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Posted on 01/30/2012 6:02:24 PM PST by Salvation


I have noted that Catholicism really is in the twentieth century
what it was in the second century; it is the New Religion. Indeed its
very antiquity preserves an attitude of novelty. I have always
thought it striking and even stirring that in the venerable
invocation of the "Tantum Ergo," which for us seems to come
loaded with accumulated ages, there is still the language of
innovation; of the antique document that must yield to a new rite.
For us the hymn is something of an antique document itself. But
the rite is always new.

But if a convert is to write of conversion he must try to retrace his
steps out of that shrine back into that ultimate wilderness where
he once really believed that this eternal youth was only the "Old
Religion." It is a thing exceedingly difficult to do and not often
done well, and I for one have little hope of doing it even tolerably
well. The difficulty was expressed to me by another convert who
said, "I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am
a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else." Nevertheless,
it is right to make the imaginative effort. It is not bigotry to be
certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how
we might possibly have gone wrong. It is my duty to try to
understand what H. G. Wells can possibly mean when he says that
the medieval Church did not care for education but only for
imposing dogmas; it is my duty to speculate (however darkly) on
what can have made an intelligent man like Arnold Bennett stone-
blind to all the plainest facts about Spain; it is my duty to find if I
can the thread of connected thought in George Moore's various
condemnations of Catholic Ireland; and it is equally my duty to
labour till I understand the strange mental state of G. K.
Chesterton when he really assumed that the Catholic Church was a
sort of ruined abbey, almost as deserted as Stonehenge.

I must say first that, in my own case, it was at worst a matter of
slights rather than slanders. Many converts far more important
than I have had to wrestle with a hundred devils of howling
falsehood; with a swarm of lies and libels. I owe it to the liberal
and Universalist atmosphere of my family, of Stopford Brooke and
the Unitarian preachers they followed, that I was always just
sufficiently enlightened to be out of the reach of Maria Monk.
Nevertheless, as this is but a private privilege for which I have to
be thankful, it is necessary to say something of what I might be
tempted to call the obvious slanders, but that better men than I
have not always seen that the slander was obvious. I do not think
that they exercise much influence on the generation that is
younger than mine. The worst temptation of the most pagan youth
is not so much to denounce monks for breaking their vow as to
wonder at them for keeping it. But there is a state of transition that
must be allowed for in which a vague Protestant prejudice would
rather like to have it both ways. There is still a sort of woolly-
minded philistine who would be content to consider a friar a knave
for his unchastity and a fool for his chastity. In other words, these
dying calumnies are dying but not dead; and there are still enough
people who may still be held back by such crude and clumsy
obstacles that it is necessary to some extent to clear them away.
After that we can consider what may be called the real obstacles,
the real difficulties we find, which, as a fact, are generally the very
opposite of the difficulties we are told about. But let us consider
the evidence of all these things being black, before we go on to the
inconvenient fact of their being white.

The usual protest of the Protestant, that the Church of Rome is
afraid of the Bible, did not, as I shall explain in a moment, have
any great terrors for me at any time. This was by no merit of my
own, but by the accident of my age and situation. For I grew up in
a world in which the Protestants, who had just proved that Rome
did not believe the Bible, were excitedly discovering that they did
not believe the Bible themselves. Some of them even tried to
combine the two condemnations and say that they were steps of
progress. The next step in progress consisted in a man kicking his
father for having locked up a book of such beauty and value, a
book which the son then proceeded to tear into a thousand pieces.
I early discovered that progress is worse than Protestantism so far
as stupidity is concerned. But most of the free-thinkers who were
friends of mine happened to think sufficiently freely to see that
the Higher Criticism was much more of an attack on Protestant
Bible-worship than on Roman authority. Anyhow, my family and
friends were more concerned with the opening of the book of
Darwin than the book of Daniel; and most of them regarded the
Hebrew Scriptures as if they were Hittite sculptures. But, even
then, it would seem odd to worship the sculptures as gods and
then smash them as idols and still go on blaming somebody else
for not having worshipped them enough. But here again it is hard
for me to know how far my own experience is representative, or
whether it would not be well to say more of these purely Protestant
prejudices and doubts than I, from my own experience, am able to

