Evidence of Chesterton’s holiness begins with his lifelong resolve to heed Christ’s teaching: “Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Throughout his life, Chesterton’s faith retained a child-like quality: Dorothy Collins, Chesterton’s secretary, said that “Chesterton was so excited by meeting the Pope [Pius XI], that he could not work for two days after,” writes biographer Ian Ker. “She also remembered vividly how distressed he was when he lost a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary that he always wore.”
Another virtue of Chesterton was his remarkable ability to make friends with his intellectual opponents. No matter how heated his arguments became, he never lost sight of their common humanity; and proof of that is the emotional tributes his adversaries paid him upon his death.
Yet a third characteristic of Chesterton’s holiness was his recognition of sin—especially his own sins—and the urgency to have them forgiven to receive eternal life.
Theologian John Saward believes Chesterton’s autobiography is in the “same noble tradition” of Augustine’s Confessions, and represents a “search for absolution,” and above all a key to “unlock Divine Mercy.” Chesterton’s charity, humility, and passionate love for truth have also been highlighted by Italian scholar Paolo Gulisano, and in a recent anthology, The Holiness of G.K. Chesterton.
In an interview in December, Dale Ahlquist, founder of the American Chesterton Society, suggested that the writer might have a friend in Pope Francis:
I’m waiting for him to quote Chesterton. That’s what I’m waiting for the pope to do. One of the interviews with him describes his study and describes the Chesterton books on the shelf behind him. We know there’s that connection. …
Chesterton is very well-known in Argentina–you know why? Because the guy that always used to quote him in Argentina is Jorge Luis Borges, and Borges is the pope’s favorite writer, even though (Borges was not) a Christian, but because he’s an Argentine man of letters and truly a great social critic and observer of mankind. Pope Francis was always very attracted to Jorge Luis Borges, who quoted Chesterton in the 1970s, when people didn’t quote Chesterton.
(Image of Chesterton in his study via Wikimedia Commons)