All posts by JonMarc Grodi

Brideshead & Beyond: The Genius of Evelyn Waugh
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Brideshead & Beyond: The Genius of Evelyn Waugh

November/December – Brideshead & Beyond: The Genius of Evelyn Waugh

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“A Twitch Upon the Thread”: Grace in Brideshead Revisited – Annesley Anderson

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, nearly all of the characters spend their lives wrestling with Catholicism in some form or another. Cordelia, the youngest daughter and the most pious of them all, remarks to Charles that “the family haven’t been very constant, have they?”. But, surprisingly, her family’s impiety does not seem to trouble her. She assures a disbelieving Charles that “God won’t let them go for long, you know”. Then she goes on to quote a passage from a G. K. Chesterton Father Brown story which Lady Marchmain had read aloud to the family years before. In the story, the detective says that he had “caught [the thief] with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread”. The significance of this intertextual reference to Father Brown’s “unseen hook” is apparent from the fact that Waugh titled the second section of the novel: “A Twitch Upon the Thread”. This image of God’s grace as an invisible, inescapable line sheds light on the spiritual conflicts within several of the main characters—especially Sebastian, Julia, and Charles—and their roles as runaway thieves on the thread of God’s grace. I would argue that, as thieves, they have all attempted to steal their own lives, to place their own happiness above the goodness of God. Sebastian and Julia, knowing they are hooked on the thread, still attempt to escape, whereas Charles does not understand and does not notice, not until the very end, that he has also been caught. They all find, eventually, that no one on this thread is ever far from God, or from each other, and that God’s grace is what surrounds and makes sense of the whole world.

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What is Wrong: Pride and the Fall of Modernity
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What is Wrong: Pride and the Fall of Modernity

September/October – What is Wrong: Pride and the Fall of Modernity

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Turning a Blind Eye to the Murder and Rape of Christians – David Alton

In 1896, at the age of 87, former British Prime Minister William Gladstone made his last public speech. It was at Hengler’s Circus in Liverpool before an audience of 6,000 people. The meeting was called after news reached England of the massacre of more than 2,000 Armenians in Constantinople in addition to many more massacres throughout the Turkish Empire. Gladstone described these atrocities as the “most monstrous series of proceedings that has ever been recorded in the dismal and the deplorable history of human crime…a disgrace to the civilisation of the nineteenth century”. He said that to these atrocities were added the work of “lust, torture, pillage, starvation” and “every wickedness that men could devise”—all seen “under the eyes of foreign ambassadors”.

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Man Alive! The Wonder of G.K. Chesterton
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Man Alive! The Wonder of G.K. Chesterton

July/August 2019 – Man Alive! The Wonder of G.K. Chesterton

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Burke vs Chesterton: Mistaking a Friend for an Enemy – Brett Fawcett

A Canadian Catholic who believes in the virtue of patriotism faces a similar problem to that of G. K. Chesterton, during the period in which he deliberated becoming Catholic. Chesterton’s dilemma was whether he simultaneously could be a patriotic Englishman and a Catholic, given how closely tied British identity was to the Anglican Church. Yet Chesterton makes such a compelling case for the virtue of patriotism based on the need for a person to have something of his own to love. This is the animating spirit of his defense of widely distributing private property; it is what drove his case for a Jewish homeland; and it is the reason he stood opposed to British colonialism: both the colonizers and the colonized already had their own nations of which they could be proud.

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The Witness & Wisdom of C.S. Lewis
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The Witness & Wisdom of C.S. Lewis

May/June 2019 – The Witness & Wisdom of C.S. Lewis

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The American Inkling: Clyde S. Kilby and the Well of Wonder

A Well of Wonder is, indeed, a source of wonder; the sacred and satisfying kind of wonder. It is a collection of wonder-inducing essays by Clyde S. Kilby (1902–1986), one of the earliest American academics to study and introduce to students the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and others who made up the remarkable group known as the Oxford Inklings. It is no stretch to say that Kilby, a long time Professor of English at Wheaton College, Illinois, did more than any other man to incorporate the ideas and imaginative visions of Lewis, Tolkien, Owen Barfield, George MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, and Charles Williams into the evangelical Christian landscape, thereby building solid bridges between many diverse denominations and sects of Christianity in America.

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Faith & Fairy Stories
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Faith & Fairy Stories

March/April 2019 – Faith & Fairy Stories

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Faith, Fact, and Fairy Tale – William Randall Lancaster

If a paradox is a seeming self-contradiction that is actually true, what, then, might we call a seeming truth that is really a self-contradiction? What might we call a mysterious miracle of a man who rejects the very mystery and miracle of his own being, only to conclude unkindly that all of humankind are simply highly evolved, self-conscious molecular configurations which are no more than advanced, arbitrary animals rather than aspiring spirits moving a little lower than the angels; that all things tangible and intangible—including his very reasoning—are the resulting culmination of a continual, colossal, cosmic accident; and that all talk of religion and faith is just a fairy tale?

