Friday, December 21, 2012


I offered you your life in full, unmixed.
I poured it out in torrents across your sheltering
Umbrella. And you hid beneath your overhung
Prophylactic, plastic, umbrella. With fears pulled up high,
Snugly around your chin, and your comfort zone
Pulled low around your ears. Blessings all around
Fell and splashed in puddles on the ground.
Even there, frustrated, for you have grown
Old and enamored of galoshes. Demurely you try
To trudge through puddles of unseen, unsung
Inconvenient grace with never a splash. Sweltering,
Overhot inside the coat of broken things that you have fixed.

Silly child!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Death in Children's Stories

*Note, this post was first written, but not published, well over a week before the events in Newton, CT. Bear that in mind when reading it, but I am already beginning to think about how it applies to that event and especially to the children affected by knowledge of that event.
At Bible Study on Monday night, or rather in the pre-Bible study man talk (the ladies having either not arrived or gone off to procure refreshments) one of the guys mentioned a comic book inspired cartoon he had seen as a kid, and mentioned an episode in which Superman had had his dreams invaded by his arch-nemesis, and in the ensuing nightmare had accidentally killed his friend. The guy reminiscing about this episode pointed out, "You know, some of those cartoons were pretty dark. I mean those were kid shows, but they were really dark for kids."

I mused that I didn't particularly see a problem with death and violence in kid's stories or movies, necessarily, as long as it was done right. Some of the guys agreed, some disagreed, but we didn't really get into a conversation about it.

A couple of things went through my mind when I heard that comment. The first was all the parents I know who try so hard to keep their children from seeing certain movies because they are afraid they will scare them or give them nightmares (and by parents I mean mothers. I don't think I have ever seen a father censor a movie on that argument.) Parents who won't let their children watch "Lord of the Rings" because they think the orcs are too scary, or who won't let their children read the Chronicles of Narnia because of all the fighting. (This is a much smaller subset.)

There were a couple of movies that my parents wouldn't let us see when we were kids because they were afraid we would have nightmares. I don't remember any of them, but I think my parents, on the whole, were pretty sensible about it. They did their best but predicting what would or would not frighten each of us was an impossible task. I remember being frightened out of my wits by the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz; crying at the dressed up White Rabbit in a live action version of Alice in Wonderland; having nightmares about the ghosts in Tevye's dream in Fiddler on the Roof; and lying awake for what felt like years, mulling over the haunted wood scene in Anne of Green Gables. The things my Mom expected to scare me, (Star Wars, for instance) were not scary at all. In fact, Star Wars was hands down my favorite movie for most of my childhood.

What this indicates to me is that it is impossible to predict with certainty what will or will not frighten any given child. The child himself decides, subconsciously and without understanding the reasons, what he will be afraid of and how he will be afraid of it.

On a deeper level, the whole idea that children must be protected at all costs from frightening ideas and images is counter-intuitive to me. (You will note that 1: I am a man and 2: I have no children of my own.) I do not think that movies that are frightening simply for the sake of being frightening, (i.e. horror movies) are good for children. On the other hand, I think that violence, fear and death are absolutely necessary in children’s literature and movies.

Grownups who do not want these elements in children’s stories do not understand the purpose of stories in a child’s life. Grownups think of stories as merely entertainment, but this is a stunted two-dimensional way of looking at it. Children know better. To a child a story is another life, no different in perceived reality or importance from the child’s own real life. Stories are a way of learning, perhaps the most powerful way in which children learn. Grownups worry sometimes about children entering so completely into their imaginary worlds. I know a lot of grownups were disturbed by how seriously I took my imaginary world as a kid but that is precisely how we learn. By investing the imaginary world with such depth, the lessons we learn there stick deep. To this day I still learn things in the same way. I imagine things and live them in my mind before they happen and learn prudence. I listen to other peoples’ experiences and try to enter into them, and I learn empathy. I live various possible solutions to problems and anticipate complications. None of this would be possible without that early childhood training in allowing my imagination full rein.

More importantly, stories change who we are. They allow us to grow up.

One of my young second cousins is 4 ½ years old. His parents have been showing him the animated Redwall series (based on the truly outstanding books by British author Brian Jacques.) Now, in the Redwall series there are many bad guys. In the first season there is the vicious rat Cluny the Scourge, and his vast horde of bloodthirsty vermin, weasels, stoats, ferrets and such. However, more sinister still is the serpent, Asmodeus. The brave warrior mouse Matthias has to fight with this serpent who is a hundred times his size and overcome it in order to achieve the sword of Martin the Warrior and fulfill his destiny. (Ha Ha! Just remembering the story is getting me pumped. I loved that series and read dozens of those books out loud to younger kids when I was a teenager. Good times!)

My cousin’s mom told me that the little boy was so scared of the snake that he was standing up on the couch as he watched it, ready to run away at a moment’s notice. But then his dad showed him how Matthias killed the snake, and now it is the little boy’s favorite part of the movie. He role-plays “Matthias and the Snake” over and over again with his dad, or whoever else will play it with him. Sometimes he is Matthias and sometimes he is the snake, and both are deeply significant from a psychological point of view, but the main point is that that he has looked the snake in the eye, and slain it.

G. K. Chesterton said, “Fairy stories are important, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” There should be a sign over the entrance to this world to warn us, “Here there be dragons!” Like it or not, dragons roam the byways of this earth and sooner or later every child will meet his dragon. When he does he should do so already knowing that dragons can be slain.

I am not talking about head knowledge either. I memorized my Baltimore Catechism with the best of them when I was a fuzzy headed altar-boy. I could quote from memory about the theological virtue of hope, God’s promise to grant me the “salvation of my soul and the means necessary to obtain it,” but I was fully twenty-five years old before that formula meant anything to me more than the words that made it up. I had long since encountered dragons aplenty and had long since had need of the hope in my heart that would give me the courage to fight them without rest or quarter, certain that in the end victory would be mine. The rational understanding of that hope came from my formal education, the training in writing, logic, philosophy, catechism and other such arts of the mind, but the habit of hope had been formed at a much earlier age by much humbler influences. Long before I knew how to read about serpents I already knew that they ought to be defeated, and that they could be defeated, and that I was born to fight them.

The grownups who refuse to allow anything frightening in the stories their children hear, watch and read, may be providing them with better entertainment, (or maybe not. After all, what is a story without a conflict?) However, they deprive them of so much more. They assume that all fear comes from outside of the child, but this is not the case. This is a fallen world. The shadow of Original Sin is cast from within and the fears are already there. Frightening things frighten because they echo in the dark places of our own souls. In depriving the child of an imaginary bad guy to be afraid of, you deprive him of any way of focusing on the internal fears. In depriving him of imaginary heroes you deprive him of any way to face his fears and defeat them.

Children’s stories, therefore, should be realistic. This is not to suggest that dragons, hobbits, elves and dwarves are to be eschewed. The fairy stories are more realistic than the tamer stories could ever be, because the fairy stories get to the real root of the world, to goodness, truth and beauty; to evil, lies and ugliness; to the courage to stand up for the right and resist the wrong. In the end, fairy tales tell us the only things that really matter.

They tell us there is hope.


Monday, December 17, 2012

What to Say?

I feel like I ought to say something about the tragic killings in Newton, CT. Every other blogger in the world worth his salt has taken a break from their regular schedules to talk about it, offer some consolation which will not be read by the ones who most need it, or a prayer, or an invitation to prayer. I don't even have a regular shcedule to take a break from. But what is there to say? What do I know about it? Nothing.

I know that a young man went into an elementary school with a gun and killed children and teachers. That is it. I don't know any more, I don't want to know any more. I wish I didn't know that much.

I don't know any more because I only hear about things like this second hand. I don't watch, listen to or read the news except at work where I cannot avoid it. I can't help but think there is something unhealthy, or at the least a bit disturbing in our national fascination with "The News." It feels a touch voyeuristic. A tragedy like this occurs, and yes, it is tragic. The nation will talk of nothing else for a while, and ratings will go up. The gun/anti-gun debate will intensify, politicians will make speeches. The faces of those who survived and the families of those who did not will be splashed across television screens and printed pages for our sympathetic viewing pleasure. Somewhere in the nation, right at this moment, there are a handful of sad, sick, dead young men who are taking note, wondering whether they could do the same thing, whether they could maybe do it a little more spectacularly.

Whose life is enriched in the slightest by having all the horror and pain of the world paraded in front of their eyes every evening, commented on by talking heads with well-practiced emotions? How many people are going to do anything to live more fully, and how many will merely become more depressed, or more desensitized?

For myself I never want to know about things like these, unless I can do something about it. My first reaction is always a deep, black, nauseating anger. I wish I had been there. am one of a handful of men in this country with the training, skill and will to stop such a tragedy in its tracks. I could have killed the perpetrator, quickly and efficiently, and saved lives. But I wasn't there. It does neither me, nor the victims, nor their families, nor the perpetrator, nor any living person any good for me to be angry like that. Anger without action is poisonous, and I don't want to be poisoned by it, so I don't want to hear about it unless there is some action I can take.

Ever since I can remember I have dreamed about being a protector of lost, abused and neglected children. My reason for joining Special Forces was to get training I could use for that goal. Sometimes the knowledge that I have these abilities now, but not yet the freedom to put them to use, irks me. About three years ago I was venting about that to a friend of mine and she told me to be patient. I will be led to act when I am ready, but only God knows when that is. In the meantime, she said, you should pray. So I have. Everyday since then when I have prayed my rosary I have included a decade for the children of the world who are lost, or neglected, or abused. That is my action for now. I did not want to know, but now I do, and therefore I will pray.

Another action is to continue to train. As I get closer to finishing out my time in the Army I am starting to research the anti-human trafficking fight. Somewhere, sometime, a door is coing to open and when it does I will be ready.

From now on, I will always have a pistol on me whenever I legally can. The odds are I will never be in the right place at the right time to have to use it, but that isn't really the point. The point is that wherever I am there will be a tiny island where violence against the innocent will not be tolerated, and will be met with consequences proportionate to that violence.

This should go for everyone. I am not saying that everyone should carry a pistol (although if you are willing to put in the time and money to learn its use, I highly reccomend it.) I am saying that this tragedy, like all others, was the culmination of millions of tiny allowances. Whatever it was that happened to this young man throughout his life to kill his soul so thoroughly, it happened because people around him allowed it to happen. If it was abuse, he was abused because people who knew about it did not take action. If it was bullying then he was bullied because the students and teachers around him allowed him to be bullied. We reap what we sow.

Defend the innocent around you, and remember that the guilty are guilty because they were not defended when they were innocent.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Time for Questions

I haven't posted here in a bit. I was sent out for a while to do training, but the training was rather poorly planned, so there was an abundance of downtime. I finished four books and read a great deal of T. S. Eliot's and Francis Thomson's poetry.

I wasn't too far from a major city, and I might have enjoyed seeing something of the city, but it wouldn't have worked out. I would have had to go into town with the other guys and what they want to do and what I want to do are generally incompatible. I didn't even want to listen to the stories of their evenings out. I didn't want to listen to the jokes, or be a part of the general atmosphere. There was a certain irony in the fact that, because I was the last one to show up, my cot was right in the middle of the big open bay we were all living in. All around the bay were grown men, running around naked or flashing each other, telling stories about the strippers they hit on the night before, sharing home-made porn clips and x-rated music videos, and acting out some truly sick fantasies with a naked blow-up doll someone bought to put in the Captain's sleeping bag as a joke. Right in the very center of the whole mess, there I was, lying on my cot, reading the Divine Office and saying my rosary. And that was my comment on the whole affair.

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't attack the vice more aggressively. I have come a long way from my early days in the Army, when I rather Quixotically took on every single challenge to the faith, my morals, and good manners with reckless abandon. I eventually learned not to be drawn out by every windmill that crossed my path, and consequently got along better with the other guys. I limited my protests to simply walking away from any conversation that turned vile, and answering any questions I was asked. Earning respect as a soldier also helped. I am stronger, smarter and faster than most of my peers, I shoot among the best, and I look like I know what I'm talking about, so they are more likely to tolerate my morals.

But what would I do if I really cared about them? I would be exhausting every effort to warn them of the eternal damage they are doing to their souls. It isn't so much a question of "Am I going to hell for this?" (I get asked this question pretty often.) The fact is, they are busily constructing hell in their own hearts. I know, I've done it. One way or another, every sin shapes my heart a little more into a hell that I carry around with me wherever I go, until God comes in and restores me.


I have been in a questioning mood for some time now, a month, month and a half, something like that. Everyone goes through periods in their life when they question everything. Right now I am questioning every choice I have made, every habit I have formed, every idea I have shaped, all my writing and thinking. There is much that I find to be good. There is much that I find to be wrong-headed, or lazy, or cowardly.

