Page last updated at 12:00 UTC, Friday, 14 June 2019 PH
There is a great danger that among especially the young, the devil is put in the same category as the fictional characters created in their favorite movies or Netflix series such as the recent hugely successful The Avengers: The End Game. The devil, Pope Francis insists, is not a myth: “The devil is present in the very first pages of the Scriptures, which end with God’s victory over the devil. Indeed, in leaving us the Our Father, Jesus wanted us to conclude by asking the Father to ‘deliver us from evil’. That final word does not refer to evil in the abstract; a more exact translation would be ‘the evil one.’ It indicates a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from him, lest his power prevail over us.’ I am glad that some time now, at the end of every Catholic Mass we recite the Prayer to St. Michael in which we ask the prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, to thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. I am morally certain that in every one of the cases in which members of the clergy committed pedophilia and other sexual abuses against the youth, the devil was an active instigator. In fact, the devil is the very first one who would be delighted that his existence is denied so that he could more freely wreak havoc on the morals of human beings.
Pope Francis elaborates: “We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. 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. ‘Like a roaring lion, he prowls around looking for someone to devour.’…God’s word invites us clearly to ‘stand against the wiles of the devil’ and to ‘quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. These expressions are not melodramatic, precisely because our path towards holiness is a constant battle. Those who do not realize this will be prey to failure or mediocrity.”
In Gaudate et Exultate, Pope Francis reminds us of the universal call to holiness. Every single baptized person has an obligation to seek sanctity, the vast majority of them in the middle of the world. Precisely because sanctity is for everyone, all of us can have access to the means with which to wage this combat against the evil one: the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us, i.e. faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, and missionary outreach. I would like to give special emphasis to the Sacrament of Penance which the ordinary faithful should have frequent recourse to, such as monthly. The forgiveness of sins and sacramental grace that we receive in every valid confession strengthen us against the wiles of the devil whom we completely defeat and repudiate by humbly acknowledging our sins to the priest, who acts in the Person of Christ.
Yes, we live in a vastly corrupted world. We are constantly pulled down by our own human weaknesses as a result of original sin. To make matters worse, the devil is actively trying to snare us in his net. The devil is also unrelenting in his attacks against our Holy Mother the Church, the Bride of Christ. We have been assured, however, by the very Founder of the Church, Christ Himself, that good will overcome evil at the end. As clearly evidenced by the role of the devil in the recent moral crisis precipitated by the sexual abuse of some clergy people against innocent children, our Mother the Church suffers attacks now as in the beginning of her existence. St. Josemaria Escriva in a homily on The Supernatural Aim of the Church (May 28, 1972) gave us the greatest confidence that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church: “Since Jesus Christ Our Lord founded the holy Church, this mother of ours has suffered constant persecutions. In times past the attacks were delivered openly. But today, as yesterday, the Church continues to be buffeted from many sides…
“When we hear heretical voices about us…, when we see that the sanctity of marriage and the priesthood are attacked without fear of rebuke. We see people deny the Immaculate Conception and the perpetual Virginity of our Mother holy Mary, along with all the other privileges and gifts with which God adored her. We see the perpetual miracle of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the preaching of Peter and even the Resurrection of Our Lord put in doubt. How can anyone not feel tempted to sadness. But have confidence, for the Holy Church is incorruptible.” And as far as the devil is concerned, we have the clear guarantee that Our Blessed Mother Mary has crushed the head of the Serpent. Because of this, the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church. Let us especially remember this in this month of May devoted to Mary our Mother. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.