From the Franciscan Minims

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MexicoVergel           Jan. • Feb. 2005           No. 1–2


The Crucifix of St. Francis de Sales issued dazzling light,
as the saint began to preach a sermon on Good Friday,
1606, in
Chambery, France.

The Crucifix of St. Francis de Sales


FTER receiving an excellent education at Paris and Padua, Francis declined the worldly plans made for him by his father and instead decided on a priestly vocation. The saint’s brilliant preaching, wise direction of souls and his countless conversions brought him to the attention of Church officials, who appointed him Bishop of Geneva in 1602.

Among his friends were St. Vincent de Paul and St. Philip Neri. Together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Francis founded the Order of the Visitation, of which there are now 185 convents throughout the world.

In his biography of the saint, Hamon, a priest of St. Sulpice, tells that one day when St. Francis returned to Annecy, he retired to the Jesuits’ college to prepare a sermon which he was to deliver in the church of St. Dominic. It was a cloudy day and rather dark in the church when he climbed into the pulpit. Then, “as he began to preach, the crucifix shed such rays of light upon him that his person seemed dazzling and his face was brighter than the stars. All the audience cried out in surprise and admiration, but the preacher stood unmoved. He preached with such power of the Holy Ghost that many were converted, and his success only increased as he went to the other churches.”

Known for his gentleness and patience, the saint died during his 56th year, the 20th of his episcopate. Attended by numerous miracles, the body of the saint was buried at Annecy in the first convent of the Visitation Order, where it is still found beside the reliquary containing the remains of St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

The holy Bishop was canonized in 1665 and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877 in view of his excellent writings, of which Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God are the most popular.

Reflections is---    Thank  you.



“And because iniquity has abounded,
the charity of many shall grow cold.” -- Matthew 24, 12
“Puritanism is only a paralysis.” -- GKC


HE title of this editorial refers to a defect or sin that is frequent and that causes great harm. It also has the names of: indifference, negligence, selfishness, unkindness, harshness and frigidity. The opposite virtue is charity, kindness, warmth, affection, amiability. One is symbolized by something cold, the other by something warm, such as a flame or the sun.

The Greatest Sin

Theologians have often debated what is the greatest sin. It is almost impossible to answer. The worst sin is the sin that has the worst effect. All sins have bad effects, but one of the worst is coldness. From what Christ said about the last judgment in Matthew, Ch. 25, one gets the impression that the reprobate were condemned because of their coldness, because of not showing kindness when God wanted them to show it. “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat, etc.” And they received the sentence that coldness deserves: “Depart from me, ye accursed, etc.”

Do not let coldness enter in

A holy French abbot said, shortly before his death: “My dear children, never forget the last advice and testament of your most loving father. I implore you in the name of our divine Saviour always to love one another, and never to permit the least coldness toward any brother to be for a moment in your breasts, or anything by which perfect charity may suffer any harm in your souls. You have borne the yoke of penance and are grown old in the exercise of religious duties in vain, if you do not sincerely love one another. Without this, martyrdom itself cannot make you acceptable to God. Fraternal charity is the soul of a religious house.” Having spoken these words, he happily surrendered his soul into the hands of the Creator (from life of St. Aichardus).

The saint’s advice is good, not only for religious, but for all men and women, in any family, group, organization, club or gathering. One of the worst effects of coldness is that it makes worthless other actions, for example, prayer. It is inconsistent to pray “Thy will be done,” and then to do the opposite of what God wants: He does not want people to treat others with coldness. “Without this (charity, kindness) martyrdom itself cannot make you acceptable to God.”


Sometimes people show coldness to their neighbors from negligence, indifference and even from cruelty. Sometimes people would like to show kindness and admiration to their neighbors, but cannot because of lack of experience and timidity… and sometimes because they live in an English-speaking country. (See article “They would like it to happen” in this issue). Coldness is like a paralysis that prevents people from showing kindness when it should be shown. There are people who do not want to be unkind or cruel and they have kind sentiments in their minds and hearts, but they cannot express what they feel. A stupid coldness prevents them. Even when they have good intentions, their silence and omission of kind actions often causes coldness and sadness in the lives of others.

A Legion of Victim Souls

In this issue there is an article about how the legion of victim souls is growing. When there are more victim souls, there will be less injustice, less coldness and less unkindness in the world. God wants us to show kindness, in any way, with a smile, a kind word, a kind action, affection, warmth, being polite when you do not feel like it. Any action, even a small one, might help to spread a little kindness in our world, that is now so selfish and indifferent. But the greatest kindness is to offer our lives to help save our brethren. The greatest kindness and generosity is to have the same sentiments that Christ had, and to do something similar to what he did, when he offered his life to save the world. The greatest kindness is to do something similar to what St. Paul did: “and I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.” The more people get involved in the legion of victim souls, the more kindness and happiness there will be in this sad, selfish world.

May it be for the glory of God
The Vergel of the Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe
January 6, 2005    Feast of the Epiphany

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“All those who yield themselves to My way of the cross and suffering,
will be blessed for all eternity.” --
April 23, 1969

The Assyrian Comes Down

Whether Isaiah and Micah ever met is not recorded, but the peasant spokesman for God might easily have been the disciple of the aristocratic prophet who lived in the “Valley of Vision.”

“How long? How long, O Lord?” Isaiah would cry, and Micah with him. But King Hezekiah did not take his prophets of doom too seriously. He thought he knew what he was doing, felt sure he could avoid playing mouse to the Assyrian cat; he would and could keep Judah free, by powerful foreign alliances.

But Isaiah, farseeing prophet, disapproved of these alliances, which actually suggested a conspiracy for war against Assyria. To show his disapproval of the intrigues stewing among several nations who had nothing in common except their fear and hatred, Isaiah, in obedience to the Lord, appeared one day at the door of his house and walked the streets of Jerusalem barefoot. He was portraying himself as a miserable captive, to illustrate how the loser of the imminent war would fare –the loser being Egypt, Ethiopia, and their smaller conspirators, including Judah. For three years Isaiah walked barefoot among the people, a living protest against unreliable and dangerous political alliances.

He was proved right when Sennacherib came down, capturing 46 cities.

