Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saint of the Week -- C.S. Lewis

Today we celebrate Clive Staples Lewis, author and apologist for the Christian faith. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Lewis had a lonely childhood. His father was emotionally distant, and his mother died when he was ten. A series of boarding schools, some nightmarish, some merely horrid, formed him, until he left for Oxford. A rich fantasy life, especially focused on the Norse myths, sustained him.

After serving in World War I, he kept a promise made to a fellow soldier, that if anything happened to one of them, the other would care for the family left behind. After his friend Paddy Moore died, Lewis took Paddy's mother, Jane, as his adopted mother. Eventually, in 1930, Lewis, his brother Warnie, Jane and her daughter Maureen moved into "The Kilns", the famous house outside Oxford where Lewis wrote the bulk of his work.

Lewis lapsed into atheism in his teens, and was reluctantly converted -- first to a sort of theism, then eventually to Christianity. He remained a loyal Anglican, to the dismay of his friend J.R.R. Tolkein, who had hoped Lewis would become a Catholic.

In Lewis's later life, he met Joy Davidman Gresham, an American divorcee who had corresponded with him. He entered into a civil marriage with her, but after she developed bone cancer, he realized the depth of his love for her, and a Christian marriage was performed at her hospital bedside in 1956. Gresham's cancer went into remission and she and Lewis lived together for four more years. His grief at her eventual death fueled the writing of A Grief Observed, a raw and painfully honest look at the loss of a beloved.

I treasure Lewis most for the Narnia books ... a series of children's stories set in the imaginary land of Narnia. While they lack the intellectual heft and subtlety of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series, Narnia melds Lewis's imaginative and painful childhood with the beauty and confidence of his faith. As a middle aged man, "Jack" Lewis managed to awaken his own inner child to write classics that children and adults alike return to, over and over again.

Lewis died on November 22, 1963. News of his death was completely overshadowed by the news of President Kennedy's assassination.

+ Kit

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