Chesterton Alive Today: Reviving the Moral and Social Imagination
Notes for a Re-Evangelisation of Culture

Stratford Caldecott

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was one of the great Christian writers of the first part of the twentieth century. He was born in London, into a Unitarian family, and married an Anglo-Catholic in 1901. A friend of Hilaire Belloc, a friend and opponent of H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, he was much in demand both around the country and overseas as a speaker and debater. But his main work was as a journalist. He edited G.K.'s Weekly and wrote for many other newspapers, while publishing works of literary criticism, biography, history, fiction, plays and poetry. His Christian apologetics (Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man) and the Father Brown detective stories are still popular today. He wrote as an Anglican until 1922, when he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, which he defended with great vigour and humour until his death in 1936.

Chesterton was one of the intellectual leaders of a practical intellectual movement anchored in Catholic social teaching and Anglican tradition known as Distributism. This movement opposed both socialism and monopolistic capitalism in the name of individual liberty and social solidarity, and inspired many subsequent thinkers to try to find a "third way" and a "new economics" more in harmony with what would today be called human and natural ecology.

Mahatma Gandhi and E.F. Schumacher are two of the many well-known figures said to have been influenced by him, along with T.S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis. He was undoubtedly one of the great Christian humanists.

There is currently a worldwide revival of interest in Chesterton's work and ideas. His call for a deepened moral and social imagination speaks loudly to the cultural crises of our own time. His vision was compelling partly because of its coherence: he recognized that heart and hearth, work and worth, were of a piece. Human flourishing was found in families, human wholeness in holiness. Chesterton Societies in many countries, from Japan to Argentina, testify to his continuing direct influence upon their members, while his indirect influence is incalculable – for example on large numbers of Catholics and other Christians who acknowledge him as a major influence on their own conversions. Besides all this, he continues to be quoted in speeches and newspaper articles week by week.

The establishment of a Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture is another sign of this growing interest. T.S. Eliot once said that Chesterton leaves a permanent claim on our loyalty, "to see that the work that he did in his time is continued in ours". The Institute has taken that phrase of Eliot's as a kind of motto.


The Chesterton Institute

When, in 1973, a Chesterton scholar and Catholic priest named Ian Boyd, from the teaching Order of St Basil, started a quarterly called The Chesterton Review, it was intended to be the journal of an International Chesterton Society, serving the needs of national societies around the world. Since then, the societies have to some extent gone their own way, and publish their own newsletters. However, the journal continues to thrive, and most Chestertonians will at least know of it, even if they do not subscribe to it personally. It is still printed in Canada, although Fr Boyd has recently moved his editorial office to Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the distinguished Chestertonian, Mr Aidan Mackey, some time ago established a Study Centre containing memorabilia and books connected with Chesterton. Having unfortunately failed to acquire Top Meadow as the ideal location for such a centre, it was at first located in his home in Bedford. Meanwhile, in 1994, with the help of the publisher T&T Clark, my wife and I established a "Centre for Faith & Culture" at a Methodist college in Oxford, inspired by Chesterton and other great Christian writers. Fr Boyd was an "associate founder" of the Centre and a supporter from the beginning. Aidan Mackey, wanting his own collection to be more accessible to students, moved it to Oxford for our Centre to look after. We stayed together when the Centre moved from Westminster College to Plater College in 1998.

Plater, though extremely promising at first, proved to be as impermanent a home as Westminster College had been. Funding is not easily available in this country, and the takeover of T&T Clark by Continuum left us without half our support. The crisis became acute in the summer of 2002. This is where the Chesterton Institute comes in. The existence of an International Chesterton Society having been generally agreed to be somewhat confusing in view of the plethora of societies around the world all operating independently, Fr Boyd decided to replace it with another kind of structure altogether. He called this the G.K. Chesterton Institute. It had the function of raising money and of organizing activities in connection with the Review in North America and elsewhere.

In England, the Chesterton Institute worked closely with the Centre for Faith & Culture, whose aims and inspiration were very similar. In fact, the two organizations became so close that in early 2003 we took the obvious step of merging them completely. The Institute rented rooms in Oxford, where the Chesterton Study Centre (now known as the Chesterton Library) could be adequately housed after leaving Plater College.

