Monday, February 28, 2011








TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 28: MARK 10: 17- 27



VATICAN CITY, 27 FEB 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - At midday today Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

He commented on today's reading from the Prophet Isaiah who, consoling Jerusalem afflicted by calamities says: "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you".

This phrase, said the Pope, is "a call to trust in the indefectible love of God", as is the episode in the Gospel of St. Matthew in which Jesus exhorts His disciples "to trust in the providence of the heavenly Father, Who nourishes the birds of the air, clothes the lilies of the field and knows our every need. Thus the Master says: 'Do not worry, saying: What will we drink? or: What will we wear? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things?'

"Faced with the situation of so many people who, near and far, live in dire poverty, these words of Jesus may seem unrealistic, even evasive", the Holy Father added. "Yet in fact the Lord wants us to understand clearly that we cannot serve two masters: God and money. Those who believe in God, the Father full of love for His children, give priority to seeking His Kingdom and His will. This is the exact opposite of fatalism. ... Faith in Providence, does not, in fact, dispense us from the arduous struggle of living a dignified life, but frees us from our attachment to things and our fear of the morrow".

And he went on: "Clearly this teaching of Jesus, while it remains true and valid for everyone, is practiced in different ways depending on our different vocations: A Franciscan friar may follow it more radically, while a family man will have to take account of his duties towards his wife and children. Yet in all cases Christians stand out for their absolute faith in the heavenly Father, just like Jesus" Who "showed us what it means to live with our feet firmly planted on the ground, attentive to the real situation of our neighbours and, at the same time, with our hearts in heaven, immersed in God's mercy".

Finally the Pope called on the Virgin Mary to intercede "that we may all learn to live a more simple and sober life, working hard every day and respecting the creation which God entrusted to our care".

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VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - At midday today Benedict XVI received participants in the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life, led by their new president, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula. IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA

The question of post-abortion syndrome, which is being examined by the assembly, reveals, said the Pope "the irrepressible voice of moral conscience and the terrible wound it suffers each time a human action betrays the human being's innate vocation to good".

"In your reflections it would also be helpful to focus attention on the sometimes-clouded conscience of the children's fathers, who often abandon pregnant women", he explained. "Moral conscience has the duty to discern good from evil in the various situations of life so that, on the basis of this judgement, human beings can freely orient themselves towards what is good. To people who would deny the existence of moral conscience in man, reducing its voice to the result of external conditioning or to a purely emotive phenomenon, it is important to highlight that the moral nature of human action is not an extrinsic or optional value, nor is a prerogative only of Christians and believers; rather, it unites all mankind. Through moral conscience God speaks to each of us, inviting us to defend human life at all times, and in this personal bond with the Creator lies the profound dignity of moral conscience and the reason for its inviolability".

"Doctors", the Holy Father went on, "must not fail in their serious duty to ensure that women's consciences are not tricked into believing that abortion will resolve family, economic and social difficulties, or the health problems of their child. In this latter situation in particular, women are often convinced, at times by the doctors themselves, that abortion represents not only a morally acceptable choice but even a 'therapeutic' act necessary to avoid suffering for the child and its family, and to remove an 'unjust' burden from society. In a cultural context characterised by an eclipse of the meaning of life, in which the shared perception of the moral gravity of abortion and others forms of attacks against human life has been attenuated, doctors are called to show particular fortitude in continuing to affirm that abortion resolves nothing; rather it kills the child, destroys the woman and blinds the conscience of the child's father, often devastating family life.

"However", the Pope added, "this duty concerns not only the medical profession and healthcare workers; society as a whole must defend the conceived child's right to life and the true good of the woman who can never, in any circumstances, find fulfilment in the decision to abort. In the same way it is important ... to ensure that the necessary help is not lacking for women who, having unfortunately already chosen the path of abortion, are now experiencing all its moral and existential consequences. There are initiatives, at a diocesan level or by individual volunteer organisations, which offer psychological and spiritual support for a full recovery. The solidarity of the Christian community must not abandon this kind of shared responsibility".

The Pope then turned his attention to the second question being examined by the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life: the use of stem cells from the umbilical cord.

"This has important clinical applications", he said, "and is a promising form of scientific research; however its realisation depends to a large extent on the generosity of donating cord blood at the moment of childbirth, and on adapting structures in order to make the mothers' desire to donate viable. I invite you, then, to promote genuine and well-informed human and Christian solidarity", he said.

In closing Benedict XVI referred to the concern of many researchers regarding the increasing number of private cord blood banks for autologous use. "This option", he said, "apart from having no greater scientific merit than the donation of cord blood, weakens that genuine spirit of solidarity which must constantly animate the search for that common good, towards which, in the final analysis, science and medical research are striving".

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VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope addressed to His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir for the occasion of his resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.

The Holy Father notes how "the year consecrated to the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron is drawing to a close. The Maronite Church has experienced a period of grace in this exceptional Jubilee Year, which has also been the coronation of your own service for the greater glory of God and for the good of all your faithful".

"For nearly twenty-five years", Benedict XVI writes, "you worked with your two predecessors in the See of Antioch before being elected by the Synod to succeed them on 19 April 1986. ... You began your noble ministry of patriarch of the Maronites amidst the torment of the war which bloodied the face of Lebanon for so many years. With the ardent desire for peace in your country, you led the Church and travelled the world to console those obliged to emigrate. Finally, peace returned, ever fragile but still extant".

The Holy Father recalls John Paul II's visit to Beirut in 1997 to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "A new hope for Lebanon" which, Pope Benedict writes, "re-emphasised your Church's constant bond with Peter's Successor". The Letter also mentions Cardinal Sfeir's participation in the 2010 Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, as president delegate "ad honorem".

"You have chosen to resign from your office as patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in this special circumstance, and I accept your free and magnanimous decision as an expression of great humility and profound detachment", says the Pope. "I am sure", he concludes, "that you will always accompany the journey of the Maronite Church with your prayers, your wise counsel and your sacrifice".

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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2011 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"Today, Monday 28 February, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Jerzey Buzek, president of the European Parliament. The president subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"The discussions, which took place in a cordial atmosphere, provided an opportunity for a fruitful exchange of opinions concerning relations between the Catholic Church, the European Parliament and other European institutions, as well as the contribution the Church can make to the Union.

"In the course of the meeting attention also turned to questions of current affairs, such as commitment to promoting religious freedom and the protection of Christian minorities in the world".

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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications who are currently meeting to reflect on the question of language and new technology.

The Pope noted how "ideas and relations are always part of the modality of language, understood, naturally, in a broad and not only a verbal sense". In this context he affirmed that "the new languages being developed in digital communications lead, among other things, to capacities that are more intuitive and emotional than analytical, tending towards a different logical organisation of our ideas and our relationship with reality, often privileging images and hypertextual links".

"The risks involved are, of course, visible to everyone: the loss of inner depth, superficiality in relationships, the flight into emotionalism, the prevalence of the most convincing opinion over the desire for truth. This is the consequence of an incapacity to experience, fully and authentically, the significance of the new innovations, and hence the vital importance of reflecting on the languages developed by modern technology".

Going on then to refer to "digital culture" and the challenges the ecclesial and civil communities have to face in this field, the Holy Father highlighted how "it is not just a question of expressing the Gospel message in modern language, but also of having the courage to give more profound consideration, as happened in other ages, to the relationship between the faith, the life of the Church and the transformations mankind is experiencing". Whence arises "the importance of helping people in positions of responsibility in the Church to understand, interpret and speak the 'new language' of the mass media in their pastoral functions, interacting with the modern world and asking themselves what challenges does so-called 'digital thought' place before faith and theology? What questions does it raise, what requirements does it impose?"

After then highlighting how "digital culture challenges our capacity to speak and listen to a symbolic language of transcendence", the Pope noted that "today we are called to discover, also in digital culture, symbols and significant metaphors which may be of help in speaking of the Kingdom of God to modern man".

"The appeal to spiritual values", the Pope concluded, "will facilitate the promotion of a truly human form of communication. Over and above any facile enthusiasm or scepticism, we know that this is a response to the call imprinted into our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of the God of communion. ... The contribution made by believers can, then, be useful to the world of the mass media, opening horizons of meaning and value which digital culture alone is incapable of seeing or representing".

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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2011 (VIS) - Holy Father today received in separate audiences three prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo O.M.I. of Cotabato, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin M. Bagaforo.

- Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla of Davao.

On Saturday 26 February he received in separate audiences:

- Seven prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Emmanuel T. Cabajar C.SS.R. of Pagadian.

- Bishop Juan de Dios M. Pueblos of Butuan.

- Bishop Jose A. Cabantan of Malaybalay.

- Bishop Antonieto D. Cabajog of Surigao.

- Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar of Tandag.

- Bishop Romulo T. de la Cruz of Kidapawan.

- Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez of Marbel.

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, as a counsellor of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

- Appointed Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal de La Habana, Cuba, as a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Riobamba, Ecuador, presented by Bishop Victor Alejandro Corral Mantilla, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Stefano Di Pinto, official of the Office of Pension Funds, as director of the same office.

- Appointed Stefano Loreti, bureau chief in the Ordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), as director for a five-year period of APSA's "Area for Controlling Management and Procedures".

- Appointed Francesco Anastasi, official of the Extraordinary Section of APSA, as bureau chief of the Ordinary Section of APSA.

- Appointed Roberto Carulli and Stefano Lori, officials of the Ordinary Section of APSA, as bureau chiefs in the Extraordinary Section of APSA.

On Saturday 26 February it was made public that the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon, presented by Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, in accordance with canon 126 para.2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.


ASIA NEWS REPORT: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that at least 100,000 foreign workers have fled the country. Many of the refugees are from Asian nations. Beijing has evacuated about 30,000 of its citizens. Filipino authorities are criticising for acting late.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said a "humanitarian emergency" was developing in Libya as thousands of people fled the North African country, scene of a popular uprising against the 40-year-old rule of Muammar Kaddafi. The UN agency said that at least 100,000 foreign workers left the strife-torn country by air, land and sea. Many of the escapees are from Asia, trying to get out by any means. Some have left thanks to rescue operations by their governments.

Two ferries docked late Sunday with some 300 people on the small Mediterranean island of Malta, which has become a key hub in the desperate scramble to get foreigners out of Libya.

Malta's Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said his island nation had received some 8,000 people since the Libyan crisis began and he feared that an even greater exodus could lead to a disaster.

Earlier a ferry arrived in Malta loaded with some 1,800 Asian workers, including citizens of China, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, many more are left in the country. Foreign governments have prepared evacuation plans, but fighting between government troops and rebels are making rescue operations difficult.

Libya is one of the world’s largest oil producers. Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are employed in the oil industry or construction. Many are also domestic workers.

China said it had evacuated nearly 29,000 of its nationals from Libya. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said around 2,500 Chinese citizens had already returned home and 23,000 more had been sent to Greece, Malta, Tunisia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, where they were waiting to board flights home. An additional 3,400 had left Libya aboard ships and were making their way to Greece, it added.

So far, Nepal welcomed home about 2,000 of its national, many suffering from malnutrition after going nine days without food. However, other groups of Nepalis do not have the right papers or the money to buy a ticket. Hundreds are lost somewhere in Libya after their papers were burnt during rebel attacks against companies controlled by the government.

India has also proceeded to repatriate its citizens. Indian authorities organised two flights to bring back about 500 of the 18,000 Indians in Libya. New Delhi also dispatched three warships to help with the evacuation. A passenger ferry arrived in the eastern city of Benghazi to take Indian evacuees to Alexandria in Egypt, from where they will be flown home.

Mohammed Sali, the first Indian to make it back home, told the BBC that he was robbed of all his possessions at knifepoint as he reached Tripoli airport.

Hundreds of workers from Vietnam and Philippines crossed into neighbouring Algeria.

About 900 Vietnamese have made it home; another 4,000 are on their way. Vietnamese authorities said that almost 7,500 of its citizens will have left Libya by Wednesday.

Manila also began repatriating its nationals. However, critics at home have lambasted the government for its slow reaction to the crisis. The Filipino Embassy in Tripoli organised convoys, one carrying 550 Filipinos to Tunisia.

The Foreign Ministry in Manila announced that 1,877 Filipinos out of 26,000 working in the country were able to get out. Labour groups retorted that at least 30,000 Filipinos were working in Libya, saying that government figures were out of date.

At least 4,000 out of 60,000 workers from Bangladesh reached the borders with Egypt and Tunisia. A Chinese company brought 800 Bangladeshi to Crete by sea.

“The government has not evacuated any Bangladeshi workers so far. But we have all preparations ready if the situation worsens," a government minister said.

In the meantime, some 30 South Koreans managed to get out on board a Turkish army vessel. According to South Korea authorities, at least 500 South Koreans are still thought to be in Libya.

