In the world around us there are many things that are apparent and many other things that we do not see. We are certain of some things that we do not see; as the Saint tells us: "Now faith is knowing what we hope for, and being certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for". Concerning faith, Saint Paul is speaking of Christ, and His promise, that is, of eternal life and the beatific vision. All of the saints had great faith in their earthly lives, at least at the end, and many have died for that faith.
We can think of many saints of long ago, but in fact there are many heroic souls even in recent years. Coming to mind for example are those monks in Algeria, refusing to leave their station although they were threatened with death, and in fact they were put to death by the sword a few years ago. There are many such gallant people in the lands of the Orient, where faith is banned and too strong a faith is punishable by death.
Two million Christians have been put to death in the Sudan during the last couple of decades and to this very day. Others are being killed in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, and many other places. These martyrs will call out with the others that we read about in Apocalypse: "How long, O Lord, until you put your enemies under your feet, and reap the great harvest?" to which the entire kingdom of God stands still in wonder. It is then that on His Heavenly throne the Ancient of Days, all dignity and glory, will tell His beloved to be patient, for the times and places have been set by Heaven, not for us to know, not even the saints and martyrs of Heaven, nor even the Son, and it will not be until the fullness of His people enter into His Church and Covenant. But these same martyrs can bring us comfort and help us with our faith if we ask, whose merits gained are a model for us to strive for, and this, not for ourselves, but for the glory of the One and only. They are our friends, our spiritual mentors with whom we mysteriously communicate, through the bond of eternal love which is Christ Jesus.
But to turn to the matter at hand. Yes, we have our guardian angels whose feast we celebrated last week and whose presence is a blessing and comfort to us, who guard us with the strength given them by God, to protect us from harm when we ask Him, the King of Glory. We love them. And even for a time the guardian angels still protect us even when we don’t ask for this help; sometimes one can look back and be amazed how God preserved us from falling into harm. And then we have the 'other angels.' Here we are speaking of supernatural, spiritual harm, which can destroy our souls. It brings us around to the point of this missive, that is, to describe those who entirely know the score, and know about the supernatural versus the natural, but are out to do us harm. These beings are not humans, but they are most certainly persons, though we see them only peripherally, as through a glass darkly. We can say a little about them as an admonition so that we might be more vigilant.
Like guardian angels there are also guardian devils. These beings are sent by satan, who has power on earth, to pester and torment us our whole earthly lives. And do not think that just because they are present that it means that the soul of the person is very bad. To the contrary, even the great saints have been pestered by these silent sentries of evil; for example, Saint Pio, but also many others. The Lord Himself was tempted by a demon, who was none other than satan himself. When one is aware of these beings it is the beginning of some important knowledge that God by grace imparts to us. To be sure, we cannot become obsessed with these things, because God hates obsession; it leads to death. Our lives must be balanced, knowing and discerning good from evil, staying away from evil as much as we can, sticking with the good, keeping on the straight and narrow. It is difficult in the human sense; in fact it is impossible, because there are too many things weighing us down. But supernaturally, through God, we can do all things in Christ; we can move mountains.
Now, life is hard not only because of the physical war, a war of the flesh, that is being waged (and we speak not just of lust but of greed and the whole gamut of sin), but also the war being waged in the spiritual realm. And do not think it is of no concern to us: the spiritual realm is rather of great concern, because it involves our immortal souls. Although we do not often see them in the physical sense, unless it is in a vision or perhaps some object is placed to remind us of this hidden world, these silent sentries of evil are assigned to try to make us slip up and stumble and fall. They do not speak, most of the time (this is not an essay on demon possession, which is another matter). But these demons do suggest, through our minds, through the ether, and through objects and pictures and the actions of others. And some places are so suggestive that they can be said to be like hell itself. Have you ever picked up a copy of the New York Times? I don’t advise it. But if you were to go in a few pages, you would find half pages of young ladies, beauty queens, modeling underwear. It is a trap by the devil. A little excitement, a little illicit enjoyment, and it’s down the slippery slope we go; it leads to things far worse. I met two of these young underwear model ladies (fully clothed at the time I might add), since my commute takes me to New York. I spoke to them of God; it seems that one listened and one didn’t, but we must pray for both of them all the same. There is the story of the two sons who were asked to go to work by their father. The one said yes, the other no, but in fact it turned out quite the opposite. The manner in which these young underwear ladies bear themselves testifies for satan, and often they don’t even know it. The same for the many pop stars who serve as role models for our youth, God forbid; though at least Britney Spears for example has one thing right, to profess to stay a virgin before marriage; though one doubts such sincerity by her mode of dress and demeanor.
That obstacles to holiness are put before our eyes testifies not only to the presence of our guardian demons, who tempt us, but also against our very selves, since we do nothing to stop the evil. Whatever happened to the lists of forbidden books and forbidden films that were once an important component of Catholic life? They still have such a thing in the country of Malaysia. To our shame, we must look also to muslim places, where bad books and bad fashion are punishable by death. But in Western countries they are welcomed by the most of us. Why not call a plenary council to ban bad books and bad fashion, dear Bishop, since they were even mentioned in warning to Sister Lucia by the Blessed Mother of God Herself? Where is the good pastor who forbids teens in suggestive outfits from entering his church? What worthy pastor will bar them at the door, telling them: "Go home! Put some right clothes on, and then come back." There are a few, to be sure. But in the conciliar parishes, we say with sorrow, whole families come to church in shorts and undershirt tops, clean clothes to be sure, and they are so ignorant they don’t even know that they are doing wrong. They think that by coming to church in their best shorts and t-shirts they are doing right and surely being cool dudes as well.
