Tolkien on Modernity, Part I

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Recently it was announced that an old reel-to-reel audio recording of a talk by J.R.R. Tolkien will be restored and released after having been kept from the public for many years. In 1958 Tolkien gave a speech at a dinner given in his honor in Rotterdam, which was attended by about two hundred enthusiasts of his mythology. The entire event was recorded and then forgotten about. Subsequently, the recording was found and then hoarded like part of Smaug’s treasure. Now it has been rescued from the clutches of the dragon and all are about to share in the fortune. It is a wonderful find, especially since it promises to reveal a few new insights about The Lord of the Rings.

It has long been known that a recording was made, but it was lost until 1993 when a collector named René van Rossenberg discovered it in a basement. Only now has he agreed to partner with several Tolkien fan sites to restore and release the recording.

What is extraordinary about the tape is that it contains the entire twenty-minute speech and gives an insightful look at the personality and character of the author. In the speech, Tolkien deals with the serious issues that he is passionate about, but in a playful manner. Tolkien speaks to his listeners as though he were Bilbo giving his farewell speech to the Hobbits of the Shire, though he shows much more insight about the evil of the Ring than Bilbo ever possessed. Indeed, Tolkien has much to say about the evils of modernity. Continue reading

Of Rabble Rousers, Crystal Gazers and the Internet

Steve Kellmeyer ruffles some feathers  here and here.

I am not sure how far he is to be taken literally in terms of the faithful’s right to lodge their concerns to their pastors.  On the other hand, he makes a simple and valid point that most of us have come to give way too much importance to the way we think the Church ought to be instead of fostering the unity of the Church by not habitually and publicly contradicting our pastors and undermining their authority.  Catholic orthodoxy/traditionalism has pretty effectively aped the rabble rousing progressives and felt banner wavers of the 60’s and 70’s.

The internet and social media, now a part of the fabric of our lives, seems to carry with it the assumption that somehow all of our opinions are important all the time.  The digital age also validates the idea that we can say anything we want and then slough off responsibility for having said it.

The internet is a quicksand of cultural exibitionism and voyeurism.  We Catholics have been suckered into it in the name of all that is holy. Continue reading

At weddings, funerals, first Communions . . .

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At weddings, funerals, first Communions and Confirmations, many priests will try to give some guidance on who may present themselves for Holy Communion. A while back, I made a passing remark that I found to be surprisingly effective. After explaining that it is practising Catholics, living in accord with the teaching of the Church and attending Sunday Mass every week who go to Communion, I added that there are always plenty of people who, for various reasons, cannot receive Communion and so there is no need to be embarrassed about remaining in the bench. My hunch was correct: at those public occasions, if you do not explain that there are required dispositions for Holy Communion, people will come up simply to be polite, in case it might be rude not to. Such is the result of our failing to educate the faithful on the proper dispositions for Holy Communion.

 

—Fr Timothy Finigan

Homily for the Memorial of St. Pius X

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Pius X, one of the great popes of the 20th century. He was born in 1835, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, and he grew up in poverty. His father was the village postman and little Giuseppe walked six kilometers to school everyday. This poverty characterized his whole life, and it was not just a matter of physical poverty. St. Pius X was a man who was truly poor in spirit. Our Lord said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Throughout his life as simple priest and Franciscan tertiary, then as bishop of Mantua, later as cardinal archbishop of Milan and finally as supreme pontiff of the universal Church, Giuseppe Sarto, remained a simple man and a lover of poverty. His last will and testament gives witness to this with the words: “I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor.”

Thus, this great man was single minded throughout his life and placed himself at the dispositions of Christ and His Church, without consideration for himself. This was his poverty in spirit. His whole life was to serve Christ and the Church.

Continue reading

Keven O’Brien on Chivalry

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Stand up for yourselves.  Don’t settle for loser boyfriends who can’t bring themselves to pop the question because they’re either too busy “discerning” or they’re secretly gay or hooked on porn.  Don’t settle for girlfriends who manipulate or tease you or who can’t be trusted or who won’t be there when you need them.  Don’t settle for turning your vocation into an avocation, for jobs that simply fill space and make your life comfortable but that don’t give you the chance to do what God has made you to do.  Don’t settle for an education that doesn’t force you to grapple with the deepest elements of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.  Don’t settle for a Mass that’s contrived, filled with bad music and insipid preaching.  Don’t settle for a parish that’s more anti-Christian than Christian.  Don’t settle for the safety of living in Mom’s basement. And don’t let anyone mess with your shows. When you find what you love, defend it, fight for it, die for it – and (most challenging of all) live for it. *** The greatest writer of the 20th Century, my patron in heaven, put it much better than I ever could (my emphasis) 

In every romance there must be the twin elements of loving and fighting. In every romance there must be the three characters: there must be the Princess, who is a thing to be loved; there must be the Dragon, who is a thing to be fought; and there must be St. George, who is a thing that both loves and fights. There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilization. But of all the signs of modern feebleness, of lack of grasp on morals as they actually must be, there has been none quite so silly or so dangerous as this: that the philosophers of today have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. [But] the two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust… but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human and unspoilt by any special sophistry,there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance. It comes upon a man especially in the great hour of youth; and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world. – G. K. Chesterton

Now on SpiritualDirection.com

Aside

Dan Burke from SpiritualDirection.com has invited me to write a series on “Mysticism and Magisterium.”  The first installment is up:  “Thinking with the Church.”

It is currently linked to on New Advent, and has been noted by Mark Shea and Terry Nelson.

I am grateful for this opportunity.  Thanks to Dan and Liz over at SpiritualDirection.com.

I will get back to my own series on the same subject.  I have not forgotten.  No, really.

Tolkien and Kevin O’brien on Chivalric Love

Read the whole thing. It is well worth it.

They speak of “shipwrecks” and “guiding stars.”  Men tend to look at women as guiding stars and women tend to think they can turn the men they love into knights in shining armor.  In reality, both men and women are “companions in shipwreck.”  Kevin points out that Tolkien’s view is both brutally realistic and at the same time wholly fair and charitable. Continue reading