“They do not want regular plenty, but irregular wealth…They want Surprise.”
--G.K. Chesterton, “The Surprise”
Yes, I was one of the attendees of the 2008 G.K. Chesterton Conference, the
Orthodoxy Centennial, and I think that “Surprise” is one of the best one word
descriptions of it. Not that I came expecting nothing, and was gloriously
surprised. It was so good, that I could expect and expect and still be
In the first place, I was surprised that I was able to attend at all. But
that does not pertain to the conference itself, so I will pass over it.
Second, I received a very pleasant sort of “Wake Up, you need to go to this”
when I saw that Dr. Jennifer Overkamp, a resident of the same city as myself,
would be on the program. I had met her just a few weeks before.
Third, I found the abundance of attendees quite refreshing--especially after I
saw a friend of mine, went to talk to him, and “got lost” in a large crowd of
homeschoolers that I had not met and probably would never had otherwise.
Apparently, I never found my way out. My membership on this blog is one of the
results, and they‘re not over yet.
Fourth, I was struck by the utter fascination provided by the speeches,
especially the ones that “expanded” Chesterton into the world of Pascal, Jane
Austen (I learned more about Austen from the conference than I did from Pride
and Prejudice!), and the Pro-Life movement.
Fifth, I was surprised by the utter accessibility of the conference
“dignitaries;” I was able to talk to five of the speakers (including Mr.
Alquhist) and eat with two of them.
Sixth, I got to serve mass outside my diocese for the first time in the most
beautiful cassock and surplice I have ever worn.
And last, but not least, I was shocked when I got home and found that one of
the books I bought was by a radical feminist. It made good firewood, which was
not a surprise. I got a very good replacement by Jacques Martain, and that WAS
In other words, unless you know you hate literary conferences or are an
anti-Chestertonian, you MUST go to the 2009 conference.