• November 17th, 2014The Sacramental in Tolkienby Joseph Pearce

    I’m in receipt of an e-mail from a student working on a thesis on the Sacramental in Tolkien, and what it means to have "Sacramental Vision".    The student requested a list of “any helpful articles, books, quotations, etc. regarding the Sacramental, Imagination, Tolkien or Chesterton, and so on”.

     

    Here’s my brief response:

     

    I’m at Aquinas College this week so can’t consult my own Tolkien and Chesterton library. Nonetheless, from memory, I would suggest the following:

     

    Tree and Leaf by Tolkien contains his seminal essay “On Fairy Stories”, his allegorical short story, “Leaf by Niggle”, and his superb poem “Mythopoeia”. Each of these examines Tolkien’s philosophy of myth which is awash with his understanding of the sacramentality of beauty.

     

    Tolkien’s Letters are an invaluable resource.

     

    You should read the opening chapters of The Silmarillion.

     

    I would suggest my own book, Tolkien: Man & Myth, and the sections on Tolkien in my books Catholic Literary Giants and Beauteous Truth: Faith, Reason, Literature and Culture.

     

    I’d also suggest that you read the book of essays that I edited: Tolkien: A Celebration.

     

    Ralph Wood’s Gospel According to Tolkien is good as are Purtill’s and Kreeft’s books on Tolkien.

     

    As regards Chesterton, the chapter on “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy is indispensable.

  • November 17th, 2014The Suburban Parish and the Heresy of Inconsequentialismby Kevin O'Brien

    I have come to a conclusion.  Most Catholics don't believe in God.

    At least they don't believe in the Christian God, the God who became man to save us from sin and who died on a cross and rose again, calling us to participate in a life of sacrifice until He comes to call us to participate in his resurrection by raising us bodily from the dead at the Last Judgment, where some will find they've chosen eternal life, others eternal damnation.

    Most Catholic instead believe (to quote H. Richard Niebuhr) that ...

    “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”


    ***

    Today at Mass I walked out during the homily.  I've only done that twice in 14 years as a Catholic, counting today.  It wasn't especially bad, as homilies go, but I realized that it was pointless to stay any longer.  I realized at one point that Whatever religion this man is preaching and these people are celebrating, I'm not in communion with it.  In other words, I was at a putatively Catholic Mass at a so-called Catholic parish, but I was not at a service honoring anything resembling the Catholic God.

    It was a parish that I was forced to go to because of time and travel constraints.  It had (as most parishes do) a guitar player singing bad songs very badly and very loudly.  He was quite obviously enthralled with the sound of his voice over the loud speakers.  It was a form of bad performance art, or a kind of narcissism on parade.  I imagine when this man enters into an intimate physical relationship with his wife, his favorite part is hearing himself moan at the moment of climax.  Perhaps he records that moan and listens to it over and over again, admiring the tones and cadences of his marvelous voice.  You know the type.  At any rate, he made me moan at this Mass, that's for sure.

    Speaking of sex, before Mass a teen aged girl with a Steubenville T-shirt on ran up to an attractive young man and gave him the Christian Side Hug.  It didn't phase him in the least, but she went away quivering and giddy.  She sang the bad songs out loud with the rock star very loudly, in a pew right up front, swaying and all abuzz.

    The homily had one simple message: don't be afraid when Christ comes.  Even if He comes like a thief in the night, even though Scripture warns us of "darkness" and "grinding of teeth", even though "our God is an awesome [fear inspiring] God", we Christians can be confident that "when Christ comes, it will be a good thing."

    Not for this guy it won't, as Michelangelo imagines it ...


    Not for that guy it won't.  But he only finds that out on the day Christ comes, not at his Suburban Mass.

    So what is this weird thing that is happening all over the country, and apparently all over the world?  What is this weird religion that calls itself Catholic?

    This is the religion of antichrist, of Christ without the cross.  

    Others have called it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but that phrase is not only awkward, it's a misnomer.  It is neither Moralistic, Therapeutic, or Deist.

