Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s The Gargoyle Code is a twenty-first century homage to C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. A set of missives from a Master Demon to his trainee (with adjustments at the end for some plot twists), this slim volume is a sharp look at sin in this decade. The master (Slubgrip) writes to his devil-disciple Dogwart with advice in handling “patients”, the earthly beings they are charged with tempting. The former’s patient is an elderly male conservative Catholic who has cancer, the latter’s a lazy,TV-watching Catholic High School graduate who is getting involved with a young woman. In the course of the book, we learn about both parties, their successes and failures, as well as Slubgrip’s views on various types of sin, the ways to induce them in patients, and the human acts that stymie them.
Longenecker is very insightful in his take on spiritual warfare, in how easily we can slip into various types of sin, and the acts of our faith that can serve as a sort of immunization against temptation. From staying up late on Saturday night and missing mass the next day, to the self-righteousness that is sometimes associated with traditional Catholics, Longenecker doesn’t leave many stones unturned. Most everyone will see themselves portrayed somewhere in this book, and in his opening “Letter to the Reader”, he asks us to read this story as if we were looking in a mirror.
The set of letters are written over the period of Lent, with a letter or other communication for each day in that period, which makes it ideal reading for this time of year. But it’s a worthwhile read at any time, and is quite convicting. He makes a strong case for self-reflection, for holding on to some traditional faith practices that keep us close to God, and asks us to consider where our weaknesses are, that is, where we may be prone to temptation and sin.
At the same time, and entertaining and thought-provoking read. Highly recommended!