The Church is a house with a hundred gates; and no two men enter
at exactly the same angle. Mine was at least as much Agnostic as
Anglican, though I accepted for a time the borderland of
Anglicanism; but only on the assumption that it could really be
Anglo-Catholicism. There is a distinction of ultimate intention
there which in the vague English atmosphere is often missed. It is
not a difference of degree but of definite aim. There are High
Churchmen as much as Low Churchmen who are concerned first
and last to save the Church of England. Some of them think it can
be saved by calling it Catholic, or making it Catholic, or believing
that it is Catholic; but that is what they want to save. But I did not
start out with the idea of saving the English Church, but of finding
the Catholic Church. If the two were one, so much the better; but I
had never conceived of Catholicism as a sort of showy attribute or
attraction to be tacked on to my own national body, but as the
inmost soul of the true body, wherever it might be. It might be said
that Anglo-Catholicism was simply my own uncompleted
conversion to Catholicism. But it was from a position originally
much more detached and indefinite that I had been converted, an
atmosphere if not agnostic at least pantheistic or unitarian. To this
I owe the fact that I find it very difficult to take some of the
Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has
been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the
everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the
Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail-foremost
arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The
ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the
supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a
procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their
object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high
head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying
scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and
lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or
cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, "This is all
hocus-pocus"; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation,
breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up
the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might
express that general view. I can understand his saying, "Your
croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls
and relics and all the rest of it are bosh." But in what conceivable
frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the
scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always
belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was
hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say
that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only
truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why
should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the
statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as
reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of
that particular creed? To say to the priests, "Your statues and
scrolls are condemned by our common sense," is sensible. To say,
"Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to
worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest," is not
sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the

Similarly, I could never take seriously the fear of the priest, as of
something unnatural and unholy; a dangerous man in the home.
Why should man who wanted to be wicked encumber himself with
special and elaborate promises to be good? There might
sometimes be a reason for a priest being a profligate. But what was
the reason for a profligate being a priest? There are many more
lucrative walks of life in which a person with such shining talents
for vice and villainy might have made a brighter use of his gifts.
Why should a man encumber himself with vows that nobody could
expect him to take and he did not himself expect to keep? Would
any man make himself poor in order that he might become
avaricious; or take a vow of chastity frightfully difficult to keep in
order to get into a little more trouble when he did not keep it? All
that early and sensational picture of the sins of Rome always
seemed to me silly even when I was a boy or an unbeliever; and I
cannot describe how I passed out of it because I was never in it. I
remember asking some friends at Cambridge, people of the Puritan
tradition, why in the world they were so afraid of Papists; why a
priest in somebody's house was a peril or an Irish servant the
beginning of a pestilence. I asked them why they could not simply
disagree with Papists and say so, as they did with Theosophists or
Anarchists. They seemed at once pleased and shocked with my
daring, as if I had undertaken to convert a burglar or tame a mad
dog. Perhaps their alarm was really wiser than my bravado.
Anyhow, I had not then the most shadowy notion that the burglar
would convert me. That, however, I am inclined to think, is the
subconscious intuition in the whole business. It must either mean
that they suspect that our religion has something about it so wrong
that the hint of it is bad for anybody; or else that it has something
so right that the presence of it would convert anybody. To do them
justice, I think most of them darkly suspect the second and not the

A shade more plausible than the notion that Popish priests merely
seek after evil was the notion that they are exceptionally ready to
seek good by means of evil. In vulgar language, it is the notion
that if they are not sensual they are always sly. To dissipate this is
a mere matter of experience; but before I had any experience I had
seen some objections to the thing even in theory. The theory
attributed to the Jesuits was very often almost identical with the
practice adopted by nearly everybody I knew. Everybody in society
practised verbal economies, equivocations and often direct
fictions, without any sense of essential falsehood. Every
gentleman was expected to say he would be delighted to dine with
a bore; every lady said that somebody else's baby was beautiful if
she thought it as ugly as sin: for they did not think it a sin to avoid
saying ugly things. This might be right or wrong; but it was absurd
to pillory half a dozen Popish priests for a crime committed daily
by half a million, Protestant laymen. The only difference was that
the Jesuits had been worried enough about the matter to try to
make rules and limitations saving as much verbal veracity as
possible; whereas the happy Protestants were not worried about it
at all, but told lies from morning to night as merrily and
innocently as the birds sing in the trees. The fact is, of course, that
the modern world is full of an utterly lawless casuistry because the
Jesuits were prevented from making a lawful casuistry. But every
man is a casuist or a lunatic.

