- Publisher: Ignatius Press (Aug 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0898701171
- ISBN-13: 978-0898701173
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 13.1 x 20 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 894,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Chesterton's book on St Francis is wonderful. Unlike most modern books, it places Francis squarely in Christianity. (Many contemporary books on Francis portray him as a 13th-century hippie, which would have astounded the devout friar!)
The book on Thomas Aquinas is simply the best biography of him ever, and many noted Thomists have agreed with this sentiment.
But "The Everlasting Man" is the true pinnacle of Chesterton's amazing output. In one book he puts "comparative religion" into a new and brilliant perspective. C.S. Lewis listed "Everlasting Man" as one of the reasons he became a Christian, and it really will floor you.
(If you are short on funds you can always buy Everlasting Man as a single volume, too!)
Chesterton is a wonderful writer. A poet by nature, Chesterton focuses on the material and concrete in ways that seems both paradoxical and wondrous. In "Saint Francis of Assisi," Chesterton takes the most popular saint, and presents all those details that really make us modern secularists most uncomfortable with him. In another book here, he links St. Thomas Aquinas to Francis, showing that, despite their vast differences in temperament, they both strove to save and present the goodness of creation and nature and to rebuke (in word or action) those who would hold the bodily in disdain.
In a sense, the biographies here are more than biographies. They're filled with diversions, and those diversions all point in the direction of the remaining book, "The Everlasting Man," which is presented between the other two. The central point here is that the Incarnation is the central event of human history; it allows us to joyously celebrate the good of creation and nature, as God has blessed matter with His very being.
Also, Chesterton is a real pleasure to read, as this passage shows: "One of my first journalistic adventures, or misadventures, concerned a comment on Grant Allen, who had written a book about the Evolution of the Idea of God. I happened to remark that it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book about the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen."
His wit shines in the conclusion of this anecdote. To his bemusement, his editor castigates *him* for being blasphemous. "In that hour I learned many things, including the fact that there is something purely acoustic in much of that agnostic sort of reverence. The editor had not seen the point, because in the title of the book the long word came at the beginning and the short word at the end; whereas in my comments the short word came at the beginning and gave him a sort of shock. I have noticed that if you put a word like God into the same sentence with a word like dog, these abrupt and angular words affect people like pistol-shots. Whether you say that God made the dog or the dog made God does not seem to matter; that is only one of the sterile disputations of the too subtle theologians. But so long as you begin with a long word like evolution the rest will roll harmlessly past; very probably the editor had not read the whole of the title, for it is rather a long title and he was rather a busy man."
I have chosen the word "study" rather than biography deliberately. Readers looking to find a strict chronological account of St. Francis or St. Thomas according to the modern or postmodern canons of historiography should look elsewhere. What Chesterton does is get you at the heart of these two saints. He tells you what they were all about. He is somehow able to convey to his readers the very air that these saints breathed.
And then there is _The Everlasting Man_. While it is hard to characterize, this is Chesterton's best work. Period. Written as an answer to H. G. Wells's _Outline of History_, Chesterton gets at what is most important in human history: the fact that God became Man in Jesus Christ. It really is an incredible book.
Chesterton had an amazing knack to cut to the heart of the matter. If you want to see what St. Francis or St. Thomas were all about, or to appreciate more the Lord who inspired these saints, I would highly recommend this book.