“Something Understood”: Sacramental Imagination and the Communion of Saints in the Fantasy of Chesterton, Lewis, and Rowling

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In fact, after Syme learns that Professor de Worms, the anarchist council member who has been chasing him, is a fellow policeman, he experiences a “sense of new comradeship and comfort” (65).  As other members of the anarchist council are exposed as policemen, the communion grows, and so does their morale. Dr. Bull, for instance, responds excitedly when he discovers that Syme and the Professor are on his side: “‘It is jolly to get some pals,’ he said.  ‘I’ve been half dead with the jumps, being quite alone.  I nearly flung my arms round Gogol [the first police spy revealed on the council] and embraced him, which would have been imprudent'” (77; ch. 9).  Later, when the six police detectives head for a confrontation of the anarchist leader Sunday, Chesterton describes their solidarity in military terms: “the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly towards the hotel in Leicester Square” (118; ch. 13).  No longer alone, each policeman feels the strength and courage that being part of a communion provides.

Although the moments are perhaps more subdued, we can also see how communion boosts morale in Lewis’s The Silver Chair (1953).  In this story, two children, Jill and Eustace, are called by Aslan into Narnia to seek the lost Prince Rilian, held captive by an evil witch.  In their journey beyond the borders of Narnia, the children are aided by Puddleglum, the pessimistic marshwiggle who becomes their guide.

During their dark and arduous underground journey, Jill finds her companions to be a comfort as they encourage her to crawl through tight spaces under the frightening weight of earth above.  “I can’t go in there, I can’t! I can’t! I won’t,” insists Jill.  “Steady, Pole,” says Puddleglum.  “Those big fellows wouldn’t be crawling in there if it didn’t get wider later on.  And there’s one thing about this underground work, we shan’t get any rain.”  Eustace then follows Puddleglum’s appeal to common sense and optimism with a practical solution to allay Jill’s fears: “You go first, Puddleglum, and I’ll come after her.”  “That’s right,” agrees Puddleglum as he prepares to crawl.  “You keep a grip of my heels, Pole, and Scrubb will hold on to yours.  Then we’ll all be comfortable” (124-25; ch. 10).  While Jill may not be exactly comfortable, but she does find the strength to undergo the suffocating journey through the encouragement of her companions.  Huddled close to Puddleglum and Eustace as they glide across the underground lake, Jill can at least take comfort in knowing that she is not alone (128).

At particularly dark points in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry likewise receives encouragement from the communion of those wizards committed to fighting against evil.  One powerful example is when Harry discovers messages of support graffitied by unknown wizards at Godric’s Hollow, Harry’s birthplace:

Good luck, Harry, wherever you are.

If you read this, Harry, we’re all behind you!

Long live Harry Potter. (333; ch. 17)

Harry “beams” at the encouraging messages, pronouncing them “brilliant” (333).  Other encouragement from the larger communion can be seen in their friend Neville’s first-hand accounts of the Hogwarts rebellion against the Dark Lord’s tyrannic rule.  “The thing is,” remarks Neville, “it helps when people stand up to [Voldemort’s followers], it gives everyone hope.  I used to notice that when you did it, Harry” (574; ch. 29).  Neville’s own courage and his accounts of other students’ bravery in the face of harsh punishments and bodily injury are further reminders that Harry, Hermione, and Ron are not alone in their mission.

Being part of a communion of saints not only boosts morale, but, as Rowling demonstrates, it gives us hope.  Chesterton perhaps puts it best when he writes that “there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.  It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two.  But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one” (Man Who Was Thursday 65; ch. 8).


“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

“A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity.  Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy 127)

Second, being part of a communion of saints is beneficial in that it offers spiritual encouragement and a perspective of levity.  Humor ministers to the spirit, “lifting” us up and encouraging transcendence of our current circumstances.