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Issue 05 – Saint Anselm 2021


Urban Legend

On the needs of the eleventh century—and our own.


Each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” So says G.K. Chesterton in his introduction to The Dumb Ox. (It’s a smart insight in an otherwise almost intolerably indulgent little book, best read in five-page snippets and only ever from the seat of a toilet.) Chesterton’s idea is that, if virtue and sanity lie in the mean, then the world needs heroes who “exaggerate whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age.” To shock us out of our most prevalent errors, we need signs of contradiction who practically overcorrect them.

The stolid nineteenth century needed the holy hysteria of Saint Francis of Assisi. The skeptical twentieth century needed the levelheaded logic of Saint Thomas Aquinas. And us? What we need today is an authoritative ordering of the will. If despondency was the default sin of the 1800s, and doubt that of the 1900s, then the 2000s are mostly just aimless. Our uncoordinated age wants a leader and a mission.

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About the author

Urban Hannon

Urban Hannon’s writing has appeared in First Things, Ethika Politika, and other publications. He currently studies theology in Rome.