    There is nothing Moralistic about the Suburban Parish Mass at all.  Universal salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of your ethical beliefs or practices.  There's nothing Therapeutic going on there, either.  Any good therapist challenges his patient to get better, and not to continue wallowing in his addictions and bad choices; I've never heard any homily or modern hymn do anything like that; we are always affirmed right where we are.  And this whole thing isn't exactly Deism, for there is a personal God in the mix and we do more or less pray to Him, or at least we try to if the music isn't too loud.

    So what is this sick and bizarre heresy that we find in the vast majority of Catholic parishes, especially in the suburbs, that we find in Mainline Protestant churches and that the "Progressives" at the Synod on the Family are pushing?  If it's not really Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, what is it?

    Belloc called it Modernism, but even he acknowledged that it seemed to be a mixture of all heresies and that it was hard to pin down or define.

    I think the best name for it is Inconsequentialism.  

    It is the belief that the Consequential does not exist.  None of our choices or actions matters.  Nothing we do will lead to heaven or hell.  Our lives are works of fiction written entirely by our own selves.  God stands back and applauds whatever choice we make, like an indulgent public school Kindergarten teacher.  

    And since nothing leads to anything (which is what "inconsequential" means), the culture of this heresy is a kind of parody of the Kingdom of heaven: it's hell on earth, a place that is above all else Unreal.  It is a place where we can choose our own genders, our own doctrines, our own way, our own truth, our own life.  It is a place lacking all judgment, for judgment is the Consequential - and by judgment I mean both the Last Judgment as well as personal judgment or discernment: both God's judgment of us and our own judgment-in-practice, our own decision making day in and day out, our own "tough choices", none of which (we are assured) matters in the least, all of which are Inconsequential.

    T. S. Eliot described the effects of what I call Inconsequentialism.  "Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing," he said.  Inconsequentialism is isolating, fragmenting, and atomizing.  


    But Inconsequentialists gladly pay that price, for their entire goal is to deny the Cross and everything that the Cross implies: sacrifice, suffering, discipline, decision, death, shame, and sin.  To have Christ without the Cross is their goal.  This, according to Bishop Sheen, was the hallmark of the spirit of antichrist: the denial of the cross in all its forms.

    But if your entire philosophy of life is devoted to denying the Consequential (and the Cross is the most emphatic expression of the Consequential), then everything you do - especially your religion - becomes Inconsequential - which is to say, unimportant, minor, meaningless, bland, and ultimately (like the loud guitar music) a form of public masturbation.

    Why would any normal human being seek something like this out?  Most of us aren't thrilled with Christian Side Hugs, even when we're teen agers.  I can get better pop psychology watching an Oprah rerun than I'll ever get at a Suburban Mass.  Dr. Phil is more challenging than just about any parish priest you'll come across.  If I want loud pop music, I can pull up good (rather than bad) pop music on my computer and put on headphones.  If I want sex, I don't need to swallow the pervy weirdness of a Christopher West or a Mark Driscoll.  If I want a religious experience, I can sleep in on Sundays and take a walk in the woods and pray in peace and quiet.  Of course, I need the Church for the Sacraments and for infallible teaching on morals and faith, but normal people don't see the value of either, as it's never pointed out to them.

    The priest said today in his homily that when Christ comes, "all our desire will be fulfilled".  But the Religion of Inconsequentialism is all about denying the purpose of desire, as well as the purpose of anything.  Desire is just a kind of physical manifestation of sentiment to Inconsequentialists.  Loving a woman, marrying her, forming a family that lasts your entire life, and having a bunch of babies is not the point of normal human desire for an Inconsequentialist.  "Getting off" is.  Sterility is the sole sacrament of the Inconsequential Faith.  "Get off" however you will, but make sure nothing comes of it; make sure there are no Consequences.

    And heaven?  It's a big dessert buffet where you can eat all you want and not get fat, not suffer the Consequences.  It's a place where no one ever judges anyone any more, where there is no Judgment built into the nature of Reality, where we are all happily Unreal forever more, where our desires are easily fulfilled because our desires are shallow to begin with.

