically correct times. He would have to be highly controversial, take chances and risks, and be full of that Chestertonian humility and humor. I personally feel unqualified.

  9. Tzard: I think we agree, just that we are looking at the idea of a Successor differently. Certainly many children of GKC's thought exist. Many people live and teach a Chestertonian example; Fr Schall may be the largest of these. I see GKC as a prophet raised up, and a prophet has no simple successor. Even with the passing of the mantle Elisha was not Elijah.

    There are many great voices: we had Chesterton and Muggeridge, and we still have Schall, Scruton, and (a new name to me) Albacete. And there are Dales and Marks and Nancys. We all have our place in the Last Crusade.


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