I was just going through an old external HD and came across a paper I wrote last year for a talk I gave on Spiritual Warfare. I will post it here, be warned, it is 8 pages long. =) God Bless!
What is Spiritual Warfare and how do we avoid evil? For the techno savvy people, is there an app we can just download that will put a security system into play that will protect us from the devil and his minions? So how do we defend ourselves? How do we avoid the attacks of this enemy we know as the devil?
We put on armor. I remember as a child having a sword fight with my brother (they were wooden sticks of course); but before our epic battle in the woods, we both prepared for battle by building shields and body armor to deflect the blows and protect our body from harm. Even as children we knew that it was vital to protect ourselves from harm, even in a mock sword fight. Why then should it be any different that we build shields and body armor for our daily battle with the evil one?
Unfortunately defending ourselves against a force that we cannot see is never easy. We have to use the tools that God gave us in order to build a shield of grace that will protect us from the enemy. There is a beautiful passage in Ephesians 6:11-18 that answers this important question: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.”
What does Ephesians tell us? Notice that the first line doesn’t say put on the armor of God just in case there will be tactics from Satan. Right away we are told to put on God’s armor so that we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of Satan. We are told, quite clearly, what our struggles will be; they will be against a presence that we cannot see, not flesh and blood, but of a nature that grips our minds, hearts, and souls. Struggles that gain a stronghold and are often more relentless than we are able to handle: anger, envy, greed, addictions, self-doubt, and self-loathing. Without God’s armor we will be as helpless as a newborn babe in the woods against these powers. But what is this armor?
We walk into the world with a shield of faith, while in constant prayer and supplication. That shield is our first line of defense and the calling card that identifies us as followers of Christ. As Catholic Christians we understand faith to be one of the three, God-given theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity). We profess our faith in numerous ways: baptism, Apostle’s Creed, evangelization and so on. Complementing the shield of faith are the words of our mind and our lips that call out to our eternal Father. As St. Augustine said, “Prayer is communication with God.” So we pray, constantly and without ceasing. In all things we move with God and He moves with us. We are dressed for eternal success.
Now that we know how to create armor to protect ourselves, what other ways can we stop the devil from influencing us negatively? We have to avoid all evil influences in our life. We can find these influences through music that we listen to, the TV shows and movies that we watch, and activities that are tied to the occult that we can find ourselves silently drawn towards or introduced to via our acquaintances and friends. A few years ago while working at a local Air Conditioning company, I hired a young man to help in the call center I managed. While making calls I allowed my guys to listen to music to help with the strains that telemarketing can cause. I remember one day picking up his headset and hearing this heavy metal racket, I asked him what band he was listening to and he replied “Lamb of God”. I thought to myself, wow, a Christian heavy metal band, that’s kind of odd. I then inquired further with him, since he was a ‘Christian’ if he got this from his youth group, he laughed and said no, that this was not ‘Christian’ music, but some of his friends in their youth group did listen to this music. I went over to my computer and googled it. What I found sent a chill down my back. The band ‘Lamb of God’ is a satanic band; it is named such to mock God. The original name of the band was ‘Rape a Priest’ and it was founded in Richmond, Va. I was horrified that such a band existed and that young people were listening to this today and that many of them were so called ‘Christians’. This music is incompatible with Christianity. The young man in question suffered from many problems and I have no doubt that this music and his choice of friends played a part in his many issues.
Today more than ever the occult is widely accepted as the norm. If you turn on your TV you will find many of the popular shows now have the occult in them, whether it is promoting vampirism, witches, were wolves, demons, and other supernatural entities. The youth in today’s culture have sadly been brought up with little religious education and they are hungering for something from out of this world and so they turn to other means to search out something that resembles god-like powers.
Earlier I was talking about the armor that we need to build to protect us from these evil entities. Now I would like to discuss weaponry in terms of spiritual warfare. We carry the armor of God with us, yet, how do we fight the devil and his minions? We can arm ourselves with these following weapons.
1. The Rosary
This devotional practice is the spiritual equivalent of an atomic bomb in our war with the enemy. Many Graces are attached to its recitation, and Hell trembles at the name of Mary, the Mother of God. St. Padre Pio used the rosary as a weapon and he said is so often that he repeated it in his sleep.
2. Holy Water
This is a ‘Sacramental’ of the Church and is highly efficacious in dispelling evil spirits. Keeping it in the home and sprinkling it about is a good thing. It is reported that Saint Teresa of Avila would splash Holy Water at demons that would materialize and disturb her during her prayers. The Holy Water would cause them to disappear.
3. Blessed Salt
Sprinkling this about your home, or other areas where evil may be present, is extremely useful. It is also useful to pour it on window sills and doorways in order to protect the room from evil.
4. Medal of Saint Benedict
Get one and have it Blessed. Wear it about your neck or keep it on your person. The medal actually has a portion of the Roman Ritual of Exorcism inscribed on it in Latin. At my Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, one of the brothers would place the medals above each door in order to protect them from evil spirits.
All Catholic homes should have at least one hung prominently. It should be Blessed and ideally, it should be one that contains a Medal of St. Benedict. It is also recommended that these crosses be of natural wood and not plastic.
6. Home Blessing
This is a custom that every Catholic family should be practicing. Unfortunately, it has fallen into disuse – so bring it back! Call up your Priest and ask for a Home Blessing. Offer him dinner as well. While you’re at it, have your car blessed as well, this will help you while driving.
7. Prayer of Saint Michael the Archangel
If you believe yourself to be under attack from the enemy, call upon the defender of God’s people, Saint Michael the Archangel.
8. The Holy Name of Jesus
In case of extreme duress, repeat the Holy Name of ‘Jesus’ – reverently – over and over until whatever persecution you are experiencing passes.