It is true that this general truth was hidden from many by certain
definite assertions. I can only call them, in simple language,
Protestant lies about Catholic lying. The men who repeated them
were not necessarily lying, because they were repeating. But the
statements were of the same lucid and precise order as a statement
that the Pope has three legs or that Rome is situated at the North
Pole. There is no more doubt about their nature than that. One of
them, for instance, is the positive statement, once heard
everywhere and still heard often: "Roman Catholics are taught that
anything is lawful if done for the good of the Church." This is not
the fact; and there is an end of it. It refers to a definite statement
of an institution whose statements are very definite; and it can be
proved to be totally false. Here as always the critics cannot see
that they are trying to have it both ways. They are always
complaining that our creed is cut and dried; that we are told what
to believe and must believe nothing else; that it is all written down
for us in bulls and confessions of faith. In so far as this is true, it
brings a matter like this to the point of legal and literal truth,
which can be tested; and so tested, it is a lie. But even here I was
saved at a very early stage by noticing a curious fact. I noticed
that those who were most ready to blame priests for relying on
rigid formulas seldom took the trouble to find out what the
formulas were. I happened to pick up some of the amusing
pamphlets of James Britten, as I might have picked up any other
pamphlets of any other propaganda; but they set me on the track
of that delightful branch of literature which he called Protestant
Fiction. I found some of that fiction on my own account, dipping
into novels by Joseph Hocking and others. I am only concerned
with them here to illustrate this particular and curious fact about
exactitude. I could not understand why these romancers never
took the trouble to find out a few elementary facts about the thing
they denounced. The facts might easily have helped the
denunciation, where the fictions discredited it. There were any
number of real Catholic doctrines I should then have thought
disgraceful to the Church. There are any number which I can still
easily imagine being made to look disgraceful to the Church. But
the enemies of the Church never found these real rocks of offence.
They never looked for them. They never looked for anything. They
seemed to have simply made up out of their own heads a number
of phrases, such as a Scarlet Woman of deficient intellect might be
supposed to launch on the world; and left it at that. Boundless
freedom reigned; it was not treated as if it were a question of fact
at all. A priest might say anything about the Faith; because a
Protestant might say anything about the priest. These novels were
padded with pronouncements like this one, for instance, which I
happen to remember: "Disobeying a priest is the one sin for which
there is no absolution. We term it a reserved case." Now obviously
a man writing like that is simply imagining what might exist; it has
never occurred to him to go and ask if it does exist. He has heard
the phrase "a reserved case" and considers, in a poetic reverie,
what he shall make it mean. He does not go and ask the nearest
priest what it does mean. He does not look it up in an encyclopedia
or any ordinary work of reference. There is no doubt about the fact
that it simply means a case reserved for ecclesiastical superiors
and not to be settled finally by the priest. That may be a fact to be
denounced; but anyhow it is a fact. But the man much prefers to
denounce his own fancy. Any manual would tell him that there is
no sin "for which there is no absolution"; not disobeying the priest;
not assassinating the Pope. It would be easy to find out these facts
and quite easy to base a Protestant invective upon them. It
puzzled me very much, even at that early stage, to imagine why
people bringing controversial charges against a powerful and
prominent institution should thus neglect to test their own case,
and should draw in this random way on their own imagination. It
did not make me any more inclined to be a Catholic; in those days
the very idea of such a thing would have seemed crazy. But it did
save me from swallowing all the solid and solemn assertion about
what Jesuits said and did. I did not accept quite so completely as
others the well-ascertained and widely accepted fact that "Roman
Catholics may do anything for the good of the Church"; because I
had already learned to smile at equally accepted truths like
"Disobeying a priest is the one sin for which there is no
absolution." I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but
I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously

It is strange to me to go back to these things now, and to think that
I ever took them even as seriously as that. But I was not very
serious even then; and certainly I was not serious long. The last
lingering shadow of the Jesuit, gliding behind curtains and
concealing himself in cupboards, faded from my young life about
the time when I first caught a distant glimpse of the late Father
Bernard Vaughan. He was the only Jesuit I ever knew in those days;
and as you could generally hear him half a mile away, he seemed
to be ill-selected for the duties of a curtain-glider. It has always
struck me as curious that this Jesuit raised a storm by refusing to
be Jesuitical (in the journalese sense I mean), by refusing to
substitute smooth equivocation and verbal evasion for a brute
fact. Because he talked about "killing Germans" when Germans had
to be killed, all our shifty and shamefaced morality was shocked at
him. And none of those protesting Protestants took thought for a
moment to realise that they were showing all the shuffling
insincerity they attributed to the Jesuits, and the Jesuit was
showing all the plain candour that they claimed for the Protestant.