The Sveti Stefan II, a ship chartered by Russian businesses operating in Libya, picked up 1,126 people, as a Russian emergency situations ministry plane flew to Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign ministry said on Sunday that it had sent a military cargo plane to Libya to repatriate 125 nationals who were rescued after being held hostage in Tripoli. (D.S.)

(Kalpit Parajuli contributed to the article)


CATHOLIC ONLINE REPORT: Film Underscores the Power of Forgiveness

When Mac McDonald loses his son in an accident, the ensuing 17 years of bitterness and pain erodes his love for his family and leaves him angry with God ... and just about everyone else. Every day, we have the opportunity to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God's grace. Offer THE GRACE CARD ... and never underestimate the power of God's love.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - At a time when anger seems to be more and more the norm in our culture, the new film from GraceWorks Pictures in conjunction with Calvary Pictures, "The Grace Card," shows the healing power of forgiveness that can have dramatic impact on others as well.

The summary of the film from the producers states that "when Mac McDonald loses his son in an accident, the ensuing 17 years of bitterness and pain erodes his love for his family and leaves him angry with God ... and just about everyone else.

"Mac's rage stonewalls his career in the police department and makes for a combustible situation when he's partnered with Sam Wright, a rising star on the force who happens to be a part-time pastor and a loving family man.

"Mac's home life is as frightening as anything he encounters on the streets of Memphis. Money is tight and emotions run high as he constantly argues with his wife and his surviving son Blake, who is hanging with the wrong crowd and in danger of flunking out of school.

"Sam Wright also never expected to be a police officer. He has a calling-to be a minister like his Grandpa George. But leading a small, start-up church doesn't always put enough food on the table for a young family, so Sam doubles as a police officer. With his new promotion to Sergeant, Sam starts questioning if his real calling might actually be police work rather than the pastorate.

"Can Mac and Sam somehow join forces to help one another when it's impossible for either of them to look past their differences-especially the most obvious one?

"Every day, we have the opportunity to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God's grace. Offer THE GRACE CARD ... and never underestimate the power of God's love."

Christine Schult of Catholic Media Review ( strongly endorses this film on forgiveness. "It was actually disturbing to see how Mac impacts those around him," she writes, "his wife, his son and his partner. Both Mac and Sam are missing something in their life; Mac has shut God out of his life for a long time, and Sam begins to doubt his calling as a pastor.

"Sam relies on his faith, and guidance from his grandfather George (Louis Gossett Jr.), but it takes a tragic incident to provide the impetus for change that Mac needs in his life.

"I've reviewed quite a few movies that emphasize forgiveness, but The Grace Card brought it to a whole new level. The ending is especially emotional, and unexpected.

"A very good movie worth seeing."

While veteran reviewer Phil Boatright ( finds the film a little lacking he also sees it as a worthwhile project to support. "Well, it's a drama alright. It includes the death of a child, bigotry, family squabbles, a son doing drugs, and financial problems. What it doesn't always have is finesse. Rather, the script and some of the performances are heavy-handed and transparent.

"What saves it from being a well-meaning "church" film is the gentle insertion of spiritual themes. A preacher's sermon concerning love and another about the power of grace are both sincere and enlightening. Ultimately uplifting, it is worth supporting."

Christian leaders from various of traditions have given the film high marks. For more information, you can visit the movie site at


CATH NEWS REPORT: Priests will be the key teachers and explainers of the newly translated parts of the Mass in Australian parishes, Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton told the Record.

Bishop Sproxton, who heads Perth's Archdiocesan Implementation Committee, said that while most of the changes are perfectly understandable, with some "elevated language" priests must help the faithful understand the theology behind the new texts.

For example, when the congregation says that Jesus Christ is "consubstantial with the Father" rather than "of one being" with the Father in the Nicene Creed, "that's up to the priest to give a catechesis on that word".

The Bishop dismissed notions that such phrases are unnecessary as they are not "the language of the street".

"Instead of that idea - that theological point - being lost, here's an opportunity now for it to be explained.""[Consubstantial] is a difficult term but it is a theological term; so it's not a question of English, it's a question of theology," he said.

"I'm quite happy for priests to express reservations about certain aspects of the translations, because even those who were involved in the project had some reservations about some decisions that were made. But that doesn't mean it's a bad thing," he said.

"I can't think of anyone who will dig in his heels and say 'I'm not going to do it'. That hasn't been voiced here. I'm confident that they'll just do the best for the sake of their people, that they'll want their people to experience this in a seamless way.

"Even before the project began when I was a priest, I noticed that when you compare the (pre-1974 Latin Mass) to the English there's an awful lot not in that English prayer, and I thought that was selling us short.

"We weren't getting that whole content of what that Latin was giving, so I think it's great we've got a text which is much closer to that Latin - not because it's Latin but because of the nature of the prayer, the theological and spiritual content of the prayer, which is now accessible to us through this translation."

A new website,, will be launched by March to help parishes, communities and individuals implement the new translations.


UCAN REPORT: More than 1,100 people attended anniversary commemoration
Postulate General Father Giovangiuseppe Califano praying at the tomb of Servant of God Sr. Rani Maria

A Vatican official visited the tomb of Franciscan Clarist Sister Rani Maria in central India on February 26, on the 16th anniversary of her “martyrdom.”

Capuchin Father Giovangiuseppe Califano, postulator general for the Beatification Causes of Saints, visited Udainagar in Madhya Pradesh as part of the murdered nun’s canonization process.

Hired killer, Samunder Singh, stabbed the nun as she was traveling to Indore on a bus in 1995. Her work among poor landless people had angered several landowners, one of whom hired Singh to kill her.

Franciscan Clarist Sister Bincy Theresa, an external collaborator for the canonization cause who accompanied the Vatican official from Rome, said he visited sites where Sister Maria worked, lived and died.

A diocesan tribunal, set up by late bishop George Anathil of Indore, submitted a 10,000-page report to the congregation in 2007.

The Vatican congregation has given juridical validity to the diocesan tribunal findings and appointed Father Daniel Ols as the relater to “take the process further,” Sister Theresa said.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, who heads the Church in the state, led the ceremonies on the 16th anniversary of her martyrdom.

He prayed that Sister Maria’s death could help local people understand Christianity and its services to the poor.

More than 1,100 people from across the state, mostly nuns and priests, attended the event at Udainagar where Sister Maria was killed.

Father Santosh Tigga, the local parish priest, said people in the area accept the Church and appreciate its work. “There is no threat from anybody now,” he said.

The priest said people now call Sister Maria, “Rani [queen] of Udainagar.”

