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As a man in my 60s, I have witnessed a complete turnaround in the course of my life surrounding all things associated with the Devil. When I first started university in the 1970s, even though my school was Catholic, the reality of the Devil was ignored. Most professors, even in the theology department, did not talk about him, as if he did not exist.
Similarly, 40 years ago, most dioceses throughout the world did not have priest-exorcists, despite canon laws recommending them. If, by chance, someone should inquire at a chancery about having a loved one exorcised, they were likely disregarded or dismissed. If anything was done at all, it was probably to refer the inquirer to a secular psychologist.
Denying the reality of the evil one, given the proliferation of his malign machinations, is currently harder to do. Although, many older priests persist in pretending the devil does not exist, both to their own detriment, and that of their parishioners.
But, thankfully, dioceses are restoring the important position of the priest-exorcist, and more priests are being trained for this much-needed ministry to meet the growing number of individuals suffering from demonic influence.
Jumping on the trend, I've compiled 12 lessons useful for religious and laypeople to help thwart the evil one in their day-to-day life. The first four lessons are found below, and the remaining eight will be published in subsequent articles.
To complement these lessons for lay people, I recommend Fr. Chad Ripperger's book Deliverance Prayers for the Laity. This little book is a Godsend, putting prayers at one's fingertips that are proven to send the Devil packing.
Humanity has been engaged in spiritual warfare since the very beginning of time. Recall the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden, wherein she succumbed to Satan's lies.
In the story of the fall of man in Genesis, the Devil lied to Eve from his perch on the tree of knowledge of good and evil: "You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat ... your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, who know good and evil."
The Devil was, for the most part, truthful in his conversation with Eve; he did not utter any bald-faced lies. He twisted the truth just a tiny bit to get Eve to disobey God's command. The world's first man and woman did not die! But, because of their disobedience, they were permanently banished from the garden and from God's presence. Adam and Eve and their progeny were condemned to eke out their existence in a fallen world simply because Eve succumbed to the subtle lies of the tempter and Adam followed her lead.
Most people can readily recognize a bald-faced lie. But the Devil is never a blatant liar. He's a subtle liar. He twists the truth just enough to sway us. Because of his subtlety, many fall for his deceptions just as Adam and Eve did in the garden.
Summary: Always keep in mind that the Devil is a subtle liar. Never, ever, believe the half-truths and small deceptions he whispers to you. There will be severe consequences if you do.
Don't assume that you will have a day in the course of your life in which you will not engage in spiritual warfare. Unlike you and me, the Devil never sleeps. As a noncorporeal spiritual being, the Devil does not need to sleep and can make mischief 24/7.
As most of you probably know from experience, when you're asleep, the Devil has a way of getting into your head, maligning your dreams, and taking away your peace. The best way to prevent this from happening is to ask your guardian angel to be present when you're asleep and stand guard for you. This works splendidly!
So we always need to be on alert, even when we are sleeping (in a manner of speaking). And if you should have a bad encounter with a demonic spirit while you are slumbering, upon waking, just say a Hail Mary out loud. This prayer, said out loud and devoutly, will cleanse your head from any residue of evil that has passed through it at night — and the Devil is known to reel from the name of the Holy Mother.
Summary: The Devil never sleeps. Don't forget before you slumber to put your guardian angel in charge of your mind and heart. He will be present for you and fight in your stead.
Don't think that as you grow in age, wisdom and holiness, that demonic attacks will become less frequent. In fact, the opposite is true. As you grow closer to Christ and you move closer to death, the evil one will ramp up the attacks he uses against you. If you read closely the lives of the saints, you will see that as they progressed in holiness, so did the evil one ramp up his attacks against them.
Moreover, don't think for one minute that the Blessed Mother, who was conceived without sin, did not have to do spiritual battle every day of her life in this fallen world. As the Mother of God, she was attacked each and every day of her life by horrendous assaults from the evil one.
The dragon, though seeing her courage and constancy and though feeling the force of the divine assistance, knew nothing of the hidden wisdom and prudence of our sovereign Queen. Nevertheless, he persisted in his pride and besieged the City of God in diverse ways and [with] several kinds of warfare. The astute enemy during this warfare often changed his engines of war, but his machinery was like the sting of a weak hornet against a diamond or an adamantine wall.
Mary was an expert at battling the evil one. Always call on Mary to help you when you are under attack and suffering from oppression. Remember, you do not have to fight your battles alone. Mary, our Blessed Mother, will always avail herself to aid you in your spiritual battles.
Summary: It's a fallacy to think that holy people never get attacked by the evil one. Actually, they get it worse. The difference is they have developed the skills to fight off their attackers. Keep learning skills needed to thwart the evil one; remember to call on Our Blessed Mother to assist you.
As you grow older and grow in holiness, the Devil will mix it up and change the temptations that come your way. You can count on this!
When you're young, the tempter often uses temptations of the flesh to get you to sin. This is an easy ploy to get a young man to fall.
Many a young man mistakenly thinks that if he gets a handle on the temptations of the flesh, he will have it easy for the remainder of his life. But as time passes and the young man matures, he grows in grace and holiness, putting temptations of the flesh behind him. The Devil invariably comes up with a new temptation to make him fall into despair and sin.
Let me explain. Three years ago now, just after my mother's death, I went through a horrible trial. And please don't laugh; I went through a period of uncontrolled itchiness. These attacks would happen at night when I tried to sleep.
The first time it happened, as I could not stop scratching, I thought that I was having some sort of allergic reaction. I thought that I had come into contact with some plant or something that was causing the itchiness.
So to combat what I thought was an allergic reaction, I got out of bed, took a shower, and put on fresh bedclothes. But the scratching continued that night all the same, and I got little sleep.
The following night, doubly exhausted because of the sleepless one the night before, I went to bed early, but once in bed, the uncontrollable itchiness resumed. This time, still thinking that the scratching was some sort of allergic reaction, I got out of bed, and instead of showering, I remade the bed with fresh linens. Sadly, this did nothing. Despite the fresh sheets, the itchiness resumed, and night two of the assault was virtually sleepless.
The third night, I was seriously sleep deprived and exhausted. I was hopeful that I had the itch licked. I took a shower and even remade the bed with fresh sheets. These precautions made no difference. As soon as I laid down, the feeling of things crawling on me resumed. Three days into this trial, my arms and chest were all scratched up, as if I had fallen into a bed of brambles.
This third night, instead of taking any additional showers or changing sheets, I simply got out of bed and prayed a Rosary. After the Rosary was completed, the urge to scratch had subsided, and I was able to fall asleep. But, halfway through this third night, I was reawakened — the creepy crawlers had returned.
As the earlier Rosary was effective in combating the attack, I got out of bed and prayed another Rosary. Like the Rosary I recited earlier, it also worked to stop the torment. I was able, after the prayers were said, to fall asleep and finally get a good night's sleep.
Through trial and error, I learned that spiritual trials are best treated through spiritual remedies. So much for taking extra showers, changing bed sheets and painting myself pink with calamine lotion.
In subsequent weeks, I beefed up my prayer regimen. In time, I made it clear through my additional night prayers that if the Devil sent me an attack of the creepy crawlers, I would simply get out of bed and pray another Rosary. The extra Rosaries, I learned, were counterproductive to the Devil's plans and effective in battling his attacks.
Keep in mind that once you conquer one temptation, another one will follow, as night follows day. Realizing this will allow you to keep your balance spiritually.
Summary: Don't assume that there will be a time in your life when you will not be tempted. The Devil is wily and will tempt you in various ways. As you grow in holiness and grace, the temptations will not go away and will increase in kind and intensity.
Read Part II of the series.