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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Monday, 29 August 2016

BENEDICT XVI BREAKS SILENCE TO THANK POPE FRANCIS FOR HIS GOODNESS by Ines San Martin (Vatican Correspondent)

my source: CRUX, Taking the Catholic Pulse 
Pope Francis, left, and retired Pope Benedict XVI embrace during a ceremony to celebrate Benedict's 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP)


  Pope Benedict XVI made his second public address Tuesday since retiring at a ceremony to celebrate his priesthood. Pope Francis thanked his predecessor for his years of service to the Church.

 ROME- In his second public address in three years, Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday thanked Pope Francis for his leadership, telling him that his goodness moves him more than the beauty of the Vatican Gardens and is a place “where I feel protected.”

“Thank you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which from the first moment of your election, to every moment of my life here, has touched my heart,” Benedict told Francis in improvised remarks at a celebration to mark the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Before going on to thank other members of the college of cardinals who were present in the ceremony, he added: “We hope that you can go forward with all of us on this path of divine mercy, showing us the path of Jesus toward God.”

Benedict’s remarks came during the ceremony in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, which marked a first: never before has a reigning pope honored a retired one.

When the pope entered the room he went straight to embrace his predecessor, who removed his white skullcap in a sign of deference.  Returning the sign of respect, Pope Francis addressed Benedict as “Your Holiness,” and thanked him for his years of service to the Church.

“You, Your Holiness, continue to serve the Church,” Francis told him. “Do not cease contributing with true vigor and wisdom to her growth; and you do so from that small Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican.”

The monastery, founded by St. John Paul II in the early 1990s within Vatican grounds, is where Benedict has lived since his resignation
.
Francis said his predecessor’s residence is “not at all like those forgotten corners where today’s ‘throwaway culture’ tends to put those who lose their strength with age.”

Rather, Benedict’s home was like the Portiuncola, Francis said, referring to the little church in the Italian city of Assisi where St. Francis founded his order and spent his last days.

Mater Ecclesia, said the pope, was a “Franciscan” place from which emanates “tranquility, peace, strength, faithfulness, maturity, faith, dedication and fidelity that do me so much good and give strength to me and to the whole Church.”

Although this is only the second time the German pontiff has spoken publicly since his resignation he has delivered other messages. These communications have been delivered via intermediaries.
Earlier this year, for instance, he asked the Vatican’s press office to release a statement to scotch rumors that there is more to the third secret of Fatima than what was revealed during John Paul II’s papacy in 2000.

True to form, in his five-minute remarks Benedict delivered an improvised theology lesson, focusing on the Greek word Efkaristomen which translates as: “let us give thanks.”

This word, he said, refers not only to human thanksgiving but also to the phrase “Giving thanks, he broke it and gave it,” which appears in the Gospel depiction of the the Last Supper as well as in the Mass. Catholic tradition holds that at this moment Jesus transformed wine and bread into his flesh and blood.
Benedict explained that Jesus transformed “the Cross, suffering and all of the evil in the world” into thanksgiving.

He closed his short remarks with a “thanks” to the Lord, saying that with his help the world can be “transubstantiated” and transformed into “a world not of death but of life, a world in which love has overcome death.”

Pope Francis has often praised his predecessor. Last Sunday, on his way back from Armenia, he was asked about remarks made by a close aide to Benedict that there is now a “shared” papacy, with one active pope and a contemplative one.

No, said Francis, he was the only pope, joking that at one time in history “there were three of us.” But he went on to describe Benedict as “the wise grandfather,” the one who “protects my shoulders and back with his prayer.”

He also gave some insight into the relationship the two have had in the last three years, saying he’s visited Benedict “many times,” that the two also speak on the phone, and that his predecessor had even sent him a written note prior to his visit to Armenia.

MY COMMENTARY

It has become a favourite occupation of journalists and commentators on the Vatican to contrast these two popes without adequately taking notice of what unites them.   They do not notice that underneath the very real differences there is an inner harmony; and, as what is within them gives unity and meaning to both their lives, not to plumb the depths and reach that harmony is to misunderstand both of them.

The trouble is that observers have moulded each of them into their own image and likeness.   "Conservatives" portray Pope Benedict as a conservative, and "liberals" portray Francis as a liberal; and, in an understanding of the Church that is borrowed from modern secular party politics, this makes them irreconcilable. The unity between them is not noticed because no political model is an adequate paradigm for understanding the Church or the papacy, whether the Church be seen as a religious version of the Constantinian empire as in Vatican I, or as a multi-party modern democracy.

Of course, the differences are real.   Pope Benedict is a German academic, a theologian, a participant in Vatican II; and this has marked the way he understood his role and his style as pope.  Pope Francis belongs to the next generation after Vatican II, an event which helped to shape his theological foundation, and  a pastor from Argentina whose theology has been strongly influenced by his pastoral experience of God's grace at work in all kinds of situation.  For him, Christ is the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to look for the one who is lost.  Francis too has looked for the lost sheep and, when he has found it, has also come to know that Christ is already there, however irregular the context may be in which the lost sheep has found itself.