    Who would want a heaven like that, or a faith like that?  Rod Dreher writes of the impending collapse of what I've called the Church of Inconsequentialism (my emphasis in bold and my comments in red ) ...

    Sociologist Philip Rieff, in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, observed that institutions die when they can no longer communicate their core values to the next generation in a convincing way. He said this to support his contention (in 1966!) that Christianity was dying in the West, because we Westerners have become hostile to the ascetic spirit that is inextricable from authentic Christianity and has been from the beginning.  [In other words, we have rejected the Cross] As you know, I believe Rieff was right, and that his being right is not something that traditional Christians should take comfort in, except in this one way: a Christianity that does demand something sacrificial from its followers is not only being true to the nature of the religion, but is far more likely to engender the kind of devotion that will endure through the therapeutic dark age. Aside from its radical theological innovations that are impossible to harmonize with Christianity as it was known for its first 1,900 years, Progressive Christianity has fully embraced the therapeutic mindset, in the sense that Rieff means. It is dying because it cannot convince young people to embrace its values within the institutional churches. It can’t be denied that many of the young do accept the social liberalism embraced by the progressive churches, but it also can’t be denied that most of them don’t see why they have to be part of a church to be socially progressive.


    In that article, Rod points out that the Last Episcopalian has almost certainly been born.  By the time a baby baptized today in an Episcopal church is 80 years old, the Episcopal church will have ceased to exist, at its present rate of decline. The churches that worship Christ without a Cross, the churches of the Inconsequential are reaping what they have sown.

    They are finding that they are Inconsequential indeed.

  • November 12th, 2014Little Things Mean a Lotby Dena Hunt

    We all know that we make big decisions that determine the course of our lives, like choosing a college major or choosing a mate, perhaps the decision to commit our lives to Christ or to join a church. These are momentous choices; we remember them and probably reflect often, especially as we age, on how they affected our lives.

     

    But it’s the little decisions, the ones we might not even notice, that really determine everything. The 23rd psalm is an example. Actually, this psalm has been prayed by literally everyone, whether they’re conscious of it or not, because it’s not a prayer but a choice everyone makes. “I shall not want….” is not merely a line in verse; it’s a decision. To want means to not have. One chooses to want or not to want. It should not be mistaken for, I shall get or not get, achieve or not achieve, but I shall have, or else, I shall not have. The sole action involved is the decision itself. They are mutually exclusive terms and mutually exclusive conditions; therefore, we have to choose between them. We cannot both have and want.

     

    Those who choose not to have: They live and die unfulfilled, unsatisfied, discontent. They may even look around their deathbed and see the faces of many who love them, they may die with the knowledge that they’ve contributed to the good of the world. “A life well lived,” a eulogist might say, “He made the world a better place,” all that sort of thing. (The Nobel Peace Prize…?)

     

    But it’s not what Christians call “a happy death.” Why? Because it was not a happy life. A life lived in want is not a happy life. The psalmist can walk through the valley of the shadow of death (aka, life) because he has chosen to have and not to want. He made that choice long ago and it determined everything. Though he must sit in the presence of enemies, abstract or concrete, his cup will run over, and when he dies, he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

     

    That may be why the guards in Auschwitz could not kill St. Maximilian Kolbe by starvation. They finally had to inject him with carbolic acid. It’s hard to starve a man who has chosen not to hunger.

     

    “I shall not want” is the second line of the 23rd psalm. The first is “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The second line is a choice that will determine all happiness for this life, this death, and this eternity. The choice is a consequence of the first line. Without that first line, a person can be a great achiever, he can be surrounded by those who love him, he can do great things, but the one thing he cannot do—ever—is have.

  • November 11th, 2014Contemporary Catholic Fiction Free E-Book Offerby Joseph Pearce

    As we're always keen to promote contemporary Catholic literature on the Ink Desk, I thought I'd mention that, for a limited time, Ignatius Press is giving away a free e-book by author T.M. Doran.

    The free e-book being given away is Doran's novel, Terrapin. Also included is his new short mystery story, The Linden Murder Case Mystery. This giveaway will only be available until November 24. 

