I remember coming away from a conversation with a very holy person years ago, feeling thoughtful. I was much inspired to pray. At the same time I felt like cranking up the Led Zepplin in the car for some relief from too much holy.
The friend I was with asked, “What did you think?”
I said, “He talks about Satan too much.”
This cracked my friend up. Her laughter mystified me.
“It’s just so funny to hear you say that!”
I do dislike hearing about Satan too much. Who doesn’t?
However, it’s hard to tune in to the news and not think about that guy these days. He seems to be in the world’s face, challenging all people of good will in our very faith in good will.
Be not afraid (Dt., 31:8) We come from a long line of prophets and saints, and Jesus is present in us as individuals, and in community, and He has already won the spiritual combat. With Him we can do anything, and, since we are all connected, the good we do has its effect in the world. The indulgent encouragement of God makes our little victories BIG with His endless grace, and gives us power to reign with Him both now and forever, because of His great love. We are the light of the world (Mt. 5:14)
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church,” Jesus said. (Mt. 16:18)
I heard it pointed out once that if you really think about that sentence, it sounds more like it is hell that is on the defensive. Hell’s gates can’t stand against the Church. That’s us. We’re winning. And we will keep on winning.
The Lord is my strength and my shield. Whom shall I fear? (Ps. 27:1)
“[In] a dream I had [as a child.] … I saw … two hideous little devils dancing with surprising agility … in spite of the heavy irons attached to their feet. At first they cast fiery glances at me; then, as though suddenly terrified, [they… threw] themselves down … only to run and hide themselves in the laundry… overcoming my fears, I went to the window. The wretched little creatures were there, running about, …not knowing how to hide themselves from my gaze. From time to time they came nearer, peering through the windows with an uneasy air, then, seeing that I was still there, they began to run about again looking quite desperate. Of course this dream was nothing extraordinary; yet I think Our Lord made use of it to show me that a soul in the state of grace has nothing to fear from the devil, who is a coward, and will even fly from the gaze of a little child.
~St. Therese of Lisieux
Pope Francis calls this present time a “piecemeal World War III.” Every material reality has a spiritual reality. We are also at war spiritually.
“‘Spiritual combat’ is [an] element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which (we) engage every day…” ~ Pope St. John Paul II
And we should be clear about who our real enemy is.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)
The traditional weapons of the Church against evil in the world are unconventional. But they are the ones Jesus used to ultimately conquer, also we can put to good use the weapons the Church has been given by Our Lord, and artillery the saints used before us. We have quite an arsenal. Here are just a few of these things to help you fight like a Catholic in the spiritual combat.
“You have only to be still: I myself will fight for you” (Ex. 4:14). Prayer of the heart, sitting in silent trust, praying the rosary, any way you want to pray and connect with God within you, all these things make your soul a channel for the loving will of God into all that goes unhealed and wretched. Prayer fills us and encloses us with God, purifies our souls, and pours Heavenly grace into the world like an ocean of light.
“…you have found praise to foil the enemy.” (Ps. 8:2b)
This is an old fashioned spiritual remedy too often forgotten. “This kind [of demon] only comes out with prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21).
Bread and water are customary for fasting, and Friday is a traditional day to fast. You can also fast from noise, the Internet, harsh words, even very small things like sugar in your coffee or ketchup on your fries. The fight against evil in the world is mysteriously amplified by fasting and self denial, and it draws the whole person to be centered in God.
Satan’s great sin is pride. Humility is anathema to him. God, St. Therese used to say, cannot resist a humble soul. Satan can’t face such a person. There is nothing he can do. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you up!” (1 Pt. 5:6, Jm 4:10). St. Teresa of Avila said “He who possesses [humility and detachment from self] can safely go out and fight all the united forces of hell… let him fear none for his is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Reading the Bible
Reading Scripture every day, assimilating the Word of God, applying it to our lives, arms us with the knowledge of God and the interior grace we need to live a holy life. Even if you don’t understand something, you can be sure the demons understand it fine, and tremble (here I am referring to a passage in The Way of the Pilgrim). The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two edged sword (Hb. 4:12). We should always be growing in our understanding and prayer of the Bible.
A sacramental life in the Church keeps us always in a state of grace, and helps us grow in holiness, especially the reception of the Eucharist, which is to receive Jesus Himself. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him (Jn. 6:56). The Church is the bulwark and the pillar of truth (1Tim 3:15).
