Thursday, March 27, 2008

"The Devil is No Fool"

I'm just beginning to read Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, and I came upon a passage that had me enthusiastically nodding my head in agreement. Merton is describing his grandparents and their religious views. He explains that he coudn't really tell you which brand of Protestant they were because, it seemed that as far as they were concerned, the various Christian denominations were all pretty much the same. Except, of course, for the Catholics...

"But as for the Catholics - it seemed, in Pop's mind, that there was a certain sinister note of malice connected with the profession of anything like the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church was the only one against which I ever heard him speak with any definite bitterness or animosity...

This was one of the few things I got from Pop that really took root in my mind, and became part of my mental attitude: this hatred and suspicion of Catholics. There was nothing overt about it. It was simply the deep, almost subconscious aversion from the vague and evil thing, which I called Catholicism, which lived back in the dark corners of my mentality with other spooks, like death and so on. I did not know precisely what the word meant. It only conveyed a kind of cold and unpleasant feeling."

I think that any of us who grew up surrounded by anti-Catholicism know exactly what he is talking about. It's not an overt hatred, at least most of the time...but it's a seething feeling of, something akin to disgust. You simply know within your very being that it is so vile and repulsive, and so obviously sinister, that there's no need to even waste one's time considering its claims!

And therein lies the genius of the devil's handiwork.

Merton goes on to explain,

"The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows, not by clarity and substance but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis. And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything."

I thank God that He gave me the grace to move past the cold chills and actually consider the claims of Catholicism, even while knowing all the while I was going to find them completely false. I've never been happier to have been proven so wrong! And not because Catholicism is "easier" or lets me get away with more or has more entertaining worship, all things of which I've been accused. It's simply because I sincerely believe it to be true, and all I ever wanted was to find truth.

Deo Gratias.


Tim A. Troutman said...

What a great set of quotes! Sounds like a wonderful book.

Anne Marie said...

I only spent a few years in an evangelical church after being away from the Catholic Church I was raised in for over 20 years, but it was that “hatred and suspicion of Catholics” that drove me to explore the Catholic Church anew. Having been raised in the Church I couldn’t help but wonder what was so sinister? Having been raised in the Church I also didn’t have all the layers of suspicion that come with a Protestant upbringing to peal away to find the truth. What a blessing.