Yes, organized religion is a crutch. You mean you didn’t know that you are a cripple? If you don’t know that, then you are a very serious cripple indeed, mentally and spiritually. Go back to Socrates: “Know thyself.” For Socrates, there are only two kinds of people: the wise, who know they are fools; and fools, who think they are wise. Similarly, for Christ and all the prophets, there are only two kinds of people: saints, who know they are sinners; and sinners, who think they are saints. Which are you? You can tell which class you fit into by whether or not you accept the “crutch”, the road map. Maybe the Jews were lost forty years in the wilderness because Moses was too proud to stop and ask for directions. (It’s a guy thing.) – Manual for Spiritual Warfare, by Paul Thigpen
Today, even secularists sense a disintegration taking place. Random violence, natural disasters, a collapse of traditional morality, the rise of vicious political movements and international “gangs”; these have left most people uneasy and wondering “What will happen next?”
My reaction to the current malaise, which is not going away any time soon, is to learn far more about the tradition of the interior life and spiritual warfare. Because I believe 100% that we are engaged in an age old battle whether we choose to participate or not. I’ve been reading book after book, as a sort of intellectual preparation for whatever is going to go down in the future. I want to not only be prepared myself, but to prepare my family and friends as well. Another reaction I have is a morbid fascination: history is unfolding before our eyes and we are witness to the unraveling of a great constitutional experiment that appears to have run its course. It is therefore necessary to fight the good fight and play a bit role, however ineffective, in countering the madness. Father Richard Heilman writes:
Early in the morning of January 21, 1610, the Archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael appeared to Mother Mariana. Then Our Lady appeared to her and predicted many things about our own times: this is part of what Mother Mariana afterwards related that she told her:
“Thus, I make it known to you that from the end of the 19th century and shortly after the middle of the 20th century… the passions will erupt and there will be a total corruption of customs (morals)…
“As for the Sacrament of Matrimony… it will be attacked and deeply profaned… The Catholic spirit will rapidly decay; the precious light of the Faith will gradually be extinguished… Added to this will be the effects of secular education, which will be one reason for the dearth of priestly and religious vocations.
“The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised… The Devil will try to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every possible way; he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation and will corrupt many of them. These depraved priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests…
“Further, in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled luxury, which will ensnare the rest into sin and conquer innumerable frivolous souls, who will be lost. Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women. In this supreme moment of need of the Church, the one who should speak will fall silent.”
Sound familiar? What’s the solution?
The solution is to prepare. I know many who prepare by buying gold, stockpiling guns and ammunition, food and water, or with ham radios. All of these are valid and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was doing some of this myself. But where I’ve felt the most compelled to prepare myself is in the spiritual realm, because this is where my senses are most acutely aware of the battle waged around us. It’s so obvious to me that I can’t understand how more do not see it.
I’ve been preparing by developing and strengthening my interior life. Many want to rush off to battle but after reading a few books or various well-meaning programs available it became clear to me that we already have the training laid out before us. It was revealed by Jesus Christ, the Scriptures and used by many of the holy men and women we call saints. St. Teresa of Avila. St. Frances de Sales. St. John Vianney. St. Maximillian Kolbe. St. Therese of Liseaux. St. Dominic. St. Benedict. St. John of the Cross. The list goes on and on.
All of them fought this spiritual warfare. All of them prepared themselves first by developing an interior life. That is what so many neglect today.
St. Paul implores us to set aside our misguided mundane and temporal lives, and enter into the full life of holiness and truth:
“Brothers and sisters: I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their mind; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess … you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Eph. 4:17-19, 22-24)
Last night I read the following in the Introduction of Volume One of my 1989 TAN Publishing edition of The Three Ages of the Interior Life, by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (also available online here):
As everyone can easily understand, the interior life is an elevated form of intimate conversation which everyone has with himself as soon as he is alone, even in the tumult of a great city. From the moment he ceases to converse with his fellow men, man converses interiorly with himself about what preoccupies him most. This conversation varies greatly according to the different ages of life; that of an old man is not that of a youth. It also varies greatly according as a man is good or bad.
