3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

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Memory is a profound thing. Certain images, events, and facts stick with us over time and become housed in our long-term memory. Remembrance is the act of recalling past events through memory. Much of the Catholic Church’s sacramental life is founded on memorializing events from the Gospels. During the Last Supper, Jesus stated, “Do this in memory of me.”

When I taught New Testament at a Catholic high school, I unconsciously created a memory regarding the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. I united my love of literature with love of scripture by referring to Zacchaeus as “the hobbit of the New Testament”. Students chuckled at this provisional quip. The former tax collector was described as a short man who needed to climb a tree to view Jesus’ arrival in his town. J.R.R. Tolkien once described his creations as,

I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which allows them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.

Linking the minor character in Luke’s Gospel to hobbits helped forge a permanent memory of Luke 19:1-10 within me. In the years following this mnemonic device, I frequently recall the life of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ mercy whenever I see anything related to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Below are three things I learned from “The hobbit of the New Testament”

Bilbo exiting his hobbit hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persistence pays off

Zacchaeus could not initially see Jesus as he entered Jericho. Instead of letting his short stature prevent him from seeing the Messiah, St. Luke tells us, “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way” (Luke 19:4).

Imagine a grown man scurrying up a tree or pole to see a local celebrity, politician, or other important figure. In today’s age of social media I bet someone would certainly go to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube over such strange behavior. Climbing up a tree indicates not the strangeness of Zacchaeus, but rather his persistence and recognition that Jesus was someone important! The short man in Luke is definitely a role model for me in showing that my faith life is a constant work in progress.

Jesus Chooses the Imperfect

Along with Zacchaeus’ persistence, the tale of the hobbit of the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus loves the imperfect and calls the sinner to follow him. Not only did Zacchaeus struggle to physically see Jesus among the crowd, he also had an occupation despised by his fellow countrymen—he was a tax collector! According to Luke, the crowd hated Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus by stating, “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner (Luke 19:7)”

Personally, I need to be reminded that Jesus dined with sinners— the spiritually infirmed. I struggle with the sin of pride. I battle with being judgmental. Luke 19:1-10 gives me perspective that God’s love is ultimately above my total comprehension. God’s love is transformative as well. The “hobbit of the New Testament” was changed after his encounter with Jesus. “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over,Zacchaeus stated (Luke 19:8).

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Do not let Limitations Prevent You from Growing

A final point Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus taught me is that spiritual growth is possible despite my limitations and past failures. Jesus welcomed sinners and culturally ostracized groups with grace and forgiveness.

Oftentimes, I use my limitations—my low patience with my kids, my OCD, and struggles with pride—as an excuse to put off growing in my spiritual life. Zacchaeus’ transformation in the presence of Jesus gives me hope that I am able to change too.

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J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Certainly that is true for his Lord of the Rings trilogy where the bearer of Sauron’s ring is the simple hobbit Frodo. Zacchaeus, like, the hobbits of Middle Earth, provided change in the course of the future—for sure my future! I took to Zacchaeus, a figure who was not only physically limited, but spiritually limited who saw something transformative and attractive in Jesus.

Scaling a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus did not let the possible danger of falling or others’ perceptions of him stop him from gazing at our Lord. I ask for fortitude from the Holy Spirit to allow me to boldly seek Jesus just as the hobbit of the New Testament intrepidly sought after God.


I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Enter Change Agent 007 into the Battle in the Catholic Church

💡💡💡If you are unhappy with the state of things you can do two things:

1️⃣ Do nothing except complain

2️⃣ Be an agent of change yourself

I used to simply lament about my situation. Vent. Vent. More venting. Some days I took up so much hot air I could have probably filled a hot-air balloon!

Taking perspective and focusing on being more self-aware. According to 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” Trusting in Jesus has helped to energize me and in turn motivate me to act toward bettering me life.

Saintly Agents in the War on Evil

Athanasius of Alexandria, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, John Paul II all saw lived during transitory and tumultuous times. Times when it appeared truth would lose. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit, these saints were granted a tremendous ability to push for change.

