Austin WalkerLumen Christi Institute
Madison ChastainLumen Christi Institute
Presented by the Lumen Christi Institute’s Newman Forum. Open to current high school students. This event was made possible by a grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute.
Hobbits and elves, humans and dwarves, trees with personality and the most famous ring of all time.... through his stories, JRR Tolkien has taken generation after generation on countless fantastical journeys to far-off places, full of magic and mystery. What's more, Tolkien has imbued his stories with the beauty of the Christian faith, through careful allegory and metaphor.
In this hour-long session together, we'll read and discuss one of Tolkien's lesser-known stories, "Leaf by Niggle." You thought there was nothing more humble than Hobbiton, but through this brief tale of a regular man's begrudging kindness and yes, another unexpected journey, we'll see how even the most humble of human endeavors can leave an enormous, magical impact.
Like all of his works, Tolkien guides us into the mysteries of Christian faith through allegory and imagistic suggestion. These are the most enjoyable of stories, the ones that surprise us and leave us asking "what could that symbol mean?" During our time together, we'll unpack the layers of symbols in this short little story and wade into the picture of Christian faith Tolkien paints for us: How are we to spend our lives? How are we to treat our neighbors? What does it mean to prepare for a journey?
Photo titled "Leaf by Niggle," by Emily Austin Design, LLC
Austin Walker is Assistant Director of the Lumen Christi Institute where he directs LCI's Newman Forum and West Suburban Series on Catholic Culture, in addition to serving as the instructor for LCI's Executive Great Books series. He is also an instructor at the University of Chicago's Graham School Basic Program of Liberal Education. He is completing a Ph.D. on John Henry Newman's political philosophy at the University of Chicago's prestigious Committee on Social Thought, and holds M.A.'s from the University of Chicago and the University of Mississippi. He received a B.A. with highest honors in Classical Languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 2007 to 2011, he taught in the Mississippi Delta for the Mississippi Teacher Corps, where he received the Andrew P. Mullins Jr. Award in 2009.
Madison Chastain is Program Coordinator of the Newman Forum, the Lumen Christi Institute's programming for high school students. Madison received a BA from Saint Mary's College of California, where she studied English as well as Theology and Religious Studies. After spending a year teaching religion to middle schoolers in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a Lasallian Volunteer, Madison came to the University of Chicago Divinity School where she is finishing her MA. Her research focuses on Catholic disability theology and medical ethics.