Her killer, Singh, who converted to Christianity while serving a 12-year jail term, also came to pray at Sister Maria’s tomb.

She was a holy person and “Udainagar would never forget her services to the poor,” he said.


IND. CATH. NEWS REPORT: More knowledgeable people than me have written prodigiously about JRR Tolkien. I rashly accepted your invitation to give this talk about Tolkien's hidden story, not because I have anything original to say, but in scratching the surface of interest it might stimulate those who read this to go deeper: As Tolkien’s great friend, CS Lewis put it in “The Last Battle”:

"Welcome, in the lion's name. Come further up and further in....the further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside."

David Alton: Tolkien's Hidden Story (text & audio) | David Alton. Tolkien's Hidden Story, Tolkein, CS Lewis

JRR Tolkien

Later, as we go deeper and further in, I want to say more about that friendship and the links between the two men. They had a huge amount in common - both experienced great suffering, the pain of early bereavement and the traumas of the trenches: and those experiences and their faith were given expression in their books.

Half a century after their deaths, the books of both men continue to sell in phenomenal numbers. The Lord of the Rings has sold 150 million copies worldwide.

The famous opening line of The Hobbit , “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” paved the way for “The Lord of the Rings”, which followed in 1954. The trilogy has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide . Voted Amazon’s Best Book of the Century in 1997; it subsequently emerged as the most popular work of fiction in surveys by Waterstones and Channel Four. Peter Jackson’s magnificent screen adaptation, and critically acclaimed film trilogy, has further popularised the saga of Middle Earth.

Some of Tolkien’s best known short stories include “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” (1962) “Leaf by Niggle” (1964), “Smith of Wooton Major” (1967) and “Farmer Giles of Ham” (1949).

Following Tolkien’s death, in 1973, his youngest son, Christopher, who, like his father, became a philologist and taught Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Old Norse at Oxford, posthumously published “The Silmarillion”(1977); and then, between 1983 and 1997, his twelve-volume “History of Middle Earth” ; and, in April 2007, “The Children of Hurin.”

Often called “the father of high fantasy” Tolkien weaves together a connected world of fictional histories, mythology, legend, poems and tales linked to imaginary realms, such as Middle Earth. His letters were edited and published in 1981 by his principal biographer, Humphrey Carpenter. In 1998 Joseph Pearce published “Tolkien Man and Myth” and in 2003 came Stratford Caldecott’s “Secret fire: The Spiritual Vision of JRRTolkien”.

Countless people have become devotees of Tolkien’s books. If readers simply see the books as fantasies about Middle Earth they are both missing the hidden stories and misunderstanding the motives and intentions of the man who wrote them.

I want this evening to talk about three things:

Who was JRR Tolkien?
What influences formed him; and
What he believed.

So who was JRR Tolkien?

Born in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State, in 1892, his father died in 1896, and his mother returned to England, to the Midlands. Her conversion to Catholicism led to her repudiation by her mixed Baptist, Unitarian and Anglican relatives. She was reduced to poverty.

In 1903 Tolkien obtained a scholarship to King Edward’s, Birmingham, and in 1904, after his mother’s death, he was shunted between relatives until a lodging was found for him by an Oratorian priest, Father Francis Morgan, who was his legal guardian.

While at King Edward’s, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith and Christopher Wiseman formed a secret society which they called the “TCBS” – the acronym meaning “Tea Club and Barrovian Society”. The name had its origins in their fondness for drinking tea at the nearby Barrow’s Stores and, illicitly, in the library of their school.

From King Edward’s, Tolkien won an exhibition to Exeter College, Oxford in 1910, and graduated with First Class Honours in 1915.

He showed early promise as a philologist and gifted linguist with a remarkable facility to decode ancient languages. He used these gifts in scholarship and in prose. In 1966, in the last decade of his life, he was one of those who worked on the translation that became the Jerusalem Bible.

The friends of the TCBS stayed in touch after leaving school, meeting at Wiseman’s London home in 1914 for a “Council.” In many respects the TCBS was a forerunner of the Kolbitar (Coalbiters) which Tolkien would form at Oxford in 1925 – and which was devoted to reading Icelandic sagas. Lewis attended their meetings and from this fellowship of friends would finally emerge the Inklings in the 1930s.

In Birmingham Tolkien had met Edith Bratt, with whom he fell in love; he also commenced his practice of daily Mass attendance, which he continued throughout his life.

Fr Morgan counselled him not to rush into marriage but, having been commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers, he feared that he might be killed. He and Edith, who was received into the Catholic Church, married in 1916.

After seeing action in the Somme, acting as Battalion Signalling Officer – and, having contracted trench fever, Tolkien spent the rest of the war as an invalid.

The news from his friends in the TCBS was bleak. On July 15, 1916, Geoffrey Smith wrote to tell Tolkien of Rob Gilson's death: 

My Dear John Ronald, 

I saw in the paper this morning that Rob has been killed. I am safe but what does that matter? Do please stick to me, you and Christopher. I am very tired and most frightfully depressed at this worst news. Now one realises in despair what the TCBS really was. 

O my dear John Ronald what ever are we going to do? Yours ever. G BS.

Five months later, Christopher Wiseman wrote to Tolkien to say that Smith had died in a mission. Just before seeing this final action Smith wrote these words to Tolkien: “My chief consolation is that if I am scuppered tonight - I am off on duty in a few minutes - there will still be left a member of the great TCBS to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the TCBS. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four! A discovery I am going to communicate to Rob before I go off tonight. And do you write it also to Christopher. May God bless you my dear John Ronald and may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them if such be my lot.” – Yours ever, GBS.

Like Lewis, and so many of his generation, Tolkien was deeply affected by World War One and the death of his friends.

As his closest intimates were cut down, it put an end to the circle of friends and, challenged by Smith’s haunting words: “may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them”, Tolkien began to write his epic mythology on a notebook entitled "The Book of Lost Tales." The tales would come to be known as “The Silmarillion.”

At the end of the War, Tolkien spent two years working for the Oxford English Dictionary, before being appointed, in 1920, aged 28, as Professor of English Language at Leeds University – a post he would hold until 1925 and translation to Oxford as Professor of Anglo-Saxon.

In 1929, while marking examination papers, he started to jot down some words for a story to read to his children – of whom there were now four: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. Tolkien would later say of himself: “I am in fact a Hobbit, in all but size…I like gardens, trees…I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking…”

“The Hobbit” was completed in 1936, published in 1937, and then, with the encouragement of Lewis and the other Inklings – and WH Auden, with whom he was in contact – the epic of the Ring had begun. The trilogy would be published between 1954 and 1955.

