We're all called to sainthood, and we all love our hobbit holes
This past summer my junior honors theology students read "The Hobbit" in preparation for their morality class this fall. While reading, I discovered why so many enjoy "The Hobbit." We can connect so well with Bilbo Baggins and the other characters because they are so real, so like us. One can also find many “hidden” parallels or analogies to the Catholic Faith if they are truly sought out. What draws so many readers to "The Hobbit" is this central Christian message: there is a Bilbo Baggins inside of us who is faced with a decision whether or not to embrace the adventure of “life” that we have been given in order to find our true destination of eternal life.
Call to Holiness and Sainthood
In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Bilbo, a hobbit who lives in his hobbit hole of Bag End enjoying the comforts of his home, the Shire, and his many possessions. The wizard Gandalf, Thorin and 12 other Dwarves, visit Bilbo and invite him on an “adventure.” Hobbits are naturally reluctant to drop everything and head out on adventures. Thus Bilbo battles with himself but ultimately decides to join the group to reclaim the Dwarves’ home in the Lonely Mountain (including the treasure it contains) and defeat the dragon Smaug.
Herein lies the “choice” that we face in life either up front like Bilbo or as more of a process throughout life. Our choice is to accept the call from God to become whom He created us to be, to go out on an adventure calling us out of our comfort zones and leave any attachments behind to pursue the true treasure of Heaven. When Jesus calls forth Peter and Andrew, their response is to literally drop everything and follow him (Matthew 4:18-22). Unlike Peter and the Apostles, Bilbo hesitates at first because, like us, he enjoys the comforts of Bag End and his possessions. Eventually Bilbo does join the group; one can’t help but imagine there is some sort of “supernatural” push — the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — to accept Gandalf’s invitation.
Throughout history many people, including saints, have hesitated to answer God’s call to follow Him on the adventure of life by embracing their true vocation. We can enjoy the comforts and possessions of what the world offers, but deep down inside we desire more than what this life has to offer. As St. Augustine so famously put it: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord.” It is Christ who offers us a life of true abundance (John 10:10).
We have a sense of adventure and restlessness because we have been made for more — for a life in complete communion with God. That is why God often challenges people by calling them out of their comfort zones and into the ongoing drama of salvation history. Gandalf knew there was more to Bilbo then the humble hobbit realized. But it took time for Bilbo to understand why Gandalf chose him to join the group on their adventure.
A Simple Hobbit Becomes a Saint
The adventure will truly transform Bilbo in ways he could not anticipate. As the band sets out for Lonely Mountain, Bilbo longs for the comforts of Bag End. However, as time passes we start to see Bilbo adopt a more positive attitude toward the mission and the role he plays.
When Bilbo and the Dwarves are captured by the Goblins, Bilbo is able to “escape” and ultimately help his comrades because he found a ring that made him invisible. Bilbo’s transformation begins when he recognizes the greater good by going back to help his friends escape the clutches of the Goblins. We see Bilbo starting to draw out of himself and live for the others. We are called to do the same. As Father Robert Barron puts it, “the spiritual life is not about yourself.” Jesus himself gives up all the “pleasures” of this world, all of the self-interested plans and desires of individuals. Instead Jesus heals the sick, feeds the hungry, reaches out to the outcasts of society, and ultimately gives his life on the cross for humanity.