In spite of these differences, the basic theological pre-suppositions of Popes Benedict and Francis are in harmony and can be found in Vatican II; and the above article indicates that they are fully aware of the fact.

Let us look at a few similarities between the two theologies.


  • In the video talk by Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, it is obvious that his whole theology is eucharistic and that he looks forward to the "transubstantiation" of the whole universe.   The eucharistic ecclesiology of Vatican II and of the ressourcement theologians is also the ecclesiology of Pope Francis.
  • Pope Benedict and his successor see the Church as "communion", with the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, as source and goal of all its powers. Liturgy is celebrated in the local Church and therefore the Holy Spirit is actively present in the local and regional churches.  Pope Francis can speak of the "magisterium" of the South American church.   What binds the Church together at a local, regional and universal level is the activity of the Holy Spirit who confects the Eucharist and who binds the people together in Christ in ecclesial love.   This makes a system of law necessary, with its powers of jurisdiction; but this is a consequence of the unity brought about by the sacrament and not the cause of the unity.
  • The source of unity in the Church is the Christian Mystery, the common participation by all in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, as we approach the Holy of Holies out of every place and every time since the Last Supper; and we pass into the Father's presence through the veil which is the flesh of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Church History has shown that, among  those who participate in Christ through the Eucharist, real difference arise, often important differences.   There are all kinds of reasons for this and can be external or internal to the eucharistic communities who have them.  There are ordinary, everyday differences of taste, of priorities, of vocabularies and paradigms, between churches who live in different environments, cultures etc.  All this should be normal.   There are the differences between "conservatives" and "liberals", "traditional mass" Catholics and "misa normativa" Catholics etc.  Then there are the much more serious differences between strands of Tradition that have diverged from one another, like between Catholicism and Orthodoxy,  Then, again, there are the differences between Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation.
  • Pope Benedict made a distinction between differences that arise in continuity with their past, and differences that arise from a rupture with the past.  Whether they are people in the same church or churches that belong to different strands of Tradition that can  no longer recognise one  another, it must be admitted that anything that is a rupture of Tradition must be rejected, while that which is in continuity with Tradition must be accepted.
  • Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis believe we have to get used to accepting differences between people who celebrate the same Eucharist because it is the Father that make us one with Christ in the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, not ourselves.  As Archbishop Welby said, "We can choose our friends but we are stuck with our relatives," and we have been made one family by Christ.  Thus, Pope Benedict opened up a dialogue with Hans Kung on one wing of the Church, and both Benedict and Francis have striven to end the schism with the Society of St Pius X on the other wing.   Further afield, both popes realise that neither the Eastern Orthodox Church nor the western Latin Church were conscious of any break with the past, with their own tradition, when the break between East and West took place. Both sides believed themselves to be loyal to Tradition and did not recognise the tradition of the other.  Hence, as Pope Benedict said, it is not the job of the pope to impose a belief from the outside but to bear witness to what is already Catholic belief and thus remind those who have forgotten it: thus the pope cannot impose our belief on them.  The situation requires both sides to come together and allow ecclesial love, sign of the Holy Spirit's presence, to illuminate both in the truth.   Both popes have indicated that they would not require anything from the Orthodox except the acknowledgement that we are not heretics for believing what we do, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
  • Pope Francis certainly carries this principle further than Pope Benedict, as he did in  two synods on the family where, instead of smoothing over differences with the use of censorship, they were to be clearly accepted as existing.   As long as loyalty to St Peter ruled out schism, the differences were honestly brought out into the open and there was time for the Holy Spirit to do his work.   Of course, this will result on different pastoral practices in different parts of the Church; but this has been normal throughout history until it was covered over due to the fight against Protestantism.

Both popes are closer about liturgy than is often realised.   Here is Pope Francis: 
 Francis stressed that the Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual experience, it's not simply a commemoration of what Jesus did in the Last Supper.”
Rather, it is a “memorial, namely, a gesture that actualizes and makes present the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus: the bread is truly his Body given, the wine is truly is Blood poured out.”
To live in concrete communion with Jesus through the Eucharist while on earth is already the beginning of our passing from death to life, he said.

This is an account of another talk by Pope Francis:
The Lord, the pope said, speaks to His people in many ways: through the prophets, the priests, the Sacred Scriptures. But with the theophanies, He speaks in another way, “different from the Word: it is another presence, closer, without mediation, near. It is His presence.” This, he explained, happens in the liturgical celebration. The liturgical celebration is not a social act, a good social act; it is not a gathering of the faithful to pray together. It is something else. In the liturgy, God is present,” but it is a closer presence. In the Mass, in fact, “the presence of the Lord is real, truly real.”
The first phrase in italics which said that the Mass is a  memorial, namely, a gesture that actualizes and makes present the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus" shows Pope Francis to be a disciple of Dom Odo Casel who taught that through the Eucharist we share in the event of the death and resurrection of Christ.  So is Pope Benedict.   The second phrase in italics that says the Mass is not simply a social event, even a sacred social event: In the Mass we become one, not because we are looking at each other, but because we share an encounter with God who manifests his presence to us.  He asks God to give us a real sense of the sacred.   This emphasis is the same as that of Pope Benedict.

One of his first appointments was to put Cardinal Sarah as head of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.  Cardinal Sarah is a faithful disciple of Pope Benedict.  When he asked Pope Francis what his function is, the pope replied that it is to continue the good work of Pope Benedict.   However, when he told a meeting of the "Reform of the reform" in London a little while ago that he wants all dioceses and churches that can prudently do so to have the priest celebrating Mass facing East from the beginning of Advent, he was wrapped over the knuckles.  I think that he failed to realise that in a Church ruled by synods, it is the function of the Congregation of Divine Worship to provide materials and services, but active projects, campaigns, pastoral decisions are made by the bishops in union with the pope.   Nevertheless, he wouldn't have this pivotal job if it were not for Pope Francis, and this does indicate the direction towards greater awe that Pope Francis wishes to take while genuinely leaving the details to the bishops.

Finally, in keeping with Vatican II, both popes, like Pope John Paul II, are fully aware of the Eastern traditions as valid versions of the one Catholic Tradition.  Just as the Misa Normativa borrowed from the Anthiochian and Alexandran liturgical traditions for the new eucharistic prayers, so icons are becoming common in the west.  Pope Benedict likening purgatory to the loving embrace of Christ does prefer the Orthodox view over the legalistic view of the West.  His statement that the "filioque" clause in the Creed must be interpreted in a way that is in keeping with the original text used by the Greeks, rather than the other way round, showed his openness to the East.   Pope Francis  in comparing the Church to a hospital rather than a law court is using a well known Orthodox metaphor, while his statement that the only Christian authority is service and the only power the Church has is that of the Cross is music to Orthodox ears. The dialogue continues.  More important is that our Orthodox brethren see that all this is put into practice and is wo
rking.  

AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT LETTER BY
ROBERT MOYNIHAN ON THE INSIDE STORY OF POPE BENEDICT'S RESIGNATION (please click here)

An Excerpt
A passage written by
Pope Benedict
with short commentary

“Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith… and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord showed in this time — that ‘all manner of thing shall be well.'” —The medieval English nun, Blessed Julian of Norwich, in her Showings (A.D. 1373) (link). When gravely ill, Julian experienced a sort of “near-death experience.” Between four and nine one afternoon and evening, she received 15 “showings,” or revelations — heaven opened to her, she beheld Christ in his glory, and saw the meaning and power of his sufferings. In her 13th showing, Julian received a comforting answer to a question that had long troubled her: “In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well… Jesus… said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.” Julian came to such a sense of the awfulness of sin that she reckoned the pains of hell were to be chosen in preference to sin. Indeed, she said, to one who recognizes the horror of sin, sin itself is hell. “And to me was shown no harder hell than sin. For a kind soul has no hell but sin.” The quoted words, “all manner of thing shall be well,” are cited in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 313

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind…

“Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present…

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is…

————–

“A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England…

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time…

“Quick now, here, now, always —
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”

—T.S. Eliot, from the poems Burnt Norton and Little Gidding (the names of two places in England), two parts of his great 4-part poem-symphony The Four Quartets, written over eight years, from 1935 to 1942, as the Second World War grew near and then began, after his conversion in 1927 to Christianity and his entrance into the Church of England. The poems consider the spiritual nature of man, our marvelous consciousness which reaches across time, forward in anticipation and backward in memory, and which senses the pain of sin, guilt, and the profound longing for forgiveness, redemption and truly abundant life. The last lines include a quotation from the English female mystic, Blessed Julian of Norwich, who, much like Pope Francis in these recent years, stressed the centrality of the problem of sin, and of mercy and forgiveness for sinners, which was at the center of her Revelations of Divine Love. In a very strange, thought-provoking and profound expression, Julian says that sin is “behovely.” The word is often translated as “necessary,” “expedient,” “appropriate,” or, in the scholastic expression, “conveniens,” that is, “fitting.” How could sin be “behovely,” “fitting”? Julian believed that sin was “behovely (“necessary,” “fitting,” “needed”) because it brings people to self-knowledge, which leads to acceptance of the role of God in their lives, and therefore, ultimately, to their redemption from sin and their resurrection from death…
 
The Mass celebrated by the Armenian Orthodox
Patriarch in the presence of Pope Francis. The
pope later said that he felt the wonderful unity
of the Mass and the Church.

Monday, 22 August 2016

THE CHRISTIANITY OF J.R. TOLKIEN author of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

J.R.R. Tolkien: Three Amazing Quotes
Matt Fradd
my source: Catholic Answers



Many of you are aware that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a faithful Catholic.
I’ve often seen quotes on Facebook attributed to him without knowing if they were genuine. Turns out they were.
Here are three quotes from Tolkien on the Pope and the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and The Eucharist.

The Pope and the One True Church

"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and re-arising.

"But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place.

“'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched—'the blasphemous fable of the Mass'—and faith/works a mere red herring.”

Can be found in Tolkien: Man and Myth, p. 193.

The Virgin Mary

“I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.”

Can be found in The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, p. 76.

The Eucharist

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.

"By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.

"Frequency is of the highest effect.

"Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children—from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn—open-necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).

"It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.

"It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand—after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

Can be found in The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, p. 219.


Matt Fradd is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach for Integrity Restored, as well as their Director of Content Development. He is the editor of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned From Porn to Purity and coauthor of Victory: A Strategic Battle Plan for Freedom in the..

 How J.R.R. Tolkien Helped to Lead C.S. Lewis to Faith
By ERIC METAXAS Published on October 12, 2015 


Eric Mataxas

Until I was an adult who had found faith and this world of meaning, I knew very little about C. S. Lewis. He was the Oxford don who turned from atheism to belief in God because late one night in 1930 he was walking along a wooded path behind Magdalen College with his friend J. R. R. Tolkien. This was years before Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and long before Lewis wrote his famous Chronicles of Narnia. They were just young men who had survived the grim horrors of World War I, who had seen the ghastly hell and death of the trenches and the gas warfare, and who were now brilliant young professors at Oxford University.

But as they walked and talked along that path, long past midnight, Tolkien had the grounding of a deep belief in something else, and Lewis did not. Tolkien felt that this world was not all there is, but Lewis felt that it was, that the sad horrors of the war they had both survived told them this, that this ugly world was all there is and ever would be and we must face this, although it made us sad to think of it. But surely Lewis — or Jack, as his friends called him — sometimes also wondered why, if it were true, it would make us sad. If it were true, why would something in us want it not to be true? What was that something in us, and how did it get there? What was the meaning of the fact that we should desire something else? What was the meaning of our desire for meaning?

Lewis and Tolkien both knew and loved mythology and the myths of ancient cultures. They knew the old stories of the Greeks and the Romans, and they knew and loved the stories of the Norse gods. In his autobiographical memoir, Surprised by Joy, Lewis recalled how his heart had been pierced when he had read those lines from the Norse Ballads of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “I heard a voice cry, ‘Balder the beautiful is dead, is dead!’ ” Why had this so pierced his heart? Why should this nineteenth-century poem about a fictional character move him so? What was the meaning of that? But after the death ofMiracles.jpg his mother and the pains of life and the horrors of the war he had at least halfway pushed aside such feelings and had come to embrace the sad belief that we could not go back, and all of these stories were just stories. Beautiful stories, but just stories.

But Tolkien had another idea, although for him it was no longer just an idea. He knew that all of these ancient and beautiful stories were echoes of something larger and truer. They were signs that the human race knew of another world that had once existed and would exist again and even now existed in another realm, outside time. He knew the myths of the gods who died in a sacrificial way but who would rise again and live, but he did not know them as unconnected to the world of reality and history. For him they were echoes of a larger reality that had at one time burst through into history, but only once.

So that night on the dark wooded path with his friend Jack he asked the question that would change Jack’s life. He asked Jack to consider whether it was possible that one time this myth had coincided with history — whether one time eternity might have broken through into time. Tolkien suggested that it had, that the myth of the god who had died and come to life was an echo of a greater story — of perhaps the greatest story that ever was told — and that one time in history this eternal story had bloomed into reality, had broken through into history and time as a crocus breaks through the snow. And it had changed everything forever and ever, had brought spring into winter, had brought eternity itself into time. Lewis had never considered that. But Tolkien pressed him to consider it and so now he would consider it, and it would haunt him.



This is an excerpt from Miracles: What They Are, How They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (Plume, October 13, 2015), now in paperback from Plume.


 Tolkien: Man Behind the Myth
At odds with his world, he created another.
Bradley J. Birzer/ DECEMBER 13, 2012

Tolkien: Man Behind the Myth
AP


On January 3, 2003, J. R. R. Tolkien would have celebrated his eleventy-first birthday, a most momentous occasion, the same birthday on which Bilbo departed the Shire for Rivendell.

What would this venerable Oxford don have thought about his position in Western culture at the age of 111, almost a half-century after he initially published his trilogy?

He would have seen reason enough for distress, chilling marks of the modern secular-scientific ideal. In the East: the killing fields, the gulags, and the holocaust camps. In the West: materialism, invasive corporate capitalism, and softly tyrannical bureaucracies. An anti-modern conservative, Tolkien often fell into despair, especially toward the end of his life, as he took account of the world situation.

"The spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and so many-headed in its incarnations," Tolkien wrote in 1969, "that there seems nothing more to do than personally to refuse to worship any of the hydra's heads." The world, he thought, seemed little better than a new Tower of Babel, "all noise and confusion."

Yet, this most devout Christian would also see signs of immense hope, knowing well that St. Paul accorded it the second highest place among the virtues. Karol Wojtyla, pope, poet, playwright, and philosopher, had told Tolkien's beloved Roman Catholic Church, "Be not afraid," quoting Christ. Emboldened by this message, millions between 1989 and 1991 peaceably tore down the misanthropic Marxist-Leninist regimes.

This article is part of the Christianity Today eBook, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Behind the Hobbits, available now.

On Tolkien's 111th birthday, he would also be especially surprised to note that for 50 years, his myth—a myth he felt he had recorded rather than invented—had dramatically affected and shaped people all over the world. In it, they found depth, inspiration, and guidance—not the mere entertainment or escapism his detractors claimed. In The Lord of the Rings, they found models of Christian virtue, true heroism, and timeless Truth.

Indeed, since the trilogy's initial publication in the mid-1950s, Tolkien's popularity has waxed less and waxed more, but it has never waned. Poll after poll at the turn of the century declaredThe Lord of the Ringsthe book of the 20th century, with a readership, by one estimate, of over 150,000,000 persons worldwide. He would also see prominent academics at prestigious schools labeling him "The Author of the Century."

Out of Africa

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. Attempting to control the fraud that seemed rampant in the diamond trade, a British bank had relocated his father, Arthur Tolkien, there.

"My parents both came from Birmingham in England. I happened to be born [in South Africa] by accident. But it had this effect; my earliest memories are of Africa, but it was alien to me, and when I came home, I had for the countryside of England both … native feeling and … personal wonder." His own Middle-earth reflects what he called his "wonder and delight in the earth"—especially his life-long love of trees.

Two years later, his mother, Mabel, gave birth to Tolkien's only sibling, his brother Hilary. In 1895, Mabel returned to England with the two boys because of Ronald's health, and Arthur remained behind in South Africa, only to die a year later. Tolkien was particularly close to his mother after his father's death. She home-schooled the two boys during their early school-age years.

Even as a young boy, Tolkien loved languages. He invented his own, but his mother viewed them as a waste of his time. "As a child, I was always inventing languages. But that was naughty," Tolkien recalled wryly. "Poor boys must concentrate on getting scholarships. When I was supposed to be studying Latin and Greek, I studied Welsh and English. When I was supposed to be concentrating on English, I took up Finnish."

Through the door of language Tolkien entered the world of myth. "The seed [of the myth] is linguistic, of course. I'm a linguist and everything is linguistic—that's why I take such pains with names." A language, he believed, could not remain abstract. It must arise within a history and a culture—or, if lacking that, a mythology. Soon he would create for his own languages a most elaborate world indeed.

Son of persecution

In 1900, much to the dismay of her family, Mabel was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. Her family strongly disapproved of her decision—though they tended to be only nominally Protestant—and they cut her off from all family money. Four years later, Mabel died of diabetes, which might have been treated with sufficient finances. In his adulthood, Tolkien remembered his mother as "a gifted lady of great beauty and wit, greatly stricken by God with grief and suffering, who died in youth (at 34) of a disease hastened by the persecution of her faith."

It would be impossible to stress too much the influence her death had on Tolkien. He was almost 13 when she died, and she had served, effectively, as his only parental figure to this point. She had influenced him in everything, and Ronald would attempt to live up to her memory for the rest of his life. This was especially true in his religious devotions. "I witnessed (half-comprehending) the heroic sufferings and early death in extreme poverty of my mother who brought me into the Church," he reflected in 1963.

Mabel left Ronald and Hilary in the care of Father Francis Morgan, a Roman Catholic priest at John Henry Cardinal Newman's Birmingham Oratory. Half Welsh and half Anglo-Spanish, Morgan is described by Tolkien's biographer as "a very noisy man, loud and affectionate, embarrassing to small children at first but hugely lovable when they got to know him." Ronald struggled with Father Morgan at times, especially over dating his future wife Edith, but he considered the priest his true father. Indeed, Tolkien credited Father Morgan with solidifying the faith into which his mother brought him. "I first learned charity and forgiveness from him," Tolkien wrote in 1965.

At the Oratory, Tolkien absorbed the lingering, profound presence of Newman, the founder. Newman was a devout follower of St. Augustine, another significant influence on Tolkien. In his Apologia, Newman recorded having been deeply influenced by the Catholic doctrine of the warfare between the City of God and the powers of darkness. He believed this battle was about to intensify, as 19th-century liberalism was poised to usher in a secular, modern City of Man.

"A confederacy of evil, marshaling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, [was] preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it," Newman feared in 1838. Tolkien saw his world devastated by the forces that Newman had believed imminent.

A wartime awakening

After a highly successful college career at Exeter College, Oxford, Tolkien became an officer in the British military. He experienced first-hand the horrors of mechanized warfare in World War I. He was a member of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, one of the most decorated regiments of the war, and also a unit that suffered devastating casualties.

