Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letters from a great Catholic

When I can't sleep, I pick up my copy of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. I don't know why I do it, because it's exactly the wrong thing for drifting off to dreamland. I go from one letter to the next, hour after hour, fascinated. I re-read letters I've seen a dozen times already and still find new things. It's a disaster.

But a good one. Surely it must be one of those whispering hints of the turn of the tide, of the return of the Sea of Faith, that the man who wrote what the reading public has stubbornly insisted on voting the greatest book of the twentieth century (against outraged protests from the literary and academic establishments) could also write this:

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. ... For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little, and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know...

As if to give us some consolation for the many things in the past fifty years that we Catholics have to be ashamed of, this humble, irascible Catholic professor gave us something to be very, very proud of indeed.