9. Mental Images of the Passion
While the fallen angels have no control over your Free Will, they do have some preternatural abilities to influence your thoughts. They will silently tempt you, often to impure thoughts, or into dissuading you from some good effort. Construct a mental picture of Our Lord Jesus Christ during His Passion. Focus on His pierced hands or feet, or maybe His carrying of the Cross, or concentrate on His crowning with thorns or scourging at the pillar. You will be amazed at how fast the evil thoughts will flee.
Please keep in mind these last few things. The spiritual life is a difficult life. If it were easy, many more would choose it. Take comfort in knowing that Our Loving Father has given us so many ways to persevere in His Grace. We just need to remember to call upon Him, and accept that difficulties come with the journey. God permits the evil one a certain amount power to disrupt our lives, but only so that we grow in Holiness as we overcome our trials.
These spiritual practices – while terrifying to the enemy of our souls – are really meant to lead our minds and thoughts, and ultimately our hearts, to loving union with the Almighty Father. That is what is causing the fallen angels so much distress. We are actively choosing to BE with God. Wherever God is, evil must flee. Stay close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. They love you dearly and wish to help you in all of your battles.
Last but not least, receiving the Eucharist and frequent confession are the most powerful weapons you can wield against the enemy. As a postulant with the Mercedarian Friars I was taught about the spiritual life on a weekly basis by Fr. Joseph Eddy. In one of our classes we were given a book by Fr. Thomas Dubay on confession. Fr. Dubay pointed out that when we go to confession we should work on ONE sin at a time with the Priest. In other words, to focus on one major sin and resolve it over time, rather than to confess a multitude of the same failings over and over again. The enemy does not want us to get over our problems; he does not want us to heal in confession. By going to confession frequently and by healing our wounds we will be strengthened by God to resist the temptations from the devil. Recently I watched ‘The Rite’, it was a movie on exorcism and while it was not entirely accurate it did hit on a few key issues. There was one scene were the Seminarian was getting ready to enter a battle with devil and the Priest forgave him for all his sins on the spot. The devil is the accuser and he will accuse us of our sins and our faults. If this seminarian had entered the room with the devil, the devil would have publicly told all the seminarians sins to anyone that would have listened. When we go to confession, our sins are not only forgiven, they are forgotten. It is vital that we attend confession at least once a month, I recommend at least every 2 weeks and in some cases, once a week. Our spiritual life is only as healthy as we make it. If we do not take care of our soul and keep it healthy, it gets sick and becomes lifeless and dark.
So what happens to us if we do not endeavor to feed our souls with spiritual things that bring us closer to God? What happens when we don’t attend confession and stop going to mass? The answer: We enter a period of darkness and we lose sight of God. In some cases exorcism is needed to bring the soul back to God and out of the grasp of the devil. You must understand, not everyone is possessed, in fact few people are in need of a full blown exorcism. When we do not go to confession, our sins build up and before we know it, we’ve gone from venial sins to mortal sins. When our soul is involved in a mortal sin it blocks sanctifying grace from God. Our soul becomes lost, it is searching for God, but good and evil become blurred and we quickly lose our way. The occult is a gateway that many fall into as they begin to lose sight of God. It is easy to look up one horoscope online and before you know it, you’ve landed on a website that will tell you you’re fortune or predict things in your future. These are all little traps that the enemy lays out for us.
In the infamous case that inspired the original ‘Exorcist’ movie, a young boy from Mt. Rainer Maryland was given a Ouija board by his aunt who was a self-proclaimed medium. A few weeks after receiving the Ouija board the aunt died an unexpected death and the boy decided that he would try out the board to contact his aunt. He did contact what he thought was his aunt, it was in fact a demon and the boy became possessed. He was eventually exorcised by Jesuits and his identity has been kept secret to protect him and his family. The Ouija board was invented in China in the year 1100 BCE and it was called a ‘Talking board’. It was used to contact the dead and those in the afterlife. It has emerged over the centuries in various capacities, each of them were in the use of the occult. In the year 1890 it was patented by Elijah Bond a business man and he had the idea of creating the modern talking board. Today the product is sold by the Parker Brothers and under the name Hasbro. You can pick this up at Toys-R-Us. Last year Toys-R-Us was marketing a pink Ouija board for young girls.
The only time an exorcism is needed is when a person that has opened themselves up to evil has become possessed. In other words, by opening themselves up to the occult in the ways that I have already mentioned, they allow a demon to take over their body. The person in question will have an aversion to spiritual things, they will not like going to Church, they will get angry when you mention Jesus or prayer to them, and they will get fidgety when sprinkled with holy water or have a blessed object near them. It is very rare to have a person fully possessed, but in the case that one is possessed, the Church will first send the person to be tested by a psychologist. If the person is found to be free of mental illnesses, then the Church will appoint a priest who has been commissioned to perform exorcisms. The Priest in question will normally prepare for an exorcism by fasting and deep prayer. He will use the Church’s manual for Exorcism and use the prayers to bring an end to the spiritual battle the person is experiencing and seeking redemption from. This isn’t usually a one-time event; exorcism can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years to fully remove the demon. It all depends on how long the person has been possessed and how they were first infested with the demonic entity.
All of this can be avoided by going to the world’s most powerful form of exorcism and that is called CONFESSION! When we confess our sins we free ourselves from the grasp of the devil and we do not allow him to hold any power over us. That is why it is so vital to go to frequent confession and to practice the sacraments the Church gives to us. We need to protect ourselves with the armor of God and to use the weapons he has provided to protect ourselves. Let us begin today by putting on our battle armor of God and practicing our faith as we have been called to do.