Why I Love G. K. Chesterton

What I find most useful about Chesterton’s writings is that they teach me how to think with a sound and Catholic mind.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer who lived from 1874 to 1936. His primary occupation was journalism, but he also wrote poetry; novels; biographies; and essays. Chesterton is perhaps best known today for writing the Father Brown series of detective novels, since this series has been adapted for television by PBS.

(FYI the book linked above is not a truly “complete” collection, but you still get your money’s worth.)

Chesterton also wrote a poem, entitled “Lepanto,” which celebrated the victory of the Holy League against the invading Turks in a large maritime clash known as the Battle of Lepanto. The battle took place on October 7th, 1571. The admiral of the Holy League’s forces was Don John of Austria, the illegitimate half-brother of King Phillip II of Spain. Chesterton’s poem praises Don John as a liberator of the oppressed Christians–and a fearless and frightening adversary to their Muslim oppressors. (And no, his poem is not politically correct; but it is still better than any poem written since the invention of political correctness by the narrow-minded leftist elite at the universities.)

I am almost finished having “Lepanto” committed perfectly to memory; and it is a fairly lengthy poem, enough so that I will venture to call it an epyllion (that is, ἐπύλλιον or “mini-epic”). I am eager to have it memorized well enough that I can recite it from memory without any blunders and with due emotional weight.

Chesterton had a personality which in many ways is quite similar to my own. And I am not just saying that because we’re both fat, or because we both smoke cigars.

G. K. Chesterton was a rather forgetful person, having that distinct quality that is often called “absent-minded.” I am very similar to him in that regard. If I remember correctly, some speculate that Chesterton in his childhood had Attention Deficit Disorder and/or Developmental Coordination Disorder–both conditions with which I myself have been diagnosed. I still have prescription medications for ADD, which I’ve been taking ever since I was diagnosed in high school; but various forms of physical therapy throughout my early childhood removed most of the effects of the DCD. (I had a very mild case of DCD, to be honest.)

Well, they removed them for the most part at least. I am, to this day, left-footed but right-handed, and tend to be a tad clumsy. But at least now I can actually pronounce ‘r’ and ‘ch’ and ‘j’ properly; and at least now I am actually physically capable of coloring inside the lines.

But all of that is beside the point. What I find most useful about Chesterton’s writings–especially his works of nonfiction prose like Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man–is that they teach me how to think with a sound and Catholic mind. In an age when the secular world is so morally repugnant, and so many in the Church have made it their goal to lead the little ones astray by the millions, it is of the utmost importance to unlearn all the nonsensical and heretical rubbish that has come into our minds through bad catechesis; exposure to secular filth; frequent scandal and confusion in the Church; the caving-in of Church leaders to heresy and sin; and–most importantly–the self-infliction of intellectual blindness through one’s own iniquities.

G. K. Chesterton responded calmly and wittily to many of the ideas and catch-phrases hurled against the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church by the secular society of his own day and age. To put it bluntly: since much of the bull-crap in the world today is descended from the bull-crap of Chesterton’s day, Chesterton’s responses to the bull-crap of his own day age are equally useful in combatting much of today’s bull-crap.