Stratford Caldecott

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Stratford Caldecott (November 26, 1953 - July 17, 2014) was an author, editor, publisher, and blogger.[1] His work spanned subjects as diverse as literature, education, theology, apologetics, economics, environmental stewardship, sacred geometry, art, culture, and more. Books include Radiance of Being, Beauty for Truth's Sake, All Things Made New, and Not as the World Gives. He was a founding editor for the online journal Humanum and a contributor for several online and print journals in addition to maintaining his own blogs.

Early life and education[edit]

Dulwich College

Stratford Caldecott was born in 1953, in London, to parents who had left South Africa in 1951. The family espoused no particular religious beliefs. As a child, he was sickly and bedridden much of the time, and developed a close relationship with his mother. His father was a publisher with Penguin Books,[2] which fueled Stratford's love of reading. He attended Dulwich College. As a teenager Caldecott fell in love with America through his exposure to comic books, and their portrayal of the fight between good and evil, and the theme of hope. Between Dulwich and university he went to America, earning money as a 'mother's help' and stayed first with a family in New England before touring the continent by Greyhound bus. After a year, he attended Hertford College, Oxford on scholarship and studied Philosophy and Psychology.

After taking his degree, Caldecott pursued a career in publishing and education as a senior editor for publishers Routledge, HarperCollins, and T&T Clark. In 1977, he married fellow student Leonie Richards. The ceremony was held in an Anglican ceremony, in deference to her family. He and his wife had three daughters.


Caldecott says that at the age of fourteen he had what he terms "a philosophical insight" that there was more to the universe than matter and energy. His metaphysical samplings at Oxford led him to seek a religious tradition. Shortly after graduating, he became a member of the Baha'i faith. He later explored Sufism and Buddhism. He also began a correspondence with philosopher Robert Bolton, author of The Order of the Ages, The Logic of Spiritual Values, Self and Spirit, and The One and the Many: A Defense of Theistic Religion.[3]

Caldecott came to realize that the stories which had informed his early youth, stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the Quest of the Holy Grail, and the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings reflected a Christian worldview. "All along, my imagination had been built on a Christian foundation, and I had never noticed it before. I knew now that in some sense, on some level, I was already a Christian."[4] His reading then turned to Gilson, Maritain and Aquinas. In 1980 he was baptised into the Catholic Church. This was not well received by his father, who viewed Catholicism as "worse than apartheid".


Caldecott taught a course called "Christianity and Society" at Plater College in Headington, on the other side of Oxford.

Caldecott was a G. K. Chesterton Research Fellow at St. Benet's Hall, Oxford. His devotion to Chesterton led to his becoming something of an expert on him.[2] He also served as a commissioning editor for the Catholic Truth Society.

From 2010, he and his wife Leonie, served as co-editors of the UK and Ireland edition of Magnificat.[5] He also became the founding editor of the journal "Humanum", under the aegis of the Washington DC John Paul II Institute.

Centre for Faith & Culture[edit]

In 1994 the Caldecotts founded a research centre in Oxford called the Centre for Faith & Culture (CFC),[2] associated with The Chesterton Review and the international review Communio. Its newsletter, the Faith & Culture Bulletin, was offered free of charge. The Oxford Centre was initially a partnership between Westminster College in Oxford at Botley (where it was physically located) and the Edinburgh theological publishers T&T Clark. The two partners divided the costs between them, and the Centre's activities were equally divided between conferences and publications. Before long it also provided a home for the G. K. Chesterton Library created by Mr Aidan Mackey. In 1998, after Westminster College was acquired by Oxford Brookes University, the CFC moved to Plater College in Headington, maintaining its activities with partial support from T&T Clark and also from the G. K. Chesterton Institute, founded by Rev. Ian J. Boyd CSB, publisher of The Chesterton Review.

In 2002, after the demise of Plater College, the Centre for Faith & Culture merged for several years with the G. K. Chesterton Institute, creating the "G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture", which was eventually based at Seton Hall University in New Jersey with its Oxford Centre in King Street, Oxford. After 2006 Seton Hall ceased to support the Centre in Oxford and it became independent again.

