Mr. Jack Chick, infamous publisher of anti-Catholic tracts — five-hundred million in print around the world, the most famous calling the Eucharist the “Death Cookie” — arrives at the gates of Heaven. He had died, at the age of 92, on Sunday. He finds St. Peter there, just like in the old stories, with a massive ledger in front of him and an angel beside him.
“…or at least a Macbook Pro,” the angel was saying, “not this …”.
Jack planted himself in front of Peter. “I’m Jack Chick. My name’s in the Book of Life!”
“I know it is,” said Peter. “Our Lord is gracious.”
“He has low standards. No standards, really,” the angel added.
“I beg your …”.
“Oh, I’m glad he doesn’t,” said St. Peter, waving his hand as if shooing a fly, which of course he wasn’t doing because in Heaven the flies all behave. “The stories I could tell! ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,’ as your man John Newton put it.”
Jack punched the air. “I kept telling those Catholics you were a good Bible Christian.”
Peter opened his mouth and closed it again. “Yes and no,” he said a couple seconds later. “You probably don’t read Chesterton, do you?” he asked Jack, having just read the “Notes” section of Jack’s ledger entry. “Chesterton called me ‘a shuffler, a snob, a coward — in a word, a man.’ I thought that was rather good.”
Jack made himself smile, because what else do you do when one of the Twelve Apostles starts quoting some papist? Peter continued, “And then he goes on, and this is very good too: ‘And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.’”
“He could write, he could,” Peter said. “As could you. If only the theologians could write half as well as you guys. They’re making Karl Rahner spend his time on the seven story mountain writing children’s stories.” He paused. “I hear it’s not going well. And they took one look at Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics and started him on haiku.”
“That’s not what it means,” Jack said. Peter raised an eyebrow. “‘Rock’ didn’t mean you.”
Jack was aware of the problem of questioning an Apostle at the very Gates of Heaven, but this was a matter of the inerrant Scriptures and the integrity of the Gospel. Anyway, Apostles are human too.
Peter looked up, now raising both eyebrows. He’d just read the footnote to Jack’s ledger entry. Oh boy. “Jesus was pointing at me when he said it.” He saw Jack’s face set. “In any case, you can ask him when you see him.”
Jack stopped frowning. “Peter, when can I see him? When? Now, Peter, please?”
“Not ‘Peter,’” the Apostle said firmly. (“Americans,” the angel muttered.) “We’re not so egalitarian as all that. The Father is actually rather big on hierarchy. Nine orders of angels and so on. Just call me ‘Holy Father.’”
Jack looked up. “But that’s what Catholics call the po …” his voice trailed off.
The angel leaned into the conversation. “You could also call him ‘vicar,’ like the ministers in those English movies you like.”
“It’s not training if they don’t know what it means,” Peter told the angel out of the corner of his mouth. “Baby steps,” said the angel.
Jack thanked the angel and turned back to Peter. “Could I see him, vicar, please, um, vicar? Can I go in, please?” he asked, pointing to the gates.
Peter told him he had to wait to enter Heaven, the delay being to some extent up to him.
“You said my name’s in the Book of Life!”
“It is,” said Peter, with pity, because he knew what the man was thinking and gosh, the poor guy was in for a shock. That was one problem with the ecclesial communities, people weren’t completely prepared for the afterlife, thought they’d just sail right through. “But that’s not a get-of-Purgatory-free card. You need to be —“
“Purgatory!” Jack screeched. “I don’t believe in Purgatory!”
“That’s one reason it’s going to take you so long,” Peter said.
Jack waved his arms, making the incomplete pass signal. “Purgatory’s a popish invention. It denies the once for all death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.” He crossed his arms across his chest. “Vicar,” he added.
The angel sighed. Peter said, “To be fair, I don’t think your friend John Calvin has yet adjusted himself to the idea. Your C. S. Lewis explained this quite well for Protestants in Letters to Malcolm. He said —“
“Lewis was a heretic,” Jack snapped. “A neo-evangelical. And Anglicans are practically Catholics anyways” (“No they’re not,” the angel said, mostly to himself.)
Jack added: “I suppose he’s writing poetry too?”
“Oh no,” said Peter. “That wouldn’t do him any good at all. No purgation for him in writing poetry. He wrote reams of the stuff when he was on earth.” He flipped through the ledger. “No, they’ve got him writing books defending Catholic doctrines he doesn’t believe in. The idea is he’ll eventually twig. If he needs it, then books on the Rosary, Benediction, the Miraculous Medal, and holy cards. If that doesn’t take, Lourdes and Fatima. Redirecting his gifts, as you will have to redirect yours.”
“I don’t need —” Jack started to say.
“The books are being edited by a Sicilian peasant woman,” the angel interrupted. “A holy woman and an excellent theologian. Though it would be easier for Lewis if she knew English. A Dantesque touch, that one,” he said to Peter.
Jack did not like where this was going. If he had been wrong about that Catholic stuff, he was toast. Peter noticed the man-with-a-migraine look on his face. “You see things more clearly here,” he said. “Cognitive dissonance.”
“Anyway, I did my best,” Jack said, because now seemed a good time to hedge his bets.
“No, you didn’t,” said Peter. “No one ever does. Not even the saints. That’s why God gave His people the Church on earth and Purgatory after. If I could just quote Lewis here, you might feel bet—”
Peter, Jack, and the angel heard a noise and turned to the gate. Jesus walked out. Jack fell on his face and began to cry. Neither Peter nor the angel were surprised. It happened all the time. Hard nuts cracked.
Jesus lifted Jack to his feet. Jack had dreamed of hearing Jesus say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant. Five-hundred million pamphlets read around the world! All those Catholics drawn away from their church! Excellent!” Now he wanted to get away. He felt dirty.
“You’ll be wanting to get cleaned up,” Jesus said. “Don’t let me keep you, but before you go …”. He turned to the gate, as a woman dressed as a queen began to walk through. “I don’t believe you’ve ever met my mother.”
The writer would like to thank Scott Belhorn for the idea for the last sentence.
For further reading, please click over to Mr. Mills' article on Jack Chick, the Catholic Evangelist, at Aleteia. The editors at Aleteia promise a partial indulgence of 10 days to our editorial staff for every click Mr. Mills receives.