What do we know of the faith that underpinned Tolkien’s fiction?

All the elements, from the genesis and "the great music" of “The Silmarillion” to the awesome climax at Mount Doom, take us from the alpha of creation to the omega of judgement. This is a story that exists for itself.

Tolkien tells us that:

“The Lord of The Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision”. Elsewhere he states "I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories), and in fact a Roman Catholic" (ibid.). In 1958 he wrote that The Lord of the Rings is "a tale, which is built on or out of certain 'religious' ideas, but is not an allegory of them."

So this is more than allegory, much, much more; what, then, were those "certain 'religious' ideas" that inspired Tolkien?

Consider some of the themes and the characters who populate his work:

In the Lady Galadriel, for instance, the reader can be allowed to hear an echo of the Virgin Mary "Our Lady, upon which all my own small perceptions of beauty, both in majesty and simplicity is founded" (letter to Fr Robert Murray SJ); Galadriel's grand-daughter, Arwen, also has a Marian role, saving both Frodo's life and soul as she utters the words - not in the original text but crafted by Peter Jackson, who in his use of the word grace makes a more explicitly religious statement than even Tolkien himself -
"What grace is given me, let it pass to him. Let him be spared."

Galadriel bestows upon the Fellowship seven mystical gifts, which are surely analogous to the seven sacraments, and as such are real signs of grace, and not mere symbols (and hence this is a specifically Catholic feature of the book).

Aragorn has Christ-like qualities; he has a kingdom to come into, a bride to wed. One powerful image that is very powerful is that of the “Hands of the Healer” – in the Houses of Healing, Aragorn, the King, has the ability to heal people by touching them with his hands. Another King had the touch that healed Jairus daughter, the centurion's servant, the lepers, the blind man and the sick who were lowered through the roof at Capaernum.

Aragorn, Gandalf, and Frodo all have Christ like marks - with Aragorn the king entering his kingdom, the return of whom everyone is expecting; the apparent “resurrection” of Gandalf after he dies fighting the Balrog they meet on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum; or Boromir's surrender of his life for his friends in order to save his companions (made all the more remarkable because of his earlier attempt to seize the ring by force and by his subsequent repentance); and Frodo's willingness both to serve and to carry his burden.

Then there is the provision of lembas, in which we can see the Holy Eucharist. Before the Fellowship depart from Lorien they have a final supper where the mystical elvish bread lembas is shared, and they all drink from a common cup. The immortal elves are nourished by the lembas, the mystical bread - the bread of angels - which both nourishes and heals.

Lembas, we are told, "had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone, and did not mingle it with other goods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure." This allusion reminds us of the manna that fed the people of Israel and of saints such as Theresa Neumann who survived by eating nothing other than the holy Eucharist.

Given Tolkien's remark that "I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again" some comparison with the Last Supper is inevitable. And it would be strange if Tolkien's tryst with the saving bread was not somewhere replicated in his great saga.

Beyond these individual instances are far deeper stories with the story.

Take for instance, the endless contest between good and evil.

In 1956 in a letter to Amy Ronald he wrote: "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."

As the ring bearer struggles towards his destiny many die before the evil forces of Sauron are at last subdued; and even then Saruman remains at large in the Shire.

The constant presence of Sauron that is felt throughout the book also reminds us of the constant threat of evil in our own lives. Frodo and Gandalf both understand that if they use the ring to overcome the Dark Lord then they too will become enslaved by evil. For the Christian the use of evil to overcome evil is a frequent temptation.

The general weakness of humanity (which can be taken to cover not only mankind, but all creatures in The Lord of the Rings) reminds us that humanity is fundamentally good, but that those who fall turn to evil. All that is evil was once good – Elrond says, “Nothing was evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.” In this commentary and in the fallen orcs – which were themselves once elves – we see the story of the fall.

Temptation appears first in The Hobbit as the travellers are warned as they enter Mirkwood, don't drink the water and don't stray from the path. How like all of us, the descendants of Adam, who when urged not to eat at the forbidden tree or not to stray from Him who is the Way we so often follow our own path.

By contrast, Frodo's self-sacrifice and willingness to take on seemingly impossible odds reflects a central tenet of Christian belief.

The temptation of the Serpent is reflected in Boromir’s temptation by the Ring, as well as in Gollum’s. In Gollum we also see the idea of a conscience – he fights with himself and with his conscience while he is being tempted. The theologian Colin Gunton was of the opinion that the way in which the Ring tempts people to use its power is analogous to Jesus' temptation by the devil.

Other aspects of evil also recur in the book. The destructive nature of evil is there in the Scouring of the Shire, and in the way in which Saruman’s troops destroy the trees and the timeless quality of Shire life, something especially abhorrent to Tolkien. The orcs themselves are cannibals, and are hideous – showing how evil corrupts. The dark and barren lands of Mordor are the very face of evil.

Connected with this is the self-destructive nature of evil.

After Gollum falls to the power of the Ring, he is consumed by its power, and he becomes weakened to such an extent that he can no longer resist it. Even getting close to evil has a subverting effect: take Bilbo's reluctance to give up the Ring, and its disappearance from the mantle piece and reappearance in his pocket. Or, despite his epic and heroic journey into darkness, Frodo ultimately fails to throw the ring into the furnace. Here is the powerful mixture of the intoxicating allure of the forbidden with our human weakness and frailty.

In this part of the narrative we are also reminded of the Christian virtue of mercy. Sam would have gladly disposed of Gollum whom he sees as a threat to Frodo. Gandalf commends Frodo for showing mercy and invokes the belief in providence that even Gollum may one day have his moment. As the ring is committed to the depths that providence comes to pass.

Tolkien's epic also dwells on unlikely victories over seemingly intractable and daunting odds such as at Helm's Deep. Even when evil appears to be triumphing – such as when Saruman gloats over what he considers to be the foolhardiness of Aragorn’s troops as they march towards Mordor, he is defeated by them.

Evil also brings with it desolation and barrenness.

Contrast the destruction of Isengard, and the brutality of the orcs, with the simple homely life of the Shire - so resonant of GK Chesterton's Merrie England – Chesterton, who had such a significant effect on the thinking and work of Tolkien and Lewis.

