View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

C. S. Lewis's "feast day"

A Saint's Feast Day is traditionally the day he or she died. Today would be the Feast of C. S. Lewis - were he a saint (some might debate this) and were he Catholic (some think he should have been).
He died 45 years ago on November 22, 1963.

Barring the Church adopting the controversial Mormon practice of posthumous baptism/conversions, Lewis will remain an Anglican, and not eligible for sainthood.

But he remains an important spiritual figure for many Catholics. His writings helped to spark or restore faith in so many people.

My own discovery of him came in December 1974 - and I credit him with helping to resuscitate my spiritual life and saving my soul.

I was working in New York City for a place called Covenant House (before the controversies). I had dropped out of college, was very confused and unhappy, and, sadly, was not leading an exemplary Catholic life.

As part of my "salary," I lived in an apartment rented by Covenant House. When I moved in, there was a bookcase full of books that someone had left behind. Among them were the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia. I had heard of them, but never read them. I had read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however, and knew that Lewis was somehow connected with J.R.R. Tolkien.

At Christmas, not having a car, I planned to ride the bus back to upstate New York to be with my family. I borrowed the books figuring it would be a long ride and wanting something "light" to read on the way home and back.

I went through all seven books that Christmas. They whetted my appetite for Spiritual reading - and I soon found myself reading Merton's Seven Storey Mountain and St. Augustine's Confessions. Those books were pivotal in turning me around. Inside of a month, my spiritual and moral life was heading in the right direction and I made some major changes in my life.

In the next few years I amassed a large collection of Lewis books. I also sought out other Christian/Catholic writers, and discovered G.K. Chesterton (his biography of St. Francis of Assisi was my first real taste of the great one).

But I might never have had the inspiration to try Merton, St. Augustine or Chesterton at that time were it not for reading Lewis' "children's books" that Christmas. To be sure, there were already promptings by the Spirit that had led me to Covenant House in the first place. Lewis just came along at the right time. Or got sent my way. After all, what were the chances that a troubled soul from a small town in Upstate New York would find himself in an apartment in New York City that just happened to contain the Chronicles of Narnia?

So here's to you, C.S. Lewis. Thank you.


Blogger Rich Leonardi said...


Peter Kreeft's classic Between Heaven and Hell, an imagined dialogue between Lewis, JFK, and Aldous Huxley, all of whom died on the same day, is out in a new edition to mark the 45th anniversary of their deaths. FYI.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Thanks for the suggestion.

So much reading. So little time!

6:18 AM  

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