CSLewisAmidst all the lamentation over the 50th anniversary of the death of St. Jack  of the Blessed Bay of Pigs FUBAR,  I feel it important to note that another man who died, albeit under very different circumstances, on the same day was Clive Staples (“Jack”) Lewis.

Regular friends of the decanter used to ol’ Robbo’s religious pretensions may be surprised to know that, until I was a first year law student way back in the winter of 1988,  I’d never even heard of C.S. Lewis.   But that Christmas, my then-girlfriend (from a solidly conservative South Texas Catholic family) gave me a copy of The Essential C.S. Lewis.

Well.  Flipping through this book, I came across, for the first time,  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, after which I immediately had to gobble up the rest of the Narnia series, reading them over and over again because I loved each and every new story.   I also read Perelandra, the middle book of Lewis’s sic-fi trilogy, which I thought pretty cool but rather weird.  (I still do after many readings of the entire trilogy.)  But beyond that?  Eh, at first, I didn’t really explore much.

A few years later, even perhaps after Mrs. R and I had tied the knot, something compelled me to fish out this volume and peruse it more deeply.  To that end, I found myself sampling some of Lewis’s apologetics.   At that point in my misspent young adulthood, I seem to remember a general dissatisfaction with the world as I found it.  So shallow, so empty.  So upon revisiting Lewis, my reaction (to quote Ted “Theodore” Logan) was an emphatic, “Whoa.”

Here was a fellah for whom Christianity emphatically was not just a matter of being nice to people and going to church on Sundays when one felt like it.  This was real meat.  This was real Christian substance.  This was not the proverbial counting of angels dancing on the head of a pin (which for some reason always especially irritated the Old Gentleman any time the subject of organized religion came up), but instead bloody dispatches from the Front in the perpetual war between Good and Evil.   I especially grew to love Lewis’s obvious WWII analogy of Jesus as an agent parachuted into occupied territory in order to prepare and organize the Resistance in advance of the main Allied invasion landing.

I’d had none of that kind of teaching up to this point in my life.  What with one thing and another, I grew up with a vague (and sad) sense of Church history as battles fought long ago and far away, but of no real relevance to the here and now, what I have long called the Uncle Owen attitude (“It’s all such a long way from here.”).  To me, Lewis said, “No! Not true! The battle goes on, and you’re in it whether you like it or not! To arms! To arms!”

Over the following years, I tried to apply Lewis’s call to arms in the context of my cradle Episcopalianism.   Once Mrs. R and I found a Palie church we both liked, I tried to set about fighting the good fight under its banner in the way that Lewis had outlined.   It took a few years of denial, apology and explanation, but eventually I could not resist acknowledging the fact that, carrying on the WWII metaphor, the army I had thought myself fighting for on the side of Goodness was, in fact, Vichy.

It was this realization, more than anything else,  that prompted me to jump into the Tiber and swim across to the true Resistance.

So I was amused today to read this article over at Aleteia about Lewis being a “gateway drug” to Catholicism.  I think the piece makes the same point I do, but I also think my Lewis’s own imagery is preferable.

So God bless you, Jack, and may you rest in peace.