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The Screwtape Letters Comes to Life View Comments
By James Breig

TO MILLIONS of 21st-century readers and moviegoers, especially adolescents, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) might be best known as the creator of the Narnia books, which supplement their collections of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings volumes. Older adults may remember him for The Screwtape Letters, in which Screwtape, an experienced devil, explains to Wormwood, his nephew and a novice tempter, how best to ensnare his assigned human target.

Even at the age of 70, this novel continues to sell well, thanks in part to a new theatrical version that has played off-Broadway for more than 300 performances, in Chicago (six months) and in Washington, D.C. (10 sold-out weeks). A two-person play with a single speaking role, The Screwtape Letters challenges audiences to look not only outward to the stage but also inward at themselves.

The script “pulls back the veil of the spiritual world that most of us inherently know is there,” says Max McLean, who plays Screwtape as a dapper raptor with a grand goatee, brocade smoking jacket and matching vest, his eyes avidly searching for fresh carrion. “We tend to suppress that world because it’s too powerful, too much to handle,” he told St. Anthony Messenger recently.

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James Breig is a veteran writer for Catholic newspapers, magazines and books. The former editor of The Evangelist, the newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, New York, he now authors a syndicated media column for dozens of Catholic papers. He will have three books published this year: a novel, an examination of animals in the Gospels and a nonfiction book about World War II.

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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t need so much to talk about God but to allow people to feel how God lives within us, that’s our work.

 
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