Daily Archives: August 30, 2021

Screwtape Talks

How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of the race, for what humans call a ‘normal life’ is the exception. Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it. Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,

Your affectionate uncle

Screwtape

This quote comes from “The Screwtape Letter” by C.S. Lewis, a book I was recently re-reading and which I suggest to everyone as a reading (Yes, I know he wasn’t Catholic…).

For those who don’t know, Screwtape is a “senior demon” in hell, and his letters are written to his nephew, Wormwood, whom Screwtape is tasked with “training” in the “art” of leading people to damnation. Wormwood tries to do his “best”, but he is inexperienced and frequently errs. Screwtape, who is more experienced in the subtle art of slowly leading people to hell, is his “mentor” whilst the latter is learning. The book is very funny at times, entertaining most of the times, and deadly (see what I am doing here?) serious at all times.

In the fragment above, C.S. Lewis gives us another of his brutal insights in the real business of life.

When I re-read those words, I was shocked at how different Lewis’ perspective – which is, actually, the proper Christian perspective – is compared to the way not only most people, but most people who call themselves Christians, see life nowadays.

This life is but a short moment. Time is, indeed, valuable both for Screwtape and us. However, I have more than a passing feeling that an awful lot of people who call themselves “Christians” on a sunny Sunday would lose their faith if they happened to lose a child in his early years. I don’t mean here that they would be devastated by the loss of the separation, which is a natural and obvious reaction. I mean that they would consider God unjust for taking their child away from them and, therefore, conclude that, God not being unjust, there must be no God. I myself once watched a guy on TV stating exactly the same: that he had lost his faith after losing his young daughter of, if memory serves, five. You might, or might not, also know of people who deemed themselves Christians and took their lives in cold blood after suffering the loss of a child. Please do not fabricate excuses for suicide: “depression”, “not her fault”, and the like. Cold-blooded suicides have no excuses. It’s Screwtape at work. If you think otherwise, you need to revisit your Catholicism, stat.

Not so our Christian predecessors; who were, actually, Christian. Many of them – very many, in those times – suffered the excruciating pain of the loss of a child. But their pain was, at all times, tempered by the sweet awareness that their beloved child, *invariably baptised* and died at two, three, four, six years of age, was most certainly in Heaven. Heaven is the only reason why we are born, and the only real goal we have in life, as everything else disappears into nothingness when compared to the infinite value of eternal life. Therefore, the only possible conclusion for a Christian is that God was very good to a soul He allowed to be born and to be happy with Him forever after a short sojourn on this Vale of Tears.

I might repeat this to you, but I think it’s faster it you read it again and again, until you have interiorised the concept.

If I ended up in hell, it would have been better for me if I had never been born, even if my damnation came after 120 years of a very happy life (which almost no one enjoys anyways). The child who died in his infancy would be graced by God with infinitely more than me.

But even if – as I certainly hope – I should end up in Purgatory, I very much doubt that I would be able to say that I had a better lot than said child: a life spanning one or two handfuls of decades, during which some Wormwood is “allowed to work on me”, is hardly a compensation for the risk of sending myself to hell. Plus, Purgatory is not a walk in the park, either. Bar a minority of really saintly people, the vast majority of us pays a steep price for the decades on the Vale of Tears. God’s ways are always good; but don’t think you had it better than the small child who died of leukemia at 5. You were likely worse off, by a distance.

The world does not understand this, because the world does not understand God. The world is angry at God for the people who live in “inequality”, and for the people who die young, and for the animals that die, and for the plants that die. The same world, however, does not hesitate in making people die in their mother’s womb. Loss of God always translates into madness.

Screwtape’s words above are a fairly strong reminder of real wisdom. We might do worse than reminding ourselves of it, then the world surrounding us tries to make us forget all the time.

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