This month I am able to announce that the G.K. Chesterton Institute in North America and the Centre for Faith & Culture in Oxford have at long last agreed to merge together, creating a single entity called THE G.K. CHESTERTON INSTITUTE FOR FAITH & CULTURE. When my current employment comes to an end, I will be the Institute's full-time European Director. All the activities of the Centre, including Second Spring , will continue under the new name. In fact the work we have been doing here will benefit from the support of a larger, more international organization, the nature and purposes of which are spelled out elsewhere on this site.
Some important details remain to sort out, including the detailed structure of the organization. For the time being the Chesterton Library remains at Plater College, but a new home will soon be needed. Although I continue for the time being to teach for two days a week at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford, the recent decision makes it impossible to move the Library there next year as had been hoped. An announcement will be made when our future location is decided.
Please wish us well as we embark on a new phase of our work. You can always support us through donations and covenants, by subscribing to our journal Second Spring and by recommending our publications to libraries and individuals; but most of all we count on your prayers and friendship. Gilbert Chesterton had a gift for friendship, and it is on that foundation of friendship that we want to build.
Pope John Paul II has just declared the year that begins this month (the twenty-fifth of his pontificate) the "Year of the Rosary". He has written that, "Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become genuine schools of prayer." The Rosary is one of the most important traditions of Christian contemplation developed in the West, and the Pope's recent Apostolic Letter is an extraordinary call for its rediscovery. In a dazzling innovation which we believe to be inspired by Heaven, he has given the world a new set of Mysteries to be prayed on the Rosary, in addition to the traditional three sets called the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious. The new mysteries he has called the "Mysteries of Light". These Luminous Mysteries comprise Christ's Baptism, his First Miracle at Cana, his Proclamation of the Kingdom, his Transfiguration, and his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. You will find the Pope's commentary on all the Mysteries of the Rosary, including the new ones, if you click here. The full text of the Pope's Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is available on the Vatican site.
The third issue of Second Spring is now in production, and the fourth in preparation. Inevitably with a new publication there have been a few difficulties with the schedule, but you can expect to receive your next issue in early November. Thank you for your patience. We will be launching it at the Chesterton Institute stall in the TOWARDS ADVENT Festival of Catholic Culture in Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday 16 November. Copies of The Chesterton Review (including back issues and the new J.R.R. Tolkien special issue) will also be on sale at our stall. Details of this important and enjoyable Festival are now on our web-site.
September's Chesterton Institute conference on Evangelization at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and the subsequent lecture by Paul Johnson at the RSA in London, were both well attended and attracted attention from the press. A CD of Mr Johnson's address is in preparation, and the papers of the Irish conference will be featured in The Chesterton Review next year.
This is just a quick note to let you know that during this month the Zaleskis and the Caldecotts will be together in Oxford to make final decisions about the contents of the third issue of Second Spring. Design and production will take a bit longer, so please do not expect your copies until October at the earliest. The Centre does not have a Summer School this year, but don't forget the Chesterton Institute conference at Maynooth on 13-15 September, if you can get to Dublin. It is called Chesterton's Ireland, Then and Now: a Call for Re-Evangelization, and our distinguished speakers include Cardinal Daly, Garret Fitzgerald, Mary Kenny, Sheridan Gilley and many others. Details of other happenings can be found under Forthcoming Events, which is updated regularly. July 2002
We hope you are enjoying the summer! There have been some recent additions to the web-site, which I want to draw to your attention. At the same time, I want to take this opportunity to thank our Webmaster, Mark Armitage, for all his careful and difficult work designing and maintaining these pages for very little financial reward. I would recommend his services to others who may also be considering developing a site of their own.
The "Christianity and Society" section of our site is where you will find educational material and course work connected with the Centre. In addition to the lecture notes from my course at Plater College, you will now find our contribution to a Year Abroad program for foreign students, which is being run though and by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford. The material posted there includes the reading lists for the Fall Seminar, although for the full course details you will have to contact CMRS directly. Student places for this year are all taken, although it might be possible to negotiate some participation in the Seminar by Plater or other UK students by special arrangement. Also in this section you will find a series of lectures on The Family and Contemporary Culture, recently given as part of a Masters programme at the Newman Institute Ireland/John Paul II Centre.
