Open Books & Open Minds

Catholic Literary Society Is the Newest Extracurricular on Chaminade’s Campus

Club members are eager to read novels by authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Hugh Benson, and Walter Miller.

Nathaniel Thomas ’25

Chaminade High School boasts over 40 extra- curricular activities for students to participate in, and one of the newest clubs on the roster is the Catholic Literary Society. Hosted on Friday afternoons by Mr. Benjamin Volpe and Mr. Matthew Chicavich ’98, the club’s description says that it “offers the student body the opportunity to meet on a weekly basis and share an appreciation for literary works.”

The club was formerly known as the C.S. Lewis Society and focused exclusively on Lewis’ works. This rebranded club, however, features a greater variety of books and will have something to offer any student who enjoys both reading and religion. Catholic Literary Society is starting the year off with J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary novel, The Hobbit. At one of the opening meetings, members shared their experiences of reading the first two chapters of the book. Students discussed various events and themes in the story, such as when Gandolf invites Bilbo to come on an adventure, or when Bilbo begins to leave the Shire.

Underlying all of this discussion was a focus on the role that Catholicism plays in the writing. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and he incorporated elements of Church teaching into a majority of his literature. 

It was clear that everyone was learning from the discussion—even Volpe himself, who had read The Hobbit several times. The meeting ended by passing around some memorabilia from the novel, praying, and setting a reading goal for next week.

One of the moderators’ main goals for the club is, quite simply, to get kids reading outside of mandatory school assignments. Their other goal is to use literature to specifically enrich students in Catholicism, as both Chicavich and Volpe both feel that they have personally grown in faith from reading books by Catholic authors.

Chicavich reflected, “With the addition of Mr. Volpe as one of the assistant moderators, we now have a legitimate Tolkien expert to walk the club through the mind and life of this amazing Catholic author. [As a freshman teacher,] Mr. Volpe also exposes the club to more underclassmen, whereas the club has [in previous years] been mainly composed of seniors that I teach. In the years to come. I hope that the club continues to grow in size, but also continues to bring students closer to Christ.”

In terms of upcoming plans, other books on the club’s reading list are Lord of the World by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. Unlike the high fantasy of The Hobbit or much of C.S. Lewis’ writing, these works delve into the genre of science fiction. 

Catholic Literary Society has a bright future ahead. The time commitment is small but the reward is huge, as it gives students valuable reading skills and interests that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.