“What does ‘literature’ have to do with saving one’s soul?”
This question surely has a long and distinguished lineage, all the way back to the Church Father Tertullian, who asked a similar question about the value of pagan philosophy for Christian study: “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Far from being an obstacle to a spiritual life or even a harmless accessory, reading the right kind of stories can be critical to moral formation. The successful parrying and defeat of sin is too adventurous a thing to be fully described in a catechism or completely prepared for by paging through a spiritual writer. Catechisms and spiritual writers are important, but men need stories too. One such tale is Manalive, one of G.K. Chesterton’s most joyful novels and a battle-cry against a deadly sin.