The Nail and the Screw

The Master always insisted that we must learn by ourselves – teach ourselves — rather than depend on other people’s authority. This had its limits, of course, as when a bright young fellow was convinced he ought to try drugs as a means to mysticism — and “take the risk, for one can only
learn by trial and error.”

That moved the Master to tell the old story of the nail and the screw:

“Here is one way to find out whether what you need in a plank is a nail or a screw: Drive the nail in. If it splits the plank, you know you needed the screw.” (Anthony de Mello, SJ)

“Short cuts make long delays” (Pippin, LOTR)

All sedating drugs, including alcohol, cause a sort of peace, but they also cloud the reason. They have their uses in ‘crisis management’ such as the lunatic endangering the lives of others, or severe suicidal grief, but they are for short term use only, and only under supervision.

As a chronic treatment for anxiety or low spirits, they are positively lethal. They give false consolation, of short duration. There is always a hangover. GK Chesterton said that a hangover is one of the minor proofs of the existence of God. How right he was!

(Have any of you ever noticed how all addicts are full of self pity?*)

It isn’t just drugs and alcohol though, which get used as short term fixes for unhappiness and pain. We throw ourselves into sins, indulging ourselves in their pleasures, thinking in our pride and blindness that we will get away with them. Our sins help us to escape our responsibilities to God and neighbour, for a short time, but they will all be brought to account, every jot and tittle. The wages of sin are spiritual death, a fatal distancing of ourselves from God, our neighbour, and ourselves. We all know this. For Christians, the solution for (inevitable) unhappiness and pain is radically different.

A woman in great distress over the death of her son came to the Master for comfort.
He listened to her patiently while she poured out her tale of woe.
Then he said softly, “I can not wipe away your tears, my dear. I can only teach you how to make them holy.” (A. de M. SJ)

Christ shows us that there is only one way to escape grief, unhappiness, pain, lonely selfish worldliness: To abandon oneself, in total trust, WITH HIM on the Cross. The Cross makes our tears Holy.

The spiritual life is all about finding true consolation, a gift that is not of this world, though people have been pointing the way towards it for millennia. The end product of the spiritual life is a somebody who is fully human, fully alive, firing on both hemispheres, with senses filled, with a heart compassionately open to the joys and fears of everyone they meet, full of good works, and ready to lay down their life for their friends. Such a person is then knowing, loving and serving God, their Father, with every heartbeat, breath, holy thought, word and deed, and in every holy relationship with their brother and sister creatures. The archetype for all Saints is, of course, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Amen.

Prayer for Trust in Jesus

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

– Saint Ignatius of Loyola



*I recently heard this, ‘The Alcoholic’s Lament’

“Poor me, poor me, poor me……

¡¡ʞuıɹp ɹǝɥʇouɐ ǝɯ ɹnod” -this second line comes from upside down, under the table!


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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1 Response to The Nail and the Screw

  1. Toadspittle says:

    “GK Chesterton said that a hangover is one of the minor proofs of the existence of God. How right he was!”

    Presumably, alcohol itself being one of the major proofs.
    GKC! Where would CP&S be without him! Quoting C.S.Lewis, no doubt.

    A very Happy Easter to all!


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