The biggest question I cannot seem to get a handle on is: what do I want to do with my life? At 27 you would think I should have this more or less figured out by now, but I really don't. I recently read an article in which Peter Kreeft writes about discernment with his characteristic penetrating insight and common sense, and it squares with an idea I am slowly formulating.

It's a bit comical how Catholics (and in fact, it cuts across all Christian denominations) seem to have made such careers out of "discernment." It is odd. The concept of "vocation" and "discernment" do not seem to have occupied much of the thought of generations before us. From ages in which young people more or less simply did whatever they had the heart, wits and wherewithal to do, to our present age in which what seems like most of the young people I know spend five to ten years of their late teens and early twenties dithering about between vocational discernment retreats and incessant soul-searching for "God's will."

I am beginning to wonder if it is not a tactic of the enemy, in the current phase of the war. I would be interested to see where the concept of "discerning a vocation" came from and how it has evolved over the last 50 years. I suspect it grew out of the need for priests and religious that plagued the Church in the 70's, 80's and on through the present day. Certainly the idea of asking God to make His will known and to give us wisdom and courage to follow His will is a worthy goal, but, as Peter Kreeft points out, it can be taken to a ridiculous extreme.

What could be more ironic than hundreds of thousands of Christian young people, so afraid of missing "God's Will" that they spend the strongest and most energetic years of their lives doing nothing worthwhile except stressing out about their "vocation."

That is probably what the devil would like to see happen, but fortunately a lot of young adults are more sensible than that. They go out and do things, working in the missions, or in ministries or go to college, and so accomplish good things, but there is a sense of transition to the whole business. I notice a sense of "in the meantime," or "This will do to be going on with until I find my real vocation." I am pretty sure I reject the "in the meantime" approach. It has always seemed to me that there is never a moment that doesn't have its good that can be accomplished, and accomplishing it is my vocation. I used to think the larger decisions flowed out of the smaller decisions, but now I am not so sure.

It is impossible to say precisely what I mean. I don't have an answer for the riddle I am proposing myself. I rather think that vocation is a cooperation between the individual and God. God gives us the gifts and talents that He has given us and says, "Abide in me and bear fruit that will last." The precise method He leaves up to us, apart from the occasional special, extraordinary call. Mother Teresa, for instance, had a definite calling. Who knows, perhaps she was able to hear it simply because she had opened herself enough to hear it, and everyone would hear their own call just as clearly if we would only make ourselves as available as she did. Or more likely not, I think. It would seem more in keeping with God's "style" to leave most people in a little bit of uncertainty. "Abide in me and bear fruit that will last," seems to be all most people are given. Since we are given everything we need, I am forced to conclude that most people don't need any more than that.

In the end the only thing I am sure of is that I want to be a Saint. I want to be completely turned over to God, completely abandoned to Him. I think that is the goal of everyone's life, whether they know it or not. The exact shape that it takes is less important.

Friday, November 30, 2012


God’s love is written on this world in three languages: Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Together they tell of Him for all to hear. Goodness tells of Him most directly, Truth most clearly, but Beauty tells of Him in her own way. She speaks most strongly, most subtly, most intimately, and when the other two have been abandoned, she is the last one left speaking for any who can still listen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Fate of Sin

And I ask, through angry tears, how can it be

That we who love still fall again and again?

In spite of prayers and acts and words of love, unfree

We daily fall to fear, and sin, and pain.

My Grandpa said, as his life began to wane,

“I sometimes ask, ‘Why did this happen to me?’

“But I know why, if I’m honest. The answer is plain

“I smoked for fifty years, and soaked up UV.”

Even at the end, in pain, eaten up by cancer,

He said “Without the pain I would never have come to know

How it is to float, embraced in a sea of love.”

Perhaps, under the Mercy, sin will have the same answer,

And that which beat and scarred us down below

Might yet, perhaps, be worship up above.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Smouldering Wick

I love you, my friend, cracks and all, but still

I cannot love the sin that saps your soul.

I hate it with a perfect hate. My will

Engages in the hate, the selfsame goal

That drives my love, drives that hate. The whole

Of my being loves you, for Love must fill

My entire being. We cannot mete and dole

His essence out in coffee spoons. We kill

Love’s fierce vitality, enslaved by shame’s control.

Blind fool that I am, ignoring the bruised reeds,

If I drive my righteous rota-tiller across your soul,

How will I not exterminate what I most love?

Even angelic wisdom cannot take the weeds

Without destroying the wheat, ‘til the final roll

Is called, and all is sorted out above.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Transparent Mask

I see my friends when I love them. Love is not blind,

It hides nothing. I see them warts and all.

Even at my most besotted my wakeful mind

Sees and notes with eyes undimmed. My call

Is not to help you hide or build your wall

But to see and love what you most fear I’ll find.

I will not pretend. I will see unafraid. The fall

Denies perfection. May as well be resigned

To scraggly teeth and extra pounds, why try

To be a false ideal? You mock your own face

And silly quirks, far worse than I could ever do.

All my friends have cracks, and so do I,

And yet we muddle on by Love’s own grace.

Hide your cracks? I love them! They are you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

These Things Endure

Blessing has a way of being passed on, like ripples in a pond. We call it many things: karma, luck, positive thinking, God's favor, as if God was up there bribing us with blessings to do what he wants us to do.
Say rather that God has created the universe out of love, patterned after love, and built upon love. Anything done out of love takes part in the nature of the universe because it imitates the God who created the universe. One who builds his life on the foundation of love and truth, establishes a house built upon rock. Upon that foundation blessings will be laid for many generations to come, even to the ending of time, because God sees that it is strong enough to hold them.
But this is no guarantee that bad things won't also happen, no matter how well you build. There will still be heartache, pain, sadness, loss, and death. Sometimes we ask why bad things can happen to good people. This is a silly thing to ask. One may as well ask why storms hit both the weak houses and the strong houses. The storms are coming, whether you build your house on sand or on rock. Build on rock, not because it will keep your house out of the storm, but so that when the storm comes, your house will have a fighting chance.

This picture was taken on November 11, 2011, shortly after I graduated the US Army Special Forces Qualification Course and received my green beret. It was the last time I ever saw my grandfather. I put almost 3 years of sweat and blood into earning that silly green hat. G'Pa put 74 years of his life into building a legacy of Faith, Family, Pizza and Beer. The green hat means nothing, if at the end of my life I do not leave behind me a legacy of love, like the one which this old, bald, toothless hero left behind him.

Ted Pelicano, May 27, 1937 - November 26, 2011

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Into the Desert

I posted this a few months ago, but the first reading from today for the feast of St. Cecilia brought it back to my mind, so I am reposting it.

