St. Paul VI outlined a “battle strategy” to confront the Devil and his power of darkness.
While the existence of Satan does not excuse our bad choices, it does bring to light a reality that there is an invisible spiritual battle in this world and our souls are caught in the middle of it. We may want to do good, but we can be easily swayed by the Devil’s suggestions, and grow in darkness, rather than in the light of Christ.
St. Paul VI commented on this reality in a general audience in 1972.
We come face to face with sin which is a perversion of human freedom and the profound cause of death because it involves detachment from God, the source of life. And then sin in its turn becomes the occasion and the effect of interference in us and our work by a dark, hostile agent, the Devil. Evil is not merely an absence of something but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others. It is a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening.
He firmly believed that as Christians we need to recognize Satan’s existence and his influence on humanity.
This matter of the Devil and of the influence he can exert on individuals as well as on communities, entire societies or events, is a very important chapter of Catholic doctrine which should be studied again, although it is given little attention today…We can presume that his sinister action is at work where the denial of God becomes radical, subtle and absurd; where lies become powerful and hypocritical in the face of evident truth; where love is smothered by cold, cruel selfishness; where Christ’s name is attacked with conscious, rebellious hatred, where the spirit of the Gospel is watered down and rejected where despair is affirmed as the last word; and so forth.
The good news is that the Devil and his minions can be resisted. Paul VI lays out a “battle strategy” to resist the Devil’s influence.
[W]hat defense, what remedy should we use against the Devil’s action?
- We could say: everything that defends us from sin strengthens us by that very fact against the invisible enemy.
- Grace is the decisive defense. Innocence takes on the aspect of strength.
- Everyone recalls how often the apostolic method of teaching used the armor of a soldier as a symbol for the virtues that can make a Christian invulnerable.
- The Christian must be a militant; he must be vigilant and strong; and he must at times make use of special ascetical practices to escape from certain diabolical attacks. Jesus teaches us this by pointing to “prayer and fasting“ as the remedy.
- And the Apostle suggests the main line we should follow: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.“
With an awareness, therefore, of the opposition that individual souls, the Church and the world must face at the present time, we will try to give both meaning and, effectiveness to the familiar invocation in our principal prayer: “Our Father . . . deliver us from evil!”
Paul VI suggests that the way to combat Satan is with prayer and fasting, leading a virtuous life, as well as doing good in the world.
Above all, Paul VI urges us to fight back and to do so on the spiritual level, acknowledging the reality of this battle, and doing all that we can to prevent the Devil from corrupting our own soul.
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