Peace in Our Day

A gargoyle statue is seen among a property smoldering rubble in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018. (Photo credit JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

During my silent Ignatian retreat four weeks ago I made and long and intense face-to-face confession with a retired priest and confessor. I confessed my sins and then as I confessed to the sin of anger I found myself unloading my anger about the sins of those priests, bishops and cardinals who undermine the faith of so many in their participation and covering up of the abuse of young boys, men and women. When the newest outbreak began to be reported this summer I was seething…OUTRAGED! I considered leaving, but to go where? This wasn’t of Christ. It wasn’t of His bride, the Church. This was sin and wrongdoing as old as Cain and of the sort that resides inside the deepest recesses of our fallen human nature. To leave Christ’s bride would be like abandoning my own spouse or closest friend or family member in a time of great need, one in which they needed to be defended while under attack. It would be my scurrying like a coward over the old city walls and escaping into the night when outside the ramparts the enemy was preparing for the final siege and rape of the city. What kind of man would I be to do this? The sacraments themselves are still valid. I’ve read too much, studied too much, and experienced too much to ever abandon the Church. But I have zero problem at all in the handing of those traitorous vermin who are to be her most ardent protectors and teachers over to authorities and to justice. I do not envy them the Divine Justice they will one day experience.

I closed by telling him that when asked at the start of the retreat to write down an answer to Christ’s question In Luke 18 “What do you want me to do for you?” I had written the following:

I want Jesus to release me from this anger.
And from my desire to control the uncontrollable
To make me a better husband and father
To make me more selfless and serving
To guard me from my own cynicism
To make me a better man

And when asked to read and meditate on Isaiah 55 and then to write what it is I hunger and thirst for, I had journaled:

For the Truth
For Beauty
For the Good and the Holy
For Peace

“The bottom line Father,” I said. “is that I long for peace.”

When I was finished the old priest looked up at me with a sense of fatigue that I cannot know. For he is likely pained by his brother priest’s betrayal moreso than I. After talking through it with me he gave me my penance: “Go, and search for peace until you find it.”

He completed the rite by absolving me of my sins and sending me on my way with a blessing.

The magnitude of what he said didn’t hit me until after I’d returned to my seat in the chapel. At first I laughed to myself at such a seemingly flippant and silly penance. But as I recalled the wry smile that he wore while saying these words to me and began to consider the magnitude of what he had assigned to me I was no longer laughing. I considered rushing back into the confessional and begging him to give me something else. “Can’t I just recite 100 Hail Mary’s instead? Or 100 Our Father’s?”

Go, and find peace. He just as well asked me to pick up Mount Everest and move it onto the plains of central Nebraska near Kearney. Finding peace would be as easy as that.

I say this as one who tells you that you would have to truly be blind to not see the increasing unrest and chaos in our world today. Events have picked up in intensity and volume at a pace that is destined for a crashing explosion. I do not have the time nor the inclination to attempt to document or list said events here. I don’t say these words as a “prepper” or one hiding behind his armory in a mountainside bunker in Montana. But I can see it with mine own eyes. I can feel it in my bones. Many times recently I’ve found myself uttering these words by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings to myself:

There is a well-known song, and I’ve even seen it in meme form, that says “Let there be peace on earth.” Too many times we recite the first six words and overlook the six that follow: “…and let it begin with me.” This is the key, I think, for my quest to find peace. I have to start with myself. With my own mind. With my own heart.

As such I have decided to at long last eliminate the noise and distraction of social media from my life by greatly reducing my access. I posted to Facebook for the final time today (though I may include this blog post), a thank you for a baseball-related favor done for my son by a friend of mine. I’ve eliminated anything reeking of the stench of politics from my Twitter feed. I’ve had to do this because as much as I love and value my friends I simply cannot stomach the vomit of politics that goes on there every day. Yes, it still creeps into Twitter and recently I found myself responding in this manner to a question posed by someone sneering at Catholics:

Why shouldn’t I expect them to sneer? It’s what they’re taught to do by our educational system, the media, and our own politicians. Senators Harris (D-CA) and Hirono (D-HI) are now suggesting requiring a religious test for being considered for a federal judgeship as they deem membership in the Knights of Columbus to be “extreme”. Yes, those of us who assist the elderly with their moves, or serve at their funerals, or cook the flapjacks at the pancake breakfasts and Lenten fish fries across the world are now to be looked upon with suspicion. And then I log onto Facebook and see friends of mine, ardent and blindly partisan supporters of all things Democrat, cheering these so-called “leaders”. In a world too full of senseless, screeching identity politics these women are two of the worst.

