The other day, a British magistrate placidly proposed, apparently in so many words, that not only beggars should be punished, but also anyone who gives to beggars. Legally, this may be stated in the following two judgments: (1) that every poor man may be presumed to be deceiving; (2) that every rich man may be presumed to be wilfully deceived. The first opinion, if not quite logically clear, is quite legally established. The second is new, and seems even slightly improbable. Does he mean that it is a crime to give help where it is needed? Or does he mean that it is a crime to make a mistake about where it is needed? On either line of thought, I should enjoy watching him draft the Act of Parliament.

This is a moral matter, on which we must get our ideas clear; and I propose to clear my own ideas and yours, whether you like it or not. What is a beggar? A beggar is a man who asks help from another man solely in the name of something extraneous but common — as kinship or charity, the Fatherhood of God, or the brotherhood of man. He does not ask for the bread because he can at once give you the money, as in commerce. He does not ask for the bread because he will soon be able to pass you the mustard, as in Society. He asks you for the bread because you are supposed to be under an ancient law of pity, by which (as it is written) if a man asks you for bread you will not give him a stone. That is what a beggar is. He is a man who begs — that is, he is a man who asks without any clear power of return, except the opportunity he offers you to fulfill your own ideals.

The Illustrated London News, 25 February 1911.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 10:47 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. I just saw this comment on the American Chesterton Society website, from Daniel Collins, “Please, everyone who reads this, please pray to Chesterton for a miraculous healing of my Grandmother. She is very ill, and there is a problem in doing surgery.

    Chesterton once said that he believed in miracles even though he could not perform any. But I think that he can and he will, if we ask him. Please pray for my Grandmother, and also try to make this date a real Feast day for Chesterton.”

    God Our Father, Thou didst fill the life of Thy servant Gilbert Keith Chesterton with a sense of wonder and joy, and gave him a faith which was the foundation of his ceaseless work, a charity towards all men, particularly his opponents, and a hope which sprang from his lifelong gratitude for the gift of human life. May his innocence and his laughter, his constancy in fighting for the Christian faith in a world losing belief, his lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his love for all men, especially for the poor, bring cheerfulness to those in despair, conviction and warmth to lukewarm believers and the knowledge of God to those without faith. We beg Thee to grant the favours we ask through his intercession, [and especially for……] so that his holiness may be recognized by all and the Church may proclaim him Blessed. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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