Spiritual Warfare, Part I

Recently, the Catholic League complained when a University of Central Florida student walked out of Mass with the Host and held it hostage for several days.

In response to this, a professor named P.Z. Myers, who teaches at the University of Minnesota – Morris, wrote a viciously anti-Catholic post on his blog in which he referred to the Eucharist as a “goddamned cracker” and urged his readers to “score me some consecrated communion wafers” so that he could “gladly, and with much fanfare… treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web”.

The Catholic League again protested, noting that Myers was using University equipment—and therefore public monies—to spread his malignant views. Apparently after receiving some heat from his superiors, Myers quickly backed down, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that “the blog entry is more ‘satire and protest’ than an actual threat to defile the Eucharist.” However, he also promised to do “something” and followed up on this promise a few days later by piercing a Host with a rusty nail, throwing it in the trash, and posting a photo on his blog. All this raises the question, yet again, of what our response as Catholics should be to such situations.

crux.jpgThe Eucharist is, of course, the source and summit of our Faith. It is Jesus Christ, fully and really present in the fullness of His body, blood, soul and divinity. Deliberate desecration of the Eucharist proceeds from exactly the same spirit that nailed Him to the cross. Those who do it, whether they know it or not, are acting with precisely the same malice as those who mocked Jesus in His agonies. As Catholics, we cannot minimize that. We know Who that is there on the altar, however much His enemies may scream “cracker” at us. We have an obligation, not simply for His sake, but for the sake of souls, to see that such a desecration does not occur.

To the world, Catholic shock and outrage at Eucharistic sacrilege is either odd (like people obsessed with lucky rabbit’s feet), hypersensitive (like the Muslims who rioted because they thought Pope Benedict XVI had said they were prone to rioting), or contemptible over-reaction to a real insult (like the Muslims who rioted over cartoons that made fun of Muhammad). So there is the question of how to confront the sacrilege without encouraging further sacrilege.

However, beyond this, there is the question—really the only question—of what God wants us to do. And when we start there rather than with our feelings of shock or our jitters about how to navigate an increasingly post-Christian and hostile culture, we have a clear answer from Scripture: forgive and fight with the weapons of the Spirit.

Forgiving and fighting don’t seem to go together in many people’s minds. But they were perfectly reconcilable in Paul’s mind. On the one hand, Paul knew that he had been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation since “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Paul saw this lived out with his own eyes as he looked down with approval on the bloodied face of St. Stephen and heard him pray, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). And he knew perfectly well that Stephen had prayed that for men who, like P.Z. Myers, are not one bit sorry for what they were doing. In that, Stephen was like his Lord, who likewise prayed for utterly impenitent men, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

That means, as a fundamental baseline, that we are forbidden from responding like the Danish Cartoon Rioters. We are forbidden from threats or cursing or vengeance. When our Eucharistic Lord hung upon the Cross, desecrated with the spittle of the mob, the blows of His captors, and the mockery even of His fellow victims, He refused to give in to these things. He willed the good of His most vicious enemies. He prayed for them and forgave.

At the same time, however, He was at war in the profoundest way. Because as He was hanging upon the cross, despised by all the world, He was in that very moment “despoiling the principalities and the powers.” What appeared to be a humiliating defeat was, in fact, a crushing victory over the devils. With His Cross, “he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it” (Colossians 2:15).

That is what Paul means when he says, “the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Next time, we will look at some ways Scripture shows how Paul forgave and fought.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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  • Prayer is also the first and foremost weapon we must deploy against our President-elect and his policies.

  • Claire

    Very true, Arkanabar. It’s really hard to have hope today, but we can’t give up.

  • jcdives

    The rosary is our weapon. Let’s not cease taking it up in our daily lives and for our country.

  • krby34

    For 300 years with numbers far smaller than our own today Christians followed the teachings of Christ with true fear of death and look at the numbers today. Today in America we really only fear mockery if we choose to stand firm to what Christ teaches but tomorrow that may change. What cannot change is our conviction to stand true.

    Life is precious. Life is God’s gift to us. Life is for love, from love, with love.

    Let us love our President Elect Barack Obama. Though he stands for many things we cannot support we must love the sinner not the sins.

    May God Bless Barack Obama and his four years of leadership of this country. May Obama come to know that the fight for life is the first and most important fight above all things. May he respect his office and the people of our country by leading as a person of principle open to greater awareness and understanding of all involved as he has promised he will.

  • For sure. I am sitting here feeling a bit shell shocked, somewhat disbelieving that this could actually have happened. Perhaps this crushing defeat of pro-life and pro-family people and policies will serve to motivate and mobilize more Christians to get involved on behalf of the slaughtered innocents. Yes, definitely time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and beg God’s help and forgiveness, and for a change of heart for the many pro-death people who were just elected.

  • Thank you Mark. Connecting the message of your article with the results of yesterday’s elections seems like the obvious thing to do. We should all pray for Mr. Obama and indeed, for all of America. If we didn’t have something worth saving, we wouldn’t be putting forth the effort. Let us bless God in a spirit of patriotism for our homeland.

  • Dave

    In my frustration and mood of anger, this article is a most timely reminder of what prescribes a true Catholic. I will pray for the enemies of Christ, and holy guidance for all Christians.

