The Strategy of the Devil
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The Strategy of the Devil

It was divinely providential that Christ allowed Himself to be tempted by the devil at the beginning of His public ministry. He is teaching us one of the most important lessons we need to learn in life. If He, the living God in human form, was tempted by the evil spirit, then we must expect to be tempted as well. In order to imitate Christ, we must resist the devil as Christ, Himself, resisted the devil.

As St. John tells us, we are tempted from three sources: by the world, the flesh, and the devil The world is the attractive sinful conduct of other people. The flesh is our concupiscence, the natural inclination that we now have after the fall of the human race, to follow what appeals to us even though it is displeasing to God. The devil is, in some ways, the most powerful enemy we have in the spiritual life.

If there is one thing we learn from the masters of the spiritual life it is to expect to be tempted by the evil spirit. It was the evil spirit who tempted Eve and brought on the fall of the human race. As we reflect on temptations by the devil in our own lives, we must keep in mind who the devil is. He is the evil spirit. Spirit because he is not sensibly perceptible. We cannot hear him with our bodily ears or see him with our bodily eyes. He is an evil spirit whose number is legion and who has been phenomenally successful in seducing untold numbers from their allegiance to God.

St. Ignatius has a key meditation in the Spiritual Exercises on what he calls the Two Standards. The Two Standards correspond to the two leaders in the world who are drawing people to follow them. One leader is Jesus Christ, who inspires believing Christians to dedicate themselves to the extension of His kingdom throughout the world. The other leader is Satan, who is trying to seduce people to follow him for the extension of his demonic kingdom, which, in the words of St Augustine, is the City of Man, which is in constant conflict with the kingdom of Christ. The devil knows that you get nowhere alone, you inspire others to follow you. Then you train your followers and disciples and they will carry on your work. The devil trains his followers to seduce not just people or cities, but whole nations.

The Character of the Devil

If we wish to resist the temptations of the evil spirit, we must know something about their demonic character. He is a liar by nature. He lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden, telling her that God forbade her and Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit because God was afraid that they, Adam and Eve, would come to know what God knows, the meaning of good and evil.

The devil lied to Judas who betrayed his Master because the devil made Judas think that he could remain a follower of Christ while remaining a friend of Christ’s enemies. The Church teaches that what Judas wanted was money. The saints said that this is why Judas committed suicide. He was deceived. He had gotten his money, but his betrayal and his gain of money brought on the passion of his master, Jesus Christ.

The devil deceived Pilate into condemning Christ to death, even though Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. Over the centuries this had been the basic tactic of the evil spirit, deceit. Pilate feared losing the friendship of Caesar. Yet, after condemning Jesus, Pilate soon lost his position and died a humiliating cowardly death.

We are talking about who the devil is. The devil became who he is because he envied the majesty of God. Ever since his own fall because of envy, this has been the fundamental means that the devil uses to seduce people from their loyalty to God. It was the devil who inspired Cain to murder his brother Abel out of envy. It was the devil who inspired Saul to want to murder David out of envy. It was the devil who inspired the Scribes and Pharisees to condemn Christ to an ignominious death. Why? Because they envied Christ’s popularity among the people. Thousands followed Jesus, spending whole days without eating in order to listen to Jesus. And so the Scribes and Pharisees tried the most atrocious way of getting people to listen to them. It was the devil, that the Apostle tells us, who seduced Judas to betray his Master out of envy.

Christ tells us, “The devil is a murderer from the beginning.” Unless our first parents had been seduced by the devil, bodily death would never have entered the human race. But the devil is a murderer in the deepest sense. His ambition is to murder human souls. Remember there is a first death, the death of the human body. There is a second death, the death of the soul. The devil’s ambition is to murder human souls by destroying God’s grace in their spiritual lives. Being in hell himself, the devil wants nothing more than to bring human beings to join him in his own eternal damnation.

The devil is not one person. The devil is an organized battalion of malice. Some of the Fathers of the Church speak of two mystical bodies in the world. There is a mystical body of Christ, which is the Church He founded that we call the Church Militant. There is also a mystical body of satan, founded by lucifer, which is literally hell-bent on conquering the mystical body of Christ. This is the main reason why the Church on earth is called the Church Militant. It is most important to recognize the organized character of the legions of the evil spirit. Let us be sure that we recognize the Church Militant as more than just an adjective. As the saints tell us, the followers of Christ have one powerful weapon in battling the devil. That weapon is the Cross. We shall conquer the evil spirit on one condition. That we love the Cross, venerate the Cross, use the Cross to defeat the devil and his followers.

One more description of the devil. The devil uses civil authority, call it the State to war against the followers of Christ. It is surely not coincidental that Pontius Pilate, the civil governor of Palestine, condemned Jesus to a shameful death on the Cross. Over the centuries, the enemies of Christ have used the power of the State to undermine the moral teachings of the Savior. The legalized murder, under State authority, in most of the countries of the world, is surely the work of the devil. He uses State power. As I heard from a man just recently, “I have spent the last four years of my life in prison for praying the rosary before abortuaries.” As I said before, the State is the organized battalion which is being used by the devil to destroy the mystical body of Christ.

Tactics of the Devil

To live the spiritual life according to the teachings of our lord, we must brace ourselves to expect opposition from the evil spirit. This opposition ranges across the whole spectrum of human nature. The devil is a professional accommodator. He adjusts himself to different people in different ways. I cannot recommend a more informative source of knowledge about the devil’s tactics than the two sets of rules for discernment of spirits of St. Ignatius of Loyola. They are the fruit of Ignatius’ own lifetime struggle with evil spirits, in his own personal life and the lives of his followers in the Society of Jesus.

The single most important thing to know about demonic strategy is how differently the devil tempts what I may call, good and bad people.

Good people would be those who are sincerely trying to do God’s will. They are weak and they fail. They make mistakes and they do, at times, offend God. But their underlying philosophy of life is to be faithful to Jesus Christ.

Bad people, on the other hand, are those who are living in sin. They may profess to be Christian believers or they may be in positions of great importance and influence in the church and society. But their philosophy is basically to follow their inclinations, no matter how sinful these may be, in a word, they are living in sin.

What is the technology of the devil who is tempting these two classes of people? For those who are seriously trying to remain faithful to God, the devil is unbelievably clever in trying to induce them to worry, to be anxious, to be discouraged and despondent, and if possible, even to drive them to despair. The devil’s intentions are obvious. He knows such people too well not to know that he would not succeed by tempting them to obvious sins. What he wants to do, however, is to deceive such persons into thinking that a faithful Christian life is burdensome or boring or oppressively difficult. The devil wants to deceive such persons into thinking that such a Christian life is oppressive, it is too much.

How does the devil act in tempting people who are already steeped in sin? His policy is to do the very opposite of how he acts with those who are trying to remain faithful to God. If these sinners have a little faith to begin with, he will deceive them into thinking there really is no such thing as sin. As so many modern psychologists and psychiatrists tell their clients and these are the exact words of a professional psychiatrist published in a book, “Don’t be a slave of your conscience. Satisfy your desires. You are in charge of your own life. You determine what is good and you choose what you want.” If these sinners still have some faith in God, the devil will tell them not to worry. God is merciful. In all these cases, the demonic strategy is clear. Keep sinners in their sinful state of mind, and keep them from ever repenting of their sinful state of soul.

There is one more device of the father of lies that is so important, it is an underlying theme of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Splendor of the Truth. This is more than a device or even just a tactic. It is a fundamental premise of demonic strategy. As the Holy father explains, millions of people in the modern world have been deceived into disclaiming that there is such a thing as an inherently or intrinsically evil action. Nothing that a man does is ever evil by itself. It is only the circumstances, or the motives or the situation in which people do things which determine the morality of their conduct. Once people accept this principle, there is nothing which two thousand years of Christianity have taught, are still sins. Why not? Because there are now so many, how well I know, professedly Christian moralists in professedly Catholic universities and seminaries, who teach that abortion, or contraception, or euthanasia, or adultery are not sinful.

Clearly only the devil could have invented such malevolent theories. Yet they have penetrated academic circles that are shaking some parts of the Christian world to its foundation.

The Devil as Seducer

We should say something more about the tactics of the devil, here as seducer of human minds and wills.

The evil spirit seduces the mind by making error appealing. What we now call advertising goes back to the earliest days of recorded history. The ancient Romans publicized what they wanted the people to get with resources they did not have. Today’s world in the most absolute sense of the word is the age of advertising. The average cost of advertising in America today is over one hundred and fifty billion dollars every year. Not incidentally this amount of money is enough to support more than one nation, especially in Africa and Asia.

The evil spirit capitalizes on this phenomenon and literally seduces millions. He makes them think they need what they want, just because they want it.

Take the tragic instability of family life in America. The annual average is now over one divorce for every two marriages. In the future, it will be even worse as the children of broken homes reach marriageable, and -we have to coin a word- divorceable, age. Yet always divorce and remarriage seem to be the easy way out. It looks like a quick solution to a deep problem. And the press, radio and television sustain the falsehood by telling married people of the benefits of divorce. The laws of our country abet the conspiracy by making it next to impossible to save a marriage if one of the partners wants to be released, as they say, from the tyranny of a husband or wife.

The evil spirit tries to seduce not only the human mind but also the human will. He entices our wills by releasing our passions. He wants to arouse the passions of the flesh and, what is less obvious, the passions of the soul. Why should he want to do this? What connection is there between passion and sin? The connection is that of cause and effect. Sin always leaves its mark on the sinner. It is like throwing a bottle of nitric acid into a person’s face and burning out his eyes. Every sin we commit weakens our powers of reason and intelligent perception. The more serious the sin and the more often committed, the greater is this induced darkening of man’s most precious possession, which makes him most like God, his ability to think. Sinners do not think, they emote, and then write learned volumes defending their irrationality.

How otherwise explain the crimes of a Stalin or a Hitler, who sent millions to their death in the cold deserts of Siberia and the gas chambers and hot ovens of Germany? How otherwise explain the mania of abortion?

No human beings, unless inspired by the devil, could be so cruel as to murder millions of innocent children. Only demonic hatred or lust for power and pleasure could explain what we are now witnessing in one once civilized country after another.

How to Deal with Demonic Temptations

The apostle St. Peter tells us how to cope with the evil spirit. Peter knew because already in his lifetime the devil had seduced many who had been followers of Christ. The quotation is a bit lengthy but is worth giving in full.

All of you practice humility towards one another. For God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in the time of visitation. Cast all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you. Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same suffering befalls your brethren all over the world (I Peter 5:5-8).
What, then, is the first and indispensable condition for resisting the evil spirit? It is a deep, sincere humility of heart.

As St. Peter tells us, we are not to be afraid of the evil spirit. Why not? Because we have the grace of God, one of whose main purposes is to resist the machinations of the devil. At the same time we must be watchful. This means we must expect to be tempted by the father of lies. We must have a clear mind in order to distinguish inspirations from the good spirit and instigations of the evil spirit.

We must be sober, which is a strange word in our drink-preoccupied society. Sobriety, in the language of scripture, means temperance in the use of the creatures in our lives. God wants us to enjoy some of the things that He gives us. But, He also wants us to endure, and endure many creatures; He wants us to remove some creatures; and He wants us to sacrifice many things that are naturally pleasing. All of this is locked up in that strange word, be sober.

The devil knows us very well. He cannot read our secret thoughts but he can conclude to our inner spirit by our external behavior, and even, as exorcists tell me, the emotional expressions on our face. When St. Peter tells us not to be afraid of the evil spirit he means more than meets the eye. He means that we should not even show by our emotions that we are afraid of the devil. Our emotional expressions, in what we say, how we react, how we allow our feelings to manifest themselves in our bodies – all of these are dangerous in dealing with the devil. We must not only be at peace inside, but manifest a peaceful attitude in our external behavior. The devil is especially influential in mastering those who are afraid of him.

The courageous behavior of Christ in His temptation by the devil is a pattern of how we should deal with the evil spirit.

One strong recommendation, never engage the devil in conversation. I mean never. If you must tell the devil to depart; if you want the devil to go, tell him, but never engage him in what could even be interpreted as a friendly conversation. I have had enough experience of people foolish enough to engage in conversation with the devil who have suffered disastrous consequences as a result.

One more recommendation based on St. Peter’s injunction. Be strong in your faith. This is not a pious cliché. It means that we exercise our faith, courageously undertaking what we believe God wants us to do and not be afraid of the consequences. The faith we need is the faith of living martyrs in our day. We are to be witnesses of the power of Christ as a divine exorcist and never allow ourselves to doubt that God’s grace in our lives is more powerful than all the demons of hell.

Pray daily to St. Michael the Archangel. He was the first leader of those who led the fallen spirits into their eternal damnation. St. Michael is our chief commander in dealing with the strategy of the master of evil and the prince of this world. Christ assured us He has overcome the world, which means that we have received from Christ to do the same in our demonically plagued society at the close of the twentieth century.

Mary, Queen of martyrs, obtain for us from your Son the wisdom and the power of successfully resisting the machinations of the devil in our lives. Your divine Son told us He has overcome the world and the prince of this world by His life and death on the Cross. Obtain for us the light we need to recognize the instigation of the evil one and the strength to witness to our faith in Christ, the Conqueror of evil until we enter the company of the angels who won their battle against the spirits of evil at the beginning of time. Amen.

Demons are the Angels Who Fell by Their Disobedience to the Will of God

let us first make sure we know exactly what we are talking about. Our faith tells us that God created the invisible world of angels at the beginning of time. We further believe that none of these angelic spirits was estranged from God.

For centuries some ecclesiastical writers thought there were two kinds of angels originally brought from nothing into existence. There were, some held, angels originally created in celestial glory. Clearly these angels could not sin. No one in heaven can sin or lose the friendship of God. Other angels were created in God’s grace, but they had to earn their eternal salvation. On these terms, only those who were in God’s grace but not yet possessing the Beatific Vision could possibly sin and lose their heavenly destiny. Following this logic therefore the devils are those who were not originally created in heaven but were still on probation. They failed in their test of loyalty to God and were condemned for their disobedience.

What we have just said, however, is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. Under pressure of erroneous ideas over the centuries, the Church has taught infallibly that all the angels were originally in the state of God’s friendship but like us, had to prove their fidelity to the Lord and thus merit the Beatific Vision. Those who failed in this test of loyalty became demons.

With that introduction, let us ask ourselves several questions in order to make as clear as possible what is an article of our faith that: “Demons are the angels who fell by their disobedience to the will of God.” In order to do justice to an immense subject let us again ask a number of questions:

What is a Demon?

The study of the evil spirit is the science of demonology. As we enter this dark ocean, it is important to understand our vocabulary. Since the dawn of revealed history, believers in the one true God have used four principal names for the angels who fell from Divine friendship. They are called demons, or devils, or Satan, or Lucifer.

Demon. Literally the Latin word daemon means “spirit,” it comes from the Greek word daimon which means a god, or a genius or a spirit. Christianity has always associated demons with evil spirits. Implicit in the pagan word “demon” is a spirit between gods and men. In the New Testament, a demon is the same as an evil spirit. It means a malevolent, invisible being which the pre-Christian word “demon” did not imply.

A word of comment might be added here to note that in polytheistic religions there are malevolent deities. As Christians you would identify these evil gods as demons.

Devil. As understood in the Gospels, the devil is an evil spirit, especially the chief of the rebellious angels. Adorned at his creation with sanctifying grace, he sinned by pride and along with many other angelic beings was denied the beatific vision. His abode is hell and he does not enjoy the benefits of Christ’s Redemption. Yet the devil remains an intelligent spirit, confirmed in will, who is allowed by God to exercise some influence on both living and inanimate creatures. Literally, the word “devil” comes from the Greek diabolos, which means “accuser” or “seducer” or “liar.”