Just typing that paragraph removed my peace and made my blood boil, and for no reason. After all I cannot control the actions of those moronic and evil politici-…”

See? I was about to lose it again.

So I logged off. Removed the app from my phone. I did so not only for my peace, but for the peace of others. Because I don’t know how much longer I could have remained there and not begun to tell people what I really thought of their politics. I was about to pull up broadside, light the cannon fuses and blow it all to Kingdom Come. Enough is enough.

But that, of course, would help no one. No peace.

I give you peace, my peace I give you

At 4:30pm on December 31st, I drove to the Pink Sisters chapel. Flurries were beginning to fall on the cold, gray New Year’s Eve. Once inside I settled in to pray a rosary before the sisters would arrive to sing Vespers at 5pm. On this night I prayed the Joyful Mysteries because despite what I feel is ahead in the coming year it is, afterall, Christmas and in a transcendental sense I do in fact feel joy. I also felt my strength nourished inside this sanctuary, safe and secure while the darkness descended outside the stained glass windows and the wind howled outside.

My rosary finished as I was able to hear the sisters assembling behind the screen for Vespers. I had brought my breviary so I could pray with them and turned to the page marked by the first ribbon. For the next twenty plus minutes I again felt buoyed by a sense of calm and of strength. I was not praying alone, nor was I praying with just the nuns. In those moments I was praying along with thousands of Catholics around the world who participate in the Divine Office every day in every time zone. And I knew I was praying with not just the Church Militant here on earth, but with the Church Triumphant in Heaven itself, the Communion of Saints. This is how I’ve chosen to live my life, and this is how I prepare myself for my days upon the earth. In this way I know I do not walk alone.

The Sentinel

After Vespers was finished the nuns shuffled out of the sanctuary and back into their living space. But a lone nun stayed behind, kneeling in silent prayer for a time in front of the altar before which the Blessed Sacrament was stationed. She eventually settled back into her chair, a vigilant sentinel of prayer. I left shortly after, walking back outside into the dark night where the flurries had increased their intensity. The old year was in its death throes; the new year would ring into existence in six hours.

I thought of that sister again the following morning when I woke up to the new year and my birthday with Lauds. The image was still very fresh in my mind and brought back into focus as I prayed these words from Psalm 63 that morning:

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

Lauds, January 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

During the Catholic Mass we hear these words from John 14:27 during the Rite of Peace, which directly follows The Lord’s Prayer:

“I give you peace, my peace I give you…”

The full verse containing the words of Jesus is as follows:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Let there be peace on earth.

Let it begin with me.

[Written this 10th day of Christmas, on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

Fighting back

There has long been a deep reservoir of hate in this country just waiting to be tapped. Now Hillary Clinton on the left and Donald Trump from wherever he comes have both tapped it – it is open and gushing, it is vile, and it is threatening to bring this country down.

The only thing that will stop it is prayer – the ONLY thing. – online commenter Terry at Crisis Magazine online

_______

The life of man upon earth is a warfare… – Job 7:1

***

Last night I entered the fray.

I joined the battle.

We established a beachhead.

I haven’t been writing much for more than a few weeks now. My efforts to continue with The Screwtape Letters project is, for now, on hold. I got tired of staring at an empty screen and will try to continue another day.

The bitter and honest truth is that I’ve been…how to say this…out of sorts.

Out of whack. Lost my equilibrium.

I’ve been under attack.

I’ve said before that I believe the great battle of our times is before us. I’ve also said that it will be a spiritual war.

After the events of the last month I stand behind those assertions.

It’s been a rough year. A year filled with self-doubt and second-guessing. A year of “what ifs”. Through it all I’ve struggled to keep my balance and maintain both my optimism and stay upright. At times I’ve come perilously close to giving in to despair. One beam of light guided me through this fog.

Prayer, specifically the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office.