  • hello1

    I was running on emotions this morning and called Obama some not so nice names in an email to a sibling. God convicted me immediatly and I knew I needed to pray for our president ask forgivness first. I don’t have to like him but will pray for him. “Love the sinner not the sin was already said” I hope and pray for obama and all his staff.

  • Since US Courts are “of the world”, and they would most likely refuse to accept the Host as Jesus, then since it is considered by them as a “cracker”, PZ Myers is a Criminal in the state of Minnesota.

    State Legal Statutes

    Subd. 2.Acts constituting theft.
    Whoever does any of the following commits theft and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 3:
    (1) intentionally and without claim of right takes, uses, transfers, conceals or retains possession of movable property of another without the other’s consent and with intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of the property;

    incitement to others to steal hosts for him

    receiving stolen goods

    damage to property

    liable for crimes of another (due to incitement)

    If you ever read anything on his blog…
    (3) engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others



    Since he has not, nor will he ever likely reveal the sources of his hosts
    Aiding an offender

    Since he insited on CONSECRATION, and the thief had to accept host under the express spoken condition that it is the “Body of Christ” as attested to by his own mouth “AMEN”… this is arguable in court.
    Illegal handling of Remains

    If God’s will was done on earth as it is in Heaven, then:
    Since the Catholic Eucharist is living flesh, (note: the it was accepted as such by the perpetrators that misrepresented themselves as qualified recipients in order to defraud the priest of the hosts, by saying “Amen”, then these should be construed to apply:
    Assault 2nd degree

    Scripture says:

    Romans 13:3
    For the authorities are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you like to live without being afraid of the authorities? Then do what is right, and you will receive their approval.

    1 Peter 2:13-17
    For the Lord’s sake submit yourselves to every human authority: whether to the king as supreme, or to governors who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live like free people, and do not use your freedom as an excuse for doing evil. Instead, be God’s servants. Honor everyone. Keep on loving the community of believers, fearing God, and honoring the king.

    2 Chronicles 20:6
    and he said, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.

    Matthew 28:18
    Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

    Are we not then to call upon the legal authorities that God has established in the world to maintain order?

  • Loretta

    I suggest we all pray and meditate on Psalm 2 today.

  • Jackster… I LOVE IT !!!!!

    I don’t know if it is really actionable, but you make an interesting arguement.

    If only…

    Fr. Frank

  • SolaGratia

    Funny, this article reminded me of Proverbs’ teaching about heaping coals on your enemies head which St. Paul mentions in Romans 12 – the passage there seems to fit this well, but it also appears to speak to my mood following this election. How shocked I was to realize that I have been hoping for the Liberals to screw up early and often so that we can reclaim the reins starting with 2010 & then 2012. Time for a spiritual makeover! (Holy Hour!)

    [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
    [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
    [16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
    [17] Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
    [18] If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.
    [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
    [20] No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
    [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

  • wgsullivan

    Bridegroom Press
    November 3, 2008

    Remember this tomorrow:

    “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

    We don’t have to be happy, we do have to be joyful.

    Being happy is being comfortable, healthy and well-fed.
    Being joyful is knowing that God’s plan is being worked out,
    and our obedience and submission to it contributes to His glory.

    Jesus was not happy on the Cross, but He was joyful.

    We fast and pray, we ask for mercy, but we accept whatever comes, punishment or pleasure.
    Times of persecution were prophesied.
    If we are found worthy to be subject to them, we should rejoice.

    “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
    For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

    It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:3-17

    Every drop of blood shed by the abortionist’s scalpel will have to be repaid.
    Perhaps we have been chosen to participate, be God’s co-workers, as St. Paul said, in this work of redemption…

    Steve Kellmeyer
    Bridegroom Press

  • gk

    Christ calls me to love. It is simple. Yet it is imposible. So, I pray and trust that through Him I can love anyway. And in my weakness, I become more like Him.

    We all need prayers. The early Christians did it under much harder circumstances. We can do it too.

    Pray for us Mary, mother of God!

  • Cooky642

    On the one hand, I was shocked and scandalized by Prof.Myers’ rhetoric and follow-up actions. This was the Body of God he desecrated!

    On the other hand, before we moved, I went to a parish that had Perpetual Adoration. We were assigned a pastor who, for nearly 2 years, referred to all Adoration as “cookie-worship”.

    So, when the story first broke about Prof. Myers seeking Consecrated Hosts to desicrate, I prayed he wouldn’t find any “accomplices”. When he did receive a (or, more than one) Consecrated Host, I prayed that God would somehow reveal Himself to the man. (P.S. “no” is a valid answer, btw.)

    When it came out that Prof. Myers had indeed desicrated the Host with A RUSTY NAIL, I had to laugh out loud. Was that the best he could come up with?! Jesus had already suffered that indignity from other hateful, cynical pagans. Wouldn’t it seem reasonable that a modern pagan could come up with something a little more creative????

    In that instance, God brought to my mind the very Scripture verse SolaGratia quoted from Rom. 12:19. If I could have stopped Prof. Myers, it would have been my duty to do so or die trying. Since I couldn’t, my duty is to pray for his salvation. And, I’ve been doing that every single day ever since. That poor man is in for the surprise of his life!

    Now, we have a President imposed upon us who, I believe, is intrinsically evil enough to put Prof. Myers to shame. Can I do anything about him? Yes, I can! I can pray for his salvation every day for the next 4 years. That’s why I can go around, post election, with the biggest grin on my face: that poor man is in for the surprise of his life!