I could give a great many other instances besides, these I have
given of the hidden Bible, the profligate priest or the treacherous
Jesuit. I could go steadily through the list of all these more old-
fashioned charges against Rome and show how they affected me,
or rather why they did not affect me. But my only purpose here is
to point out, as a preliminary, that they did not affect me at all. I
had all the difficulties that a heathen would have had in becoming
a Catholic in the fourth century. I had very few of the difficulties
that a Protestant had, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth. And
I owe this to men whose memories I shall always honour; to my
father and his circle and the literary tradition of men like George
Macdonald and the Universalists of the Victorian Age. If I was born
on the wrong side of the Roman wall, at least I was not born on the
wrong side of the No Popery quarrel; and if I did not inherit a fully
civilised faith, neither did I inherit a barbarian feud. The people I
was born amongst wished to be just to Catholics if they did not
always understand them; and I should be very thankless if I did
not record of them that (like a very much more valuable convert) I
can say I was born free.

I will add one example to illustrate this point, because it leads us
on to larger matters. After a long time--I might almost say after a
lifetime--I have at last begun to realise what the worthy Liberal or
Socialist of Balham or Battersea really means when he says he is an
Internationalist and that humanity should be preferred to the
narrowness of nations. It dawned on me quite suddenly, after I had
talked to such a man for many hours, that of course he had really
been brought up to believe that God's Englishmen were the Chosen
Race. Very likely his father or uncle actually thought they were the
lost Ten Tribes. Anyhow, everything from his daily paper to his
weekly sermon assumed that they were the salt of the earth, and
especially that they were the salt of the sea. His people had never
thought outside their British nationality. They lived in an Empire
on which the sun never set, or possibly never rose. Their Church
was emphatically the Church of England--even if it was a chapel.
Their religion was the Bible that went everywhere with the Union
Jack. And when I realised that, I realised the whole story. That was
why they were excited by the exceedingly dull theory of the
Internationalist. That was why the brotherhood of nations, which
to me was a truism, to them was a trumpet. That was why it
seemed such a thrilling paradox to say that we must love
foreigners; it had in it the divine paradox that we must love
enemies. That was why the Internationalist was always planning
deputations and visits to foreign capitals and heart-to-heart talks
and hands across the sea. It was the marvel of discovering that
foreigners had hands, let alone hearts. There was in that
excitement a sort of stifled cry: "Look! Frenchmen also have two
legs! See! Germans have noses in the same place as we!" Now a
Catholic, especially a born Catholic, can never understand that
attitude, because from the first his whole religion is rooted in the
unity of the race of Adam, the one and only Chosen Race. He is
loyal to his own country; indeed he is generally ardently loyal to it,
such local affections being in other ways very natural to his
religious life, with its shrines and relics. But just as the relic
follows upon the religion, so the local loyalty follows on the
universal brotherhood of all men. The Catholic says, "Of course we
must love all men: but what do all men love? They love their lands,
their lawful boundaries, the memories of their fathers. That is the
justification of being rational, that it is normal." But the Protestant
patriot really never thought of any patriotism except his own. In
that sense Protestantism is patriotism. But unfortunately it is only
patriotism. It starts with it and never gets beyond it. We start with
mankind and go beyond it to all the varied loves and traditions of
mankind. There never was a more illuminating flash than that
which lit up the last moment of one of the most glorious of English
Protestants; one of the most Protestant and one of the most
English. For that is the meaning of that phrase of Nurse Cavell,
herself the noblest martyr of our modern religion of nationality,
when the very shaft of the white sun of death shone deep into her
mind and she cried aloud, like one who had just discovered
something, "I see now that patriotism is not enough."