Contrast also the creativity of Iluvatar, the One, and his first creations, the Ainur, the Holy Ones, with Melkor, "the greatest of the Ainur" who, like Lucifer, falls as he succumbs to the sin of pride and seeks to subvert both men and elves (“The Silmarillion”). William Barclay said "pride is the ground in which all other sins grow, and the parent from which all other sins come."

Tolkien presents another side of evil too – the fact that inherent in evil is the desire to dominate, rule and have power over others.

There are other images in the book, which, while not being specifically Christian, are certainly images of good, or of bad. One fundamental image that Tolkien repeatedly uses is that of dark and light. Compare and contrast, for example, The Shire and Mordor (“where the shadows lie”) – The Shire which contains so much of the England Tolkien loved, and Mordor, the dark and sinister land where Sauron and Mount Doom are to be found, and which contains so much of the England that Tolkien hated.

Compare also the man-eating trolls and orcs with the elves – the disfigured (fallen) creatures and the beautiful and immortal elves.

Even in his use of names Tolkien's sign posts take us to places and people that seem good or bad – Galadriel, Aragorn, Frodo and Arwen are beautiful-sounding names, whereas Wormtongue, the Balrog, Mordor and Mount Doom are unlikely to be forces for good.

Tolkien is too good a storyteller to reveal the end of the story too soon. Just like John Bunyan's Christian, the pilgrim must steer his way through good and evil and although learning as he travels that evil is powerful, he learns, too, that it is not all-powerful, and it cannot but fail in the end.

The narrative also deals with, death, immortality and resurrection.

In 1958, in a letter to Rhona Beare, Tolkien wrote: "I might say that if the tale is 'about' anything it is not as seems widely supposed about 'power.' …It is mainly concerned with Death and Immortality."

One of the great temptations of today - represented in the battles over euthanasia, genetics and the immortality craved for through genetics and cloning - is the powerful temptation (shared by some of the men and elves of Tolkien's realm) to artificially manipulate our allotted span of life and to usurp the role of the Creator. The Ring Rhyme that opens each volume of The Lord of the Rings reminds us of the order of Creation and that we cannot cheat our maker:

"Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die…"

The Silmarillion puts it like this:

"Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought evil out of good and fear out of hope."

Resurrection – and a life beyond the present - is evoked as Gandalf dies and then comes back again even stronger as Gandalf the White.

His transformation also tells us something about the Christian idea of justice, which is at the heart of the book. Everyone gets what they deserve in the end. Saruman starts off as Saruman the White, but following his fall, ends up as Saruman of Many Colours. The order of “rank” in the wizard hierarchy holds white as the highest, followed by grey and then brown; they almost sound like orders of monks and friars. Conversely, after his fight with the Balrog, Gandalf, initially Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White and justice is done.

Here, too, is salvation.

The very future of Middle Earth is at stake, and it is the Fellowship which wins salvation for Middle Earth, although not without cost, including self-sacrifice. How potent are the words of Jesus as we think of Boromir or Gandalf that “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends”.

Repentance should also be mentioned here; the Christian notion of repentance clearly exists in Middle Earth. Boromir is rewarded for his repentance by dying a hero’s death by an orc’s arrow and being given a hero’s funeral. All of the fallen characters are given a chance to repent, although most of them– such as Wormtongue, Gollum and Saruman - unlike Boromir, do not.

Like Lewis, Tolkien reminds us of the destructive sin of pride: the Ring itself frequently represents the sin of pride.

Providence and free will - main tenets of Christianity – are here, too.

Catholic teaching on free will has always rejected pre-deterministic Calvinism, where no one has any influence over their destiny. The free men of the Middle Earth and the hobbits of the Shire are greatly in evidence in The Lord of the Rings.

Each of us has a destiny and we are free to embrace it or to reject it.

Cardinal John Henry Newman put it well when he said that there is some unique task assigned to each of us that has not been assigned to any other. The challenge is to discern it.

Newman’s prayer on “Purpose” sums up an approach to Christian theology and practice which Tolkien was both familiar with and would have shared.

Newman also said this about the use of gifts:

“What are great gifts but the correlative of great work? We are not born for ourselves, but for our kind, for our neighbours, for our country: it is but selfishness, indolence, a perverse fastidiousness, an unmanliness, and no virtue or praise, to bury our talent in a napkin.”

So we each have unique talents and a unique destiny.

Elrond tells Frodo that it is his destiny to be a ring bearer; but this is no pleasurable occupation. Frodo, like Christ, takes up his cross.

Throughout the quest Frodo's strength in increasingly sapped by the burden he carries and of which he seeks to be rid. His stumbling approach to Mordor, under the Eye of Sauron, is like the faltering steps of Christ weighed down by his Cross as he repeatedly falls on the path to Golgotha; and, like Christ, Frodo is tempted by despair.

Indeed, Frodo does succumb. His free will, hitherto so strong in resisting the powers of the Ring, gives way to the power of the Ring, and he cannot bring himself to throw it down into the fires of Mount Doom. Despite all his inner strength Frodo gradually succumbs to a dark fascination with the ring and he loses his free spirit and free will the closer he comes in proximity to Mount Doom

Enter here the Christian foot soldier, Sam Gamgee.

One of the most attractive characters in The Lord of the Rings is based on the private soldiers Tolkien encountered at the Somme in 1916:

"My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 War, and recognised as so far superior to myself."

Sam’s humility turns him into the greatest hero in the book. Although he is only Frodo’s gardener, it is he who saves Frodo and ultimately the Shire. Mary Magdalene, in her first resurrection encounter with the Lord mistakes Jesus, thinking that he too is only a gardener. Tolkien is reminding us that so often we miss what is important about the people we meet, what matters most, and too frequently judge them by the job they do or their social origins.

Sam is like Simon of Cyrene, sharing his Master's burden and at the climax his devoted loyalty in following Frodo to the very end is rewarded as the burden is lightened and he is transfigured.

Stratford Caldecott quotes Tolkien as saying that the plot is concerned with ‘the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble’ - and the meek Sam certainly inherits the earth.

At a crucial moment in Mordor he must carry the Ringbearer, and even the Ring itself. He moves from immature innocence to mature innocence: and finally, in his own world (that is, in Tolkien’s inner world of the Shire), this ‘gardener’ becomes a ‘king’ or at least a Mayor. The fact is that Frodo could not have fulfilled his task without the continuing presence of Sam, and he relies utterly on him; yet Sam remains humble always and faithful to his master.

There is also something here of a Catholic love of order, of tradition and a longing for restoration of that which has been lost. There are glimpses in the shire folk of the Catholic recusants - bravely clinging on to their persecuted faith and longing for its restoration.

