Saturday, January 17, 2009

A proper introduction.

In keeping with the request that all the incoming blog members introduce themselves, I stand here metaphorically (in what Dr. Thursday has termed the E-Cosmos) and curtsy in greeting. I'm afraid I can't hope to match Claire's post for grace, eloquence, and insight, but I shall present myself as best I can.

My name, so far as it concerns this blog, is "RoseinFaith." It is not, of course, my real name, but bear in mind it is not because of any negative impressions I could have of you (which I don't) that I don't publish my name here; it is, of course, just a safety precaution in the world wide web, where many, many people can--and I hope, will--access and read the Flying-Ins.

I became acquainted with Chesterton years ago by what, at the time, seemed merely coincidental circumstances. When I was not yet out of grade school, and was lapping up works of literature with great relish, someone gave me an old book she had bought at a used book sale: a worn, Catholic Authors Press edition, printed probably in the 1950's or earlier, of G.K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse. It was dog-eared, eaten a bit by moths; the pages were yellowed, and mildewed in spots; and it had clearly passed through the hands of several different school children, one of whom had taken the liberty of drawing Viking weapons on the pages in various places. Besides these pencil drawings (which I never had the heart or the desire to erase), it was illustrated beautifully, with a rousing picture on the front of trimphant Alfred rallying his men, his sword held high, and the Danes, in horned helmets, recoiling back with expressions of sheer disbelief and surprise. In the bottom left hand corner of the front cover, next to the title, was an illustration of Chesterton himself. (Incidentally, his tiny pince-nez, unruly hair, and jolly expression fascinated me even before I knew much about him; so much, in fact, that I took up a pencil to try to copy the cover illustration--not of Alfred, but of Chesterton.) Even though I now have the Ignatius Press version as well, the yellowed old book is still my favorite edition.

I was too young to understand all of this masterpiece then, but his vibrantly beautiful poetry, his intense, symbolic style of story-telling, and his high ideals captured my imagination. Such was my introduction to Chesterton. Through the years, I became more acquainted with his work (principally through EWTN'S Apostle of Common Sense), and upon discovering that he seemed to be right about everything and was able to express himself better than any other Catholic authors I could think of, I became a Chesterton devotee and, more recently, a member of the American Chesterton Society.

Unfortunately, I am not among those who can boast of having read all of Chesterton's famous books. That is a goal towards which I am still working; I have, however, marked quite a few off the list. Still, The Ballad of the White Horse remains one of my favorites of his writings, if not the favorite. I feel indebted to the book for two reasons; through his ballad, Chesterton introduced me to two aspects of life and my Catholic faith with which I was yet rather unacquainted. The first was the Common Man; the second, was the idea and ideal of Christendom. These two have strengthened in me through other Catholic authors and through further reading of Chesterton, but I feel I can date my real introduction to them to that first reading of the Ballad.

Before my acquaintance with Chesterton, I failed to look at many people around me with interest; or rather, I failed to see how they were more interesting than many things that occupied my interest. I loved book characters, the heroes and heroines in novels, and in older movies, but I did not see their real-life counterparts in the checkout lady and the termite-exterminator. Through King Alfred--especially through the famous section on the cakes and Humility--I began to see the reality of common people being good people, of humility being powerful. The reader meets Alfred as a King who has failed; the Danes have overrun his beloved country and he is brought to his knees on the little isle of Athelney. In the end, he does not win by his own power, but by God's grace. Because he is a common man, he is an uncommon king, an ideal king. All through the book, as I read it the first time, I felt impressed upon me the inherent goodness and beauty of many everyday people and things, which Chesterton so loved and respected. I could, of course, go on for much longer than a paragraph about this; but the end result was that I began to look at that checkout lady and termite-exterminator, and the "faces in the street," and began to realize that they were fascinating; they had families, personalities, stories; they were interesting, not as specimens or unusual cases, but as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Most especially, I feel a debt of gratitude to Chesterton for opening my eyes to the great Catholic ideal of Christendom--of a kingdom united under Christ, exceeding all boundaries, the idea of Christianity itself being a world. I needn't tell you what The Ballad of the White Horse has to do with Christendom; if you don't know, you must read the ballad as soon as you can. I have found few authors that so beautifully grasped and so clearly related the profundity of "Christendom" as Chesterton has. His verses on it, when I re-read them, have me exclaiming joyfully again within myself: "Yes! It's true!"

Then again, I find myself saying that whenever I pick up Chesterton.

God Bless!

1 comment:

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

All these excellent introductions...I feel wholly inadequate, which is probably the most truthful thing I could be feeling at any given moment.