I wrote this post in June of 2010 on the “old version” of the blog. It has always been one of my most visited and most commented on posts. I have edited slightly for content, continuity, and clarity.
I post it here both on a request from someone, and to set up some thoughts I have had recently. It is always interesting to re-read things written in the past…:
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. It took its position on the sand of the sea. – Apocalypse 12:17
We are at WAR. This is not puffery. Our souls, and the souls of those that we love, are in mortal peril and they are under constant ATTACK from the Devil. After reading Terry Nelson’s post over at Abbey Roads, I had to post about it. He makes some very valid and important points. One of the most important points he makes is that many Catholics today do not really believe in things like spiritual warfare, the peril of souls, of even the Devil himself. He sums it up this way:
Today, when there is such an emphasis upon peace and justice, some Catholics do not like using the terms, spiritual warfare, combat, battle, or always hearing phrases such as ‘we are at war’ and so on. Yet that is what the Christian life has always been, it is a struggle – an intense, knock down, drag out fight, a very real spiritual combat.
He then quotes St. Paul,
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. ~~Ephesians 6:10-12
He is so right! So many parishes and dioceses focus on “social justice” issues and position the efforts from a “moral high ground.” In essence, they present “social justice issues” as the problem, and the parish and its efforts as the “solution.” Rarely do we see an internal focus on prayer, spirituality, and spiritual “efforts” as a focus of catechesis, exploration, or education.1
Don’t get me wrong, I think these are worthy and important areas of Catholic teaching and belief, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it isn’t us as people that do good things, but Christ through us. We should never assume or act as if we are an accomplished Church, in the sense that we aren’t in need of improvement or refinement.
As a Church we are at War with the culture, the homosexual priestly abuse crisis, the lack of vocations, the ‘progressive modernization’ of our faith, the feminist agenda, the corruption of our children, the culture of death, the onslaught of pornography and infidelity, the debasement of our Sacred traditions and symbols; and we as a people cry for social justice for the oppressed. But who exactly are the oppressed? Are we as Catholics oppressed? Or worse yet, are we not HUNTED? If the world and our culture are consuming folks and it is unjust, what is the best avenue to combat this? When people are held captive and imprisoned how to we best free them from the shackles?
Social justice will only come when the forces of evil, the purveyors of injustice are defeated. We must put on the armor of God if we have ANY chance to defend ourselves in this battle. Therefore, if we go out there, looking for justice and peace, and we do not possess those protections, we are thrusting ourselves, defenseless, into WAR. And it is a true, honest to GOD, WAR. We must treat our world and culture in this way, or we are being nothing but foolish and naive. Therefore we must arm ourselves with Truth, Morality, Love, and walk in the Commandments of God… prior to going into battle. We cannot seek Justice without those things. We can not and must not enter into battle weaponless.
So how do we arm ourselves? I agree with Terry Nelson, who suggests:
…begin to pray – to really pray – prepare yourself for trials. Whenever you embark upon anything good in the spiritual life, the combat begins. Sometimes that can be a sign to “do even more” as St. Paul says. Frequent Mass and the sacraments – especially confession. And use sacramentals – especially wearing Our Lady’s livery: The Scapular of Mt. Carmel along with the shield of the Miraculous Medal, and keep the very best weapon of the Rosary with you at all times. These are tools, weapons, Our Lady herself has given to her children through the saints. These are not foolish devotions or superstitious.
The Devil is real, like it or not. You must believe that not only is he real but also that he seeks the eternal damnation of your soul. It is his only chance at victory. Although the greater story is already foretold and settled, he still aims ruin of as many souls as possible. Your soul is no safer than anyone else… you are NOT GUARANTEED Heaven… unless you do that which is required of you by GOD. First and foremost is a complete and total submission to the truth of Christ. A true and total conversion of heart, mind, and soul to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
Social Justice is an honorable, worthy, and important goal. Yet, it cannot simply occur through the good intentions or works of the faithful. We all know what road is paved with good intentions. We must actively defend ourselves, our souls, and the souls of those around us.
We must be counter-cultural. We must strike against culture, against ‘the world’, and against evil.
A teen once told me that they come to Mass and learn the faith, and love the faith but have a hard time knowing how to live it out each day. This is honestly a good admission… they realize that there is a incongruity between the world and Catholicism. We are not made for the world, we are not made for its culture, its riches and gold. We are made for GOD and we should seek Heaven. Our religion is surely about love… but love does not only mean lollipops and gum-drops. Sometimes love is a battle… and the greatest love is to lay down your life for another. This isn’t always in physical death, but sometimes ‘death’ comes in another form.
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
The world HATES you. It isn’t a happy, shiny thought, but if you can accept the truth to say and believe: ‘The World Hates ME!’, then you are on the path to accepting the truth that we aren’t made for this world. From there, it is much easier to accept that there is something more, and someone more is out there on your side.
We have the promise, “As the Father loves Jesus, so also will I be loved. If I keep the commandments of God, I will remain in HIS LOVE.” What more could we ask for? But as I have said in this post, it will not come easy… we are at WAR.
So we must stand firm and resolute in our desire to keep the commandments of God. We must put on the ARMOR OF GOD. We must arm ourselves with the weapons of the faith: the Rosary, the Scapular, and Medals. We must spiritually fight through prayer and meditation. We must seek Social Justice and Peace for people and not for the world. It takes great strength and courage to be a Catholic in today’s world… and yet it has always been such. If you need inspiration… look to any CHILD Saint that was ready willing and able to DIE for their faith. Can we even FATHOM THAT? No wonder we don’t like phrases such as “SPIRITUAL WARFARE.” I wonder if Spiritual War will chip my nails, muddy my gym shoes, or ruin my designer handbag?
Again, I have no problem with seeking Social Justice… I just do not believe we can bring about that type of change unless we are truly willing to enter the war. Our faith and our souls are under constant attack. Justice will not be served until we can protect and preserve the souls of those that seek and follow Christ. The only way we can do that is if we are willing to take up arms against the enemy, put on the Armor of God and Defend our FAITH and ourselves in battle.
- This is slightly modified to be less specific. It originally contained an anecdotal example of this. [↩]