Into the Desert

At last we go into the desert, my bride.
The moment is here, this moment, no time to waste.
Long you’ve run, and longer still I’ve chased
And now at last you’ve nowhere left to hide.
What do you have to lose? Unsatisfied
By strange, enticing lovers in whom you’ve placed
The trust you promised to me. Your heart, unchaste,
Is finally vomiting the poisons that you’ve tried.
So come and water the wilderness with your tears.
Leave your Assyrian lovers and drugs of choice
And over the noise let vast, dry silence fall.
In silence, without the Iphone, face your fears
This desert is not your home. I AM. My voice
Created you in a garden, after all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts for the Men

"It’s been more than ten years since I first noticed something odd about the generally pleasant—and generally Catholic—students at the college where I teach. The boys and girls don’t hold hands.
Let that serve as shorthand for the absence of all those rites of attraction and conversation, flirting and courting, that used to be passed along from one youthful generation to the next, just as childhood games were once passed along, but are so no longer. The boys and girls don’t hold hands.
I am aware of the many attempts by responsible Catholic priests and laymen to win the souls of young people, to keep them in the Church, and indeed to make some of them into attractive ambassadors for the Church. I approve of them heartily. Yes, we need those frank discussions about contraception. We need theological lectures to counter the regnant nihilism of the schools and the mass media. But we need something else too, something more human and more fundamental. We need desperately to reintroduce young men and young women to the delightfulness of the opposite sex. Just as boys after fifteen years of being hustled from institutional pillar to institutional post no longer know how to make up their own games outdoors, just as girls after fifteen years of the same no longer know how to organize a dance or a social, so now our young people not only refrain from dating and courting—they do not know how to do it. It isn’t happening. Look at the hands."

I saw this link in my blogroll today at Seraphic Singles. I must say I find it fascinating, and a bit incriminating. While I cannot agree that being single is necessarily bad, as long as it is purposeful and not simply due to laziness or fear, there is no denying that this article does point out a real problem. Young Catholics are not getting married young, they are waiting until they get older and desperate. (Not to put it too unkindly for those of my readers who may find themselves in the older-than-they-hoped-they-would-be-and-still-unmarried crowd.)

As a member of the generation that the article speaks about I can say that the causes are many and varied. On one end of the spectrum there are the homeschoolers who were forbidden to date ever!!!! until they were ready to get married, in the hope that this would forestall the problems their parents ran into in regards to dating and the threats to chastity. "Dating was nothing but temptation for me and everyone is doing it wrong, so we'll just cut it all out entirely and that will solve the problem." Done out of love and a sincere desire to protect the youth, but often misguided in the application. On the other end of the spectrum are the Catholic young people who have gotten so sucked into the dating game that they either cannot conceive of a permanent relationship, or got so well and truly burned that they cannot trust anyone. And these are just the three options that come to mind off the top of my head, to say nothing of the effects of social media, pornography, entertainment addiction, perpertual boy/men and a whole host of other possible factors.

Whatever the causes may be, (and well worthy of pondering), the immediate fact is clear, that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed. I would go further and say that the initial impetus for solving that problem must come from the men, the side that it is least likely to come from. Pointing fingers is all very well, you know, but why point out a problem if you don't have a solution? Or aren't at least willing to work towards finding one? So my point in this post is purely practical. I am interested in answering one question and one question only: what am I (me, Ryan Kraeger) going to do about it?

I don't speak about my love-life (as it is called) on this blog. It isn't really a concern to my readers, except the few who know me in real life, and it's a bit personal. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of my history has been the result of deliberate and intentional choices. Whether those choices were wise or foolish is another question entirely, one I ask myself every day, but I have (thus far) done what I thought was right. On the other hand reading this article reinforces a feeling that I might well be part of the problem, or at least not a part of the solution.

So it is a quandrary, something I must think about, and sooner or later do something about as well. This is the first thing I am doing.

I am well aware that most of my readers (at least the commenting ones) are women, and this blog is really not addressed to you. I don't much care if you read it, but it is really for the men. You see, when I read the article above my biggest reaction was a feeling of responsibility. There is a problem, and we men are the ones who need to start the process of fixing it. I ask that you single men think about it and pray about it. I plan on sharing it with the men in my Bible Study group and discussing it with any of them who want to talk about it.

I don't think a movement is called for. I certainly don't think that what we need is a bunch of Catholic guys making a pact to go out and find steady, marriage-able girlfriends by this time next week. We don't need a club, we don't need a pledge or any nonsense like that. I think what each man needs to do is think about it and examine himself. If I am single I should be thinking about why I am single. Is it because I have a purpose best served by singleness? Is that purpose worthy of the sacrifice? Is it a sacrifice at all? Or is that purpose merely an excuse? Am I simply afraid? And if afraid, afraid of what? Or whom? Or am I simply lazy, just drifting along, not willing to put in the work, not willing to fight for a relationship?

Think and pray. But thinking and praying are not enough. If we think long enough and honestly enough, and if our prayer is listening and not merely talking incessantly, I think most of will find a call to action.

Oh, and I just thought of something to say to any women who might still be reading this:
It takes two to tango.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When Reality is too Real

I have been taking a course in Cultural Anthropology for the last 8 weeks (I've decided to try to get an edumacation! Woot Woot! About time I done some o that there fancy collage type stuff!)

At any rate, the final assignment was the summary of two aritlces from our Classical Readings text book (500 words per article. A joke! My biggest struggle in blogging is keeping my posts under 2000 words!)