Relics of those direful Assyrian victories are preserved for our late eyes to see. In the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago there is a contemporary monument of the time of this conquering Sennacherib, a bas-relief on dark marble, showing the return of the soldiers, carrying the decapitated heads of their foes, and leading bound prisoners along with enslaved children and women in a march of triumph.

There is also the famous “prism of Sennacherib” to be seen in the British Museum; a clay hexagonal cylinder which gives this Assyrian king’s own account of his campaign against Hezekiah, whom he scornfully describes as “a caged bird.” While he verifies the Bible account, however, he leaves out the most important event—the miracle.

All signs pointed to the kingdom of Judah as the next target for the Assyrian, and King Hezekiah began to wonder if he might not better have a talk with Isaiah. To the astonishment of the king, the stalwart old agent of the Lord now advised the king to stand fast. By the power of the one true God, Isaiah insisted, the enemy would be blasted.

But as the armies of Sennacherib drew ever nearer, and his advance guards began throwing up towers and fortifications around the city, in obvious preparation for a siege, the king found it hard to share the holy man’s confidence. In the turmoil of his thoughts he did one wise thing –he turned and implored help on his own account, beseeching the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, in the words of Isaiah: “He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with a shield, nor cast a bank against it… For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”

These were astounding words, with destruction seeming to loom close, and the numbers of the Assyrian hosts as sands of the seashore. Any day, any hour now, the blow would fall. And then, in the very midst of King Hezekiah’s doubts, it happened –a miracle unsurpassed in all the strange stories of Holy Writ.

During that time of breathless expectancy an angel of the Lord passed through the camp of the sleeping Assyrian troops, and struck a blow that ended in one night the lives of 185,000 men.

Utterly demoralized, the rest of the army fled from the plague’s invisible sword:

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold.
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
Where the blue wave rolls nightly on deep

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset was seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn has blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown!

The people who had wandered so far from the Lord were closer than ever to the punishment of their infidelity –yet here, in the hour of their greatest danger, the power of God to help them was brilliantly displayed.

Never again was Sennacherib to strike against Jerusalem. While at worship in Nineveh, he was slain by his own sons. Awed and enormously relieved at what had happened to their seemingly invincible foe, the people of Judah hailed their prophet Isaiah. But the old seer was not misled. He knew his people. He knew their future. Isaiah saw his beloved Jerusalem saved only temporarily, he knew that retribution had only been postponed; suffering alone could purge the sins of Judah.

Not long after the massacre of the enemy armies, King Hezekiah became ill, and his condition began to be rumored around. With guileful sympathy, Merodach-Baladan, the new ruler of Babylon, sent costly presents, and this action delighted the ailing king. Amid general amiability Hezekiah was coaxed to display to the Babylonian ambassadors all the accumulated treasures of Jerusalem. When the visitors had departed Isaiah questioned Hezekiah about them. Form whence came they? Their purpose? The king showed the prophet how flattered he had been by the attention and praise of the men from Merodach-Baladan. But Isaiah’s face was grave, his voice sorrowful:

“Behold, the days come, that all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And of your sons that shall issue from you, which you shall beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

In spite of his past experience with Isaiah, the ailing monarch did not want to believe this distressing forecast.

“Is it not good if peace and truth be in my days?” he protested, nor was he the last appeaser who believed he had bought “peace in our time.”

Isaiah turned away with sad eyes. King and prophet parted, and nothing is heard of any more talk between them. Isaiah busied himself with his preaching, beginning now to tell the people that beyond their coming tribulation he foresaw the bright dawn of a new day of salvation, when the Messiah should come to serve and heal.

Thus he was reassuring the people when the well-intentioned King Hezekiah passed on.

The son who took his place on the throne, the Prince Manasseh, was the direct opposite of his father. Instinctively he seemed to relish everything that was vicious and evil. A born tyrant, he persecuted the prophets of the Lord and rebuilt altars to heathen gods which his father had cast down. Even the precincts of the Temple which Solomon had dedicated to the Lord God were desecrated. And Manasseh shed innocent blood until “he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.” Yet his reign was long; he was king from the age of twelve until he was sixty-four.

Legend relates that Isaiah was one of the wicked Manasseh’s chief victims. According to those ancient traditions, the aged prophet, after more than 46 years of holy service, wise statesmanship, and spiritual vision, was tied to a log of cedar and sawn in two. Such a horrible form of execution of the death sentence was certainly known to have been practiced, even as far back as the days of Saul and Samuel. And such is the strength of tradition in the East, one may well believe that being sawn in two was the fate of that invincible teller of truth, called Isaiah.

It was Isaiah who gave substance and a sense of reality, of imminence, of impending arrival, to the Messianic hope. He said that the Son of God was coming to the world to redeem it from an impossible situation—“Surely, He has borne our griefs.”

The Boy King

It seems an odd coincidence, that within a few years after the death of King Hezekiah—about the start of the sixth century before Christ—a manuscript was found in Judah that was to have a profound effect upon the people. This is how that discovery came about:

The affliction of the times, the apostasy, the infidelity, the turning back to God and then away from Him again, all were going on as usual.   (To be continued).

Following  His  Footsteps

by  Anselmo  del  Álamo

Chapter 8.  Crosses

38. What is it that most pleases Jesus? Suffering. The most sorrowful moments are always the most blessed. O Jesus, I accept as many pains and afflictions as you want to send me, for they will always be less than what I deserve. As a gift of your mercies, o my Jesus, I will accept the pains and afflictions that you lay upon me. O Jesus, if you wish, add even more: I will always kiss your hand. Behold, O Jesus, this sorrow shakes all the fibers of my heart, and it inspires in me the resolution of not offending you any more.  St. Gemma Galgani

39. I love the flowers of the field, the little birds and every new suffering; it is a variation that pleases me, but what I love above every-thing else is Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior. Theresa Neumann

