Spiritual Battle

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will. ... I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations; on the contrary, prepare for great battles.”
Diary, 1760

WEEK 35

This week’s spiritual exercise broaches a very important topic, yet possibly an uncomfortable one — hell and the spiritual battle! But we learn much about this invisible battle for souls, how Satan hated St. Faustina, some important truths that Sr. Faustina learned from the evil one (in spite of himself!), and invaluable spiritual counsel from Jesus Himself! Let’s dig in!

Hell is real. Satan is real. The devil’s biggest and most effective trick is to convince the world that he and hell do not exist. If there is no hell, then there is no ultimate consequence for sin. The folks who fall for the lies of the devil will wind up in hell for all eternity if they do not change their ways and turn to God before it is too late. That might seem blunt, but it’s a fact.

Our Lady of Fatima did not hesitate to show the reality of hell with all its gore, shrieking demons, and burning souls to three unsuspecting shepherd children: Lucia dos Santos and her younger cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the visionaries at Fatima, all of whom were under the age of 11. (Francisco and Jacinta have since been raised to the honors of the altar, to sainthood.) Hell was utterly terrifying to see; however, after they received the vision, the three faithful children spent the remainders of their lives working tirelessly to save souls from the eternal fate of hell. It was necessary for Mary to remind us of the existence of hell through certain chosen souls in order to wake us up from our spiritual slumber. She told the children that God is grieved by the sins of the world, and that many souls go to hell because there is no one to pray for them. She instructed the children to make many sacrifices and pray for sinners.

Now let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Where did Satan come from and why do we need to deal with him? The Church teaches:

Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy [Cf. Gen 3:1- 5; Wis 2:24]. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil” [Cf. Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9]. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing [Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800]” (CCC, 391).

God gave the angels free will, just as He has given it to human beings. Because Satan and the other fallen angels chose to be evil, we must be on guard in the spiritual life.

An invisible battle rages on around us. If we are serious about getting to Heaven, we must be active participants in the battle and pray continually, putting on the armor of Christ to fight for our souls and the souls of others. We do this through assiduous prayer, keeping the Commandments, and striving for holiness. Saint Paul exhorted in his Letter to the Ephesians:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph 6:10-14).

Defense in the Spiritual Battle
Many of the saints had to deal with the devil. Saint Padre Pio, for instance, actually wrestled with demons. Saint John Vianney had many encounters with the evil one. He called him “grappin” (wrestler). Saint Gemma Galgani, St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Athanasius, and many others have dealt with the devil’s evil tactics. Saint Faustina dealt with the devil, too. One time, she recalled, “Today I have fought a battle with the spirits of darkness over one soul. How terribly Satan hates God’s mercy! I see how he opposes this whole work” (Diary, 812). She was referring to the work of Divine Mercy.

While this talk about encounters with the devil or demons might sound too scary and cause us to beg God to ordain that we will never have to endure such things, we should know that God will only allow what is best for our souls and will not give us anything that we are not able to bear. He always provides the necessary graces. We should never become paranoid about the spiritual battle. But we should frequent the Sacraments and pray continuously. Let us remember that St. Padre Pio called his Rosary beads his “weapon!” The Rosary is powerful. Mother Mary crushes the head of the serpent. We are not helpless in the face of the devil.

Not every bad thing happens because the devil is after us. Yet we should be smart and know that the evil one uses everything to his advantage to wreak havoc in our souls. If we never have troubles in the spiritual life, we should contemplate St. John Vianney’s warning: “The greatest of all evils is not to be tempted, because then there are grounds for believing that the Devil looks upon us as his property.”

Most times, the devil will aim his attack at vulnerable areas, typically through deception and lies provoking us to doubt. I once heard a great homily in which the preacher said that Satan is usually depicted with horns, but that we should be more concerned that he carries a huge “magnifying glass” to exaggerate our imperfections, frighten us, and make us doubt God’s love. Sister Faustina recalled a time when she had thoroughly prepared for Confession and intended to tell of a multitude of sins. Yet, when in the confessional, she could only tell two of them. She wrote, “God allowed me to accuse myself of only two imperfections, despite my efforts to make a confession according to what I had prepared.” When leaving the confessional, Jesus explained, “My daughter, all those sins you intended to confess are not sins in My eyes; that is why I took away your ability to tell them.” Sister Faustina then realized something very important. “I understood that Satan, wanting to disturb my peace, has been giving me exaggerated thoughts. O Savior, how great is Your goodness!” (Diary, 1802).

The devil tries to provoke us to anger, pride, lust, despair, and more. He tempts us to lust after what we shouldn’t possess, even something that might be good. Humility drives the devil nuts. Lucifer pridefully said, “I will not serve” (as we read in John Milton’s Paradise Lost), and was cast into hell. In Revelation 12:7-9, we read:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The devil cannot stand humility; therefore, we must strive to be humble. The ancient desert fathers told a story of a humble monk praying in his cell. The devil, disguised as an angel, appeared to the monk saying that he was sent by God. However, he was really there to tempt the monk to pride. The humble monk told the being that he must be in the wrong place — that he, the monk, was not worthy of an angel’s greeting. The devil vanished. The virtue of humility is powerful! Saint Peter extols us, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering” (1 Pet 5:8-9).

Sister Faustina and Spiritual Warfare
Sister Faustina was certainly immersed in spiritual battle as she strove for holiness. We can be sure that Satan was not happy with her holy work. In fact, he hated her. The young mystic recalled in her Diary, “Satan has admitted to me that I am the object of his hatred.” He told her, “A thousand souls do me less harm than you do when you speak of the great mercy of the Almighty One. The greatest sinners regain confidence and return to God, and I lose everything.” He added, “But what is more, you persecute me personally with that unfathomable mercy of the Almighty One.” The young mystic took note. She wrote, “He does not want to acknowledge that God is good” (Diary, 1167).