One of the articles I summarized was called "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" By Horace Miner.
This selection is a somewhat humorous “outsiders view” description of American life. It describes the health and hygiene rituals of the typical American citizen (male and female), but in a way that an outsider might describe them if her were totally unaware of their purpose and rationale. For instance, shaving is described as “a distinctive part of the daily body ritual which is performed only by men. This part of the rite involves scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument.” Not far off from the point of view of someone who has five-o-clock shadow by noon, grows facial hair with the consistency of wire bristles, and is required by his job to maintain a clean shaven appearance every day.
In addition to daily hygiene rituals the author also describes the health practices, including doctors (medicine men), pharmacists (herbalists), dentists (holy-mouth-men), hospitals (latipso) and nurses (vestal maidens… in distinctive costume and headdress.) He describes the (very real) oddities and horrors of modern medicine, including needles, high cost, bed pans and even the fact that the patients do not always recover.
At one point the author briefly discusses body image issues, especially the fascination with breast augmentation and reduction surgeries. He says, "General dissatisfaction with breast shape is symbolized in the fact that the ideal form is virtually outside the range of human variation."
I thought this was an excellent point, if somewhat scary. One need only take a look at magazines on the supermarket rack to realize that the body image presented to us by our culture as our ideal and goal, for both women and men, is quite obviously false. Compare them to the people that you see in the street. Even the healthiest and most active of us very rarely look like the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. The models are starved and exercised, pinched and photo-shopped into a shape that is virtually impossible for most people to achieve.
This fascination with unreality, this inability to accept the real, is pandemic in our culture. Indeed, I would say it is the lynchpin of our culture. It isn't that much of our society is built upon a lie, but that most of our society is thoroughly invested in telling and selling and buying and sharing the lie.
Our preference for unreality takes many forms. I will probably talk about a few of them in follow up posts, but here are a few examples for starters. The whole fashion industry is based upon unrealistic ideas of what men and women actually look like. Video game addiction is the preference of a fantasy world to the real world. Pouring out your heart and soul on facebook instead of phoning a friend is another example of this phobia of reality. Our entire custom of dating is based upon the lie that you can build deep emotional and physical intimacy, and then end that connection and move on as if nothing had happened, and that it will not affect your ability to do it again.
My Grandpa once said, "You know, I think you can make a lot of mistakes with your kids, but as long as you give them one thing, they will be all right. As long as they can acknowledge the truth when they see it, they will never go too far wrong." I was about ten when he said that, or maybe younger, but I remembered it. I think he was right. A life that is not based upon a respect for the truth is going to end up disillusioned and destroyed eventually, and rightly so. It is not a punishment from God for our stupidity. Suppose you painted over all the windows in your car and drove down the road at 50MPH. Would you wrapping your car around a tree be a punishment from God? Or would it simply be a natural consequence of not being aware of the truth, i.e. that there is a tree in front of you. God letting us crash and burn is mercy, not punishment. He gives us chances, many and varied, to come to the knowledge of the truth before we close our eyes forever and it is too late. Every failure of mine that crushes me and makes me question Him, is really just me not paying attention and bumping into the curb, or scraping along the guardrail that He has put there for my protection.
Holy Spirit, open our eyes.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Good Life

I wrote this as an antidote to yesterday's poem. This one is based on my grandpa's life and philosophy. It makes a great deal more sense than the other one.

The Good Life

He gave me a nod,
“The Good Life?
It’s pretty clear.
The life that meets a:
Faithful God,
A loving wife,
An excellent beer,
And great pizza.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Once upon a time we knew
What we knew,
And what we didn’t.
But that is long since hidden,
Bidden fly away and hide
Inside our vain certitude
That our age is one of beatitude.
The attitude is one of extreme
Academic schizophrenia, we seem
So certain we know, and dream
All that is worth
Knowing on earth
Or dreaming.
Meanwhile scheming
To convince ourselves from our youth
That the truth
Is unknowable.
And consequently, why bother
The reverend Father
With disturbances of his reverie
His litany,
If it makes him happy
Then leave him to his delusions
So long as his certainty does not threaten our confusion.

We are not especially interested in why.
Sure, have a try,
At thinking about meaning,
And dreaming
Of reasons
And seasons,
And some fictitious “Plan,”
But Man, I’ll let you have “Why”
And I will learn of “How.”
That’s the real thing, now
These days, knowing
Not where we’re going
But how to get there faster.
You see, the clock is my master,
Or not really the clock, but my own fear of hereafter.
To rest would be a disaster.

Did I mention
My latest invention!
I put a jet engine
In a car with no map. My intention
Is simple, to race around
And around,
And around,
And around this giant, blue/green hamster wheel.
The real cannot be reached
The barrier cannot be breached.
So I will race without a destination
Not a vacation.
Not a variation.
A vacancy.
Vacuous virtuosity
Curiosity is dead
Instead my mind unravels
To travel from the here of my birth
To nowhere. What mirth?
What youth?
What truth?
What good are questions to one who doesn’t believe in answers?
What good is a ballroom, if you are afraid of other dancers?
You see, we used to tread our bawdy measures
In search of pleasures,
Trading treasures, gold for silver
Silver for copper,
Copper for clay,
Clay for dung,
And even dung is too rich
Too alive,
Too fecund.
Sterility, that’s the thing.
A rock feels no sting,
Our fling with vices
Showed us nothing suffices
Except Everything!
We struggled to achieve
Happiness, but conceived only pain
And again, ceased to believe
In things.
When you have finally clawed your way to the bottom
It is easy to mock the heaving orgy of Sodom
From the finality,
The banalit,
The silent streets of Gomorrah,
Having sold all tomorrows
And bartered all sorrows
And pains,
And gains above
And loves,
And joys,
And toys,
And trash,
And even ash
For nothing,
And no one.

I wrote this poem a few days ago, and when I finished it, it scared the heck out of me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ignitum Today Post

Again a busy day, so here is the link for part two of yesterday's post at Ignitum Today.

Enjoy and have a good day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Busy Post

I have today off, but I also have a ton of stuff to catch up with so I thought I would share some links and say have a good day and leave it at that:

 My latest post is up at Ignitum Today. I wrote it last week based on the Gospel from last monday. It is a two part blog, so the sequel will be up tomorrow.

My cousins Abby and Catherine have put up another issue of Dignitas Magazine. If you are a Catholic woman, or you happen to know and love Catholic women, or you are not Catholic, but are a woman who likes fall fashion, decorating and thinking about stuff like bioethics and American culture, or a man who knows a woman who likes those things, I reccomend you check these ladies out. In a good way. Not in the other way.

If, like me, you enjoy epic puns and are half-convinced that feminism, like racism, is mostly kept alive by the people who spend all their time arguing against it, then this blog should be just the thing to make you smile on a rainy monday.

And with that I bid you all adieu. God Bless.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ask Thugfang... Or maybe not?

Well! This is a bit of development.It appears that the Obfuscator replied to Thugfang's advice column on confession. After doing a little digging, it appears that Thugfang actually replied to the Obfuscator's comment. Of course he would. Someone that arrogant couldn't resist. Naturally he wouldn't reply in his regular column, but I managed to get my hands on the correspondence and am sharing it with you, because I think the question was quite good and really did see something the old devil missed. Might have been wiser not to point it out, though. So here it is, the correspondence of the unfortunate Obfuscator.

