- Pilgrimage to nowhere
There has long been an ambivalence about the man who was both the ultimate betrayer and the means by which God’s plan was fulfilled. The author of a new book visits the lonely place where the renegade apostle took his own life
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Stratford Caldecott, Catholic author and publisher, who died last week, is to be buried alongside his literary hero, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Earlier this month, before his family met the undertaker, the relative of someone buried in Oxford’s Wolvercote Cemetery allegedly attacked a tree on the edge of the Tolkien plot because it encroached on their land. The tree was uprooted, leaving behind a vacant double plot in an oversubscribed cemetery.
Tolkien’s writing inspired Caldecott’s conversion to Christianity. The co-founder of the Centre for Faith and Culture in Oxford, he wrote and lectured extensively, was the GK Chesterton Research Fellow at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, and served on the editorial boards of a number of journals, including Oasis and Communio.
He died of prostate cancer earlier this month aged 60.
Kathy Schiffer, Director of Publicity and Special Events for the US-based Ave Maria Radio and a writer at the blog Patheos, described Caldecott as “a giant in the Catholic world”.
Her comments were echoed by the Managing Editor of The Catholic Truth Society, Pierpaolo Finaldi, for whom Caldecott was a commissioning editor for many years, who credited him with an “encyclopaedic knowledge of the faith”.
Caldecott was the GK Chesterton Research Fellow at St Benet’s Hall in Oxford and had previously been a senior editor at Routledge, HarperCollins, and T&T Clark.
He had also written books on JRR Tolkien, the sacraments, and economics, and was a contributor to The Tablet, the Catholic Herald and the National Catholic Register. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America. A book of essays was been published in his honour this year, with contributions from Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Nottingham Professor John Milbank.
In collaboration with the UAE-based Tabah Foundation, Caldecott ran a series of interfaith colloquia for Christian and Islamic thinkers to discuss ideas of society, the secular, and vocation.
Caldecott served on the editorial boards of three journals – Communio, The Chesterton Review, and Oasis – and since 2010 edited the UK version of the monthly liturgical booklet Magnificat, as well as producing and writing the Second Spring journal on faith and culture.
The Consulting and Integrated Resources in Classical Education (CiRCE) Institute in America, which is to posthumously award Caldecott the fifteenth Paideia Prize for “lifetime contribution to classical education and the cultivation of wisdom and virtue”, called him “one of the greatest thinkers of our time”.
Caldecott is survived by wife Léonie and daughters Tessa, Rosie and Sophie. His Reqiuem Mass will take place at the Oxford Oratory at 10am on 31 July. Afterwards he will be interred in a private ceremony in Wolvercote Cemetery in north Oxford.
Subscribers can read a full obituary here.
Above: Caldecott. Photo: Rose-Marie Caldecott