So many of you appreciated the pointers that my friend Menchu sent last week. She also sent a poem by Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963), otherwise known as C.S. Lewis, who, according to Google, was “one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day.”
“Lewis wrote more than 30 books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year,” shares Google. “C.S. Lewis’s most distinguished and popular accomplishments include The Chronicles of Narnia,” to which I was introduced when my grandsons were small. They loved The Chronicles of Narnia, which I thought was a wonderful fairy tale (as well as a parable about Christianity).
Here is the poem that Menchu sent with the scant title of “C.S. LEWIS 1942.” I guess that’s the time he wrote it. It’s a dialogue between Satan and Jesus.
“SATAN: I will cause anxiety/Fear and panic/I will shut down/Businesses, schools/Places of worship/And sports events./I will cause economic turmoil.
“JESUS: I will bring together neighbours/Restore the family unit/I will bring dinner back/To the kitchen table./I will help people slow down their lives/And appreciate what really matters./I will teach my children to rely on me/And not the world/I will teach my children to trust me/And not their money and material resources.”
When you read what Satan says, it sounds like he’s describing our quarantine situation now. We are anxious. Many among us are seized with fear and panic. Many of our businesses, schools, churches and other places of worship and even sports events are shut down. We seem to be, whether the government cares to admit it or not, on the verge of economic turmoil. This seems to be such a vivid description of where we are now, I cannot believe it was written in 1942. (Editor’s Note: In fact, the viral quote does not appear to be written by Lewis, according to Reuters and Snopes.com, which concluded: “The viral quote on social media can be traced back to a Facebook post made on March 12, 2020 by a US woman named Heidi May.”)
So what was happening in 1942? Straightforward answer: in 1942 it was World War II. Now in 2020, it’s probably World War III, but no one cares to admit that.
What does Jesus say in the poem? He tells us we will make friends with our neighbors or talk more to strangers in elevators. He says He will restore our families. Our children do not live with us but we stay in touch through Viber more than we did before. Our lives are slower now. We wake up and have breakfast together. After breakfast my husband watches TV. I go to my workroom and make rosaries. I have almost mastered the art of making rosaries. I have a friend who makes soap, which she will donate to old folks’ homes. Maybe my rosaries, too, should go there.
Even if I spend half the day making — and selling — rosaries, I feel my life is slower but more focused. I mean I don’t really know why I am so entranced with making rosaries; I was never that pious before. I don’t even see my work as piety. I experience it as creativity.
Every so often I wake up from a dream where I did something new. I try it out in my designs, and the rosary is beautiful when finished. I admire it and ask myself, Did I really design this? Now as I reread the poem that Menchu sent I realize that I rely on my dreams for changes in design, even changes in arranging a room. Who else might be the source of those ideas but God, or maybe His Mother, or maybe my guardian angel? From the novelty that emerges I know it certainly is not just me.
Who really determines the stuff that dreams are made of? Who really leads us to experiment, to try new things even as our lives are so much slower now than they used to be. Many people say it’s our imagination, or it’s Freud or Jung. As you grow older and wiser it becomes clear. It is God.
I know now that I have always trusted Him with my life. Even when I was young and not going to Mass and Holy Communion, not doing the things nuns and priests told me to do, I know I prayed a lot without being conscious of it. I would say, “Omigod, please, what will I do?”
I remember one incident, going to the supermarket near Christmas time, thinking, I will just use my credit card and hope it doesn’t exceed its limit or we won’t have much to eat. Then the cashier smiled at me with glee and said, “You won! We have a promo. You have five stars on your receipt. Your groceries are free!” On the way home I thanked God profusely. My children and I had good food that Christmas.
Don’t worry so much about surviving the quarantine. This poem, whether or not it was written during World War II, will still be good through World War III.
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