On one occasion, Sr. Faustina recalled, “I saw Satan hurrying about and looking for someone among the sisters, but he could find no one. I felt an interior inspiration to command him in the Name of God to confess to me what he was looking for among the sisters.” Satan unwillingly confessed, “I am looking for idle souls.” Sister Faustina commanded him again in the Name of God to tell her “to which souls in religious life he has the easiest access.” Satan confessed, “To lazy and idle souls.” Sister Faustina surmised that no such souls were there at that time. She wrote, “Let the toiling and tired souls rejoice” (Diary, 1127). It’s essential that we all take seriously this inside scoop, cleverly uncovered by the young mystic. It brings to mind a couple of phrases, such as, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” a piece of wisdom that appears in Chaucer’s book the Tale of Melibee (c. 1386). Also, the Apostle Paul notes in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 the danger of “living in idleness” and being “mere busybodies,” as well as issuing a call to “not be weary in doing what is right.” My friend’s phrase I mentioned earlier also comes to mind: “There’s work to be done!” Let’s stay busy for the Lord, busy with either love of God or love of neighbor, with prayer and devotion or with showing our love with works of mercy.

One day, Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “But child, you are not yet in your homeland; so go, fortified by My grace, and fight for My kingdom in human souls; fight as a king’s child would, and remember the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them the possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, My child, a great number of souls who will glorify my mercy for all eternity” (Diary, 1489).

Personal Retreat from Jesus
Another time, Jesus explained the spiritual battle and offered concise instructions on how to “fight the good fight” to better prepare Sr. Faustina to protect her soul. It was in Krakow-Pradnik, at the beginning of June 1938, that Sr. Faustina was given a three day retreat by Jesus Himself! After receiving her superior’s permission to make this retreat before Pentecost, Sr. Faustina became united in prayer with Jesus and listened attentively to His divine instructions. Jesus gave specific meditations to His little bride. One meditation was that she read chapter 15 of the Gospel of St. John slowly.

During the first day of the retreat, Jesus gave the young mystic a conference on spiritual warfare. He said:

My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will. In desolation, darkness, and various doubts, have recourse to Me and to your spiritual director. He will always answer you in My name. Do not bargain with any temptation; lock yourself immediately in My Heart and, at the first opportunity, reveal the temptation to the confessor. Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds. Bear with yourself with great patience. Do not neglect interior mortifications. Always justify to yourself the opinions of your superiors and of your confessor. Shun murmurers like a plague. Let all act as they like; you are to act as I want you to.

Observe the rule as faithfully as you can. If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer. Do not pour out your feelings. Be silent when you are rebuked. Do not ask everyone’s opinion, but only the opinion of your confessor; be as frank and simple as a child with him. Do not become discouraged by ingratitude. Do not examine with curiosity the roads down which I lead you. When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart. Do not fear struggle; courage itself often intimidates temptations, and they dare not attack us.

Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control; but all merit lies in the will. Always depend upon your superiors, even in the smallest things. I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations; on the contrary, prepare for great battles. Know that you are now on a great stage where all heaven and earth are watching you. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone (Diary, 1760).

What can we learn from Jesus’ counsel on spiritual warfare? A lot!

Something to Ponder

It’s important not to get overly intrigued with the powers of darkness. It is, however, important to be certain of the existence of demons and aware of their tactics. It’s not likely that you or I will visibly wrestle with the devil or demons. Yet we must be attentive in the spiritual life and recognize that a true spiritual battle rages on for souls. Since it’s mostly invisible, we might not notice. Remember that the devil looks for “idle” souls. The evil one never sleeps and is always on the prowl to snatch souls to hell. Do your part to heed Our Lady of Fatima’s message; answer her call to pray and make sacrifices for the souls of sinners. She told the young visionaries that many souls go to hell because there are none to pray for them. We must be more generous with our prayers, and offer reparation for sinners. We also need to protect our own souls by keeping company with faithfilled Catholics and continually nourish our faith with Church teaching and (most of all) the Sacraments.

Take time to read chapter 15 of the Gospel of St. John. Read it slowly and prayerfully, as Jesus instructed Sr. Faustina. Sometime this upcoming week, read again over Jesus’ conference (above) on spiritual warfare. Read each line, pausing to think about how you might apply the instructions to your own spiritual life. Or take just one or two points to focus on for now. Perhaps this one: “If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer.” This is difficult, but it is a very important means to holiness. Opportunities unfold continually. Remember Jesus tells us we are not alone and to “not be unduly fearful.” Follow Jesus’ instructions. You can never go wrong with His counsel! Work hard in the spiritual life. Don’t be “idle.” Remember what Sr. Faustina wrote in her Diary: “Let the toiling and tired souls rejoice.”

A Merciful Action
Remember, Jesus said, “Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control; but all merit lies in the will.” Move your will to do good — always! This upcoming week, seek out every opportunity to do good “for the person who caused you to suffer,” as Jesus instructed. Also, find opportunities to gently teach about the existence of hell and the consequence for sin. Spend some extra time in prayer for the souls of sinners and the souls in Purgatory. Offer penance and sacrifices for them. These are beautiful works of mercy.

A prayer of mercy for this week
(To be prayed each day this week.)
Dear Merciful Jesus, teach me Your ways. Help me to be more generous with my time, prayer, and love for others.
Mother Mary, please protect me and my family from the lures of the devil.
Saint Faustina, please pray for me.
Jesus, I trust in You!
Amen.

 

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Andriy Boechko on Unsplash

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