Build A Spiritual Defense

Most of us can sense when something is working against us as we persevere to grow in faith and strive to live the Gospel in communion with Christ. Sometimes, quite suddenly our peace of soul or joy in the Lord is oppressed by heaviness and negativity. Many people experience situations when strife arises, friendships abruptly break down, misunderstandings in families or groups cause division, odd accidents happen, strange twists occur and pathways are blocked. It is imprudent to always assume these are due to diabolical influences but often the devil is in mix. When a person becomes a threat to the demonic realm due to their love for God and/or some good work that builds up the Church, the devil reacts to the degree that God allows. Human messiness is due to our foibles and sin but there can be a diabolical influence. All men experience temptation and most also experience diabolical oppression at some level.

Christ allowed himself to be confronted by the devil to teach us how to resist him. It is sometimes necessary that we personally repeat the words of our Lord, “Be gone Satan”(Matt 4:10). Scripture should readily be on our lips in defense of our dignity and vocation. Sacramental baptism confers authority upon us as children of God so that in the name of Jesus Christ we effectively pray against demonic attacks.

Exorcist priests will look for natural causes and if there is no apparent natural cause—the reality may be that a spirit not of God is asserting oppression upon persons and situations. The devil harasses and tempts us to betray God, others and ourselves. What then? Whether such situations are due to human weakness, sin or diabolical influence, the solution is the same. We are to bind ourselves to Christ all the more sacramentally and with increased prayer, persevere by grace that is always sufficient.

Parents protect their children by praying for and with them, claiming them for Christ alone. Spouses can do the same for one another. To break free from ordinary demonic tactics we immediately reinforce our relationship with Christ through the sacraments and prayer. We can count on Mary, angels and saints who provide real spiritual defense on our behalf.

Ordinary Demonic Tactics can include the following. When there is natural cause for these, the devil often exacerbates it.

  • Distance: from home, family, fragmentation, isolation, loneliness, love
  • Deception: reality inverted, false promises, lies
  • Division: divided self, family, home, work, country, church
  • Diversion: delay, distract, relativism, exacerbating addictions or infirmities
  • Discouragement: acedia (Greek meaning “I don’t care”), lethargy about self, others or about the interior life, tiredness, overwhelm
  • Draining spirit: drains energy from you, extreme physical fatigue without cause, leads to waste of time, less energy, less prayer and devotion
  • Doubt: subtle to intense doubts about self, others or God undermining faith, hope and love

During his Angelus address on Sunday, 17 February 2002, commenting on the readings of the first Sunday of Lent (the temptation of Christ in the desert), Pope John Paul II said, “The Messiah’s resolute attitude is an example and an invitation for us to follow him with courageous determination. The devil, the “prince of this world” (John 12,31), even today continues his deceitful action. Every man, over and above his own concupiscence and the bad example of others, is also tempted by the devil, and the more so when he is least aware of it. How many times he easily gives in to the false flattery of the flesh and the evil one, and then experiences bitter delusions. One must stay on guard to react quickly to the onslaught of temptation. The Church, expert teacher of humanity and holiness, shows us ancient and ever new instruments for the daily combat against evil suggestions:  prayer, the sacraments, penance, careful attention to the Word of God, vigilance and fasting.”

The power of prayer

From the vantage point of a person assisting priests and exorcists who work on the frontlines of spiritual warfare, I attest to the power of prayer to banish demons. The spiritual weapons used by an exorcist and his team is available to all the faithful with the one exception, The Rite of Exorcism. The Rite is a sacramental reserved for a designated priest only. The other sacramentals used in exorcism are available to everyone and these include the crucifix, holy water, the Bible, blessed objects such as rosaries and saint relics.

What occurs during a formal Rite of Exorcism? Prayer! The priest and his team ardently offer continuous prayers that include the litany of saints, the Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary, the holy Rosary, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. We see their effect when the demon is forced to leave the poor victim because he can’t stand the force of the prayer. Prayer releases spiritual power. Sometimes I think the demons are more aware of the spiritual power of prayer than many of us. The evil one would rather vacate than remain in the presence of faith-filled prayer.

One thing that we are keenly aware of during healing and deliverance prayer is that the battle is the Lord’s. He is always the Chief Exorcist acting in and through his priests who are prayer warriors supported by a team of more prayer warriors. We pray, pray, pray! The devil may mock us for a while, but with more prayer, he is weaker. He becomes tormented by the continuous power of prayer until he would rather leave than stay. Perseverance in faith-filled prayer is key to proclaiming the victory of Jesus Christ.

The power of the Sacraments

St. Peter reminds us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12-14). And “be sober and vigilant; your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour; resist him, firm in your faith knowing that your fellow believers around the world undergo the same sufferings” (1 Peter 5:6-11).

No matter what level of diabolical harassment we may be experiencing—whether we suffer ordinary temptations that are common to all; or oppression that is prevalent but considered ordinary demonic activity; or obsession that is considered a spiritual disorder wherein a person needs deliverance prayer and conversion; or possession which is extremely rare and requires the Rite of Exorcism; the sacraments are vital medicine for healing. The sacraments are perpetual reservoirs of life giving, healing grace. We can ask Christ to release the power of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Matrimony or Holy Orders to strengthen and heal us.