40. If you were flooded with spiritual consolations and you overflowed with love, you would not gain as much as suffering dryness and the trials that I send you. Live, therefore, in peace, with the certainty that you will not perish under the cross. It is easier for ten souls to fall into sin, who enjoy the delights of grace, than only one soul that is in affliction: the enemy has no power against those who sigh under the cross. Even if you were the first doctor of the world and the wisest theologian of my Church, and even if you could speak about God with the tongues of angels, you would be less holy to my eyes and less amiable, than a soul that is subject to my crosses. I grant my graces to the good and to the evil, but I reserve my crosses for my elect. Affliction separates a man from the world, and brings him near to God. The more his friends on earth abandon him, the more my grace is increased in him, and it raises him and makes him divine. From the Cross proceed humility, purity of conscience, fervor of spirit, peace, tranquility of soul, discretion, recollection, charity and all the benefits that this produces.  Our Lord to Blessed Henry Suso

41. You cannot form an idea of how happy I am. In spite of your sorrows? Because of them.  Eva Lavalliere

42. As the usurer does not lose any occasion of making a small sum of money, I also will not consent that the smallest movement of your little finger, done in my name, remains without fruit, and without its concurring to my greater glory and your eternal salvation.  Our Lord to St. Gertrude

A  Report  from  Pennsylvania


My name is Bro. Paul Wilson, of Erie, Pennsylvania. I have been a victim soul for 23 years, under the spiritual direction of Rev. Francis S. Duchala, O.F.M., Pittsburgh, PA, 63 years a priest. He went to heaven on March 2, 2002.

First when I approach someone that I feel would be a good person to be a victim soul, I look for one with the holy smile of Jesus on their face, united with the suffering of Jesus in their eyes –very easy to see, if you truly realize the joy of suffering united to the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

I always ask for the help of St. Therese, the Little Flower, and she never fails me.

A. I usually find these people in church or through a good friend, or another victim soul. We now have 96 victim souls in the U.S.A. Sometimes I get no response, so I just let it go, but I do give them my phone no., and 6 out of 10 do call me back, and I just plant the seed.

B. Usually when I present the victimhood to a person, this is what they say:

“This is what I have been praying and searching for.”

“I have done consecrations to Our Blessed Mother and Jesus, in many forms, but this is truly giving myself completely to Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, Blessed Mother.”

Then I give them the book on victimhood and tell them to read it and pray about it. Usually within 2 weeks they call me on the phone and say to me “Thank you, Bro. Paul. I just gave myself totally to Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”

Below is a consecration of victimhood written by Rev. Fr. Francis S. Duchala, O.F.M. and myself, combining the one of the Portavoz and Berthe Petite, a victim soul of 50 years.

May God bless you. ---
Brother Paul  --


P.S. May the love of Jesus and Our Blessed Mother be always in your heart.


Consecration of Victimhood

“Lord, my God, you have asked everything of your little servant: take and receive everything, then. This day I belong to you without any reservations, forever. O Beloved of my soul! It is you only whom I want, and for your love I renounce all.

“O God of Love! Take my memory, and all its memories, take my intelligence so that it will act only for your greatest glory; take my will entirely, so that it will forever be drowned in your own; never again what I want, O most sweet Jesus, but always what you want; receive me, guide me, sanctify me, direct me; to you I abandon myself.

“O God of goodness, take my body and all its senses, my spirit and all its faculties, my heart and all its affections; O adorable Savior, you are the sole owner of my soul and of all my being; receive the immolation, that every day and every hour, I offer you in silence, deign to accept it and change it, into grace and blessing for all those I love, for the conversion of sinners, and for the sanctification of souls.

“O Jesus! Take all of my little heart; it begs and sighs to belong to you alone; hold it always in your powerful hands, so that it will surrender and pour itself out to no other creature.

“Lord, take and sanctify all my words, all my actions, all my desires. Be for my soul its good and its all. To you I give and abandon it.

“I accept with love all that you send me: pain, sorrow, joy, consolation, dryness, shame, desertion, scorn, humiliation, work, suffering, trials, everything that comes to me from you, everything that you wish, O Jesus.

“I submit humbly to the glorious control of your providence in supporting me solely by the help of your immense goodness; I promise you the most sincere fidelity. O Divine Savior, as a victim for the salvation of souls, I surrender and abandon myself to you.

“I implore you to accept all of my offering, and I will then be happy and trusting. Alas! It is all too little, I know, but I haven’t any-thing else; I love my extreme worthlessness, because it will obtain for me your mercy and all your paternal solicitude.

“My God, you know my frailty and the bottomless abyss of my weakness. If, one day, I were to be unfaithful to your sovereign will, if I were to recoil before suffering and the cross, and to stray from your path of love, fleeing the tender protection of your arms, Oh! I beg and implore you for the grace of dying at that instant. Pardon me, O Sacred Heart of my Saviour, forgive me by your most sweet name of Jesus, by the sorrows of Mary, by the intercession of Saint Joseph, and by the love that you had in doing your Father’s will.

“O God of my soul! O Divine Sun! I love you, I bless you, I praise you, I abandon myself completely to you. I take refuge in you; hide me in your bosom, for my being shudders under the burden of the cruel afflictions that crush me on all sides –and I am always so alone.

“My Beloved, help me, take me with you. In you alone I wish to live, so that in you alone I may die.”

Chaplet of the Seven Dolors of Our Blessed Mother
united to the Sacred wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Crucifix: Apostles’ Creed

Large Bead. May the merits and rays from the holy wounds of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary be united with the merits and rays of the precious holy wounds of Jesus Christ. May they be offered to the Almighty Father for the poor souls in Purgatory, for the salvation of mankind, and for the coming of the Reign of the Divine Will to be done by all mankind.

Small bead. Eternal Father, I offer up to you the Seven Dolors of Our Blessed Mother, united with the precious Holy Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of mankind.

(end of decade): Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, may Thy Divine Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

This chaplet is to be united with the Divine Mercy Chaplet as an extension of the holy rays that came from Jesus’ Sacred Heart to St. Faustina, now united to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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Shorter Remedies against Sins,
particularly the Seven Deadly Sins

(continued from previous issue)

Sloth and Indolence suggest: If you apply yourself to study, prayer, meditation, and tears you will injure your eyes. If you prolong your vigils and fasts you will weaken your body and unfit yourself for spiritual exercises. Industry and Zeal answer: Who has assured you many years for the performance of these good works? Are you sure of tomorrow, or even of the present moment? Have you forgotten these words of Our Saviour. "Watch ye, therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour" (Matt. 25:13)? Arise, then, and cast aside this indolence which has seized you, for the kingdom of Heaven, which suffers violence, is not for the slothful, but for the violent who will bear it away. (Cf. Matt. 11:12).