Satan. Satan is the chief of the fallen angels; enemy of God and humanity and everything good. Other names for Satan are Lucifer, Belial, and Beelzebul. The serpent that tempted Eve was identified with Satan (Genesis 3). In both the Old and the New Testaments, he is considered the adversary of God, bringing about evil and tempting human beings to defy God’s laws.

Even Jesus was subjected to temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Later on, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils through Beelzebul, the prince of devils (Matthew 12:24). St. Paul warned the early Christians against the temptations of Satan (1 Corinthians 7:6).

References to Satan are numerous in the Scriptures. From the dawn of biblical teaching we are told that there is a personal, malign force active in the world attempting to pervert the designs of God.

Derived from the Greek Satan and the Hebrew Satan, the word means an adversary who is plotting against another person.

Lucifer. In the common teaching of the Fathers of the Church, the name “Lucifer” is identified with Satan, the leader of the fallen angels. In the Church’s writings, Lucifer is the “Prince of Darkness,” who before he fell was an angel of light. The name comes from the Latin lucifer, “light bearer.”

Fall of the Angels

Already in the early Church, the fall of the angels was professed as an article of the Catholic faith. When the Manichean plague struck the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries, the Council of Braga in Spain condemned the Manicheans by declaring, “If anyone says that the devil was not first a good angel made by God, or that his nature was not the work of God, but claims that the devil sprang from the darkness and had no creator at all, rather that he is himself the beginning and substance of evil...let him be anathema”(A.D. 561).

In the thirteenth century the Fourth Lateran Council defined against the Albigenses that, “The devil and the other demons were created by God, good according to their nature, but they made themselves evil by their own doing”(A.D. 1215).

There are two classic passages in the Bible on the fall of the angels. Saint Peter writes that “God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but dragged them down by infernal ropes to tartar us, and deliver them to be tortured and kept in custody for judgment”(2 Peter 2:4). St. John calls sinners “children of the devil,” “He who commits sin is of the devil; because the devil sins from the beginning”(2 John 3:8).

We also have two outstanding passages on the eternity of the devils’ punishment, both in the context of comparing fallen man with the demons who seduced their victims. In foretelling the Last Judgment, Christ quotes Himself as saying to the wicked, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Saint John in the Apocalypse describes the fate of the demon who led sinners away from God: “The devil who deceived them was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where also are the beasts and the false prophet; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”(Apocalypse 20:9-10).

It is worth noting that in both these classic passages the eternity of hell corresponds to the eternity of heaven. The Greek word aionios, meaning eternal, applies to both the endless duration of beatitude and the everlasting suffering of the angels and human beings.

Running through the writings of the Fathers of the Church are certain common elements in their teaching on the fallen angels. They affirm without qualification, that some of the angels sinned gravely and were therefore punished with eternal torment. Writers like Saint Augustine studiously justify the gravity of the penalty by stressing the seriousness of their sin. Without attempting to number the fallen spirits, the Fathers of the Church say it was a great multitude. They further emphasize that the angels who sinned had no time or opportunity for repentance, and in this, human beings are shown to be more fortunate. Finally the Fathers point out that the angels sinned in spite of their extraordinary natural perfections and supernatural graces from God. In fact, one reason for the severity of their punishment was the extraordinary sublimity of intellect before they sinned.

How Did the Angels Disobey God?

As we have been saying, all the angels were originally created in the divine friendship. Like us they were capable of obeying and loving God and thus merit eternal happiness. But like us they had true internal freedom. Also like us they had the equivalent of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. They could either cooperate with the grace they possessed or refuse to submit themselves to God.

We do not know how long their probation continued. What is certain, however, is that like us they underwent the test on which depended their destiny.

Let us be clear, we believe there is no happiness without love; no love without freedom; no freedom without a choice; that is, there is no happiness without a test. These equations pertain to all intelligent creatures, including the angels.

Two speculative questions have been asked over the centuries, and we have no definite answer. How exactly were the angels tried and how long did their trial last.

What can we say? We can say that sometime after the angels were created, there was a fearsome battle among the angelic hosts. It was a battle between two angelic battalions, of which the best description is found in the closing book of the Bible:

And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, “Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Chris, know that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they could not cling to life. Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; but for you, earth and sea, trouble is coming - because the devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that his days are numbered (Apocalypse 12:7-12).
Needless to say this is one of the most revealing mysteries of our faith. It tells us that from the dawn of spiritual creation, there has been a conflict between love and hatred. The mystery, of course, is why both angels and human beings are capable of either loving or rejecting God by submitting or conforming to His will. Mysteries are incomprehensible but they are also credible. God wanted the angels to earn their everlasting beatitude. He wants the same of us.

The sin of the angels could not have been bodily since they are absolutely immaterial. It could only have been a sin of the spirit. The Church teaches us it was a sin of pride. Our revealed warrant for believing this is what the scriptures tell us, that “Pride is the beginning of all sin”(Ecclesiasticus 10:15).

The Fathers of the Church generally refer to the fall of the angels in the words of Jeremiah, which the rebellious Israel speaks to its God, “I will not serve”(Jeremiah 2:20). Or again, the words of Isaiah are applied to the fall of the angels,

“How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn? How did you come to be thrown to the ground, you who enslaved the nations? You who used to think to yourself, ‘I will climb up to the heavens; and higher than the stars of God I will set my throne. I will sit on the Mount of Assembly in the recesses of the north. I will climb to the top of the thunderclouds, I will rival the Most High.’” What! Now you have fallen to hell, to the very bottom of the abyss! (Isaiah 14: 12-15).
Clearly the sin of the angels was their ambition to become God, which is the height of pride. It is a crime that, among human beings, is committed by the false messiahs of philosophy and, in our day, by the agents of the culture of death.

One major question still remains. We know that the angels were not forgiven. This is a fact of revealed truth, which more than one theologian would not accept. Why not? We must say it was not forgiven because it was not forgivable by its very nature. Otherwise we should say that God’s mercy is so great that He would have found a way to forgive.

St. Augustine saw the dilemma. His explanation is perfectly logical. He wrote, “Since we know that the Creator of all good sent no grace of atonement to the bad angels, how can we fail to conclude that their sin was judged all the more culpable because their nature was so sublime”(Commentaries on St. John, Migne, 35, 1924).

We return to what we said before, that the sin of the angels was unforgivable. What does this mean? It means that the nature of the angelic spirit is to see in a flash all the factors for and against a given choice before it is made. Angels, therefore, cannot retract a choice they have made. It never returns to things seen, once they have been seen; it never reconsiders decisions once taken. On these premises an angel is incapable of repentance.

For us, a sin regretted is a sin that can be forgiven; but a sin that is not repented and retracted is unforgivable. This is precisely what we mean by final impenitence. Once our soul leaves the body, it remains in its fixed state. We may say it is subject to the same laws that apply to the angels. The disembodied soul of a person who dies in God’s friendship and the faithful angels can no longer want to retract their love, nor can the lost souls and the demons retract their rejection of God.

Consequences of the Fall

The most devastating consequence of the sin of the angels was their eternal loss of the vision of God. This truth of our faith, as we have seen, has been twice defined, by the Fourth Lateran Council in the early thirteenth century and by the First Vatican Council in 1870. Significantly Fourth Lateran declares that, “The devil and other demons” were condemned to hell. The sin of the angels, we may say, was a collective conspiracy led by Lucifer and those who joined him in rebelling against God. Just as their rebellion was organized by the leader of the demons, so the penalty for their sin was collective. They were all condemned together.

The Church’s magisterium has often spoken on the punishment of the evil spirits. Their condition has been described in a library of theological documentation. But the single most important sanction imposed by an all just God is the eternity of hell.

If there is one truth of our faith that we had better fully accept and clearly understand, it is the eternity of hell. In so many nominally Christian circles, hell is either a piece of profanity or the psychotic fancy of misguided fanatics.

But hell is real. And the most sobering feature is its eternity. The existence of an eternal hell is a mystery. Although we believe it, we are unable to understand why it must be so or how the attribute of God’s justice, which stands behind the mystery, can be reconciled with His infinite love.

Yet, the Catholic Church has never flinched in communicating this truth from Christ’s along with the Savior’s assuring promise that His words will never fail. It would be a mistake to blame the Church for certain graphic descriptions of hell that seem incompatible with the condition of the fallen angels, or of man’s status after death. Dante’s Inferno assumes the Church’s doctrine and builds around it an elaborate theme. But Dante is not the Church.

Our conferences on the angels are meant to help our spiritual life. Surely eternal punishment of the fallen spirits is to help us live a holy life.

In the last analysis, the Church basis her teaching about eternal punishment on the words of Christ. No one has better defended this truth than Saint Augustine. He is writing in De Civitate Dei, which is the patristic masterpiece on the conflict between the two cities, the City of Man led by Satan and the City of God led by Jesus Christ.

Why has the Church been so intolerant with those who defend the view that, however greatly and however long, the devil is to be punished, he can be promised ultimately that all will be pardoned? Certainly, it is not because so many of the Church’s saints and biblical scholars have begrudged the devil and his angels a final cleansing and the beatitude of the kingdom of heaven. Nor is it because of any lack of feeling for so many and such high angels that must suffer such great and enduring pain. This is not a matter of feeling, but a fact.
The fact is there is no way of waiving or weakening the words which the Lord has told us He will pronounce at the Last Judgment: “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fires which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” In this way, he showed plainly that it is an eternal fire in which the devil and his angels are to burn ( De Civitate Dei, XXII, 23).
At this point, we could discourse at length on all the implications of eternal punishment. Yet, only one truth underlies everything else we know about the consequences of the angels’ fall. They lost the divinely ordained purpose for their existence, which is the everlasting vision of God. Deprived of heavenly glory, they are suffering eternal pain.

I cannot think of a better way of closing this than by quoting from St. Ignatius in his meditation on hell. He tells the one making the Spiritual Exercises, “I should ask for what I desire. Here it will be to beg for a deep sense of the pain which the lost suffer, that if because of my faults I forget the love of eternal Lord at least the fear of these punishments will keep me from falling into sin.”

All of us, angels and human beings, are faced with the same option: to love God even to despising ourselves, or loving ourselves even to despising God. The choice we make now in time will determine our destiny through all eternity.

The Devil as the Prince of this World

Our subject is “The Devil as the Prince of this World.” You might say that this is in contrast with Christ as a Prince of the world to come.

It is the evangelist St. John who concentrates on this title of evil spirit as prince of this world. To be exact there are three passages in the fourth Gospel where Jesus identifies the devil as the prince of this world.

On the first occasion, Jesus is speaking to the people just before He enters His Passion:

“Now is the judgment of the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” Now He said this signifying by what death He wants to die (Jn 12: 31-32).
On the second occasion, Jesus is speaking during the Last Supper. He is telling His followers not to be afraid. He was indeed going away from them. But He would come back. Then He continued:

“I will no longer speak much with you, for the prince of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing. But He comes that the world may know that I love the Father and that I do as the Father has commended me” (Jn 14: 30-31).
On the third occasion, still at the Last Supper, our Lord predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit and the final victory over the prince of this world:

“I speak the truth to you; it is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you and when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged” (Jn 16: 7-11).

Who is the Prince of this World?

The prince of this world is the devil. When Christ speaks of this world, He means the world of sin. He means the world for which, as He mysteriously declared, “I pray not for the world.”

The world of which the devil is prince or king is the world of unrepentant sinners. Like Lucifer, their leader, they are stubbornly set on doing their own will, contrary to the will of God.

We believe on faith that the devil existed from the dawn of creation. We also believe that the devil entered our world at the dawn of human history.

As we enter this immense subject, it is well to place ourselves in spirit in the time of Christ. The Pharisees were harassing the Savior and plotting His death. So Jesus told him, “The father from whom you are is the devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his very nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8: 44).

Christ could not have been more clear. The two basic attributes of the devil are that he is a murderer and a liar.

We return to our question. Who is the prince of this world? He is the devil whose very nature is to murder and to lie, in other words to destroy and to deceive. Consequently we may define the world for which Christ did not pray as a world dominated by the devil as destroyer of human life and as deceiver of the human mind.

With this as our foundation, we are ready to examine more closely how Satan, as prince of this world, is both a murderer and a liar. These two traits of the evil spirit are related as cause and effect. The devil lies in order to kill. He deceives the human mind in order to pervert the human will.

Pope John Paul II published two historic encyclicals which might be called two commentaries on how to cope with the devil as the prince of this world. On the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1993, he published The Splendor of the Truth; on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1995, he published The Gospel of Life.

In the two documents, the Vicar of Christ left no doubt who is most hostile to the truth and who is the arch-enemy of human life. It is Satan.

This is how the Bishop of Rome explains it:

God proclaims that He is absolute Lord of the life of man, who is formed in His image and likeness. Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character which reflects the inviolability of the Creator Himself. Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment “You shall not kill,” the commandment which is at the basis of all life together in society. He is then Goel, the defender of the innocent. God thus shows that He does not delight in the death of the living. Only Satan can delight therein for through his envy death entered into the world. He is “a murderer from the beginning.” He is also “a liar and the father of lies.” By deceiving man, he leads into projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life (Gospel of Life, 53).

Satan as Liar

Since the dawn of history, the devil has misled human beings in what may be called an ocean of lies. But in our century he has deceived millions on the meaning of human freedom. Certainly we have a free will. In fact this is the great gift we have received from God to choose to love Him by submitting our wills to His divine will. What the devil does is divorce human freedom from dependence on God.

This is simply atheism in disguise. Each person’s conscience is now being given the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment. The subjective conscience of each person becomes ruler in moral matters apart from the mind and will of God. Conscience thus becomes the final judge for each person of what is right or wrong, independent of the laws of God.

What has been the result? There is a radical conflict between moral law and conscience, between nature and freedom. The objective moral law is ignored or rejected in favor of the subjective judgment of each person for himself.

Do some people also deny human freedom? Yes, ironically many in today’s world who exalt human freedom at the expense of obedience to God’s laws, are the very ones who deny freedom altogether. This is not surprising when you realize that true freedom consists in choosing what we need and not what we want. Anyone who claims this denies that we are ever truly free in anything we choose to do. We become slaves of our own desires. Those who advocate pro-choice make themselves their own gods.

Because the devil is a liar, he is not consistent. He has seduced people into thinking that they, and not God, are the arbiters of moral behavior. This, we know, is not true. But once you make your own will the final judge of what is good, you become a prisoner of your own selfish urges and thus lose every vestige of authentic freedom. On these grounds, “freedom” and “liberty” and “choice” are mere words which the devil put into the human vocabulary as substitutes for self-induced slavery.

The Basic Demonic Lie. The most fundamental untruth which the devil has sown in the minds of modern man is the denial of genuine freedom.

What the evil spirit does not want us to believe is that our freedom depends on the truth. Christ teaches us just the opposite. We are first to know with our minds what God expects of us. We must use our free will to direct the mind to seek and find the will of God. Then, and only then, are we truly free to use our liberty of choice in submitting our wills to the will of the Almighty. This is what the Savior meant when He told us, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”(John 8:32).

By these words, Our Lord means that He came into the world to teach us the truth. Once we know that, we are in a position to use our free will to choose. In other words, our wills can be enslaved if they do not know what God wants us to choose. But if we are duly enlightened by Christ in knowing what to choose, we have true freedom; we have the liberty to choose what we are expected to choose on the way to our eternal destiny.

All of this the devil has been trying, and how successfully, to convince human beings that they, and not God, have the right to decide on what to choose.

The Epidemic of Error. Pope John Paul II is relentless in exposing the widespread dissemination of error in moral teaching. He identifies professedly Catholic universities and seminaries as a seedbed of these errors. He stresses the fact that these errors are especially in the area of sexual and conjugal ethics. So called Catholic moralists are claiming that each person is to decide for himself what is right or wrong regarding contraception, direct sterilization, homosexuality, masturbation, pre-marital sexual relations, and artificial insemination. One result of this moral iconoclasm is to reject even the constant moral teaching of the Church’s magisterium.

