Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Way to Build a Church :: Weekends With Chesterton

For the last couple weeks I've been enjoying reading Chesterton's St. Francis of Assisi. It's a wonderful read that I would recommend to those of you who want to begin reading Chesterton because he writes this biography with the aim of revealing the romance and wonder of St. Francis's extraordinary life of faith to the modern, secular reader.

Chesterton is the best at going off topic. This can produce almost mind-blowing effects when we realize the connections he's making that we could never have thought of, or it can sometimes be a little overwhelming and slow down the reading until we wrap our brains around his connections. In St. Francis of Assisi so far his random diatribes have been delightful snippets of historical wisdom, commentaries on modern philosophy, and ideas about the Church.

Here's one passage that stuck out to me:

This comes shortly after St. Francis's "conversion" where he is intent on rebuilding God's church, and has even gone to the lengths of selling his father's goods so that he can give money to the poor and help restore churches in disrepair. But his father considered this stealing and took him to court which in turn made St. Francis give his father the clothes off his back and walk out of the court room with absolutely nothing. St. Francis then began begging for actual stones in which to rebuild the Church.

The beauty of this metaphor, even if it was an actual event, is gripping. Begging for stones. The image is great for inspiration not just in our spiritual life, but in practicing it in a concrete way. 

I also had to include the description of this being a paradox because I can't resist Chesterton's obsession with paradox and how he finds them everywhere. The paradox being that to build a spiritual church one must physically build a church. I believe Pope Francis knows a thing or two about this.

Swing by Amongst Lovely Things this weekend for more Chestertonian thoughts to ponder! 

follow along:

facebook ~ instagram ~ pinterest


  1. Any tips on a good Chesterton book to get my feet wet? All the Catholics I know rave about him, but the one essay I read didn't do much for me. C.S. Lewis, on the other hand…now I could read him all day long! I hear them mentioned in the same breath for their wit, insight, and clarity, but I haven't had that experience yet with Chesterton. Any suggestions?

    1. Jenny, I'd recommend trying the Father Brown series for his fiction, Tremendous Trifles for his essays, and either of his biographies on St. Francis or St. Thomas Aquinas. I've heard from some Chesterton experts that these are the most approachable, and while Orthodoxy is a life-changing book, it can be challenging to start with right off the bat. Also; Dale Alquist has written three great introductory books on Chesterton that are very easy to read, but give such a great approach to Chesterton's thought and writing style. Hope that helps!

  2. Begging for stones . . . that just gripped me for a reason that Chesterton might not have intended. It's seemingly the most useless and tedious thing to ask for. Why would anyone want stones? Why would anyone care to go to the trouble to give them, or even not to give them? They're so darn . . . blah. But they're literally the building blocks of cathedrals.

    How very Lenten. Time for me to think about my little bland sacrifices as ways to build God His cathedral.

  3. I've seen so few quotes from this biography, what a treat to see what stuck out to you. And Christie's insights here in the comments. Hmmm. Yes.

  4. Jenny, have you so far only read isolated quotes by Chesterton? I found *The Everlasting Man* to be quite wonderful, if you like theology and philosophy and history all together.... The *Father Brown* mysteries were the first thing I read by him, and I was surprised to like them, because I don't like detective stories. I enjoyed *Orthodoxy* quite a lot, too. His perspective and themes are repeated and more understandable if you get them in the context of longer passages or a whole book, as you are obviously hoping and expecting. :-)


Imagine we're having a coffee together and let me know what you think --
I love comments almost as much as coffee!

(And please check to make sure your email address is connected to your profile, I'd love to email you a reply.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...