Second Spring[edit]

Caldecott was a co-director of Second Spring, (named after John Henry Newman's famous sermon of 1852, in which Newman predicted a revival of Catholicism in England). Second Spring initially appeared in 1992 as an 8-page quarterly supplement in the American Catholic World Report. In 2001 Second Spring merged with the Newsletter of the Centre and started to appear as an 80-page journal twice a year.[6]

The Caldecotts, together with the artist David Clayton, started a company called "ResSource" to develop educational projects in the spirit of Second Spring, but it ceased trading after Clayton took up a post at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. The Caldecotts, along with their eldest daughter Teresa, eventually founded their own company, Second Spring Oxford Ltd, in order to manage several editorial contracts as well as undertaking their own publishing programme. Thomas More College became the distributor of Second Spring Journal, as well as sending students to a summer school organised by Second Spring in Oxford.

Caldecott's blogs "Beauty in Education", "The Economy Project",[7] and "All Things Made New"[8] serve as resource collections on the topics of education, economics and social justice, and perennial wisdom, and served also as forums for a growing network of friends who, under the banner "Second Spring Associates", hoped to expand the reach of his Second Spring work internationally. The work in this direction was temporarily suspended at his death, but in 2017 Leonie used her own funds to re-launch the website at second, including an online version of the journal, Second Spring Current.


Caldecott's writing draws on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II, Henri de Lubac, Luigi Giussani, G. K. Chesterton, John Henry Newman, Jacques Maritain, and many other Catholic intellectuals.

Caldecott's articles appeared in Oasis, the National Catholic Register, Touchstone, This Rock, Radical Orthodoxy Journal, The Chesterton Review, Communio and Parabola. He was a senior contributor to The Imaginative Conservative.

Additionally, he organized conferences, such as, example, "Beyond the Prosaic" on the reform of the Liturgy, and "Eternity in Time", on Christopher Dawson's contribution to the Catholic idea of history, which proceedings were subsequently published."[9][10]

In his work for Sophia Institute Press, the Catholic Truth Society, The Chesterton Review, the U.S. edition of Communio (founded in the 1970s by Hans Urs von Balthasar), Oasis, and many others, he served as a leader for those interested in Catholic engagement with culture, respectful inter-religious dialogue, integral human development and ressourcement. Christendom Awake, for whom he wrote a number of articles, maintains a page with biographical information, a partial bibliography, and some links to Caldecott's work.

On Tolkien[edit]

J. R. R. Tolkien was among the writers whose works influenced Caldecott's conversion to Christianity. Caldecott became an authority on the Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings.[1]

  • He was a contributing editor to A Hidden Presence, the Catholic Imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.[11] In Catholic Literary Giants, Joseph Pearce notes Caldecott's contribution to A Hidden Presence and recommends the volume as a valuable scholarly contribution to the literature on Tolkien's work.[12]
  • The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind The Lord of the Rings (Crossroad, 2005, 2011) -Originally called Secret Fire when first published by DLT, the book was translated into several foreign language editions including Spanish, Italian, and Russian, and re-issued by Crossroad in an expanded edition in 2012. The Power of the Ring explores the spiritual, theological, and philosophical meaning of the work – Tolkien's faith, which was influenced by the Oratory of St Philip.[13]
  • Caldecott's essay, "The Lord & Lady of the Rings",[14] describing Marian influences in Tolkien's work, was cited by Sarah Jane Boss in her work on traditions of Marian doctrine and devotion.[15]


