Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Chesterton Knew The Importance of Ecumenical Dialogue

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

To GK Chesterton [A Letter From Albino Luciani, later Pope John Paul I]

Dear Chesterton,

On Italian television during the past few weeks we have been seeing Father Brown, your surprising detective-priest – a character who is typically yours. A pity we haven’t also had Professor Lucifer and the monk Michael. I’d very much have liked to see them as you described them in The Ball and the Cross, sitting beside each other on the flying ship.

When the flying ship is above St Paul’s Cathedral, the Professor gives ‘a shriek indescribable’ as they pass the cross on the ball set on top of the dome.

‘ “I once knew a man like you, Lucifer,” ’ says Michael. ‘ “...This man also took the view that the symbol of Christianity was a symbol of savagery and all unreason. His history is rather amusing. It is also a perfect allegory of what happens to rationalists like yourself. He began, of course, by refusing to allow a crucifix in his house, or round his wife’s neck, or even in a picture. He said, as you say, that it was an arbitrary and fantastic shape, that it was a monstrosity, loved because it was paradoxical. Then he began to grow fiercer and more eccentric; he would batter the crosses by the roadside; for he lived in a Roman Catholic country. Finally in a height of frenzy he climbed the steeple of the Parish Church and tore down the cross, waving it in the air, and uttering wild soliloquies up there under the stars. Then one still summer evening as he was wending his way homewards, along a lane, the devil of his madness came upon him with a violence and transfiguration which changes the world. He was standing smoking, for a moment, in front of an interminable line of palings, when his eyes were opened. Not a light shifted, not a leaf stirred, but he saw as if by a sudden charge in the eyesight that this paling was an army of innumerable crosses linked together over hill and dale. And he whirled up his heavy stick wand went at it as if at an army. Mile after mile along his homeward path he broke it down and tore it up. For he hated the cross and every paling is a wall of crosses. When he returned to his house he was a literal madman. He sat upon a chair and then started up from it for the crossbars of the carpentry repeated the intolerable image. He flung himself upon a bed only to remember that this, too, like all workmanlike things, was constructed on the accursed plan. He broke his furniture because it was made of crosses. He was found in the river.” ’

‘Lucifer was looking at him with a bitten lip,’ you continue.

‘ “Is that story really true?” he asked.

“Oh, no,” said Michael, airily. “It is a parable. It is a parable of you and all your rationalists. You begin by breaking up the Cross;  but you end by breaking up the habitable world.” ’

The monk’s conclusion, which is yours, dear Chesterton, is quite right. Take God away and what is left, what do men become? What sort of a world are we reduced to living in? ‘Why, the world of progress!’ I hear someone say. ‘The world of affluence!’ Yes, but this famous progress isn’t at all it was once cracked up to be. It contains other things in itself: missiles, bacteriological and atomic weapons, the present process of pollution – all things that, unless they are dealt with in time, threaten to plunge the whole human race into catastrophe.

In other words, progress that involves men who love one another, thinking of themselves as brothers and as children of the one Father, God, can be a magnificent thing. Progress that involves men who don’t recognize a single Father in God becomes a constant danger: without a parallel moral progress, which is continuous and internal, it develops what is lowest and cruellest in man, making him a machine possessed by machines, a number manipulated by numbers; he becomes what Papini called ‘a raving savage, who, to satisty his predatory, destructive, and licentious instincts, no longer uses a club, but has the immense forces of nature and mechanical invention to draw upon.’

Yes, I know there are plenty of people who think the opposite of this. They consider religion a consoling dream, invented by oppressed people who imagine another world, a non-existent world in which they can later find what is stolen from them today by their oppressors. These oppressors have arranged the whole thing for their own benefit, to keep the oppressed underfoot and to quieten the instinct towards a class struggle, and instinct that, were it not for religion, would urge them to fight.

It is no good reminding these people that the Christian religion itself favours the revival of proletarian awareness, that it exalts the poor and foresees a just future. ‘Yes,’ they reply, ‘Christianity does awaken the awareness of the poor, but then it paralyses it by preaching patience, and by substituting faith in God and trust in the gradual reform of society for the class struggle.’

