Anyway, today May 27 is the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury. No, not the "Late have I loved thee" Augustine, the former heretic whose mother was Monica and who prayed and wept for YEARS until he converted - he's Augustine of Hippo. This Augustine was sent to England... There's a famous quote, which some find strangely insulting, though of course it isn't, or rather it is insulting, but not in the way one thinks. It's very curious. If anything, the laugh is on Father Brown (or rather on Chesterton), but then he was smarter than his interlocutor:
"As I say, if you're English, you ought really to be on my side against these Dagos, anyhow. Oh, I'm not one of those who talk tosh about Anglo-Saxons; but there is such a third as history. You can always claim that America got her civilization from England."Some perhaps will think this is not appropriate - but then they have missed the point. It's not really that America is founded upon English culture - she is founded upon Rome, in both senses of the term. And that may be even more insulting, but then perhaps we also need to temper our pride.
"Also, to temper our pride," said Father Brown? "we must always admit that England got her civilization from Dagos."
Again there glowed in the other's mind the exasperated sense that his interlocutor was fencing with him, and fencing on the wrong side, in some secret and evasive way; and he curtly professed a failure to comprehend.
"Well, there was a Dago, or possibly a Wop, called Julius Caesar," said Father Brown; "he was afterwards killed in a stabbing match; you know these Dagos always use knives. And there was another one called Augustine, who brought Christianity to our little island; and really, I don't think we should have had much civilization without those two."
[GKC "The Scandal of Father Brown"]
Which is always a good thing to do. Remember how GKC responded to the famous question, "If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach":
If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride. The more I see of existence, and especially of modern practical and experimental existence, the more I am convinced of the reality of the old religious thesis; that all evil began with some attempt at superiority; some moment when, as we might say, the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.I strongly urge you to read this essay - read it frequently. It is worth seeking. (If one of our readers happens to be able to cite the electronic location for it, please do so.) Here is just a little more for you to ponder, perhaps the richest nugget in the lode:
[GKC The Common Man]
Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making the truth the test. It is not pride to wish to do well, or even to look well, according to a real test. It is pride to think that a thing looks ill, because it does not look like something characteristic of oneself. Now in the general clouding of clear and abstract standards, there is a real tendency today for a young man (and even possibly a young woman) to fall back on that personal test, simply for lack of any trustworthy impersonal test. No standard being sufficiently secure for the self to be moulded to suit it, all standards may be moulded to suit the self. But the self as a self is a very small thing and something very like an accident. Hence arises a new kind of narrowness; which exists especially in those who boast of breadth. The sceptic feels himself too large to measure life by the largest things; and ends by measuring it by the smallest thing of all. There is produced also a sort of subconscious ossification; which hardens the mind not only against the traditions of the past, but even against the surprises of the future.Please read this again, and learn it:
We could, if we had time, make a wonderful study of how Chesterton ponders the matter of pride - and of humility. People talk - especially the media people talk - about today's modern science, which seems to be one big ego trip of people patting each other on the back - when they are not patting themselves. It is actually a clear sign that whatever it is, it is not science. Science is humility in the face of the universe. It is making truth the test, and not one's personality. But I don't have time to do it today. Perhaps some candidate in one of the Roman colleges, or some little liberal-arts school, will take up the challenge to explore all of GKC and sort out his studies on pride and on humility. And lest you think my point is only aimed at the sciences, it applies a fortiori to the arts. Let us not forget how GKC illuminated the unutterably splendid link between fairy-story and the One True Story:
Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making the truth the test.
the lesson of "Cinderella," which is the same as that of the Magnificat - exaltavit humiles.That Latin quote is from the Magnificat, the great song of Mary which is sung every evening by the Church united in prayer. It means, "He has lifted up the lowly." [Lk 1:52] That of course applies to all of us, scientist or artist - providing we are willing to make truth the test and not our selves.
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:253]
I wish I had time to pursue this more today, but I have other tasks to accomplish - yet before I leave, I must remind you about Saturday, May 29, which marks the 136th anniversary of the birth of our Uncle Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Please celebrate it properly, in a fitting Chestertonian manner, and remember that "we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them." [Orth CW1:268]