The word of God teaches us that our life on earth is warfare and the Lord reminds us that if we have decided to follow the Lord we must be prepared for combat. The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens the Gifts of the Holy Spirit within our souls and transforms us into “Soldiers of Christ” the King. With the “Cristero” martyrs of Mexico our battle cry must be “Viva Cristo Rey”—long live Christ the King! The devil exists, has keen intelligence (in a perverted way), is exceedingly sly and crafty, and is constantly at work and persistent in his work (temptations). However, God, Mary, His angels and saints are far more powerful than the devil. Two extremes must be avoided with respect to the devil. These were warnings given by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. The first extreme to avoid is to deny that the devil exists. Indeed this is one of the tactics of the devil. On the other hand, we should never give the devil too much importance. Individuals, fearful alarmists, speak more of the power of the devil than of the Omnipotence of God Himself. Let us avoid the two extremes!
Spiritual Weapons to Conquer the Devil
Vigilance. Stay awake and pray so that you are not put to the test and overcome by the temptations of the devil. The precise reason for the Apostles’ fall, abandoning Jesus in the Garden, was that they were not vigilant in prayer.
Name it and Claim it. When the temptation breaks it can prove exceedingly useful to simply admit in a very calm manner, “I am being tempted by the devil, the enemy of God!” Name it! Claim it! And then tame it! Discovering the enemy on the attack is half the battle! Ignorance of the enemy’s presence can augment his power over us.
Avoid the Near Occasion of Sin. Often we are tempted because we place ourselves in the near occasion of sin. Remember the many proverbs! “Do not play with fire!” and “He who plays in danger will perish in danger!” “He who walks on thin ice will fall in!” One of the reasons why Eve ate from the forbidden fruit was due to the simple reason that she was near the tree that God told her not to eat from.
State of Desolation. While in this state St. Ignatius arms us with four key weapons: more prayer, more meditation, examine your conscience (to see why you are in desolation) and finally to apply yourself to some suitable penance. Some devils are expelled only through prayer and penance! Sacramentals. The proper use of Sacramentals can prove to be very efficacious in fighting against the devil, and especially three: the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the medal of Saint Benedict, and finally HOLY WATER. St Teresa of Avila insists on using Holy Water to expel the devil from our presence. Why? The devil is inflated with pride and Holy water is small and inconspicuous—this the devil hates and cannot endure. Exorcisms have recourse to holy water!
Fiery Darts That Penetrate the Sky. When being assaulted by the enemy it is highly recommended to offer short and fervent prayers; these can prove exceedingly efficacious in putting the devil to flight. Some examples of these short but powerful prayers might be: Jesus I trust in you… Sweet Heart of Mary be my salvation… Lord, save me… Lord come to my rescue…and of course invoking with faith and confidence the Holy names of Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph.
Reject Immediately. Part of the problem in spiritual combat is the lethargic, slow and anemic response to the temptation. God’s grace must always prevail through the weapon of prayer. Still, we must engage our own will in manfully and forcefully rejecting the temptation from the start. Frequently temptations get a stronghold over us because we open up the door and the tail of the devil enters and it is difficult to kick him out!
Laziness. On one occasion in the Diary of St. Faustina the devil was roaming the corridors frantically looking for somebody to tempt. St Faustina stopped the devil and told him out of obedience to Jesus to tell her what was the greatest danger to the nuns. Reluctantly the devil responded— Lazy and indolent souls! All of us have heard the proverb: “Idleness is the workshop of the devil!” This means that if we do not have anything to do then the devil will give us a lot to do. The great St. John Bosco mortally feared vacation time for his boys in the Oratory. Why? Too much free time gives full entrance and game to the devil in the life of the youth! How often have we sinned preceded by moments, hours or even days of indolence and laziness! Our philosophy should be that of St. Alberto Hurtado, “There are two places to rest: the cemetery and heaven.” In the present it is time to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. May St. Benedict’s motto be ours: Ora et Labora. Work and Pray.
Jesus in the Desert as Supreme Example: His Three Weapons. Of course our best example for all is Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” At the end of forty days in the desert, the devil came to tempt Him. Jesus forcefully and easily conquered the devil by using three weapons that we must learn to use: prayer, fasting, and the use of the Word of God. Jesus had a prolonged prayer experience in the desert. Added to that was forty days of fasting; He ate nothing. Finally the devil tempted Him by using the Word of God; Jesus also used the Word of God as a sharp arrow to puncture the efforts of Satan. Fervent and prolonged prayer, constant self-denial, and familiarity with the Word of God, both meditating on it and putting it into practice are efficacious weapons indeed to combat and conquer Satan.
Openness to Your Spiritual Director. Once again, the Master Saint Ignatius comes to the rescue! In the 13th Rule of Discernment the saint warns us that the devil likes secrecy in the sense that if one is in a profound state of desolation that to open up to a Spiritual Director can conquer the temptation. By clamming up it is like a cut or wound that is hidden beneath a band aid. Until that wound is exposed to the sun and a disinfectant the wound not only will not heal but it will become all the more infected, it will fester and risk the danger of gangrene or worse yet amputation. Once the temptation is revealed to an able Spiritual Director it is often conquered. Overwhelmed by temptation, doubt and confusion shortly before making her vows, St. Therese opened up to her Novice Mistress and Superior revealing her state of soul. Almost immediately the temptation disappeared, she made her vows and went on to be one of the greatest modern saints. What would have happened to her if following the counsel of the devil she kept her state of soul secret? Undoubtedly we would not have Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.
St. Michael the Archangel. In our battle with Satan we should use all the weapons in our arsenal. God chose Saint Michael the Archangel as the faithful angel, the Prince of the Heavenly Host, to cast into hell Satan and the other rebellious angels. St. Michael, whose name means, “Who is like unto God”, is just as powerful now as he was in the past. In the midst of the storm of temptations, why not lift up your heart to St. Michael and call upon him. You can pray the famous prayer “St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle….” Or simply beg for his intercession! His help from the heights of heaven will help you to be victor in your combat with the devil.
Mary Most Holy. As a whole the Mexican people have great devotion to Mary, especially under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. However, in Guadalajara, Mexico, in addition to venerating Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patron of Mexico and the Americas, they honor her with another title: “La General del ejercito!”—- meaning that she is the “General of the Army”. In our battle against the ancient serpent, Genesis 3:15 honors the woman who crushes the head of the serpent with her heal. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her offspring and yours; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen. 3:15). Indeed the ancient serpent the devil can strike out at us with his ugly tongue and spew out venom, but when we rely on and trust in Mary she will crush his ugly head. Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Maria Reina! Long live Jesus and Mary!