Guest Post by Fra José Maria Barbin, FI: The Beautiful Struggle

I am pleased to post here an essay of one of our friars, Fra José Maria Barbin on the subject of the imagination and Marian Chivalry.  I am thoroughly in accord with his insights and am grateful for his contribution.

In conjunction with I can heartily recommend also the teaser videos of Kevin O’Brien and Joseph Pearce on Tolkien. The ETWN production, and the talents of Kevin and Mr. Pearce, make looks the $10 that they are asking look like robbery.

And now. . . 

The Beautiful Struggle: “Sanctifying the Imagination”

All things come from God; and above all, reason and imagination and the great gifts of the mind. They are good in themselves; and we must not altogether forget their origin even in their perversion.

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Is Tolkien’s Fantasy Gnostic?

I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

—J.R.R Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote the above in a letter to a lady in which he discussed Frodo’s attitude towards the weapons and war.  He was expressing his own skepticism about how much was possible to accomplish for the good of man through the force of arms.  In so doing he quoted a remark of Galadriel about Gandalf and how for many ages they had together “fought the long defeat.”

History often appears to be a long defeat and under its burden we may break, or we may just live for the day and damn the consequences, or we may fight like hell in spite of it all.  In any case, the “long defeat” itself may contain “the glimpse of victory” in spite of the fact that no such victory seems to be written into the historical circumstances we experience. Continue reading

Theology of the Head and Heart, Part II

(Part I can be found here.)

Theology of the Heart

Rereading Genesis in light of the spousal symbol in the Letter to the Ephesians enables us to grasp a truth which seems to determine in an essential manner the question of women’s dignity, and, subsequently, also the question of their vocation: the dignity of women is measured by the order of love, which is essentially the order of justice and charity (Mulieris Dignitatem, 29).

Clearly, the Theology of the Head enjoys the same primacy that faith does in respect to the other virtues, insofar as reason enlightened by faith provides the mean for all the other virtues and since without faith it is impossible to please God. Hence, man is to the family what faith is to the other virtues. Yet the dignity of women “measured by the order of love” suggests not only the virtue of obedience but the vocation to be the heart of the family, its core and center.

One here could enter into the debate of which ultimately has primacy, intellect or will, or as scholastics posed the question: In what does the essence of beatitude consist: the Intellectual vision of Infinite Truth or rest of the will in the Infinite Good? That debate is not going to be settled here.

Even so, the will does enjoy primacy in its own right when considered under the aspect of the perfection of virtue which is found in Charity, or what John Paul II calls in the above quote, “the order of love.” Knowledge leads to love. Love cannot be real unless it is based on truth, but if the apprehension of the truth does not lead to love, then such an apprehension is vain and sterile.

This primacy of love points to the reason why woman is the heart of the home, and the mother, the heart of the family. Woman is the guardian of the heart and hearth. Continue reading

Did Tolkien Object to Narnia on Doctrinal Grounds?

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Steve found this article some time ago and asked me to comment. It’s an extremely interesting topic to me, so I’ll give it a go.

If you are really interested in this topic you can also follow this thread on Mark Shea’s blog from last month. (I have a terrible time getting a link to Shea’s blog to work permanently . Follow the link provided above and then scroll down the page to An Interesting (and Pretty Persuasive) Essay on the Anti-Catholicism of C.S. Lewis and Why It Bugged Tolkien. There are about thirty comments.)

The article, by Eric Seddon, is entitled Letters to Malcolm and the Trouble with Narnia: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Their 1949 Crisis. Anyone who is familiar at all with the friendship of these two literary giants knows that while they both shared an appreciation for mythic literature and for much of each other’s literary work, Tolkien had no use whatsoever for The Chronicles of Narnia, and he made Lewis acutely aware of his distaste for it. In fact, Tolkien’s frankness on the matter seems to have put somewhat of a damper on their relationship, or at least was a contributing factor to its cooling. Continue reading