There was this in common between the Catholics to whom I have
come and the Liberals among whom I was born: neither of them
would ever have imagined for a moment that patriotism was
enough. But that insular idealism by which that great lady lived
really had taught her unconsciously from childhood that
patriotism was enough. Not seldom has the English lady appeared
in history as a heroine; but generally as facing and defying
strangers or savages, not specially as feeling them as fellows and
equals. Those last words of the English martyr in Belgium have
often been quoted by mere cosmopolitans; but cosmopolitans are
the last people really to understand them. They are generally
trying to prove, not that patriotism is not enough, but that it is a
great deal too much. The point is here that hundreds of the most
heroic and high-minded people in Protestant countries have really
assumed that it is enough to be a patriot. The most careless and
cynical of Catholics knows better; and so did the most vague and
visionary of Universalists. Of all the Protestant difficulties, which I
here find it hard to imagine, this is perhaps the most common and
in many ways commendable: the fact that the normal British
subject begins by being so very British. By accident I did not. The
tradition I heard in my youth, the simple, the too simple truths
inherited from Priestly and Martineau, had in them something of
that grand generalisation upon men as men which, in the first of
those great figures, faced the howling Jingoism of the French Wars
and defied even the legend of Trafalgar. It is to that tradition that I
owe the fact, whether it be an advantage or a disadvantage, that I
cannot worthily analyse the very heroic virtues of a Plymouth
Brother whose only centre is Plymouth. For that rationalism,
defective as it was, began long ago in the same central civilisation
in which the Church herself began; if it has ended in the Church it
began long ago in the Republic: in a world where all these flags
and frontiers were unknown; where all these state establishments
and national sects were unthinkable; a vast cosmopolitan cosmos
that had never heard the name of England, or conceived the image
of a kingdom separate and at war; in that vast pagan peace which
was the matrix of all these mysteries, which had forgotten the free
cities and had not dreamed of the small nationalities; which knew
only humanity, the humanum genus, and the name of Rome.

The Catholic Church loves nations as she loves men; because they
are her children. But they certainly are her children, in the sense
that they are secondary to her in time and process of production.
This is, as it happens, a very good example of a fallacy that often
confuses discussion about the convert. The same people who call
he convert a pervert, and especially a traitor to patriotism, very
often use the other catchword to the effect that he is forced to
believe this or that. But it is not really a question of what a man is
made to believe but of what he must believe; what he cannot help
believing. He cannot disbelieve in an elephant when he has seen
one; and he cannot treat the Church as a child when he has
discovered that she is his mother. She is not only his mother but
his country's mother in being much older and more aboriginal
than his country. She is such a mother not in sentimental feeling
but in historical fact. He cannot think one thing when he knows
the contrary thing. He cannot think that Christianity was invented
by Penda of Mercia, who sent missionaries to the heathen
Augustine and the rude and barbarous Gregory. He cannot think
that the Church first rose in the middle of the British Empire, and
not of the Roman Empire. He cannot think that England existed,
with cricket and fox-hunting and the Jacobean translation all
complete, when Rome was founded or when Christ was born. It is
no good talking about his being "free" to believe these things. He
is exactly as free to believe them as he is to believe that a horse
has feathers or that the sun is pea green. He cannot believe them
when once he fully realises them; and among such things is the
notion that the national claim upon a good patriot is in its nature
more absolute, ancient and authoritative than the claim of the
whole religious culture which first mapped out its territories and
anointed its kings. That religious culture does indeed encourage
him to fight to the last for his country, as for his family. But that is
because the religious culture is generous and imaginative and
humane and knows that men must have intimate and individual
ties. But those secondary loyalties are secondary in time and logic
to the law of universal morality which justifies them. And if the
patriot is such a fool as to force the issue against that universal
tradition from which his own patriotism descends, if he presses
his claim to priority over the primitive law of the whole earth--then
he will have brought it on himself if he is answered with the
pulverising plainness of the Book of Job. As God said to the man,
"Where were you when the foundations of the world were laid?" We
might well say to the nation, "Where were you when the
foundations of the Church were laid?" And the nation will not know
in the least what to answer--if it should wish to answer-- but will be
forced to put its hand upon its mouth, if only like one who yawns
and falls asleep.