To reflect all these changes, the name of both organizations was changed to "The Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture". As well as preserving the distinctive emphasis of the Oxford centre, this change of name reflected the concern of the Institute itself not to focus exclusively on Chesterton's life and work, but to draw inspiration from him for the wider project of cultural evangelization.

In practical terms, the activities of the re-constituted Institute may be summarized under four main headings: publishing, conferences, education and research.

Publishing: The clear priority here is our two main journals, The Chesterton Review and Second Spring. These need to be produced, edited and marketed much more efficiently and internationally than they are at present. In the United States the Institute also publishes Gilbert!, the magazine of the American Chesterton Society. Once these serial publications have all been properly established, we hope to develop our book-publishing imprint, The Chesterton Press, as a commercial subsidiary of the Institute. Information about Second Spring is easily available on the web-site.

Conferences: Linked to our publishing work is the second set of activities, which involve bringing people together for longer or shorter periods of time to discuss and explore an interesting theme. These events will not always be explicitly about Chesterton himself. The 2004 conference in Oxford, for example, will be about fantasy and children's literature. The year after we intend to do one on Christianity and Film. The year after that, we are planning one on Sane Economics. (2004 being the thirtieth anniversary of The Chesterton Review, the Institute is also planning conferences on Chesterton in Poland and Lithuania, plus several in the United States.)

Education: The more academic side of the Institute's work comes from our link with institutions such as Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and formerly to Plater College. We are not able to offer regular courses and lectures in Oxford at present, but we hope that time may come again, as the link with Seton Hall develops. On the less academic side of things, for some years my wife Leonie has been doing a range of work with young people, in the form of catechesis, apologetics (the "Questions Questions" project, again on the web-site), and the Rose Round group for girls aged 8 to 18, which has inspired similar groups elsewhere in England and America. In the summer of 2003 she took the Rose Round on a tremendously exciting and enjoyable pilgrimage to France. All this is now pursued under the umbrella of the Institute. Chesterton was not able to have children of his own, but what better patron could we have for an apostolate to young people?

Research: In order to do in our day something of what Chesterton did in his, it is not enough simply to repeat what Chesterton said and did, or even to seek to apply his comments to our present situation. All of that is necessary and good, but it is not enough. We have to try to respond to the intellectual and cultural challenges of our own times. That implies an intellectual enterprise that will stretch us to the very limits of our ability. We need to read widely, to debate openly, to throw ourselves into the big questions of the day with the innocence of doves and the wisdom of serpents. We do not lack friends and allies in this enterprise – the various heirs of the Christian humanist and Romantic traditions. But we will also find friends in more unexpected places. The Institute has taken the following paragraph by Chesterton, written in 1933, as part of its mission statement:

I myself am working in defence of civilization side by side with men who call themselves Agnostic, Anglican, Methodist. I trust that in the end they will realize the name of the home they are defending. But they are all defending that home. They are defending marriage, which is either impregnable or it is nothing. They are defending freedom, an essential attribute of the dignity of man. They are defending the sinner, who knows jolly well that he is a sinner, from those who would classify him as a mental defective – or a superman. They are defending property as the essential insignia of freedom. This is the work for rationalists defending the rights of man; and it happens, curiously enough, to be the work for Catholics in the service of the kingdom of God.

Once this mission of the Institute becomes known, and people realize that we are doing something meaningful, important and current to defend (intellectually) and to help build up a culture of life, I am sure we will get much more support for this work. People will see that there is no other institution that is able to do quite what we are doing. My confidence in the future of this work is linked to my confidence in the intellectual resources we have to draw upon, and in the work that has already been done by others in revealing the Christian basis of our civilization – the intimate link between faith and culture that is also the source of its continued vitality.

Those resources are well represented in the Chesterton Library, which as we gather more financial support and eventually move into bigger premises will be increasingly accessible to scholars and students from around the world. The Library, then, including even the memorabilia that give such a vivid impression of Chesterton's own life and personality, is a vital support for the Institute's research dimension, which in turn informs and inspires the whole range of activities in which we intend to engage.


The Challenge of Modern Culture

I want to develop some thoughts that grow out of a Chestertonian critique of modern culture. It is true that Chesterton is not usually described as a "cultural critic", but variously as a Christian apologist, a man of letters, a journalist, or a detective story writer. Sometimes we wax biblical and call him a prophet. "Cultural critic" sounds much too solemn and pretentious, and too academic for most people's taste. But whatever you want to call it, he was one of a handful of people who (as Terry Pratchett says of him in the dedication of one of Good Omens) "knew what was going on".

