An unexpected adventure: lessons from The Hobbit

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An unexpected adventure: lessons from The Hobbit

By Martin Tobin, Director of Catholic Identity and Mission, Catholic Education Tasmania

J.R.R Tolkien’s well-known adventure tale The Hobbit is a story familiar to many of us. It is a tale of a Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who reluctantly has an adventure, and finds himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected! Bilbo prefers the quiet life and the comfort of his home, situated in the idyllic Shire realm of Middle Earth. However, that all changes for Bilbo, sitting at the front of his home one morning enjoying his pipe, when he encounters a wandering “old man with a stick” by the name of Gandalf, who with gentle persistence and a little magic of his own, arouses Bilbo’s dormant sense of adventure with his invitation: “I am looking for someone to share an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

When faced with the prospect of adventure we too may respond a little like Bilbo: “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!” We too may feel small, uncomfortable yet curious, preferring to stay at home and retreat behind the safety of our own front door and our comfort zones. For the 80 young people heading to the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth, they may also be feeling a mixture of apprehension and excitement about the adventure before them. It may have also taken a little persuasion and the gentle nudge of a friend, brother, sister, or parent, who posed the question, like Gandalf to Bilbo: “My dear fellow…. Whenever are you going to come?”

I think that Pope Francis had a similar adventurous message in mind when he spoke to the thousands of young people that journeyed to Panama for the closing Mass of World Youth Day in January 2019. He urged the young people to “realize that you have a mission” and to seize the present moment of their lives when he said: “Your mission, your vocation, even your life itself, is not a promise far off in the future … As if being young were in a kind of waiting room, where we sit around until we are called.”

He challenged them: “Dear young people, you are not the future but the now of God and he invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out find your grandparents and elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.”

In order to realise the Lord’s dream for us, we have to be open to adventure.