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


Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

Today is the optional memorial of St. John the first, pope and martyr.  He was the Pope from about 523 until his death in 526.  During his papacy, Emperor Justin was forcing the Arians of Constantinople to convert to Catholicism and to hand over their churches.  The Arian King of Italy, Theodoric, asked the Pope to order the Emperor to stop the harsh punishment of the Arians.  Justin decided to give the churches back to the Arians, but he would not let the forced converts go back to their old ways.  When Pope John came back, Theodoric was enraged, and imprisoned the Pope for his failure.  Due to his long journey and maltreatment in prison, the Pope died shortly after being placed in his cell.  He was immediately honored as a martyr by the Church, and his body was taken to be buried in Rome.

Anyway, there are two sets of readings to honor this saint.  The first is the standard readings for the 7th Week of Easter, and the other comes from the proper of the saints.  The first reading for the latter option comes from Revelation 3:14, 20-22 :

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Most of us are probably familiar with this scene.  Jesus is wanting you to let him into your heart etc.  There is a famous painting made from this passage by William Holman Hunt called “The Light of the World”.  Take a few moments to study this carefully.

Hunt_Light_of_the_WorldIt’s called the Light of the World probably because the only source of light you can see is from Jesus and his lamp.  The rest of his surrounding look nasty and dangerous.  The kind of stuff scary stories take place in.  “It was a dark and stormy night when Jesus came for a visit”.  There are thorn bushes and weird trees.  The sky is a sickly green.  Even the cottage has vines of all of it.  Speaking of the house, have you noticed anything a little strange about it?  Maybe on the door perhaps?  If you guessed that there’s no door knob, you’d be correct.  At least, there’s no knob on the outside.  You have to be the one to let Jesus in.  Now on to the lantern.  To me, it looks a lot like the dome of a Church.  It even appears to have little stained-glass windows on it.  I wonder what that might mean?  Maybe that without the church, it would be next to impossible to even see Jesus coming, much less let him in.  You might not even know that He existed.

Jesus appears to be wearing some pretty fancy clothes.  I mean, he has a crown on, one of those cool silk robes.  He even has a cape!  I don’t think a farmer would put on those kinds of clothes to go visit someone in the bad part of the woods.  He’s the prince who has come to bring you back to the kingdom.  He’s come to save you.  All you have to do is open the door.

The psalm for today is the every famous psalm 23: The Good Shepherd.  One of the things I always notice is “He makes me lie down in green pastures”.  Usually a shepherd will guide his flock to a nice shady place with lots of grass where they can eat and rest.  One of the things I think is “But I don’t want to lie down”.  I don’t like laying down in grass.  My body gets really itchy and my clothes get stained.  Sometimes I like sitting down in the grass though.  It can be nice at times.  When you have a glass of lemonade and the breeze is blowing in your face.  Again, sometimes it annoys the living daylights out of me.  I think this applies to my life, especially in certain areas like prayer or going to church.  Sometimes I enjoy Mass.  Father’s homily might be short and sweet, but have a special meaning for me.  As a long-time altar server, the Mass might go perfectly without any mess-ups.  At other times, Mass might not be that fun.  Father might have taken about an hour on his homily and not be even that meaningful.  All the other altar servers might be the kind of kids who kick the bells, or hit the priest in the face when they try to bless him with the incensor.  I might have had a really bad day, or all 6 of my little siblings might have screamed the entire ride there.  As far as prayer goes,

10940474_779990425382860_7356585953079381231_n1I make myself do my prayers, but I seldom actually pray, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, getting back to the analogy, sometimes I don’t want to lay in green pastures.  It’s good for me and I need the nourishment, but sometimes it’s boring or stressful.  But I do it because I know I need to.  I mean, I don’t think grass tastes that good, even to sheep it can’t compare to a steak.  But Jesus wants me to, and that’s goo enough for me.  The rest of the psalm is really nice too.  “And Goodness and Mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life”.  Inspiring Stuff.

Well, I just wanted to end asking if you have ever noticed that the Shrine of the Sacred Heart looks just like R2-D2?


Well, that’s it for today.  I hope you all hear Jesus knocking at your door today, and for the rest of your lives.  God Bless!