Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Heroes and Mentors III
January 17, 2011, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

This will be my final post on this topic, devoted not to fictional priests, as before, but to two great writers who influenced my youth. The first was C.S.Lewis, for whom I give thanks because he showed me the possibility of an intellectual and rational approach to Christianity. Even though I can now see many flaws in Mere Christianity and his other apologetic works, their fundamental thrust still seems to me sound, though I might not recommend them to teenage enquirers today. His planetary trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet and its sequels) are classics of their kind, and I re-read them only recently. The Narnia books I came to far too late, and I have never really taken to them.

The other writer, for whom I have not only respect and gratitude but also a great love and affection, was J.R.R.Tolkien. I came across The Hobbit by accident while staying with friends, being thirteen or fourteen. The Lord of the Rings I devoured in my final school years, having to wait for the final volume to be published. I wrote to Tolkien in 1956 and received a charming reply. At that time I had no idea he was a Catholic, although I was exploring the Catholic faith myself at that time.

Tolkien’s writings are deeply though unobtrusively Christian. Much later, reading his collected Letters, I understood the quality of his faith, and especially his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to our Lady. He wrote to one of his sons, “I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him without grave blame. (However, He alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.)” He advocated daily Communion if possible, and thought it more profitable to attend Mass in the hurly-burly of an average parish than to insist on “a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.” Recalling his mother’s sufferings for the sake of the faith, and to ensure his Catholic upbringing, he added, “But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning- and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again.” [cf. Letters, pp 339ff]

Of his characters, I probably identify most with Galadriel, who in youth betook herself wantonly into Exile, and in maturity spoke of “fighting the long defeat” against evil, doubtful if she should ever be received back into Elvenhome. And of course, I know myself to be a Niggle, a silly little man with aspirations beyond his capacity.

2 Comments so far
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Be careful, Father. Tolkien is hobbit forming.

Comment by Simon Cotton

Galadriel is indeed one of his finest characters. LOTR certainly was a propaedeutic as I moved to conversion in the early 7Os; one talks about accidents and coincidences yet it is Providence, after all, and I owe JRRT a great debt. Many thanks for all your good work.

Comment by Marc

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