Pilgrims thronged the Shrine Crypt on Sunday, October 23, for Joseph Pearce’s 11 A.M. presentation on “The Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings.” The audience included over 300 people from near and far, including one couple from Houston, TX. All these visitors gathered to share in Pearce’s exploration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic work, and consider with him how the author’s Catholic Faith subtly but powerfully informs that work.
Pearce began with Tolkien’s own words about the saga: “The Lord of the Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” How is this possible, when the story includes no mention of Christ? In his lecture, Pearce demonstrated how, as different as its setting is from our everyday experience, The Lord of the Rings reflects the true nature of our world as created, ruled, and redeemed by God. “Reality’s not just natural, it’s supernatural,” he pointed out. “This supernatural element of reality needs to be shown if we’re going to see reality as it is.”
The talk covered a wide array of topics, beginning with the cosmology of Middle-earth as given in The Silmarillion, where “the All-Father” creates the cosmos as a great symphony. The firstborn of this cosmos are angelic beings, invited to join in this symphony; but the mightiest of them refuses, instead introducing discord and becoming the great enemy. While The Lord of the Rings itself seldom uses such obvious parallels with Scripture or religious tradition, Pearce pointed out a number of “clues” in Tolkien’s choices of names and dates; for example, the One Ring, the embodiment of the Dark Lord’s power, is destroyed on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, also considered the date of the Crucifixion by medieval scholars. Even more significantly, the lecture explored the many ways in which the story’s moral and philosophical implications, in Tolkien’s words, “hold up a mirror to man,” revealing our nature’s longing for transcendent reality, ongoing inner battle, and need for divine grace.
Stories, Pearce noted, can be the most powerful means of conveying truth to our hearts. Christ Himself told stories that resonate within us forever, like that of the Prodigal Son. “Fictional characters are more real than we are,” he remarked with a smile. “That’s the power of story.”
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is committed to promoting truth and goodness through beauty. Great Catholic literature works in the same way, touching hearts by the subtle eloquence of its creative beauty. In hosting events like Joseph Pearce’s presentation on The Lord of the Rings, the Shrine helps pilgrims to bring together their lives of faith and of culture, another facet of the mission to restore all things in Christ.
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