Aquinas Award Hopes to Boost Interest in Catholic Literature

September 29, 2015

Andy Telli of the Tennessee Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville, wrote on the Aquinas Award for Fiction in the September 25 edition of the paper.

Catholic literature is in the midst of a revival, and the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville is hoping to add to the momentum.

At the Center’s Tolkien and Lewis Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19, the inaugural Aquinas Award for Fiction was awarded to British author Lucy Beckett for her novel “The Leaves are Falling,” published by Ignatius Press.

Beckett received a plaque and a $1,000 cash award.

“I’ve been working to promote a new Catholic revival in the arts, especially literature, for many years,” said Joseph Pearce, the director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas and the author of Literary Converts about Catholic English writers G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien and Hilaire Belloc.

“Ten years ago there was very little new Catholic fiction being written,” Pearce said. But since then, “there’s (been) an explosion of stories being published by Catholic authors.

“The award is a response to that revival that’s already happening in the hopes we can help to make it really take off,” Pearce said.

Catholic and Christian literature doesn’t have to be overtly religious, Pearce said. Although Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with its Hobbits, Orcs, wizards and elves might not seem to be a work about faith, Tolkien called it a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, Pearce said.

“A work of fiction should not preach,” Pearce said. “What should be reflected is a Catholic understanding of morality and how that impacts the choices people make.”

Beckett’s winning novel is a gripping story about the atrocities of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of a boy. It explores themes of faith, grace and the nature of love despite the horrors of war.

“I’ve admired Lucy Beckett. I’ve never had any connection with her before the award,” Pearce said. “I’ve read some of her previous work.

“She achieves that balance of embedding a Catholic ethos in a work without preaching it,” he added.

Beckett was unable to travel from England to accept the award in person, but was represented by Anthony J. Ryan, director of sales and marketing for her publisher, Ignatius Press.

Pearce recruited a team of professors at Aquinas to judge the nominated works for the award, but did not participate in the judging.

“We had no idea what to expect,” and were pleased to receive about 25 books were nominated for the award, Pearce said. It was “a very healthy response,” he said. “I know there were several very, very good novels among those.”

Pearce hopes interest in the award will grow. “I hope we can establish it as a premier award for Catholic literature,” he said, and that the award “will encourage more people to write Catholic fiction.”

Award Acceptance

Tony Ryan, Director of Sales and Marketing at Ignatius Press, accepts the Aquinas Award for Fiction on behalf of Lucy Beckett for her novel “The Leaves Are Falling.” He talks about Ignatius Press and the novel, and reads a letter from Lucy Beckett.