There is a tradition dating back to St. Benedict that says you should read a good spiritual book during the months of Lent as a sign of devotion and spiritual growth. To this end, Fr. Dwight Longenecker—a former Evangelical college student, Anglican-priest, and now Catholic-priest—has written a delectable book, The Gargoyle Code.
The book is essentially a collection of letters between a master, demonic tempter and a young diabolical trainee. For those familiar with C.S. Lewis, you’ll immediately recognize that The Gargoyle Code shares its genre and style with Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.
The plot is similar in both books: the tempters of Hell use every tactic possible to lure their “assignments”—the people of earth—into eternal damnation. However, Fr. Longenecker’s book differs from Lewis’ in a couple of ways.
First, The Gargoyle Code describes the temptations of a handful of Catholic men and women. The two main tempters, a master demon named Slubgrip and a novice tempter named Dogwart, are in charge of an old, ultra-conservative Catholic man and a struggling, young adult Catholic, respectively. Whereas Lewis sought to describe the tempting of “mere” Christians, Fr. Longenecker details the trials of men and women tempted in uniquely Catholic ways: belittling the significance of the Mass, rote prayer and confession or the discernment of religious vocation.
Also different from Lewis’ book, The Gargoyle Code contains a chapter for each day during Lent, making this a great book to read during this time. Recognizing the liturgical season of Lent as the time of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and as a time to deeply contemplate our own spiritual attacks and temptations, this book is an appropriate guide during this season.
Besides being a more ‘Catholic’ version of The Screwtape Letters” however, The Gargoyle Code is also a more modern version. The tempters in Fr. Longenecker’s book encourage sloth through the medium of 24/7 sports networks and vanity through the use of media. In the Introduction to the book, Fr. Longenecker invites the reader to read the tempter’s communications as a mirror; that is, to see oneself in each situation and temptation. This is very easy to do, maybe moreso than in Lewis’ older book, for the majority of temptations are ones each of us has encountered at some time or another.
The communications of the tempters reveal something significant: things are not always as they seem. Our culture sees quaint things like attending Mass, living chastely, or deathbed penitents as novelties at best and insignificant at worst. But looking through the eyes of the underworld, one sees the immense power that each of these acts carries. This is nothing new, of course, if one considers the words of the great Saints throughout history; many of them wrote about the lethality of the Eucharist, the greatest spiritual weapon in the armory of the Church.
A simple, honest prayer can move mountains as Jesus hinted at, yet those may be the mountains of Hell instead of the Rockies. This book injects significance into each small movement of faith, helping to show how the smallest acts are huge blows to the forces that seek to draw us far from God.
We are involved in a war, invisible though it may be; this is our unfortunate condition. But we are armed with an infinite supply of weapons, and a King who is unconquerable. In the life of faith, especially during the time of Lent, a line is drawn in the sand, a line temptation challenges us to cross. If you are looking for fuel to fight against temptation during the season of Lent, or want to better recognize the ploys of evil, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of The Gargoyle Code; if you order a copy now, you should get it right in time for the beginning of Lent!
You can purchase this book here.