Covetousness insinuates: Do not give any of your possessions to strangers, but keep them for yourself and your own. Mercy answers: Remember the lesson of the covetous rich man of the Gospel who was clothed in purple and fine linen; he was not condemned for taking what did not belong to him, but for not giving from his abundance. (Cf. Lk. 16:22). From the depth of Hell he begged for a drop of water to quench his thirst; but it was denied him, because he had refused to the poor man at his gate even the crumbs which fell from his table.

Gluttony urges: God created all these things for us, and he who refuses them despises the benefits of God. Temperance answers: True, God created these things for our maintenance, but He willed that we should use them with moderation, for He has also imposed upon us the duty of sobriety and temperance. It was principally a disregard of these virtues which brought destruction upon the city of Sodom. (Cf. Ezech. 16:49). Therefore, a man, even when enjoying good health, should consult necessity rather than pleasure in the choice of his food. He has perfectly triumphed over this vice who not only limits the quantity of his food, but who denies himself delicacies except when necessity, charity, or politeness prompts him to accept them.

Loquacity tells us: It is no sin to talk much if you say no evil, as, on the contrary, it does not free you from fault to allege that your words are few if what you have said is bad, Discreet Reserve answers: That is true; but great talkers seldom fail to offend with the tongue. Hence the Wise Man says, "In the multitude of words there shall not want sin." (Prov. 10:19). And if you are so fortunate as to avoid injurious words against your neighbor, you will hardly avoid idle words, for which, however, you must render an account on the last day. Be reserved and moderate, therefore, in your speech, that a multiplicity of words may not entangle you in sin.

Impurity counsels thus: Profit now by the pleasures life offers you, for you know not what may happen tomorrow; it is unreasonable to restrict the pleasures of youth, which passes like a dream. If God had not willed us the enjoyment of these pleasures, He never would have created us as we are. Chastity answers: Be not deceived by such illusions. Consider what is prepared for you. If you live pure lives on earth you will be rewarded hereafter with ineffable and eternal joys. But if you abandon yourself to your impure desires you will be punished by torments equally unspeakable and eternal. The more sensible you are of the fleeting nature of these pleasures, the more earnestly you should endeavor to live chastely; for wretched indeed is that hour of gratification which is purchased at the expense of endless suffering.

All that we have said in the preceding pages will furnish you with spiritual arms to triumph over your enemies. If you follow these counsels you will take the first step in virtue; that is, you will extirpate your vices. Thus will you defend your soul, the citadel which God has confided to your care, and in which He wills to take up His abode. If you defend it resolutely and faithfully you will enjoy the presence of this heavenly Guest, for the Apostle tells us that "God is charity, and he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him." (l Jn. 4:16). Now, he abides in charity who does nothing to destroy this virtue, which perishes only by mortal sin, against which the preceding considerations may be applied as a preventive or remedy. – Ven. Louis of Granada: The Sinner’s Guide

by G.K. Chesterton

By one of those queer associations that nobody can ever understand, a large number of people have come to think that frivolity has some kind of connection with enjoyment. As a matter of fact, nobody can really enjoy himself unless he is serious.

Even those whom we commonly regard as belonging to the butterfly classes of society really enjoy themselves most at the crises of their lives which are potentially tragic. Men can only enjoy fundamental things. In order to enjoy the lightest and most flying joke, a man must be rooted in some basic sense of the good of things; and the good of things means, of course, the seriousness of things.

In order to enjoy even a pas de quatre at a subscription dance a man must feel for the moment that the stars are dancing to the same tune. In the old religions of the world, indeed, people did think that the stars were dancing to the tunes of their temples; and they danced as no man has danced since. But thorough enjoyment, enjoyment that has no hesitation, no incidental blight, no arrière pensée, is only possible to the serious man. Wine, says the Scripture, maketh glad the heart of man, but only of the man who has a heart. And so also the thing called good spirits is possible only to the spiritual.

The really frivolous man, the frivolous man of society, we all know, and any of us who know him truthfully know that if he has one characteristic more salient than another it is that he is a pessimist. The idea of the gay and thoughtless man of fashion, intoxicated with pagan delights, is a figment invented entirely by religious people who never met any such man in their lives. The man of pleasure is one of the fables of the pious. Puritans have given a great deal too much credit to the power which the world has to satisfy the soul; in admitting that the sinner is gay and careless they have given away the strongest part of their case. As a matter of fact, Puritanism commonly falls into the error of accusing the frivolous man of all the wrong vices. For instance, it says (and it is a favourite phrase) that the frivolous man is "careless". In truth the frivolous man is very careful. Not only does he spend hours over dressing and similar technical matters, but a great part of his life is passed in criticising and discussing similar technical matters. At any odd hour of the day we may find him talking about whether one man has the right kind of coat or another man the wrong kind of dinner-service; and about these matters he is far more solemn than a Pope or a General Council. His general air about them might be described as rather sad than serious, as rather hopeless than severe. Religion might approximately be defined as the power which makes us joyful about the things that matter. Fashionable frivolity might, with a parallel propriety, be defined as the power which makes us sad about the things that do not matter.

Frivolity has nothing to do with happiness. It plays upon the surface of things, and the surface is almost always rough and uneven. The frivolous person is the person who cannot fully appreciate the weight and value of anything. In practice he does not appreciate even the weight and value of the things commonly counted frivolous. He does not enjoy his cigars as the gutter boy enjoys his cigarette; he does not enjoy his ballet as the child enjoys "Punch and Judy". But, in fairness to him, it must be admitted that he is not alone in being frivolous: other classes of men share the reproach. Thus, for instance, bishops are generally frivolous, moral teachers are generally frivolous, statesmen are generally frivolous, conscientious objectors are generally frivolous. Philosophers and poets are often frivolous; politicians are always frivolous. For if frivolity signifies this lack of grasp of the fullness and the value of things, it must have a great many forms besides that of mere levity and pleasure-seeking. A great many people have a fixed idea that irreverence, for instance, consists chiefly in making jokes. But it is quite possible to be irreverent with a diction devoid of the slightest touch of indecorum, and with a soul unpolluted by a tinge of humour. The splendid and everlasting definition of real irreverence is to be found in that misunderstood and neglected commandment which declares that the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. This again is supposed vaguely to have some connection with buffoonery and jocularity and play upon words. But surely that is not the plain meaning of the phrase. To say a thing with a touch of humour is not to say it in vain.

