Tolkien's love of nature began as a child in the semi-rural region of Sarehole. He climbed in the trees near by his house and enjoyed walks in the fields. Later he witnessed the destruction of this homely land as industry slowly encroached; many trees were cut down or burnt to make way for factories, plants, foundries and machines.
He saw the small villages in rural England transform into industrial cities where men became numbers and products were mass produced merely for greed or war. The surrounding green and idyllic fields and meadows were turned into metal workshops and were continually overshadowed by billowing smoke that flowed day and night.
This engendered in Tolkien distrust for most automation and industrial advancement. This was also fuelled by his experience in World War I, where he saw the horrific destruction and power these machines and metallic objects could wield and inflict.
"I am [obviously] much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals." [Letters p.220] in a letter to a correspondent, is deepened by his words to a friend while walking in the woods close to his home where he said,
"Think of the power of a forest on the march..." [Celebration p.5] referring to an uprising of Trees against their cullers.
Through all his writings, career, and personal aspects of his life, Tolkien remained faithful to his Catholic Faith. He did mention he passed through a period of apathy in his dedication to his faith during the early years of his first son's life. But he never wavered in his belief and returned to what he knew to be the truth and only Love that would give him fulfilment in life.
He was well read in the works of St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas and the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, Dante and Eliot.
The following are a collection of quotes that illustrate the depth of Tolkien's Catholic faith and how he saw and understood everything in his life in reference to it. These are but a few of the in-depth thoughts that Tolkien shared with his children and those who wrote to him.
Faith & Morals:
George Sayer, a personal friend of Tolkien, to Joseph Pearce:
"He [Tolkien] wrote to me years later, a letter in which he stated that he attributed anything good or beautiful in his writing to the influence of Our Lady, 'the greatest influence in my life'. He meant it." [Celebration p.10-11]
Tolkien: "I am a Christian [which can be deduced from my stories] and am in fact a Roman Catholic. The latter 'fact' [Catholic] perhaps cannot be deduced; though one critic [by letter] asserted that the invocations of Elbereth, and the character of Galadriel as directly described [or through the words of Gimli and Sam] were clearly related to Catholic devotion to Mary.
Another saw in waybread [lembas] = viaticum [Eucharist] and reference to its feeding the will and with it being more potent when fasting, a derivation from the Eucharist. [that is, far greater things may colour the mind in dealing with the lesser things of a fairy-story]." [Letters p.288] [Tolkien argued this was in fact the purpose of Myth, to reflect Truth and draw one to it. See Truth and Myth]
"It takes a fantastic will to unbelief to suppose that Jesus never really 'happened'"
Tolkien: "You speak of 'sagging faith'... In the last resort faith is an act of the will, inspired by love. Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has had faith goes back over the line for these reasons. 'Scandal' at most is an occasion of temptation - as indecency is to lust, which it does not make but arouses. It is convenient because it finds a 'scape-goat'... The temptation to 'unbelief'
[which really means rejection of Our Lord and His claims] is always there within us. Part of us longs to find an excuse for it outside of us. The stronger the inner temptation the more readily shall we be 'scandalized' by others." [M&M p.192-193, Letters p.337]
Tolkien: "So morals should be a guide to our human purposes. the conduct of our lives: [a] the ways in which our individual talents can be developed without waste or misuse; and [b] without injuring our kindred or interfering with their development. [Beyond this and higher lies self-sacrifice for love]." [Letters p.399]
Tolkien: "Actually 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 legend may contain more clearly and movingly] some samples or glimpses of final victory." [Letters p.255]
Tolkien: "Not that one should forget the wise words of Charles Williams that it is our duty to tend the accredited and established altar, though the Holy Spirit may send the fire down somewhere else. God cannot be limited [even by his own foundations] - of which St Paul is the first & prime example - and may use any channel for His grace."
[Letters p.339 - footnote]
Tolkien: "Even to love our Lord and to call him Lord is a grace, and may bring more grace. Nonetheless, speaking institutionally, and not of individual souls, the channel must eventually run back into the ordained course, or run into the sands and perish.
Besides the Sun there may be Moonlight [even enough to read by]; but if the Sun were removed there would be no Moon to see. What would Christianity now be if the Roman Catholic Church had in fact been destroyed?" [Letters p.339 - footnote]
Tolkien: "I owe a great deal to being treated, surprisingly for the time, in a more rational way. Fr Francis obtained permission for me to retain my scholarship at King Edwards School and continue there, and so I had the advantage of a [then] first rate school and that of a 'good Catholic home' - 'in excelsis': virtually a junior inmate of the Oratory house, which contained many learned Fathers [largely 'converts']. Observance of religion was strict." [Letters p.395]
Tolkien: "As a man whose childhood was darkened by persecution I find this hard but charity must cover a multitude of sins." [Letters p.395]
Catholic website Zenit;
"He once told an audience of Oxford dons, when it was rather unpopular to be open about one's religious beliefs, that as much as he loved his academic specialty, philology, it was unnecessary for salvation." [Zenit.org - article here]
Regarding the changes that the Second Vatican Council brought into the Church:
Tolkien: "I think there is nothing to do but pray, for the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and for ourselves; and meanwhile exercise the virtue of loyalty, which indeed only becomes a virtue when one is under pressure to desert it." [Letters p.393]
Regarding trends in the Church:
Tolkien: "The 'protestant' search backwards for 'simplicity' and directness - which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because 'primitive Christianity' is now and in spite of all 'research', will ever remain largely unknown; because 'primitiveness' is no guarantee of value, and is and was in great part a reflection of ignorance.
Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian 'liturgical' behaviour from the beginning as now [St Paul's strictures on Eucharistic behaviour are sufficient to show this!] Still more because 'my church' was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism [likened to a plant], which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history - the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set." [Letters p.394]
Tolkien continues with his analogy for the Church and vain searches for 'primitive' Christianity.
Tolkien: "There is no resemblance between the 'mustard seed' and the full grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the 'thing', for the history of a living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is in vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree.
Very good: but in husbandry, the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess; prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites, and so forth. [with trepidation, knowing how little their knowledge of growth is!]. But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was [as they imagine] pretty and un-afflicted by evils." [Letters p.394]
On the danger of modernism in the Church:
Tolkien: "The other motive [now confused with the primitivist one, even in the mind of any one of the reformers]: is 'aggiornamento': bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history." [Letters p.394]
On his belief in the Catholic Church:
Tolkien: "I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which [if Christianity is true] is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit; dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and re-arising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has a chief claim that 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." [Letters p.339]
Regarding his love of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament:
Tolkien: "Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the complete surrender of all, and yet by the taste [or foretaste] of which alone can give you what you what you seek in your earthly relationships [love, faithfulness, joy] be maintained, or take on the complexity of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires." [Letters p.53-54]
Regarding the Blessed Sacrament and his children:
Tolkien: "But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning - and by the Mercy of God have never fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it. I brought you all up ill and talked to you too little. Out if wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practice my religion - especially at Leeds, and at 22 Northmoor Rd.
Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of the Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger. I regret those days bitterly [and suffer for them with such patience as I can be given]; most of all because I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer [the H&lend as the Saviour was called in Old English] shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry 'Benedictus qui venit nomine Domini' - [Blessed in He who comes in the name of the Lord]." [Letters p.340]
Tolkien: "I find it for myself hard to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least the right intention, can ever reject Him without grave blame. [However, He alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances]."
Regarding keeping up ones faith:
Tolkien: "The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate: the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals." [Letters p.338]
Regarding leaving the Church due to scandal:
Tolkien: "...but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church [which for me would mean leaving allegiance to Our Lord] for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe I should deny the Blessed
Sacrament, that is: call Our Lord a fraud to His face " [Letters p.337-339]
Prayer & Adoration:
Regarding seeing his Guardian Angel in prayer:
Tolkien: "It also reminded me of a sudden vision I had not long ago when spending half and hour in St Gregory's before the Blessed Sacrament. I perceived or thought of the Light of God and in it suspended one small mote, glittering white... And the ray was the Guardian Angel of the mote: not a thing interposed between God and the creature, but God's very attention itself, personified... a real [finite]person." [Letters p.99]
Tolkien: "I pray for you - because I have a feeling [more a certainty] that God, for some ineffable reason which to us may seem like humour, is so curiously ready to answer the prayers of the least worthy of his supplicants - if they pray for others. I do not of course mean to say that He only answers the prayer of the unworthy [who ought not to expect to be heard at all], or I should not now be benefiting by the prayers of others." [Letters p.401]
Tolkien believed firmly in the power of prayer. He and Edith attributed the healing of a heart ailment of one of their children to prayer. [www.christianitytoday.com, article here]
Regarding the modern idea of love and sex in the Western world:
Tolkien: "Its weakness is of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake without reference to [and indeed contrary to] matrimony. Its centre was not God, but imaginary Deities, Love and the Lady. It still tends to make the Lady a kind of guiding star or divinity... This is, of course, false and at best make-believe. The woman is another fallen human-being with a soul in peril. But combined and harmonized with religion ... it can be very noble... One result of that is to make young folk look for 'love' that will keep them always nice and warm in a cold world, without any effort of theirs; and the incurably romantic go on looking even in the squalor of the divorce courts." [M&M p.48-50, Letters p.48-49]
Regarding the sacrifice needed in marriage:
Tolkien: "However, the essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called 'self-realization' [usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves]; but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification... No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.
Too few are told that - even those brought up in the Church. Those outside seem seldom to heard of it. When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person to come along... "
Regarding true love:
Tolkien: "In such great inevitable love, often love at first sight, we catch a vision, I suppose, of marriage as it should have been in an un-fallen world. In this fallen world we have as our only guides; prudence, wisdom [rare in youth, too late in age], a clean heart, and fidelity of will..." [M&M p.50, Letters p.51 -52]
Tolkien's marriage to Edith wasn't without trouble and they passed through trials. But they remained faithful to each other and God. [M&M p.52-53]
Later in Life:
After retiring in 1959, Tolkien spent most of his time working on his languages and writing about Middle-earth's history before the War of the Ring.
In 1971 Edith died, aged 82, and, one year later, Tolkien returned to Oxford and resided at his old college. He received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University and was named a Commander of the British Empire.
When Tolkien was visiting friends in the sea-side town of Bournemouth in August 1973 he fell ill and died on September the 2nd, aged 81.
Tolkien lived a humble and simple life:
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