Agents of Change

More Examples of Change Agents

My literary heroes C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both lamented about the lack of quality content in their niche. What did they do? They become the leading experts and content creators in the fantasy genre. Without their initiative we would not know about hobbits or the magical world of Narnia 🦁.

Today, I am seeing the Catholic Church in a dismal state. Theological confusion from leadership and abuses scandals test the laity’s faith. This leaves many disengaged & disheartened by the current states of affairs.

Fight or Flight in the Face of Flames?

🔥It is easy to leave a burning building when it is going up in flames. But what if that building contains the very thing that gives you life, excitement, tenacity, peace, joy, courage, & wonder? Would it be so easy to leave?

🔥Our life is not our own. We were created to love God first, others second, & ourselves third.

🔥Do you abandon the ark away from the flames into the watery chaos of the secular world?

🔥Or do you plunge further into the flames of suffering as a means to meet the true fire of God’s love?

🔥Will you be an agent of change or simply complain, do nothing, & eventually leave?

🔥The choice is yours. Be Change Agent 007 and help cleanse the Church!

 

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3 Ways You Can Actually Get Rest through Play

According to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” This weekend I found a temporary fountain of youth—at a pumpkin patch!  Celebrating the birthdays of two of my nieces and my daughter, we visited a small-town Nebraskan pumpkin patch on Saturday.  This experience was what I needed to infuse live into me.

Rest and play

My overnight work schedule has been challenging.  Getting naps throughout the day are hit or miss depending on how fussy or not my teething 8 month old daughter is on a a particular day. Balancing work and life has like trying to battle 16 monkey ninjas on your own. Our three year old has regressed over the past few weeks, meltdowns are on the rise, I only get to see my wife about 30 minutes most days, and the list of struggles goes on and on.

The purpose of this post is not to complain, but rather give a bit of context as to why my content has been irregular recently. I am thankfully for people providing guest posts in the midst of my chaotic schedule. I will be publishing more guest posts to help give me a break during this season. Rest. I did not appreciate sleep until I lacked it. This post will focus on a few ways I have been able to discover how to get rest during a grueling schedule. If you are in a similar or more serious situation than my family I hope you find value in these tips.

Play and Positivity

A common factoid you may have learned in school is that it takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. If you never heard this amazing fact, please check out the link in the related resources section at the end of this post to read about the science behind smiling. This weekend I smiled.

Traveling on a zip line, sliding down the barn slide, pedaling a cart, and chasing my kids on the pumpkin patch playground incited smiles. We need playtime help reset our mindset. Going into work on Monday I was much more motivated and cheery. Playtime leads to positivity.

Observational Play is Still Fun

According to Angela Schwindt, “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” During the breaks between pumpkin patch activities I got the chance to watch my children caper with their cousins. The joy and excitement in their faces caused me to beam with gratitude. I rarely have the opportunity to simply rest and observe them in the middle of play.

Overcoming from a recent sinus infection and my continual job hunt for work from home opportunities has drained much of my energy the past few weeks. This weekend provided me the chance to pause and have fun watching my kids play!

Recapping the Day is Restful

Another way to fit in play during a busy schedule is to reflect on the revelry throughout the day. We had a three hour drive back home so I spent some time replaying the fun our family had in my mind. Next, my wife and I talked about our favorite moments. I asked each of my children which activity they enjoyed the best. “Pumpkin, I have a pumpkin daddy!” my three year old exclaimed from his car seat. Looking back, I saw a wide grin on his face and the orange vegetable proudly held in his hand.

Pumpkin Patch

Memory gave me the ability to play again while sitting down in the car. As I recapped the day, I regained my energy that was completely drained during the week.

Make it a priority to get daily playtime. It is necessary for a healthy body and mind. Play renewed my endurance. Rediscover joy in life by embracing playtime. A work and life balance is important. How do you plan on resting and playing this week?

