As a fan of Tolkien, his writings and his person, some of his personally signed books, which were a gift to me many years ago, are among my few most treasured things. They are links to me of the flowering of Catholic thought and life which took place during the early and middle part of the twentieth century.
Tolkien's tale, The Lord of the Rings, stands at forefront of this flowering for me; a tale which speaks of light, hope and grace in the midst of a century which was plunged into war and destruction.
It seems to me that the emergence of Tolkien's mythology, which took place as he participated in the unspeakable horror of the First World War, and that what flowed out of that experience was precisely a tale which, in some way, parallels the horror of war, enlightened as it was by false human 'lights' (in other words, secularism), and yet seeks the true light, that of God, which no human efforts can ultimately eradicate.
The Lord of the Rings, whose dark power controls the innumerable armies of orcs and seeks to overthrow all that is good, and true, and beautiful, is an analogy for that dark force which plunged so many nations into mutual obliteration in 1914. Yet all along, the true project of goodness, which is the Mercy of God (the most powerful force in the Universe) revealed in Jesus, who seeks the true flourishing of peoples, is ever present.
Everytime that I have read The Lord of the Rings, I have been entranced by how Tolkien weaves grace into his tale. Yet, knowing that the story had its beginning during one of the darkest hours of the twentieth century, and came into being during and after the Second War, is itself a sign and icon of great hope for our times.
Secularism is again immensely strong, yet Catholic thought and life, which picks up and mirrors that true human project (which is Christ), stands as a beacon for all humanity: God is indeed in charge, and Jesus Christ in the Lord of History.