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Ernest Hemingway & Graham Greene: Prodigal Sons of the Church
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Ernest Hemingway & Graham Greene: Prodigal Sons of the Church

January/February 2019 – Ernest Hemingway & Graham Greene: Prodigal Sons of the Church

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Hemingway’s Catholic Heart –  Mary Claire Kendall

“Born as the Victorian era was breathing its last, Ernest Hemingway initially only knew the Protestant world of Oak Park where he grew up, not far from Chicago.

Later, while serving with the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps in Italy in the summer of 1918, the budding writer discovered the richness of Catholicism—with all five senses. He bathed in Mary’s love and soaked up the redemptive reality of her son Jesus hanging on that wooden cross, writhing in pain, to his very sinews, the great European cathedrals he visited punctuating this reality. He was just seventeen. The experience was transformative.”

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Solzhenitsyn 1918-2018: A Centenary Celebration
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Solzhenitsyn 1918-2018: A Centenary Celebration

November/December 2018: Solzhenitsyn 1918-2018: A Centenary Celebration

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In the Camps: Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn –  Lee Congdon

It should come as no surprise that the spiritual awakening of both Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn occurred during their years of penal servitude. There were major differences between the tsarist katorga and the Soviet
GULag, but in both systems of detention reflective men were forced to confront themselves and their past as never before. Dostoyevsky’s past had been one of guilt, closely associated with a hatred of serfdom. In pleading for more money, he had, or so he believed, forced his father to increase pressure on his serfs, who murdered him in response. A Christian in a vague humanitarian sense, the young Dostoyevsky found himself drawn to utopian socialism and, for that reason, he joined the Petrashevsky Circle, a discussion group organized by Mikhail Petrashevsky, a disciple of Charles Fourier.

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The Feminine Genius of Jane Austen
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The Feminine Genius of Jane Austen

September/October 2018: The Feminine Genius of Jane Austen

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Jane Austen’s Novels: Reading and Revelation – Maria Devlin McNair

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon meets with Elinor Dashwood for a private conversation. Elinor’s neighbor Mrs. Jennings overhears a few phrases of the conversation and concludes that Colonel Brandon has proposed. She approaches Elinor afterwards with a smile: “I assure you I never was better pleased in my life, and I wish you joy of it with all my heart.”

Elinor thanks her: “It is a matter of great joy to me; and I feel the goodness of Colonel Brandon most sensibly. There are not many men who would act as he has done. Few people who have so compassionate a heart!”

Mrs. Jennings is astonished (as many of us would be) at this reaction to a proposal: “Lord! my dear, you are very modest!” But the confusion is soon clarified. Colonel Brandon was, in fact, telling Elinor that he wished to offer the parish on his estate to Elinor’s friend Edward Ferrars, who had been disinherited by his family for refusing to break off an engagement of which they disapproved. This scene shows in miniature the larger strategy at work in Austen’s novels. Her books give us a better vision of reality first by showing us how our current vision falls short. We seek the truth more earnestly once we realize we don’t already have it.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins & the Grandeur of God
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Gerard Manley Hopkins & the Grandeur of God

July/August 2018: Gerard Manley Hopkins & the Grandeur of God

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Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Blessed Virgin Mary – Bernadette Waterman Ward

The first time the poet Gerard Manley mentions the Blessed Virgin Mary is in a letter to his father, who is dismayed that his Oxford-educated son is on the verge of converting to the Catholic Church. Young Gerard writes:

I shall hold as a Catholic what I have long held as an Anglican, that literal truth of our Lord’s words by which I learn that the least fragment of the consecrated elements in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is the whole Body of Christ born of the Blessed Virgin, before which the whole host of saints and angels as it lies on the altar trembles with adoration. This belief once got is the life of the soul and when I doubted it I shd. become an atheist the next day (October 16–17, 1866).

The first words of Hopkins about the Blessed Virgin acknowledge her as the Mother of the Eucharist. Already the young poet understands the eternal relation of the Incarnate Creator to the world. Mary is the point at which the Eternal Creator chooses to take flesh from a creature. Because God is eternal, the unity of God with His creatures is not bound by time, or by place. No time is future to Him; no time is past. His spiritual relationship with His saints is always present to Him; and so His Body is always the Body mothered by Mary—wherever and whenever he chooses His Body to be present.

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American Literature & Catholic Faith
May June 2018_COVER

American Literature & Catholic Faith

May/June 2018: American Literature & Catholic Faith

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Orestes Brownson on the Natural Aristocracy – Geoffrey M. Vaughan

In 1813, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams engaged in a correspondence on the topic of the natural aristocracy in America. These two political enemies reconciled over the question of how the new nation might raise up leaders like themselves. More than a generation later the journalist, publisher, one- time Transcendentalist and notable Catholic convert, Orestes Brownson, would revisit this same topic.

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