    Here is a link about this limited time offer:

    http://www.ipnovels.com/blog/2014/11/terrapin-available-as-a-free-e-book 

  • November 11th, 2014Two Generals, Three Popesby Daniel J. Heisey

    On two successive pages of a recent weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal appeared book reviews of new biographies of two famous generals, Napoleon Bonaparte and George C. Marshall.  The juxtaposition in those pages gives the historian pause for thought.  Each general stands as a symbolic figure, one embodying the worst, the other the best in his respective century.

    Napoleon (1769-1821) is admired by his newest biographer, but the dictator who sought to conquer Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Ural Mountains, deserved his exile to a remote island in the South Atlantic.  Marshall (1880-1959), whose new biography apparently tries to cut him down to size, deserved the many honors recognizing his service during war and his peacetime restoration of a Europe ravaged by the war begun by National Socialist Germany.

    Both Napoleon and Marshall rose from obscure origins to achieve almost legendary status.  Napoleon was born on his family’s estate on the island of Corsica, Marshall in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Both men were graduates of prestigious military academies and early on distinguished themselves as able administrators.  Napoleon forever nursed the outsider’s desire for entering the inner circle, eager to take any measure to achieve his ambition; Marshall had an old-fashioned Pennsylvanian’s characteristic laconic impatience with nonsense and injustice and was ready to speak his mind even if it cost him a promotion.

    Like a cunning yet deranged villain in a James Bond story, Napoleon concocted and carried out a megalomaniacal scheme for world domination.  He could do so by first posing as a champion of democracy, riding in to rescue the poor people oppressed by kings, princes, and bishops.  This promise of a new world order came in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity.  It also came at the points of thousands of bayonets.

    A little over a century later, Adolf Hitler began another enslavement of Europe, resistance to which involved the United States.  As Chief of Staff of the Army, General Marshall worked closely with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, their first meeting, however, taking an awkward turn when the glib patrician President rambled on about military strategy and then asked “George” whether he agreed.

    Marshall, called by his first name only by his wife, bristled inwardly at this false familiarity and said bluntly that he did not agree and explained why.  Everyone present assumed that Marshall’s career was over.  Instead, although Marshall never laughed at his jokes, Roosevelt grew to depend on Marshall’s austere insights.  When the planned Allied invasion of Normandy needed a commander and Marshall seemed the obvious choice, Roosevelt told him, “I could not sleep at night knowing you were not in Washington.”

    Under Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S. Truman, Marshall served first as Secretary of State and then as Secretary of Defense.  In 1947, as Secretary of State, he received an honorary doctorate from Harvard and used the occasion to announce a bold initiative called the European Recovery Program, soon commonly known as the Marshall Plan.  Designed to rebuild the countries of Western Europe devastated by the Second World War, the Marshall Plan was denounced by Communists as a bourgeois plot to prevent the expansion of Soviet hegemony.  Meanwhile, demented alcoholics like Senator Joseph McCarthy denounced Marshall as a Communist agent.

    Illustrative of the characters of Napoleon and Marshall is how each man dealt with the Bishop of Rome.  In 1798 Napoleon’s troops occupied the Papal States, declared a new Roman Republic, and deposed Pope Pius VI as head of state, forcing the old man into exile.  Napoleon planned to confine him to Sardinia, but Pius VI’s fragile health delayed that transfer.  The Pope remained a prisoner in a citadel in southern France.

    In August, 1799, he died there, aged eighty-one, and in March, 1800, the papal conclave, meeting in Venice, elected Gregorio Cardinal Chiaramonte, a Benedictine monk who had taught theology in Rome.  As Pius VII, he entered Rome, despite French occupation, and in 1801 he negotiated a concordat with Napoleon, who wanted to change his title from First Consul to Emperor.

    In 1804 Pius VII traveled to Paris for the imperial coronation:  Since the year 800, Popes had crowned Holy Roman Emperors, so the journey had some precedent.  Once in Paris, Pius VII was given a special seat from which to watch Napoleon crown himself emperor.  Tensions between Pope and Emperor increased, and in 1809 Napoleon arrested Pius VII, eventually moving him from Rome to France and keeping him in custody until 1814.