Our Interfaith section continues to expand, as does the Archive where we try to store all the articles from various parts of the site alphabetically under the author's name. Meanwhile new questions and answers are being added to the Questions Questions section, designed especially with young people in mind. This section will be of interest to anyone who is troubled by questions about the Catholic faith. Please send your questions to me if you don't see them already asked and answered there. We have a panel of experts on tap, and we especially relish difficult questions: it gives us something to get our teeth into!
Under Forthcoming Events you will find details of the next big Chesterton conference, which is at Maynooth (outside Dublin) in September 2002. Other conferences are planned for next year, so keep an eye on this section, which is updated regularly. Once an event has taken place, it is transferred to "Recent Events", where reports and other associated material may also be stored (for example, the text of the recent Plater Memorial Lecture about the vision behind the John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family, and a detailed summary of Cardinal Stafford's fascinating keynote address at the 2001 Plater Summer School).
I will write again in August, and let you know how things are going with the third issue of Second Spring. This is running slightly later than originally announced. August is not a great month to find people at home, and so we decided to aim at publication in September or October. But it is shaping up to be a very interesting issue, so if you have not yet subscribed make sure you do not miss out!
Anyone who wants to see what Second Spring is about and what it stands for will be able to tell very quickly by glancing through our pages, so I am not going to produce a manifesto here. But I will say something of what we are against. One thing we are against is religious bigotry - defined by G.K. Chesterton as the inability seriously to entertain the alternative to one's own belief. Bigotry is found among Catholics as among believers of every kind (including atheists). It has nothing to do with the strength of religious conviction; instead it signals a failure of imagination, of empathy, of flexibility. A bigot may be clever, but he can never be intelligent, in the fully rounded, human sense of the word. I hope that you will find in our pages some evidence that it is possible to have strong religious convictions (in our case, Catholic) without becoming a bigot. The writing and thinking we want to encourage is intelligent and at the same time lucid: we are looking for people who can explain their thoughts clearly, and whose fundamental commitment is to the search for truth in all its fullness.
In this regular column, we plan to let you know the latest news from our 'Centre for Faith & Culture' and its various associates, and to draw your attention to new features or interesting articles that may have been added to our web-site. For example, to help those who may be disturbed by recent scandals in the Church, we have placed two articles in our Archive section, one by the well-known philosopher John Haldane and one by Leonie Caldecott. By clicking on the words underlined, you should be transported instantly to the relevant article. You can then return to this column by clicking on 'Back'.
The Archive section of this web-site offers a selection of important articles from recent issues of the international review Communio, which was founded by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger. It remains one of the most important theological journals in the world. Given the present international situation, I want to direct your attention in particular to an article on inter-religious dialogue by Roch Keretzsy, and one entitled "Which Foundation?" by Angelo Scola, recently appointed Patriarch of Venice by the Pope. The latter, written before 11th September, contains an illuminating discussion of the radical difference between a religious "martyr" and a "suicide bomber". Scola writes: "The innocent civilians who are deliberately killed by the suicide bomber are obviously the victims. And they would remain victims even if they belonged to an enemy people with whom one's own were at war. Not do they cease to be victims because they simply happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time; after all, that place has been more or less carefully targeted for attack. Indeed, the fact that there is no direct relation between the victims and the attacker highlights the unjustifiability of the latter's act and, therefore, only radicalizes the degree to which the evil he performs is something unjustifiable. Moreover, the fact that the attacker sacrifices his own life in carrying out the attack does not make him any less guilty of the death of the innocent civilians who perish as a result of it."
Given the popularity of the film and the book of The Lord of the Rings, readers might also like to know where they can find stuff about J.R.R. Tolkien on our web-site. The first place to look is in the Inklings pages of the "Christianity and Society" section. There is also an article which explores the theme of Christian heroism in Tolkien (it first appeared in the Second Spring section of Catholic World Report magazine back in 1992), as well as a more recent article on Tolkien's Catholicism which appeared in Touchstone magazine. By the way, there will be a special double issue of The Chesterton Review on “Tolkien, Middle-earth and Modernity” due out later in 2002. The Review is currently distributed by Continuum in the UK, but you can also contact me for details of availability. Also worth mentioning is an extensive review of the movie by Steven Greydanus. The Encyclopedia of Arda includes a 'Movie-goer's Guide' which lists some of the differences between the book and the movie. See also the article on Tolkien by scholar Verlyn Flieger, author of some of the best books on The Lord of the Rings.
That's all for now. I'll write again soon. In the meantime, enjoy the summer!