20/20 in 2020 Article: Our blog’s theme for this year is “20/20 in 2020: Setting Our Vision on Christ.” Throughout the year, we’ll post articles which relate to this theme, which encourages you, our readers, to turn away from the world and toward the Holy One. Enjoy the post below, which is part of our yearlong series.
Recently, I discovered the light novel My Next Life as a Villainess: All Roads Lead to Doom by Satoru Yamaguchi. The premise of this novel concerns a seventeen year old Japanese high school girl who dies and is reincarnated as the chief villainess of the otome game Fortune Lover. Yes, it’s another isekai, but wait until you hear the rest of the premise! Our heroine remembers nothing of her past life until she bonks her head at age eight. This leaves a small scar, and the eight year old high prince—out of pity and calculation—engages her to be wed when they become of age. At this point, our heroine realizes that she has become otome game villainess Katarina Claes of a powerful ducal family. Katarina soon realizes that, according to Fortune Lover‘s main endings, she’s doomed to death or exile in less than ten years.
So, Katarina sets about living with one goal in mind: to avoid her untimely death and be able to endure exile when the time comes. She drops the haughty disposition in which she had been raised and assumes the personality of her past life. (Part of me thinks that the author just can’t get into the mind of a child. His characterization gets better when Katarina and her friends move into their teenage years.) Second, she applies herself to fencing (the better not to get killed), magic (the better to survive exile), and agriculture (the better to survive exile). Unfortunately for Katarina, her sole magical ability is to make a small bump in the dirt, which the villainess had used to trip the heroine in the video game. Not very promising to say the least! I might add that her footwork is bad, and she never succeeds in growing anything until she meets Mary Hunt around the midpoint of the novel.
The best part of her plan concerns befriending all of the people the villainess vexed in the game—from her step-brother to forgettable side characters. If her plans need any tweaking, she summons a “Claes Catastrophic Bad Ending Avoidance Strategy Meeting” with her as the only attendee or resorts to her Fortune Lover Unofficial Strategy Guide describing all she remembers about Fortune Lover. Much of her waking hours become devoted to avoiding her demise, and both the nobility and the servants find her very strange—if kindhearted.
The title drew me to try out this amusing light novel. As I read it, however, I realized that many parallels could be drawn between this novel and Christian life. First, Katarina’s moral improvement comes about only when another personality was awakened inside of her, and she realized the doom in store for her. Otherwise, she would have continued being a selfish, bratty aristocrat all the way until the end. Similarly, we were all heading to our eternal doom, hell, until baptism saved us and Christ came to live in our soul. The very scar on her head reminds me of how the priest marks our foreheads with holy oil in the sign of the cross just prior to baptism. We even have a book which describes for us how to avoid a “Catastrophic Bad Ending”: the Bible.
Much is made about Katarina’s denseness as a protagonist. She does not consider all of the consequences of her actions (there being only one consequence she wishes to avoid), and remains oblivious to the romantic feelings she inspires in the young noblemen closest to her. Christians are the same way. We remain blind to our own faults for long periods of time while those around us kindly endure them. It’s often only when we make an enemy of someone that our flaws are brought home to us.
As for not noticing the one who loves us, we can spend days, weeks, months, years or a whole lifetime without realizing the love Christ has for us. Even saints who have felt God’s presence and heard his voice confessed to allowing the distractions of life to forget their True Love! St. Gertrude the Great stands as one example. I think that she confessed to losing Christ’s presence and not thinking very much of the loss for one month. Yet, she repented of this far better than most of us ever will. Afterwards, Christ revealed to a visiting sister that St. Gertrude performed her every duty as if she were in the presence of Christ the King.
Sin, even mortal sin, might be needed as a wake up call to bring us back to the life of conversion we should live every day. Christians in the world love Christ above all things while still loving worldly things. Eternity seems a long time away. People expect to face judgment sixty, fifty, forty, thirty, or twenty years hence. Especially in developed countries, living for play and comfort rather than for God and His Kingdom is a constant temptation, and most people become like the seeds choked by thorns (Matthew 13:22). Yet, God does not keep us here for three score and ten for fun! Heaven is the playground—not Earth! Christ says, “I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work,” (John 9:4). If Christ needs to work, we need to work also: the disciple needs to become like his teacher. Yet, we play and often play too much. We become over-indulgent and proud, and only the prospect of losing eternal life by our own fault knocks the sense that living is serious business back into our heads.
Why is life serious business? Because our life is “in via” or “on the way” period to heaven. The angels had an in via which involved only one decision: whether to serve God or serve themselves. Tradition tells us that one-third of the angels chose themselves over God. Human beings are faced with the same ultimate decision, but our way to heaven or hell involves a myriad of decisions. Only one who perseveres until the end will be saved (Matt. 24:14). As St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us, where the race of virtue ends, the race of vice begins. It’s not a matter of choosing once and for all: our subsequent decisions must reinforce our initial conversion. There are many virtues to gain before death and many good works which God has placed in our way to accomplish (Eph. 2:10).
I hope that all of us are able to use this Lenten season for prayer, fasting, almsgiving and all else that draws us back to God.