Chesterton could see the forces of life and death both at work in the same civilization. Like the Father Christmas in one of his famous short stories, Christianity is always dying, but never dead. Perhaps now, seventy years after Chesterton's death, the decline of the Church is more obvious to more people. But the Church also has the secret of resurrection, of rebirth. She is always full of new life. She is about to give birth to a child, a new civilization. The question is: How do we assist at the birth of this child? Or to put it another way, how do we become part of this child?

I recently attended an event in America where Cardinal Francis Stafford, until recently the head of the Pope's Council for the Laity in Rome, issued a very strong challenge to the Catholic laity both in the States and elsewhere. It was based on reading a series of books by Catholic lay people that are very close in inspiration to G.K. Chesterton and the Distributists. He referred, for example, to the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (Sources of the Self and Ethics of Authenticity), to Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue etc.), to David L. Schindler (Heart of the World, Center of the Church) and to Tracey Rowland (Culture and the Thomist Tradition After Vatican II). These are all recent writers, and all are influences on the work of our Institute, but they were preceded by a host of others in the twentieth century, figures such as such as H.J. Massingham, V.A. Demant, Romano Guardini, Richard Weaver, Gabriel Marcel, Christopher Dawson, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac (not to mention Chesterton himself), who also accurately depicted the various problems at the root of "modernity", meaning Western civilization after the Enlightenment.

Cardinal Stafford concluded that the chronic crisis of the Church we are presently seeing in Europe and America is rooted in a too-facile optimism about modern and post-modern cultures by the Church's hierarchy, theologians and laity (including mothers and fathers). The bishops of the Second Vatican Council to some extent failed to discern the coming peril, and the Catholic Church was not adequately protected against it. There is in fact something in modernity that is intrinsically hostile to the life and ministry of the Church. Modern culture, he concluded, is less open to the transcendent, less favourable to preaching the Gospel, than were the pre-Christian pagan cultures of Greece and Rome.

Now that is an extremely strong statement. I believe it is justified and even realistic, although I want to stress that there is also much that is good in modernity, and that Cardinal Stafford was not advocating a mere return to some romantic fantasy of pre-modern life. The past was not so rosy. But we must not believe those who tell us the present (or the future) must automatically be better than the past. Chesterton once said that he was fed up with people who said Friday was automatically better than Tuesday just because it was Friday. Each day has its plusses and minuses. It is true, we live in the here-and-now: the only way is forward. But the word "forward" is ambiguous. Several new directions are opening up before us, and we have to decide which of them to choose.

Chesterton described one version of the "coming peril" around 1930, in a speech he made in Toronto. It is not one of his most amusing or memorable passages, but I think it contains a lot that we might want to ponder. He said: "The coming peril is the intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the wellbeing of contemporary civilisation. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves." Elsewhere he put it more succinctly: "Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks."

He was describing consumerism, the cultural expression of an economic system that depends on sheer quantitative and limitless growth. Consumerism is what happens when one necessary part of human life, namely consumption, is blown out of proportion. Markets have their place, but not every aspect of human life belongs in the marketplace. As human life increasingly revolves around managing a "flood of externals", the interior life of the civilization dries up: the interior life on which its continued creativity depends. Sheer quantity and even variety of production is not the same as genuine creativity.

The process has been gathering steam for a long time. It is associated with the secularisation which set in after the collapse of the medieval world view. The separation of Church and State, which seemed so necessary to save us all from destroying ourselves in the Wars of Religion, has not resulted in peace at all, but in escalating violence, in the fragmentation of our lives into separate compartments, and in the destruction of the vital spiritual and moral foundations of social order. The twentieth century was one of the most violent of all centuries. Meanwhile, religion has become largely privatised, becoming one more consumer option or "lifestyle choice". The rest of life becomes entirely dominated by politics, which is itself reduced to the manipulation of power.

