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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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