As soon as man seriously seeks truth and goodness, this intimate conversation with himself tends to become conversation with God. Little by little, instead of seeking himself in everything, instead of tending more or less consciously to make himself a center, man tends to seek God in everything, and to substitute for egoism love of God and of souls in Him. This constitutes the interior life. No sincere man will have any difficulty in recognizing it. The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary (Luke 10:41-42) consists in hearing the word of God and living by it.
We conclude logically that religion can give an efficacious and truly realistic answer to the great modern problems only if it is a religion that is profoundly lived, not simply a superficial and cheap religion made up of some vocal prayers and some ceremonies in which religious art has more place than true piety. As a matter of fact, no religion that is profoundly lived is without an interior life, without that intimate and frequent conversation which we have not only with ourselves but with God.
All of us are having a conversation, but it’s difficult to converse when our focus is elsewhere or there is too much noise. Our focus needs to be off of ourselves and we must be detached from the things of this world. It’s true that for too many their religion is cheapened when they skim the surface by muttering prayers with a lot of repetition. They love their religion, but that is not the same as loving God. They do not go deep enough. For some great insights on detachment you’ll want to read Jessica Archuleta’s article Lessons From A Monastery: Detachment. She does a great job of describing this part of the interior life by using a favorite book of mine: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.
Pictured below are a few of the “manuals” I’ve immersed myself in to prepare myself. I’m not a total neophyte and have myself fought a few skirmishes and battles along the way in this life. I’ve survived, but a quick look around at the world today tells me that I can’t rest on my laurels. It’s time to go deeper.
In addition to this stack of books I’m reading The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (thank you Julie!). I’ve worn my Miraculous Medal for fifteen years and four years ago added the St. Benedict medal. I pray the Divine Office regularly (converse with God) and it goes without saying that I attend Mass (worship God) and partake of the Sacraments as well. The interior life is an examined life, and what better method is there than regular Confession?
Of course, there is the Rosary. Perhaps the most easily overlooked yet most powerful weapon I possess.
- “Continue to pray the Rosary every day.” -Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia
- “Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.” -Saint Louis de Montfort
- “You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.” -Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche
- “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” -Pope Blessed Pius IX
- “If you persevere in reciting the Rosary, this will be a most probable sign of your eternal salvation.” -Blessed Alan de la Roche
- “The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” -Saint Francis de Sales
- “When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.” -Saint Louis de Montfort
- “The Holy Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessing.” -Blessed Alan de la Roche
- “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” -Saint Dominic
- “If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4).” -Saint Louis de Montfort
- “The Rosary is THE weapon.” -Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
The Feast of the Assumption is this Saturday, August 15. I’ve signed up to participate in the National 54 Day Rosary Novena that will continue through the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7. You can do the same or learn more information about this campaign at www.54days.org. I’ve signed up to receive the daily reflections and plan on using the rosary meditations found in The Manual of Spiritual Warfare.
Our society is at war with itself. Take a look around. Venture online into a comment box or two. Watch the news or your Twitter feed. Look at the dreck being sent over the airwaves by television producers/Hollywood. Listen to the politicians, not just as they vie for your primary election vote, but also look at how they talk and vote while already in office. Maybe you’re numb to it all because it continues to hit you nonstop. Take a step back for a day or two and then really look and listen with a discerning heart and mind. You may find yourself reaching for your rosary as I do.
Before any athlete steps onto the playing field he or she has undergone hours and hours of training for months leading up to their competition. The best train a lifetime. Soldiers, too, spend hour upon hour in monotonous drills, punishing mind and body to prepare themselves for combat.
Why would spiritual warfare be any different? There is too much history and I have too much personal experience to ignore it. Leadership is accepting this responsibility to not only myself but to my family and friends for the future. Living the virtues may be frowned upon as old fashioned, but it never goes out of style.
Ultimately it is a source of joy for me, and if there is one thing that will be sorely needed as we march forward it is joy.
Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)