Dear Master Thugfang, Your well thought out tricks and traps will definitely be reread over the next while. There is much there to be applied with my Catholic patient, and I am beginning immediately. I am also looking forward to your additional column on post-confesson attacks.

However, through analyzing my patient before and after he goes to confession I have begun to realize why I have been having difficulty. It is due to the one question that you touched on briefly at the beginning of you letter, "How does confession work?" As you said, it is total nonsense to us, completely irrational. Yet, this man believes that it is powerful! So, would it not be better to show him how ineffective confession actually is? Why could we not attack the sacrament itself? I realize that the confessional is a no fly zone we cannot access. However, we could attack his faith in confession indirectly, by playing on his fears that he is revealing himself in a way that makes him vulnerable! Pride is the downfall of many men, as you yourself mentioned, so why don't we help him to realize that he is telling his sins to a mere man... one who might use that information for his own benefit. His pride would then guide him away from saying anything that would make him appear lesser or weak, for no man wishes to be judged by another. I will be considering all these issues critically as I continue to seriously practice your advice.

Sincerely, the Obfuscator

My Dearest, Darling Obfuscator,

So wise we are, suddenly! So perspicacious! You grasp things so quickly and even come to conclusions the master had not reached! Well, a gold star for the star pupil.

Certainly, if you can attack the patient's awareness of the priest's humanity, by all means do so. I have known it to work, but not, usually, in a patient with a well established habit of confessing. That sort of thing is better suited to the lapsed Catholic who is half-considering going back to the Church. That's when you want to trot out a parade of priest scandal stories and bad jokes about altar boys and confessions. Better still if he knew a priest who was an alcoholic, or a glutton, or even simply a bore. Anything to render ludicrous (in his mind as it is in ours) the idea that the Enemy could possibly use such a weak, pathetic sinner to affect His work. Even a cursory reading of the gospels would convince the dullest human that not only is that not unusual, it is precisely the Enemy's usual mode of operation, but most humans don't read the gospels. That is where you make mileage on the priest's sins.

In the case of a patient who has been confessing regularly for years, particularly if he confesses to several priests, his faith is in the sacrament, not the priest. As you pointed out, he believes the sacrament is powerful, and that is why he goes. He probably doesn't seriously attach that power to the priest himself.

On the other claw, if you do know anything about the priest, it wouldn't hurt to ensure the patient becomes aware of it. The juicier the better. What if the priest doesn't have any serious faults? Well, you're a demon, aren't you? Gossip, suspicion and lies are as good as a conviction in your patient's culture. Maybe he will stop going to confession altogether, or maybe he will simply decide to quit going to that priest. Either way, the distrust is certainly worth it, if you can make it happen.

Another thought. I once got a patient to stop going to confession to her regular confessor, who was a very wise and holy man, because I convinced her that every time he preached a homily on gossip he was thinking about her latest confession. I had forgotten that little anecdote. One of my more humorous escapades, if I do say so. In fact, the truth of the matter was that that abominable little prig spent so many hours in the confessional per week he was guaranteed to hear every sin in the book by four-o-clock wednesday afternoon. Make fun of her? Ha! He couldn't for the life of him remember which parishoner had told him what sins, except for one or two of the more colorful local characters. I strongly suspect he had heard a murder confessed once or twice (a few of my colleagues were assigned to local gang members) but given the fate of the priest's handler, I doubt he ever broke the seal of the confessional.

Which reminds me, I really ought to look you up some time. I have taken a special interest in your career, and we might be meeting far sooner than you ever expected.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ask Thugfang: Confession Part II