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An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

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Originally published September 22nd, 2017


Over the past few weeks, life has been throwing stress-filled curveballs at me. Reeling from anxiety, anger, and frustration, I recently went to the spiritual medicine box—Confession—to gain sacramental graces to help me grow in patience and perspective. I experienced a true transformation in my life this week in the days following my reconciliation with God, the Church, and my fellow man. September 21st, 2017 became a new launching point for my spiritual journey. Excited for this re-start on my path toward Christian holiness, I will provide a few reasons why this date holds a special place in my heart.

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Anniversary of the Publication of The Hobbit

Eighty years ago, on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit—an essential item on any fantasy fan’s bookshelf—was published. Eight decades later the tale of J.R.R. Tolkien still instills wonder in its readers.

Regrettably, I did not explore Middle Earth until my mid-20s. Over the past five years, I have read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings trilogy once.

A true literary treasure is measured through its ability to stand the test of time. Nearly a century later, I would say that Tolkien’s work passes with flying colors. Characters within the story seem to speak directly to me. For instance, the dwarf Thorin tells Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” How easy is it for us to lose memory of the importance things in life? I forget fairly quickly. Tolkien reminds me to look for the hidden joys in my life. Perhaps, an unexpected journey is in store for me starting September 21st, 2017.

St. Matthew

Happy Holiness Day

Along with the anniversary of The Hobbit, September 21st is the feast day of my patron saint—St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Before his “coming to God moment”, Matthew worked for the Roman equivalent of the IRS. Hatred of paying government taxes is an innate principle built into humanity. Palestine 30 A.D. was no different. What courage and faith it must have taken Matthew to leave his luxurious, high paying government job?

Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people. They basically did the Roman government’s dirty work of extolling individuals for money. I always imaged how Matthew would fit in with Jesus’ motley crew of Apostles. Was he accepted right away? Did trust issues exist?

While such questions are purely speculative, but I find pondering the transition of Matthew from a hated tax collector to an evangelist helpful in my relationship with my patron saint. I too struggle to fit in at times, yet I am gifted with the ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ just like St. Matthew! September 21st is the beginning of my re-commitment to evangelize through my writing, family life, and volunteering at my parish. I hope to exhibit the same steadfast faith as Matthew did when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27).

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September of Sacraments

Together with my patron saint and favorite fantasy jubilees occurring on the same day, the month of September started as a transitional month for my family and I. My wife began a new job, our children started to get in the school routine, and changes galore occurred at work. Through the grace of God and ability in our hectic scheduling, and mostly due to my serious need for divine assistance I went to confession twice this month.

During my first confession, the priests gave me this amazing penance—pray the Prayer of Humility. Humility is the virtue that stands in opposition to the vice of pride. Pride is what made the Devil fall from his celestial pedestal as God’s favored angel. Pride leads me to be an inferior version of myself. Let us briefly ask God for the gift of true and beautiful humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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Be on the Lookout for Your Unexpected Journey

Unexpected journeys are difficult, but the joy attained through its travel is immeasurable. Jesus tells his disciples [and us], “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). God asks us each day: will you follow me?

Starting on September 21st, 2017, I said yes! I renewed my commitment to follow His lead. Will I continue on this path? I certainly hope so, only time will truly tell. I will close with the following exchange between the hobbit and wizard before the great journey:

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back

Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same

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Living Out Your Purpose—Transform the World!

Catherine of Siena Set World on Fire

 

 

 

 

 

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on 🔥.” —St. Catherine of Siena

🔥 You are valuable. Unique. One of a kind. Think about the gifts you have. How can you help others? Those less fortunate than you. Less privileged.

🔥Life is 100% about love. Natural fire destroys. The supernatural fire of divine love transforms.

🔥Catherine did not have the pedigree of a princess or the formal education of a professor.

🔥Her impact on the world and 14th century was because she embraced her role— persistence toward truth and justice. She called out the greed of popes! To me that is the definition of heroism.

🔥St. Catherine has become a major influence in my life. Her writings inspire and give me hope. I consider her my mentor, a best friend, and spiritual sister.

🔥Embrace Love humbly and truthfully. The result will be an amazing transformation and impact. Love now!

