Saint G.K. Chesterton?
The popularity of British author and journalist G.K. Chesterton appears to be gaining momentum.
Chesterton was born in London in 1874 and died of heart failure in 1936 at the age of 62 in Beaconsfield, north of the city, in the Diocese of Northampton. He was baptized an Anglican, but became a Catholic in 1922 and wrote acclaimed religious books such as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.
In his column that appeared in the Sept. 19 edition of the Catholic Herald, George Weigel examined Father Ian Ker’s G.K. Chesterton: A Biography (Oxford).
Weigel said that those who imagine Chesterton “an amiable lightweight” will have to wrestle with Etienne Gilson’s judgment that Chesterton’s small book, St. Thomas Aquinas, was “without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.”
“For decades,” Weigel said, “Chesterton was at the center of the great public controversies of his day, and engaged both issues and opponents in a way that drew, not merely the respect, but the love, of his opponents. One need not agree with Chesterton’s opinions in whole or in part to recognize that he had a remarkable insight into modernity and its discontents and a singularly fetching way of demolishing an intellectual opponent without drawing blood or leaving bruises.”
In his new book, Race with the Devil (Saint Benedict Press), author Joseph Pearce recalls the strong influence that Chesterton’s writings had on him as a young man when he was struggling with anti-Catholic and racist feelings.
“I devoured The Outline of Sanity, agreeing with almost everything that Chesterton said and loving the way that he said it,” Pearce wrote. “His personality, full of a vigorous joie de vivre, seemed to leap from the page into the intimate presence of the reader.
“In Chesterton,” Pearce wrote, “I had found a new friend who would become the most powerful influence (under grace) on my personal and intellectual development over the following years.”
Now comes a report from Catholic News Service this week that the bishop of Northampton, England, has appointed a priest to investigate the possibility of opening the cause for sainthood of Chesterton.
A statement by the diocese in central England said that the decision to investigate the cause followed numerous approaches from devotees of Chesterton, including many from the United States.
Father John Udris, spiritual director at St. Mary's College, Oscott, a seminary in Birmingham, will lead the effort.
The appointment represents the first step in a long process that could result in the eventual canonization of a man who created the famous "Father Brown" literary figure.
A new patron saint for Catholic journalists might be a distinct possibility.