Followup to the Cry Room Article: Screwtape Instructs

I was very delighted to receive so much response to the Cry Room article posted last week. Readers of New Advent, Big Pulpit, National Catholic Register, and most recently, Aleteia, linked here.

I didn’t count the comments according to whether they agreed or disagreed with me, but I was struck by the fact that a few people objecting to my argument were less than charitable about children and other general distractions found in church during Mass.

I was reminded, once again, of the Screwtape Letters (truly, if you haven’t read it at least once, you should!), where the senior demon (Screwtape) instructs his nephew (Wormwood) on the finer points of tormenting his “patient” and assisting his patient’s path to Hell. In Letter “II”, Screwtape writes:

One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather in oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is full of togas and sandals and armour and bare legs and the mere fact that the other people in church wear modern clothes is a real-though of course an unconscious-difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like. Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords.

By looking at others as obstacles to our own spiritual growth, we lose sight of the fact that the Church is a community. We are not meant to work out our salvation completely on our own. Our salvation isn’t granted by how many distraction-free masses we attend. Our feelings, however, tell us that we should always have the things we feel we “need” and that we should be free to feel grumpy, or upset, or disrespected, when we perceive ourselves receiving less of the share to which we feel entitled. Pride and selfishness, those feelings.

The Church is a hospital for sinners, which means, we are all (at times) major inconveniences to one another. Yet we are called to reach out to one another in charity. To be of service. To love and forgive. What we “lose” in our distraction by a crying infant we can gain back in loving that child and her parent the way Jesus loves. That is, after all, one of the graces we hope to receive in receiving the Sacrament — loving the way Jesus loves!

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4 thoughts on “Followup to the Cry Room Article: Screwtape Instructs

  1. Fair argument – except that it still fails to engage with the dubious historical basis for the original article, or the issue of why being physically present in a location where someone is saying magic words that I can’t hear should have an impact on my spiritual state. (magic: The use of ritual activities or observances which are intended to influence the course of events or to manipulate the natural world – Oxford English Dictionary) This article seems to want to affirm that the mass is magic, because it’s clear that the random distraction caused by children does disrupt the concentration of the participants far more the one off events listed by Screwtape.

  2. Ah yes Christs presence transformed from mere bread and wine is is the center of his Fathers Magic which makes mans magic just an illusion of thought. This is why I attend along with the faithful that take Christs words as Truth!

    God Bless

  3. Pingback: More Fodder for the Cry Room Debate | Quartermaster of the Barque

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