Listen to the historian Christopher Dawson:

The permeation of European civilization by Christianity was never complete, and in proportion as the Church became embodied in the social order, it tended itself to become secularized and to be absorbed by the world. Consequently when the state became once more conscious of its power, and attempted to vindicate its sovereignty over the whole of social life, it was supported not only by the politician and the business man, but by the religious reformer who wished to restore the spiritual freedom of the Church and to free it from secular influences. Religion gradually retreated into man's inner life and left social and economic life to a civilization which grew steadily more secularized. A man's debt to religion was paid by an hour or two in church on Sundays, and the rest of the week was devoted to the real business of life – above all, the making of money.

Such a division of life into two compartments – and very unequal ones at that – was not the Christian solution, nor could it be permanently successful. If religion loses its hold on social life, it eventually loses its hold on life altogether. And this is what has happened in the case of modern Europe. The new secularized civilization is not content to dominate the outer world and to leave man's inner life to religion; it claims the whole man. Once more Christianity is faced, as it was at the beginning, with the challenge of a world which will accept no appeal from its judgment and which recognizes no higher power than its own will. – C. Dawson, "Man and Civilization", The Listener, 23 Aug. 1933, p. 281.

To the extent the Christian Church herself accepts this situation, she is reduced to living in a ghetto. What takes the place of Christianity is not merely a neutral "public space" in which all are free to preach and teach as they wish, as long as they do no harm to others, but a virulent anti-religion, a materialistic ideology that prioritizes individual self-satisfaction. The concept of "doing no harm" is, in fact, gradually redefined to exclude all the sorts of personal and social transformation that religion, when taken seriously, does need to bring about. This is what we mean by the rule of "political correctness". Basic codes of morality and longstanding cultural traditions, such as those associated with the family, are undermined or destroyed in the name of values such as toleration and diversity, so that the maximum number may do as they think they please. Truth counts for nothing, because the possibility of attaining objective truth (including the truth about good and evil) has been discounted.

What I am describing is the kind of thing that the Muslim world observes with horror as a threat to its own existence, and which evokes the violence we have recently seen from some of its extremists. Such violence against a target so diffuse and all-pervasive as "Western civilization" is not only immoral in itself – and (I should add) against the precepts of Islam, which forbid the killing of innocents and even the acts of suicide that so often bring about these massacres – but ineffective, and ultimately counterproductive. An evil action bears evil fruit. What these attacks produce is simply an escalation of the problem. And when the gloves come off (as they have done at Guantanamo Bay) the true but previously hidden nature of secularized politics as the manipulation of brute force by individuals and social elites is exposed.

An economy of over-production also destroys the natural environment of the planet. The instability of our climate, the complex effects of global warming, the wholesale destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems, are all realities that can no longer be denied. Nor can the prospects of genetic experimentation on humans, long prophesied but now technically feasible as well as commercially desirable. Chesterton fought the eugenics movement of his day in the 1920s, with some success. But the widespread toleration of abortion and the various manipulations of human sexuality have prepared the ground for commercial eugenics in our own.

Again, it is important to underline that technology, science, economic growth, profit-seeking, and even modernity are not "evil" in themselves. When the Catholic Church talks about "structures of sin", as she does, she does not mean that the structures themselves are sinful, but rather that they are affiliated with a sinful tendency in human beings and facilitate that tendency. It is always individual persons who are sinful or virtuous. However, what we choose to do, and how we live our lives, reflects our assumptions about sin and virtue, about ourselves and what we should be doing. It also helps to institutionalize those assumptions in a way that renders them almost impervious to criticism.

Response to the Challenge

Nevertheless, we should not regard social institutions and tendencies as juggernauts completely beyond our ability to change. They may be powerful, they may have escaped to some extent from our "control", but essentially they are the projections and expressions of ideas and beliefs about human nature – and those can be changed. In 1948 Richard Weaver wrote a perceptive book called Ideas have Consequences which launched a renaissance of philosophical conservatism in America. He painted a bleak picture, much as I have been doing. But his title also speaks of hope, for ideas may have consequences for good as well as for ill.

Christians belong to a tradition that has some pretty clear ideas about human nature and society – ideas that in the past have largely shaped the civilization of Europe. The authors I have referred to shown why that influence declined, and what has taken its place. The question to answer, if we want Christianity again to create a civilization, is how one set of ideas comes to predominate over another. Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought about Western civilization, answered that he thought it would be a good idea. I think we can all agree with him. But if we want to try to build what successive popes have called a "civilization of love" or a "culture of life" (and it always worth trying, even if we are bound to fail, as we so often failed before) then we need to discover a way of turning ideas into realities.

