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NEW YORK ENCOUNTER/ Life as an Adventure of the Heart

ANDREA FAVATA revisits some of the events in the New York Encounter, which show where the innate human longing for justice, peace, mercy and forgiveness can find its mature fulfillment

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G.K. Chesterton was a realist and a man of reason. Thus, he believed in the Christian proposal—life in Christ—because Christianity is more reasonable than anything we can conceive and imagine. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton affirms: “If I am asked…why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason that the intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.’ I believe in [Christianity] quite rationally upon the evidence.”

Still today, Chesterton’s wit and wisdom verifies the reasonableness and uncensored realism of life in Christ. Following the lead of the maestro Chesterton, we can trace ways in which the 2013 New York Encounter provided verification and evidence of Christianity’s reasonable and realist nature.

Chesterton recognized the maturation of what Fr. Giussani termed “elementary experience”—the radial focal point of the law panel-discussion—in the Christian proposal. That is, Chesterton recognized the mature fulfillment of the innate human longing for justice, peace, mercy and forgiveness in Christianity.

As John McCarthy said in the law discussion, children hold a very sensitive sense of fairness and unfairness, good and evil—a sense of justice that requires growth and maturity. There is a paradox in a child’s sense of justice and one very instructive for understanding the difference between childishness and a childlike new birth in Christ. On the one hand, a child may experience a sense of trusting security in his loving mother’s care in front of all apparent dangers. Yet, this same child may also kick and scream because he cannot understand why the same loving mother forbids him certain things that appear fun and why she punishes him for committing such mischief.

A child’s awareness of danger--although immature and thus often misplaced in things one needn’t fear (the dark, Aunt Bertha, Jello)--is warranted and reasonable: the child senses that harmful realities exists. A child’s elementary sense of harmful dangers is a most basic awareness of the reality of evil. Hence, Chesterton affirms that children are aware of dragons, of evil, before they heard and read of them in fairy tales: “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.