Monthly confession is advised by most spiritual directors, and not only helps us to the grace won for us by Jesus and given to the Church, it also helps us heal the world as well. Since we are all connected, …in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others (Rom. 12:5), our sins spiritually harm everyone in the Body of Christ In the same way, our confession and penance bring healing, not only to ourselves, but our repentance strengthens the Church in her fight against evil in the world.
Satan’s other great sin is disobedience and that was the sin of Adam and Eve. Trust, loving obedience and faithfulness to God, to His Church, to rightful authority makes the enemy flee in disgust. “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will take flight” (Jm.4:7).
Only God knows the heart (Rom. 2:2). It is so easy to demonize the human opponent, especially a distant, unknown enemy, when we are in conflict. Scripture says this is not what God wants of us. Mercy is God’s greatest attribute. We should practice mercy constantly, keeping our eyes on God, praying for our enemies from the heart.
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34) is probably one of the most confusing things the evil one ever heard. Our regard for those who harm or threaten us, is to be redemptive and transformative, rather than punitive. It destroys the work of Satan, and wins hearts to love. It disarms Satan and all his retinue to forgive our enemies.
Union with God
Jesus is within us. He really truly is. This is why we can say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (Mat 16:23). It is His presence in us that gives us this ability, His grace that gives us that authority.
“Whoever hears you, hears me.” (Luke 10:16).
The Holy Name of Jesus
… at the Name of Jesus, every knee must bow, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Philip. 2:10). Pray it. Say it. Every day. All the time. Clearly it’s a good thing to do, as the Scriptures and the teachings of so many of the saints also show.
Devotion to Mary
Mary, the new Eve, is in enmity with Satan on the side of her Son as the mother of all who follow Jesus and obey the commandments (Rev 12:17 ). Even the most cursory glance at the accounts of the approved apparitions of the Mother God, such as those at Fatima and Lourdes, show that this is so to this day. Walk with Mary, pray with Mary, for work the she does. Join her in battle. Ask her to pray for you. Let her be your spiritual mother. At Fatima she said, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Offer it up
When you are suffering, offer your suffering with that of Christ on the cross. Doing this is a powerful and redemptive prayer. I am glad when I suffer for you … for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His Body, the Church (Col. 1:24). Offer your suffering in intercessory prayer or in reparation for the horrors and blasphemies committed in the world and in our our own hearts.
Good deeds and helping the poor
The corporal works of mercy, done from the heart, confuse the spiritual forces of darkness, by upending greed and selfishness, injustice and lukewarmness. This is part of dethroning the one who is all haughtiness by lifting up the lowly. This is the work of God (Lk. 1:52).
Speak the truth and live the truth
Don’t cooperate with the Father of Lies by lying (Jn. 8:44). Don’t give the murderer from the beginning any foot hold by hating- which is murder committed in the heart. Avoid sin. Don’t give the enemy of Christ any ammunition. Whoever hates his brother or sister is a murderer. (1Jn. 3:15)
Put on the armor of light, but especially that of love. Pray with love, serve with love. Do everything with love. Love covers a multitude of sins (1Pt. 4:8). There is nothing more powerful, for God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).
The Prayer of St. Francis
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
or it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."
If we prayed and lived this prayer, there would be no place left for Satan to plant weeds.
The prayer of St. Michael
"St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts,by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who roam the world, seeking the ruin of souls.”
This prayer is by Pope Leo XIII, and is traditionally prayed after mass, or put in at the end of the rosary. But it can be prayed any time, of course. It comes highly recommended for our purpose.
In the spiritual life we are the standard bearers for Christ, our Holy Captain, as St. Teresa of Avila said.
“… [the person of prayer] is carrying the standard, which he must not allow to leave his hands, even if he is cut to pieces. Just so [those who live the life of prayer] have to bear aloft the standard of humility and must suffer all the blows which are aimed at them without striking any themselves. Their duty is to suffer as Christ did, to raise the Cross on high, not to allow it to leave their hands, whatever the perils in which they find themselves, and not to let themselves be found backward in suffering…”
I hope I did not talk about Satan too much.
I would really rather talk about God.
May the knowledge of God fill the earth as water fills the sea (Hbk. 2:14).
Shawn Chapman is a Secular Discalced Carmelite with the Austin OCDS Community of St. Teresa Benedicta a Cruce. She works as a private care-giver, and is a Catholic columnist for the Bryan-College Station Eagle newspaper. Reprinted courtesy of Austin Catholic New Media.