The Pope leaves no doubt how believing Catholics are to react to these satanic ideas. They must be condemned as contrary to the truth about man and his freedom. They contradict the Church’s teaching on the unity of the human person, whose rational soul is essentially the form of his body. We are destined for a heavenly eternity in body and soul. We are therefore to serve God here on earth both in body and soul. We are to submit our bodily desires to God’s revealed truth about human pleasure here on earth.

Satan as Murderer

When we say the devil is a murderer, we first mean that he is a murderer of the human spirit. In the vocabulary of the evangelist St. John, there are two kinds of death that we can suffer. We can die when the soul leaves the body as the principle of our natural life. But we can die a second death when the human soul is deprived of its supernatural life, which is sanctifying grace.

The devil was a murderer from the beginning from the beginning of the human race. When he successfully tempted our first parents, he murdered their souls by depriving them of the friendship of God.

Moreover, except for the sin of Adam and Eve, brought on by the devil, our bodies would have been immortal. Consequently the devil is a murderer twice over. He killed the souls of our first parents and their progeny by depriving us of supernatural life. He has also been killing human beings by depriving their bodies of the immortality they would have enjoyed had sin not come into the world through the instigation of Satan.

Ever since the first murder, when Cain killed his brother Abel out of envy, this has been the pattern of all murderers until the present day. It was out of envy that Saul tried to kill the young David. It was out of envy that the Scribes and Pharisees successfully plotted the murder of Christ on Calvary. It was out of envy that the Romans martyred thousands of Christians in the Coliseum. It is out of envy of their fathers that millions of unborn children are being killed through abortion by their unnatural mother.

Our focus in this conference is not on how the devil first brought death into the world. Our concern is to see how the devil continues his double homicide in our day.

The Murder of Human Souls. We believe that our eternal destiny depends on obedience to the laws of God. We further believe that to obey God we must submit our wills to His divine will. We still further believe that, on the last day, we shall be mainly judged on our practice of charity toward those whom God has placed into our lives.

Already in the beginning of the Old Testament, God forbade the taking of innocent human life. The first murder was committed by Cain when he killed his brother Abel. What was the sequence which produced the first homicide? It was the devil who deceived Eve; then Eve convinced Adam to follow her example; then Adam’s sin despoiled human nature by depriving his descendants of the built-in control of their passions; then Cain gave in to his envy of Abel whom he murdered. Thus the devil was the first agent to deprive human beings not only of God’s grace but of mastery over their sinful inclinations.

With the coming of Christ, access to the grace of God was restored to the human race. But Christ also elevated the old law. Not only are Christians to practice justice and therefore not destroy innocent human life. They are to love one another even as Christ has loved them. How has Christ loved us? He has loved us even to dying on the cross for our salvation. How then are we to love others? We are to love them by being willing to die for them.

This is dramatically illustrated in the comparison of two men, both contemporaries: Adolf Hitler and Maximilian Kolbe.

Hitler ordered the murder of millions of innocent Jews and Christians. The holocaust has become synonymous with the mass murder of blameless human beings. What is less known, however, is the instigation behind Hitler’s homicidal mania. It was Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher whose writings can only be described as inspired by the devil. Nietzsche hated God and, like Lucifer, envied God’s supremacy.

The Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe was put in a concentration camp for refusing to follow Hitler’s demonic hatred. Kolbe offered his life in place of a fellow prisoner who was the father of a large family. Kolbe died as a martyr of heroic charity. He is now honored as a saint.

We return to our subtitle, “The Murder of Human Souls.” We believe that the willful destruction of innocent persons is a grave sin. Unless repented, it is punished by a just God with eternal deprivation of the vision of God.

To be stressed is the close relationship between the fifth and sixth commandments: “You shall not kill” and “You shall not commit adultery.”

The verdict of human history is uniform. Sins against chastity lead to sins against charity. That is why Pope Pius XII said what he did when he canonized the young martyr St. Maria Goretti. He told the assembled audience of more than half a million in St. Peter’s Square that in the last half of the twentieth century the devil would seduce millions to abandon their Christian faith by using lustful pleasure as his demonic bait.

We could go down the whole list of the seven capital sins and see that each one is the object of the devil’s temptation. But he specializes in the first two sins of pride and lust. He deceives his victims into thinking they have the right to determine their own norms of morality, and then lures them into every form of lechery.

From pride and lust follow all the sins which the human will can commit. This, after all, is the devil’s main purpose in tempting us. He was condemned to hell for his sin of pride. He wants us to join him in his infernal paradise. Unlike the evil spirit, we have bodies whose most ecstatic pleasure comes from the use of our procreative powers. God has reserved the experience of this pleasure for the sacred precincts of matrimony. The devil has convinced whole nations to the contrary. Is it any wonder that one of the accepted definitions of “hell” in the English dictionary is “unrestrained fun or sportiveness?”

Murder of Human Bodies. All that we have said so far may be called a prelude to what is most characteristic of the modern world. It is the mass murder of millions of innocent human beings, whether born or unborn.

In the United States alone the commonly accepted figure is about one and a half million abortions every year. The actual statistics, which the media are careful to hide, indicate that between ten and sixteen million unborn children are murdered each year by their bewitched “mothers.”

Why the difference in numbers? Because most contraceptives are abortifacients. They not only prevent conception, they kill the newly conceived child.

What is really demonic about this global homicide is not the sheer number of innocent persons put to death. It is the fact that these murders are recognized and approved and we should say even mandated by civil law.

In one nation after another, abortion is now legalized. Commentators throughout the world are speculating on what happened. What happened is that so many once Christian cultures have reverted to their pre-Christian status.

To appreciate this conclusion we should see something of the moral condition of the Roman empire before the rise of Christianity.

The Roman empire into which Christianity was born practiced abortion and infanticide on a wide scale. Chronologically, the exposure of unwanted infants came earlier, and was sanctioned by Roman law. By the first century B.C., Romans were gradually getting away from exposure, while abortions were on the increase. The distinction they made between infanticide and abortion was due to the difference between emotional reactions to what they must see and what they could avoid seeing.

From the outset, therefore, the Christian religion was confronted with a society in which abortion was the rule rather than the exception. The Church reacted immediately and vigorously. The Didache(composed about 80 A.D.) told the faithful what they must not do: “You must not procure abortion. You shall not destroy a newborn child.”

Christian teaching could not be more explicit. From the dawn of Christianity, the murder of unborn or newly born infants was identified as the work of Satan. This doctrine has not changed. It was Christ, the Divine Author of human life, who forbade the crimes of abortion and infanticide. Those who believe in Him are obedient to His teaching. As a result, child-murder all but disappeared among those who believed in Jesus Christ. People with even a vestige of Christianity passed laws that were directly contrary to what the pagan Romans had legalized.

What happened? The same agents of Satan, the prince of this world, who had authorized the killing of innocent children in pre-Christian days succeeded in de-Christianizing one modern society after another. The result was inevitable. Civil laws now not only permit but, we may say, prescribe abortion and infanticide.

We have no illusion about the price we followers of Christ have to pay to remain faithful to our divine Master. Throughout the Gospel of St. John, we are told that when Christ came into the world the world rejected Him. We are told we cannot both love Christ and the world. We are warned, or shall I say promised, that the world will treat us as it treated the living God when He came into this world.

As the Vicar of Christ tells us we are to expect to die a martyr’s death or certainly live a martyr’s life. But we should have no fear. Why not? Because Jesus has overcome Satan who is the prince of this world. After all, we are destined for eternal life that will never end.

Christ the Divine Exorcist

No treatment of angelic existence and activity would be complete without meditating on the exorcisms of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels. We must keep reminding ourselves that there are two kinds of angels, the good and the bad. The good angels are benevolent because they are messengers of God to help us on our way to heaven. The bad angels are permitted by God to tempt us from serving God and joining them in the everlasting suffering, which faith tells us is reserved for those who refuse to repent of their sinful lives.

We could reasonably classify the exorcisms of Christ in the Gospels as examples of His miraculous power. There have been and are exorcists in the Catholic Church. We must be well-trained in demonic strategy and follow the Church’s directives. Otherwise, we will not only not deliver the possessed from domination by the devil; they will positively harm the very persons we want to help and, as I know from experience, can bring tragedy into the life of the exorcist.

In theological language, we may speak of Christ’s exorcisms as miraculous manifestations of His divine power. What is miraculous about Christ’s deliverance of possessed people is the simplicity of how Christ made the deliverance, the few words He spoke, especially the immediate response of the evil ones in obeying His commands when they were told by Christ to leave their victims.

Exorcisms in St. Mark

There are more exorcisms performed by Christ in the New Testament than in the whole recorded biblical revelation. As we indicated before, this is characteristic of the evil spirit over the centuries. The moment he sees that his dominion over a people is threatened by the proclamation of the Gospel, he reacts as you would expect a devil to react. He fights back, he resists the teaching of God’s revealed truth. He terrifies the people so as not to accept the Gospel. He threatens even worse evils if the people are intent on following Jesus Christ.

Consistent, therefore, with his evil genius, the devil will do everything he can to intimidate those who are afraid of what the devil might do. This is brought out in one mission territory after another. It is always the same pattern. The non-Christian religions are in large measure under the guidance of evil spirits. We who have the true faith are not surprised at how far the devil will go to prevent anyone standing in the way of his evil designs.

Although all four Gospels give us accounts of exorcisms performed by Jesus, it is especially in the Gospel of Mark that the number of these deliverances are most numerous and most revealing.

How do we characterize the exorcisms of Christ as recorded by the disciple of St. Peter? First of all, the sheer number of these exorcisms in Mark’s gospel in extraordinary. There are more exorcisms performed by Jesus in the gospel of St. Mark than in all the other books of the whole bible put together. Moreover, Christ performed these exorcism with effortless ease. No matter how severely possessed or how vicious the behavior of the devil’s victims. The master exorcist delivered these victims by a single word or a single command.

The exorcisms described by St. Mark follow the pattern which was current in first century Palestine. The devils from whom their victims were delivered were simply called evil spirits. No doubt there possession of a person would have bodily manifestations, but the cause was the entrance of a spiritual being who dominated his human victim. These spirits are called evil because they produced evil results: harm to the body, convulsions, violence, and such evil behavior as no human being on his own could expect. It was malicious and malevolent and mal-producing as are behind a human capacity to effect.

Also remarkable about Christ’s exorcisms is that He used none of the then contemporary exorcist’s rituals or spells. He simply expelled the demons by the power of His command. We may therefore conclude to the deepest significance of these exorcist narratives in the Gospels. Jesus inaugurated the final struggle against all evil and, with emphasis, against the evil spirits. He foreshadowed the final victory over the powers of darkness.

We shall in sequence narrate just two of Christ’s exorcisms as recorded in St. Mark. They are significant for the peace of Christ’s deliverance of possessed persons produced in their victims.

The Exorcism in the Synagogue

Not surprisingly, in the opening chapter of his gospel, St. Mark narrates the deliverance of a possessed man in a synagogue. As soon as Jesus entered the synagogue, the demoniac cried out, “What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold your peace and go out of the man.” The unclean spirit, convulsing his victim and crying out with a loud voice, went out of him.

No wonder the crowd in the synagogue was all amazed. They asked among themselves, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him. The news of this was spread immediately into all the region round about Galilee.

The Devils in Gerasa

Christ had just calmed the storm at sea and crossed through the other side to the country of the Gerases. As soon as He stepped out of the boat, there met Him a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit. No one could bind him, even with chains. No one was able to control him. Day and night he was in the tombs and on the mountains, howling and gashing himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and worshipped Him and cried out with a loud voice, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High? I adjure you by God, to not torment me.” At this point, Jesus asked the possessed man, “What is your name?” He answered, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Now a great herd of swine was there on the mountainside feeding. The devils kept entreating Jesus, saying, “Send us into the swine.” Immediately, Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the swine, and the herd, some two thousand in number, rushed down with great violence where they were drowned in the sea. Understandably, the swine herds fled and reported what had happened. They begged Him to leave that part of the country because of the loss of so many swine. At this point, the man who had just been delivered from the devil, begged Jesus to become one of His followers. He was told to go back to his family and tell these people about the exercise of mercy that he had just received.

Christ the Divine Exorcist

The following of Christ is the bedrock foundation of living authentic Christianity. That is why God became man. He became man so He might be able to die for our salvation on the Cross. But He also became man to live a human life on earth and thus teach us how we are to live our lives in anticipation of a blessed eternity.

We do not ordinarily think of imitating Christ as an exorcist. There are exorcists authorized by the Church who have successfully delivered people from possession by the devil. This is not the focus of our meditation. As we know, Christ is the living God who assumed a human nature. Unlike Christ, all we have is a human nature. But like Christ we share in His divinity. This, in fact, is a standard definition of divine grace. It is the participation by divine favor in what belongs by right only to the Infinite God.

As the Lord of all things visible and invisible, Christ has power over the spirits of evil which no one else can possess. But our share in His divinity, by the grace we have received from Him, gives us a corresponding share in His power over the devil. In practice, this means we are to “exorcise” the devil in our own lives by the two powers or virtues of humility and courage.

We saw earlier how St. Peter stresses the importance of humility when he introduces his description of the activity of the devil in the world of human beings. As strange as it may seem, St. Thomas says that some of the angels fell from their exalted state because they refused to accept the supernatural life of charity by which they could live together as a loving community in humble obedience to the Holy Trinity.

The word ‘humility’ is deceptively ambiguous. The humility that we need to cope with the evil spirit is the humility of recognizing our own natural inability to conquer the forces of demonic evil in our lives. It is the humility of realizing, as Christ warned us, that “Without me you can do nothing.” Without me you cannot overcome the devil. Without my grace, you are helpless against the powers of evil in this world. Without me you are hopeless in thinking you can match the evil genius of the legions of hell.

Proud people are no match for the devil. Either we cultivate the humility that comes from God’s grace or we shall be further casualties of the prince of this world.

Humility is the foundation for delivering the devil for our own lives and the lives of others. But this humility must be joined by a corresponding superhuman courage, born of grace, in dealing with the world of demons.

Courage in general, is firmness of spirit. It is a steadiness of will in doing good in spite of difficulties faced in the performance of our duty. There are two levels in the practice of courage: one is the suppression of an inordinate fear and the other is the curbing of recklessness. The control of fear is the main role of courage. It is especially the mastery of inordinate fear that we need to cope with the devil. But once again, as with humility, the courage we need to deliver ourselves from control by the devil is more than we have by our own human nature. We need the grace of God. We need not only the virtue of fortitude, but the gift of fortitude. We need to receive a share in Christ’s own superhuman courage which He practiced during His mortal and visible stay on earth.

That is why Christ instituted a special sacrament, precisely for this purpose. It is called the sacrament of confirmation, which the Church defines as a sacrament of spiritual strengthening. We are confirmed in order to strengthen our naturally fearful wills to not only not fear the devil, but resist him.

What the devil most wants is to terrify us in of following of Christ. We dare not be afraid of this prince of darkness, at the risk of being “possessed” by the prince of this world.

Mary, humble handmaid of the Lord and Virgin most powerful, obtain for us something of your deep humility and fearless fortitude. You knew from experience how to deal with the evil spirit who had so deeply entered the world which crucified your Son. Dare we address you as the Mother of exorcists since you are the mother of the Divine Exorcist in whose power we share by the grace He has so generously given to us. Following your example, and relying on your influence with Jesus, we are confident of reaching that heavenly glory which is reserved to those who have overcome the organized spirit of evil in our lives. Amen.

What are Possession and Obsession by the Devil?

