MYSTICISM in its noblest sense, mysticism as it existed in St. John, and Plato, and Paraceleus, and Sir Thomas Browne, is not an exceptionally dark and secret thing, but an exceptionally luminous and open thing. It is in reality too clear for most of us to comprehend, and too obvious for most of us to see. Such an utterance as the utterance that “God is Love” does in reality overwhelm us like an immeasurable landscape on a clear day, like the light of an intolerable summer sun. We may call it a dark saying; but we have an inward knowledge all the time that it is we who are dark. - G. K. Chesterton
Every year The American Chesterton Society Annual Conference is filled with grace.
"Be imitators of me as I am of Christ," said St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:1). But a certain 300 pound cigar smoking saint could have said the same. And that is why we love him and his writings.
There is no way to describe the blessing these conferences are. I have tried in the past and I always fall short. But this year a few things struck me.
- These conferences - these Inns at the End of the World - are not mere glimpses of what heaven might be - they are heaven present and at work here and now.
- Our saint is interceding for us and through him God is working miracles in big and small ways every day. His wife Frances is part of that, too. We of little faith sometimes don't see that. Sometimes we don't look.
- There are some who came for the first time and who immediately got it. Some of them will never forget the palpable grace that washes over us when we Chestertonians gather. Some will hear the music, the mixture of joy and sorrow, the four lost chords, that they've never quite heard anywhere else before. But all of us will forget the tune just a bit as the thicker air of the valley numbs our senses - until we are awakened to it again in more rarefied moments; others will shove cotton in their ears and suffocate the sound and we will never see them again. But you can never forget the Holy Spirit, and such moments of intimacy with the Divine will work through us forever, in one way or another.
- This is not what the Church ought to be. It's what the Church is.
|The American Chesterton Society Conference of 2014 was held at the University of St. Mary on the Lake, Mundelein, IL - near Chicago.|
|With actress Maria Romine (left) and Dave Treadway (center), who received his First Communion at the Vigil Mass on Saturday. I was proud to be Dave's sponsor for his journey into the Catholic Church. He's our fourth actor to convert.|
|A mosaic of Our Lady of Sorrows, which I stumbled upon in the woods between the chapel and Marytown.|
|Other surprises we found on our walk.|
|Dale Ahlquist opens the Conference on Thursday night.|
|At the closing banquet, Timothy Quigley and his wife Caroline got to drink from the Cup of Inconvenience.|
|Chuck Chalberg (center) at the banquet. He plays Chesterton on Dale's EWTN TV series - which will have new episodes airing in September! I'm on quite a few myself this season.|
|Dave and Dale looking at pictures of Dave's First Communion, which had taken place not long before in the chapel behind them.|
|Deacon Nathan Allen talks to Dave Treadway. Nathan discussed the differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Old Testament, quoting from both.|
|Two new attendees - Virginia, an MD from Chile (left, turned away from the camera); Anna, who's studying in England; and Joseph Pearce.|
|Caroline Quigley, mouth full of food - breakfast at the Super Eight.|
|Best picture of the Conference. My buddy Leo Schwartz with three of the charming Chester-chicks.|
|Two other Chester-chicks, homeschooled girls from Iowa, educated well enough to appreciate the greatest writer of the 20th Century.|