Many also think that God and religion, by fixing people’s hopes and efforts on a future, distant paradise, alienate man, and prevent him committing himself to a nearby paradise, to achieving one here on earth.

It is no good reminding them that, according to the recent Council, a Christian, just because he is Christian, must feel all the more committed to support progress for the good of all, and social advancement for everyone. ‘All the same,’ they say, ‘you think of progress through a transitory world, waiting for a definitive paradise which will never be achieved. We want our paradise here, as a result of all our struggles. We can see the beginning of it already, whereas your God is actually called “dead” by some theologians. We agree with Heine, who wrote: “Do you hear the bells? Down on your knees! We are taking the last sacraments to a dying God.” ’

Dear Chesterton, you and I go down on our knees before a God who is more present than ever. Only he can give a satisfactory answer to the questions which, for everyone, are the most important of all: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

As to the heaven that will be enjoyed on earth and only on earth, and in the near future, after the famous ‘class struggle’, I’d like to quote someone much more gifted than me and, without denying your merits, than you too, dear Chesterton: Dostoevsky.

You remember his Ivan Karamazov. He was an atheist, a friend of the devil. Well, he protested with all an atheist’s vehemence against the paradise achieved through effort, suffering, and the martyrdom of countless generations. To think of our descendants being happy thanks to the unhappiness of their ancestors! Ancestors who struggle without ever receiving the share of joy, often without even the comfort of a glimpse of paradise when they emerge from the hell they have gone through! Multitudes exterminated, wounded and sacrificed merely to provide the soil in which to grow the future trees of life! Impossible! says Ivan. It would be a pitiless, monstrous injustice.

And he was right.

The sense of justices that lies in every man, whatever his faith, demands that the good we do and the evil we suffer should be rewarded, that the hunger for life found in everyone should be satisfied. Where and how, if there is no other life? And from whom, if not from God? And from what God, if not the one of whom St Francis de Sales wrote: ‘Do not fear God, who wishes you no harm, but love him a great deal, who wishes you so much good.’

What many people fight is not the true God but the false idea they have made of God: a God who protects the rich, who only asks and demands, who is jealous of our growing prosperity, who spies continuously on our sins from above, to give himself the pleasure of punishing us.

Dear Chesterton, you know God isn’t like that; you know that he’s both good and just; the father of prodigal sons, who wishes them all to be, not sad and wretched, but great and free, and creators of our own destiny. Our God is not man’s rival, he wants us to be his friends, he has called us to share in his divine nature and in his eternal happiness. And he does not ask anything excessive of us: he is content with very little, because he knows quite well that we haven’t got very much.

Dear Chesterton, I’m sure, as you are, that this God will make himself ever more known and loved: by everyone, including those who reject him, not because they are evil (they may be better than both of us!), but because they look at him from a mistaken point of view. If they continue not to believe in him, he replies: ‘Well, I believe in you!'

Printable GK Chesterton Prayercards in English, Welsh, Irish, German, Polish, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, Maltese, Romanian, Russian, Latvian, Slovakian and many other languages here; Print some off and post photos of them around the World.The one in the photo above is in Italian, and is being held by Reverend Lo in St Peter's Square, Rome earlier this year when Blessed Pope John Paul I was being Beatified.

Saturday, 22 October 2022

Fr Brett's Sermon On The 12th Annual GK Chesterton Pilgrimage


Chesterton wrote Heretics (1905) and Orthodoxy (1908) long before he was Received into the Church on July 30th 1922, 100 years’ ago. Truth, orthodoxy, excludes error. There is no room for half-truths in Chesterton:

“There is something to be said very error, but whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous.” (Orthodoxy).

The great encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis was published in 1907, On The Doctrines of The Modernists: “the synthesis of all heresies” as St Pius X summed up Modernism. It was promulgated between Heresy and Orthodoxy. Loisy was perfectly clear: a Modernist "is ruled by the single wish to be one with Christians and Catholics who live in harmony with the spirit of age". 