The secret, I suggest, is that ideas and personal influence normally work through the imagination. The crucial importance of this faculty, the human imagination, is often overlooked, as we tend to concentrate on the power or accuracy of our intellectual analysis. But in fact, the separation of imagination from intellect is part of the whole modern syndrome. We have lost a coherent vision of the human person that would keep thoughts and feelings, heart and head, intelligence, memory and will in harmonious balance. You can analyse until you are blue in the face, you can even get all the answers completely right, but no one will listen to you (let alone apply your ideas) unless you manage to catch their attention by invading their imagination. The ideas are out there. The books are written. But whether we admit it or not (and most people do not), we are far from being as rational as the rationalist Enlightenment wanted us to be. What motivates us is the emotional and spiritual energy attached to images.

Ideas and images, at the deepest level, where they are at their most powerful, are so close as to be almost indistinguishable. There are deep theological and metaphysical reasons for this. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Light. The Son is the Image of the Father. These are truths that reveal something about the most primitive, the most fundamental levels of human consciousness. The Inklings wrote extensively on this. While I was preparing a book recently on Tolkien's spiritual vision, I found myself looking into his and Owen Barfield's theories about the evolution of consciousness as reflected in language. They believed that modern man had lost a sense of "original participation" in the world, which he would have to regain, ultimately, and at a higher level, through Christianity, or rather through the Incarnation of the Word.

Chesterton knew all this instinctively. His popularity as a writer and his immense influence in the world was due very largely to the fact that his acute intelligence was harnessed to a powerful imagination – that he saw the world as a poet sees it, for whom image and light and idea and understanding are one, becoming incarnate in the Word, in the poem, in the song. He linked this to the "primeval duty of Praise" (as he calls it in the first chapter of his book on Chaucer). The "business of the poets", he said, is the "light of the positive", for they "see all things in the light of it more than do other men". Chaucer, for example (and, as Dale Ahlquist has pointed out, in describing his heroes Chesterton is nearly always also describing himself), "was the immediate heir of something like what Catholics call the primitive Revelation; that glimpse that was given of the world when God saw that it was good".

Therefore what we have to do, if we are to reconquer the world for Christianity (or even just for common sense!), is to rediscover poetry.

We have to rediscover, with poetry, the "duty of praise", the sense of wonder, the sense that the world is the creation of God and not our own, the precarious sense that we might not have existed at all, the sense of adventure, of the fantastic – in other words, of the eternal surprise and gratitude of the man who is blessed because he expects nothing and receives everything.

Distributism and the Family

All of Chesterton's writing, and all that we hope to do through the Institute named after him, can be shown to spring from these foundational insights or ways of looking at the world. Chesterton's discovery and defence of Christian orthodoxy was the "golden key". It showed that the world is not flat, but round. It has a centre: the Creator who became a creature, the paradox of the Incarnation. And if the world is round, it has a form, a meaning. It has a beginning and an end that make sense. Having a centre, like a cross, it has no limits, for its arms, its radii, reach out in all directions to the limits of the cosmos, and beyond those to the "abyss of light".

Dogma – the dogma of creation, the dogma of free will – is the only thing that sets us free in this world to live a human life, life in a world of meaning. The rejection of dogma, of absolutes, seals us in an intellectual prison. Once in that prison we worship either pleasure, or reason, or will, and thus we end up destroying our civilization. The dogma that liberates us is allied with imagination, for the limits it imposes are like the limits imposed on the artist: they set him free to do what his heart desires – to create in a way that gives honour to his Creator. "The artist loves his limitations: they constitute the thing he is doing. The painter is glad that the canvas is flat. The sculptor is glad that the clay is colourless" (Orthodoxy, Ch. 3). The saint is glad that he is bound by reality, and that he lives under obligations imposed by his conscience and his love of God. In that way he becomes more than human. In contrast, the anarchist frets miserably in a world of supposed freedom where nothing can be accomplished.