We are living in strange times. Or hadn’t you noticed? Many have not. Distracted by the soft comforting glow of their various screens they are oblivious to history’s verdicts. How else does one explain our youth’s embracing of the culture of death and socialism? How else to explain the unhinged, vehement attacks levied at anyone who points out the obvious lack of conservative bona fides in the candidate widely embraced on the right as “the true conservative candidate”?

Thought and reason have no traction today because emotions and slogans have superseded them.

What the hell is going on?

And that’s the answer. Hell is going on.

***

Of late I’ve read many things online to ramp up my sense of urgency regarding this war. If the results from this survey by the Barna Group are in fact true, then I’m already to be considered an extremist in the eyes of many. The war is already being waged against me. I just as well fight back and make damn sure I live up to the evidence and label that may someday be used against me.

Society is undergoing a change of mind about the way religion and people of faith intersect with public life. That is, there are intensifying perceptions that faith is at the root of a vast number of societal ills.

Though it remains the nation’s most dominant religion, Christianity faces significant headwind in the court of public opinion. The decades-old trend that Christianity is irrelevant is increasingly giving way to the notion that Christianity is bad for society.

A new major study conducted by Barna Group, and explored in the new book Good Faith, co-authored by Barna president David Kinnaman, examines society’s current perceptions of faith and Christianity. In sum, faith and religion and Christianity are viewed by millions of adults to be extremist.

A growing portion of society considers me an extremist by virtue of my actually professing and living by my beliefs as a Christian. As a conservative I’ve watched myself or anyone else who questions the candidacy of Donald Trump be labeled a “rich, establishment, power mad” fool who is not a “true conservative” and will get “what’s coming to you!”. Ummm…what? I’ve watched those members of the media who call themselves conservatives outed for the carnival barkers that they are, nothing more than shills looking to make a book for the candidate du jour.

I’ve seen spleens vented at Pope Francis and any Catholic who dares call him or herself Catholic while pleading for some decent human decency be shown the less fortunate or the poor.

Obama voters the past two elections just pissed me off. I laughed them off as unserious kids fawning over an unqualified leftist. Supporters of Trump who spew their hatred and bile towards anyone who dare point out the flaws in their reason or simply ask for clarification on their stance scare the hell out of me because this lot is filled with rage and they are looking for someone to pour it upon. And I get it. I’m as upset with the Republican party leadership as anyone on how they’ve said one thing to get elected and then done the opposite once in office, while sending out letters for more money. I stopped supporting the GOP in 2006 when despite having control of all three branches of government they did not one blessed thing about abortion in this country. But as soon as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took over in 2006 the fundraising letters once more were filling the mailboxes of pro-lifers everywhere.

So I get the anger and disillusionment. But Trump? And to vent that anger out on not just your fellow citizens of either party, but against those who are in tune with the Constitution and our nation’s history?

It’s nothing new. History has shown us examples of a citizenry embracing anger during the Reign of Terror in France, in Puritan England, and  in pre-World War II Germany.

The lessons from this history is that it never ends well for the likes of people like me.

***

Already being bloodied from the blows received, I read the following from scripture one  evening while in prayer:

My brothers, count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance. Let endurance come to its perfection so that you may be fully mature and lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4 (Evening Prayer for January 29)

The very next morning I read this during Morning Prayer:

In everything you do, act without grumbling or arguing; prove yourselves innocent and straightforward, children of God beyond reproach in the midst of a twisted and depraved generation—among whom you shine like the stars in the sky. – Philippians 2:14-15 (Morning Prayer for January 30)

I decided I needed to make a call.

***

During mornings or evenings above 30 degrees you will find me outside with these.

During mornings or evenings above 30 degrees you will find me outside with these.

It has been a long-time goal of mine to initiate the praying of Vespers, or Evening Prayer, at my parish. A few weeks ago I finally got around to setting up a meeting with my parish priest to discuss it. I say finally because I could no longer ignore what I see going on. I needed to stop fighting alone, and begin to form a squad to wage the only form of warfare that matters and the one for which I’m best equipped. My son is a United States Marine. He’s trained for the more conventional battles of this world. He has been raised to fight the other, too, but for now his task is elsewhere.