Chesterton wrote: “It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own.” How much longer are we going to allow this age to have it's head? When a blasphemous parody of the prayer Our Saviour gave us can be taken into the intimacy of our very schools to groom our Catholic children to perversity and the sin that cries out for vengeance. 

When “practising Catholic” political leaders can promise to reverse the first victor over the evil of abortion which the US has seen in 50 years. When the Church in Germany, amidst the roar departing adherents, desperately offers Modernists everything they want of the spirit of the age. When the beauty of the traditional Mass is supressed despite those words: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sac and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

What scope for t pen of Chesterton, incisive, thrusting between chromosome and cross-dressing! Not wielded with the intent of cancelling person but of cancelling the cancer of error. 

“It is easy to be a modernist; as easy to be a snob. To have fallen in those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the path of Christendom – it would indeed be simple. It is always simple to fall: there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.”

Chesterton looked deep into the history of this country to inspire us to fight the pagan onslaught. He went back to 878: the struggle of Albert the Great against the Danes. He locates it, with poetic licence, in the valley of the White Horse, focused on a fork in the road, a place of decision and fate. Things go badly, the mighty Guthrum routs the men of Wessex. With many stout warriors slain, Albert survives the rout to witness the enemy confident in victory:

“On a dark horse at the double way

He saw great Guthrum ride,

Heard roar of brass and ring of steel,

The laughter and the trumpet peal,

The pagan in his pride.” 

We too know the pagan in his Pride. The message of the Battle of Ethandune is that victory can be won from the jaws of defeat. That is the way of the Cross. 

“… Alfred in the fern hard by

Set horn to mouth and blew.”

The men of Wessex found new heart, and in the carnage which followed, Guthrum was humbled. And an even greater miracle occurs: his conversion:

“In Wessex in the forest,

In the breaking of the spears,

We set a sign on Guthrum

To blaze a thousand years.

Far out to the winding river

The blood ran down for days

When we put the cross on Guthrum

In the parting of the ways.”

Just when the new pagans think they have it all on their side, and can relax in their Pride, then the Church will muster once more. Respond to the call. In the contradiction of the Cross which is at the core of all the paradoxes which Chesterton made his hallmark.

How will victory look? The conversion of the human heart. One by one. That’s always the battle. The recognition of sin, the need for repentance. It will be the blood of Christ which will bring cleansing from sin, healing and new life.

May Chesterton be our inspiration. No half-truths here, in the parting of the ways: “there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.” We stand at the angle of the Cross. 


Sponsorship over the years, of some of those walking 27 miles on the GK Chesterton Pilgrimage has raised over £20,000 for the Pro-Life work of The GoodCounsel Network. You can donate to support them here,

Find the GK Chesterton Prayer in over twenty languages on our website.

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Friday, 11 February 2022

A Dishonest Atheist? Heaven Forbid.

Paul Vitz author of Faith of the Fatherless, a Psychology of Atheism, tells a very interesting story in his book.

 Some years ago, at a conference in Dallas, Ellis and I spoke one after the other. Ellis spoke as an atheist psychologist and I as a theistic psychologist. Each talk lasted about forty minutes, and since we both sat on the dais, we heard each others papers. Ellis heard a short form of the thesis of this book. After the session was over, he told me as we walked out together that the thesis did not apply to him since he had a good relationship with his father. I replied that a psychological hypothesis is fortunate to be valid in even 50 to 60% of the cases.

Back in New York City, I sent a copy of my talk to a friend who is a book editor, Dr. George Zimmar, who was at the time working for the Praeger Publishing Company. A few weeks later, he phoned to tell me that he had read the paper and, incidentally, thought it was helpful for understanding Albert Ellis. I was quite taken aback and told Zimmar that Ellis had personally denied the relevance of my thesis to his life. “Well,” my friend replied, “We are publishing his biography, and I was reading the page proofs last night; I think he fits your hypothesis.” Later, when the biography appeared, I read about Ellis’ childhood. The author, Daniel Weiner, describes Ellis as suffering from “Parental neglect and serious illness throughout his childhood.” 

This is taken from page 74 of Faith of the Fatherless. The whole book is well worth a read.