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Saints of the New Springtime: Hope for the Catholic Church in 2020 and Beyond

By: Laura Ricketts

  • ❗️The annihilation and remaking of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
  • ❗️The looming Amazonian Synod.
  • ❗️The defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
  • ❗️Archbishop Vigano’s explosive letters.
  • ❗️Continuing revelations and investigations in Dioceses across the country relating to the abuse scandals.
  • ❗️Unanswered Dubia.

Catholic Church Scandal

It is no secret that we live in interesting and even troubling times. Such scandals remind us of the papacies of old. Jealousies, subterfuge, and politics were par for the course. When priests and prelates had factions and the talk of schism was real and present. It can lead even the most faithful among us to ask, “What are we to do?”

The Timeless Answer

The answer has already been given to us.

“Be not afraid.” This phrase is mentioned more than 365 times!

Saint Pope John Paul II  also reminded us to never fear.  The Polish pope left both an example to follow and the seeds of hope. Almost 20 years after his passing, a New Springtime is upon the Church.

John Paul II

As long ago as 1990, in Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II was speaking of this New Springtime. For those who grew up in the “JPII Generation,” many of us thought and hoped that it would mean a dramatic and unmistakable revival. A huge event. But that is often not how God works.

The seeds of this New Springtime were planted by the Polish Pope himself, in the hearts and minds of the young people to whom he felt a special connection and responsibility. Those “young people” are now the mothers, fathers, religious, priests, young and brave bishops who are coming into their own within the Church. They are professors, teachers, and theologians. They are catechists and pastors. And they have the example of John Paul II to follow to navigate these interesting times.

Impact of the Family

When he was Fr. Karol, John Paul II met with what came to be known as the “Little Family” (Mala Rodzina) and grew into what was called “Srodowisko.” This gathering of lay people with Fr. Karol helped him form his thoughts about love, man, and marriage, family—later known as Theology of the Body. He remarked that this little family became like his family. This experience formed the foundation of his Christological humanism and later, his first encyclical, Redeptor Hominis—the Redeemer of Man.

Hope During the Storms

What a beautiful way to follow the late pope’s example and to continue to water the flowers of the New Springtime! Within our own families and in our own parishes and communities we can form our own “Srodowiskos.” We can learn with and encourage our own friends, children, families, priests, and neighbors.

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With the former Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family removing the study of moral theology from its courses, we, the JPII Generation, can continue to learn and teach and study as John Paul II intended, just as he himself started. We have his Theology of the Body for a text book. We have the writings of Janet Smith, Edward Sri, Pope Benedict XVI, the von Hildebrands, and Mgr Livio Melina, and Fr José Noriega as we continue. We have the sacraments, the Liturgy, and Cardinals like Sarah and Arinze to encourage us as we strive to be Holy and to help each other on the way to Heaven.

With the Amazonian Synod threatening to shake the foundations we know to be unshakeable, we have the Deposit of the Faith that is unchangeable. We have recourse to the Blessed Mother, to whom John Paul II constantly turned and consecrated himself and the Church. We can repeat after him, “Totus Tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt!”

Trust God Wholeheartedly

Despite the whispers of schism, allegations, accusations, and denials flying, we can have confidence that even in the most difficult of circumstances God’s Will shall prevail. Truth always shines forth in the end!

If Divine Providence can orchestrate the election of man who saw all of his family members die by his 20th birthday, survived WWII, withstood dangerous communist regimes, and survived an assassination attempt, imagine what He can do when we follow the example of John Paul II. Be one of the saints of the New Springtime!

New Springtime in Church


Laura is a wife, mother, and the wearer of many hats. She is a Client and Marketing Manager for And Then There Were None, and a Birth and Bereavement Doula for her ministry FiLumena Birth and Bereavement. She is certified in Psychological First Aid and Grief and Loss Counseling. When she isn’t wearing one of those hats she can be found reading about her hero and spiritual father, Pope St. John Paul II, kayaking, crocheting, or exploring with her husband, her kids and her cats in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia! Check out her content at filumenabirth.com and Prolifewomen.com.

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