To say a thing with a touch of satire or individual criticism is not to say it in vain. To say a thing even fantastically, like some fragment from the scriptures of Elfland, is not to say it in vain. But to say a thing with a pompous and unmeaning gravity; to say a thing so that it shall be at once bigoted and vague; to say a thing so that it shall be indistinct at the same moment that it is literal; to say a thing so that the most decorous listener shall not at the end of it really know why in the name of all things you should have said it or he should have listened to it-- this is veritably and in the weighty sense of those ancient Mosaic words to take that thing in vain. The Name is taken in vain many times more often by preachers than it is by secularists. The blasphemer is, indeed, fundamentally natural and prosaic, for he speaks in a commonplace manner about that which he believes to be commonplace. But the ordinary preacher and religious orator speaks in a commonplace manner about that which he believes to be divine.

This is the breach of one of the Commandments; it is the sin against the name. Take, if you will, the name wildly, take it jestingly, take it brutally and angrily, take it childishly, take it wrongly; but do not take it in vain. Use a sanctity for some strange or new purpose and justify that use; use a sanctity for some doubtful and experimental purpose and stake your act on your success; use a sanctity for some base and hateful purpose and abide the end. But do not use a sanctity for no purpose at all; do not talk about Christ when you might as well talk about Mr. Perks; do not use patriotism and honour and the Communion of Saints as stopgaps in a halting speech. This is the sin of frivolity, and it is the chief characteristic of the great majority of the conventionally religious class.

Thus we come back to the conclusion that real seriousness is at a discount alike among the irreligious and the religious, alike in the worldly and in the unworldly world.

The Extraordinary Cabman

by G.K. Chesterton

From: London's Daily News and Tremendous Trifles

From time to time I have introduced into this newspaper column the narration of incidents that have really occurred. I do not mean to insinuate that in this respect it stands alone among newspaper columns. I mean only that I have found that my meaning was better expressed by some practical parable out of daily life than by any other method; therefore I propose to narrate the incident of the extraordinary cabman, which occurred to me only three days ago, and which, slight as it apparently is, aroused in me a moment of genuine emotion bordering upon despair.

On the day that I met the strange cabman I had been lunching in a little restaurant in Soho in company with three or four of my best friends. My best friends are all either bottomless sceptics or quite uncontrollable believers, so our discussion at luncheon turned upon the most ultimate and terrible ideas. And the whole argument worked out ultimately to this: that the question is whether a man can be certain of anything at all. I think he can be certain, for if (as I said to my friend, furiously brandishing an empty bottle) it is impossible intellectually to entertain certainty, what is this certainty which it is impossible to entertain? If I have never experienced such a thing as certainty I cannot even say that a thing is not certain. Similarly, if I have never experienced such a thing as green I cannot even say that my nose is not green. It may be as green as possible for all I know, if I have really no experience of greenness. So we shouted at each other and shook the room; because metaphysics is the only thoroughly emotional thing. And the difference between us was very deep, because it was a difference as to the object of the whole thing called broad-mindedness or the opening of the intellect. For my friend said that he opened his intellect as the sun opens the fans of a palm tree, opening for opening¹s sake, opening infinitely for ever. But I said that I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid. I was doing it at the moment. And as I truly pointed out, it would look uncommonly silly if I went on opening my mouth infinitely, for ever and ever.

[Editor's Note - From other writings of Chesterton, we know that the "open-minded" friend referred to here is H.G. Wells. Also, we learn from the paragraph to follow that Hilaire Belloc was another of those present at this Soho meeting. And it is quite possible, even probable, that George Bernard Shaw was also in the party.]

Now when this argument was over, or at least when it was cut short (for it will never be over), I went away with one of my companions, who in the confusion and comparative insanity of a General Election had somehow become a member of Parliament, and I drove with him in a cab from the corner of Leicester Square to the members' entrance of the House of Commons, where the police received me with a quite unusual tolerance. Whether they thought that he was my keeper or that I was his keeper is a discussion between us which still continues.

It is necessary in this narrative to preserve the utmost exactitude of detail. After leaving my friend at the House I took the cab on a few hundred yards to an office in Victoria Street which I had to visit. I then got out and offered him more than his fare. He looked at it, but not with the surly doubt and general disposition to try it on which is not unknown among normal cabmen. But this was no normal, perhaps, no human, cabman. He looked at it with a dull and infantile astonishment, clearly quite genuine. "Do you know, sir," he said, "you've only given me 1s. 8d?" I remarked, with some surprise, that I did know it. "Now you know, sir," said he in a kindly, appealing, reasonable way, "you know that ain't the fare from Euston." "Euston," I repeated vaguely, for the phrase at that moment sounded to me like China or Arabia. "What on earth has Euston got to do with it?" "You hailed me just outside Euston Station," began the man with astonishing precision, "and then you said ..." "What in the name of Tartarus are you talking about?" I said with Christian forbearance; "I took you at the south-west corner of Leicester Square." "Leicester Square," he exclaimed, loosening a kind of cataract of scorn, "why we ain't been near Leicester Square to-day. You hailed me outside Euston Station, and you said ..." "Are you mad, or am I?" I asked with scientific calm.

