It has long been my passion (and, I believe, also my calling) to serve as a catalyst for a new Christian cultural revival in the English-speaking world. In this sense, it could be said that I am striving to be what might be called a “catalytic converter” of the culture. Thanks be to God, there are many other catalytic converters trying to do the same thing, and it’s a privilege and a pleasure to form part of this network of grace and network of minds. For this reason, it is a joy to write for the folks at The Imaginative Conservative, who are having such a great and growing influence. In the same way, it is a true honour to have been asked to serve as the Director of the Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee.
One of the initiatives that we’ve launched at the Aquinas Center is an annual Tolkien & Lewis Celebration, which takes place on the penultimate Saturday in September, thereby placing it symbolically close to Hobbit Day (September 22), the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and also close to the anniversary of the famous “night talk” between Lewis and Tolkien on the nature of myth, on September 19, 1931, which led to Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. Since these two dates are worth celebrating, as are Tolkien and Lewis themselves, it seemed appropriate that we should hold an annual Celebration in Nashville, bringing together admirers of both writers to bask in a day of unabashed tributes to their lives and works. At our first Celebration last year, we were delighted that more than 250 people attended.
At this year’s Celebration, which will take place at Aquinas College on Saturday, September 17 from 9am until 4:30pm, we have assembled an illustrious array of speakers and actors, all of whom have earned a reputation for their work on Lewis and Tolkien. Indeed, the names of the speakers and actors and the topics of their presentations speak for themselves.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who will be no stranger to readers of the Imaginative Conservative, will speak on “Tolkien and the Hero’s Quest.” Michael Ward, a Fellow of Blackfriars Hall at Oxford University, will speak on his bestselling and controversial book, Planet Narnia.
Kevin O’Brien and the Theatre of the Word Incorporated will present a two-man show, re-enacting the aforementioned “long night talk” between Tolkien and Lewis. Mr. O’Brien has done a good deal of work on TV, hosting his own series on EWTN, as well as appearing in two of the episodes of the thirteen-part series of The Quest for Shakespeare, which I hosted for EWTN, and appearing as Tolkien in all four of the hour-long documentaries on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that I wrote and presented, also for EWTN.
Devin Brown, Professor of English at Asbury University and author of no fewer than nine books on Tolkien and Lewis, will give a presentation on “Why C. S. Lewis Matters Today,” showing clips from a documentary for which he wrote the script and in which I was honoured to be a part.
Hal L. Poe, Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University and author of numerous books and articles on Lewis and Tolkien, will officially open the “Tolkien, Lewis & Friends Exhibit,” which will be on display at Aquinas College for the whole of the Fall semester. Dr. Poe will offer a personal, guided tour of the Exhibit, which comprises his own collection of rare items of memorabilia about Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and other members of the Inklings.
Last but hopefully not least, I will be giving a talk on the Christian dimension of The Hobbit, based upon my book, Bilbo’s Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning of The Hobbit.
As if the foregoing were not enough to whet the appetite, we will also be presenting the Aquinas Award for Fiction to Michael D. O’Brien for his new book, Elijah in Jerusalem, the sequel to his international bestseller, Father Elijah. I am truly delighted that the incomparable Mr. O’Brien will be flying from his home in Canada to receive the Award. Finally, we will be presenting the annual Tolkien and Lewis high-school essay prize, sponsored jointly by the Aquinas Center and Homeschool Connections, to this year’s worthy winner, a student from Alaska, who will be traveling to Nashville with her family to receive the prize and to read her winning essay.
Personally I wouldn’t be anywhere else on Saturday, September 17 than at this Celebration of two of the greatest writers who have ever lived, whose impact on the culture is inestimable. I hope that those readers of the Imaginative Conservative who share my love and admiration for Tolkien and Lewis, of whom I know there are many, will consider joining me in Nashville for this exciting event. Full details can be found here.
Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.