Our present conference is a change of pace from our conferences so far. We have been reflecting mainly on the angels, as such, and have seen something of what happened at the dawn of angelic creation. Some of the angelic hosts remain faithful to God. Others rebelled against the Creator and became demons.

We have also seen that the angels are not just in a world by themselves. The faithful spirits are angels precisely because they are messengers of God to guide our minds and direct our wills towards that heavenly destiny for which we are made. The rebellious spirits have been allowed, from the dawn of human history to tempt human beings away from their loyalty to God and thus lead men into sin.

Our present conference is very specific. We are asking ourselves only one specific question: What are possession and obsession by the devil?

It might be well at the outset to distinguish between the constant temptations to which we are all exposed by the evil spirit, and the more severe demonic molestation’s which we have come to call possession and obsession.

Before going into a more detailed explanation, it might be well to just briefly define possession and obsession and distinguish how they differ from one another.

When the devil attacks the body of a human being from the outside, we call this obsession. When, however, the evil spirit assumes control of a human soul from within, we call that possession.

It seems better for our purpose to first speak of “possession” in general, without distinguishing between what we technically call obsessions and what are complete control by the evil spirit. In a separate section we shall deal with obsessions which are, you might say incomplete diabolical possessions.

Demonic Possessions in the Bible

In the Old Testament we have only one instance of what may be called possession, although there is some doubt whether it was a diabolical possession in the full sense.

In the first book in Kings we are told that “an evil spirit from the Lord troubled” Saul (1 Kings 16:14). Jewish tradition commonly identifies Saul’s condition as being possessed by the evil spirit, as seen from his envious hatred of David whom he tried to murder.

The moment we enter into the New Testament, demonic possessions become an integral part of biblical history. A word of comment on this phenomenon should be made. Over the two thousand years of Christianity, whenever the Gospel began to be preached among a certain people, the devil has consistently become very active in resisting the proclamation of the Good News.

There is almost no limit to the number and variety of diabolical possessions recorded in the Gospels alone. The victims of the devil were sometimes deprived of sight and speech alone (Matthew 12:22). At other times the victims lost only their speech (Matthew 9:32). Again the victims who were afflicted by the devil without being specified just how (Luke 8:2).

In most cases, there is no mention of any bodily affliction beyond the possession itself (Matthew 4:21, Mark 1:32, Luke 4:41).

The effects of possession are described in various passages. A man is possessed by a spirit “who, wherever he takes him, dashes him, and immediately gnashes with his teeth and pines away...and often casts him into the fire and into waters to destroy him” (Mark 9:17, 21). The possessed persons are sometimes gifted with superhuman powers as, for instance, “This man lived in the tombs and no one could any longer bind him, even with chains; for often he had been bound with fetters and chains, and he had rent the chains asunder and broken the fetters into pieces” (Mark 5:3-4).

Some of the possessed were controlled by several demons (Mark 12:43). In one case so many devils possessed a man that their name was Legion.

Nevertheless, as evil as the possessing spirits were they could not help testifying to Christ’s divine mission (Matthew 8:29). In fact, they continued to testify to our Lord’s divinity even after Christ’s ascension (Acts 16:16-18).

There is more than passing value in referring to possessions in the New Testament because this testifies to the authenticity of these phenomena. It also provides the grounds for the continued possessions that have plagued human history since the close of the Apostolic Age.

Possessions in the Early Church and the Middle Ages

The history of the early Church is filled with instances of diabolical agency. A single quotation from Tertullian (second and third century) gives us some idea what this meant.

Let a person be brought before your tribunals who is plainly under demoniacal possession. The wicked spirit, bidden to speak by the followers of Christ, will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon as elsewhere is falsely asserted that he is a god.
What clearer proof that a work like that? What more trustworthy than such a proof? The simplicity of truth is thus put forth; its own worth sustains it; no ground remains for the least suspicion. Do you say that it is done by magic or some trick of that sort? You will not say anything like that if you have been allowed the use of your ears and eyes.
Many of the early councils of the Church legislated on the subject of possession. They decreed on the proper way that possessed persons should be treated. They prescribed public penance for catechumens and fallen Christians who were believed to be under the special influence of the evil spirit.

All through the Middle Ages the Church made regulations and prescribed penalties against those who invited the influence of the devil or used it to inflict injury on other people. We have solemn documents by Pope Innocent VIII, 1484; Julias II, 1504; and Adrian VI, 1523; on the subject of possession. So serious had the situation become at the dawn of Protestantism, that every Catholic priest was given the power of exorcism.

Not only was demonic possession accepted by Catholic Christians but we have record of criminal investigations in which charges of witchcraft or diabolical possession. The writings on this subject come, all historically verified, would fill volumes.

Demonic Possession in Modern Times

Possession by the evil spirit has continued unabated over the centuries. Formal exorcisms on possessed persons are performed in the city of Rome. In my conversations with the exorcists, I have been assured that the frequency of demonic possession is more common than most people suppose.

In a later we shall examine the norms which the Church uses to distinguish an authentic possession by the evil spirit from a phenomenon that could be psycho-pathological.

Understandably there is not a great deal of publicly available documentation on authentic possessions. The last thing the Church wants is to give the devil publicity.

In recent years, professional studies have been made by Catholic scholars on what might be called the norms for identifying actual demonic possession. We keep in mind that possession means the devil’s control of the body of a human being. Also to be remembered is that the external phenomena of possession may resemble symptoms of psychic disturbance or disease. The risk is that a person who shows psychological disturbance will be dismissed as a mere psychotic and not consider to be under the demonic influence.

Specialists in the study of possession distinguish between two kinds of possessions. Some possessions manifest psychiatric phenomena; others manifest phenomena that are beyond psychiatric analysis.

Possessions that Parallel Psychiatric Changes. Persons who are possessed can manifest bodily changes which are familiar in the science of psychiatry. The devil exercises control over their bodies by using them as he wills. He may immobilize the self-control of the individual. It is, so to speak, “a change of command.” The possessed body moves, speaks and acts but is no longer under the control of the individual. It is now directed and manipulated as a blind instrument, obeying a stronger power or personality that forcibly dominates it. The human person is no longer the one who acts; it is rather the devil acting through the body of the individual.

Possessed persons in their external behavior will manifest phenomena that are very similar to those of certain mental illnesses, characterized by dual personality or the presence of an internal principle that causes the abnormal behavior.

But in cases of possession there will always be the strong aversion to the sacred or anything that was a source of spiritual consolation before the possession. In many cases this aversion may extend to the moral and physical order.

In cases of real diabolical possession, the individual may give evidence of his or her abnormal state by facial changes and distortions, by complete relaxation or by rigidity of the body. When asked to perform some act of piety or devotion, the possessed person will always react in a more or less violent manner with contortions of bodily members, threats, and frightening shouts, or with provocative blasphemies and sacrilegious bodily movements. At other times, the possessed victim may try to put an end to the requests and expectations by lapsing into a state of complete passivity. At the persistent repeated command, “In the name of God,” to perform some act of devotion, such as kissing a holy image or genuflecting, the possessed person may obey, but will do so with great repugnance and even with contempt for the person who commands it.

This diabolical repugnance to anything sacred is also expressed in relation to what had once been a source of moral or physical relief to the individual. Then the possessed person becomes withdrawn, avoids the company of others, and refuses to engage in conversation. The one possessed may hardly be able to express his or her wishes and the bodily functions may be seriously affected.

All that we have so far said about this kind of possession may resemble a psychopathological condition. However, one prime key to distinguish possession from psychopathology is the universal opposition, even hatred of everything which has to do with God, or the Eucharist, or the Blessed Virgin, or the saints or, in general, whatever is sacred.

Possessions that are Beyond Psychological Explanation. In the second form of possession, it is the devil who is the direct active agent. The power he exercises in the possessed person is beyond the capacity of any human being.

The following are some of the phenomena that characterize this more extreme form of possession. The possessed person is unable to maintain a stable posture or to move around or is able to carry out certain functions or activities which the individual had never learned before. The variety of these activities is beyond counting. It may involve the ability to sing or to paint or speak or understand foreign languages which had never been learned. The one possessed may acquire the knowledge of persons, objects, or events that are long past, hidden, or at a great distance. At other times, the person will rise from the ground and remain suspended in the air in the levitation or will move through the air or perform amazing bodily feats. Or again, he or she will be able to move heavy objects or furniture without touching them, or cause these objects to rise above the ground. Under the influence of the devil, a person is able to open or close doors or windows from a distance, cause huge paintings to fall from the walls, shattering objects at a great distance.

To be emphasized is that this type of possession is entirely different from what we are calling psychic possession. This one is beyond all psychological power.

Before we leave our reflections on demonic possession, no matter what type it assumes, one thing must be reemphasized. What is never absent in a possessed person is the inhuman hatred of anything having to do with God.

In one of my conversations with an exorcist in Rome, he told me of a seventeen-year-old girl whom he was exorcising. She belonged to the second class of possessed persons.

The priest exorcist wanted the possessed woman to attend a Mass which he was to offer for her deliverance from the evil spirit. It took five strong men to be able to move her bodily into the chapel and seat her in the last row.

After the second consecration, as the priest lifted the chalice for the elevation, the possessed girl spat from the back of the chapel, at least sixty feet from the altar. Her spittle struck the chalice the moment it was elevated. There was no physical possibility for the woman’s saliva to travel that distance in a straight line and strike the chalice with the Precious Blood the way it did. During her protracted exorcism, she exhibited a demonic hatred of the Eucharist.

Before we finish this part I must repeat that the phenomena exhibited by possessed people may have all the signs of psychopathology. But one phenomena is unique: a virulent detestation of everything divine.

Diabolical Obsession

We know on faith that God permits the evil spirit to exercise influence in the material world. We also know that people who practice sorcery can cause phenomenal effects either on other persons or the elements of nature or in scores of other ways that are part of verifiable history.

For our purpose, I thought the wisest thing would be to share with you how the devil can cause obsession, and specifically in the life of St. John Vianney, popularly know as the Cure of Ars.

The most authentic life of the Cure of Ars was published by Francis Trochu. This biography is based on the manuscript data from the process of beatification of John Vianney.

In his earlier years in the priesthood, Vianney experienced some strange things going on in his rectory. He had no idea where the sounds at night or the curious happenings were coming from. But soon he would find out.

After several nights of strange pounding and noise, he asked one of his parishioners to spend the night with him at the rectory. The Cure gave his visitor his own bed to sleep in. Thinking that the noises were coming from thieves, the man brought a loaded gun with him to the presbytery.

That night nothing happened until after midnight. What follows is the deposition which this parishioner gave at the canonical process for the beatification of the Cure of Ars.

At about one o’clock, I heard a violent shaking of the handle and lock of the front door. At the same time, heavy blows were struck as if with a club, against the same door, while within the presbytery there was a terrific din, like the rumbling of several carts.
I seized my gun and rushed to the window, which I threw open. I look out but saw nothing. For nearly a quarter of an hour the house shook - so did my legs. I felt the effects of that night for a fortnight. As soon as the noise had started, the Cure lit a lamp. He accompanied me.
“Have you heard?” he asked.
“You can see that I have heard, since I am up and have my gun.” And all the time the presbytery was shaking as in an earthquake.
“So you are afraid?” he asked.
“No,” I replied.
“I am not afraid, but I feel my legs giving way under me. The presbytery is going to crash to the ground.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I think it is the devil.”
When the uproar ceased we returned to bed. The following evening, the Cure came again to ask me to keep him company. I replied, “Monsieur Cure, I have had quite enough.”
The experience just described continued for the rest of the life of the Cure of Ars. For years on end, the devil molested, disturbed, and tormented, John Vianney relentlessly.

Literally thousands of words have been printed giving in detail what the saintly pastor of Ars had to undergo from the evil spirit.

We call this demonic obsession. Everything which the devil did in the life of St. John Vianney had one obvious purpose. It was to prevent Vianney from exercising the phenomenal good for souls which has become part of the history of the Church in modern times.

We may therefore describe obsession as the devil’s phenomenal power to hinder and, if possible, prevent spiritual good for souls.

The subject of demonic possession and obsession is an ocean in size. What needs to be stressed, however, is that both forms of the devil’s influence in human lives are more prevalent than most people imagine.

What we are seeing in the modern world is not only phenomenal diabolical obsession or possession. Both of these can be, and we may say generally are, inculpable on the part of those who have to endure the devil’s cruelty.

In our day we are seeing the devil being literally invoked by people. They actually venerate and worship the evil spirit.

This is a subject all by itself. We call it Satanism.


“Mary, Mother of God, obtain from your divine Son the grace we need to recognize the work of the evil spirit in human lives. We ask you to intercede for us that we may not be afraid of the devil who is so active in our day.”

“Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for us.”

What is Exorcism and How is it Performed?

To believe in exorcism you must first believe in the devil. Exorcism is the act of driving out or warding off evil spirits from persons, places, or things. The means employed for this purpose are especially the solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demons, commanding them in the name of God to leave the person or the object which is under their malevolent influence.

Among polytheistic religions the use of protective means against the molestation of evil spirits is an essential part of their worship of the deities. The benevolent gods are invoked for whatever help people need. The malevolent gods are propitiated, especially by sacrifice, in order to ward off the harm which these evil deities can perpetrate. Centuries of the history of polytheism show that among these sacrifices have always been children, and even infants, whose lives had to be taken to satisfy the demands of the malicious deities whom the people worshipped. Thus we have record of how literally thousands of children were killed and offered in sacrifice on a single day among the Aztecs in Latin America before the discovery of the new world.

Old Testament
Before the time of Christ, there is no record in the Old Testament of any exorcism being performed by man. Certainly evil spirits were driven out of possessed people. But in every case the exorcism was done either directly by the Lord or by an angel under divine authority.

No doubt there were alleged exorcisms performed by human beings. A record of these deliverances is found in Jewish apocryphal writings. The chief characteristic of these non-biblical Jewish exorcisms was the naming of names believed to be effective in driving out evil spirits. The principal names used were those of the good angels, either alone or in combination with El (God).

It is most significant that there are no recorded exorcisms performed by human beings in the Old Testament Scriptures. The reason is obvious. If there is one characteristic of the New Testament, it is the many deliverances of possessed people by Christ in the Gospels. Furthermore, among the powers which the Savior conferred on His disciples was the power they would have to drive out evil spirits.

New Testament
As we enter the New Covenant, two remarkable phenomena are recorded. The number of possessed persons in the four Gospels is almost beyond counting. Among the evangelists, St. Mark narrates more cases of possession and of deliverance by Christ than in all the other books of the Bible put together.

The second remarkable feature is the hostility of the evil spirit in the possessed persons. This hostility, we may say, began at the opening of Christ’s public ministry when He was tempted three times by the devil.

All the exorcisms performed by Christ were done in an instant. All He had to do was to tell the devil to depart, and the evil spirit left the victim at the Savior’s words.

Not surprisingly, the possessed persons whom Jesus exorcised were afflicted in some externally manifest way. What is crucially important to understand is that the devil has power to injure or harm his victim, both physically and psychologically. Behind this fact is the mysterious providence of God who may allow the evil spirit to harm human beings in their mental or bodily faculties.

One more thing should be mentioned. The deluge of possessions which began with Christ’s coming into the world has set a pattern for all future time, even to the end of the world.

The history of evangelization reveals that as the Gospel begins to be preached in some part of the world, the devil becomes extraordinarily active among the people being evangelized. If there is one characteristic of the evil spirit, it is his hatred of Christ.

Exorcism by the Church

The closing book of the Bible is at once a prophecy and a promise. The Apocalypse predicts the operation of the evil spirit, as the anti-Christ until the end of time. It also reassures the followers of Christ that they will overcome Satan provided they trust in the Savior’s power and are submissive to His divine will. In His parting message to the apostles, He told them, “These signs shall attend those who believe: in my name they shall cast out devils” (Mark 16:17).

