Rev. James Schall: Amid Roars of Happy Christmas Laughter

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By Rev. James Schall, S.J.  Catholic Education Resource Center

One of Chesterton’s Illustrated London News articles for Christmas, 1908 was entitled “The Wrong Books at Christmas.” The first paragraph of the essay contains these most prophetic words: “The nation that has no gods at all not only dies, but what is more, is bored to death.”


No doubt, Chesterton considered the latter fate to be worse than the former, though he postulated a causal relationship between the “no gods” and the “boredom.” For without the gods, there is really nothing to call us out of ourselves. Humanity itself, whatever its nobility, is not enough and quickly learns this when it has only itself to worship.

Chesterton’s article came out of his reading an advertisement, “in a weekly paper to which I am strongly attached,” about “Books Suitable For Christmas.” We can just see Chesterton chuckling over these recommended books. The first was a volume called Sexual Ethics. Chesterton had previously reviewed the book and had called it both an “unreasonable” book and “in parts an absurd book.” In this article, he adds, “But I really do not think it so frightfully funny that it is especially suitable to be read aloud amid roars of happy Christmas laughter by the family who gathered around the Yule log.” Even if it were a good book, Chesterton remarks, he never would have thought that it was a good one for Christmas. ….

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