Chesterton's detective stories and fantasy novels, his literary criticism, his poetry, his apologetics, were the fruit of these insights. His social philosophy also, which was christened "Distributism", is founded on the dogma of freedom, and the absolute value of the human being as the centre of the world. If the world had no form, no human meaning, each person would necessarily always be "out for himself". But the world has a form, which is summed up in Christ, and so the human being has a purpose: to realize that form in himself. But the form is a circle: it is a dynamic form which involves receiving and giving, going out and coming back. Christ is the centre, but he himself is centred not on himself but on the Other, on his Father and on us.

In other words, reality is structured in such a way that we receive our being from another, and we achieve our fulfilment by giving ourselves to others. Distributism is the social philosophy that flows from the dignity of man understood not as a solitary individual, but (like the Trinity) constituted in relationship. In his social encyclicals Pope John Paul II has adapted the Marxist term "alienation" to describe the state we fall into when this is forgotten. Against alienation he sets the term "participation", or "solidarity". The words hardly matter, but the reality that they refer to matters a great deal.

Based on what I have been saying, we may summarize the link between freedom, private property, and religious worship as follows: we must give, but we must give freely, which means we must own what we give, which means that we must first receive it, which means that we must always and first of all give thanks. (It is worth remembering that the word "Eucharist" itself means "thanksgiving".)

For the Distributist, an individual must stand on his own feet, but he always stands within a communion, a community of others. He must build, he must create, he must decide for himself, but he does so all the time for the sake of others. Wage slavery, lack of private property, being a tool or instrument of the purposes of others, all militate against his personal fulfilment. But social conditions that prevent his deliberately binding himself within a network of familial relationships, and serving his family and its needs, equally prevent this fulfilment of the person. Thus Distributism is based on private ownership, widely distributed in society, and on the devolution of political power where possible to a local level, and it is equally based on the family as a covenant across generations. That is, marriage is not a mere legal contract or extrinsic agreement between two individuals, but a breaking-open of the self of each to make a new unity, described by the Bible as "one flesh".

Distributism is fundamentally what the Lutheran writer Allan Carlson has described as a "Family Way". The Church describes the family as the fundamental cell of society. We may not all be married, but we are all the children and members of families. And the form of marriage contains a secret, a clue to the nature of man and of the cosmos itself, a riddle that can be read most easily in the light of Christ. I have only had time to hint at all this, but Chesterton sensed it, and all of us who want to defend the springs and sources of our civilization sense it, and Pope John Paul II has made it central in his preaching and teaching about the culture of life in documents such as Familiaris Consortio, Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae and the Letter to Families. He tells us that we are faced with a stark choice: between the road that leads to life and the road that leads to death. The culture of nihilism, the culture of death, is all around us. It is the culture that reduces man to a consumer or a producer – to a thing, a machine for devouring and for manufacturing. But life and beauty and goodness and truth are also all around us. We simply have to open our eyes, our spiritual eyes, to see where the light is coming from. And to paraphrase Chesterton, when those eyes open, we may find ourselves not so very far from Eden after all.


My task here was not to speak at length about Chesterton, whose life and writings deserve extended study. I have woven a lot of his ideas, and references to several of his books and famous phrases, into this paper. But I hope I have said enough to indicate why I think Chesterton is still "alive" for us today. In his recent book, A Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century, the distinguished Dominican writer Aidan Nichols devotes a chapter to Chesterton as one of the key figures who represent important dimensions of Christian spirituality in the modern world. He writes: "Our time needs Chesterton as much as did his own. The reason," he adds (citing Dr John Coates), "lies in the crying need he can satisfy, which is a 'pondered theory of the good'. Chesterton realized that no civilization can flourish unless it is underpinned by the virtues. Their flourishing is what gives us, here and now (short of God, then), the human good. A civilization worthy of man has a moral structure, whose character turns on human nature itself. No spirituality that does justice to the human can ignore this."

An Institute named after Chesterton and concerned with the cultural crisis of our day must therefore be very concerned with the defence and communication of this coherent vision of the virtues. As a tiny organization, even working collaboratively with Chesterton Societies and other organizations, we cannot do much in quantitative terms. But the important thing is to do something. Writing, publishing and organizing conferences may not seem like much, but they send out ripples into the wider cosmos. Maybe a better metaphor would be seeds, seeds being blown on the wind.

It is the quality of what we do and produce that matters. If we get it right, the ideas we formulate and communicate could invade the imagination of a new generation. Who knows what could grow from them then?