His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness, Master Thugfang, is a demon of great infamy among academic circles. He is a frequent columnist for “Tempter’s Times”, an assistant editor for “Wickedness Weekly” and current chair of Tempter’s Training College’s Department of Defense Against the White Arts, after the sudden disappearance of the most recent head under mysterious circumstances. Now, His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness takes your questions. Having problems with a particularly troublesome patient? Meddlesome enemy agents stymieing you at every turn? Don’t wait, write immediately to “Ask Thugfang” C/O “Underworld Magazine.”
Dear Master Thugfang, I am writing to you from a special assignment. My patient is a Catholic. His erstwhile handler was reassigned on short notice because of the patient’s troubling habit of weekly confession, and I have been placed in charge of the case since I have had some success with this in the past. I even wrote an article for Wickedness Weekly entitled, “How to Keep your Patient from Going to Confession.” Unfortunately, all the tricks and tactics I have used before seem to have no effect on this particular patient. It persists in its stubborn adherence to this habit, so I am writing to you to ask if there is any other technique you know of which I can use?
Sincerely, the Obfuscator
My Dear Demonic readers, in my last column which you may read here, I addressed the unfortunate Obfuscator’s question with advice on how to meddle with a patient’s confession before the patient enters that little white box. It appears, however, that he asked for my advice too late. Apparently someone must have hinted to the lowerarchy that the Obfuscator’s skills were not what he had led them to believe, and he has been sent for retraining to bring them up to an acceptable level. Very sad I am sure, but a salutary lesson for all of us on the dangers of pride.
So now I shall enlighten my general audience, and particularly our dear Obfuscator’s successor, on how to make best work of the patient’s post confessional period. Remember, the Enemy has just effected a reversal of your work in the first spiritual order. Your natural reaction is discouragement and despair, but you must fight through that. You must be waiting at the door, so to speak, so as soon as your patient walks out you are there, braving the toxic illumination of Grace to begin your work all over again.
Obviously, our first tactic is distraction. That should go without saying, but I am amazed at how many young demons try the most subtle and complex approaches on patients who clearly do not need it. Keep it simple for Hell’s sake! Once the patient comes out of confession, the less time he spends thinking about it the better. Distraction, distraction, distraction. The sooner you can get him to put the whole thing out of his mind and forget about the Enemy and what He has done for him, the sooner you will be able to get back to the business of stealing his soul.
Never forget, my dear Obfuscator, the patient is half animal. He can no more see his own soul than he can see the inside of his head by rolling his eyes back into his skull. He was never meant to spend his life staring at his own soul. He was meant to stare at the Enemy with his whole soul and everything attached to it, so naturally, it is impossible for a human really to see himself. The most advanced ones have long since ceased to try. They are too busy staring at the Enemy, blast them. But the patient’s inability to see his soul means that he cannot see what was done in his soul.
You see, confession, while it does admittedly destroy every vestige of our work at the very deepest level of the human, it does not (usually) destroy all our work at shallower levels. Think of your human as a series of concentric circles. The very center is the soul, the actual patient, what we want to feed upon. Then around that is the will, which is the gateway to the soul. Outside of that are your patient’s subconscious thoughts and feelings, his conscious thoughts and feelings, and all the ephemera of phenomena that he generally refers to when he says, “myself.” The center is what we want to control, but we have to go through all the other layers. Confession does whatever it does at the center, and the effects spread outwards from there. How far they spread is determined by how closely those outward areas are aligned with the soul. For most average humans, especially young ones, the alignment is not that close. As a result, while the soul is cleansed, and perhaps the will is slightly re-oriented, the imagination, emotions, thoughts, and especially the fears, remain largely untouched. We must keep it that way. That is our only foothold. Distracting the patient from thinking about the work of forgiveness prevents him from trying to bring his outer circles in line with the inner reality. It stops him from becoming an integrated whole, disrupts the flow of grace, and keeps our foothold secure.
You and I must face the unfortunate fact that the Enemy’s Son Himself is active in that little wooden box, in a mode of such presence and power that it scorches my mind even to think about it. Your patient is spared such awareness. Why? I don’t know. Probably some nonsense about “freedom” and such claptrap. Who cares why? That is our opening. The patient can be quite ignorant of the fact that He is present, actively doing something of cosmic spiritual magnitude. To the patient it is a vending machine, and eventually just a habit. Soon he won’t even think too closely about what precisely that machine is vending. Isolated from the majority of his life, the sacrament’s transforming power dwindles to nothing.
That foothold then becomes the starting point for our counter-attack. As long as the human is ignorant of how little of himself is truly surrendered to the enemy, we can use the un-surrendered bits to draw his will back to what his body, mind and emotions have been conditioned to desire. Retaking the same ground over and over and over again is tedious, I know, but that is simply another result of the Enemy’s obscene love for matter and insistence on creating temporal creatures with souls.
The battle changes slightly when the patient does start to think about forgiveness. Obviously we still want the patient to labor under as much delusion as possible, so keep him ignorant of the real nature of forgiveness. Encourage him to expect the sacrament to erase all the effects of sin on the surface level, which is all he can see. Let him expect that all his addictions, habits and sinful inclinations which he has so carefully conditioned into himself over the years are going to be wiped away by the sacrament. Odds are that it won’t happen (the Enemy rarely interferes on such a superficial level) and then he will fall into sin again, and be disappointed and discouraged. Keep this lie up as long as you can. If you can keep the patient expecting what was never promised for long enough, he will eventually give up trusting the Enemy’s promises, and therefore the Enemy, never realizing that it was never the promise that was untrustworthy, but only his private mental vision of it. No matter which, for us, as long as it drives the patient into apathy and despair.
An observant human, on the other hand, will not be fooled by that delusion forever. Eventually he will learn that, even though the sacrament forgives, it is up to him to live up to that forgiveness and overcome his remaining habits. This is a very dangerous level of awareness, for us, because it guards against false expectations, and is dangerously close to humility. There is, however, one last little trick that I have used successfully on a patient at this juncture. This patient was a very successful middle-aged businessman who was a weekly penitent. He was well aware that the sacrament forgave, but did not erase his compulsion, and that might have caused him to seek out the Enemy’s grace, both in prayer and in the form of professional counseling. He was very nearly lost to us (unbeknownst to him.) While he was seriously considering going into therapy his old caretaker was reassigned and I was brought onto the case, which I successfully turned around in short order. I was able to convince the patient that his continuing life of sin after every confession was simply his “old habits” and that he was “working on them.” There was no need to go to any extremes to root out this habit. All that was necessary was that he “try his best”. In reality he maintained a quite lovely double-life for years, without ever realizing it. He would confess every Saturday afternoon, go to Mass on Sunday and stay clean and sober for the week. Then on Friday evening he would quite matter-of-factly stop by the strip club and have a few drinks while ogling the female humans. This was to “get it out of his system.” Just in time for confession on Saturday. How convenient! “Trying his best!” Such an elegant euphemism. It really only meant that he would grit his teeth a few times before walking in the strip club door, when any half competent priest would have told him that it ought to mean taking measures to make himself unable to drive there in the first place. “Working on it,” consisted of a few manufactured tears in the confessional every now and then, some eloquent promises to his wife, and the occasional orgy of self-loathing, all the while casually feeding the habit which ultimately devoured him. Fool! Just sorry enough to be miserable, not sorry enough to make any real attempt to stop.
Oh the exhilaration of that battle! My career was at stake, a soul was on the line! Enemy agents waited at every juncture, ready to leap into action at the first sign of real intention to reform. I was positively surrounded by some pretty fearsome characters, let me tell you, and they meant business. All he had to do was open his mouth and talk to his brother, or get someone to give him a ride instead of driving. Anything, the slightest action, would have called forth a perfectly terrifying firestorm of grace and I would have been lost. But I kept my head, and whispered soft lies, and he slept through it all. First he robbed the sacrament of its transformative power, and then he closed himself off to its forgiveness as well. He is now safely residing in one of our more bland and uninteresting summer residences. Presumption is another of my favorites, and a very secure sin, because generally the patient has no idea he is committing it.
In summary, my Dear Demons, confession is a most terrible weapon of the enemy, and one that we must never underestimate. The habit of going to confession is almost the worst habit a human can have. You may look at my medals and awards and think that you too can snatch a patient’s soul from the very jaws of the confessional, but I warn you, do not risk it. For every daringly successful attack like mine, there are a thousand failures. We here in the lower circles of Hell are not the least bit interested in vainglory. All we want are souls, as many as possible, by the surest and safest routes possible, as fast as possible. If you lose us a soul by your idiotic presumption, be warned!
We grow hungry!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ask Thugfang: Confession Part I

His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness, Master Thugfang, is a demon of great infamy among academic circles. He is a frequent columnist for “Tempter’s Times”, an assistant editor for “Wickedness Weekly” and current chair of Tempter’s Training College’s Department of Defense Against the White Arts, after the sudden disappearance of the most recent head under mysterious circumstances. Now, His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness takes your questions. Having problems with a particularly troublesome patient? Meddlesome enemy agents stymieing you at every turn? Don’t wait, write immediately to “Ask Thugfang” C/O “Underworld Magazine.”

Dear Master Thugfang, I am writing to you from a special assignment. My patient is a Catholic. His erstwhile handler was reassigned on short notice because of the patient’s troubling habit of weekly confession, and I have been placed in charge of the case since I have had some success with this in the past. I even wrote an article for Wickedness Weekly entitled, “How to Keep your Patient from Going to Confession.” Unfortunately, all the tricks and tactics I have used before seem to have no effect on this particular patient. It persists in its stubborn adherence to this habit, so I am writing to you to ask if there is any other technique you know of which I can use?

