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Screwtape Letters Wk 3 of 7

June 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Screwtape Letters Week 3 of 7

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As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that we do not have to the-good-portion-picturecontend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.

This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely – which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do – we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. – The Screwtape Letters, p. 57-58 (Chapter 12)

Lately, I’ve fallen into a rut. I've become a TV junkie. You think I’m kidding – and I really wish I were. But the whole thing sort of snuck up on me. One minute I was looking for some evening entertainment and the next minute I found myself addicted to a television series called 24. (To those of you who watched it back in 2001 – how did you ever wait a week for the next episode?!) Watching one season is akin to watching an eighteen-hour movie, and yet I can’t seem to pull myself away!

Still, on a moment by moment basis, I’ve known that somehow, things were not right. That I “haven’t been doing very well, lately.” This recognition hasn’t stopped me. It’s only made me uneasy. Contrary to all reason, rather than cause me to pull back, this uneasy feeling has compelled me to dig deeper.

I’ve been sneaking episodes on my way to bed instead of doing my nightly reading. Watching them on my computer while cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry or eating a snack. Even downloading a Netflix app and watching TV on my phone during my morning walk or while I wait in line at the store – something I thought I'd NEVER do!

If you remember from past posts, only a few months ago I devoted all this time to praying the rosary. Amazing how fast and how far one can fall!

Am I inspired by this show? Am I energized? No. Absolutely the opposite. I am disgusted by all the time I’ve wasted. As my eleven-year-old daughter has often said after watching too much TV – it leaves me drained and depressed.

Why? Because I’ve been filling any time meant for quiet reflection with nothing but Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

Maybe you’ve never been a TV junkie. For you, perhaps there’s something else. Music? Movies? Sports? Internet? Email? Texting? Perhaps a combination of them all? The devil is always pleased to help us find distractions that will lead us astray. Often we start small; but before we know it, we’ve turned our backs on the One who matters most.

And what do we gain? Not a thing.

For me, I’ve seen a downward spiral in virtually every area of my life, even in this short amount of time. I’ve become more selfish with my time, less productive, more impatient and even more caught up with material desires. I’ve been eating out more, lately. And I’ve been eating MORE, period. In fact, I’ve even gained a few pounds through my indiscretion (Late-night ice cream seems to go well with late-night TV).

Thankfully, in His infinite mercy, The Good Lord has recently decided to step in and save me from my Self.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, our family split up for mass this past Sunday. My daughters and I ended up attending an evening mass at an unfamiliar parish. Afterward, the priest announced a two-hour Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as part of the Fortnight for Freedom, and he invited the entire parish to stay as long as they liked.

I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to get home and get the kids to bed so I could watch my show. I told myself that my husband wouldn’t want me to stay – he had things to do too.

The priest asked everyone to remain kneeling until he and the servers had left the room. I kid you not – as soon as the door closed, nearly the entire parish was on its feet, filing out of the sanctuary. Out of a packed church of about 800 people, maybe 30 stayed for an additional five minutes.

I actually teared up as I watched the parishioners head for the door. Within another five minutes, there were fewer than a dozen people left, including the three of us.

Something deep within me had awakened. While I was upset by the exodus, I was absolutely ashamed of myself. I had wanted to leave Jesus to watch TV. Wow.

During the hour we sat in adoration, I felt calm, comforted and whole for the first time in a few weeks.  I enjoyed a warm reunion with my Dearest Friend.

Had I not been brought back to “reality” – a dangerous thing, as Screwtape would be quick to tell you – I would have continued down my self-made path of destruction.

What have I learned from this experience?

I’ve learned that the more I allow myself to get “sucked in,” the more I push God out. That it’s not my willpower that has helped me stay relatively detached over the years; but my relationship with God.

All that time spent in prayer, adoration, and daily mass as well as all the spiritual reading – these are not empty religious practices. These are the things that draw me to Christ. And the more I fill my life with Christ, the more fulfilling it will be.

On the other hand, if I fill my life with the things of this world, I am bound to turn away from Him. “No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

I’m not saying I’ll stop watching 24 altogether (at least not before I finish Season 3) – but I do plan to approach it in a way that won’t require me to address it in confession.


Reading Assignment:  Chapter 15-20

 Note:  While you’re reading along (and even if you can’t), make sure you check out this magnificent Radio Production of The Screwtape Letters by our own Paul McCusker. Excellent Production!

Discussion Questions: 

1.  Have you struggled with any distractions?  If so, how do you manage to regain your focus?

2.  Please comment on anything from this past week!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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