Over the past year, I have been reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to my two younger boys, now age 7 and 9. We were into the third volume––called “The Return of the King”—and had just concluded the chapter entitled “Houses of Healing.” This is after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, from which came great suffering and destruction, but also great bravery and friendship. In the Houses of Healing, the wounded are being tended to, though some are so deeply wounded that their recovery is uncertain or even doubtful. But then Aragon is summoned to the Houses of Healing and is eventually revealed as the true king because he has the power to heal those who are wounded in body and spirit––wounds so deep that the normal courses of treatment could not heal. And my 9-year-old, Josiah, suddenly said, “That’s like Jesus who showed his kingship by healing people.”

I want to talk about this kind of healing today on our show. Not explicitly Jesus’ healing touch, but profound meditation that Tolkien invites into in his Lord of Rings, where the health and wellbeing of the wounded is never only physical, never just bodily, but indeed psychological and especially spiritual. Tolkien’s meditation emerges, of course, from his Catholic imagination, and so though not explicitly about Jesus’ healing, it is nevertheless about Jesus’ healing in and through others.

To talk about these kinds of sicknesses and this kind of healing, I am so happy to welcome back to our show Dr. Kristin Collier, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, where she is also the director of the medical school’s Program on Health, Spirituality, and Religion.