I have taken this particular case of patriotism because it concerns
at least an emotion in which I profoundly believe and happen to
feel strongly. I have always done my best to defend it; though I
have sometimes become suspect by sympathising with other
people's patriotism besides my own. But I cannot see how it can be
defended except as part of a larger morality; and the Catholic
morality happens to be one of the very few large moralities now
ready to defend it. But the Church defends it as one of the duties
of men and not as the whole duty of man; as it was in the Prussian
theory of the State and too often in the British theory of the
Empire. And for this the Catholic rests, exactly as the Universalist
Unitarian rested, upon the actual fact of a human unity anterior to
all these healthy and natural human divisions. But it is absurd to
treat the Church as a novel conspiracy attacking the State, when
the State was only recently a novel experiment arising within the
Church. It is absurd to forget that the Church itself received the
first loyalties of men who had not yet even conceived the notion of
founding such a national and separate state; that the Faith really
was not only the faith of our fathers, but the faith of our fathers
before they had even named our fatherland.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; chesterton; church


Nihil Obstat: Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D.
Censor Librorum.

Imprimatur: Patrick Cardinal Hayes
+Archbishop, New York.

New York, September 16, 1926.

Copyright, 1926 by MacMillan Company


It is with diffidence that anyone born into the Faith can approach
the tremendous subject of Conversion. Indeed, it is easier for one
still quite unacquainted with the Faith to approach that subject
than it is for one who has had the advantage of the Faith from
childhood. There is at once a sort of impertinence in approaching
an experience other than one's own (necessarily more imperfectly
grasped), and an ignorance of the matter. Those born into the Faith
very often go through an experience of their own parallel to, and in
some way resembling, that experience whereby original strangers
to the Faith come to see it and to accept it. Those born into the
Faith often, I say, go through an experience of scepticism in youth,
as the years proceed, and it is still a common phenomenon (though
not so often to be observed as it was a lifetime ago) for men of the
Catholic culture, acquainted with the Church from childhood, to
leave it in early manhood and never to return. But it is nowadays a
still more frequent phenomenon--and it is to this that I allude--for
those to whom scepticism so strongly appealed in youth to
discover, by an experience of men and of reality in all its varied
forms, that the transcendental truths they had been taught in
childhood have the highest claims upon their matured reason.

This experience of the born Catholic may, I repeat, be called in a
certain sense a phenomenon of conversion. But it differs from
conversion properly so called, which rather signifies the gradual
discovery and acceptance of the Catholic Church by men and
women who began life with no conception of its existence: for
whom it had been during their formative years no more than a
name, perhaps despised, and certainly corresponding to no known

Such men and women converts are perhaps the chief factors in the
increasing vigor of the Catholic Church in our time. The
admiration which the born Catholic feels for their action is exactly
consonant to that which the Church in its earlier days showed to
the martyrs. For the word "martyr" means "witness." The
phenomenon of conversion apparent in every class, affecting
every type of character, is the great modern witness to the truth of
the claim of the Faith; to the fact that the Faith is reality, and that
in it alone is the repose of reality to be found.

In proportion as men know less and less of the subject, in that
proportion do they conceive that the entrants into the City of God
are of one type, and in that proportion do they attempt some
simple definition of the mind which ultimately accepts
Catholicism. They will call it a desire for security; or an attraction
of the senses such as is exercised by music or by verse. Or they
will ascribe it to that particular sort of weakness (present in many
minds) whereby they are easily dominated and changed in mood
by the action of another.

A very little experience of typical converts in our time makes
nonsense of such theories. Men and women enter by every
conceivable gate, after every, conceivable process of slow
intellectual examination, of shock, of vision, of moral trial and
even of merely intellectual process. They enter through the action
of expanded experience. Some obtain this through travel, some
through a reading of history beyond their fellows, some through
personal accidents of life. And not only are the avenues of
approach to the Faith infinite in number (though all converging; as
must be so, since truth is one and error infinitely divided), but the
individual types in whom the process of conversion may be
observed differ in every conceivable fashion. When you have
predicated of one what emotion or what reasoning process brought
him into the fold, and you attempt to apply your predicate exactly
to another, you will find a misfit. The cynic enters, and so does the
sentimentalist; and the fool enters and so does the wise man; the
perpetual questioner and doubter and the man too easily accepting
immediate authority--they each enter after his kind. You come
across an entry into the Catholic Church undoubtedly due to the
spectacle, admiration and imitation of some great character
observed. Next day you come across an entry into the Catholic
Church out of complete loneliness, and you are astonished to find
the convert still ignorant of the great mass of the Catholic effect
on character. And yet again, immediately after, you will find a
totally different third type, the man who enters not from
loneliness, nor from the effect of another mind, but who comes in
out of contempt for the insufficiency or the evil by which he has
been surrounded.

