J.R.R. Tolkien: A Cause for Canonization (Part One)
The legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) as one of the founders of modern fantasy literature is well-known. “The Lord of the Rings,” says noted Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, “is the best-loved work of fiction of the twentieth century.” The fame of his works became even more noticeable with the trilogy of films based on The Lord of the Rings and produced by Peter Jackson, bringing Tolkien’s world to a new generation. Since Tolkien’s death in 1973, there have also been several publications of his works, including his Letters, as well as biographies and analyses, which have made many aware that he was not only a prolific fantasy writer, but a devout Catholic as well. The assertion of this essay, however, is that Tolkien was not only a devout Catholic, but a saint. As a cause for canonization, I will examine Tolkien’s life and the saintly virtue which he exhibited until his death.
Tolkien’s path to sanctity began with his formation in the Catholic Faith by his mother, Mabel. Despite the recent death of her husband in South Africa, she risked the ire of her Baptist family to become Catholic, and was soon cut off support from her family because of her sacrifice. Despite living in poverty, made worse through her battle with diabetes (at which time insulin was unavailable for diabetes patients) and her inability to afford proper medical care, she remained faithful to her conversion and raised her sons, John “Ronald” Ruel Tolkien and his brother Hilary, in the Faith. However, without the great charity of Father Francis Xavier Morgan, a half-Welsh and half Anglo-Spanish parish priest in the district of the Birmingham Oratory, founded by St. John Henry Newman, where the Tolkien family lived, their struggles would have been considerably worse. J.R.R. Tolkien was thus both spiritually and physically provided for by the Catholic Church throughout his childhood, via the mediation of his mother and Fr. Morgan.
Tolkien’s mother Mabel was the most influential factor in his early spiritual formation, and remained a source of inspiration for the rest of his life. In their youth, Mabel instructed her sons in the Faith, and introduced them to the arts and academia which would inspire and guide Tolkien’s future career. Upon moving to Birmingham, attending its Oratory and meeting Fr. Morgan, Mabel’s health rapidly deteriorated, exacerbated by her poverty. After her death at the age of thirty-four, Tolkien would forever see her as a martyr to the Faith: “My own dear mother was a martyr indeed, and it is not to everybody that God grants so easy a way to his great gifts as he did to Hilary and myself, giving us a mother who killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith.” Following their mother’s passing, the Tolkien brothers were then placed under the guardianship of Fr. Morgan according to Mabel’s will.
Fr. Morgan continued the brothers’ formation in the Catholic faith after the death of their mother. During Tolkien’s formative years at King Edward’s School prior to attending university, he continued to grow in the Faith under Fr. Morgan’s guidance while living with a not intolerant or especially kind aunt-by-marriage in Birmingham. He served as an altar boy for Fr. Morgan and, with his brother Hilary, regularly ate breakfast in the Oratory’s refectory with the fathers, went on annual Summer holidays with Fr. Morgan to Lyme Regis, and Fr. Morgan soon relieved the Tolkien brothers by moving them to a much more favorable home near the Oratory. It was here that Tolkien met his future wife, the fellow orphan Edith Bratt.
While preparing for a scholarship to Oxford University, Tolkien’s mind was absorbed by his burgeoning love of Edith. However, Tolkien obeyed the wishes of Fr. Morgan, his guardian, who told him not to pursue a relationship with her, especially since they were at the time living in the same house and so nearer to an occasion of sin, but to focus on his studies. Fr. Morgan then moved Tolkien and his brother to another lodging to keep Tolkien away from temptation and distraction. As Tolkien later wrote to his son Michael, he “did not regret” Fr. Morgan’s decision. Fr. Morgan continued to act as Tolkien’s spiritual father, even with hard life decisions. As Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis would later remark, “Of Fr. Morgan Tolkien always spoke with the warmest gratitude and affection.” This influence would come to fruition during Tolkien’s school and university years.