    In contrast, Marshall, though an Episcopalian and a Freemason, sought an audience with Pope Pius XII.  They met at Castel Gandolfo on 19 October, 1948, where Marshall briefed the Pope on what Marshall always called the European Recovery Program, and the Pope expressed his warm appreciation of the Marshall Plan.  In the background, Pius XII’s aides, often cautious to a fault, worried that the Pope’s hour with the American Secretary of State would become part of Communist propaganda against the Church.  Nevertheless, both Marshall and Pius XII knew that a man is measured as much by the enemies he makes as by the friends he keeps.

    Marshall’s reticence, capability, and sense of duty had long won him near reverence from both American political parties, although he belonged to neither, and in 1946 he received the Congressional Gold Medal.  His name had become synonymous with virtue and integrity.  In 1948 Time magazine named Marshall its Man of the Year; in 1953, he became the first soldier to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Nearly five decades later, it became known that in 1948 Marshall had opposed Truman on the timing of the United States’ diplomatic recognition of the new State of Israel.  To Marshall, Truman’s calculations derived from cynical courthouse politicking.  Marshall summed up his opposition by telling Truman that if he pursued his timetable, Marshall could not vote for him in that year’s presidential election.  Truman respected candor, even when it contradicted him, and kept Marshall in his Cabinet.

    As for Napoleon, his decision to become a latter-day Caesar disillusioned his adoring egalitarian partisans, causing Beethoven to remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony, the Eroica.  Moreover, it is telling that in 1904 a lapsed Catholic, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published a short story in which a plaster bust of Napoleon was used to hide the Black Pearl of the Borgias.

    Daniel J. Heisey, O. S. B., is a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is known as Brother Bruno.  He teaches Church History at Saint Vincent Seminary.

  • November 11th, 2014In These Dark Days, the Church Needs Her Menby Kevin Kennelly

    Msgr Charles Pope has written a superb article entitled " In These Dark Days , The Church Needs Her Men To Be Men." If I could wave a magic wand and pick one thing that ( I think) would benefit our society the most it is this: That men go back to being men and women go back to being women. The romance of men and women .....they way they interact, the different strengths and weaknesses they have, the way they look after each other , accept each other's foibles,  take different risks for each other , see the world (somewhat ) differently.....the whole amazing lovable cocktail.....is a great gift of God. It is a gift which makes every day delectable....a mysterious ballet of interaction. And it works. As an aside , I love old time romantic music.....eg As Time Goes By ("woman needs man and man must have his mate .....this no one can deny....") . Look carefully and you will see shades of Genesis in these lyrics....."it is not good for man to be alone..." And conversely, the modern outlook is destroying this great gift. The metrosexual ethos is corrupting maleness. The women who toil in Silicon Valley and put off getting married and having children are ....in the fullness of time....miserable. For a woman, finding a man ( a real man ) to marry is a daunting task....for few are out there. I am rambling here....have you noticed how every ad on TV makes the guys look like fools ? And yes, the whole metrosexual thing is hurting the participation of men at church. They may not realize it but they subconsciously hate the goofy music, the goofy sermons, the goofy wording of prayers, etc . Give them a man's church and they will return. I have seen it.

  • November 6th, 2014The Distributism of the Shireby Joseph Pearce

    My latest article for the Imaginative Conservative takes up where my recent post on "Tolkien, Belloc and Political Force" left off. As I suspected, it has caused an element of controversy and a good deal of discussion. Read it here:

    http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/11/distributism-shire-political-kinship-tolkien-belloc.html

  • November 6th, 2014A New Catholic Revival in the Artsby Joseph Pearce

    I am increasingly excited by the signs of a new Catholic Revival in the arts. There are several very gifted novelists writing today and an increasing number of small Catholic publishers willing to publish new Catholic fiction. As a response to this new springtime for Catholic literature, the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, of which I am the Director, has launched the Aquinas Award for Fiction. Apart from fiction, there is also a host of exciting new Catholic poets. We do our best to publish this new verse in the "New Voices" feature in the St. Austin Review and will continue to do so. In addition, Kaufmann Publishing has an impressive catalogue of new volumes of Catholic verse by an exciting new generation of poets.