Mine, however, is not. Mine is against the “powers and principalities” of this world.

This is your fight as well.

I have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for just about fifteen years, ever since I first worked up the nerve to ask our former assistant pastor Father Hottovy to show me the book he always carried with him. It was slow going and a struggle at many times, but I persevered until now my day feels unbalanced if I fail to pray at least Morning or Evening Prayers. Being a historian I researched its origins and revisions over the years, even purchasing an expensive set of pre-Vatican II era books containing the Divine Office in both Latin and English.

But mostly I have done so in order to sanctify time for God. Except for a handful of occasions I have prayed this communal prayer alone.

I wanted to change that. Father Johnson agreed. And we selected Wednesday evenings at 6pm immediately following 5:30 Mass. We agreed that instead of announcing it in the bulletin for now or at weekend Masses he would simply announce it at the end of last night’s Mass and invite people to stick around to join me.

***

About the same time that I first contacted Father for a Saturday morning meeting over coffee the attacks upon me intensified. As last night drew near they threatened to suffocate me. I struggled to smile or find happiness. Optimism about almost anything seemed to disappear. I found myself hit with dreams and visions in broad daylight…horrible and awful images of my family, especially my children, and at times my friends. I saw horrific scenes, too terrible to recount, that involved my children bloodied, in danger, or worse. I couldn’t sleep and had little energy. My despair would turn to frustration and in a flash my anger would flare with words against those who mean the most to me. Two days ago I was sitting at a red light when one flashed before my eyes and caused me to cry uncontrollably as the light turned green through my tear-streaked eyes. The devil knows our weakness. It has ever been so.

I honestly thought I was falling apart. Believe it or not thoughts of my own death and of not being a burden to my loved ones crept into my mind.

But then little pinpoints of grace would shine forth. Nothing huge, but small indications that I did have worth, that I mattered, and that I made a difference began to emerge. Two examples:

Two weeks ago my Marine and I were texting about his younger brother’s upcoming baseball season. Jonah is twelve and at this point in his young life already a much better baseball player than his older brother. Considering that Nolan was able to contribute and then start on two spring high school state champion baseball teams and compete for summer state titles as well, that’s saying a lot about his younger brother. A back injury almost cost Nolan his high school baseball career and deeply affected his attitude, causing lethargy and depression. Prior to his sophomore year he was going to quit and we argued back and forth about it for weeks before the treatment and work he’d been doing to heal his injury caused him to relent and play. Ever since 2012 I’ve beat myself up and wondered how much resentment my coaxing him to play had caused. I wondered if he’d ever appreciate all that he and his buddies had accomplished. Lately I’ve wondered if I would have the strength to do so again with Jonah should he travel a similar path.

It turns out I won’t have to get after Jonah. His big brother will. This is a part of our text exchange:

Nolan: Make him play at least through high school. He’ll be glad one day.

Me (after taking a big gulp): Are you thankful I pushed you to play?

Nolan: More than anything. I’ve been talking to some of the guys out here. We all want more than anything to be able to go back and play under the lights one more time. Whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever…everyone wishes they could go back just one more time.

I hoped I would hear those words before I was 60, never dreaming I’d hear them at 48.

The last occurrence was the unexpected gift of a book from a friend. I had loaned her five books from the World War II era on the fate of Christians, including St. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein to use as research for a college paper she was writing. Becky is my age but has gone back to school in order to finish up her teaching degree. Several weeks later she showed up unannounced and unexpected in order to present me with a copy of a book published late last year called Church of Spies. For fifteen minutes we stood outside as she talked about her research and thanked me several times for the use of books from my library. She couldn’t see it in the twilight, but I was so quiet because I was trying to keep from crying after being overwhelmed by her simple generosity. I’d been beaten down and was nearly exhausted, but her gesture was like a cool drink of fresh water.

And then yesterday I began to understand what was happening. While praying during my lunch hour at the Pink Sisters chapel and sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, I began to understand that I was under attack. Satan did not want me to introduce Evening Prayer at St. John’s nor did he want those I met with to understand they could use this great treasure of the Church themselves. The tradition of sanctifying time to God through the praying of the psalms goes back thousands of years before Christ when the Jews would pray them throughout the day. Jesus himself prayed these same psalms. The Catholic Church has done the same ever since. But not just Catholics. Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestant denominations all have their own traditions that grew from the trunk of this tree.

