Appeared in 1986, Vol. XII, Nos. 3, 4
He who came to give man life, and to give it more abundantly, deeply touched two very different men, and fostered forth their diverse plenitude. And His gifts evoked deep gratitude in everything that Belloc and Chesterton wrote, informed as it was by an intimate ontological assurance, faithfully linked to the heart of Love.
Belloc and Chesterton’s pervasive tone of trustful gratitude in their writings will be more fully savored if the link between gratitude and pietas is grasped and retained. This traditional, Latin term, with no sufficient English equivalent, is to be understood as a certain intimate respect and deferential reverence for one’s roots: in the family; in the patria; in the patrimony of common culture and civilization; in the continuity, wisdom, and slow fruitfulness of Sacred Tradition and the Church; and in God, entirely. Pietas is essential to integrity, and marks a fundamental orientation toward what has been received and accepted, inwardly and gratefully. It is, in part, an attitude toward a gift, and usually toward gifts which are unrepayable, incommensurate with our capacities, and even undeserved, as are grace and the gift of the Faith itself. Pietas, when attributed to God in the Christian liturgy and the Latin prayers, refers to the attentive Divine Mercy, for which men of faith are full of gratitude. Such was the rooted gratitude of Belloc and Chesterton, founded upon an attentive pietas, trustful of the God who is Love.
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