Although I’ve always been an avid reader, with stacks of books on my desk, beside my bed, and on overflowing shelves around the house, I didn’t read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy until I was an adult. (Now my sixth grader is reading them for school!)
About 17 years ago, we were remodeling our house and living with my in-laws in the meantime, staying in an upstairs bedroom with two preschool boys. Every night during those three months, I’d tuck the boys in, and, so as not to disturb the sleepers, huddle in the closet – my own little hobbit hole – until late at night, reading Tolkien. I found myself lost in the wild beauty of his stories, holding my breath, weeping as I recognized that laced in his words was the story of my own sin and redemption. Myth is a very powerful way to convey eternal truths, and spiritual reading is very real food for the soul.
However, this master storyteller knew very well what needs to take the number one spot in our spiritual efforts both as a way to grow in virtue and fight against sin.
Tolkien hints at it in the books themselves – weaving into the Trilogy story a special kind of bread, lembas bread, or waybread, thin wafers made by the elves and providing incredible sustenance for long journeys. The more one relied on it alone, the more “it fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.” There is little doubt what lembas bread refers to, especially when you know the heart of the author.
“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: The Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth…The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all for any of us. Like the act of Faith, it must be continuous and grow by exercise… Frequency is of the highest effect.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Reflecting on this, I’ve added a holy hour and a deeper commitment to daily Mass for my Lenten practice, holy habits I intend to fold more and more into my life now that those preschool boys are men and their younger brothers and sisters are in school all day. I no longer need to huddle in closets – or Church cry rooms, for that matter – I have little excuse not to “watch one hour” with Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
As we near Lent, feel free to leave in the comments what you intend to make part of your practice this holy season!
“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.” – Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
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