This may not be that big of a deal to you… but it is to me and so I have to share…
Just last week, after taking me nearly an entire year, I finished reading (for the first time) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien!
As someone who didn’t enjoy reading until my adult years and today still has to work up the motivation to read consistently, it feels like quite an accomplishment.
The Lord of the Rings is a Catholic Work
And oh, what a joy it was to read!
As you may or may not know, the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a devout Catholic and went on record saying the following about his story:
“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out practically all references to anything like ‘religion,’ to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and symbolism.”
And so, I must say that every time I picked up this great story to read just the next few pages, I found myself immersed in a world that honestly felt more deeply Catholic than my typical suburban experience of daily life.
All to say, reading The Lord of the Rings was an edifying experience!
To give you a glimpse into that experience I want to share with you a few quotes from the book.
4 Edifying Excerpts from The Lord of the Rings
Below are just four excerpts from various parts of The Lord of the Rings that I found edifying in my reading. Of course there are many other passages that could be added, but I thought it’d be best you read the book yourself if you are intrigued and want more.
My hope in choosing the four excerpts below to share is that you’ll get a sense of the deeply Catholic spirit within the story.
#1- Gandalf Invites Frodo to Embrace Divine Providence
“’I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”(From The Fellowship of the Ring)
This quote from Gandalf to Frodo highlights the difficult yet precious gift of the time we are given in life. Even when forced to confront great evil and suffering, as Frodo is with the Ring in the book, we do not get to choose our times. No one wishes for such darkness to come in their lifetime. Yet God’s providence places each soul where it needs to be.
Our task is not to lament why we face our particular trials, but to embrace the purpose for which God has allowed it. We are called to have the courage and wisdom to spend our time well, to be faithful to God in all things, and to do the good works God prepared for us. Like Frodo, we should not waste energy wishing for different circumstances. Rather, we can have faith that we were given this moment for a reason – to do God’s will with the gifts we have received.
When we align our limited time on earth with God’s timing and purposes, great good can come even from difficulty. This quote inspires us to make the very most of the time granted to us, for it is precious and fleeting. God expects us to trust in His timing, even when we cannot yet see the purpose.
#2 – Sam is Restored with Hope
“There was a bitter tang in the air of Mordor that dried the mouth. When Sam thought of water even his hopeful spirit quailed. Beyond the Morgai there was the dreadful plain of Gorgoroth to cross.
‘Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘It’s getting dark again. I reckon this day is nearly over.’
Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.”(From The Return of the King)
This passage captures a moving moment of hope and perspective for Sam as he and Frodo progress on their arduous journey. The hobbits have entered the oppressive land of Mordor, where the air itself dries the mouth. After putting a weary Frodo to sleep, Sam gazes up and sees a lone white star peeking through the clouds over the menacing mountains.
The star’s pure beauty fills Sam with a sense of light and hope beyond the Shadow of darkness and peril that surrounds them. He realizes that evil, no matter how terrible, is temporary and limited, while goodness and beauty last forever. This thought fortifies and lifts his spirits.
Sam’s experience contains lessons for our own faith journeys. When immersed in struggles and trials, we can feel engulfed by the shadows around us. Yet keeping our sight fixed upward to the light of Christ, the stars of Mary and the saints, and God’s eternal truth, beauty, and love enables us to see beyond earthly troubles.
No matter how deep the night, the light of Christ cannot be overcome or extinguished. Focusing on the hopeful promise of eternal life with God can strengthen and renew our spirits to endure any passing trial. Sam’s moment illustrates the power of divine light to shine into any darkness and remind us that goodness prevails. This gives us courage to keep taking the next step forward, no matter how difficult the road.
#3- Elven Bread Gives Strength to Frodo & Sam
“The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats. And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”(From The Return of the King)
This passage describes the miraculous elven waybread called lembas that sustains Frodo and Sam on their quest. While it does not satisfy their hunger or cravings, the lembas provides them with spiritual nourishment and strength.
As the hobbits rely solely on the simple yet potent lembas, it gives them the energy and willpower to carry on against all odds. The bread imparts vitality beyond what their mortal bodies should be capable of.
For believers on a spiritual journey, ordinary practices like prayer, scripture reading, and the Eucharist can be our spiritual lembas. While these may not always feel satisfying in the moment, they nourish our souls in mysterious ways. When we devote ourselves to daily spiritual routines rather than indulging earthly appetites, we become fortified from within.
God’s grace can empower us to withstand challenges and grow in virtue beyond human capacity. Simple spiritual bread sustains us when elaborately satisfying our desires would distract and weaken our higher goals. The lembas calls us to focus on spiritual nourishment over earthly fulfillment. It reminds us of the profound strength that comes from internal rather than external sources along our faith journey.
#4- Gandalf Teaches Frodo the Importance of Mercy
“‘But this is terrible!” cried Frodo. ‘Far worse than the worst that I imagined from your hints and warnings. O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I to do? For now I am really afraid. What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’
‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.’
‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo. ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’
‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in.
‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo. ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’
‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.”(From The Fellowship of the Ring)
This poignant exchange between Gandalf and Frodo explores the challenging virtues of mercy, pity, and refraining from judgment. Frodo expresses dismay and fear at the damage done by Gollum possessing the Ring. He wishes Bilbo had killed Gollum when he had the chance.
Yet Gandalf reveals it was pity and mercy that stayed Bilbo’s hand from killing the wretched Gollum. Gandalf explains that none of us can fully grasp all outcomes and possibilities. Though Gollum seems beyond hope, Gandalf senses he still has a role to play.
He cautions Frodo against being too quick to deal out death as judgment. Gandalf advocates for the power of pity, mercy, and life – values that stem from a deeper wisdom than surface appearances. In this way, Bilbo’s small act of mercy toward Gollum may later impact many lives.
This passage speaks to a Christian approach toward those who seem corrupt and deserving of condemnation. Yet God in His unfathomable wisdom calls us to strive for compassion, believing in redemption and leaving ultimate judgment to Him alone. Like Frodo, we may not feel pity toward those furthest gone. But Gandalf urges us to temper our judgments with mercy, elevating life and hope when possible. A small act of pity can set in motion goodness far beyond what we can foresee.
Interested in reading The Lord of the Rings?
If you’ve never before read The Lord of the Rings (orThe Hobbit) and are interested in giving them a try, this is the edition I read from:
I really enjoyed these copies above as they were both small and flimsy enough to carry around in my pocket. But if you’d prefer something larger, don’t worry, as there are many editions to choose from!
Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? If yes, did it have an impact on your faith?
Let me know below in the comment box!
Are you often asked what the Catholic Church teaches about tough subjects? Are you curious about what the Church teaches?
In this Tough Catholic Teachings cheat sheet I provide for you direct links to the paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that speak specifically about these tough topics.
You won’t need to go searching for what the Catholic Church actually teaches about these subjects as you will have direct access to the Catechism’s teaching all in one place!