Ruminations on the Fall of Rome
The bottom line is: Everything that makes a European different from the rest of mankind was originally peculiar to the Roman Empire or is demonstrably derived from something peculiar to it.
This is seen in material things: wheeled traffic; our building materials, brick, glass, mortar, cut-stone; our cooking, our staple food and drink; in forms, the arch, the column, the bridge, the tower, the well, the road, the canal; in expression, the alphabet, the very words of most of our numerous dialects and polite languages, the order of still more, the logical sequence of our thought; implements: the saw, the hammer, the plane, the chisel, the file, the spade, the plough, the rake, the sickle, the ladder.
It is also seen in our institutions: the divisions and the sub-divisions of Europe, the parish, the county, the province, the fixed national traditions with their boundaries, the emplacement of the great European cities, the routes of communication between them, the universities, the parliaments and congresses, the courts and their jurisprudence.
All these things spring from Rome. It is our well-spring, and the Catholic Church was the soul of this well-spring as it flowed into the Middle Ages.
Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the "Tremendous Trifles" column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y'all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.
In September of 1909, Vivian Carter reviewed Chesterton's new book George Bernard Shaw and concluded that "Shaw and Chesterton are one and the same person." The tall, thin, and abstemious Shaw, she revealed, kept a secret cellar in which he could quickly remove his false whiskers and Jaeger tweeds, and as quickly don padding, cloak, and pince-nez, in order to emerge as the self-indulgent GKC enjoying the cafes of Fleet Street. Thomas Leitch suggests that Carter's amusing fancy gave Chesterton the inspiration for "The Duel of Dr. Hirsch," a Father Brown story published in 1914. [The Critical Judgments, p. 210-11; The Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 70, p. 74]
"Infographic": Half The World's Christians Live In These 11 Nations. USA, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Congo, Ethiopia, Italy, Germany, Russia, Philippines, and China.
Yes, China, which really surprised me. But then I read the other infographics and saw that China also houses 50% of the world's Buddhists, 73% of the world's adherents to folk religion, and 62% of the world's unaffiliated people. It also houses a large percentage of the world's adherents to other religions (primarily, Confucianism, Jainism, and Taoism, I assume). The fact that China is in the top 11 of countries with Christians is obviously a testament to its sheer demographic girth than Christianity's status there.
Glorious Indian Summer! Temps got down to 28 here Sunday morning. Lows for the next ten days are in the upper thirties and forties; highs in the fifties and low sixties. I hope to walk and walk until my feet fall off. If this coming winter is like last winter, my walking is slated for a four-month hiatus. * * * * * * * Astute (and the not-so-astute) readers would have noticed a stupid error in last Friday's BYCU. It's been addressed by an addendum. * * * * * * * Are adults required to attend weekly classes in order to become Catholic? No, according to "ke," a "Catholic Answers Forum Elder." His answer rings with authority and I think he's right, but does anyone know who "ke" is? Does anybody have a better link, to something more authoritative than an online discussion forum? The conversion of a friend and good man might rest on it, so any help is greatly appreciated. Comments box or email link on the left. * * * * * * * Speaking of conversion, I recently dusted off a photocopy of one of the five books I had to read as part of a two-credit self-study course at Notre Dame Law School. It's a book called Truth in Christ by Charles Rice. He wrote it back in the early 1980s, as part of a Catholic course geared toward high school seniors who are (i) smart, and (ii) serious about Catholicism. I was stunned by how many of its points I had "internalized" and that still, to this day, pop up in discussions with my children. I emailed Professor Rice and asked him if he ever considered getting the book properly published (I remember he told me that he and a colleague had self-published the book). He told me that St. Augustine's Press had already done it. The current version is updated with teachings from JPII and BXVI. I highly, highly recommend this book: Where Did I Come From? Where Am I Going? How Do I Get There?: Straight Talk for Young Catholics.
I, incidentally, loathe that title. It screams, "middle school" and "superficial." The book does, indeed, teach elements of the Catholic faith, but it's far from superficial or simple. At least the version I have isn't. I guess it's possible that the current version is dumbed down to the point that its content matches its title, but I doubt it. That wouldn't be Professor Rice's style. Nor St. Augustine Press'. * * * * * * * I've ordered a copy of it. We'll see. * * * * * * * Say what, throng of readers? What were the other four books a Notre Dame law professor prescribed for a struggling potential convert? Here they are: John Hardon's Pocket Catholic Catechism, Edward J. Murphy's Life to the Full, Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, and James Cardinal Gibbons' Faith of Our Fathers. All excellent books. The highly-conservative and orthodox priest who then directed my weekly sessions required me to read Life in Christ, which was fine as far as "textbooks" go, but I'd recommend the above five books over that one.
Catholic Men's Quarterly, a one-of-a-kind general interest men's magazine written by Catholic men for Catholic men. Makes a great Father's Day gift.
"The Daily Eudemon is the sort of thing
that Chesterton or Mencken would be doing, if they were
alive today. It's what, in saner times, was called journalism.
In the writing and in the reading, it's exactly the sort
of leisure we should want at the basis of culture."Mike
Aquilina, Author of The Fathers of the Church
and TV Talk Show Host.
Catholicism-urbane, witty, engaged-is alive and well!
If you can read, you should be reading The Daily Eudemon!"David
Scott, author of A Revolution of Love: The Meaning
of Mother Teresa
you like your blogs pithy, nimble, pointed, high-spirited,
and waggish, then bookmmark Eric Scheske's The Daily
Eudemon. Ooops! You want prolixity, density, meandering,
dull, and sober? Then run (do not walk!) to the blogs
of the major news outlets. They have just what you want.
Honestly they do." John
Peterson, Editor, G.K. Chesterton: Collected Works,
Volumes 12 and 13.
Scheske's web site is full of information and insight.
Always worth a read."James
V. Schall, Author of Another Sort of Learning.