While sitting slump-backed in that pew yesterday I was encouraged and renewed. Despite my self-doubt and fears I would press on. I was too close to quit now after wanting to begin for so long.

***

In the grand scheme of things it was hardly noticeable. After Mass last night I stood in front of the sanctuary with the booklets I’d printed for use. I made only ten, hoping for at least one or two people to join me. After a few minutes of thinking no one would I found myself suddenly surrounded by around 15 people. After a brief introduction on my part we began. Fifteen minutes later it was done. We finished while the church was filling for a 7pm First Confession service held for our second graders and their parents. I doubt very many were aware of us or what was going on.

But something did happen. A toe-hold was made. A command post was established.

Last night we began fighting back. In community. Communion.

I slept like a baby last night for the first time in months.

We will continue every Wednesday night going forward. We may grow in number or we may not. But I believe we will see an increase in numbers over time.

I believe there are many who want to fight back. They see the shroud of darkness descending and are hungry to learn about whatever weapons available to them.

Based on the comments and positive feedback received last night I stand by that belief. And I will be better prepared in the future for the spiritual attacks that I know will come. There’s always a counter-attack.

I’m hopeful that last night we struck a blow and that as we continue others will have their eyes opened to the beauty and power contained within the Divine Office. All are welcome to join us for 15-20 minutes of prayer. Perhaps in time we’ll extend it for 15-30 minutes of discussion. In the meantime I have made plans to include a sheet each week that teaches on some aspect of the Liturgy of the Hours and history of the Divine Office.

But I’m taking it slow. Better a start than none at all. For while we live in seemingly more desperate times and there is a sense of urgency, I feel a calm that tells me to not rush according to my own schedule.

It’s His time, after all. Sanctified.

History.

His story.

***

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Preface excerpt: Hostage to the Devil

bible_breviary_spiritualwarfare

Image source

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Three articles on my news feed yesterday caught my attention.

UK Police Says Witchcraft, Exorcism Cases on Rise

Britain’s Metropolitan Police have reported an increase in the number of child abuse cases that involve allegations of witchcraft and exorcism.

Police said Sunday a specialist unit received 46 such cases in 2014, more than twice as many as the year before.

The “Project Violet” unit says 60 incidents have been reported so far this year, continuing the upward trend.

Aspiring Vampires Enjoy a Blade-Themed “Blood Rave”

Just before midnight, a squadron of technicians suited up with body-mounted sprayers surrounded the crowd and, on cue, soaked the writhing masses with synthetic blood. No leather corset or bare tattooed back was spared as the ravers seethed with fanged glee beneath the crimson rain. For a few hours, it was truly weird and wonderful to see a sea of giddy daywalkers living out fantasy bloodlust.

Pope Francis: ‘When the devil numbs your conscience, he has won’

With his “good manners,” Francis said, the devil makes the man fall into moral relativism, calming his conscience.

We start saying things like “This happens everywhere” and “We are all sinners,” Francis said. Yet “When we say everybody, we mean nobody,” he said. “And so we live this worldliness that is the child of the evil spirit.”

“Calming the conscience, numbing the conscience, this is a great evil,” he said.

“When the devil manages to numb your conscience he has won a real victory,” Francis said, because “he has become the master of your conscience.”

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve been keenly aware that there are forces at work in our world. Long before I was a Catholic I had this sense. It was not due to any sort of Bible-based indoctrination…my family was nominally Protestant and though I did attend a week-long Bible Camp for a few summers in South Dakota and Sunday School into middle school, it was hardly a strict or fundamentalist upbringing. Snacks, crafts, and bible stories on felt boards from what I remember.

But as for the spiritual battle I just knew. And when you are aware of this ongoing battle you pay attention to things that others miss. You learn that what is mere coincidence to some is far from it in reality. Items in the news (missing children here, mutilated bodies there) are noticed despite your best efforts to take a break from the onslaught of internet information. It’s as if you’re being taunted. “See what I’m doing? Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. I can’t be stopped.”

Then I became a Catholic and joined the battle full on. One cannot ignore it then as begin to connect the dots and find that it’s all around you.