    The new springtime is not limited to literature. In the visual arts, there are many Catholic artists producing work of the finest quality, most notably Igor Babailov, who I recently had the honour of interviewing. Again, as part of our mission to reclaim and revitalize Catholic culture, we continue to feature the work of these artists in the full-colour art feature in each issue.

    Nor is music unrepresented in the new revival. The compositions of Michael Kurek are simply superb and I'm honoured that he has agreed to speak about his ballet, Macbeth, at the Center for Faith and Culture's Shakespeare and Christianity Celebration next spring. Apart from Susan Treacy's regular music column in the St. Austin Review, we have featured Kurek's work in our pages and also the work of the wonderful California-based composer, Frank La Rocca. The latter's work is celebrated this week in Catholic World Report:  

    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/3489/in_this_place_in_praise_of_the_music_of_frank_la_rocca.aspx

  • November 5th, 2014Agreeing with G. K. Chestertonby Joseph Pearce

    A week or so ago I wrote an article for the Imaginative Conservative in which I argued with Chesterton about the nature of the vulgar mob. Feeling a little guilty for disagreeing with the great man, even though I think I'm right and the he is wrong, I have written another article (possibly in penance!) in which I agree with him on the perversity of so-called philanthropy:

    http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/10/man-men-misanthropy-agreeing-g-k-chesterton.html

  • November 5th, 2014My Dear Weedrotby Edward Lawrence

    Inspired by, and written in honour of, C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters

      My Dear Weedrot,

    I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time about the dangers and opportunities presented to us by the Internet. The recent events at the Synod have given me a marvellous and delightful chance to talk about the opportunities. The dangers I will discuss another time.

    You will see how much success we’ve had recently in sowing confusion, fear, doubt and despair among the humans. This is, of course, nothing new in itself. But the Internet allows us to magnify these effects in two important ways. Firstly, each and every public utterance of the leaders of the Enemy’s Church is now disseminated around the world in a matter of seconds. This was not always so: in fact, quite the opposite. For much of human history since that Great and Wretched Disaster, only the most serious, the most considered and the most thoughtful of the chief bishop’s sayings reached the ears of the ordinary Catholic. Many of them would go decades or even a lifetime without hearing a word from him. Even during the latter twentieth century, the age of radio and television, it was typically still through the written word that he communicated with the Enemy’s followers, and it was through this medium that they heard from him. This has now changed: every public utterance of his is now not only disseminated, but also analysed, commented on, digested and commented on again.

    The second way that the Internet helps us is that, through articles and comments, we can magnify our efforts at creating despair by making one human’s worry affect thousands.

    You’ll see here that I’m talking of those humans – happily, now a small minority – who are  not only baptised, but also making a serious effort to follow the Enemy, obey His commands and remain in what they call a ‘state of grace’. I am not concerned in this letter with the broad masses of men who by and large ignore the Enemy. And nor should you be, Wormwood. Your target is your man, and nobody else. We make war on the Enemy to get hold of individuals. What with all the excitement recently over heretic bishops and papal silence, I’m worried you’re making their mistake, and forgetting that it’s individuals we war over. What goes on in the Vatican is the concern of spirits far below us in the Lowerarchy, and you should not concern yourself with it. Your man is your concern, and his eternal soul is your goal. Never forget this.

    But Wormwood – my first piece of wisdom is coming up, get ready – make sure he forgets this! You want him to be so concerned by ecclesial politics that it absorbs all his attention. This is good not only because of the effects it produces – anger, rancour, worry, neglect of duty, and so on – but also because all the time he’s brooding over these things, he is neglecting to think about his own soul. You want to exploit this. You want, above all, to wrench his gaze away from his own soul and his own salvation, over which he has complete control, and towards that which he has no control: the Church’s place in the world, or what the chief bishop really thinks about some question or other, or who’s really in control of the Vatican. Or something similar. The point isn’t what you direct it towards: the point is to get it away from himself and his soul.

