Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Devil Whispers in the Night

The Devil wakes me up at night. His arrival is not marked by supernatural events or loud noises. If that were his tactic, I might quickly respond and rebuke him. No, his attacks these days come in whispers and in fleeting images. What he whispers are not complete lies. There's always enough truth in what he says for me to entertain these thoughts.  What has he been whispering? He's been whispering about failure.

"You wasted your time." It's been sixteen years since the scandals first erupted in Boston. Back then, it seemed like everything would completely implode. At night, my mind has been picturing all of the parents who kept bringing their children to Mass during those years. They stuck it out. In my mind's eye, I see them sitting in their pews. Many of their friends and family members had abandoned the Church, but they stuck it out. And, they didn't just show up. They built. They donated. They invited others. They didn't just show up on Sundays. They came to Confession, Forty Hours Devotions, Missions, and Bible Studies. They didn't just weather the storm. They courageously risked everything and sailed into the storm. 

And now? I wonder if they feel like they wasted their time. I wonder if their kids who are now older think the whole thing is a joke. I wonder if these people are mad that they gave so much only to have everything seemingly turn to dust in front of them. Perhaps they don't think of me as a con artist, but maybe they think I was just a hapless dupe who cluelessly sold magic beans, believing that they were really magic. That's what he whispers, but that's not all he whispers.

He whispers to me saying that had I been a priest working in a chancery thirty years ago, maybe I would have typed up memos detailing the diabolical and grotesque facts about abusive priests and then dutifully placed them in a file drawer. It sounds odd because I wasn't a priest back then and I never worked in a chancery, and yet he somehow accuses me. It scares me. Maybe I would have written memos and not done much more. He whispers that to me in the night, but that's not all he whispers.

He whispers repeated reminders to me of all the sins I've ever committed. They're not lies. They're facts. Even the sins I haven't committed, he reminds me that I could have. He whispers that I shouldn't preach about sin because I'm a sinner. He shames me and calls me a fraud. He whispers about how often I've been lukewarm. He whispers that I'm not holy enough to be a priest. He whispers things designed to undermine my confidence, but that's not all he whispers.

He whispers about the priestly vocations I've encouraged. He tells me that I've led these guys into an ambush. That's not all he whispers.

He whispers about how much more difficult it will be for the students at the Catholic Center to witness to their Faith. He whispers that the obstacles to evangelization are much more significant now. That's not all he whispers.

He whispers about all the people whose faith was weak or whose faith was just starting to grow. He whispers how they are gone now. He whispers about the horrible things that were perpetrated upon children and how he used sacred persons to destroy others. He whispers a lot.

One of the readings for Night Prayer says, "Be sober and alert, your enemy the Devil is prowling like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith" (1Pet 5:8)

I share this blogpost today because I know that I am not the only one the Devil whispers to and accuses. People have written to me and told me that they feel shaken and undermined. The Devil doesn't prowl about simply to take a bite here and there. He seeks to devour and to destroy. He tells half truths so that we will listen to him, and then he leads us into his snare. He points out all the evil as if that were the full story. He reminds us of our sins, but leaves out the part about us being forgiven through absolution. He reminds us of the grotesque failures of the Church, but leaves out the part about how the Church is necessary for salvation. He shows us how arduous the road ahead will be, but fails to show us how Christ will be walking beside us the whole way. He whispers to shake our confidence in Christ and in the Church. His whispers are unsettling, undermining, and seductive. 

Be sober and alert. When you hear these whispers, do not yield to them. Remember that these are the whispers of an enemy; an enemy who wants to devour you. Call upon the Blessed Mother and her Son, Jesus Christ. Call upon your guardian angel. Recite some words of Scripture, wherein we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Reject the whisperer and listen to the beautiful voice of the Good Shepherd. 

The Devil is not resting. He is prowling, seeking to destroy. Resist him, solid in your Faith.


  1. We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.
    Pope Saint John Paul II

  2. This just might be your most heartfelt, poignant blog yet. It is written in a format that everyone can honestly relate to in a caring and thoughtful way without being the least bit overly academic using terminology designed for only a theological scholar. God Bless you Fr. David, and please keep using your gift of writing to keep waging a war against Satan.

  3. Thank you for this piece, but rest assured we will never stop bringing our children! (in fact, I found your piece in a moms' group, posted with a reminder to pray for our priests.) We are all in this together. We are all shaken and hurt together. I will say a St. Michael prayer for you. Keep up the good fight!

  4. Start listening to the whispers of God. You are paying way to much attention to the devil from this post. Priests are impacted..and should be glad the light is shining on the sin. Fire refines..and in order for the Church to be needs pruning. Forgiveness comes with repentence..and making up for sexual abuse...well it involves jail time...not confidentiality agreements. The Truth will set us free. No Holy Spirit in hiding. Glad people are praying..but praying usually leads one to action..not silence.Marian Rose

  5. Thank you. Good post. Don't leave Jesus because of Judas and don't leave his church because Peter denied Jesus.

  6. I think that one of the advantages of age and life experience is to see that "there is nothing new under the sun." Circumstances and historical cycles make things seem new, but when one is older, one begins to calm down and say, "been there, done that," even though it seems that this newest incident is beyond anything I have ever seen. I am reminded of two Scriptures in particular: the old man in the book of Maccabees who is told he should pretend to eat pork to save his life. He responds by asserting that he has served God his whole life and he is not going to be faithless now, when it is most important to be a good example to the younger generation. Also, I think of the words of Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." The corruption that may be inside the Church is due to fallen nature. The corruption in the world is a deliberate rebellion against God. The words "reparation" and "expiation" have fallen out of the Catholic vocabulary, but they are our means of proving to God we are sincerely sorry as an entire Body of Christ. The devil hates humility and hates the generosity of people people doing penance for others. The resistance is always to have before us the image of Christ on the cross, waiting for someone--anyone to ask mercy on us and on the whole Church.

  7. This was very edifying to read Father. When I listen to these lies, it make it difficult to have courage to follow Jesus and do His will.