It was in the trenches that Tolkien first conceived the Middle-earth mythology. His son Christopher later found some of the first lines of verse containing "Seven names of Gondolin" "scribbled on the back of a paper setting out the chain of responsibility in a battalion."

He began writing in earnest during his sick leave in 1916 and 1917, "in army huts, crowded, filled with the noise of gramophones." As Tolkien admitted in his famous academic essay "On Fairy-Stories," "a real taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood, and quickened to full life [by] war."

In the filth of northern France, Tolkien longed for beauty. Frodo's passage through the Dead Marshes inThe Two Towers, said the author, consciously echoed the "miles and miles of seething, tortured earth" he had seen on the war's battlegrounds:

More loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. … Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

Doting father, Oxford "great"

In 1916, Tolkien began his own family when he married Edith Bratt, a woman he loved passionately and who served as the inspiration for the beautiful elven maiden, Luthien. Together, the two had four children: John (1917–2003); Michael (1920–1984); Christopher (b. 1924); and Priscilla (b. 1929). Priscilla recalled:

He was always there, at lunch and at tea. We children were allowed to run in and out of his study at any time, so long as he wasn't actually teaching. He was very much involved with family life and, since we were often hard up, he had to write and work far into the night just to make extra money.
Priscilla's reminiscences are typical. Tolkien's son Michael noted that he always took "my childish comments and questions with complete seriousness." And Tolkien's grandson Simon remembered his grandfather as "incredibly nice," with a deep voice, a laugh that "seemed full and his eyes … bright and full of life."

Indeed, there were few children that Tolkien seemed not to love. The last time his friend George Sayer saw him, Tolkien was with a number of children "playing trains: 'I'm Thomas the Tank Engine. Puff. Puff. Puff.' "

His children also served as the first audience for significant parts of his mythology.The Hobbit, which Tolkien had read at least in part to his children, "got dragged against my original will," as he put it, into the legendarium.

Tolkien had a full academic career, first at Leeds University from 1920–1925 and then at Oxford from 1925 until his retirement in 1959. He was regarded by Oxford students as one of the "greats" in both scholarship and personality. Few, though, thought well of him as a lecturer. So muffled and incoherent were many of his lectures, in fact, that one former student remembered him as having a "speech impediment." Tolkien himself was the first to admit his failings as a lecturer.

The exception to Tolkien's poor lecturing was his recitation of Beowulf, much of which he had memorized. When discussing that old English tale, he became a bard, and the lecture room a mead hall. One student wrote of these performances:

He came in lightly and gracefully, I always remember that, his gown flowing, his fair hair shining, and he readBeowulfaloud. We did not know the language he was reading, yet the sound of Tolkien made sense of the unknown tongue, and the terrors and the dangers that he recounted—how I do not know—made our hair stand on end. He read like no one else I have ever heard. The lecture room was crowded—it was in the Examination Halls, and he was a young man then, for his position, long before "The Hobbit" or the Trilogy were to make him famous.

In The Atlantic Monthly, the poet W. H. Auden confided: "I do not remember a single word he said, but at a certain point he recited, and magnificently, a long passage of Beowulf. I was spellbound."

Yet, this was a man who also loved the Marx Brothers and boyish pranks. He once appeared at a formal party for Oxford dons dressed in "an Icelandic sheepskin hearthrug" and white face paint. At a lecture in the 1930s, Tolkien told his audience that leprechauns really existed—then, to prove it, pulled from the pocket of his old tweed coat a four-inch green shoe.

From myth to Messiah

Tolkien published a number of critical articles during his academic career, including numerous translations of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English works. as well as the essays "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936) and "On Fairy-Stories" (1939).

In the latter essay, Tolkien describes how the perilous realm of Faerie reveals truth and beauty beyond normal comprehension; the true and the beautiful lead one to the Good and the One. Indeed, Tolkien saw the gospel standing behind and patterning all fairy stories.

Tolkien began writing—he preferred to call it "recording"—his mythology in 1916. Even at his death, he had failed to complete it, and his son Christopher has spent much of his adult life editing and completing what his father could not in one lifetime. The two most famous of Tolkien's stories,The Hobbit(1938) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–1956), are profound manifestations of the larger mythology, which the author referred to as his legendarium. Since his father's death, Christopher has completedThe Silmarillion(1977),Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth(1980), and the 12-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), each of which is indispensable to understanding the myth as a whole.


A double-edged fame

By the mid-1960s, Tolkien had reached the status of a popular icon. In the first ten months after The Lord of the Rings appeared in paperback in the U.S. in 1965, stores sold over 250,000 copies.

The 1960s brought not only fame but cultural change, which invaded even the great bulwark of traditionalism, the Roman Catholic Church. At one Vatican II–inspired Mass, Tolkien found the innovations too much for him. Disappointed by changes in the Mass's language and the informality of the ritual, he rose from his seat, made his way laboriously to the aisle, made three low bows and stomped out.