I looked at the man. No ordinary dishonest cabman would think of creating so solid and colossal and creative a lie. And this man was not a dishonest cabman. If ever a human face was heavy and simple and humble, and with great big blue eyes protruding like a frog's, if ever (in short) a human face was all that a human face should be, it was the face of that resentful and respectful cabman. I looked up and down the street; an unusually dark twilight seemed to be coming on. And for one second the old nightmare of the sceptic put its finger on my nerve. What was certainty? Was anybody certain of anything? Heavens! to think of the dull rut of the sceptics who go on asking whether we possess a future life. The exciting question for real scepticism is whether we possess past life. What is a minute ago, rationalistically considered, except a tradition and a picture? The darkness grew deeper from the road. The cabman calmly gave me the most elaborate details of the gesture, the words, the complex but consistent course of action which I had adopted since that remarkable occasion when I had hailed him outside Euston Station. How did I know (my sceptical friends would say) that I had not hailed him outside Euston. I was firm about my assertion; he was quite equally firm about his. He was obviously quite as honest a man as I, and a member of a much more respectable profession. In that moment the universe and the stars swung just a hair's breadth from their balance, and the foundations of the earth were moved. But for the same reason that I believe in Democracy, for the same reason that I believe in free will, for the same reason that I believe in fixed character of virtue, the reason that could only be expressed by saying that I do not choose to be a lunatic, I continued to believe that this honest cabman was wrong, and I repeated to him that I had really taken him at the corner of Leicester Square. He began with the same evident and ponderous sincerity, "You hailed me outside Euston Station, and you said ..."

And at this moment there came over his features a kind of frightful transfiguration of living astonishment, as if he had been lit up like a lamp from the inside. "Why, I beg your pardon, sir," he said. "I beg your pardon. I beg your pardon. You took me from Leicester Square. I remember now. I beg your pardon." And with that this astonishing man let out his whip with a sharp crack at his horse and went trundling away. The whole of which interview, before the banner of St. George I swear, is strictly true.

I looked at the strange cabman as he lessened in the distance and the mists. I do not know whether I was right in fancying that although his face had seemed so honest, there was something unearthly and demoniac about him when seen from behind. Perhaps he had been sent to tempt me from my adherence to those sanities and certainties which I had defended earlier in the day. In any case it gave me pleasure to remember that my sense of reality, though it had rocked for an instant, had remained erect.

The Extraordinary Cabman first appeared in London's Daily News. It was later collected in the volume of essays Tremendous Trifles.

They Would Like It To Happen

“But really there are very few English people who would not like it (warmth, affection) to happen.
Puritanism is only a paralysis.”


The Incomplete Traveler. … The dates of my first and second visits to America have some true significance; for one was about a year after the Palestinian visit, and the other was comparatively recently; in 1930. This is not only because the first was very near the beginning and the second very near the end of the prolonged freak of Prohibition. I will not stop here to argue with any fool who thinks there is something funny about objecting to Prohibition. What is part of the same process is this; that one began with the Boom and the other saw the start of the Slump and what is more important, a profound revolution in the highly intelligent American people. It is not trivial that, touching Prohibition, they had wholly changed; at the beginning even those who disliked it believed in it; at the end even those who liked it disbelieved in it. But it is much more important that, by the end, lifelong Republicans told me of their intention to vote for Franklin Roosevelt; even those who had cursed the demagogy of Theodore Roosevelt. The Americans have seen more plutocracy than anybody; but I am not sure they may not see through it sooner than anybody else.

For the rest, my last American tour consisted of inflicting no less than ninety-nine lectures on people who never did me any harm; and the remainder of the adventure, which was very enjoyable, breaks up like a dream into isolated incidents. A aged negro porter, with a face like a walnut, whom I discouraged from brushing my hat, and who rebuked me saying, “Ho, young man. Yo’s losing yo dignity before yo time. Yo’s got to look nice for de girls.” A grave messenger who came to me in a Los Angeles hotel, from a leading film magnate, wishing to arrange for my being photographed with the Twenty-Four Bathing-Beauties, Leviathan among the Nereids; an offer which was declined among general surprise.

…. After all, the strangest country I ever visited was England; but I visited it at a very early age, and so became a little queer myself. England is extremely subtle, and about the best of it there is something almost secretive; it is amateur even more than aristocratic in tradition, it is never official. Among its very valuable and hardly visible oddities is this. There is one type of Englishman I have very frequently met in travel and never met in books of travel. He is the expiation for the English tripper; he may be called the English exile. He is a man of good English culture quite warmly and unaffectedly devoted to some particular foreign culture. In some sense, he has already figured in this story; for Maurice Baring had exactly that attitude towards Russia and Professor Eccles towards France. But I have met a particularly charming Anglo-Irish academic gentleman doing exactly the same work of penetrating with sympathy the soul of Poland; I have met another searching out the secrets of Spanish music in Madrid; and everywhere they are dotted about on the map, doing not only something for Europe but very decidedly something for England; proving to Lithuanian antiquaries or Portuguese geographers that we are not all bounders and boosters; but come of the people that could interpret Plutarch and translate Rabelais. They are a microscopically small minority; like nearly every English group that really knows what is going on; but they are a seed and therefore a secret. It can only be a comic coincidence, but it is a curious fact, that they are mostly of a certain personal type; tending to slight baldness and agreeable smiles under old-fashioned moustaches. If sociology were a science, which is absurd, I would set up a claim like a Darwinian scientist to have discovered a species. It is in remembering these men that I find it easiest to range rapidly, for the purpose of this short chapter, over the different countries in which they are our very unofficial diplomatists.

I love France; and I am glad I saw it first when I was young….

I felt the same when I went to lecture in Madrid; and met that shy and polite Englishman who could have lectured to the Spaniards on their own Spanish tunes and songs. I did not feel that Spanish people were in a difficult sense different from English people; but only that a stupid Puritanism had forbidden the English to show the hearty and healthy emotions the Spanish are allowed to show. The most manifest emotion, as it struck me, was the pride of fathers in their little boys. I have seen a little boy run the whole length of one of the tree-lined avenues in the great streets, in order to leap into the arms of a ragged workman, who hugged him with more than maternal ecstasy. It may of course be said that this is un-English; which seems an ungenerous reflection on the English. I prefer to say that the Spanish workman, only too probably, had not been to an English public school. But really there are very few English people who would not like it to happen. Puritanism is only a paralysis; which stiffens into Stoicism when it loses religion. That sort of warmth and casualness was my impression of Spain. Oh yes, I saw the Escorial. Yes, thank you, I visited Toledo; it is glorious, but I remember it best by a more glorious peasant woman who poured out wine by the gallon and talked all the time.