The Church is the natural home of the Human Spirit.

The truth is that if you seek for an explanation of the phenomenon
of conversion under any system which bases that phenomenon on
illusion, you arrive at no answer to your question. If you imagine
conversion to proceed from this or that or the other erroneous or
particular limited and insufficient cause, you will soon discover it
to be inexplicable.

There is only one explanation of the phenomenon--a phenomenon
always present, but particularly arresting to the educated man
outside the Catholic Church in the English-speaking countries--
there is only one explanation which will account for the
multiplicity of such entries and for the infinitely varied quality of
the minds attracted by the great change; and that explanation is
that the Catholic Church is reality. If a distant mountain may be
mistaken for a cloud by many, but is recognised for a stable part
of the world (its outline fixed and its quality permanent) by every
sort of observer, and among these especially by men famous for
their interest in the debate, for their acuteness of vision and for
their earlier doubts, the overwhelming presumption is that the
thing seen is a piece of objective reality. Fifty men on shipboard
strain their eyes for land. Five, then ten, then twenty, make the
land-fall and recognise it and establish it for their fellows. To the
remainder, who see it not or who think it a bank of fog, there is
replied the detail of the outline, the character of the points
recognised, and that by the most varied and therefore convergent
and convincing witnesses--by some who do not desire that land
should be there at all, by some who dread its approach, as well as
those who are glad to find it, by some who have long most
ridiculed the idea that it was land at all--and it is in this
convergence of witnesses that we have one out of the innumerable
proofs upon which the rational basis of our religion reposes.

--The Editor.









1 posted on 01/30/2012 6:02:29 PM PST by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...


A Chesterton Ping from 1926!


2 posted on 01/30/2012 6:06:04 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Jo Nuvark
Chesterton on Christmas
Table of Contents for "In Defense Of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton"
Chesterton and Saint Francis

[Why I Am Catholic}: A [Chesterton] Poem and a Prayer for Michaelmas
G. K. Chesterton: "Who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him?"
How the Great Wind Came to Beacon House, Chap 1 of Manalive by G. K. Chesterton
Film and Audio Recordings of G. K. Chesterton
Chesterton on "The Human Family and the Holy Family"
Why I Am A Catholic by G. K. Chesterton
"The God In The Cave" | From The Everlasting Man (G. K. Chesterton) Part 1
Alternatives to Assigned Readings
Aquinas vs. Luther: A Brief Excerpt from Chesterton
Social Reform versus Birth Control

3 posted on 01/30/2012 6:11:56 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...


4 posted on 01/30/2012 8:52:56 PM PST by Jo Nuvark (Those who bless Israel will be blessed, those who curse Israel will be cursed. Gen 12:3)
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To: Jo Nuvark

Thanks for the ping!

5 posted on 01/30/2012 9:46:13 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Salvation

6 posted on 01/31/2012 2:11:15 AM PST by johngrace (I am a 1 John 4! Christian- declared at every Sunday Mass ,Divine Mercy <a and Rosary prayers!)
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To: Salvation
Oh Lord, I love GKC.

I will copy this to my Word program, cank it up to an 18 pt typeface, and read it slowly and with pleasure.

7 posted on 01/31/2012 2:27:35 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o ("The first duty of intelligent men of our day is the restatement of the obvious. " - George Orwell)
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To: Salvation
There is still a sort of woolly- minded philistine who would be content to consider a friar a knave for his unchastity and a fool for his chastity.

Hey, look! Chesterton was prescient about certain Freepers!
8 posted on 01/31/2012 2:52:07 AM PST by aruanan
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To: Mrs. Don-o

“O Lord, I love GKC”

GKC is a treasure.

9 posted on 01/31/2012 5:46:56 AM PST by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Be sure to get Cahpter I too. More chapters coming.

10 posted on 01/31/2012 5:03:25 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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