Saturday, March 22, 2014

To My Friends: Don't Allow the Devil to Devour You

There have been times in my life as a priest where I've felt like the power of evil is being unleashed against a particular good.  For instance, maybe in the course of just a few days, numerous parishioners come to me and confide that their marriages are under a sudden and enormous strain.  In these instances--when it all happens at once--I have sensed that something truly evil was at work.

Recently, something similar has been occurring.  During the past few weeks, I have encountered a variety of persons--various situations and circumstances--who have felt deeply wounded by the Catholic Church.  In various ways, they have all expressed a sense that they have felt dismissed by the Church or betrayed and wounded by the Church.  Of course, being mere mortals with wounded human nature, for as long as we march through this valley of tears, even in the Church we will experience the burdens and tribulations of fallen humanity.  But, there is something more at work here, I fear.

I want to offer a word to those who are in the midst of such trials.  Do not allow the Devil to undermine your Faith in what is true, good, and beautiful.  I really think that he is employing all sorts of methods to destroy those things that he most hates.  He is trying to destroy the communion of the Church.  He is trying to destroy the relationship between priests and people, bishops and priests, and bishops and people.  He is seeking to destroy people's love for the Church.  He is using these things to discourage people from living out their faith.  

So, my advice is this: Let's say that you're right.  Let's say, (for the sake of making it as bad as possible), the people who have hurt you did so intentionally and with malice or did so from ineptitude and arrogance.  Either of those things would be pretty bad.  But, even if that were true, don't allow the Devil to use those things to rob you of the Truth.  The Church is still the spotless Bride of Christ.  The Priesthood is still a Sacrament instituted by Christ that is ordered toward the salvation of souls.  The communion of the Church is still a good that deserves zealous protection.  

I've been a priest for almost seventeen years.  I'm sure along the way, I've said or done things that have left people angry with the Church. Boy, do I regret that.  If I could tell them anything, I'd say, "Don't let the Devil use my arrogance and stupidity to shake your Faith in the Church."  

The very first Pope, St. Peter, wrote these words: "Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little" (1 Peter 5:8-10).  

In battle, sometimes an enemy will first launch a diversionary strike in order to draw attention away from the real attack.  I suspect that something similar is happening in many of the situations that I mention above.  The Devil is using diversionary strikes in order to distract people from his real strategy.  His real strategy is to undermine people's faith in the most central realities.  Don't fall for it. Instead, do the opposite.  Love the Church more.  Love the priesthood more.  Love the communion of the Church more.  Don't let him devour you.




6 comments:

  1. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the Church itself HAS failed some of its members and SHOULD be accountable for those failings. That by dismissing those failings and continuing to devote our lives to a Church that has failed its members we are actually allowing the devil to enter our most sacred asylums on earth. Isn't it possible for the devil to wear priest's clothing?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Do I think that members of the Church--including priests--have failed one another? Certainly. And in all sorts of ways. The reason I wrote the post is because I know that's the case. And, we should all be accountable for our failings. No argument there. My point is that we shouldn't allow Evil to rob us of our Faith. The persons I had in mind when I wrote that post would agree with me that I was not dismissing their wounds. They were, in fact, grateful, that I was addressing them. I am glad that you wrote a reply because I would not want you to think that I was dismissing the pain. My point is just that we shouldn't allow evil to undermine our faith and drive us away. I hope that clarified!

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    2. If being a witness to Christ's love can strengthen one's faith then witnessing something that runs counter Christ's love can be just as powerful in diminishing one's faith especially if it's encountered in a place where it should not be. Often it is not so easy to overcome the damage that has been done. There are times where it seems like some priests and the Church itself do not fully understand this.

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    3. Yes, I think what you write is true. But, even though these things can powerfully affect us, I think it is important for us to do everything possible to remain faithful. Some of the great saints can teach us about this. I think of John of the Cross and Padre Pio.

      I think of how Jesus tells us that we have to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This, at times, seems an impossible command. And yet, Jesus makes it a central part of being a disciple. This is not to dismiss the injuries or to excuse the bad behavior. It is simply to say that we should not allow ourselves to be robbed of the gift of Faith. Scandal is terrible. Jesus himself said so. But, if we happen to be the one who is scandalized, we should resist allowing that scandal to steal the things of God from us.

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  2. Quick typo correction in your 1 Peter 5:8-10 citation -- your fellow believers throughout the word (should be WORLD). Great post.

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