In the twenty centuries of Christian history, this promise of the Redeemer has been dramatically fulfilled.

Our focus in this conference is on exorcism in the technical sense of a person authorized by the Church, delivering a person, or a place, or a city from what we call the preternatural malicious influence of the evil spirit.

Understandably only Christ, acting through the Church, has the power to exorcise.

There is an exorcism which is part of the baptismal ritual. But that is not our concern here. We are addressing ourselves to the exercise of delivering persons or places who are possessed or obsessed by the devil.

Just a short clarification. Obsession means that the devil afflicts a person or place externally. Possession is the result of internal influence by the devil without, however, depriving a person the use of free will.

For centuries one of the minor orders before the priesthood was that of exorcist. The Church’s present legislation is very clear:

No one can legitimately perform exorcisms over the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local Ordinary.
Such permission from the local Ordinary is to be granted only to a priest endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life (Canon 1172).
As we see, the faculty to perform an exorcism is now restricted to ordained priests. Moreover, the priests must be outstanding in the virtues identified by the Code of Canon Law.

As might be expected, the norms for the practice of exorcism, laid down by the Church, are detailed and extensive. It is worth quoting them in full.

A priest - one who is expressively and particularly authorized by the ordinary - when he intends to perform an exorcism over persons tormented by the devil, must be properly distinguished for his piety, prudence and integrity of life. He should fulfill this devout undertaking in all constancy and humility, being utterly immune to any striving for human recognition, and relying, not on his own, but on the divine power. Moreover, he ought to be of mature years, and revered not alone for his office but for his moral qualities.

In order to exercise his ministry rightly, he should resort to a great deal more study of the matter (which has to be passed over here for the sake of brevity), by examining approved authors and cases from experience; on the other hand, let him carefully observe the few more important points enumerated here.

Especially, he should not believe too readily that a person is possessed by an evil spirit; but he ought to ascertain the signs by which a person possessed can be distinguished from one who is suffering from some illness, especially one of a psychological nature. Signs of possession may be the following: ability to speak with some facility in a strange tongue or to understand it when spoken by another. The faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject’s age and natural condition; and various other indications which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence.

In order to understand these matters better, let him inquire of the person possessed, following one or the other act of exorcism, what the latter experienced in his body or soul while the exorcism was being performed, and to learn also what particular words in the form had a more intimidating effect upon the devil, so that hereafter these words may be employed with greater stress and frequency.

He will be on his guard against the arts and subterfuges which the evil spirits are wont to use in deceiving the exorcists. For often times they give deceptive answers and make it difficult to understand them, so that the exorcist might tire and give up, or so it might appear that the afflicted one is in no wise possessed by the devil.

Once in a while, after they are already recognized, they conceal themselves and leave the body practically free from every molestation, so that the victim believes himself completely delivered. Yet the exorcists may not desist until he sees the signs of deliverance.

At times, moreover, the evil spirits place whatever obstacles they can in the way, so that the patient may not submit to exorcism or they try to convince him that his affliction is a natural one. Meanwhile, during the exorcism they cause him to fall asleep and dangle some illusion before him, while they seclude themselves, so that the afflicted one appears to be freed.

Some reveal a crime which has been committed and the perpetrators thereof, as well as the means of putting an end to it. Yet the afflicted person must beware of having recourse on this account to sorcerers or necromancers or to use any parties except the ministers of the Church, or of making any use of superstitious or forbidden practice.

Sometimes the devil will leave the possessed person in peace and even allow him to receive the holy Eucharist, to make it appear that he has departed. In fact, the arts and frauds of the evil one for deceiving a man are innumerable. For this reason the exorcist must be on his guard not to fall into this trap.

Therefore, he will be mindful of the words of our Lord (Matthew 17:20), to the effect that there is a certain type of evil spirit who cannot be driven out except by prayer and fasting. Therefore, let him avail himself of these two means above all for imploring the divine assistance in expelling demons, after the example of the holy fathers; and not only himself, but let him induce others, as far as possible, to do the same.

If it can be done conveniently the possessed person should be led to church or to some other sacred and worthy place, where the exorcism will be held, away from the crowd. But if the person is ill, or for any valid reason, the exorcism may take place in a private home.

The subject, if in good mental and physical health, should be exhorted to implore God’s help, to fast, and to fortify himself by frequent reception of penance and Holy Communion, at the discretion of the priest. And in the course of the exorcism he should be fully recollected, with his intention fixed on God, whom he should entreat with firm faith and in all humility. And if he is all the more grievously tormented, he ought to bear this patiently, never doubting the divine assistance.

He ought to have a crucifix at hand or somewhere in sight. If relics of the saints are available, they are to be applied in a reverent way to the breast or the head of the person possessed (the relics must be properly and securely encased and covered). One will see to it that these sacred objects are not treated improperly or that no injury is done them by the evil spirit. However, one should not hold the holy Eucharist over the head of the person or in any way apply it to his body, owing to the danger of desecration.

The exorcist must not digress into senseless prattle nor ask superfluous questions or such as are prompted by curiosity, particularly if they pertain to future and hidden matters, all of which have nothing to do with his office. Instead, he will bid the unclean spirit keep silence and answer only when asked. Neither ought he to give any credence to the devil if the latter maintains that he is the spirit of some saint or of a deceased party, or even claims to be a good angel.

But necessary questions are, for example: the number and name of the spirits inhabiting the patient, the time when they entered into him, the cause thereof, and the like. As for all jesting, laughing, and nonsense on the part of the evil spirit - the exorcist should prevent it or contemn it, and he will exhort the bystanders (whose number must be very limited) to pay no attention to such goings on; neither are they to put any question to the subject. Rather they should intercede for him to God in all humility and urgency.

Let the priest pronounce the exorcism in a commanding and authoritative voice, and at the same time with great confidence, humility, and fervor; and when he sees that the spirit is sorely vexed, then he possesses and threatens all the more. If he notices that the person afflicted is experiencing a disturbance in some part of his body or an acute pain or a swelling appears in some part, he traces the sign of the cross over that place and sprinkles it with holy water, which he must have at hand for this purpose.

He will pay attention as to what words in particular cause the evil spirits to tremble, repeating them the more frequently. And when he comes to a threatening expression, he recurs to it again and again, always increasing the punishment. If he perceives that he is making progress, let him persist for two, three, four hours, and longer if he can, until victory is attained.

The exorcist should guard against giving or recommending any medicine to the patient, but should leave this care to physicians.

While performing the exorcism over a woman, he ought always to have assisting him several women of good repute, who will hold on to the person when she is harassed by the evil spirit. These assistants ought if possible to be close relatives of the subject, and for the sake of decency the exorcist will avoid saying or doing anything which might prove an occasion of evil thought to himself or to the others.

During the exorcism he shall preferable employ words from Holy Writ, rather than forms of his own or of someone else. He shall, moreover, command the devil to tell whether he is detained in that body by necromancy, by evil signs or amulets; and if the one possessed has taken the latter by mouth, he should be made to vomit them; if he has them concealed on his person, he should expose them; and when discovered they must be burned. Moreover, the person should be exhorted to reveal all his temptations to the exorcist.

Finally, after the possessed one has been freed, let him be admonished to guard himself carefully against falling into sin, so as to afford no opportunity to the evil spirit of returning, lest the last state of that man become worse than the former.

The Rite of Exorcism

The full ritual for exorcism is some five thousand words in length. It consists of the recitation of psalms, readings from the Gospels, and lengthy prayers asking God to deliver a possessed person or place from infestation by the devil.

Before beginning to exorcise the priest is instructed to go to confession, offer the sacrifice of the Mass and implore God’s help. He is to be vested in a surplice and stole. He is to bless himself and the possessed person or persons, using holy water, pray on his knees, recite the Litany of the Saints, and only then begin the formal exorcism.

Although a bit lengthy, I think the formal act of exorcism should be quoted in full. It is both sobering and enlightening, especially in view of the widespread influence of the evil spirit in our day. The words are addressed directly to the devil:

I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every satanic power of the enemy, every scepter from hell, and all your fallen companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus + Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God. + For it is He who commands you, He who flung you headlong from the heights of heaven into the depths of hell. It is He who commands you, He who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomenter of discord, author of pain and sorrow. Why, then, do you stand and resist, knowing as you must that Christ the Lord brings your plans to nothing? Fear Him, who in Isaac was offered in sacrifice, in Joseph sold into bondage, slain as the paschal lamb, crucified as man, yet triumphed over the powers of hell. (The three signs of the cross which follow are traced on the brow of the possessed person). Begone, then, in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit. Give place to the Holy Spirit by this sign of the holy + cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.
When the Savior told us that the devil is the prince of this world, He meant this literally. Our century has been the most homicidal, the most crime ridden and, as the Holy Father tells us, the most seduced century in human history. What we need is a global deliverance by Jesus Christ, the Divine Exorcist who has overcome the world.

The Evil Spirit in Conflict with Christ and His Followers

A balanced understanding of Christ and His Church includes the realization of conflict with the evil spirit or as Saint John calls him, “The spirit of darkness.” Until not so long ago it was not popular to even talk about the devil, and all of a sudden he has become quite popular. Though I am afraid that much of the popularity is not very deep, though it does indicate an instinctive realization in man’s heart that besides the world of sense, space, and time, that there is a world of spirit. And not only a spirit world which is good, but given the shear magnitude of the evil in the world there must be besides human malice, invisible malice that is at work in the human race today.

We of course who believe in the Holy Spirit, also and we might (well we don’t) include in our recitation of the Creed, I believe in the Holy Spirit and I believe in the evil spirit. We believe in both. We believe he is not only the instinctive or even logical conclusion to some explanation of the evil in the world. We believe because faith tells us that he is not only real, but his name, which is legion, is to be taken seriously in any serious approach to the spiritual life.

Saint Ignatius the great master of modern spirituality whose principles have shaped so much of the thinking of the great writers and directors of the spirit for centuries. Told his sons they should never conduct a retreat, never any extended instruction or education of the people without making sure, that while being encouraged to the practice of virtue and the following of Christ, they be thoroughly informed about the reality and the machinations of the evil one.

We take as the context for our meditation, the beginning of Christ’s public life. The three synoptic evangelists: Matthew, Mark and Luke all give the narrative. St. Matthew’s however is the most detailed and it is the one that we shall use as the context for our reflections. He tells us that Christ was led by the Holy Spirit. Notice? He was led by the Holy Spirit to the dessert in order to be tempted by the evil spirit. He further says that Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights. That after that long period of time he was understandably hungry. Then he describes the three sets of temptations. Let me read them from St. Matthew:

“The tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ ”
“ But He replied, ‘Scripture says: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
“The devil then took Him to the holy city and made Him stand on the parapet of the temple.”
‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down, for scripture says, “He will put you in His angel’s charge, and they will support you on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’ ”
“Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says, “ You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”
“Next taking him to a very high mountain the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.”
“I will give you all these” he said, “if you fall at my feet and worship me.”
“Then Jesus said, ‘ Be off Satan, for scripture says: “You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone.”
“Then the devil left Him and angels appeared and looked after Him.”
So far the evangelist.

We might for just a moment briefly recapitulate each of three temptations, say just a word about each one and then begin to draw some very salutary implications for ourselves. You remember Saint John tells us that there are three great sources of temptation we have? The three great concupiscences by which he meant, the three kinds of desires which because we have a fallen nature tend to betray us: There is concupiscence of the flesh. Given the fact that the devil began by asking, “If you are…” The fathers of the Church agree that the devil did not really know if Christ really was the Son of God. Concupiscence of the flesh then, symbolized by the temptation to gluttony. Then concupiscence of the eyes, where Christ was tempted in such a way as to want to display Himself, and in effect tempt God’s providence. Sin against presumption. And finally everything was promised to Christ, so the devil told Him if only Christ knelt down to worship him. The concupiscence which John calls the pride of life.

In order to look at these three sources of temptations and apply them to ourselves, we got to remind ourselves that there are, after all, three ways we can be tempted. I am now distinguishing from the concupiscence of the flesh, of the eyes and the pride of life. I am speaking in general. We can be tempted by people outside of us, which is typified by the world; we can be tempted from within ourselves which is typified by the flesh; and we can be tempted by the evil spirit.

Temptations from the world may be summarily described as all the temptations to which we are subject through the bad example of people who surround us, not only physically. Indeed this is one of the graces of the religious life; to, if you wish, deliver ourselves so far as it is possible from what is symbolized by the world, and one of the rights that religious have when they enter a community is to be given good example.

What is behind this temptation? What is the urge? How come we are tempted by people’s (as we say) bad example? It is I think mainly based on the urge that we all have to conformity. We want to be like other people. We want others to accept us. And the one thing that for most of us, we most dread (though thank God we have not all been exposed to this trial) we most dread to be rejected. So that seeing how others behave, we don’t want to be different. We fear being ostracized.

The flesh: Now why do we use the word flesh? And more commonly we attribute this to temptations, well of the body. Say, the sensual or sexual passions, which we all have with our fallen natures, really, and this is of great moment. One of the great discoveries I made as I studied and later began to teach theology, (which I never tire of telling my students) this flesh is not only passions of flesh, it covers all our passions whether of body or of spirit! Somewhere along the line, I don’t know where, the mistaken notion has gained ground that this thing we call concupiscence which is what this is all about, this fallen nature of ours; these inner irrational drives that we have. Somehow a lot of people I know think concupiscence has to do with the flesh only. Oh no! This irrationality which is part of our fallen nature is the mad drive within us, which is both in the body and the soul. The Church never teaches us that it is only our flesh which is fallen. Am I clear? It is our nature, which is fallen. Is this ever practically important. These maddening desires of ours are, except for God’s grace, out of control; not only in our bodily urges, but in the urges of our spirit; of the mind, and of the will.

Over the years the Church has found a convenient synthesis in what we call (synonyms are possible and I can recommend a number) we call them seven capital sins. Well, so they are when we give into them, but they are the seven major tendencies we all have. Every word there counts! They are the seven major drives or tendencies that all of us have. They are not being in God’s grace, having been justified, they are not of themselves sins. No matter how strong or demanding they may be, no matter how urgent, they become sins only if, when, and in so far as, we give into them. But, the drives we have and let’s make sure we use the universal in the subject of that sentence: we all have them! The only two people about whom faith tells us they are absolutely sure they did not are the Son of God in human form and His Immaculate Mother. Does this need saying? It sure does!

All of us have these pronenesses, these urges, these tendencies, and these desires. They are the result of original sin and for reasons best known to Divine Providence. Though we are justified and in God’s grace, and if (please God) we die with no stain of sin on our souls, nevertheless the drives still remain as long as we are in this “valley of tears”.

In order to help myself remember them, and I pass on the scheme to you, to help remember you conjure up all sorts of gimmicks. This is mine: PLACES G. Pride, lust, anger, covetness, envy, sloth, and gluttony. None of us is exempt from these tendencies. You will notice some of these tendencies are of the spirit.

Pride: How do we know that this tendency is of the spirit? Because the purist spirits that God created sinned through pride. You don’t even have to have a body to be proud, and there is such a thing as being proud that I have mastered my body.

Envy: Which I describe as sadness at someone else’s possessions or success. All that someone else has to do is succeed and by an instinct of human nature that person is instantly envied. As I tell people, if you don’t want to be envied, please don’t succeed. No one envies a failure.

Sloth: We usually think of sloth in the body, you know like, well sleeping in, way beyond what my body needs, or just well, believing so strongly in Newton’s law of motion that a body at rest tends to remain at rest (and you don’t want to break the law). Well, you just stay at rest. Though as I say we more commonly think of sloth, I prefer to use the more Anglo-Saxon term- laziness. As referring to the body, oh no… As one who has spent twenty years in teaching, believe you me, there is laziness of mind!