There is a reason why the Church (ALL Christians) comprised of the living on earth is referred to as the Church Militant. From Father Z’s blog:

The Church Militant is made up of the living, we who are still on pilgrimage through this vale of tears, as the Salve Regina describes our earthly life. The whole Church can be described as having three main kinds of membership, namely, those who are still alive here on Earth, those who are in an earthly sense dead but who live in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those who have died but who are, during their time of purification in Purgatory, awaiting their entrance into Heaven (the Church Suffering or Penitent). These three are united, in one Holy Church, in a common “communion of saints”, even though we of the Church Militant often aren’t very saintly.

So that’s what the Church Militant is. But what does it mean for those of us who are its members? Fr. Z again:

As a Catholic who is militans, “militant”, that means that we dedicate ourselves with obedience and zeal to the role we are given in life through our calling and through our talents and good inclinations, our vocations in life. It means that we are also prepared to fight the enemy wherever and whenever threats to the salvation of our own souls and our neighbor’s souls present themselves. It means working together as units and not as individuals merely.   It means good conditioning and through drills in knowing well our Catholic Faith and practicing virtues and discipline in the use of the Sacraments. It means submission to the Church’s teaching authority and her duly ordaining pastors. It means fidelity, loyalty and even a willingness to die.

In the Breitbart article I linked to above regarding Pope Francis, he went on to say that the key to combatting the devil is discernment and vigilance.

We need to be able to discern situations, he (Pope Francis) said, to see what comes from God and what comes from the devil who “always tries to deceive” and to “make us choose the wrong path.”

The Christian cannot just accept anything, but must “discern and look well to see where things come from, and what their root is,” he said.

discernment_proverbs

I learned the importance and relevance of spiritual discernment from St. Ignatius while attending retreats based upon his spiritual exercises. A nightly examination of conscience is a key part of Compline (or Night Prayer) as prayed before bed each night. And while I admit that I lag in my use of the Sacrament of Confession I always strive to attend more often and can attest to its graces and benefits. Today more than ever before I wield these devices as weapons in the intensifying war around us and urge you to consider doing the same.

Still not convinced about spiritual warfare? Fair enough. Below I’m going to paste the first paragraphs of the updated Preface to Malachi Martin’s book Hostage to the Devil. For years I’d read about this book that was originally published in the 1970s and re-issued in the 1990s. I came across it the other day in a bookstore, bought it, and haven’t been able to put it down since. I own a copy of the book An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabrielle Amorth but it’s still near the bottom of my stack of books to read. But as I’ve practiced more discernment and looked “well to see where things come from and what their root is” my interest in this type of warfare has increased. At Christmas last year I picked up the then-new book Manual For Spiritual Warfare and found it to be so good that I’ve bought copies to give as gifts to friends.

As I sat here for a few minutes deliberating on whether to hit the PUBLISH button or not the familiar thoughts came to mind:

“Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. Once you hit that button you will be dismissed as a nutter and people will no longer read your blog or take you seriously.”

And then I thought about how we live in a culture that celebrates death. Our government has worked to enshrine abortion and euthanasia as unholy sacraments of a sort. Porn is rampant and we feed it unfettered to our children through benign devices such as smartphones, tablets and television. ABC Family celebrates “a new kind of family” and has done its best to promote anything except the traditional one…and our children watch because what parent denies their child a harmless network named after the family? We celebrate zombies, the undead, vampires, witchcraft and death…and not the cartoonish kind, but with as real of special effects and CGI as possible so we shock our systems with the viscera…and thereby desensitize ourselves to it. We do all this, and then are shocked when someone who has immersed themselves in our culture shoots up children in a school or slaughters their family before destroying themselves. We blame guns and mental illness, because they are easy to target and impersonal, but never ourselves for fostering such an environment. That would be too personal and we long ago did away with the concepts of personal responsibility or shame. The devil has no need to unleash hell on earth. We opened the door with an open invitation.

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

I do not count myself to be in either camp. I do not disbelieve in their existence as to do so would deny Sacred Scripture. I do not have an excessive or unhealthy interest in them. I’m merely aware of their presence and the need to be prepared for combat. On at least two occasions in my lifetime I have come face to face with the presence of evil and experienced how suffocating it is. I have also encountered the holy and divine too many times to count.