    You need to empathise with him, Wormwood. I know, I know, it’s hard to put yourself in the position of this filthy animal, but try anyway. You, being pure intelligence, can focus yourself all the time on your goal with relative ease. (Sometimes, of course, when I think of Him or Her and their perfections, I’m filled with such terror and despair and confusion that I can’t focus at all for a while – but what I say is generally true.) The human, on the other hand, since he inhabits the world of the senses, can be quite easily distracted by them. He can be easily induced to forget about his soul, simply because (in one sense) he can’t see it. In fact, even without your efforts, the concupiscence that blinds him means it’s a struggle for him to remember it. So exploit this animal nature. Make him think that Vatican politics is something more than the world of flesh which is passing away: inflate the immediate and the temporary in his mind, such that there is no room for the spiritual and the eternal. Make him forget that his salvation isn’t assured, that time spent thinking about politics is time not praying, or going about his duties, or working out his salvation in some other way. Don’t let him realise that your distractions not only keep him from prayer, but retard his disposition towards it.

    Stop him from praying, Wormwood. That’s my second priceless pearl of wisdom. You won’t be able to do this immediately, of course. It may take years. But you can begin eroding his faith and confidence in the Enemy now, this very day, and in so doing build habits that are favourable to us. Make sure you remind him about ecclesial politics when he sits down for his prayers. And keep reminding him throughout. In so doing, you will not only (all things being equal) reduce the efficacy of the prayers and the graces he receives, but you’ll even over time be able to increase the unpleasantness he feels about prayer itself.

    This is a long term thing (though far shorter than eternity), and you’ll have to be patient. Make his prayers vain, mindless and dead. Fill them with bitterness and rancour towards his superiors. You will, of course, find it much easier if he hasn’t developed the terrible habit of making a deliberate effort to turn his mind towards the Enemy before he prays. And for crying out loud, be subtle about it. If he realises what you’re up to, he’ll ask the Enemy or his Guardian protector for help, and then your efforts will be in vain.

    The third point, and it’s so obvious that I don’t know why I’m mentioning it, is to keep him from the sacraments. Especially confession. Every single time he worthily confesses, all our work that we’ve built up to that point is destroyed. Not only that, but the Enemy’s grace is renewed in him, and he receives encouragement, peace and all kinds of other vile things. It is the most terrible thing, Wormwood – our destroyer and our dread. Keep him from confession! Again, if he’s the kind of Catholic I take him to be, you won’t be able to do this all at once. But make his confessions lazy, and bad and hurried. Work towards it. Take the long view. However long it takes, it’s much shorter than eternity.

    So, keep him from thinking about his individual soul, keep him from prayer, and keep him from the sacraments. The same methods we’ve always used, just with a different hook: the Internet. But I think that for your man, the first point is most important. Make him forget his soul while keeping it constantly in mind yourself, and the rest will follow.

    The individual is what matters, Wormwood! It is miserable and despairing and lost individuals that we seek to populate Hell with. And our means of doing this involve similarly individual methods. Think back to the last great human war of 1939-45. Think of how men at Stalingrad fought street to street, house to house, wall to wall, in their battle to take the city. So it is with us. We want to take every thought, every emotion, every occasion and make sin of it, in our battle to take the soul. But the Enemy acts in the same way, and if you’re not careful, your man will too. Just when you think you’ve beaten him, then like a starving soldier of the Red Army, ammunition gone, he’ll fly at you out of nowhere, lunging at you with fists, teeth and rocks, pummelling and bruising you and leaving you lying in the dust. So keep him from thinking about this, or acting on it. A soldier who constantly questions his generals’ strategy is useless, so keep him constantly questioning the Enemy’s strategy. Keep him concerned with matters of the war that don’t concern him, and that he can do nothing about. (Besides pray– don’t let him do that, of course. The usual tactic is to make them think that one prayer is useless in the grand scheme of things.)

    Make him think his own salvation is assured, and that somehow he needs to act to save Christ’s Body as a whole. And then you will have him.

    Your affectionate old uncle,

    Nick

     

    Editor's note: Edward Lawrence is a pen name for one of many creative writers.

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