What do I want to bring out before we go on to the devil? You see we haven’t even got to him yet. I want to bring out a very important principle of our spiritual life, and something that we should take stock of seriously. To ask ourselves before God, and not just once, but often, daily indeed, which among these, and by now we know ourselves quite well, has been dominant today.

Knowing that I’ve got these tendencies, no sin in having them that is our nature. Which one of these have I, and often quite unobtrusively so that no one else knows except God and I, whether I have them in greater or less measure succumb to one or the other of these tendencies of my fallen nature. And not only in the body, but what is far more subtle (how well I know this) in the spirit! Because when the flesh is involved, I don’t mean crude sins of the flesh, but just as we call them weaknesses of the flesh. They are usually obvious, the flesh being visible; we see it, others do, either doing something or not doing what it should.

Ah, but when it is the spirit that is not perfectly responsive to the will of God, it takes extraordinary perspicacity and clarity of mind and ruthlessness with one’s self, and honesty with God to admit (and we should daily admit we have sinned). And having given in, in greater or less measure. I am not now speaking of full, conscious, deliberate sins, but the sins to which we are, and let’s use the word all, naturally prone.

Finally- the devil. Regarding temptations of the evil spirit, we should keep certain truths of our faith in mind. Particularly as seen in the light of Christ’s own temptation by the evil spirit. I call these truths - let’s count them:

Truth number one: No one is spared temptations by the devil. This becomes a universal principle of Christianity. How do we know? Because if Christ was tempted by the evil spirit we may be sure every one else as a human being will undergo the same trial. Therefore no complacency. And no matter how preserved one may think he or she is from the world, (we are never that free, but say more or less) or have somehow mastered (so we think) in greater or less measure temptations which arise from our own passions of body or spirit. The one thing we can never think we have finished the contest, and that is the devil. One of the main reasons why the Church is so concerned until the dying person has gasped his last, to pray that the person might be delivered from the evil spirit. So no one is spared.

Second truth- the devil tempts on three levels of our being. We are now addressing ourselves with reflection to Christ own triad of temptations. He temps our weaknesses of the flesh. Now the word “tempt”, as you know, has all kinds of meanings. In fact, I have even seen, (Was it in the states or in Canada?) an exotic perfume called “My Temptation”. So you never know what words are going to mean, but (see if I can make this clear) the devil we say tempts us on three levels:

He tempts us first of all, on the level of our weaknesses of the flesh. Where “tempts” here, means, “he tries them out”. You know like, testing, testing? You know, like scratching to see if it is solid. You know, like pulling and tugging to see if it gives. Is the figure of speech clear? He knows we got weaknesses of the flesh, so he is testing, testing to find out what’s our particular weakness. And notice it is not just a weakness in general, in the abstract, but you know I can be tempted to do certain things in the morning that I would never give into at night. Does that sound strange to you? No! Our moods. When I want an important favor from some important individual, I never, the rule is never, approach that person before he has had a good meal. This is not demonic, this is Jesuitical.

So he tempts our weaknesses. We are speaking now of those of the flesh. Notably our appetites for food, drink, sex, sloth and possessions which cater to the body. That is quite a spread for the devil to tempt us on. No wonder there have to be, or better there are, so many devils. We are still on truth number two. He tempts on the level of our selfishness of spirit. You notice how I have shifted gears from weaknesses of the flesh, to selfishness of spirit, because this is the horror of crimes of the spirit. They are not crimes of weakness they are crimes of strengths. Notably our tendency to anger, envy, and avarice; and he tempts us on the level of our desire for power.

Now we need not have read a lot Nietzsche or have studied much philosophy, all you have to do is deal with human beings. And I never thought I would say this publicly, but among the persons, who given the chance and having lost the self-control, who can be positively Luciferian in their desire for power are some women. So that we should not think of this desire for power as a masculine temptation, by no means! Do you believe me? Women can have a lust for power, such as leads men; I have talked to them, aghast. And this by tempting our pride and unwillingness to be subject to others or be considered less than someone else. That is truth number two.

Truth number 3. In order to cope with the evil spirits we have got to follow Christ’s example: he resisted immediately. Now just as Christ did not have to pray, correct? Being all holy He did not have to pray and ask God to, well, overcome His fallen nature. So in this case He didn’t have to allow Himself to be tempted by the devil. He allowed Himself to be tempted to teach us that we should expect the same, but He also taught us how to deal with the temptations of the evil spirit. Resist immediately! Now you see this presumes that we can recognize the evil spirit and his temptations so as not to dally with them, because if we do, if we dally, the likelihood is he will outwit us. Then it means we resist promptly.

Finally, as the apostle tells us we must resist him strong in faith. Using then those powers at our disposal, especially prayer and trust in God, and no matter how much we may be beset by temptations of the evil spirit, do not loose confidence, because, and this may not be as obvious as it seems. You see on the first two levels of temptation, I’m in the world or temptations from outside of us, from human agencies, that’s the world, or the flesh which covers both types of temptation, in the body and in the soul from our fallen human natures. In a sense, though there are two of course, we must call upon the resources of faith. Oh sure, nevertheless, somehow we may feel that we are somehow a match on the first two levels of temptation. But with the devil we know we are no match, and consequently it is not a question of just outwitting the devil or outsmarting him, or foolishly allowing ourselves to tangle with him and then wrestle with him; he is too strong, he is too shrewd.

We therefore must call upon divine assistance. First for light, so that we might recognize when we are being deceived by the evil one. And then if the temptation is upon us, and we recognize it is the devil, it is him for sure. Then not to panic, not to be frightened, but admitting (oh we’ve got to admit this) I cannot do it by myself but I trust in the grace that God will give me provided I ask Him.

The devil is strong, but the most important thing for ourselves as we close this meditation to remember is that the devil is deceptive. And consequently while we pray, when we pray in the closing of the Lord’s Prayer, “And deliver us from evil…” We should understand this to include: especially deliver us from the evil one’s deceits. Mean that we especially ask for the grace to see and if there is anywhere where the gospel invocation; “Oh Lord that I may see” applies, it is here. That I may see that it is the enemy of God and not the grace of God, which may hide itself as an angel of light, is trying to beguile me. That I may see that it is the enemy of God and then like Christ and with Christ I am confident that because He has called me to follow Him, He will give me the grace to resist as He did, having recognize the devil for what he is.

Satanism: A Catholic Appraisal

I would entitle this subject “Satanism: A Catholic Appraisal”. Until a few years ago we seldom spoke about satanism, in fact even about satan, and would hardly know what satanism is all about. But things have drastically changed. There are numerous books, professional and popular, published on the subject of satan and satanism. Among the several books that I have in my stock is a very popular book called the satanic bible. There are other books published, especially by Christians, more frequently by Protestants, again best sellers warning about satan and his influence in the world. The best selling novel, The Exorcist, has I believe, sold more than a million copies and the movie by that name based on the book is setting an all time, absolutely all time, box office record. I have seen people standing, literally, for half a block to get into the movie houses that are featuring The Exorcist.

There is a growing number of satanic organizations throughout the country, national like the American satanic Brotherhood and local churches of satan are being organized and legally recognized. Clearly some evaluation is called for naturally in the light of our Catholic faith. For the sake of convenience, I will distinguish the three main forms of satanism known to past and present history, about which the Catholic Church has some very definite ideas and counsel to offer. These three historic forms of Satanism, while they can be given different names, I would identify as philosophical satanism, polytheistic satanism and cultic satanism. While they overlap, that is, no one of these is completely distinct and independent of the other, nevertheless each has a long history behind it and can be described separately.

Philosophical Satanism

Philosophical satanism is really another name from a different angle for what I think we are more familiar with as Manichaeism. The term Manichaeism is derived from its founder, Manes. He was a middle-eastern oriental who had been a Zoroastrian, a follower of Zoroaster [who] became a Christian, more or less, never fully converted and before he died shook the foundations of Christianity by introducing the theory of two gods. A good god, who was the creator and source of all the good things in the world, and a bad god, who was the creator and source of all the bad things in the world. In general the good god is the creator of things spiritual. The bad god is the creator of all things material. Matter, therefore, is evil and while there were many levels and forms of Manichaeism, in general, theoretically the idea was to gradually emancipate oneself from the body in order that the evil god, not spirit merely, but evil god might not have master over one, however each person’s final destiny, as indeed the destiny of the world, depends on which god will finally prevail. If the good god prevails in me, well, clearly I will be a good person and will be happy after death. If the evil god prevails, well, I will be unhappy. And it finally depends not on man’s free will – Manichaeism denies human freedom. There is a cosmic struggle going on between these two forces in the world and it is all a question of which one will prevail. The name just for the record of the good god was (Sounds like: a-hora-mazda). The name of the evil god ultimately won the creator of all things evil was (Sounds like: o-re-man). And just to take this philosophical satanism seriously, we should recall that St. Augustine was a Manichaean for nine years, so that many of our profoundest writings among the Fathers are the anti-Manichaean writings of Augustine after his conversion.

What then is satanism on Manichaean principles? It is the recognition, or better, the claim that there is not one but there are two ultimate principles in the universe. They are utterly distinct and the evil principle is not subordinate to the good principle. The evil principle is not created. He, if you wish, or it, if you prefer, is uncreated. And it offers, as you can gather immediately, a remarkably facile solution for the existence of good but especially of evil in the universe. It absolves god, that is, the one true god in whom we believe, of having anything to do with evil. Clearly, the whole idea of a god that is the one true god permitting evil is denied by Manichaeism. The Manichaean tendency has been in the Church ever since. Its principle outcropping in modern times was in John Calvin, one of the cofounders of Protestantism. According to him, (now he did not use Manichaean vocabulary, but he did profess Manichaean ideas), he claimed that god from all eternity foreordained some people for heaven, other people for hell, irrespective of their use of their freedom, which he denied. Well, clearly this is only a latter day and camouflaged Manichaeism. No single god could possibly, irrespective of human freedom, condemn those who he so decided, to condemn to an eternity of hell. Calvinism is really a resurgent Manichaeism. He really postulated two gods, a good one who saves and an evil one who condemns. That’s philosophical satanism.

Polytheistic Satanism

Polytheistic satanism. As you know most of the human race is polytheistic. Non-believing, at least not clearly believing in, one god but believing in a plurality, hence polytheists, many gods. While they will generally have some one chief deity whom they consider the outstanding, they will have many deities with varying names. In India there are three principle deities but no one has counted. One estimate is there are 10,000 deities among the Hindus. Among these deities they can be graduated or stratified from the very, very benevolent to the very, very malevolent. Some, in other words, are good and some are evil.

Polytheistic worship, which loosely you might call pagan worship, though I never use the word – you see I teach these religions. Better, I teach about them and I do not use the word paganism, which is a misnomer. But those deities, and they are given genders, men or women, it is masculine or feminine gender deities. The benevolent ones are to be invoked in order to obtain such favors as presumably, because they are benevolent, they will confer on condition they are invoked. The malevolent you don’t invoke, you propitiate. Just as the benevolent deities will not do you favor unless you ask them, the malevolent ones will do you harm unless you propitiate them. So in Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto and the various forms of polytheistic religion, the good deities are invoked, but for our purpose, the evil deities, who in our language would be demons. And in fact there are passages which I think you sometimes recite in your songs that all the gods of the Gentiles are demons depending on the translation. For these would be the evil deities, evil by presupposition that they will surely harm unless they are propitiated. These evil deities demand propitiation not only verbally but ritually and often with great sacrifice, including human sacrifice. While human sacrifice to these evil deities in the major polytheistic religions like Hinduism or Buddhism has been reduced to a minimum, mainly by the governments that have entered the picture and forbidden such sacrifices by law, they are nevertheless practiced. They are most certainly practiced among the so-called primitive or tribal peoples who are polytheistic. So that floods, famine, sickness, disease, epidemics are regularly attributed to the evil deities venging themselves on people who have not been sufficiently worshipful. Now this clearly is a form of satanism where what we would call satan, or in this case plural, demons, are literally worshipped as gods. This is going on now in upwards of, I would say, one billion people.

Cultic Satanism

The third form, cultic, which touches us more immediately in the United States. Cultic satanism may be synonymized as witchcraft. It may also, of course, be mixed up with either philosophical or polytheistic satanism. But generally, cultic satanism of the type that I am now going to describe, originates among ex-Christians and with emphasis, among ex-Catholics and to our horror, among ex-priests. What does cultic satanism believe? It believes as we do that there is a devil who is a creature. Now the notion of just who satan is may be somewhat unclear among these people and they may in fact sort of deify him and then you would have an approximation of either polytheism or Manichaeism. But most cultic satanists do not think through on philosophical or theological grounds what they are doing. It is, if you wish, an activist type of satanism. It recognizes the evil spirit as very powerful and not have, generally speaking, through the reading that I have done and the consultation that I have done. It seems to have its genesis in people who had been Christians but somehow fell on evil ways and then discovered, and either they or somebody else for them, must make the discovery that if you somehow give yourself to the evil spirits, they will do things for you that you’ve never enjoyed or experienced before.

Consequently the cultic form, and that’s what the word means, the cultics are worship of satan not unlike the way we understand him except we dare not worship him. We ask God to protect us from him. But these people, believing that he is very powerful and very shrewd (he’s both), that if persons invoke him (and notice this is different than polytheistic satanism because here it is invoking the evil spirit), that he will, we would say by God’s permissive providence, but that’s not quite the way the satanists think, that he will then grant favors to his devotees which others who ignore satan will not receive. It is, if you can imagine the word, it is invoking satan and offering in worship and sacrifice in order to obtain his favor, demonic grace, in return for humble worship. Now here we must distinguish this demonic worship on two levels. Generally speaking, most satanic worship, and this I repeat is mostly among ex-Christians, is to obtain benefits for oneself or others from the devil. But the devil may also be invoked in order to obtain, if you please, not exactly benefits but harm, injury for someone against whom, well I, have ill feeling and whom I want somehow to injure or if possible to destroy. So we distinguish between satanic worship which is benevolent and satanic worship which is malevolent. In both cases among the satanists are two classes: on the benevolent level there are satanists or so closely in league with the, well of course you see we don’t call it anymore evil spirit, but the spirit we consider to be evil by his nature. Well, they are so closely in league with the devil that they can obtain favors from him just by the invocation. Others on the other hand, and this is more common, must go through certain rituals, and provided a person knows what ritualistic to perform, what words to use, what incantations to practice, what gestures to go through, the effect will take place. So too the malevolence. There are some people, satanists, who by their mere invocation of satan can harm. Their will act, their intention to injure and being in league with the evil spirit, the person or persons will be harmed at a distance. Or and, and much more commonly, they will too have to practice certain ritual, use certain formulas, go through certain gestures, and provided they do them in the right way and they are very secret formulas which they’ve got to practice. Anyone who practices those formulas or pronounces those words, believing of course that satan will grant what is asked for, the favor, in this case to do injury, will surely be granted.

What should we as Catholics think of the remarkable upsurge of satanism in the Christian world? First we’ve got to know that it is going on. Pope Paul has more than once said that satan has perhaps never been more active since apostolic times than today. First then, to recognize the fact, secondly, to realize that satan has always, from Eden on, has always sought human agents to assist him. Satan does not work alone. He works through others. Consequently it behooves us to use discernment of spirits, and the plural here is important, spirits. Between the spirit that is of God or the good spirits, the angelic hosts who do the bidding of God and the evil spirits who are permitted by God as we know to tempt and lead people into sin, we must practice discernment and pray and ask God to grant, especially the leaders in our Church, the light to distinguish the good from the evil spirit, because the evil spirit always hides his evil intentions. In the history of the Church, he has managed to lead people astray who are taken in by ideas and certain practices and in general to (remember this is the teaching of the Church), we can recognize the evil spirit operating through human agents by the manifestation of pride and the practice of lust. This is the way he misleads people and often, very good people, unless they are profoundly humble, they can become victims of the evil spirit through pride and unless they control their bodies, their passions can be exploited by the evil spirit of pride and lust, so much so, that we can speak of the evil spirit of pride and the evil spirit of lust as manifesting himself among people in the world, including some in the Church, and therefore we should ask for ourselves first and then for others that they might recognize the evil spirit who is working (we know he doesn’t sleep) day and night to mislead especially the dedicated persons in the Church away from Christ either through pride or through sins of the flesh.

