Noticias de la Diócesis de Allentown

The Work of the Devil

The sloping Bronx street on which I lived for most of my childhood was divided into three sections. At the foot of the slope was a grocery store, a weedy vacant lot, and a nondescript apartment building where a lot of old people resided. On the opposite end, near the crest of the hill, was my family's house, one in a line of tall, narrow row homes.

The middle section of the street was the domain of the Cool Kids, a charmed realm where the asphalt glittered and the evening sun clung tenaciously to rooftops long after the window-framed cries of "Come upstairs, it's time for dinner!" had faded away.

Since I was a decidedly uncool kid, my time in The Realm was limited to walkthroughs on my way to the grocery store. But I expected that to change on the day that my younger brother Frank received a Spalding basketball as a birthday gift.

There was only one basketball hoop on the block, and it stood squarely within The Realm. I was sure that, when the cluster of Cool Kids on the court saw me saunter over with one arm casually slung over a sleek new Spalding, they would beg me to join their ranks.

So one Friday afternoon I persuaded Frank to let me borrow his basketball, and soon my friend Angela and I were on the court, breathing the rarefied air of The Realm. There were no kids around, cool or otherwise, so, while we waited for a Cohort of Coolth to show up and do us homage, Angela and I began aimlessly dribbling the ball.

It could have been a nail, or a glass shard, or a hypodermic needle. Whatever it was, it punctured the Spalding on a bounce. There was nothing I could do but pick up the rapidly deflating ball and go home.

I should have immediately told my family what had happened, but I didn't, because I had what I believed was a better idea: I'd buy an identical basketball and give it to Frank, who I imagined would be none the wiser.

Unfortunately, I could not find that same basketball in local stores, so, after a week's worth of tale-telling to cover up the truth of the Spalding's demise, Angela convinced me to come clean.

As punishment, my parents reneged on their promise to buy me the Number One Hits of the 60's four LP set, advertised by Micky Dolenz of the Monkees (52 original hits for only $8.98, or $12.98 for 8-track tapes). The punishment was, I thought, disproportionately harsh.

But the Catechism tells us that "The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil” (CCC, 2482). This isn't mere hyperbole. Since God is Truth itself, lying is contrary to God's very nature. No wonder the Book of Revelation tells us that liars are thrown into the "burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

Naturally, not all lies carry equal weight, since the motives that cause us to lie will vary. A lie that is told to destroy an opponent's reputation is far more serious than a lie told so as not to give away a surprise party.

But even lesser lies, said the late Father James Schall, S.J., "cause great harm because truth is the basis of our relation to others, especially those closest to us." My own long-ago experience attested to this: as childish and common as they were, the lies I told had weakened my brother's trust in me.

"Blessed the one who loves truth continually and has not lent his mouth as an instrument of impiety by lying" – St. Ephrem of Syria.

By Celeste Behe, a parishioner of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Hellertown. Find her online at