Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Battle for the Shire


A devout and good young man is keen to join the Society of St Pius X. I can understand that. I have always wanted to be simply a priest as Catholic priests are supposed to be. If he is ordained (and he seems to me to be a strong candidate), then he will be able to minister to a largely sympathetic (to the things he stands for, I mean) congregation who will appreciate who he is and what he does. That's the way things are supposed to be between priest and people.

In Lord of the Rings, in a preface Tolkien sharply dismisses the idea that he was writing an allegory. In an allegory one thing directly stands for another; when one has the key, one understands a concrete situation. A myth, however, is something far deeper. It addresses themes which crop up again and again in human history, and tells this in the form of a story whose truth is self-apparent in its root. You can change the story, the characters, but the myth remains essentially the same.

Consider Harry Potter. JK Rowling said that the entire story had sprang into her mind at once. How clever! She conceived of a misunderstood hero who lived away from his natural parents, had extraordinary abilities, had a small group of friends who believed in him, who had a deadly enemy (whom he was the only one able to resist effectively) whom he combatted and by whom he was eventually killed, and who was then raised to life thereby saving everyone else in the story…… Of course it sprang to her mind. It is the greatest story of all, or myth if you will. No wonder a writer without remarkable literary skills managed to write such a bestseller. We all know that story, and it never fails to move us.

I'm conceiving Lord of the Rings in the same way. Right now it seems to me as if the SSPX is Lothlorien. It is necessary that Lothlorien exist, so that we never forget how things should be. Perhaps the FSSP is Rivendell, living to some extent with a foot in two worlds. But we should never forget that the real battle is for the Shire; the parishes and dioceses. If all the soldiers go to live in Lothlorien or even in Rivendell, then the Shire will fall. And if the Shire should fall, then next Rivendell will fall, and eventually Lothlorien too will go. Is Saruman the White now entrenched in Orthanc and holding Gandalf?

You see what I mean about myths?

3 comments:

Cupitor said...

Insightful post, thank you. My questions are as follows: has the Shire not fallen in most places already? Is it now about rebuilding the Shire from the forgotten enclave within the Shire which in time becomes the new Shire? or to put it better isn't the enclave the new shire itself? Is not the remnant also embedded deeply in mythology? Just asking.

T.Cranmer said...

Does this allegory really hold true? In Tolkien's mythology Lothlorien, Rivendell and the Grey Havens were the last outposts of absolute goodness in a world corrupted by evil. Econe rebelled against the Church and was officially suppressed by Bl. Paul VI and St. John Paul II excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988. A few years ago Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI clarified that Lefebvrists have no ministry in the Catholic Church. Should we really reject Papal authority so lightly? Surely a more apt comparison would be for Econe to be considered as Orthanc. Set up in opposition to the White Council after its master decided he wanted to become a power rather than a servant of the good. Well Sharkey met his end some time ago but what will become of Worm?

Pelerin said...

I am unable to comment on the references to Lord of the Rings as I am ashamed to say I have never read it.

However on Sunday I visited the church in Paris served by the SSPX and before entering I was approached by two gentlemen one middle aged and one much younger - a bit like the Mormons! - and asked if I had been there before. I was curious to hear what they had to say so stayed to chat and I must admit that I agreed with much of their comments especially about Vatican II where they mentioned that it stated that Latin should be retained in the Mass wherever possible. And yet I have friends who shudder at the thought of a 'Latin Mass.'

The SSPX have had a magnificent church in Paris for many years(it has been described as the longest sit-in in history!). I was asked if I wanted to attend Mass there and hesitated with my reply before telling them that I had planned to go to Notre-Dame that evening to hear the new Archbishop. They sensed my discomfort and assured me that they were Catholics too. When I visited the church some years ago I had felt very uncomfortable but on this visit I actually felt at ease. Happily there are several churches in Paris which now offer the Mass in the EF and one can only hope that one day the SSPX will be fully integrated in the Church once again. After all didn't I read that Pope Francis has allowed confession to a SSPX Priest?