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Diapholom on Percy and Chesterton

It was a happy coincidence that at the same time I was reading Percy, I was also reading G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Although very different in style, Percy and Chesterton are linked in many ways. They were both converts to the Catholic faith who were raised in agnostic homes and who claimed no formal theological or philosophical training. More importantly, they both had a high regard for Aquinas and had a view of humanity which was at once modern and orthodox. They understood the times they lived in and saw how far removed those times had become from the life-giving, intellectually sound sources of Western civilization. Both used satire to expose the stupidities and evils of their age — Chesterton with gentleness, Percy with a dark humor.

Chesterton saw the evils of communism and Nazism on the horizon, even as Percy witnessed their reality and saw the practical implications of their philosophical underpinnings being worked out in the West in the forms of abortion and euthanasia. Both recognized that mankind, as it destroyed history and tradition, was “freeing” itself to wander the wastelands of despair, alienation and nihilism. They each pointed out that scientism, consumerism, behaviorism, and secular humanism were of no avail — they could not answer the questions of the human heart even while they promised to fulfill the deepest human desires. In a real way, Chesterton’s What Wrong with the World and Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos are fitting companions, as divergent in style as the authors were in personality — Chesterton ever optimistic and joyful, Percy somber and often caustic.

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