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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Chesterton Conference: A Rousing Good Time

Alec Guiness as Fr. Brown
We're at the Chesterton Conference at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, PA. I have to say that Chestertonians are some of the happiest people on the planet. We're having a rollicking good time! This morning we heard a great talk on Chesterton's joi de vivre and this afternoon we listened to the conversion story of a magician (who makes his living in the banking industry) who came to the Church after twenty-five years of trial and error, through the impact of Chesterton. His story made me think of one of my favorite poems, The Hound of Heaven. He finished his talk with a few magic tricks. Chesterton would have loved it!


This evening we heard Bishop Robert Barron via skype and then had the privilege of seeing a preview of his new series called Pivotal Players, which will be released in September, featuring six Catholics who influenced the Church including Chesterton. (It was supposed to be ten, but the series was interrupted when Fr. Barron was selected to be a bishop.) We watched and enjoyed the Chesterton episode. It's the first time it's been shown anywhere. How do you cover a man like Chesterton, who's had such an incredible influence, in only 50 minutes? Obviously you don't; but it was a great effort with a number of laughs along the way.

Really, I urge you --- If you haven't read Chesterton, start tomorrow. If you want the most popular Chesterton, read his Fr. Brown stories. The author loved them himself and said the only thing better than always writing mysteries, was to be always reading them. (Or maybe it was the other way round.) If you've ever thought about writing a mystery yourself, here's the great man's advice. His other mystery series is The Man Who Knew Too Much. Both his detectives are fascinating and the stories are wonderful.

But don't stop there. Chesterton is a marvel of clear thinking expressed in both his fiction and non-fiction. His use of paradox and puns delights the heart. His biographies of St. Francis and Thomas Aquinas are marvels and will give you a new perspective on how biographies can be written. His novels are romps. And most of his essays (thousands of them) on moral issues and everything else are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them almost a century ago. I love to pick up my collections and randomly pick an essay. It's a great way to wind down from my busy day and prepare for sleep -- perchance to dream Chestertonian dreams.

And here's bit of Chesterton trivia that illustrates his power of evangelization. Playing Fr. Brown was the beginning of Alec Guiness' journey into the Catholic Church. Certainly Chesterton deserves to be included in Bishop Barron's series on pivotal Catholics.

Visit the American Chesterton Society and discover Chesterton. You'll be glad you did. And if you join the society you get a discount on all their books as well as the wonderful magazine, Gilbert. Believe me, you won't regret it. And if you live in the northern Virginia area come join our Chesterton group. We usually meet the first Saturday of the month at 3:00 p.m. at Famous Dave's in Sterling. What better way to discuss the great man than with a beer mug in hand. Chesterton's only regret would be the ban on smoking that signature cigar.






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