Finally, as St. Peter tells us, let’s remember the evil spirit goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, he says, strong in faith. The word faith in St. Peter in which this passage occurs is not only faith in the sense of believing, it is faith, especially in confidence, in trust. Last, God will never permit us or anyone else to be tempted by the evil spirit not only beyond our strength but what we seldom say beyond our light. We have enough faith to recognize the machinations of the evil spirit and enough strength to resist him but, and with this I close, we must have great confidence that Christ, Who is God in human form, Who allowed himself to be tempted by the devil, and remember if God become man was tempted by the devil and He wants us to learn from him, what is Christ telling us? We are also going to be, we are also being tempted by the devil, so not to be surprised but to be absolutely sure that because Christ overcame the devil before us and we are in His grace then we have both the faith as light and the faith as confidence. To first recognize him and distinguish the evil spirit from the good spirit and secondly, no matter how strongly he may tempt us, we can resist him, but we must pray, and not just for ourselves, but for all the people of God, because it is especially the people of God that the devil is tempting so they might become people of satan. Let’s ask our Savior to help us recognize the devil and resist him.

The Devil and Divine Providence

Providence is God’s all wise plan for the universe, and the carrying out of this plan by His loving rule or governance. The eternal world plan and its fulfillment in time are together called divine providence. As expressed by the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), “God, in His providence watches over and governs all the things that He made, reaching from end to end with might and disposing all things with gentleness.” Divine providence is universal in that all events, even the most personal decisions of intelligent beings, are part of God’s eternal plan. It is infallibly certain because the ultimate purpose that God has for the universe will not fail. And it is immutable because God Himself cannot change.

But there is a deep mystery in God’s providence. Certainly He governs everything, every creature that He made, including the angels and human beings. Does this mean that He governs the thinking and willing of angels and men? Yes, He governs everything. We are tempted to ask, is it God or me? Is it God or the angels? Is it God or the evil spirit? Talk about mystery! It is both God and we; God and the angels; God and the evil spirit.

Immediately we must distinguish two kinds of divine providence: the positive providence of God where He directly wills that something occur or take place; and His permissive providence where He allows things to happen, even permits sin, in order that mysteriously greater good may result from what humanly speaking may be a tragic evil.

We are now in a better position to talk about “The devil and divine providence.”

Let us be clear about two things. The existence and activity of the devil are part of divine revelation. It is an article of irreversible faith that the devil exists as a legion of evil spirits who fell from God’s friendship by their disobedience to His will. It is further part of our faith that God allows the devil to exercise His malevolent will. From God’s perspective, this is to enable us to be more generous in loving and serving the divine majesty.

From the opening verses of Genesis to the closing chapters of the Apocalypse, the Holy Spirit reveals the role of the evil spirit in the salvation history of the human race.

Our purpose will be to identify the most prominent lessons that we should learn from what the Bible teaches us about the devil. Each is a lesson in how the evil spirit belongs to the mysterious permissive providence of God.

Fall of Our First Parents

Lucifer had been one of the highest angels in the heavenly hierarchy. But his superb intelligence became the source of his downfall. He envied God’s almighty power. As a result he was cast into the hell which came into existence the moment Lucifer sinned.

Having fallen from God’s friendship through envy, the devil was allowed to tempt our first parents. He seduced Eve by telling her that she could become like God in knowing both good and evil. This was a lie. Eve persuaded Adam to follow her example. As a result, the whole human family lost its supernatural life. It also lost its built-in self control, and the gift of bodily immortality.

Whatever else we know about the devil, let us be sure we know he is a liar by his very nature. It was through the devil that the human race lost the friendship of God. It was through the devil that we lost the mastery of our human impulses. We are now naturally prone to pride and lust, to anger and greed, to envy, sloth and gluttony. It was because of the devil that we must die, and inherited our capacity for sickness and suffering and bodily decay.

By all the norms of human intelligence, the devil brought evil into the human family. But our faith tells us that the fall of our first parents, instigated by the evil spirit, is also what we sing in the Easter vigil, “Oh happy fall, that brought us the Redeemer.”

It is pure speculation whether God would have become man if man had not sinned under demonic instigation. But we are sure that there was an Incarnation because man had sinned. The tragedy of original sin, brought on by the devil, has become the sublimity of God’s love in becoming man and dying on the Cross for our salvation.

Divine Curse of the Evil Spirit

After the devil had seduced Adam and Eve, God cursed the evil spirit and prophesied, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15).

This curse of the devil is also a prophecy. The prophecy has become the Protoevangelium, the very first Gospel. Since Gospel means the “Good News,” God was foretelling the coming of the Savior, which the angel of Bethlehem told the shepherds was meant for the whole world.

The woman foretold in Genesis is Mary. Her seed is Christ. Ever since Eden there has been a deadly conflict between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan. Not to know this is not to understand the cosmic struggle going on in the world today, between Christian believers and the human agents of the devil.

The struggle is too obvious to be ignored. What our faith teaches us, however, is that Christ, the Son of Mary, has overcome the devil. Moreover, by His death on Calvary He has won for us the strength we need to overcome the evil spirit in our lives.

We have access to the grace, indeed, but we must have recourse to the Mother of divine grace to withstand the demonic pressure of Satan and his followers in our lives. I would highly recommend the following prayer, indulgenced by the Church in the early twentieth century.

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission
to crush the head of Satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that,
under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits,
engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell. “Who is like God?”
O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love.
O Mother of God, send forth the holy Angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe.
Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us. Amen

Christ's Temptation by the Devil

The Savior began His public ministry by being led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where He was tempted by the devil.

If nothing in the world ever happens by chance, it was surely not coincidental that Christ was tempted by the evil spirit when He began proclaiming the Gospel of salvation. Christ is our model whom we are to imitate. An essential part of this imitation is following His example of dealing with temptations by the devil.

The following of Christ cannot mean imitating the Savior in avoiding sin. The Incarnate Son of God could not sin. He could only serve His heavenly Father with total generosity. We better know what it means to follow the Savior in generosity of spirit. It means many things. But one thing it had better mean is a courageous, absolutely fearless and super-humanly intelligent resistance of the evil spirit.

Can anyone doubt that the devil is active in the modern world? Whole nations have created laws defending the murder of innocent children. Sodomy is now protected by civil legislation. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar business in America.

Our Lord did not engage the devil in conversation. He finally told the evil spirit, “Be gone, Satan!” In one imperative sentence, this is how we are to deal with the devil in our world. Never allow him to seduce us by his clever snares. Assume that he is a liar.

Judas Possessed by the Devil

As described by St. Luke, the chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way of putting Christ to death, but they feared the people. At this point the devil took over, “Satan entered into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and the captains, how he might betray him to them. They were very glad, and agreed to give him money. He accordingly promised and sought out an opportunity to betray Him without disturbance” (Lk 22:3-6).

The lesson here is a sobering verdict of twenty centuries of Christianity. Not even the most sublime vocation is guaranteed protection from betraying Jesus Christ. In fact, the devil concentrates on those who have been called to follow Christ most closely, in the episcopate, the priesthood, the consecrated life. It is no coincidence that the one who precipitated the heresy which denied Mary’s divine motherhood was Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople. Nor is it coincidental that the most virulent opponent of the Vicar of Christ today, is the French Bishop Gaillot.

Judas Iscariot is the proto-type for Christian leaders who have been seduced by the father of lies.

Sinners Belong to the Devil

The apostle St. John was preserved from martyrdom and lived to the end of the apostolic age. By the time he wrote his Gospel, the book of Revelation, and his letters, Christianity had become firmly established in the Mediterranean world.

St. John is our most extensive and explicit inspired writer on the evil spirit in all of sacred Scripture. His Apocalypse is a twenty two chapter prophecy of the Church’s history until the end of time. It foretells, in chapter after chapter, how the evil spirit will battle against the followers of Christ. It sees the Church Militant on earth as mainly engaged in a relentless war with the kingdom of Satan.

What the apostle makes clear is who belongs to the Church Militant and who belongs to the kingdom of Satan.

My children, do not let anyone lead you astray: to live a holy life is to be holy just as He is holy; to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil, since the devil was a sinner from the beginning. It was to undo all that the devil has done that the Son of God appeared. No one who has been begotten by God sins; because God’s seed remains inside him, he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God. (1 Jn 3:7-9).

What are we being told? The beloved disciple is telling us that those who are in God’s friendship belong to Christ; those who are estranged from God, living in unrepentant mortal sin, belong to the devil.

To belong to Christ means to be a channel of divine grace to everyone whose life is touched. The measure of the grace we possess and the degree of God’s love in our hearts is the norm by which God uses us to communicate His grace to everyone in our lives.

But our focus is on how sinners belong to the devil. Separated from God themselves, the devil is allowed to use them as the channels of his malice.

The demonic logic is part of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. He explains how the devil is accustomed to lead persons into sin. He uses people who are wealthy - in money, property, intelligence, skills, attractiveness, education, affability - in order to arouse in others the desire for similar possessions. Having acquired some measure of this earthly wealth, they obtain recognition, honor and praise from their contemporaries. From recognition and honor, they are led to pride. Once seduced by pride, the evil one leads them to all other vices.

Implicit in this demonic strategy is something deeper than appears on the surface. It is not only that the devil uses people’s gifts and talents to lure others to imitate their desire for possession that leads to pride and, through pride, to all other sins.

The devil knows the spontaneous desire we all have to conformity. We want to be like others. We want to be accepted by others. We want to be loved and cherished by others. Peer pressure is a powerful motive in the moral behavior of all human beings, from infancy to old age.

Another name for this natural tendency, call it spontaneous instinct, is human respect. We dread not being accepted by other people. We fear not only what they will do to us, or say about us. We are constantly concerned about what they think of us. Conformism is not an eccentric urge of some people. It is a built-in instinct of our human nature.

Sin in the Providence of God

All that we have said so far describes how the machinations of the devil are part of divine providence. But we still have one more important truth of our faith to consider. After all, the aim of the evil spirit is to lead human beings into sin. Dare we say that the sins to which the devil leads us to commit also belong to the mysterious providential plan of God’s wisdom for the world?

Yes, we may, indeed we must say that the sins instigated by Satan since the fall of our first parents belong to the divine plan for the human race. For the sake of convenience we can summarize these mysterious blessings of providence in four words: mercy, generosity, humility, and apostolic zeal.

Mercy is a quality of God’s love toward those who have been seduced by the devil into sin. We have already said that the fall of man at the dawn of human history was also the first exercise of mercy by a forgiving God. Shall we say that except for the devil, there would have been no redemption by Jesus Christ?

It took Satan to lead our first parents into sin. It took the Incarnate God, born of the sinless Virgin Mary, to lead the progeny of our first parents back to the friendship of God.

But there is one more revealing truth of our faith that should be stressed. The mercy of God toward us sinners is our deepest inspiration for practicing mercy toward others. When the executioners nailed Jesus to the Cross on Calvary, He prayed for His Father’s mercy towards those who, under demonic instigation, had murdered Him.

More than once in our lives we shall be called upon to practice mercy toward those who, we may say, have been diabolically cruel toward us.

Generosity is more than meeting people’s needs. It is nothing less than giving ourselves to God beyond what we have to under pain of sin. Generosity is the surrender of our self-will to the will of the Almighty. Generosity is the hallmark of a true follower of Christ.

It is almost a definition of the devil to say that his very nature is selfish. When Lucifer fell at the dawn of angelic history, it was because he refused to submit his will to the will of the Creator who brought the devil-to-be into existence.

In the providence of God, we victims of the demonic self-will are privileged to expiate our self-indulgence by the practice of selfless generosity. The more deeply we had sinned in the past, the more God now provides us with opportunities for generously surrendering ourselves to His loving providence.

Among the mysteries of faith, I know of none that is more practically important and more necessary in our day than seeing the providence of God in everything, and I mean everything, in our lives. He puts loving people into our lives, only to take them away. He puts us into positions of influence, and suddenly we find ourselves abandoned. We had good health and now we are crippled, or handicapped or in unbearable pain. We were highly respected by others, consulted by them and, as the expression goes, influential in society. And now? People could not care less about what we think or even whether we are still alive.

One of the most sobering statements in the Old Testament occurs in the Psalms, when the Psalmist speaks of his enemies who ask, “When will he die, so that his name will be forgotten!”

Generosity towards God is the heroic love of God in spite of what, humanly speaking, would be impossible except for repentant sinners who wish to repay God’s merciful love for them.

Humility is simply the truth. The scope of God’s providence is an ocean without shores. But within this providence there is one purpose that God always has. He wants us to not just be humble but to grow in humility.

That is why we may say he allows the fallen angels, who are demons of pride, to lead us into sin so that we might grow in humility.

The deepest humility is the realization in my heart that I am a sinner. Whatever people may think of me, I know better. I know that I have offended my Creator and Lord. I know that I have been seduced by the father of lies to think that my will is my will and does not have to be obedient to the will of God.

Certainly persons can be humble without being converted sinners. But in the genius of God’s providence, most people learn humility from the realization of their sins - especially the sins instigated by Lucifer, the personification of pride.

Apostolic zeal is the desire to follow Christ in the extension of His kingdom in the world. These words are not rhetoric. They are the reality of a world populated by sinners who need to be redeemed by their faith in a merciful God.

To be an apostle means to be a channel of grace to bring sinners back to God’s friendship through their faith in Jesus Christ. Over the centuries, the most zealous apostles have been converted sinners. To name just three: St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius. Paul had been the hater of Christians and had them murdered for claiming that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Augustine was a genius whose lechery took years to wake up to the fact that he, Augustine, had a free will with which to control his sexual passions. Ignatius was a selfish soldier who had an illegitimate child and was reeking of pride when the Lord wounded him in battle and forced him to spend months in a hospital bed.

Certainly the devil had not planned for Paul, Augustine and Ignatius to become giants of zeal for the conversion of sinners. But the devil is part of the providence of God. Those seduced by Satan to become leading sinners, once converted, become leading converters of those estranged from God’s love.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great tells us that, “No sacrifice is more acceptable to God than zeal for souls.” Converted sinners, once ensnared by the devil, will stop at nothing to give themselves, heart and soul, time and effort, even life and death, to share with others the joy of being reunited with their loving God.

Coping with the Devil

The devil is called the god of this world not because he made it, but because so many people serve him with their worldliness.

There is no better explanation for the massive evils that are plaguing the modern world than to say that the devil is extraordinarily effective in seducing otherwise intelligent people with his deceptive snares.

Who is the devil? Why is he allowed to tempt us? And how are we to cope with his demonic effort to lead us away from God?

Who is the Devil?

The devil is one of the legion of evil spirits who were originally good angels created by God but who made themselves evil by refusing to obey the will of God.

Devils (diabolus - slanderer) are therefore fallen angels, whose leader is Satan (adversary). In both the Old and the New Testaments, Satan is the enemy of God, who brings about evil and tempts human beings to defy God’s laws. Even Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted by Satan in the desert.

References to the devil are frequent in the Scriptures. Their prominent feature is that a personal, malicious force is active in the world. It is deliberately bent on preventing the designs of God.


Why is the Devil Allowed to Tempt?