Monday, 31 January 2022

Lee Child You Had One Shot And You Blew It!

The remote control for my television broke a good while ago and so, to change channels now, I’m reduced to getting up and pushing the buttons on the box itself to change channel. One evening during the first lockdown, after watching the news I went channel hopping. I stumbled across a film which intrigued me and I started to watch it, I wanted to know what had happened and there seemed to be some mystery going on, but then blasphemy after blasphemy ensued and I turned the film off. I checked the television guide to see what the film was called and found that it was a Jack Reacher film based on a Lee Child book called 'One Shot', I decided that if I came across a cheap copy of the book in a second-hand or charity shop I’d buy it, as the book may not contain blasphemy, and wanted to find out what had happened in the story.

During the same lockdown I found a few bags of books placed outside a then closed by order of Boris Johnson, second-hand bookshop which I like to frequent, I took the bags away with me for safe keeping. At this point I would like to say the bags contained the book that I was hoping to acquire, but alas they did not. After that particular lockdown had ended I took the books into the bookshop and the owner was very happy to receive them, in fact so much so that when I tried to buy a book or two from his shelves he insisted that I receive them with his compliments. I haggled with him as best as I could, but in the end the best that he would do was to allow me to pay half price for one of the three books that I was acquiring! I would not have minded, but I had from time to time been throwing the odd pound coin or two into an empty coffee cup during the lockdown to spend on books once bookshops had reopened, you know to help boost the economy and all that. But no matter as this allowed me to buy some other books from another local independent bookshop!

And so, now armed with a copy of 'One Shot' by Lee Child, I went off to find out what had happened. I wasn’t really interested to find out about the main character spending a night with a Norwegian dancer. Nor was I interested in the details of his old relationship with a woman who had previously been in the army with him either. In fact the comment of Helen, the lawyer in the story, really summed this up best, ‘That’s more information than I needed, Reacher.’ We then add some bad language to this and worse still blasphemy upon blasphemy and so Mr Child you had one shot and you blew it.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. No one should take His Name in vain. I can't stop you doing so Mr Child. However Christians really need to explain to God why they watch films or television shows with any blasphemy in them, read books or magazines with blasphemy in it,  etc. It is easy these days to search online for a detailed parent’s guide to any film you plan to watch, which should point out any blasphemy. The Divine Praises were introduced to make reparation for the sin of blasphemy, say them when you have a moment. Reading Fr Paul O'Sullivan’s short booklet, The Wonders of the Holy Name is also well worth while.
My copy of Lee Child's book? Yes, I tore it in half and it has gone in the recycling bin.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Old Rite Confirmations Versus New Rite Confirmations

From time to time I put up posts asking people to test their memory by telling me where they were 21 years ago today for example. It amazes me the number of people who cannot answer the question. I of course would reply the I was in Anerley with my then fiancée Clare, my Confirmation Sponsor Dougie and Archbishop Michael Bowen.

The previous year I’d stopped attending Masses organised by the SSPX, but as I wished to be Confirmed before getting Married I contacted an English Bishop who had said Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and asked him if he would Confirm me in the Old Rite. I’m sad to say that the Bishop replied that the New Rite was extremely beautiful and that I should just get in step with the modern Church. Tempting though it was to wander off to one of the four SSPX Bishops to receive Confirmation, I in fact went to Anerley and was Confirmed by Archbishop Michael Bowen. I had been Baptised in the Old Rite by Fr Crowdy a few years earlier, an Oratorian Priest described by The Tablet as being in an irregular situation!

I have a preference for the Old Rite and because of this some people I will say that I am rigid and yet I was Confirmed in the New Rite. And in the year before covid struck I made a note of the Masses that I attended and found that approximately 80% were in the New Rite while most of the others where Old Rite. Sometime after my Confirmation a number of Bishops in England and Wales, showing pastoral concern for the faithful allowed Confirmations in the older form and for this I am grateful. It is sad to see that this choice will no longer be available, as in the interests of diversity and charity we will now rigidly use only the New Rite.

Please say the Litany for Bishops