Friday, July 24, 2015
In The Lord of the Rings, Denethor stewards – or ought to steward -- The nation of Gondor. What does that mean? It means he protects and maintains the nation. He rules it in so far as he protects the people and upholds the laws and keeps it recognizably Gondor.
That is not to say he must keep it static and pass it on unchanged and undeveloped like the man who received one talent. He may, and probably should, improve it. It should be better for having been in his hands.
But what is the yardstick for improvement? For a steward, it is the will of the king. It is the nature of the charge he has been given. He must remain true to it to serve as a good steward.
Where does Denethor fail? First, he forgets that his charge is not his possession. He is not free to take from it or put into it whatever he wills. At the end of his stewardship, the nation must remain Gondor. Ideally, it has become the best Gondor it could become.
Second, he gets information and counsel from the worst of sources. He rejects a prophetic and magisterial voice like Gandalf's and clings, instead, to the words coming from the seeing stone.
Likewise, our priests are stewards of the mass. They succeed in their role in so far as they remember that it is not theirs. They succeed in so far as they recognize and heed the prophetic and magisterial voice of the Church. (When the man in the white robes and carrying the staff walks in, how do you receive his counsel?)
Parents and catechists -- and, truly, all Christians-- are stewards of the faith. We succeed in that role in so far as we remember that it is not ours to edit. We succeed in so far as we recognize and heed the prophetic and magisterial voice of the Church. (Do we cast off those palintirs which tempt us to pride or despair?) What has been entrusted to us can be understood better and delivered better and delved deeper into. But it is not ours to alter. It is ours to uphold and protect and carry forward until that new spring that comes with the return of the King.