Watching episode eight of Lupin III, “Everyone Meets Again, the Trump Plan,” reminded me of the ill-effects of superstition. Lupin, Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon all participate in stealing a millionaire’s playing card set, which used to be owned by Napoleon. You see, Napoleon’s victories came about through him having the cards, and he lost them during his expedition to Russia, which led to his defeat and exile. In the case of the millionaire, they allowed him to become wealthy. Never mind personal talents or hard work!
Sine dubio, our readers see the problem with this attitude: reliance on the good luck charm replaces trust in God. In The City of God, St. Augustine exclaims about how many different kinds of gods there were in Rome. Apparently, doors needed three gods: one for the hinges, another for the frame, and third for the knob–yet, only one doorman! He also notes how there was a temple to Good Fortune set up and asks why a pagan would bother developing a cult to another god? If one is on the side of Good Fortune, one ought to be sure of success in every endeavor.
Even though paganism is passé in the Western world (No, I don’t count modern pagans in the West as real pagans. The ancient pagans actually believed in their religion until around the advent of the Christian Era, while modern pagans use paganism for social clubs or occult groups), people still have a tendency to place their trust in things other than God–money more often than not. (Ayn Rand did end Atlas Shrugged with a man blessing himself with the sign of the dollar.) However, the other popular things for people to place their trust in these days are fortune telling, horoscopes, and other forms of astrology. If anyone seriously believes in the power of these things, they commit a mortal sin by using them. On the other hand, good luck charms manifest a similar error, but tend not to carry the same gravity of sin. Why? Because people rarely place perfect trust in them. An athlete who wears his lucky socks every game loses some matches, the student with a lucky pencil does not do equally well on all mathematics exams, and the lawyer with lucky shoes does not win every case. The good luck charm is essentially a mental trick, a confidence booster which does not in itself deny the need of Providence.
Then, I watched Lupin III and found an example of someone using a good luck charm to do just this thing! Fujiko Mine feels that she is “fated” for the cards to fall into her hands, and, once they do, her confidence in them is unshakable. Would that all Christians had that kind of faith in God! On the other hand, Jigen and Lupin continuously call into question this superstition. By the end of the episode, the cards flutter away anyway.
At any rate, Lupin and the company get out of every pickle over the course of the episode–the same way as they do every episode. However, the pack of cards receives the credit. And, we learn that there is a spirit attached to the card deck–whether a fairie or a demon, the episode does not specify. This thing produces the luck. But, how fitting for a cunning spirit to be master of the cards! The devil also tries to lead us away from confidence in God, and superstition is one of his means of tempting us. Thus, the Catholic Church has fought against superstition since its inception, and the low repute of fortune tellers and astrologers in modern times has to do with Christians of all denominations contemning these practices.
As I write this, I realize that Catholics have also been charged with being superstitious. After all, we may wear crosses and medals around our necks, scapulars across our shoulders, recognize certain places as especially miraculous, and may even keep relics. (You’re truly had the good fortune of obtaining three third class relics yesterday, but more on that another time.) Do not these practices place one’s hope in special objects rather than Providence? No, for the simple reason that they are in accord with Providence. God often does things for us through intermediate means. For example, God gives his decrees through angels, pardons sinners through the prayers of the faithful, and grants the requests of others through intermediaries. The cross, the medals, the scapulars, and the relics all relate to intercession–interceding with the Father through the Passion of the Son or seeking the aid of the Son by the merits of the saints–through which the Providence of God has deigned to act. And what a wise system God has created! Otherwise, we might imagine that we had no need of each other.