By: E. Jane Rutter
I can’t begin to absorb the information, intellect and knowledge our speakers and distinguished Chestertonians shared at this week’s 42nd annual conference in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
The essence of Gilbert Keith Chesterton is all I can hope to capture, not as if were chasing lightning bugs flickering in the dark; rather, quieting my mind enough to allow his light to illuminate my soul. Knowing full well, I shan’t be screwing a lid onto a jar in hopes of containing Chesterton – a feat thus far unattainable by his brightest students. For his light explodes like the night stars.
Chesterton is not easy to read. Brilliant, one fragment of thought can go on for a page, he leaves novice readers wondering if he has a destination or “conclusion” as Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society (ACS) pens. It is in the re-reading that you realize the breadth of his mind and how each point leads us on the path he has taken, to the truth of Christ he divulges. He is fine wine to savor, not cold beer to gulp (though I am confident beer and ale drinkers will dispute any lack of enjoyment in reading him).
Fittingly, my brother Tom drew me into the beauty of Chesterton. A retired professor of philosophy and Chesterton scholar, his joy and wit complement that of the renowned author. Both those virtues resounded in all present, making hospitality and laughter key to its success.
Joy, “the gigantic secret of the Christian” was in fine form at the conference (Orthodoxy, 1908). From Bishop Robert Barron to Dale Ahlquist, from the celebration of Holy Mass to ACS’ mission to evangelize through education, the joy of Christ shone.
Lovers of Christ, we are on mission. Our job – which Bishop Barron paralleled to the liturgical procession of Mass – is to “lead creation in a song of praise to God.” We are called to be out in the world, lights that shine against the darkness of its pleasures, politics and pressures that spew Christ as dead or worse, a figment of our imaginations.
Like Chesterton, whose works and life called out the heresy of the modern human “too clever to believe” in truth, wryly noting that “turnips are singularly broad-minded” (Heretics, 1905), we are:
soldiers and warriors of Christ, called to feed the poor in body and spirit, comfort the grieving, lead the lost, protect the vulnerable and downtrodden, and, yes, even to forgive the proud and unbelieving.
on the high mountain with Peter, James and John, witnesses to Christ’s Transfiguration. We kneel to God’s proclamation and command: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5).
in the wilderness with St. Francis of Assisi, whose “…religion was not a thing like a theory but a love-affair” (Saint Francis of Assisi, 1923). Like St. Francis, we continue to build an army for God on our way to sainthood. Our earthly lives are meant only to glorify God. God, who is love.
Finally, our song is one of gratitude, “The test of all happiness is gratitude” (Orthodoxy, 1908). Whether in times of celebration or suffering, we give thanks to God for the gifts He gives us and the pleasure to serve His Son.
And so I pray: Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of the Christian faithful who walk in Your way, only wanting to lead others to a life of eternal love in You.
To learn more about the American Chesterton Society, go to Chesterton.org. Your life will only increase in joy!
Published August 9th, 2023