I am a happy warrior, but not an ignorant one. That is my calling as a member of the Church Militant. It is yours as well. But before you can engage in the battle you must recognize, acknowledge and know your enemy. Open your eyes.

soldiercrucifix

_______________________________

Preface to the New Edition: Possession and Exorcism in America in the 1990s

In the blink of God’s eye since Hostage to the Devil was first published in 1976, nothing has changed on the one hand. And everything has changed on the other.

Nothing has changed in the process by which an individual is Possessed by personal and intelligent evil. Nothing has changed, either, in the requirements for successful Exorcism of a Possessed individual. All of that remains as described and summarized in the chapters and cases that follow.

What have changed are the conditions of the society in which we all now live. To a far greater degree than most of us could have imagined fifteen or so years ago, a favorable climate for the occurrence of demonic Possession has developed as the normal condition of our lives.

In 1976 Satanism was presented, and was probably regarded by most Americans, as a box office and a bookstore draw. In fact, Hostage to the Devil was intended as a clear warning that Possession is not — nor was it ever — some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real; and real prices are paid.

Now, in America of the 1990s, there is little question of demonic Possession as an entertainment. Among families everywhere and at every level of society, there is instead a justifiable fear. Most of all, this fear is for children. And in point of fact, there are few families not already affected in some way by Satanism. Even by ritualistic Satanism—formal ceremonies and rites organized and performed by individuals and groups in professed worship of Satan.

For obvious reasons, we don’t know everything about organized Satanist groups, or covens as they are called, in the United States. But the ample knowledge we do have justifies the fear among average families for their children and their way of life in the future.

We know, for example, that throughout all fifty states of the Union, there are now something over 8,000 Satanist covens. We know that in any major American city or large town, a Black Mass — almost always organized by covens — is available on a weekly basis at least, and at several locations. We know that the average membership of Satanist covens is drawn from all the professions as well as from among politicians, clergy, and religious.

hostagetothedevil_coverWe know further that within those covens, a certain amount of “specialization” has come about. One can choose either a heterosexual or a homosexual coven, for example. In at least three major cities, members of the clergy have at their disposal at least one pedophiliac coven peopled and maintained exclusively by and for the clergy. Women religious can find a lesbian coven maintained in a similar way.

We know, too, that in many public schools in any major city, it is a virtual surety that there is at least one group of teenagers engaged in ritualist Satanism. And though we know very little — again for obvious reasons — about human sacrifice as an element in ritualist Satanism, we do know that in certain covens in which confidentiality is an absolute, life-or-death condition, the penalty for attempting to quit the coven is ritual death by knife, with one stab wound inflicted for every year of the offending member’s life.

Hard admissible evidence concerning human sacrifice as an element in Satanist rituals is limited by the fact that disposal of human remains has been developed into one of the dark art forms within Satanist circles through use of portable incinerators and cremetoria; and because there are no birth or baptismal records — no records of existence — of intended Victim infants.

Nevertheless, we have enormous amounts of anecdotal evidence indicating that some thousands of infants and children are intentionally conceived and born to serve as Victims in Satanist sacrificial rites. In the world of Satanist worship, boys are preferred as gender-replicas of the Christ Child. But girls are by no means excluded.

In this regard, the emergence of child abuse as a characteristic of our time must claim particular attention. Not all — perhaps not even most — child abuse originates in ritualist Satanism per se. Each case must be weighed on the evidence. But the extent of child abuse in America today and the concrete evidence of Satanism as a factor in many such cases, begins to give some idea of the degree to which the inverted standards that are the prime hallmark of Satanist activity in any form — and of ritualist Satanism above all — have infiltrated and influenced all levels of our society.

As horrifying as even that much information is — though it is not all of the information we have, by any means — still more shocking is the realization of the fact that in this, the America of the 1990s, one is never far from a center where such activity is carried out on a routine basis. No one lives far from some geographical area where some form of ritualistic Satanism is practiced. Ritualistic Satanism and its inevitable consequence, demonic Possession, are now part and parcel of the atmosphere of life in America.

