All posts by Michael J. Lichens

Belloc and His World

Belloc and His World

November/December 2015: Belloc and His World

Sample Content from Our Latest Issue

November/December Table of Contents

Sample Article

“On Pilgrimage and Sacramentality: Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men” by Tod Worner.

Recently, upon reading Hilaire Belloc’s classic The Four Men, I came to a new appreciation: the virtue of “re-reading”. The first read, I have learned, always tells you what happened, but each subsequent read tells you what it means. There is no better work to re-read than a book about a pilgrimage. Especially one described by Hilaire Belloc. We care where the pilgrimage takes us. But we care even more what the pilgrimage means.

Belloc opens his extraordinary journey having found himself in a state—a funk—in which we all may find ourselves sooner or later. It is the bittersweet position of taking stock in our life when, in a moment of naked honesty and true poignancy, we find we have strayed from our intended path. Belloc’s moment came on the twenty-ninth of October, 1902 to be exact. He was in an English inn known as the “George” at Robertsbridge. Nursing port and staring at the fire, the intense, brooding Belloc arrived at a harsh conclusion: You are missing what matters.

Read The Rest of This Article Here. 

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The Woman Who Was Chesterton

The Woman Who Was Chesterton

The Woman Who Was Chesterton, Nancy C. Brown’s new and definitive biography about the great woman behind GK Chesterton is coming out this month. Yet, she gave a fine preview of Frances Blogg Chesterton at Catholic Exchange today.

This might be one of the better love stories I’ve ever encountered. It’s simple and profound, and I especially like this line of GK Chesterton about his future wife:

“She is good, she is nice, she is polite, she is intelligent. She is sane. These things are scarcely novel, they are among the common objects of a morning walk. If you care to know ordinary conversation, we talked about laughter, and I said how sacred it was, and she said her monosyllable. By the way, not that it matters much, and although she does say “Yes,” she is really an acute, if not clever girl, I find. I really didn’t know it until I began to throw out a few Christian reflections. She hasn’t been broadened enough by reading, but when it comes to interior meanings, she’s all there.”

The Woman Who Was Chesterton

The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy C. Brown is a brilliant look at Frances Chesterton.

You can take a look at the article here at Catholic Exchange. As well, you can pre-order the book at as well as Amazon.


Some Readings for the Feast of St. Augustine

Some Readings for the Feast of St. Augustine

Today, my friends, is the feast of St. Augustine, the patron saint of brewers, theologians, and printers. So, in a way, he’s the patron of St. Austin Review even before you had to google who St. Austin was (hint: it’s an alternative spelling of Augustine).

Augustine has had a great impact in my life. I discovered him in undergrad and, at first, couldn’t stand him. However, the more he got assigned the more I saw the beauty of his writings and the brilliance of his thought. While Chesterton and Aquinas brought me into the Church, Augustine and Dante kept me Catholic during the darker times.

I recommend a couple of readings for today’s feast: first, Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg reflects on St. Augustine’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount:

St Augustine shows how Christ unveiled the law hidden in the Old Testament by elucidating the relationship between the Beatitudes, virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated by the prophet Isaiah. In 11:2-3 he speaks of the coming of Christ: “the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Christ came to fulfill the law and the prophets and in the Beatitudes He reveals the law hidden in the Prophet’s account of those seven operations of the Holy Spirit.

Read the rest here.

Also, Daniel “Bearman” Stewart reflects on the on the love of St. Monica for her son and how they each attained holiness in a different way. St. Monica often is only known as “Augustine’s mum” but she was so much more. In a way, while we may sing Augustine’s praise, Monica is equally worthy of respect and we could do quite well to follow her example.

