St. Francis of Assisi

 
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Chesterton was an orthodox religious person, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism. In 1923, he wrote this short biography of St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose his papal name, Pope Francis, when he was elected as the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, on 13 March 2013. The biography of St. Francis may help one understand why the Pope chose St. Francis as his namesake. Chesterton begins: "A sketch of St. Francis of Assisi in modern English may be written in one of three ways. Between these the writer must make his selection; ... First, he may deal with this great and most amazing man as a figure in secular history and a model of social virtues. ... Second, he may go to the opposite extreme, and decide, as it were, to be defiantly devotional. ... Third, he may try to do what I have tried to do here; ... I am here addressing the ordinary common man, sympathetic but sceptical, and I can only rather hazily hope that, by approaching the great saint's story through what is evidently picturesque and popular about it, I may at least leave the reader understanding a little more than he did before of the consistency of a complete character; ...." "Here is an historical character which is admittedly attractive to many of us already, by its gaiety, its romantic imagination, its spiritual courtesy and cameraderie, but which also contains elements (evidently equally sincere and emphatic) which seem to you quite remote and repulsive. But after all, this man was a man and not half a dozen men. What seems inconsistency to you did not seem inconsistency to him. Let us see whether we can understand, with the help of the existing understanding, these other things that now seem to be doubly dark, by their intrinsic gloom and their ironic contrast."

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About the Author:

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936) better known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox." Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out." Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both Progressivism and Conservatism, saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton's "friendly enemy" according to Time, said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius." Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin.

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