Much to the conservative Tolkien's chagrin, in the mid- to late 1960s the counterculture and political Left especially embraced his mythology. Afraid that such readers might create a sort of "new paganism" around his legendarium, Tolkien spent much of the last decade of his life clarifying its theological and philosophical positions in the work that becameThe Silmarillion.

The burden of the philosophical and theological intricacies of the mythology, his wife's deteriorating health in the mid-1960s resulting in her death in 1971, and his own natural ageing proved too difficult for Tolkien, and he died before finishing The Silmarillion. Still, the accolades poured in. In 1972, Oxford awarded Tolkien an honorary doctorate and the Queen named him a "Commander of the Order," a rank just below knighthood.

On September 2, 1973, Tolkien left the City of Man and became a permanent resident of the City of God.

To the last, critics continued to describe his works as trivial and escapist. But Tolkien was content to rest his case in a higher court.

"The only just literary critic," he concluded, "is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed."

Bradley Birzer is Russell Amos Kirk chair in American studies, professor of history Hillsdale College (Michigan). He is also author of J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle Earth(ISI).


 20 Ways The Lord of the Rings Is Both Christian and Catholic
STAN WILLIAMS
my source: Catholic Education Resource Centre
Thanks to the vision and persistence of Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson and the financial backing of Warner Brothers' New Line Cinema, these great stories are now becoming accessible to millions more around the world.

Tolkien had hoped that others would come after him and like other myths adapt the Middle-earth stories to make them both applicable and accessible to new generations. Peter Jackson is doing that, and by most accounts doing it well. The third and last film in the series will be released December 2003.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." [1] By design The Lord of the Rings is not a Christian allegory but rather an invented myth [2] about Christian and Catholic truths. But that presents a problem for filmakers. Because the Christian"

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)
"and when it comes to movies, audiences must SEE everything and anything that is important to the story. So, the conflict cannot be something the protagonist engages on purely a spiritual or emotional level — such as guilt, forgiveness, justification, or redemption. The source of the conflict has to be visible. 

Luckily — no, let's make that Providentially — Tolkien spent a life time sub-creating (as he called it) a Middle-earth that contains physical entities representing all that is good and bad in our Earthly journeys. There are Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Wizards, Hobbits, Ents, Trolls, Wraiths, Uruk-hais and at least one Balrog — all with their own languages, culturs, history, and myths — to mix it up with humans in a grand and epic battle with evil. 

But a battle against evil alone does not make The Lord of the Rings fundamentally Christian and Catholic; and yet there are many ways that it is. Below are a few of these and one that is unique to Jackson's films. Can you tell which one it is?

A Christian Myth

Here are some of the ways The Lord of the Rings is a Christian myth.

Darkness pervades Middle-earth where man, beast and nature are called to an adventure full of peril and hope. Here is how Elijah Wood explains the film's dominant theme: â??No matter how bad things are, no matter how much evil there is in this world, there is always some good worth fighting for, worth standing up for, and worth some effort in carrying on.â? [3]

The One Ring illustrates how evil can entice and enslave. Beautiful gold rings are enticing to wear. But when we slip them on our fingers we announce our devotion and loyalty to their owner. 

Gandalf and Saruman, while not analogous, have traits, goals, and experiences similar to those of Jesus and Satan.Gandalf is even tempted in a battle with Saruman not unlike Christ is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. 

Evil is parasitic and can only destroy that which was created. Everything that Ilúvatar (God) created in Middle-earth (and in our world) is good. It is the perversion and corruption of what was created that is evil. Good can exist on its own. Evil can only live off what is good. 

Like all Chritians, Frodo is called to risk his life through great peril to save others. Frodo, like us, does not appear to be up to the task. He does not have any obvious talent suited for war. But he is chosen, as we are. We are all necessary for God's grand plan to be fulfilled; and even the most unlikely and disgusting Gollum-like beast in our life is necessary. And when Frodo asks, "What can a little hobbit do?" — Isaiah answers, "A little child will lead them" (11:6).

In the Shire, the Hobbits come naturally to living a beatific life that Christ calls Christians to live by. The Hobbits are the meek that inherit the earth, the merciful who receive mercy, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. (Mt. 5:3-12) 

Like all Christians, Tolkien's characters are called to play roles in a story tht is much greater and more important than they are aware. Just as we are not aware of all that has happened before us, [4] so Gandalf, at the end of The Hobbit, says to Bilbo, "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? "you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" 

There is a longing for the return of the king. As Christians long for the return of Christ the King, so the free people of Middle-earth long for their kingdoms to be once more united in peace and justice under the rightful heir. Did I mention that Aragorn looks like Christ?

The Fellowship of the Ring is constituted of different characters with different gifts suited for battling evil — the diversity keeps them united. This is not unlike the diversity of spiritual gifts and temporal talents given to the different members of the Christian community for the unity of the body — so that we might be dependent on each other.

Upon leaving Lorien, each of the Fellowship members are given custom fitted Elvish hooded cloaks not unlike St. Paul's amour in Ephesians 6:10-17. Again, Tolkien disliked allegory; so the cloaks are not exactly like St. Paul's amour of salvation. But they do have mystical traits of great aid that keep them safe in their battle with evil. 