As a teenager Caldecott had fallen in love with America because of its comic books. He loved the fight between good and evil, and the theme of hope that the comics portrayed. When he was dying from prostate cancer in May 2014, he was too ill to see the latest Avenger's movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the cinema and he was not expected to survive long enough for the Blu-Ray release. His daughter, Sophie Caldecott Lippiatt, initiated an online campaign to persuade the producer Marvel Studios and distributor Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures to send a copy so that he could watch it at home. Many actors who have portrayed Marvel characters posted selfies with a "Cap for Strat" sign in support of the request.[16] In response, Marvel agreed to arrange an exclusive advanced screening on DVD for Caldecott at his home. Ms. Lippiatt, who blogs under the name Sophie Caldecott, stated, ""He doesn't like the limelight, but is so very touched. It means a lot to him that this isn't just about blessing his last days, but also about a wider campaign to raise awareness about prostate cancer."[17] This was particularly poignant because a late diagnosis had taken away Caldecott's chance of a longer life.

Caldecott's final thoughts on life and faith, death and eternal life were presented in an essay published in the online journal The Imaginative Conservative.[18] His funeral Mass was celebrated at the Oxford Oratory on Thursday, July 31.[1] He is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford, near Tolkien, his literary hero.[19]

His life and passing were noted in the U.S. and Europe and by The American Conservative, and Hollywood stars such as Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey, Jr. (The Denver Post noted their participation in a project to honor him.)


The news of his death touched an international array of people who considered him a polymath, one of the most influential contemporary Catholics of the Anglophone world, an inspiration, a trustworthy thinker and a prolific contributor to the Catholic intellectual tradition. Kathy Schiffer of Ave Maria Radio, described Caldecott as "a giant in the Catholic world".[20] Pierpaolo Finaldi, Managing Editor of The Catholic Truth Society, noted Caldecott's "encyclopaedic knowledge of the faith".[19] Michael J. Lichens, editor of the website Catholic Exchange, described Caldecott as "...without a doubt, the most powerful voice for Catholic culture in the Anglophone world."[5]

Caldecott's influence continues to grow, despite his death, as others study his enormous body of work. He is cited, for instance, in Joseph Pearce's Catholic Literary Giants, Charlotte Ostermann's Souls at Rest, and Paul Kerry's The Ring and the Cross. In the tradition of the Catholic communio movement, he made a contribution of lasting significance to the work of returning all things to Christ fulfilled through the Faith.

His own citations of the work of his contemporaries leads his readers to the work of authors such as Aidan Walker, Tracey Rowland, D.C. Schindler, John Milbank, Aidan Nichols, David Clayton, Carol and Philip Zaleski, Archbishop Javier Martinez, Jean Borella , David L. Schindler, and Mary Taylor, among many others. Caldecott is a figure of unique importance as a bridge builder, whose wide-ranging interests continue to draw people together in a friendship of rich ideas and aspirations.

Citations and tributes[edit]

David B. Burrell recommends The Grandeur of Reason and notes particularly Caldecott's approach to the problem of a perception of polarity between faith and reason by explicit attention to culture.[21]

Peter Casarella cites "The Marian Dimension of Existence" in Healy and Schindler, eds. Being Holy in the World in "Public Reason and Intercultural Dialogue" in At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life, William A. Barbieri, Jr. ed, Eerdmans 2014.[22]

Apart from his writing, Caldecott established an international network of relationships he developed and in his interest in the work of others as in his own original thinking. The many tributes that appeared after his death help to convey a sense of that richness.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

In 2014, a volume of essays in his honor, The Beauty of God's House was published posthumously and received its own positive reviews. Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Nottingham Professor John Milbank were contributing essayists.[31]



The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God (Crossroad, 2006)

Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education (Brazos, 2009; 2nd edition: 2017)

All Things Made New: The Mysteries of the World in Christ (Angelico/Sophia Perennis, 2011)

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education (Angelico, 2011)

The Radiance of Being: Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity (Angelico, 2013)

Not as the World Gives (Angelico, 2014)


Catholic Social Teaching: A Way In (Catholic Truth Society, 2001)

Companion to the Book of Revelation (Catholic Truth Society, 2008)

Catholicism and Other Religions: Introduction to Interfaith Dialogue (Catholic Truth Society, 2009)

Books from conferences (Stratford both edited and contributed to these volumes)[edit]

Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement (T&T Clark, 2000)

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Sources of Inspiration (Co-editor: Thomas M. Honegger, Walking Tree, 2008)

Eternity in Time: Christopher Dawson and the Catholic Idea of History (T&T Clark, 1997)


  1. ^ a b c Desmond, Joan. "Stratford Caldecott, R.I. P.", National Catholic Register, July 20, 2014
  2. ^ a b c Bogle, James. "The Constant Convert", Touchstone, Nov./Dec. 2014
  3. ^ Robert Bolton, Angelico Press
  4. ^ Longenecker, Dwight. "Stratford Caldecott - A Tribute", Patheos, July 18, 2014
  5. ^ a b Jones, Kevin J., "Catholic cultural renewal advocate Stratford Caldecott mourned", Catholic News Agency, July 18, 2014
  6. ^ "Historical Background", Second Spring
  7. ^ Caldecott, Stratford. The Economy Project
  8. ^ Caldecott, Stratford. All Things Made New
  9. ^ Mammana Jr., Richard J. "The Recovery of the Altars", Review of Beyond the Prosaic, (Stratford Caldecott, ed.), Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998, Touchstone Magazine, January/February 2000
  10. ^ Eternity in Time: Christopher Dawson and the Catholic Idea of History, (Stratford Caldecott, and John Morrill, eds.), T & T Clark International, 2000 ISBN 9780567085481
  11. ^ The Hidden Presence, The Chesterton Press (2003) ASIN: B000NL05RE
  12. ^ Pearce, Joseph. Catholic Literary Giants: A Field Guide to the Catholic Literary Landscape, Ignatius 2014, ISBN 9781586179441
  13. ^ Caldecott, Stratford. "Bibliography", Beauty in Education
  14. ^ Caldecott, Stratford. "The Lord & Lady of the Rings", Touchstone Magazine, January/February 2002
  15. ^ Boss, Sarah Jane. Mary, Continuum Books 2003
  16. ^ Dickey, Josh. "Avengers Assemble for Terminal Cancer Patient's 'Winter Soldier' Wish", Mashable, May 16, 2014
  17. ^ Withnall, Adam. "How I assembled the Avengers", The Independent, May 19, 2014
  18. ^ Caldecott, Stratford. "Search for the Secret of Life and Death", The Imaginative conservative, May 21, 2014
  19. ^ a b Dodd, Liz. "Catholic Author to be Buried beside his Inspiration, Tolkien", the Tablet, July 21, 2014
  20. ^ Schiffer, Kathy. "R.I.P. Stratford Caldecott, 'Marvel' of Catholicism", Patheos, July 17, 2014
  21. ^ O'Loughlin, edited by Simon Oliver, Karen Kilby, Tom (2012). Faithful reading new essays in theology in honour of Fergus Kerr, OP. London: Continuum International Pub. p. 76. ISBN 9780567198464.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  22. ^ William A. Barbieri Jr., ed. (2014). At the limits of the secular : reflections on faith and public life. p. 76. ISBN 9780802868770.
  23. ^ "Requiescat in Pace, Stratford", Angelico Press
  24. ^ Todd Aglialoro, Todd. "Stratford Caldecott: Farewell", Catholic Answers, July 18, 2014
  25. ^ "Friend Strat: Further Up and Further In!". 2014-07-17. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  26. ^ "Requiescat in pace, Stratford Caldecott". The Imaginative Conservative. 2015-08-06. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  27. ^ "Leading Catholic writer Stratford Caldecott is mourned". 2014-07-18. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  28. ^ "R.I.P. Stratford Caldecott, "Marvel" of Catholicism". 2014-07-17. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  29. ^ Piccirilli Dorsey. "In Memoriam: Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014)". Humanum Review. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  30. ^ "In Memoriam: Stratford Caldecott - Edward Hadas". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  31. ^ Rowland, Tracey. "Catholic Luminaries Pay Tribute to the Late Stratford Caldecott", Crisis magazine, August 28, 2014

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