The Power of the Word of God

Often during deliverance or exorcism prayers, the priest asks a member of the team to proclaim the Word of God aloud. We read a scripture passage and it becomes evident that the devil is tormented by the living Word of God. We know the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that severs from evil.

St. Paul tells us in Romans, “We are more than conquerors in Christ” (Rom 8:37). An acronym for conqueror may be helpful in recalling the weapons of engagement for the “good fight”.

  • C for Christ’s name (the name of Jesus Christ proclaims His victory)
  • O for obedience (obedience to God confounds the disobedient one)
  • N for not mine, but God’s will (our yes to God releases grace)
  • Q for Queen Mother (Mary crushes the head of the serpent)
  • U for union with Christ (Holy Communion binds us to Christ)
  • E for evangelical poverty (renunciation of honor, riches, sensual pleasure)
  • R for reconciliation (healing mercy)
  • O for ordered life (life ordered to Christ becomes spiritual armor)
  • R for reject Satan (resist the devil and he will flee)

Vigilance and Fasting

Carelessness, presumption, denial, self-indulgence and independence lead us to fall. Christ calls us to be vigilant and aware of demonic tactics that test us as Job was tested.  One proven method that helps sharpen our spiritual vision, discernment, prayer and vigilance is the ancient art of fasting. Everyone can fast from something in order to discipline our selves for the greater joy of being a fit soldier for Christ.

God the Father taught St. Catherine of Siena, “…No one should fear any battle or temptation of the devil that may come to him, because I have made My creatures strong, and have given them strength of will, fortified in the Blood of My Son, which will, neither devil nor creature can move, because it is yours, given by Me.” (Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, Treatise on Discretion, 27)

While we are diligent to resist Satan with God’s grace, we should also be aware that many people are summoning him so that the cult of Satan worshippers is growing especially among young people. This is one reason there is an urgent need for the New Evangelization. Let us not only defend ourselves in the spiritual battle but also intercede for those who on the frontlines of the “good fight”—the priests.

image: Catholic Church of St. Simon and St. Helena on Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus / Shutterstock

Kathleen Beckman

By

Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., serves as Co-founder and President of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests (www.foundationforpriests.org). She is an author, radio host and retreat director who frequently speaks about the spiritual life to priests, seminarians, religious and laity in the United States and abroad. Often featured on EWTN TV and radio, Kathleen hosts the weekly program Living Eucharist, which airs internationally on Radio Maria. She serves on the Advisory Boards of Magnificat, A Ministry to Catholic Women and the Pope Leo XIII Institute. Her new book Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization has a Foreword by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. and is published by Sophia Institute Press.

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  • Maria

    Thank you for this !
    Being attendee for week day Holy Mass, at a parish , that could have outstreched their resources ( unsure of this , but know the persons in charge there seem to think, social ministry, basket ball programs, refugee family settlement and whatveer else !- IS The Major part of the ministry and gives sort of angry, put down sermons towards the few daily Mass attendees,( who likley are doing what they can, to give support atleast financially at their own comfort levels and possibly not venturing into the other areas much , possibly for the comfort /calling level – that does not excluse that they are not doinh what thye ought to , for what thye are called for !
    There have been sermons as though the whole Central American conflict and the sponsored refugees , not being cared for , ? at the level of the ‘Sound of Music ‘ land , is the fault of the few daily Mass attendees !
    I too had expected the Sound of Music country , when coming to this land and imagine the shock of being in N.Y , from a land that was more llke Hawaii and facing 36 hour work schedules !
    Hope the example and prayers of Padre Pio would help – he focused on what he needed to , and did not from what I know , get angry at the Holy Mass attendees, for not supporting his charity work ; the money came ( now, true , he did face persecution from his superiors over this ! )
    If the participants in the Mass felt there was real concern for the spiritual well being of the persons too , may be the stinging , almost curse like comments would not feel that bad !
    Bl Sacrament for adoration, left in the chapel, with no arrangements to cover the monstrance when people not present , like it is done in many other places when no adorers are present and seemingly no concern from those who ought to , for such in spite of this being brought to attention often enough and sort of like a scorn for persons who seem to care about such practices , even implying the Holy Mass , as ‘ empty gestures ‘ and defining love as what they alone seem to see !
    Many regualar attendess leaving, possibly from such hypoctrical attitudes !
    Hope many persosn become more aware of what is called spiritual witchcrfat , of trying to control and manipluate others for selfish agendas and try to pray with such -’have mercy on us ‘ . since The Lord might be bringing such to our attention for the occasion of deliverance for many and it would be good not to waste such occasions – evey family that is contracepting or putting undue pressure on children, to use them for social prestige – all come under such !
    Lord have mercy on us and our Lady of Mount Carmel deliver us all !

  • Maria

    If I may add this too , having heard how top heaviness in administrative levels is a pervasive problem in many parishes here , if those who are to care for the spiritual well being are caring enough. many such needs might be filled by volunteers as well !
    Hope before the anger /hatred /scorn develops towards the flock, for seeming lack of support, such issues too would be looked into !
    May The Divine Wisdom of The Sacred Head , govern us all !

  • http://catholicecology.blogspot.com/ William L. Patenaude

    A wonderful, helpful, and necessary contribution. May God bless you and all those who read and share this.

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