The two popular British authors are being considered for canonization.
According to the USCCB, canonized saints in the Catholic Church are holy men and women, “role models held up as witnesses to Christ and the Gospel as worthy of our emulation.”
Currently two of the most popular literary figures in recent history are being considered for this special designation: J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton. Will either of them be declared a saint one day?
The cause for canonization of G.K. Chesterton has not been officially opened, but has made considerable progress in the past few months. According to Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, “the Bishop of Northampton, England, Peter Doyle, appointed a priest, Fr. John Udris, to be the investigator for Chesterton’s potential. Father Udris is completing his report to the Bishop within the next month [in July 2018], and the Bishop is expected to approach the Congregation for Saints in Rome to officially open the Cause for Beatification. If that happens, Chesterton would be declared a Servant of God, and a postulator would be appointed.”
In the case of J.R.R. Tolkien, an Italian priest, Fr. Daniele Pietro Ercoli, contacted the archbishop of Birmingham, England about the cause. His response was supportive and he wrote to Ercoli, “I am pleased to encourage you in seeking to inform people more widely about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Catholic faith and the influence that he this had on his writing and on his life … I would suggest that it is open to you to compose a prayer to be distributed for private and personal use and, if a cause is one day opened, then we can draft an appropriate prayer.” Since this letter a prayer for private use has been composed for his cause.
Earlier this year a “Canonization Conference” was being promoted for September 1-2, 2018 in Oxford with the hopes that it could jumpstart interest in the cause. Additionally, on September 2, 2017 a special Mass was “held at the Oxford Oratory to mark the anniversary of the death” of Tolkien, “the Mass was offered, however, not for the repose of Tolkien’s soul – but rather praying for his Cause for Beatification to be opened … The Mass itself was fittingly celebrated in Tolkien’s old parish church (dedicated to St. Aloysius) with his granddaughter among the congregation.”
In both cases, if either cause advances to the Vatican their public writings will be analyzed to determine if they wrote anything contrary to faith and morals. A biography is assembled during this process, and those involved take note of the practice of virtue in the life of the individual.
The key to the consideration of each cause is to determine if the individual lead a life of “heroic” virtue. This refers to the person’s ability to overcome sinful tendencies and temptations. They don’t have to be free from sin to be considered a saint, but to strive daily in the pursuit of virtue.
Will they ever be declared saints? Only time will tell.