I recently revisited Spain, if the Catalans will allow me to call it Spain (opinions apart, I am sincerely sympathetic with such sensitive points), for I revisited it with a rush in a car that could only charge down the eastern coast to Tarragona. In the course of it, I had two curious experiences in two foreign cafés. One was outside Barcelona, where the proprietor was an authentic American gangster, who had actually written a book of confessions about his own organized robbing and racketeering. Modest, like all great men, about the ability he had shown in making big business out of burglary and highway robbery, he was very proud of his literary experiment, and especially of his book; but, like some other literary men, he was dissatisfied with his publishers. He said he had rushed across just in time to find that they had stolen nearly all his royalties. “It was a shame,” I said sympathetically, “why it was simply robbery.” “I’ll say it was,” he said, with an indignant blow on the table, “It was just plain robbery.” ---

from Ch. XV, The Incomplete Traveler,
The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton


Short Biography

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (May 29, 1874 -- June 14, 1936) was an English writer of the early 20th century. Today, he remains an influential figure, perhaps because he has more quotable pithy sayings than most anyone this side of Shakespeare. Quite a few of his works remain in print, including collections of his Father Brown detective stories.

== Life and Career ==

Born in Campden Hill, Kensington, London, Chesterton was educated at St. Paul's, and later went the Slade School of Art in order to become an illustrator. In 1900, Chesterton was asked to write a few magazine articles on art criticism, which sparked his interest in writing. He went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. Chesterton's writings displayed a wit and sense of humor that is unusual even today, while often time making extremely serious comments on the world, government, politics, economics, philosophy, theology, or a hundred other topics.

Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, 200 short stories, 4000 essays and a few plays. He was a columnist for the ''Daily News'', ''Illustrated London News'', and his own paper, ''G.K's Weekly''. In the United States, his writings on distributism were popularized through ''The American Review'', published by Seward Collins in New York. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic Christian theologian and apologist, debater and mystery writer. His most well-known character is the priest-detective Father Brown, although ''The Man Who Was Thursday'', arguably his most well-known novel, does not concern Father Brown at all. He converted to Catholicism in 1922 and themes and symbolism of Christianity are evident in much of his writing.

The British writer, Hilaire Belloc, is often associated with his friend, Chesterton. Although very different men, they had in common their Catholic faith and a critical attitude to both capitalism and socialism. Both are figures likely to outlast many of their more celebrated literary contemporaries.

Chesterton was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing in at around 300 pounds. Chesterton had a unique look, usually wearing a cape and a crumpled hat, with a swordstick in hand, and usually a cigar hanging out of his mouth. Chesterton rarely remembered where he was supposed to be going and would even miss the train that was supposed to take him there. It was not uncommon for Chesterton to send a telegram to his wife, Frances Blogg, whom he married in 1901, from some distant (and incorrect) location writing such things as, "Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" to which she would reply, "Home."

Chesterton loved to debate, often publicly debating friends like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, and Clarence Darrow. Chesterton was usually considered the winner. According to his autobiography, he and George Bernard Shaw played cowboys in a silent movie that, alas, was never released.

He is buried in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in the Roman Catholic Cemetery.

==Chesterton's Influence==

* Chesterton's ''The Everlasting Man'' contributed to a young atheist named C. S. Lewis being converted to Christianity.

* Chesterton's “Orthodoxy” (book) has become a religious classic.

* An essay that Chesterton wrote for the ''Illustrated London News'' inspired Mohandas Gandhi to lead the movement to end British colonial rule in India.

* Chesterton's novel ''The Napoleon of Notting Hill'' inspired Michael Collins to lead a movement for Irish Independence. The same book inspired George Orwell for writing his 1984, which has several implicit references to TNoNH.

* Chesterton's work has inspired lyricists like Daniel Amos's Terry Scott Taylor from the 1970s to the 2000s. Daniel Amos mentioned Chesterton by name in the title track from 2001's ''Mr. Buechner's Dream''.

* His physical appearance, and apparently some of his mannerisms, were a direct inspiration for the character of Dr. Gideon Fell, a well-known fictional detective created in the early 1930s by the American-Anglo Mystery writer John Dickson Carr.

Chesterton’s works are available in libraries, bookstores and on line:   American Chesterton Society, 4117 Pebblebrook Circle, Minneapolis, MN 55437

Miracles and Modern Civilization
G.K. Chesterton

Mr. Blatchford has summed up all that is important in his whole position in three sentences. They are perfectly honest and clear. Nor are they any the less honest and clear because the first two of them are falsehoods and the third is a fallacy. He says "The Christian denies the miracles of the Mahommedan. The Mahommedan denies the miracles of the Christian. The Rationalist denies all miracles alike."

The historical error in the first two remarks I will deal with shortly. I confine myself for the moment to the courageous admission of Mr. Blatchford that the Rationalist denies all miracles alike. He does not question them. He does not pretend to be agnostic about them. He does not suspend his judgment until they shall be proved. He denies them.

Faced with this astounding dogma I asked Mr. Blatchford why he thought miracles would not occur. He replied that the Universe was governed by laws. Obviously this answer is of no use whatever. For we cannot call a thing impossible because the world is governed by laws, unless we know what laws. Does Mr. Blatchford know all about all the laws in the Universe? And if he does not know about the laws, how can he possibly know anything about the exceptions?

For, obviously, the mere fact that a thing happens seldom, under odd circumstances and with no explanation within our knowledge, is no proof that it is against natural law. That would apply to the Siamese twins, or to a new comet, or to radium three years ago.

The philosophical case against miracles is somewhat easily dealt with. There is no philosophical case against miracles. There are such things as the laws of Nature rationally speaking. What everybody knows is this only. That there is repetition in nature. What everybody knows is that pumpkins pro-duce pumpkins. What nobody knows is why they should not produce elephants and giraffes.

There is one philosophical question about miracles and only one. Many able modern Rationalists cannot apparently even get it into their heads. The poorest lad at Oxford in the Middle Ages would have understood it. (Note. As the last sentence will seem strange in our "enlightened" age I may explain that under "the cruel reign of mediaeval superstition," poor lads were educated at Oxford to a most reckless extent. Thank God, we live in better days.)