A Catholic Core

The Lord of the Rings is also Catholic.

Tere are sacraments not symbols. For their journey, Galadriel graciously bestows upon the Fellowship — a representation of the church — seven mystical gifts; no mere symbols these, but glimmering reflections of the Church's seven sacraments — the conveying of spiritual grace through temporal rites. And at her Mirror, Galadriel derides the Reformers' taunt of Eucharistic magic in the Mass when she says: "For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same words for the deceits of the enemy." (353)

As grace and creation is experienced through a sacrament, so control and destruction is experienced through an anti-sacrament — the One Ring. The ring that Frodo bears is not symbolic, but rather operates as an anti-sacrament. Dependent on a person's spiritual disosition, a sacrament literally allows grace and life to flow into a person through the physical realm. Likewise in Middle-earth, the characters' spiritual disposition makes them more or less susceptible to the anti-sacrament power of the ring, which if worn, literally brings evil and destruction upon the bearer.

The protagonists pursue absolutes, rejecting any willingness to compromise or relativize. In Middle-earth there is an absoluteness of what is right and wrong. There is no hint of moral relativism that separates the different peoples, races, or creators of the freelands. Aragorn says to Eomer: "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men." (428)

The protagonists embrace suffering as a requirement of working out their salvation. It isn't enough to simply believe or have faith To be free of the tyranny of evil each of our protagonists must sacrifice, and work hard through great peril to secure their salvation and the right ordering of their world. 

The Shire, described as the ideal community, reflects the social teachings of Catholicism. The Hobbits benefit from a community structure with little formal organization and less conflict. They work only enough to survive and otherwise enjoy each other's company. There is no jealousy, no greed, and rarely does anyone do anything unexpected. There is a wholeness and graciousness about it that seems to come naturally out of selflessness. 

Gandalf, the steward of all things good in the world, reflects the papacy. Gandalf is leader of the free and faithful. He is steward of all things good in the world, but he claims rule over no land. As the Popes of history di with kings and emperors of our world, so Gandalf crowns the king and blesses him to rule with justice and peace. 

Middle-earth ideology reflects a corporate moral hierarchy and not individualism. There is no democracy or republic in Middle-earth. There are spiritual leaders like Gandalf, and Kings like Theoden and Elessar with lords and vassals. There is no defense of individualism, no claim of choice, and no justification for an individual to follow his conscience. 

There is a mystical Lady, like The Blessed Mother, who responds miraculously to pleas for help.The Lady is named Varda (or in Elvish, Elbereth or star-queen) and although she is never seen, she's is described as holy and queenly; and when her name is invoked — "O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! — as Frodo and Sam do on occasion, miracles follow that protect the quest and defeat the present enemy.

The sign of the cross.At the end of the first movie (and the beginning of the second book) Aragorn kneels beside the mortally wounded Boromir — and as he dies, Aragorn makes a rudimentary sign of the cross touching first his forehead and then his lips. It is a salute to Avatar, the One who created all. 

There is a last sharing of cup and bread, not unlike O.T. manna and its fulfillment in The Eucharist.Before the Fellowship departs from Lorien, Galadriel bids each to participate in a farewell ritual and drink from a common cup. More significant is the mystical Elvish food given to the fellowship — lembas or waybread. A small amount of this supernatural nourishment will sustain a traveler fo many days.

All of this should make viewing or reading The Lord of the Rings a more interesting and insightful experience for both Christians and Catholics. A fuller description of these themes can be found in the following books that were used for this article

Bibliography
J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth. Bradley Birzer, 2003. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books.Tolkien: A Celebration. Collected writings on a literary legacy. Edited by Joseph Pearce, 1999. San Francisco: Ignatius.Finding God in The Lord of the Rings. Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, 2001. Wheaton: Tyndale House. Tolkien: Man and Myth. A literary life. Joseph Pearce, 1998. San Francisco: Ignatius.

Notes:

While Tolkien has written that in sub-creating these stories his allegiance was to Christ and the Church, Jackson's allegiance was to Tolkien. Jackson made this comment to a group of Christian writers: "We wanted to honor Tolkien and obviously he was a very spiritual person. We've taken an approach of never trying to put in our own message or our own baggage into these films. We want the films to respect him and what he was about." (Interview, New York City, December 4, 2002) 

To Tolkien, myths are true because they are part of our God created imagination, and because they bring us "such joy [that] has the very taste of primary truth." To Tolkien the story of Jesus Christ is a "true myth." When Tolkien shared this concept with C.S. Lewis during an afternoon walk, Lewis felt "a rush of wind that came so suddenly," and within days proclaimed his belief in Christ, becoming one of Christianity's most effective apologists. (See also Tolkien's essay, On Fairy-Stories.)

Interview, New York Cit, December 4, 2002.

Read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by his son Christopher, also the Appendix that immediately follows the third part of the trilogy: The Return of the King.

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