The final explanation of why Satan is allowed to tempt us is a mystery. But divine revelation gives us several profound reasons why God allows this.

By our resistance of the evil spirit we prove our loyalty to God. There is such a thing as being tested in order to more deeply and clearly understand God’s providence in our lives. The devil’s purpose is, of course, malicious. But God allows the evil spirit to tempt us so that we may grow in our love for God.

Seductions of the Evil Spirit

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Devil Exists and can be Known

First, by way of introduction: the devil exists and can be known. I cannot tell you how widespread is disbelief in the evil spirit especially among those who are supposed to be teachers of the Faith in the Catholic Church. In other words, without dwelling on this because the subject is an ocean, our task in this course is not to prove the existence of the evil spirit. It is, rather, to describe both how the evil spirit operates and how we are to cope with his demonic activity. It is part of the Church’s infallible teaching that the devil exists. The occasion for the Church’s definition was the rise of two heresies: one in the late 4th century called Manicheism and another in the 13th century called Albigensianism. To indicate what kind of persons the devil can seduce; St. Augustine was a Manichean for nine years. However, in the 13th century St. Dominic was, we may say, brought into the Church by the Holy Spirit to found the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, and the occasion for the rise of the Dominican Order was the resurgence of Manicheism but now under the name of Albigensianism. We don’t know how many dioceses in France went Albigensian; a good estimate was forty dioceses. And this is one reason why St. Thomas Aquinas - the greatest mind that the Order of Preachers has produced - St. Thomas Aquinas has the most extensive and the most profound treatment on the evil spirit in Catholic Theology. This is still the introduction.

The Devil Came Into Existence as the Result of Self-will

The teaching of Sacred Scripture: the devil appears at the dawn of created history. In fact that’s how the devil first came into existence. The devil came into existence when the angels created by God and put on probation. We don’t know how many but very many refused to submit to the God who created them. In other words, the devils came into existence as the result of self-will. Self-will created the devils and, unlike us, unlike us the devils who fell were not given the chance to repent which St. Ignatius makes a great deal of to remind us how grateful we should be for two things: That we are created as rational human beings; and that, unlike the fallen angels, we have been redeemed and can repent. We’re all sinners – thanks to God’s mercy. The Church’s teaching, Her Magisterium and Catholic spirituality – I cannot exaggerate the role of the evil spirit in the great writings of the Spiritual Masters over the centuries. In other words, we don’t begin to begin to understand Catholic spirituality unless and until we realize that part of that spiritual life is a conflict with the evil spirit.

We better know how to cope with this evil spirit

Christ could not have been more plain when He began His public ministry: He chose – He chose – to be first tempted by the devil to teach us that we too will be – dear Lord, what a safe statement – we’ll be tempted by the evil spirit and we’d better know how to cope with this evil spirit.

Still on the introduction, why have lectures on the evil spirit? Over the years of my teaching, I’ve given many lectures in demonology, but I thought I would condense into eight lectures what is from one perspective an ocean, from another is a mountain.

Demonology is a vast science. Why? Because to know that the devils exist, and know how they operate, and how we are to cope with the demonic operations is part of our Faith. And let me tell you the modern popes, our present one (John Paul II) and especially Paul VI – what he saw then beginning to take place in the Catholic Church – what I keep telling one audience after another; the most devastating crisis in the 2000 years of Catholic History right now is mainly the work of the evil spirit. But we’d better both believe that, and know how to cope with the devil.

The devil mainly seduces through the mind

Again the phenomenal depth and spread of evil in the modern world, especially hear it, – oh hear it! – the devil is mainly - as Christ identifies - himself, the liar ! In other words, the devil mainly seduces through the mind, through the mind! You don’t begin to begin to cope with demonic temptations unless our minds are thoroughly grounded in not just the meaning but the understanding of our Faith. And let’s be honest, the devil is smarter than any human being, naturally. We’ll deal with this at length, but the phenomenal depth and spread of evil in the modern world; but please don’t forget: All evil is the result of error. Why? Because the will, which is a product of the will – We change the sentence: Evil, which is a product of the will, depends on the mind sowing error. That is why may I suggest you read in Matthew’s Gospel, both Parables: the Parable, remember of the Good Seed which fell on different kinds of ground, remember? But also the Parable that follows that one of the Sower sowing wheat during the day, and at night and then he comes along – only farmers could think of practicing this kind of hatred. During the night an enemy of the good farmer sows weeds – during the night. And then as both the wheat and the weeds began to grow remember? The workman told the farmer, weeds are growing up, shall we pull them out? No, he said, don’t. There’s a danger in pulling out the weeds, you’re liable to pull out the wheat too. Wait until harvest time. Then we’ll pick up both the weeds and the wheat. Then, the weeds we will bundle up and throw them into the fire to burn. And the wheat we’ll store in the barns.

You don’t sow what you don’t have: We better know the truth and understand it

That parable is crucially important to understand what’s going on in the world today. There is so much error being sown. And sown sadly in Catholic circles. Oh, what names I could identify: priests, theologians, bishops! And we’re asking; why lecture on the evil spirit? Because there is so much error sown by the evil spirit; and we who believe that we possess the Truth – and that’s the third reason – must be inspired to what I’m calling the catechetical apostolate, which means sowing the truth. You don’t sow what you don’t have. We better know the truth. We better understand it. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected what has taken place when I should entered the Society of Jesus after finishing my undergraduate university studies. I think I’ve told some of you; the Sunday night before the Wednesday before that I entered the Novitiate, remember – took Josephine for dinner. Stupidly, I told her, “Jo, I’m entering the Jesuit Novitiate on Wednesday.” Well, I bought a perfectly good meal. She didn’t touch it. I could have eaten more, but I figured I’d better not. And then from 1936 when I entered the Society of Jesus with a graduate degree in Philosophy and then fifteen years later began teaching Theology. That’s a lot of education. How the mind today must be trained, trained to the limit to cope with the demonic intelligence of those who are being used by the evil spirit.

The Basics of Demonic Activity
The devil envied God

First: Hatred and the Devil. The devil became a devil because of envy. The devil envied God. Who does God think he is telling me what to do? Am I to submit to Him? And that envy, as we know once it was practiced by Lucifer and his followers – Hell came into existence. There would be no Hell except for envy. There would be no devil except for envy. And then and I may have recommended this on a previous occasion. Try to get a copy of a letter – it’s about maybe forty pages in ordinary sized English print; The Letter of St. Clement I, Pope to the Corinthians - the Letter of St. Clement I to the Corinthians. The whole letter - date about 90 A.D. and for sometime, among some people was considered part of the Bible, which it’s not. But the whole letter is on envy. If there’s one thing that I believe Our Lord wants me to recommend to you during these lectures on the devil – Be sure to examine your consciences, pardon me, let’s all of us examine our consciences on how much and how envy is still one of the major temptations of our lives.

Envy - the sadness a person feels over someone having what I lack
What is envy? Envy is the sadness that a person feels over someone having what I lack. The devil began by envying God. He was thrown into hell. Then the human race was created. As I think I’ve said on some occasion, the Fathers of the Church believed that there would have been no human race had some of the angels not sinned; that as many human beings will be created before the end of time as there were demons who envied God and were cast into Hell. Once the human race was created, the devil then envied the first human beings and he started with the woman. I would not be honest with you if I do not share with you the universal teaching of the Church. And we know what happened – the devil envying now the human race which would replace the devil in heaven but on the Fall.

Christ’s Passion and Death was the result of envy
St Clement goes through the whole Old Testament one major, one major calamity after another was the result of envy. And then the crowning, the crowning calamity of the human race – God became Man and the devil tempted this Man who claimed to be God; the devil wasn’t sure. Christ, of course, repelled the devil. And before we go any further – the best single formula for resisting the devil is the example of Christ when He was tempted by the evil spirit – a course all by itself. Then they all wanted to make sure that Christ was put to death. So what did he do? He inspired the Jewish leaders, the Scribes, the Sadducees, the Pharisees to what? To envy Jesus Christ: Christ’s Passion and Death was the result of envy.

The one infallible weapon to overcome the evil spirit is the Cross!
As we read the rest of Scripture, the enemies of Christ among the Chosen people thought we would be rid of this Man who claimed to be God. But it didn’t work. They killed Him. And for the first three hundred years they did everything in their power to wipe out the Christians. And before we go on much further with the course, let’s make sure we know this: the one weapon, the one infallible weapon for overcoming the evil spirit is the Cross! And how the devil has seduced millions, in our age, to seek pleasure, more pleasure and the last thing that millions want is pain or suffering. That’s why and I’m absolutely certain Dr. Kevorkian is possessed by the devil. No question whatever.

Why does the devil hate human beings? First of all, the devil hates God because God justly punished the devil. And this is the best definition for real demonic hatred. Hatred is the result of not only envying: But then hating the one who punishes you for your envy.

In other words, the worst form of hatred is the hatred of the evil spirit who hates God. Why? Because God has justly punished the devil for his envy. He hates human beings, therefore - that’s the devil - first, because he envies what we all hope to attain, namely Heaven. And he envies us for our redemption. Only God knows and St. Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews makes much of this; God chose to become a Man to redeem the human race. God never chose to become an angel to redeem the angelic race.

How does the devil exercise his hatred? In other words, this is a summary of our course. Am I clear? We were to say more as we go along. And it is very useful, to put it mildly, to understand how the devil hates us. However that yet is crucially important. Yet the devil’s hatred is always subject to God’s Providence.

We ask God to protect us from temptations He foresees we would not be able to resist
And listen to this. Over the centuries there have been more commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer than any other single part of the New Testament. Here’s how the saints explain the petition, “Lead us not into temptation.” What are we asking for in that petition of the Lord’s Prayer? We’re asking God to protect us from going into temptations which God foresees we would not be strong enough to resist. Let me repeat. All kinds of temptations - as we know there are three principal sources of temptation - the world, the flesh and the devil. When, therefore, we pray lead us not into temptation, protect us, we ask God from those temptations that You foresee we would not be able to resist. And this is where – oh, how I need to say this! I’ll say much more as we go along.

The modern media are engaged in Luciferian conspiracy against the Truth
Remember, remember, all temptations begin in the mind. Always error, and when the error is deliberate, it’s a lie. Consequently, the one demonic temptation we better hear about, as we begin this course, is the MEDIA. I’ve used this quotation more than once, remember from Marshall McLuen – his definition of the modern media; “The modern media are engaged in a Luciferian conspiracy against the truth.” How we better, what word shall I use – careful, that’s an understatement; cautious, an understatement; wary, an understatement – not to be deceived by the father of lies and using the media! And when people have asked me, you keep telling us that our present century is the most crime-laden century in human history: No question about it. How do you explain it? In one word – Media. And that is why – I may have mentioned this before – among the directives I received from the Holy See was a formal order from Pope Paul VI – “do everything you can, everything you can to alert the American people, or the world leaders in the media; Alert them to the need for using the media to proclaim the Gospel because your nation is being seduced by the evil spirit through the media. And the first and the most powerful media is print. I’m not sure I’ve ever said this before – that’s the main reason over the years I have spent by now thousands of hours writing for publication. We are to compete with the evil spirit who is using the media to seduce whole nations.

Forms of Demonic Activity

Now the forms of demonic activity: There are two fundamental forms of this diabolical action. Now we’ve got to distinguish between what I’m calling evil done by the devil; and then secondly, the devil trying to induce human beings to do evil. We’ll say more as the course goes on. I repeat, not just eight lectures – eighty lectures would be too few. In other words, the devil not only seduces or tempts people to sin. The devil is allowed by God to do evil, to harm people.

The two fundamental forms of demonic action
When, then we ask, what are the two fundamental forms of demonic action? We distinguish between the devil doing evil; and the devil tempting, seducing people. Evil done by the devil is extraordinary demonic activity. And this we will examine at some length.

All suffering in the world is somehow, mysteriously, the result of sin
First, in general, note the word extraordinary demonic activity. Now there is one sense, and a profound sense, in which evil has been done to the world by the devil that we have been enduring now over the centuries. The moment we say, as we do say as Catholics, all the suffering in the world is somehow mysteriously the result of sin.

How did sin first enter the world, and with sin, death and with death, suffering? That’s what all bodily suffering whether it be external, or with the senses of the body – all our suffering, I repeat, whether corporeal in the body externally, or emotions of the body internally – all of that is a result of sin, and is a constant reminder of our being sinners.

The more pain we have in our lives; the more holy God wants us to become
I could not speak louder; there’s no amplifier that God has that is louder than pain! Am I still clear?

Pain is God telling us, my friend, I love you. I love you but you are a sinner, and you’re going to die. And your death is a result of sin. What God wants through the pain that we endure – to make us what? More conformed to His Divine Will! Because, hear it, the more pain we have in our lives, the more holy God wants us to become. Memorize that. The more pain we have in our lives, the more holy God wants us to become. In other words, God has always a divinely good purpose through the suffering that we experience. Evil done by the devil is extraordinary demonic activity. And we’ll spend some time but not too much on local infestation. In other words, the devil can be in places, can do things, which only he can perform. Again the devil can be active outside of a person, which is called obsession and the Cure of Ars for most of his priestly life – he suffered obsession from the devil. Over the years of his priesthood, he got very little sleep, thanks to the devil.

While, then, also possession when the devil enters into a human being, but never, hear it, never controls that person’s will in such a way that the person has lost his or her freedom. While that person that is possessed may say things and do things which are demonic; but, I repeat, those demonic actions are not performed by the free will of the human being in cooperation with the devil.

The evil spirit is real!

However, and again, this is a subject all by itself. Satanism is now being practiced where the people then are not merely possessed by the devil, but cooperate with the evil spirit so that, then, they and the devil do things which are then mutually responsible to both a person who is satanic and the evil spirit who is using that person. And among the appearances on television that I finally turned down – was a midnight till two o’clock dialogue with a Satanist. We exchanged correspondence. We talked to each other over the telephone. But when the time came and the program was scheduled – a television station in Chicago – by that time I had acquired so much information from the Satanist that I needed more time to cope with the devil; two hours on television dialoguing with a Satanist – you’d better prepare! So I asked for a later, at least two weeks. The Satanist said “no more.” So then I begged off. The director of the television station called me up from Chicago, “Father, please, please, please be on that program on the scheduled time for I’m afraid they’re going to do great harm to me.” We’ll say more as we go along. Let me tell you, the evil spirit is real! We’d better know as much as we can about his operations.

Now the evil induced by the devil being, induced by the devil through temptation. We mention these three words which we all know from St. John. We are tempted in three ways: by the world, by the flesh and by the devil. Let’s make sure we know what each one, let’s make sure we know what each form of temptation mean.

The World – the attractive, appealing sinful behavior of other people

The world is the attractive, appealing, sinful behavior of other people; the attractive, appealing sinful behavior of other people. That in St. John’s vocabulary is the world. How we’d better know this. How we’d better know this! There is no such thing – doesn’t exist – as a repulsive or an ugly temptation. It wouldn’t be a temptation.

Now the devil may and does use human beings to tempt others; but our Faith distinguishes - just a sinful, attractive behavior of other people - is what the Church means by the world. Am I clear? I think I’ve told you, I’ve counted fourteen different meanings of the single Greek word cosmos in St. John which is the world; cosmos – fourteen different meanings. Among the fourteen different meanings is this one. But the world was created by God. God did not create the world to seduce people. And that is why we need the Church to explain the meaning; what the Scriptures tell us here about the word “world.”

Secondly, the flesh – how this needs to be said – the flesh does not mean only, only the temptations of the body, like sexual seduction. No! By the flesh St. John means concupiscence. In other words, when our first parents were first seduced and note the sequence: first devil, then Eve, then Adam, and then the rest of the human race.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, Blessed art Thou among women and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen. O Mary, Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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