St. Peter, in his first encyclical letter, says, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8).”
From the beginning, the Apostle knew well that the Enemy was on the prowl and ready to construct our demise. He had none of our modern notions that Satan is a myth. One of the greatest goals of the Devil is that we will ignore him or think that he does not exist.
Instead, let us be watchful.
“Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there:
And ‘twill be found, upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.”
– Daniel Dafoe (The True-Born Englishman)
This is a fascinating insight into the Devil’s playbook. He is an author of lies and subtle manipulator. He does not convince a person to fall from grace all at once. He cunningly draws a person further and further from God, one step at a time. There are even those who believe that they are serving God, but are truly serving several gods.
Satan waits right at the edge of our consciousness and watches for any sign of weakness. He is prowling at the fence looking for any breaks in the chains. He sits at the door of our churches, sometimes daring to even come into the narthex or entrance way.
How many times have you engaged in gossip or slander right after celebrating Mass? Those who are closest to God have the farthest to fall, but we are also called to be the readiest with our weapons.
HOW SATAN TEMPTS US
Satan likes to tempt us with money, fame, sex, power, and the appearance of freedom. He fashions these into idols and beckons us slowly and subtly to worship them instead of the one good God. Sometimes, he accomplishes this with a whisper or a suggestion to shirk responsibility or to skip prayer. We must be watchful for the moves of the enemy.
In his master epistolary novel, The Screwtape Letters, Christian writer and apologist C.S. Lewis explains some of the ways that Satan tempts us. The following are summaries of some key points.
In these letters, the chief demon Screwtape is instructing the young apprentice demon Wormwood. So, the formulations will seem backward; this is part of the brilliance of Lewis’ writing because we get an insight into how the demons plot our demise.
- The demonic forces will try to convince us to “estimate the value of prayer by [our] success in producing the desired feeling (21).” However, feelings are usually products only of whether we are feeling well, are well rested, and so forth at a given moment.
- They will attack our anxiety. “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them (28).”
- They will immobilize us in our feelings about a situation. “The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel (61).”
- They will keep us fixed on the future rather than the present moment. “It is far better to make them live in the Future…it is unknown to them, so that making them think about it we make them think of unrealities… it is the most completely temporal part of time- for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays (68).”
- They will make Jesus seem far away. Remember, in this writing, the “Enemy” of Screwtape is our Lord. “For the presence of the Enemy, otherwise experienced by men in prayer and sacrament, we substitute a merely probable, remote, shadowy, and uncouth figure, one who spoke a strange language and died a long time ago. Such an object cannot, in fact, be worshipped (107).”
- They will have us further our pet causes first rather than seek Christ first. We are a Church of Christ, not a church of causes. “The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience (108-9).”
- They will tempt us to only attempt virtue until it gets difficult. “A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky (137-8).”
7 Principles of Spiritual Warfare
How then can we resist the inclinations of the Devil and our own selfishness?
The only answer is Jesus. “Without Me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5).”
One very helpful text to read on resisting Satan is Spiritual Combat by Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli. This is a classic book that has stood the test of time.
Fr. Scupoli reminds us that we must not trust ourselves, rather we should trust in Christ. He says, “So for the duration of our life, every day and at every moment, we must keep unchanged in our heart the feeling, conviction and disposition, that on no occasion can we allow ourselves to think of relying on ourselves and trusting ourselves.”
We must also be wary of our own response to idleness, gossip, greed, lust, pride, and all the other temptations in our lives within our hearts and in the world around us. We must be aware of our surroundings.
We must be wary of the company that we keep. If we surround ourselves with people who do not prioritize Christ then our own priorities will suffer. Or worse, we will slip into the vices and bad habits that they embody.
Besides being resistant, we must also be proactive in our spiritual struggle. We must especially be diligent in prayer. If we are not in a habit of prayer, it is a good idea to carve out some time for prayer and make it a habit. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.
The most important thing that we can do is live a sacramental life, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance.
“Our Lord Christ Himself strikes down our enemies through us, or in company with us. For he who eats Christ’s flesh and drinks His blood abides with Christ and He in him. Therefore, when we overcome the enemies, it is the blood of Christ which overcomes, as it is written in Revelation: ‘and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.'” – Fr. Scupoli
The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Sacraments and it is the Body and Blood of the Lord. By receiving the Eucharist worthily, we are coming into communion with the resurrected and glorified Christ.
A beautiful sacrament which flows from the cleansing power of the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Penance. By making a habit of going to this Sacrament, we come into communion with the Cross of Christ. Our sins and offenses are brought to the foot of the Christ, with the knowledge that Christ already died for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Satan wants us to stay away from the Sacraments. We must do everything in our power to live a sacramental life and trust in Jesus. This is the greatest offense against the Enemy.
THE HOLY FAMILY
The Holy Family is powerful against the demonic. Our Blessed Mother is foretold by God in Genesis 3 as stepping on the head of the serpent, alongside her Son. She walked with Jesus to Calvary and a sword passed through her soul as she watched in agony as her beloved Son was nailed to the Cross and raised high. All of the graces which Christ merited to the world have been entrusted to our Blessed Mother who dispenses them by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is a powerful ally and intercessor.
St. Joseph is called the “Terror of Demons.” He is the Protector of the Church, the Patron of a Good Death, the earthly protector of Jesus, and a man of righteousness and purity. May we imitate his example and ask for his powerful intercession. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (Js 5:16).”
One of the monikers of Mary is “Our Lady, Help of Exorcists, Terror of Demons.” She is the most powerful woman in the history of the world. Completely free from sin, she accepted the words of the angel in faith and furnished the human body of Jesus. She is the mold from which Christ came and we must allow her to mold us more into the image of her Son.
One of the most powerful weapons against Satan that we have is the Most Holy Rosary. Padre Pio simply referred to it as “the Weapon.” In it, we dwell on the Mysteries of Christ and cling to Our Lady who is the health of the sick, refuge of sinners, and comfortess of the afflicted.
SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL Prayer
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 prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Image: Luca Giordano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons