The Gradual Death

Well, Happy 2016!  I hope all of you had a great Christmas season filled with joy, laughter, and good food (and maybe a little too much good food). Most of us are by now realizing how hard our New Year’s resolutions really are.  I told myself I would start running more.  I can tell you I’m not writing this on the treadmill right now, if thats any indicator to how that’s going.  Anyway, if you still haven’t figured out your resolution or looking for a better one, I have a late Christmas present for you.

Before I start off, if you haven’t read the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, that is now your New Year’s Resolution.  No ifs ands or buts, hightail it to a Barnes and Noble and get it.  I don’t really think I should have to persuade anybody to go to Barnes and Noble anyway.  I mean, most have fireplaces and a Starbucks, tons of books, soft jazz and that special bookstore smell.  So there’s that.

I read the Screwtape Letters a while back, and was completely intrigued by the way it was written.  The author of the letters the book is comprised of is Screwtape, a high ranking devil giving advice to his rookie nephew, charged with ruining a young man.  The story is played out solely from the perspective of hell, giving the reader a very unique interpretation of the story.  CS Lewis himself hated writing the book.  Having to put himself in the person of the devil is not a pleasant task.  I’m not sure if its a compliment or not, but he did a splendid job of doing so.

Throughout the story, we see the tempted young man change and grow…and struggle and fall.  I’ll do my best not to spoil it, but I do want to share some key points.

In the book, we see how involved demons are in this young man’s everyday life, but he’s not a murderer or a terrorist.  He’s just a normal person.  Going on with his life and not being too great at anything.  The devil is not trying to make him kill people or blow up buildings.  Most of the time he doesn’t even try to get him to do anything.  Screwtape said, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”  This shows us that the battle for our souls won’t be a siege easily weathered.  We have to attack and fight for our spiritual lives.  The devil didn’t try to get him to attend a satanist temple or become an atheist, he just tried to water down his faith.  Screwtape told his nephew, ““A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”

We see now the devil’s standard strategy, especially with us Christians.  He will try to warp our religion and get us to “good enough”, which of course is not good enough.  I call this the gradual death.  The soul is not doing anything very bad, in fact its not doing anything really.  Its just stagnant, decaying while Satan waits.

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

Our greatest danger seems to be falling into lukewarmness.  Its hard to detect, and addictive.  As the character Ahem said in the Veggie Tales show The Lord of the Beans, “Once you taste the life of ease, my friend, there is no going back”.  And yes, I just quoted Veggie Tales.  I’m just that awesome.

So, how did this young man ever escape the trap Screwtape set for him?  He didn’t.  Or at least, not by himself.  It was a special grace that saved him in the end.  A natural grace, nothing to out of the ordinary.  He fell in love with a girl, who happened to be a devout Christian.  And little by little, he was fished out of Screwtape’s hands until he was beyond their reach.  It is indeed as Screwtape said, small things, little things such as the song of a bird or the face of a girl is enough to topple the devil’s plans.

So, my suggestion for a New Year’s resolution.

  1. Read the Screwtape Letters.  But not like any other book, think about what you read, and pray over the topics that it brings up.  It really is a  profound book.  Readers are advised to remember, the devil is a liar.  Not all Screwtape writes is to be trusted (obviously).
  2. Be Legendary.  Be the opposite of lukewarm.  If you don’t feel like praying, get off your butt and say a decade.  If you’re to lazy to go to daily mass, but have the opportunity, you better take advantage of that and go.  Be on fire with the faith.
  3. Go to confession once a week, or if your schedule doesn’t allow, at least twice a month.  Don’t worry about what the priest will think.  You won’t say anything he hasn’t heard before.  Trust me, you’re not that creative.
  4. See Star Wars VII.  I thought it was amazing.

God Bless and have a great 2016!

In Christ, Catholic2theMax


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