That a more favorable climate exists now than ever before for the occurrence of demonic Possession among the general population is so clear, that it is attested to daily by competent social and psychological experts, who for the most part, appear to have no “religious bias.”

Our cultural desolation — a kind of agony of aimlessness coupled with a dominant self-interest — is documented for us in the disintegration of our families. In the breakup of our educational system. In the disappearance of publicly accepted norms of decency in language, dress and behavior. In the lives of our youth, everywhere deformed by stunning violence and sudden death; by teenage pregnancy; by drug and alcohol addiction; by disease; by suicide; by fear. America is arguably now the most violent of the so-called developed nations of the world.

Parents do have every reason to be concerned, then. For above all, the greatest changes in the conditions in which we have come to live over the past twenty years or so have meant that young people are left as the most defenseless against the possibility of Possession. Raised more and more in an atmosphere where moral criticism is not merely out of fashion, but prohibited, they swim with little help in a veritable sea of pornography. Not merely sexual pornography, but the pornography of unmitigated self-interest. Whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the younger generations among us is, What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?

The difficulty is that as individuals and as a society, we are no longer willing— many of us are no longer able — to give an answer to that question that will satisfy anyone for long.

Such pervasive cultural desolation is the most fertile ground one could possible imagine for the causes of Possession to take root and flourish in almost unimpeded freedom. It is in this context that Satanism — including ritualized Satanism — is causing such justified fear among so many parents for their children. For, it is in that context that at least some may best be sought out by that Ancient Enemy of our race who, in the words St. Peter used in one of his letters, “prowls around like a lion seeking whom he can devour.”

_______________________________

Hostage to the devil : the possession and exorcism of five Americans / Malachi Martin. — HarperSanFrancisco ed. p. cm.
Originally published: New York: Reader’s Digest, 1976.
Includes index.
ISBN: 978-0-06-065337-8
FIRST PERENNIAL LIBRARY EDITION PUBLISHED IN I987;
HARPERSANFRANCISCO EDITION PUBLISHED IN 1992.

We are at war

Matt Walsh’s article today contained more truth than anything else I’ve read by him. He begins:

It’s called evil.

We never want to talk about evil in this country, do we? We rarely even say the word. We’re so shallow and distracted in our thinking. Everything has to be political or psychological, easily solved through policies or laws or pharmaceuticals. But all the drugs and legislation in the world won’t change the fact that humans are sinful and angry, and sometimes they do evil things on purpose, and not for any reason other than their own sick lust for vengeance, power, and pleasure.

You may or may not agree with the rest of what he writes, but that opening is certainly on the mark.

More and more I’ve had a sense of this spiritual vacuum (for years, but really crystalizing to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore) and I finally wrote about it. In addition to Matt’s piece today I read another by Fr. Longenecker and he really lays it out as well. And as he says, it’s going to get worse before it gets better:

This violence is not a race war. It is not a war between gay people and straight people. It is not a war against men or against women. It is a war on ourselves.

The white man who killed blacks in a Charleston church or the black man who killed two white people yesterday–their being white or black has nothing. Nothing to do with it. Even if the killers thought that was their motivation. It was not their motivation. They didn’t hate black people or white people. They hated people, and the first person they hated was themselves.

Will this seething hatred, rage and fear at the heart of our society go away or get worse?

It will get worse. As long as we continue to kill unborn children we will continue to kill others. Furthermore, this seething violence in the heart of America will finally erupt either in social violence on a grand scale or in war.

The one recourse any government cannot take away from me is my ability to pray. So I’ve reset my efforts in this area using the “tools of the trade” so to speak that I’m armed with. I can do other things as well, but without the willingness to shore up the foundational battle front the rest is just a house built on sand. We are going to be tested and tempted like never before.

built-on-sandI’ll say it again: it all comes down to the dignity of life. As long as we as a country are willing to so callously and with utter disregard and disdain murder human life within the womb than we cannot feign shock or surprise when events such as those in Virginia yesterday happen. As Fr. Longenecker stated it’s not a black, white, gay straight issue causing the hate. It is a human issue. We are at war with ourselves and our own humanity. We are at war with our Creator.

It’s a war we cannot win.

Prepping for battle

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?”

medalsMy 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.

[snip]

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.

bookstack02

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.

crucifixOur 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)