The Lord of the Rings movies are three of the highest grossing movies of all times, so it’s pretty likely that you’ve seen them. However, if you like epic books, then you should definitely read the books. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the books; there are three of them, and they’re all large, but it’s worth it. Take you time reading them, and really think about them. J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, but his Catholicism isn’t just right on the surface like so much Catholic media; it’s deep down in the fabric of the story and characters.
In the movies you can see the struggle between Frodo and the Ring, and they do a brilliant job of showing that struggle. In the books you get to hear what’s going on in Frodo’s mind during those struggles. The Ring wants him to put it on, because that will reveal his location and their plan to destroy the Ring. Sometimes Frodo exerts his will and overcomes the temptation of the Ring. Sometimes he falls to the temptation and the Ring wins. The really subtle part is that using the Ring can actually help Frodo get closer to his goal, which is reaching Mt. Doom and destroying the Ring, but each time it makes it harder and harder to resist and gives the Ring more and more control over Frodo. One of the most moving scenes in the book is when Frodo and Sam are in Mordor and getting closer and closer to Mt. Doom. As they draw closer it gets harder and harder for Frodo to resist as it has more and more influence over him. At one point he tells Sam to hold his hand, to keep him from putting on the Ring, because he knows that he can’t resist the pull of the Ring anymore.
This is epic fantasy literature, but it has everything to do with living out the faith in our daily lives. We have to remember that we’re in a spiritual battle against the ancient Enemy, Satan, “the accuser of our brothers” (Rv 12:10).There is another power, when which is more powerful than we are, influencing us and pulling us, but it can’t control us unless we give in. Sometimes we fall, and sometimes we don’t, but we need to use of our willpower and everything we have to resist. Ultimately, though, everything we have isn’t enough. We need help. We need the help of our friends, our brothers and sisters in the faith, and we need the help of a higher power, one which even the Enemy is powerless against. Think of what Gandalf says as he stands on the bridge of Khazad-dum blocking the path of the Balrog, a beast of fire and shadows, “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass.” To me, that sounds an awful lot like the Holy Spirit who descended on the Apostles at Pentecost filling them with the strength and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.