Says the Bearman:

“Of course Augustine is a saint! Look at all he did,” we may be tempted to think. Even non-Catholics can recognize the greatness of someone like St. Augustine. But theological brilliance isn’t cause for sainthood. No, Augustine and Monica are saints for the same reason; they were faithful in the tasks they were given. This can look so different from saint to saint because of differences in circumstances as well as capacity. In Confessions, Augustine recognized that we all drink from the same fountain of life but our capacities vary. We were made for different purposes and to fulfill those purposes brings glory to God. For some of us, this may mean something the world will recognize as great. For others, this purpose may be something no one will ever even notice. Either way, we are privileged to be part of God’s plan of cosmic redemption

I find this both encouraging and overwhelming. I don’t possess a fraction of Augustine’s genius so I’m encouraged because I won’t have to write a new City of God in order to become a saint. But I’m also overwhelmed because Monica’s task was not a small one. She suffered through much and was steadfast through all of it, exemplifying the persistent prayer commanded by Christ.

You can read more of that here. 

Of course, this is also a day to read St. Augustine. I get that a Christmas sermon may be odd, but his most brilliant and passionate reflections come from reflecting on the Incarnation. So, go here to read and enjoy! 

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

image: Tomb of St. Augustine, Pavia via Welleschik / Wikimedia Commons

The Uncommon Sense of MJL

The Uncommon Sense of MJL

ChestertonCameraAny of you follow me on facebook or twitter are probably aware that I was at the 34th annual GK Chesterton Conference in San Antonio, TX this past weekend. I was mostly there to work, to promote books and the Catholic Exchange brand but I still got to go out and enjoy the many friends, old and new, who descended upon the historic hotel for some wine, songs, and quotations of Chesterton. In many ways, it was like being at summer camp but for adults. I miss everyone already.

Among the great joys were getting to sit down with the brilliant author of the upcoming The Woman Who Was ChestertonMs. Nancy C. Brown, for a bit of a podcast interview. So take a listen by clicking here, or that big ol’ GKC image to right. That’s a good fellow.

I’ve heard of Nancy’s work and it was a joy to be able to speak with her to learn more about what drives her. I also got to meet fellow writers and editors, so it was an odd lot of rowdy men and women who proclaim the love of Christ while giving you a hug or a clever insult. That part is done and I look forward to next year. Also, my dear reader, I look forward to meeting you there if you’d be so kind as to join us.

A Johnny Cash Lent

I’m over at The Catholic Gentleman today talking about Lent, Johnny Cash, and St. Augustine. It’s just how I roll. 

If I could go back eleven years ago and talk to my younger self I’d give a lot of advice; “See a therapist, don’t stop taking your medication, and try to go for a walk once-in-a-while.” However, I think I’d more likely tell my young, idiot self, the wisdom of The Man in Black, “It takes a real man to live for God—a lot more man than to live for the devil.”

Read the rest here…

Finding Freedom in My Prison Cell: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love

Over at Catholic Exchange, Joseph Pearce recounts his time and prison and how it finally led him into the Grace of God. It’s quite the beautiful reading and well worth your time. 

Many good and worthy people in the past have found the experience of imprisonment a crucial and definitive period on their road towards faith and religious conversion, or as a means of deepening an already existing faith. Saint John of the Cross springs to mind, as does Miguel Cervantes, and the great Nicolae Steinhardt, whose book on his time in prison is called The Happiness Diary. We could also add the French poet, Paul Verlaine, the Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, and the iconic Russian Nobel Prizewinner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

As was the case with these illustrious figures, my own experience of prison exemplified the paradox that prison can be a liberator. It can free us from ourselves and our pride-ridden prejudices. In many ways, prison serves as a metaphor for the role and purpose of suffering in our lives, which is to remind us of our mortality and prompt us to ask deep questions about the meaning of life, suffering and death. Prison can serve as a memento mori pointing us toward the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

Read the rest here:

‘Shouting Through The Water’: A Story of Strength in Weakness

Benjamin Mann, whose poetry will appear in the pages of StAR later this year, gives an introduction about his poetic gift and how his unusual style was developed by his personal and generational experience and struggles. It’s well worth reading, as are any of his fine articles at Catholic Exchange. You can read it here.


















Read more at Catholic Exchange.