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The devil is no joke: Wisdom from a Hollywood star, a French priest, and the Holy Father

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Zoe Romanowsky - published on 04/02/22

Denzel Washington, the Cure de Ars, and Pope Francis all agree that Satan is real and we should be vigilant.

Over the past week, veteran actor Denzel Washington has been getting major props for what he did to help calm everything down after “the slap” at Sunday night’s Academy Awards.

Washington, a devout Christian, offered some words of wisdom to Smith immediately after it happened — which Smith shared with the audience in his acceptance speech a little while later when he won an Oscar for Best Actor. He said that Washington told him:

Washington’s words bring to mind a truth that even Christians can sometimes forget: the devil is real and operative and likes to take us down when we least expect to fall.

St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, a French Catholic priest who died in 1859, knew this all too well. Famous for his gift in the confessional, many people sought him out from far and wide. The rural padre was also known to be frequently harassed by the devil, so much so that he said they were “almost chums.” One thing he came to know was that the evil one often shows up when something good or big is about to happen. He said:

“I have noticed the noise is much louder and the frights multiply when some great sinner is about to come (to confession) the next day” – Note 17 from Rev. Beau’s Ordinary Process, p. 191

While it’s doubtful that Denzel Washington (who isn’t Catholic) has read the life of St. John Vianney, both men speak to the truth that the spiritual battle is real and we need to always be vigilant.

Pope Francis has spoken to this on many occasions, calling believers to remember that Satan is not just an old-fashioned idea that has no relevance for today:

The Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here … even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naive, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.

But perhaps it is this quote by the Holy Father that most resonates as we continue to read about all the fall out from the Oscars incident and as we consider our own moments of temptation and sin:

The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities.

Christians do not need to fear the devil. To battle evil in our lives we can “put on the full armor of God” as St. Paul tells us in Ephesians by attending Mass, frequenting the sacraments, praying, reading the Bible, turning to the Blessed Mother, using sacramentals, surrounding ourselves with people who spiritually support us, being aware of our weaknesses, and asking God to heal our wounds.

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