Going to the Chesterton convention this year in Kansas City, Kansas marks my second year going. Last year it was much closer to home, and now I am addicted.
I originally wanted to go to these conventions to listen to authors I admire and to hopefully meet them. I soon found I enjoyed just listening to and talking to the convention goers themselves. I believe it is a mark of sanity to be a GKC fan, and thus this is a group of sane people. I have met no one there that challenges this assumption.
Even as an introvert, I force myself that during the various meals to sit down at a table with people I don’t know. I always feel so awkward at first and then the ice is broken. So while difficult for me, it is also enriching. Plus the conversations are so wide-ranging. There might be a topic I am normally not much interested in and had not thought much about, and then being drawn into the insights offered. People are pretty awesome.
There were a couple of notable things about this specific convention. Out of 38 conventions, this was the largest with over 500 people attending. That in itself is pretty cool, but I think about all the people who would have liked to have attended.
Cardinal Thomas Collins from Toronto came to the convention of his own volition. Apparently, he had been wanting to come for years, but could not schedule it. This year he signed up. As a result, he was subsequently asked to give a talk and to say Mass. I must admit I was rather impressed with him. His speech was not from a basis of him considering himself a Chestertonian scholar, but as someone who had read him for years. This talk indeed showed that he had distilled the essence of GKC. Seeing him around I appreciated how he didn’t put on airs and pretty much acted as if he was just another convention goer.
This time around, they had daily Mass for the duration of the convention. I can be pretty hypercritical when it comes to liturgy, so it was a pleasure not to have this be an issue at all. Dale Ahlquist’s daughter Sophia chanted at two of the Masses, and this was pure pleasure for me. Homilies were also excellent, and once again Cardinal Collins impressed me with what he had to say.
The convention’s scheduled program itself is, of course, the main draw for the convention. I still remember every talk from last year, and I feel confident that I will be able to say the same about this year’s discussions for the most part.
This year Rod Dreher gave a talk about his book “The Benedict Option”. As a rehash of his arguments made in his book, of which I have read, it was not new territory for me. I did mostly like the book as an accurate assessment of the current situation. The same goes for most of his ideas as a reaction to this. Still, I think Leah Libresco’s book “Living the Benedict Option”, is the one that engaged me as far as how on a personal level we take on a Benedictine charism of hospitality to help build up each other. Rod forwards Leah’s book.
After Rod gave his talk, Dale Ahlquist came up to the stage and then referenced Rod Dreher as a “schismatic”. I about fell out of my chair, laughing. I love when the elephant in the room is pointed at. Plus it is so Chestertonian to point out where your friends are wrong and that you can do it with good humor.
Maybe my favorite talk was by Brandon Vogt on “Chesterton as Husband … and Father”. A provoking title knowing that the Chesterton’s had no children. I just loved his insights into them as a couple and how they managed to surround themselves with children. I had previously read Nancy Brown’s excellent “The Woman Who Was Chesterton” about his wife Francis, so I knew some of this. Still, he brought together a bunch of information to present this topic. I would love to see a book-length treatment of this, as I find the Chesterton’s so aspirational.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, it was meeting with the convention goers that I came to enjoy so much. At the conferences, they have what they call an Afterglow where everyone gets together and talk and drink. I think maybe by next week I will have caught up on my sleep after such purposeful sleep deprivation. The Afterglow goes on into the wee hours. Getting up for morning Mass was a chore after getting to bed so late. Worth it though, on both levels.
The last night of the conference concludes with a banquet where great fun commences. One of the staples of the banquet is the judging of the submitted Clerihew‘s.
A clerihew (/ˈklɛrɪhjuː/) is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually, a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown or spurious about them. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and metre are irregular. Bentley invented the clerihew in school and then popularized it in books.
Last year I wanted to try my hand at this but didn’t make the deadline. This year at pretty much the last minute I managed to dash out two of them. As my first attempts, I wasn’t expecting them to make the cut, even being pleased with them.
In the category for people who lived before Chesterton, this was my entry.
Thinking about the conversion of St. Ignatius
Where a military injury was efficacious
At the present time I can see
Jesuits that could use a cannonball to the knee.
This received an honorable mention.
For the category for people who lived after Chesterton I received first place.
One of the four Marx of the Church was not Groucho
But, when it comes to common sense he was no slouch though
Not sure if he died and went to Heaven
Would not join a club when invited in
Although it was my St. Ignatius one that most people came up to me later on to applaud.
Next year the conference will be in Chicago. I am already excited about next year’s conference.
Before I finish this post, I should certainly mention that Chesterton’s cause has been curtailed for now. Dale Ahlquist went through the particulars after being informed by the Bishop of Northampton.
This news was a disappointment, yet not being surprising to those following this closely. The support by this bishop has never been whole-hearted. Still, he can be thanked for at least being open to and supporting the initial investigation. I certainly don’t believe this will be the end of the story regarding this. It will happen in God’s time. Personally, I hope it is not one of those “A year is a thousand years” example of God’s time. I think this will involve another American assist in British saint canonization. I think of Blessed John Henry Newman and how it was intercessory prayer from Americans that resulted in the two miracles that lead to his canonization.
You can read Dale Ahlquist’s statement and reply here.