I know this is probably old news for many of you now, but the developments concerning a possible Cause for G.K. Chesterton are very positive and I hope they will eventually come to completion beneath the balcony of St Peter's in the not too distant future. For those who may not have heard: the Bishop of Northampton is appointing a priest to begin an initial investigation into the life and virtues of Chesterton with the view to possibly opening the Cause for his beatification and canonisation.
A Cause for Chesterton would be significant as it once again calls our attention to the fact that the once "traditional" "pious" view of Saints is not an accurate one, reminding us that holiness is an altogether stranger thing than comfortable piety - it is dynamic and variant and raises up the most unusual of people.
Chesterton is certainly proof of this. Large as life, keen for a debate, even wacky in ways, Chesterton was unique and certainly left an impression. A keen intellectual, he wore his genius easily in a way which could only be pure Christian humility. Child-like he was as sophisticated as any gentleman and yet there was nothing false or affected about him: what you saw was what you got. He could beat any speaker in a contentious debate and be beaten by any child in a game of draughts all conducted in the same spirit of gracious joy and engagement. In debate and controversy he was the epitome of charity - indeed I personally think he was more charitable in dealing with his opponents in controversy than Blessed John Henry Newman was. He counted all sorts of characters among his friends, and his two closest were Hilaire Belloc and George Bernard Shaw - now there are two extremes! Some of the funniest stories about Chesterton concerns his refereeing these two in controversy.
And that brings me to what I think is the greatest element of Chesterton's sanctity - his joy manifested through his incorrigible sense of humour. Chesterton is one of God's great comedians. If you read any of Chesterton's books you will find yourself laughing even when he is arguing serious points. Joy and humour permeated his life and work. He was a believer, as I am myself, that despite even the greatest tragedies that ultimately life is a comedy, a black comedy at times, but a comedy nonetheless. Why so? Because, as Chesterton would teach us: God exists, he has a plan and redemption has been offered to us through the death of Jesus Christ. In Christ everything can be changed, and even death, the greatest tragedy, must yield to life. Julian of Norwich piously phrased it as "All will be well, all manner of things will be well", Chesterton phrased with his boisterous joy. This is perhaps the greatest argument for Chesterton's heroic faith and hope. And as for heroic love - well he had that in abundance for God and for his fellow man. If ever there was a model of one who loved his enemy it was Chesterton.
I pray this initial investigation will indeed lead to beatification. Some might not think this is important. As some would say, with all the problems in the world the last thing we should be concerned with is making Saints. Well Chesterton would say that it is because of all the problems in the world that we should be concerned with making Saints, because if we do not have models and inspirations for us in the midst of these problems then we'll lose hope and get bogged down in negativity and eventually lose our faith. When the Church loses interest in the Saints, then she has problems, and we can see that particularly in Ireland: as candidates for Sainthood in Ireland languish through neglect and apathy we see the Church here has problems, one of them being an inability to see how important holiness is in the life of a disciple of Christ. As I have said before, and firmly believe, successful Saint-making is a sign of the health of a diocese or local church.
So hearty thanks to the Bishop of Northampton and I encourage all of Chesterton's fans to get working: Chesterton's glorification will be a gift to the Church and another sign of hope. And it will encourage all of us to strive for holiness.