Sincerely, the Obfuscator

My Dear Obfuscator,

You poor dear idiot. You allowed your ambition to control you, you opened your mouth among your betters, and now look where it has gotten you. You are in up to your horns, and about to go under. Yes, I read that article. Amateurish at best. The sort of thing I would have given a barely passing grade when I was teaching. No originality, no imagination, just a list of techniques gleaned from the standard textbooks. But you had to go and set yourself up as an anti-confession expert, and your controllers took you at your boast.

Well, well, well, looks like it falls to poor old me to get you out of this mess. Pay attention because this may well be too advanced for you.

Obviously, the best place for confession, or any sacrament at all, is on the other side of the universe. We want our patients not to know that they exist. No slightest whisper of the hope that has been placed in front of them should ever reach their ears from a fellow human, and we have largely been successful in that regard.

But some do hear about these weapons, and then we have to scramble to keep them from making use of them. That is what you have been trying to do and it is undoubtedly the right answer. Horrible things happen in the confessional. For one thing, it is typically a no fly zone for us. The only way we can even be present in any useful capacity is if we are invited by one of the humans, and even then we usually cannot bring any real influence to bear unless the human has already come pretty much under our power. These are rare cases. For the average Catholic the power of that sacrament is such that even our most skilled agents are blinded and choked by the atmosphere. Hence, we have no chance to observe and document what really happens. We see only what goes in and what comes out. What goes in is a human soul with our little foothold well established, or even a large foothold, even almost total control. What comes out is a soul completely freed from our work. Every single vestige of our presence and influence has been wiped away, and we must begin all that tiresome work over again. Worse, the soul that has confessed reflects some of the light of the Enemy Himself, and that is a toxic work environment.

How does it work? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Probably the only reason we cannot see or understand it is because it is really total nonsense. The whole concept of “forgiveness” is utterly irrational, the sort of sentimental twaddle the Enemy constantly pontificates about. We in Hell do not believe in forgiveness, do not want it and do not need it. It does not exist. There is no such thing. There is only some (currently) poorly understood mechanism by which the Enemy regains some lost territory.

So, let us just say you cannot keep your patient from confessing regularly. The question then becomes, how can you use confession to your advantage. You cannot prevent it so you must corrupt it.

As I said, you won’t be able to get into the confession itself uninvited, so your work must be done entirely in the time outside of the confessional. You cannot attack the sacrament directly (although research is underway as of this writing) so you must attack the patient’s use of it.

The easiest way to do this is to encourage a “vending machine” mentality towards confession. Encourage your patient to think of the confessional as a forgiveness machine, a process. He walks in and rattles off the major sins he happens to be able to call to mind, (not the really serious ones, just the ones that most struck his fancy as being really sins. As a rule a patient should be utterly unconscious of his most sinful tendencies.) He sits impatiently through thirty seconds or so of platitudinous advice he has heard a hundred times before, says a few Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s and “Cha ching!” Forgiven.

Once the vending machine approach is well established all sorts of doors are opened. The first and most obvious is to undermine real sorrow for sin. Since it is just a machine, and not a person he is encountering in the confessional he can sin as much as he likes, go to confession and be on his merry way. That is almost the perfect attitude towards confession, second only to complete avoidance. The presumption and lack of a purpose of amendment not only completely negate the spiritual effects of the sacrament, they are also sins in their own right, and wherever sin is committed, we are invited in. That’s how you get into the confessional. You get your patient to invite you in. I have had a patient so firmly in my claw that he and I were merrily occupied planning next Friday’s debauchery while he listening to the words of absolution on Saturday afternoon.

Failing that, I advise you to discourage the use of a regular confessor (unless you can find one of our priests). Instead, send him around to whatever priest is convenient for him at the moment. Do this by working on his subconscious shame of someone seeing him fall into the same sins every week, and by reminding him of the truth that any valid confession will have the same sacramental effect. This will open up more opportunities for you. You can make your patient a connoisseur of confessors by encouraging him to critique every priest who hears his confession (pride). It protects him from the nasty habit of developing a relationship with his confessor. In a really good confessor/penitent relationship, the confessor will do a lot of extra-curricular work on those shallower areas that the sacrament itself is not necessarily touching. The priest might start digging into the patient’s subconscious fears, his hidden assumptions, his attitudes, his imagination. These shallow areas are our territory. We don’t need any holy priest who really knows and cares about the patient to be meddling in those areas. Bad enough he is the agent of a supernatural spiritual healing. So get busy and send your patient to a different priest every week. The less his confessor knows his penitent, the more generic his advice will be, and the more patient will come to despise that advice. He will blame the priest, “That priest just doesn’t know me and my situation.” Instead of sticking with that priest and explaining his situation, he will just toddle on off to look for another one.

This also discourages real self-knowledge. A wise priest will get to know his penitent pretty well, and will pass on that knowledge to the penitent himself. A different priest every week will not have that opportunity, and consequently the patient may go through years of confessions without ever really coming to know himself.

It is also wise to make the patient’s preparation for confession sloppy and haphazard as possible. In this you are aided by the natural human reluctance to think about its own sins. Your work should be fairly simple. He will confess only the one or two items that are really burning on his mind, completely unaware of the serious habits and trends forming in other areas. This will not, at first, negate the power of the sacrament to forgive, but it will hamper its power to transform, since the Enemy wishes these humans to be free agents in their own transformation. He cannot transform what they will not allow Him to, they cannot allow what they cannot see, and they cannot see what they will not look for. This is the biggest reason why we have invested so much energy in giving the “Examination of Conscience” a bad name.

If you cannot keep your patient from examining try the opposite tack. Scrupulosity is a useful sin and, in my humble opinion, one of the most entertaining. A human who thinks that every one of his actions is sinful is in the grip of a very profound lack of trust. From there it is a simple matter to attack the patient’s trust in the Enemy, His mercy, and His sacrament. Paired with the right priest, there is no better way to chase a patient away from confession for life, or to make all their confessions worthless. Despair is, perhaps, the most secure sin.

Unfortunately this column has already grown too long, so I will have to address proper post-confession attacks in my next column. I do advise you to read that column, and in the meanwhile to reread and seriously practice what you have read in this one. I am sure I don’t need to point out what Hell thinks of demons who over-represent their own abilities and lose patients because of it.