"The Screwtape Letters" first appeared in London's Guardian newspaper during the dark days of World War II. In 1942, the Letters were published in book form in England — dedicated to Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien. The following year, the book appeared in America to great acclaim. (Courtesy https://www.screwtape.com)
“The Screwtape Letters” first appeared in London’s Guardian newspaper during the dark days of World War II. In 1942, the Letters were published in book form in England — dedicated to Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien. The following year, the book appeared in America to great acclaim. (Courtesy https://www.screwtape.com)

Editor’s Note: On the occasion of the Year of Faith, the following is the first in series of “letters” from a demonic supervisor to his underling regarding a plan to dismantle a family and ruin souls, written by Mike Phelan, director of the Marriage and Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Phoenix. It is not an original idea, but a variation on a theme begun by the great C.S. Lewis in his classic satirical book, “The Screwtape Letters.” If this series succeeds in getting more Catholics reading that book, it will have done what the author had hoped.

Lewis’s book observes the temptation of a single individual soul in World War II London. This short series observes the temptation of a “typical” Catholic family in our own nation, in our own time, in fact during the Year of Faith called for by our Holy Father. It is not the picture of any one concrete living family, but rather a fictional glimpse of 21st century Catholic home realities in the land of the wannabe-free and the homes of the wish-we-were-brave.Mike-Phelan-2012-250px

Keep in mind that the letters are written by a fictional demon. Therefore his “likes” are a horror and the Enemy he refers to is God Himself. All the while, the Guardian Angels of the family are battling in ways mostly hidden both to us the readers and to the devils for the family’s strength and salvation.

My Friend Thorn,

Welcome to your new assignment in the Family Temptation Special Unit Forces (FTSUF). In analyzing your file (letter by letter, you will find I miss nothing), I am both cautiously optimistic and deeply concerned with your recent record. Tempter’s Academy named you Uberdaemon upon graduation and your natural gifts are not commonly paralleled outside the inner circle of Our Father Below. And yet, the flaws are glaring.

How you, the young prince of simmering hope, talented but naïve, were given such a Christian to tempt in her final days is beyond me. The bottom line remains: you lost. Your loss is ours. How sweet it might have been to savor a potential saint’s fury at He-who-goes-unnamed, her final despair which seemed all too ready to burst just days before her death. She, who had been so close to her Master, was on the verge of “curse God and die.” But you couldn’t resist, could you? You simply had to drive the nail in the coffin by a foolish frontal appearance, devilish grin and all. And there, near final victory over a truly tasty human soul, at the foot of the disorienting hospital bed, she glimpsed with horror (not with the vampiric-victim lust you’d hoped) the disparity between your malice and His mercy. She laughed aloud at the clarity! All was undone. The patient work of your betters bitterly wasted.

I carefully noted as well your intake form, containing a level of disgust at the mediocrity of the new assignment both in general, the concept of Familial Temptation, and in particular, the trudging lowpoint of this particular small herd of human animals. Beneath you, are they? What threat do they pose, you ask?

Foolish questions. It is not with exaggerated fear that the Lowerarchy has always regarded the human family and especially the disgusting affront of matrimony. We are the Special Forces for good reason. In the family, our demonic hosts find a snaggle of defenses which frustrated our methods at every turn. Not only do the Guardian Angels assigned to each member seek incessantly to strengthen the bonds among the wretches, but any natural inclination toward charity, forgiveness, affection and stubbornly sticky virtue education done there seems to be nearly irremovable. We find the most natural instance of soul-defense given to the talking beasts right here, in the home. Your work of directing the anti-choir of assigned tempter-devils at this home is of great import, and, I may remind you, of great consequence for yourself if you fail.

This Year of Faith called for by the Church — I mention Her once here for sake of clarity and will try not to curse in future correspondence — seems to have Our Father Below, er, energetically concerned. Not that they tell me everything — and not that I’m complaining! But they have assigned me you and specified the target, an unusual circumstance. Oh, and equally unusual, they have recognized my authority to un-name; yes, your dignified title of “Thorn” recognized in the horrid Scriptures themselves is to be replaced by one of my making. Get used to your new name: its domesticity, its humiliation, its mission-in-a-nutshell effect. I HEREBY UNNAME YOU THORN, AND NAME YOU GLUESTICK. Get thee into the deepest shadow of the family craft closet, and stay hidden and alert. I look for your first report by Disaster-mas morning, the twenty-fifth.

Oh, and while I will save the non-filed details from the spouses’ families-of-origin, much of which work in our favor, this was missed: both families associated this repugnant Incarnational season with happiness and even fell into some joy, a happy memory for both husband and wife. This is to be undermined. Get to work on that now. Encouraging thoughts of shopping in the place of shalom is a good place to begin.

Your “Friend,”