During the 16 years he was compiling his trilogy Tolkien stayed regularly here at Stonyhurst College - the heart of "the sacred county" of Lancashire and home of the recusant Shireburn family. He worked in one of the guesthouses and in one of the classrooms, writing and drawing. One of his sons, Michael, taught classics and John trained at Stonyhurst to become a Catholic priest.

Although Tolkien draws on many influences - not least those of his childhood Worcestershire and the Midlands - a walk along Hurst Green’s Shire Lane and a detour to Woodlands where Michael planted a copse in his father's memory, are well repaid. Look to the distance where Pendle Hill, associated with the occult and witch trials, dominates the landscape. In walking around this parish Tolkien would have encountered the descendants of the never wavering recusants who still farm the land and live with faith and simplicity.

In the Shire and other lands where the “good” live, there is a social hierarchy, and, some might argue, even a sort of papacy in the wizard Gandalf – after all, he acts as leader to the free and faithful people, and he even crowns kings, as did popes of old. Tolkien himself said of the papacy: "I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims…for me the 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 it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place.”Feed my sheep" was his last charge to St.Peter."

There is the further thought that along with the papal colour of white, the name of the Holy Father's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, is translated into English as Gandolf's Castle. Perhaps it means nothing; perhaps it is another hidden clue.

Among the other riddles and runes there is the day on which the Ring is finally destroyed in Mount Doom – March 25th. Tom Shippey, in “The Road to Middle Earth”, says that in “Anglo-Saxon belief, and in European popular tradition both before and after that, March 25th is the date of the Crucifixion”, and it is also the date of the Annunciation. Days to recall beginnings and endings.

The Lord of the Rings then is a story with many stories concealed within it. Tolkien's subtlety is that he lays a trail of clues for his readers. It is up to us whether we choose to "go further up and further in", as Lewis put it.

I want to end by referring to Tolkien’s friendship with Lewis.

He once wrote that “There’s no sound I like better than male laughter” – and it was in the early 1930s that he began to cultivate his friendship with the new Professor of Anglo-Saxon, appointed in 1925. Throughout those highly productive years – and as he journeyed from atheism to Christian belief – Lewis became close to Tolkien.

In 1933 they began to hold meetings in college rooms and on Tuesday mornings at The Eagle and Child (The Bird and Baby). Tolkien later wrote that “CSL had a passion for hearing things read aloud.” The Inklings met regularly during the next two decades – their circle of friends, their round table, included Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams and, after the Second World War, Tolkien’s son Christopher.

Although Tolkien would later be displaced in Lewis’ affections, and a rift opened between them, these gatherings enriched them both inestimably. Lewis would write of the importance of such friendship in “The Four Loves”: “He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest or funniest in all the others.” The Inklings were conceived as a circle of friends which would practice solidarity and engender camaraderie; intuitively and challengingly counter cultural.

For Lewis the Inklings also provided a familial intimacy which his own family could not. They also had a common faith.

He recorded the moment when, in 1931, he decided to embrace Christianity: “I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ – in Christianity. …My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.”

Two year earlier he had come to believe in God: “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England…The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

These two men were formed by common experiences – notably the First World War. They also came to share a common Christian faith and a love of myth and legend. Both had decided and traditional views about the shaping of society; the corrupting and emasculation of education; the importance of friendship; and the championing of orthodoxy against heterodoxy.

Lewis particularly loathed the educational ideas of the American educationalist, John Dewey. In “The Abolition of Man”, he castigates modern educationalists as “the new Conditioners”: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise….we castrate them and then bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Of the Conditioners he says “It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all…they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.”

Mark Studdock, in “That Hideous Strength” – part of the Cosmic Trilogy – and my favourite work by Lewis - is the product of such a values-free education.

After Lewis wrote his first book of prose, “The Pilgrim’s Regress”, in 1932, he authored more than thirty five more books of prose. He wrote science fiction , Christian apologetics, theology, satirical letters from a devil, radio broadcasts, poetry, sermons, lectures, and scholarly works on English literature - and whether it is through the Narnian Chronicles, Screwtape, The Cosmic Trilogy, his Christian apologetics or “Shadowlands”, or the dramatised version of his late flowering love affair and marriage to Joy Davidman, Lewis remains a captivating figure.

Lewis life as a Christian should not simply be assessed in terms of his writings. He was a rumbustuous, engaging and kindly man who took a lot of trouble over his friends and acquaintances. Kenneth Tynan, an unlikely admirer, was one of his students in 1945, and recalled later that Lewis was “terribly sound and funny”…He was a deeply kind and charitable man too.” On one occasion when Tynan went to see his tutor he said “I had entered the room suicidal, and I left it exhilarated.”

Lewis did not believe Christians needed to be morose or detached. In 1944 The Daily Telegraph misleadingly referred to Lewis as “an ascetic”. Tolkien scoffed at this in a letter to his son: “Ascetic Mr.Lewis!!! I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session we had this morning and said he was ‘going short for Lent.’”

The friendship of these two men did not lead to rivalry but to mutual encouragement. For two men formed in the harrowing trenches of the Great War, who had seen so many of their friends pay the ultimate price, pain and suffering did not disable or incapacitate them. Both believed that beyond the pain and the suffering of today is the certainty of eternity. Both believed that through their story telling they could encourage their readers to see beyond the catastrophic and destructive effects of war and the evil in our world to a hopeful and joyous future.

It is a journey we must all make – from pain to gain. It is also the final clue to understanding Tolkien’s epic work

That final hidden clue is the word Tolkien invented to describe what he saw as a good quality in a fairy-story – and that word was eucatastrophe, this being the notion that there is a “sudden joyous ‘turn’” in the story, where everything is going well, “giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy”, whilst not denying the “existence of dyscatastrophe – of sorrow and failure”. It also reminds us that catastrophe can be reversed. Hatred and fear need not win; violence need not have its day; destruction doesn't have to triumph. Eucatastrophe is the hosanna for the Prince of Peace, the King of Joy, and the Lord of Life - who enters the stable on the back of a donkey and departs for his Kingdom on the back of another.

Tolkien believed that a story containing eucatastrophe was a story at its highest function – and that the Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of human history.

To read the fiction without understanding that faith – the faith of both of Lewis and Tolkien – would be to do them and their work a fundamental disservice.

So this then was who JRR Tolkien was. I hope I have shed some light on his life, the things which influenced him and the beliefs that he held. I hope it will encourage you to go back to Tolkien and to look for some of these hidden clues to the real meaning of his stories.