Tolkien began to fully live out the faith and virtue learned during his upbringing at school and university. While studying at King Edward’s School, and continuing into his subsequent studies at Oxford University, Tolkien formed a club with other like-minded friends. The T.C.B.S., or ‘Tea Club and Barrovian Society,’ named after the tea and cakes they ate at their meetings, which primarily took place at Barrow’s Stores, was formed to share its members’ mutual love of languages, art, theater, history and music, as well as their strong Christian zeal. Though the group had many members, the closest to Tolkien were Christopher Wiseman (after whom Tolkien’s son Christopher would be named), Robert Gilson and Geoffrey Smith. While their academic and artistic interests were formative for Tolkien, their greatest inspiration was in the overall purpose of the group: “to kindle a new light in the world, or, what is the same thing, rekindle an old light in the world… the TCBS was destined to testify for God and Truth in a more direct way.” As Tolkien scholar John Garth explains:
The society existed to nurture and amplify each member’s creative powers, which should be used to restore various neglected values to a decadent and mechanized world – among them (as outlined by Tolkien) religious faith, human love, patriotic duty and the right to national self-rule… It would work through inspiration, rather than didacticism and confrontation.
Exemplifying the aims of the T.C.B.S., Tolkien was also the decisive factor in the conversion of his future wife to Catholicism. The day Tolkien came of age, in 1913, he sat up in bed and composed a letter to Edith, despite not having communicated with her in three years. Although overjoyed at his reunion with Edith, Tolkien had one condition: she must become a Roman Catholic. As an active member of the Church of England, despite her own willingness to become Catholic part of her remained hesitant to leave her strong social community and was fearful of persecution from her ‘uncle,’ with whom she lived, who was odiously anti-Catholic. However, following the example of his mother’s own persecution, Tolkien encouraged her, “I do so dearly believe that no half-heartedness and no worldly fear must turn us aside from following the light unflinchingly.” Edith’s decision led to exactly what she had feared: her uncle evicted her from his house. However, Tolkien would go on to provide spiritual and emotional support for his future wife after this incident.
Tolkien continued to guide his wife in the Faith and form himself in the tradition of Catholicism given by his mother. Helping Edith and her cousin find a new home in Warwick, Tolkien began attending Benediction and Mass there with her regularly. He loved the natural and medieval beauty of Warwick and was uplifted by Edith finally being able to join him at Church. Close to this time Tolkien would also switch from classics to the English School, more closely suiting his interests in (particularly medieval) English and Germanic language and literature. This instruction in the Catholic worldview of medieval Europe would lay the foundation for his own imaginative pursuits, particularly the mythology of Middle-earth, which would soon also be shaped by another force: war.
 Tom Shippey, The Lord of the Rings: Book of the Century, at Tolkien Estate, https://www.tolkienestate.com/en/home.html.
 Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien: A Biography (New York: Ballantine Books, 1978), 25-26.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 32.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 26.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 29.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 34.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 35.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 36.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 41.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 42.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 46.
 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien (eds), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), Letter 43.
 Colin Duriez, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend (Oxford, England: Lion Books, 2012), 31.
 Tolkien, Letters, Letter 306.
 Tolkien, Letters, Letter 5.
 John Garth, “T.C.B.S. (Tea Club and Barrovian Society),” in Michael D.C. Drout (ed.), J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (New York and London: Routledge, 2007), 635.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 73.
 Carpenter, Tolkien, 74.
 Duriez, Tolkien: Legend, 65.
There’s an effort afoot.
“The official cause for beatification
On September 2, 2017, the Oxford Oratory offered its first Mass for the intention of Tolkien’s cause for beatification to be opened. The Oxford Oratory – also known as St. Aloysius Gonzaga – was Tolkien’s parish church when he lived in Oxford. If you find yourself walking the streets of Oxford, don’t miss this stop!
Join the group for his beatification on Facebook to stay in the loop on any news of Tolkien’s beatification cause!”
I found this on https://epicpew.com/tolkien-canonization-cause/