Is Tolkien a Saint? (reflection)

Into the West

A respect for western cultures, especially from the Middle Ages–this is something Tolkien obviously had. Catholicism had a way of bringing out the gifts in the several diverse cultures of the West, one of which Tolkien brought to life. This is something very different from the colonization seen after the Middle Ages. So, we can either continue to agree with the anti-Catholic propaganda from the 1500’s–the propaganda that said it was a dark age–or we can investigate this time period as Tolkien did and find that more good things happened than some would like to say.

This brings me to my grandpa. He’s dying. I have seen many men pass away in recent years. These men, like my grandpa, have integrity, faithfulness, respectfulness, and kindness as a significant part of their nature. I cannot tell you how important it is to have these men at the gates of the spiritual life. They don’t shove any advice on anyone. They encourage you to keep going. They help you when you need it.

I feel like this type of man is fast becoming extinct. It is truly difficult to feel a part of a community of faith without these men. Like the decay of western civilization, I see the loss of all that in this world that was once “green and good.” Men like my grandpa, however, exemplify the fellowship–those who are willing to bring goodness, authentic goodness in its variety, into the world–those who are willing to stop evil from overtaking honest to God goodness. Will these men stand up, or will we enter a dark age when the evil of the “ring” holds power and sway?

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo

In reading the commentary from Tolkien on “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” I felt encouraged to go to confession. When I read Sir Orfeo, I remembered that it is possible for men with honor to love their wives. Penance and hope through Tolkien. I can’t think of anything more saintly than encouraging someone to partake of the Sacraments.

Pippin and Merry

So then I was inspired to watch the trilogy again–you know the one–The Lord of the Rings. I came to the part in The Two Towers when Pippin tells Merry that they may as well go home to the Shire–they’ve got the Shire at least–it would be better than trying to fight these endless battles. Merry says, “All that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won’t be a shire, Pippin.” Merry knows that evil will even enter into their peaceful world. Doing nothing will take away any joy they know in this world. Tolkien won’t let me forget my calling, my armor, my shield, my love of God and my neighbor. I must persevere.


In other words, I can choose to do nothing good. I can watch evil just penetrate into every aspect of our culture. I can despair. I could be like Pippin and wish that my little Shire won’t feel the effects of evil. But, it’s just getting too awful out there. There are too many red flags. I have to continue to engage. I will undoubtedly lose some battles. But there is a chance I will win some, too. At the very least, I want to die in the good graces of God. Tolkien reminds me so.

Tolkien, an influential writer, a man, he encourages me to keep working for the sake of goodness, faithfulness, friendship, love. He reminds me to do this despite the despairing turn we’ve taken. Doesn’t that make him a Saint?

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The Choice between Common Courtesy and Virtue as seen through Sir Gawain (theme)

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In JRR Tolkien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the introduction to Sir Gawain contains some interesting thoughts. This introduction is taken from a radio broadcast Tolkien did in 1953. At one point  on the topic of Gawain, Tolkien says, “We see him at the crisis of action forced to distinguish in a scale of value the elements of his code, preserving his chastity, and his loyalty on the highest plane to his host; finally rejecting in fact (if not in empty words) absolute worldly ‘courtesy,’ that is, complete obedience to the will of the sovereign lady, rejecting it in favor of virtue.” In Tolkien’s mind, Gawain, a very flesh and blood character with very human weaknesses, shows the battle between being courteous versus being virtuous. And what is virtuous about Gawain? “The noblest knight of the highest order of Chivalry refuses adultery, places hatred of sin in the…

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Rest or stay busy, busy, busy? (quote)

“The whole of life goes on like this. We seek repose by battling against difficulties, and once they are overcome, repose becomes unbearable because of the boredom it engenders.”

“From these two opposite instincts arises a confused plan…”

–Pascal (Pensees, 168)

Perhaps it should be both rest and resourcefulness…

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Book Review (analysis and synthesis): Those Terrible Middle Ages! by Regine Pernoud

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Author: Regine Pernoud. A French woman who lived from 1909 to 1998. She was a Doctor of Literature, Archivist, Medievalist, Historian, Curator, and Writer.

Year Published: 1977, original in French

Reading Level: High-School. Students might need to prepare for the rhetorical use of sarcasm in non-fiction literature. In my opinion, Pernoud uses a tone of sarcasm to convey her incredulity about the misunderstandings that people have about the Middle Ages, especially since she lived in France with other Frenchmen who can’t help but walk amongst the relics of that time. Students should also be given some background knowledge on the use of categories. For instance, Pernoud’s use of the term “High Middle Ages” is different from what other educators conceive as the “High Middle Ages.”

Morality Level: This is a non-fiction work. Since this is a book on history, the inquiry by the students should be on the level of…

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