The question of miracles is merely this. Do you know why a pumpkin goes on being a pumpkin? If you do not, you cannot possibly tell whether a pumpkin could turn into a coach or couldn't. That is all.

All the other scientific expressions you are in the habit of using at breakfast are words and winds. You say "It is a law of nature that pumpkins should remain pumpkins." That only means that pumpkins generally do remain pumpkins, which is obvious; it does not say why. You say "Experience is against it." That only means, "I have known many pumpkins intimately and none of them turned into coaches."

There was a great Irish Rationalist of this school (possibly related to Mr. Lecky), who when he was told that a witness had seen him commit murder said that he could bring a hundred witnesses who had not seen him commit it.

You say "The modern world is against it." That means that a mob of men in London and Birmingham, and Chicago, in a thoroughly pumpkiny state of mind, cannot work miracles by faith.

You say "Science is against it." That means that so long as pumpkins are pumpkins their conduct is pumpkiny, and bears no resemblance to the conduct of a coach. That is fairly obvious.

What Christianity says is merely this. That this repetition in Nature has its origin not in a thing resembling a law but a thing resembling a will. Of course its phase of a Heavenly Father is drawn from an earthly father. Quite equally Mr. Blatchford's phase of a universal law is a metaphor from an Act of Parliament. But Christianity holds that the world and its repetition came by will or Love as children are begotten by a father, and therefore that other and different things might come by it. Briefly, it believes that a God who could do anything so extraordinary as making pumpkins go on being pumpkins, is like the prophet, Habbakuk, Capable de tout. If you do not think it extraordinary that a pumpkin is always a pumpkin, think again. You have not yet even begun philosophy. You have not even seen a pumpkin.

The historic case against miracles is also rather simple. It consists of calling miracles impossible, then saying that no one but a fool believes impossibilities: then declaring that there is no wise evidence on behalf of the miraculous. The whole trick is done by means of leaning alternately on the philosophical and historical objection. If we say miracles are theoretically possible, they say, "Yes, but there is no evidence for them." When we take all the records of the human race and say, "Here is your evidence," they say, "But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things."

The real question is whether our little Oxford Street civilisation is certain to be right and the rest of the world certain to be wrong. Mr. Blatchford thinks that the materialism of nineteenth century Westerns is one of their noble discoveries. I think it is as dull as their coats, as dirty as their streets, as ugly as their trousers, and as stupid as their industrial system.

Mr. Blatchford himself, however, has summed up perfectly his pathetic faith in modern civilisation. He has written a very amusing description of how difficult it would be to persuade an English judge in a modern law court of the truth of the Resurrection. Of course he is quite right; it would be impossible. But it does not seem to occur to him that we Christians may not have such an extravagant reverence for English judges as is felt by Mr. Blatchford himself.

The experiences of the Founder of Christianity have perhaps left us in a vague doubt of the infallibility of courts of law. I know quite well that nothing would induce a British judge to believe that a man had risen from the dead. But then I know quite as well that a very little while ago nothing would have induced a British judge to believe that a Socialist could be a good man. A judge would refuse to believe in new spiritual wonders. But this would not be because he was a judge, but because he was, besides being a judge, an English gentleman, a modern Rationalist, and something of an old fool.

And Mr. Blatchford is quite wrong in supposing that the Christian and the Moslem deny each other's miracles. No religion that thinks itself true bothers about the miracles of another religion. It denies the doctrines of the religion; it denies its morals; but it never thinks it worth while to deny its signs and wonders.

And why not? Because these things some men have always thought possible. Because any wandering gipsy may have Psychical powers. Because the general existence of a world of spirits and of strange mental powers is a part of the common sense of all mankind. The Pharisees did not dispute the miracles of Christ; they said they were worked by devilry. The Christians did not dispute the miracles of Mahomed. They said they were worked by devilry. The Roman world did not deny the possibility that Christ was a God. It was far too enlightened for that.

In so far as the Church did (chiefly during the corrupt and sceptical eighteenth century) urge miracles as a reason for belief, her fault is evident: but it is not what Mr. Blatchford supposes. It is not that she asked men to believe anything so incredible; it is that she asked men to be converted by anything so commonplace.

What matters about a religion is not whether it can work marvels like any ragged Indian conjurer, but whether it has a true philosophy of the Universe. The Romans were quite willing to admit that Christ was a God. What they denied was the He was the God - the highest truth of the cosmos. And this is the only point worth discussing about Christianity.


A Magazine for the Latter Times

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Reflections. We are all so much in need for enlightenment, as this is what shines through from its holy pages. Thank you again. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph protect you. Respectfully, M.C., Canada

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The Romance of Orthodoxy
G.K. Chesterton

This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery of the new balance. Paganism had been like a pillar of marble, upright because proportioned with symmetry. Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years. In a Gothic cathedral the columns were all different, but they were all necessary. Every support seemed an accidental and fantastic support; every buttress was a flying buttress. So in Christendom apparent accidents balanced. Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination; for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold. It is at least better than the manner of the modern millionaire, who has the black and the drab outwardly for others, and the gold next his heart. But the balance was not always in one man's body as in Becket's; the balance was often distributed over the whole body of Christendom. Because a man prayed and fasted on the Northern snows, flowers could be flung at his festival in the Southern cities; and because fanatics drank water on the sands of Syria, men could still drink cider in the orchards of England. This is what makes Christendom at once so much more perplexing and so much more interesting than the Pagan empire; just as Amiens Cathedral is not better but more interesting than the Parthenon. If any one wants a modern proof of all this, let him consider the curious fact that, under Christianity, Europe (while remaining a unity) has broken up into individual nations. Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing of one emphasis against another emphasis. The instinct of the Pagan empire would have said, "You shall all be Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift." But the instinct of Christian Europe says, "Let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. The absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France."

Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world. Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. The smallest link was let drop by the artificers of the Mediterranean, and the lion of ancestral pessimism burst his chain in the forgotten forests of the north. Of these theological equalisations I have to speak afterwards. Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom -- that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

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