Thursday, July 4, 2013

Canonizing C. S. Lewis

So, I've known for a good while now that there's a sort of movement underway to have C. S. Lewis canonized as an Anglican saint, having first learned of this through discussion w. some of Lewis's admirers during the planning for the 1998 Centenary Mythcon in his and Barfield's honor (I was on the con committee, focussing on making sure Barfield was represented and not lost in the Lewis-centric event). At first I assumed this was some kind of joke, since CSL, although devout, seemed as unlike a saint as cd easily be imagined, but it turned out to be quite serious; its advocates already had one potential miracle lined up,* and some explanations of how Anglican canonization, although rare, was still possible.

What I hadn't known, and only recently learned through reading Rbt Boenig's C. S. LEWIS AND THE MIDDLE AGES, is that Lewis himself was opposed to Anglican canonizations. The evidence comes in a letter Lewis wrote to THE CHURCH TIMES (October 24th 1952) in which he raises strong objections to a proposed system to canonize Anglican saints. His objections are essentially twofold: first, that this wd require sure knowledge that specific dead people are in fact in Heaven, knowledge which anyone among the living lacks; and second, that it wd compel veneration of specific individuals as part of every living Anglicans' duty. He strongly opposes any such scheme, and seems to feel that attempts to implement it might even result in schism. (COLLECTED LETTERS, Vol. III. 241-242).

What I'm curious about now is whether those who support the idea of a Lewis canonization are (a) aware of this letter, and (b) if they are, on what grounds they reject or set aside Lewis's own strongly stated opposition to the idea of newly canonized Anglican saints. The idea may have fallen by the wayside in the past fifteen years or so since I first heard of it -- though I rather doubt it, given the fast-tracking of canonizations that's been going on during the past thirty years among the Roman Church. Just got the new McGarth biography of CSL on audiobook yesterday; perhaps it'll at some point address, and answer, these questions.

--John R.

current book: THE WEB OF EASTER ISLAND by Donald Wandrei (1948, Arkham House)
current audiobook: THE JEFFERSON BIBLE

*I've forgotten the details, but the essential story was that someone who had known Lewis slightly said that, while deeply depressed and highly medicated, he suddenly had a feeling that CSL was in the room with him and everything was going to be alright (all this occurring several years after CSL's death). A bit dubious from my Calvinist perspective -- but then as an extreme Protestant I don't recognize most of the 'saints' already approved by the Anglican or Roman communions anyway, Francis of Assisi being the one exception I can think of.

1 comment:

Brer said...

This sounds like the story told by Canon J. B. Philips, in which he says Lewis actually appeared and spoke to him (incident related in A. N. Wilson's biography of Lewis). Warren Lewis, C.S.'s brother, wrote in his diary (Brother's and Friends, Thursday 5th December 1969) of reading the story and being disturbed and depressed by it for several reasons.