There is a club I’ve never attended and it takes place under my own roof while I’m sleeping upstairs. It’s the Chesterton Society, and I think I love it, even though I’ll never be a member.
Through other people’s shrewd behind-the-scenes maneuvering, this fall J became the leader of a Chesterton Society of Catholic men who meet, sometimes in our living room or at our fire pit, sometimes at one member’s downtown restaurant. The club’s goals and identity are still evolving, but it seems to center around Catholicism, the life of the mind, manliness, beer and meat. I like to think G.K. Chesterton, for whom the group is named, and who I discovered, like most people, through a college obsession with C. S. Lewis, would approve.
The group is Catholic men, some still in college, some as old as my father. There are married men and unmarried men, Catholic fathers with children of all ages. There’s a professor, a missionary, a restauranteur, an insurance man, and others who drift through the house with their books, their tobacco pipes. This club is their story, not mine, to tell, and yet — the comment of one of its members, whose wife is a dear friend, really struck me.
He said that the group is special for him because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for Catholic husbands and fathers to hang out and see how other people are doing it. This group provides that for him, one late, late evening a month.
Certainly stay-at-home motherhood is often seen as lonely work, and that’s absolutely true, when your coworker is a four-year-old who chews up his toothbrush during nap time. But on the other hand, I think of all the riches of companionship I’ve found, especially since moving here to Virginia: friends from church, some with children much older, one just starting out on her first pregnancy, some of us cradle Catholics, some converts and reverts. These are people I can text during a kid’s meltdown, who watch my kids when I run to confession, who talk about the nuts and bolts of marriage as our kids slug each other on the playground.
There’s also the Internet, of course. Catholic mom blogs are a thing (though I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say mine is), but I haven’t run across more than a handful of sites speaking to the Catholic man’s domestic experience. So my husband has the comfort of a department of comrades who love his subject as much as he does, and I’m reasonably certain none of them are prone to chewing up toothbrushes (at least during work hours). But he encounters many fewer opportunities throughout his day to think about his vocation as a husband and father in the context of community, and I have to admit that’s a real poverty, even on my most trying days as a stay-at-home parent.
The American Chesterton Society considers itself a contributor to the “revival of common sense, laughter, beauty, faith, and other good things.” So even if it leaves beer bottles on my kitchen counters, that kind of community seems like something worth building.