Tolkien died on September 2nd, 1973; Lewis had died ten years earlier, on November 22nd 1963 – the day on which President John F Kennedy was assassinated.

Two years earlier, the librarian at our local public lending library recommended that I read The Narnian Chronicles, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: I remain deeply appreciative that she did.

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St. Hilary


Feast: February 28


Feast Day:February 28 or November 17

at Sardinia

Died:28 February 468 at Rome, Italy

Elected 461; the date of his death is given as 28 Feb., 468. After the death of Leo I, an archdeacon named Hilarus, a native of Sardinia, according to the "Liber Pontificalis", was chosen to succeed him, and in all probability received consecration on 19 November, 461. Together with Julius, Bishop of Puteoli, Hilarus acted as legate of Leo I at the "Robber Synod" of Ephesus in 449. There he fought vigorously for the rights of the Roman See and opposed the condemnation of Flavian of Constantinople (see FLAVIAN, SAINT). He was therefore exposed to the violence of Dioscurus of Alexandria, and saved himself by flight. In one of his letters to the Empress Pulcheria, found in a collection of letters of Leo I ("Leonis I Epistolae", num. xlvi., in P.L., LIV, 837 sq.), Hilarus apologizes for not delivering to her the pope's letter after the synod; but owing to Dioscurus, who tried to hinder his going either to Rome or to Constantinople, he had great difficulty in making his escape in order to bring to the pontiff the news of the result of the council. His pontificate was marked by the same vigorous policy as that of his great predecessor. Church affairs in Gaul and Spain claimed his special attention. Owing to political disorganization in both countries, it was important to safeguard the hierarchy by strengthening church government. Hermes, a former archdeacon of Narbonne, had illegally acquired the bishopric of that town. Two Gallican prelates were dispatched to Rome to lay before the pope this and other matters concerning the Church in Gaul. A Roman synod held on 19 November, 462, passed judgment upon these matters, and Hilarus made known the following decisions in an Encyclical sent to the provincial bishops of Vienne, Lyons, Narbonne, and the Alps: Hermes was to remain Titular Bishop of Narbonne, but his episcopal faculties were withheld. A synod was to be convened yearly by the Bishop of Arles, for those of the provincial bishops who were able to attend; but all important matters were to be submitted to the Apostolic See. No bishop could leave his diocese without a written permission from the metropolitan; in case such permission be withheld he could appeal to the Bishop of Arles. Respecting the parishes (paroeciae) claimed by Leontius of Arles as belonging to his jurisdiction, the Gallican bishops could decide, after an investigation. Church property could not be alienated until a synod had examined into the cause of sale.

Shortly after this the pope found himself involved in another diocesan quarrel. In 463 Mamertus of Vienne had consecrated a Bishop of Die, although this Church, by a decree of Leo I, belonged to the metropolitan Diocese of Arles. When Hilarus heard of it he deputed Leontius of Arles to summon a great synod of the bishops of several provinces to investigate the matter. The synod took place and, on the strength of the report given him by Bishop Antonius, he issued an edict dated 25 February, 464, in which Bishop Veranus was commissioned to warn Mamertus that, if in the future he did not refrain from irregular ordinations, his faculties would be withdrawn. Consequently the consecration of the Bishop of Die must be sanctioned by Leontius of Arles. Thus the primatial privileges of the See of Arles were upheld as Leo I had defined them. At the same time the bishops were admonished not to overstep their boundaries, and to assemble in a yearly synod presided over by the Bishop of Arles. The metropolitan rights of the See of Embrun also over the dioceses of the Maritime Alps were protected against the encroachments of a certain Bishop Auxanius, particularly in connection with the two Churches of Nice and Cimiez.

In Spain, Silvanus, Bishop of Calahorra, had, by his episcopal ordinations, violated the church laws. Both the Metropolitan Ascanius and the bishops of the Province of Tarragona made complaint of this to the pope and asked for his decision. Before an answer came to their petition, the same bishops had recourse to the Holy See for an entirely different matter. Before his death Nundinarius, Bishop of Barcelona, expressed a wish that Irenaeus might be chosen his successor, although he had himself made Irenaeus bishop of another see. The request was granted, a Synod of Tarragona confirming the nomination of Irenaeus, after which the bishops sought the pope's approval. The Roman synod of 19 Nov., 465, took the matters up and settled them. This is the oldest Roman synod whose original records have been handed down to us. It was held in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. After an address of the pope, and the reading of the Spanish letters, the synod decided that the church laws must not be tampered with. In addition to this Hilarus sent a letter to the bishops of Tarragona, declaring that no consecration was valid without the sanction of the Metropolitan Ascanius; and no bishop was permitted to be transferred from one diocese to another, so that some one else must be chosen for Barcelona in place of Irenaeus. The bishops consecrated by Silvanus would be recognized if they had been appointed to vacant sees, and otherwise met the requirements of the Church. The "Liber Pontificalis" mentions an Encyclical that Hilarus sent to the East, to confirm the Oecumenical Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, and the dogmatic letter of Leo I to Flavian, but the sources at our disposal furnish us no further information. In Rome Hilarus worked zealously for the integrity of the Faith. The Emperor Anthemius had a favourite named Philotheus, who was a believer in the Macedonian heresy and attended meetings in Rome for the promulgation of this doctrine, 476. On one of the emperor's visits to St. Peter's, the pope openly called him to account for his favourite's conduct, exhorting him by the grave of St. Peter to promise that he would do all in his power to check the evil. Hilarus erected several churches and other buildings in Rome. Two oratories in the baptistery of the Lateran, one in honour of St. John the Baptist, the other of St. John the Apostle, are due to him. After his flight from the "Robber Synod" of Ephesus, Hilarus had hidden himself in the crypt of St. John the Apostle, and he attributed his deliverance to the intercession of the Apostle. Over the ancient doors of the oratory this inscription is still to be seen: "To St. John the Evangelist, the liberator of Bishop Hilarus, a Servant of Christ". He also erected a chapel of the Holy Cross in the baptistery, a convent, two public baths, and libraries near the Church of St. Laurence Outside the Walls. He built another convent within the city walls. The "Liber Pontificalis" mentions many votive offerings made by Hilarus in the different churches. He died after a pontificate of six years, three months, and ten days. He was buried in the church of St. Laurence Outside the Walls. His feast day is celebrated on 17 November.


TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 28: MARK 10: 17- 27

Mark 10: 17 - 27
17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
19You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
20And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth."
21And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
22At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?"
27Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

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