14 March 2016

Of presidential chairs and the throne of Gondor

Being somewhat small in stature and slight of frame, I often have the curious sensation of not quite fitting into chairs, especially chairs designed for an air dignity and importance. This can either be because the chair sits so high that my feet barely touch the ground or because the seat of the chair is deep that I cannot reach the back of the chair without tossing myself backwards into it. As I've noted before, hard to sit with a sense of decorum and dignity in a chair in which you just don't seem to fit.

Being now in Italy, where men also tend to be somewhat small in stature and slight of frame, I have not experienced this difficulty, it we may call it that, in some time. That is, until last night.

One of the seminarians at the Pontifical North American College asked I would be willing to offer the Holy Mass at the generalate of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, on the campus of which is housed the study abroad program of Duquesne University. I happily accepted his invitation.

The chapel of the mother house was one of the largest I have seen yet:

As I ascended the four narrow steps leading up to the presidential chair, I couldn't help but laugh.

Long-time readers here will know of my fondness for incorporating something from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, something my fellow nerds always appreciate. Such was the case in the homily I preached last night.

Though I did not do so last night, I have in the past used the example of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, to help illustrate a homily or two. At any rate, as I ascended those narrow steps - both in terms of depth and width - leading to the chair in which I was to sit, I felt as if I were climbing the steps to the throne within the White Tower of Gondor:

My imagination here was certainly influenced by the throne used in Sir Peter Jackson's cinematic adaption of The Lord of the Rings:

Amusing though the experience was, I've never much fancied myself a king. This is just as well because the seat of the chair was much too deep for me and in it I felt very small and uncomfortable indeed. All I wanted was to occupy a simpler chair at the foot of the steps, a chair more fitting of a steward.


  1. Call me uncultured, but I must confess that I watched "Return of the King" before I ever read LOTR, and I was struck by the image of this chair - at the head of a cathedralesque building as the proper place of our Divine King in the Blessed Sacrament, and I have often referred to this scene from the film in making the argument that Our Eucharistic King should be given the central place in our churches. Then after our conversation (regarding that very chapel) this morning, I thought of that scene again!

    1. I hope by now you've read the books at least twice!