REFLECTIONS from a CHESTERTON NOVICE

GK Chesterton at his deskMary M. Wainscott, Ph.D., SFO

I wasn’t completely oblivious of this great man before attending the Annual American Chesterton Society Conference on August 4-6, 2011.  Having met Kevin O’Brien and loving mystery stories, I had purchased the Father Brown audio collection some years ago.  I not only loved the stories, but was utterly amazed at how Kevin changed his voice for all the characters.  I also listened to Manalive some time ago; and, being a Secular Franciscan, read Chesterton’s Francis of Assisi.

Recently my husband, Deacon John Scotty Wainscott, at the invitation of Kevin O’Brien, attended a few of the St. Louis Chesterton Society meetings.  John then told me that he was going to be involved in the production of Magic, a play by Chesterton, at the annual meeting to be held in St. Louis.  I immediately decided that I wanted to attend the conference, and that in preparation for that, I must become more familiar with this great defender of our Catholic faith.

I read Dale Ahlquist’s Common Sense 101, which I highly recommend to everyone.  I also read the Ballad of the White Horse and began Chesterton’s autobiography.

The conference itself was quite an experience!  I was impressed with all the speakers and all for different reasons:  Dale Ahlquist is a “natural.”  He’s intelligent, funny, and impressive.

Although I knew something about the Battle of Lepanto, I had not yet read Chesterton’s version.  Christopher Check’s explanation of the ballad and his excellent presentation of it (despite the enthusiastic cheers from the teens in the adjoining room) were outstanding.

Of course, being a Secular Franciscan, the talk by Carl Hasler was intriguing.  I read again today about the brief meeting between Francis and Dominic and how they shared a common vision.  I look forward to listening to the audio tape so I can glean enough information to share with my Fraternity.

As I’m totally unfamiliar with Chesterton as a poet, I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Moore-Jumonville’s talk and did order Chesterton’s first book of poetry for my personal reading pleasure.

Since I had read The Ballad of the White Horse, but had little understanding of it, I was very grateful for Dr. Accardo’s explanation.  Possibly this ballad, more than anything else described at the conference, affected me most as seeing Chesterton as a good Catholic man!

Griffin’s Battling for Elfland is something, unfortunately, of which I remember very little.  It is obvious I have to listen to that recording soon.

Chuck Chalberg’s Chesterton was excellent.  The surprise was the high pitch of a BIG man’s voice.  What he said though, was a great preamble to Dr. Worner’s talk on Saturday, and helped me in understanding that presentation.

Leah Darrow is a heroine to me.  She has a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard by people of all ages:  teens, because through Leah, they can see there is a better life than drugs and sex; adults, because they and realize that there is hope for all.  Whatever one does can be forgiven and a new life can begin.  Leah’s is a story of the incredible mystery of our God:  death and resurrection.

Because of my personal involvement with Magic, I won’t say much about it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my favorite character was Dale’s.   I know how hard Scotty worked at putting this together, and I believe the outcome was well worth his effort.

Because I dearly love Father Brown, I sincerely appreciated Dale’s comments about the mysteries and how they came about and Chesterton’s model for this much loved detective.

Eleanor Nicholson certainly surprised me with her remarks about Percy Shelley.   Contrasting him with Chesterton was a great exercise and obviously took a lot of research. I appreciate her energy and enthusiasm.

I believe the speaker who impressed me the most was Dr. Worner.  I realize he had his Power Point Presentation, but the facts on those pages were minimal compared to the great amount of information he presented (and without any notes, as far as I could tell).  Following Chuck Chalberg made so much sense.  Chuck set Dr. Worner up.  I think I learned more from his presentation than any others.  I was truly amazed.

I believe I’ve been “reeled in.”  Because of my job responsibilities and my responsibilities to the Secular Franciscan Order, I always have a lot to read.  You can be sure that I will now have something from Chesterton that I will be working on simultaneously.  I already have, and will continue to use Chesterton in the writing I do for the parish in which I work and for the fraternity.  I already look forward to next year’s conference and hope by then, I can honestly begin the second year of my novitiate.

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