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Dear Wormwood

The following is inspired by C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, a fictionalized correspondence between two demons.

My Dear Wormwood,

 Your last letter delighted me to no end and only heightened my pride as your uncle. You reported that your patient is “busy” and “stressed,” “overwhelmed” with the demands of “balancing” his job, marriage, and young children. 

 This, my dear Wormwood, is a stunning development. You have led your patient to adopt the frenetic pace of which Our Father has prophesied for millennia, but which only now has become achievable on a mass scale. In fact, news of your success has reached the classrooms of our training college and become a case study oft cited by the very Slubgob himself.  

The American father and husband today — as you are so adeptly finding with your patient— is a fickle creature roiled by desires and demands which proliferate every day. No longer do these rugged men awaken to that vile ancestral practice of their forefathers — of “quiet” or “devotional” time spent in abasing silence before the Enemy, often with His Word. Fewer and fewer of them are even acquainted with dropping to their knees in their first waking moments, leading their families in so-called “prayer” to the Enemy at close of day, or examining their pusillanimous “consciences.”

In fact the American male today is quiet inept in “praying” with his wife, let alone in solitude or with other men. Yes, most of them sprint from dawn till dusk— like Hermes himself — glorying in their feats and their voracious hunger for “self-reliance.”  

My dear Wormwood, with great perseverance you have pried your patient from the menacing grasp of Silence, that tactic of the Enemy with which he enslaved Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and so many others we studied under Slubgob. When you first reported that your patient began to forego his daily morning ten minutes of groveling to the Enemy in his “prayer chair” to instead “check e-mail,” read online news, and work, Our Father himself rejoiced. 

But your exploits, so it seems, were only just beginning! For soon, in your supple hands, your patient’s “prayer chair” gathered dust as he threw himself into ever-greater “productivity” on behalf of his family. As he did, he amassed debt and dashed ever faster to pay for his mounting comforts. You so deftly softened his adversities with that most edifying quinfecta of drink, cable, social media, gaming and texting.  

With great skill, Wormwood, your strategy unfolded. You led your patient ever further from those loathsome precincts of silence and ever deeper into the glorious courts of sound which Our Father has composed to accompany the American male’s every waking moment. I speak here of your patient’s daily “inbox” and your reports of “YouTube,” “podcasts” and other features which penetrate his every pore with words, sounds and data.

It seems that your patient has achieved that storied ability long spoken of by Our Father: he is physically incapable of enduring solitude and silence. One fleeing moment of silence alone, and he is undone. In those rare moments when he experiences it, he resolves — by your bidding, Wormwood —  to quicken his pace.

And yet, my dear Wormwood, I trust you will pardon your imperious uncle for closing with words of grave caution, prompted by my concern for your good standing with Our Father. Do not become complacent. Your patient still retains in his pitiable head some memory of that silence and of his “colloquy” with the Enemy. Unlike so many who have never known these things, your patient may regress into the pit of Silence and chance therein upon a new vestige of the Enemy.

We must acknowledge that your patient’s work, marriage and children will soon make new demands of him and may prompt him to doubt Our Father. Concern yourself not with whether he be promoted, “held down” or laid off—simply lead him back to the glories of his achievements and self-dependence. Whether he is adored or despised within his home is of no matter — simply keep him moving. Hold before his downcast eyes a new vision, a new “resolution”: to achieve more, acquire more, look better, be better. Rouse him to run again. And my dear Wormwood, at all costs, keep him from his knees.

Your affectionate uncle,


Johnson, a husband and father of five, is the bishop’s Delegate for Evangelization and Media.





© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017