Pope Francis has spent his pontificate in a full frontal assault against the devil.
“There is no shadow of a doubt,” Pope Francis said in October, “A battle exists, a battle in which the eternal salvation of us all is at stake.”
The battle is two-sided, he said in a June audience. “Look around us — it is enough to open a newspaper, as I said — we see the presence of evil. The Devil is acting.”
What is it that we find when we open the newspaper?
- The Daily Beast reports from southern Louisiana: The Hosanna Church was the heart of a child sex abuse scandal shrouded in reports of devil worship and rituals with cat blood and pentagrams.
- New York Daily News reports on the “Craigslist killer” who claimed to kill dozens for Satan.
- Satanic killers are making headlines from Bangkok to Johannesburg — to Harris County, Texas.
- The Church of Satan is vying for respectability by shoring up its brand and rejecting tainted admirers and planning public monuments.
- Satanic activity such as the Indiana infestation is being widely reported, and new heroes are emerging: “Exorcism Expert a Former Skeptic, Now Trains Priests in Exorcisms,” reports KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pa.
But Pope Francis likely has in mind not this open Satanic activity, but the more subtle activity of the evil one.
But clearly the battle is raging, said Pope Francis, and there are no alternatives to joining it. “No! Either you are with Jesus or you are against him.” Over at the Register, my wife and I point out that this Sunday’s readings offer a little tutorial on “How to Tell Satan to Go Away.” Here is some of Pope Francis’ own advice on how to fight the devil.
Fight for salvation.
Pope Francis told Argentinian bishops “There’ll be trouble if the devil robs me of a single soul!” He was quoting his countryman, Blessed Jose Brochero. He praised the “Gaucho Priest” for going out to his people to preach the Gospel, saying he wasn’t content to sit in a Parish office. “With God’s help, he overcame those inner forces that the devil uses to chain us to comfort, to the search for fleeting pleasure, to the lack of incentive to work.” We need to be that serious about the salvation of souls.
Fight against complacency.
Pope Francis says this is the devil’s bargain: “You become a Christian, go forward in your faith, and I will leave you alone; I will leave you in peace. But then, once you have grown accustomed to it, are no longer watchful and feel secure I will return.”
To fight back, he said, be on guard. Ask: “Do I keep watch over myself? Do I guard my heart? My feelings? My thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I protect the Holy Spirit’s presence within me?”
Fight against hate.
“Hatred does not come from God but from the devil. And the Saints removed themselves from the devil; the Saints are men and women who have joy in their hearts and they spread it to others. Never hate but serve others, the most needy; pray and live in joy. This is the way of holiness.”
Fight against worldliness.
This, he said later, is because the devil “could not endure that man be superior to him, that man and woman be made in the image and likeness of God. This is why he made war on them” and entices us onto “a road that leads to death.” That road is idolatry, spent in thrall to Mammon.
… But Don’t Expect to Win on Your Own.
All of which comes with a giant papal caveat: “you cannot dialogue with the prince of the world,” said Pope Francis. “With that prince, there is no dialogue; you can only answer him with the Word of God who defends us.” The prince of the world “hates us. And what he did with Jesus, he will do with us.”
But Christ will guard the Church from the devil, ultimately, said the Pope.
“I would like to say out loud: God is stronger! Do you believe this, that God is stronger? Let us say it together, let us say it all together: God is stronger!”
Yes, the Devil is real — but God is stronger.
Significantly, the only joint public appearance by both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict was July 5. This has been reported as simply the dedication of a statue. But that’s not what Pope Francis said in his prayer that day. He said:
“In consecrating the Vatican City State to St Michael the Archangel, let us ask him to defend us from the Evil One and cast him out.”
So St. Michael is fighting the Pope’s battle with the devil. We should be too.