And whose fault is it? If I may state so it would seem to be those in authority, from parish priest on up to the top. The sins of the ignorant will fall upon those who are in authority o’er them, so watch out, fellow sinner, and pray, doing reparation and making amends. We know also that the noise after mass can be deafening, a great party in honor of the world and its pleasures and what the family is going to do with the kids for the rest of the Sunday, like go to the beach or the community pool hall or the backyard bar-b-que. Even from the church basement, as happens in the traditional parishes, the commotion can be distracting. It is common after mass in many conciliar parishes that there is little or no thanksgiving for Communion, no prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father. Why it happens even in traditional parishes. And there he is, our silent demon sentry, even in church, and maybe more than one or two, standing in silence in the background, beckoning us to join the fun and laugh and gawk and do wrong. We must not listen to these beings and do wrong, but we should be aware that they are present, and yet be humble about it. No good can be done except that which comes from above; we are reliant on God for every good thing that we receive and every good thing that we give. It is Him; the flesh is weak and it is like an old, worn out tent; only the soul is immortal.
And yet we have more than simply a duty to stay clear of danger, because every one we come in contact with is in danger too. Even Saint Paul, who worked out his salvation in fear and trembling. Some of the greatest saints, when it becomes apparent that they are about to die, fear death, and a great deal of that fear comes from the fact that all of us could do more in this life for God, and yet we do not. Have we used our talents wisely? We will know one day, but let use be as confident as we can that we have. Our guardian devils cannot be made to go away entirely, we cannot make them disappear without a trace, because we must be reminded that earth is not Heaven. But demons in our midst can be contained, with the help of the angels. We cannot leave this up to chance. We must be conscious that evil is ever present, and yet not yield to it, calling to our Heavenly friends to help not only us, but also our friends and loved ones and enemies.
For this reason it is very important to pray carefully and diligently and not leave anything out. Even years later, let us not forget our friends and relatives for whom we have prayed for in the past. Is three years of prayer for someone enough, or four? I don’t know, but why be chintzy? Why not rather be generous and continue praying, pray indeed even without seeing the result, so that we will be held blameless in this matter, which is very important before God. We can pray even for those we have met in chance encounters and who we will likely never see again, the driver in the other car that we honked at, the doorman that we were impolite to. Saint Pio spent his nights without sleep for all the people he needed to pray for. When it seems to us that prayer is useless after a time, it is a devilish temptation, and rather than be tempted, let us redouble our efforts and pray all the more. These prayers can be secret and silent; we do not have to announce from the rooftops about it, though if we think it might do someone good to know then we can tell them. But let us not be superior about it; we are all sinners. The greatest man of prayer must still account for all his sins in order to get in the door.
Our actions also must speak for themselves. Is there a situation that tempts us? Stay clear of it. "Don’t go there" as a fine priest and confessor tells me. Is there a situation that tempts those who we love or are in some way in authority over? Make it so that they can stay clear of it. Do not allow temptation to befall others when one has the means to prevent it from being so. Are our kids attending sleazy parties? Put a stop to it now. Might we be in a situation in which it is really impossible to stop it? Then at least pray, and let one’s spiritual counselor in on it certainly, so that we may be sure that we are doing as we ought. Does a stranger inquire of what we are? Tell them the Good News! I am thinking in part of those seeking a spouse, to whom non-believers may be attracted to. Also for those at work who see something good in us, or even at church or school. But remember that any good in us is Christ, it is Heaven dwelling within us, so we cannot be proud of it, but merely humbled.
I had mentioned that the devils in our midst are silent beings; in fact it is the title of this letter. And for good reason are they silent: they do not want to give themselves away, for they can only speak lies in the end, and the jig would be up after a short time. But by working silently, behind the scenes, standing motionless and never too far from us, by being inconspicuous, they do not attract our attention, and yet can captivate the eye and ear with all manner of blasphemies and hideous abstractions. We start to pray, and get lost in ourselves. Who hasn’t? It happens. And yet we must struggle against this, because self is human, and man’s number we were warned about. We start to do good works, and are caught up in what it can do for us. What foolishness! It can end up worse than we started if we are not careful. The selfless man is on his way to holiness, so long as he does not become proud about it or even acknowledge it. Rather, we should say after doing all that has been asked of us: "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." And then God will take note and provide us with more graces if we ask; we are on the journey and along the right path, and can know God if we are careful.
But the man or woman who says that they know God and is smug about it is in error due to presumption; better we should say that we are seeking to know God and know Him better. We should most certainly not, however, seek to satisfy a curiosity about demons, using some false pretense such as goes like: "If we investigate we will know how to avoid them." False! Knowing that they are present is quite enough; remember they are a danger and quite a bit stronger and smarter than us. Let us rather sing hymns to God, and pray, and light holy candles to welcome the angels and saints into our dwelling places who can protect us.
To speak of the appearance of some of these demons, that is, succinct descriptions, which appear here and there, is phantasm and not edifying. But to speak in general terms, these things when encountered visually can have such an effect on people so as to change their whole lives around, and it has happened to some of the great saints. Good! But that is not the only way to be saved. Suffice it to say that all demons are ugly and hideous in their own way. Some of them have something seductive or interesting about them, something that seems beautiful or intriguing, as does all temptation, but in reality it is just our adversary satan in disguise. The curves and new age appeal and smart looks that some of these silent sentries use to seduce would deceive even the elect, were it not for the prayers of Christ to protect and defend His people. Others are just plain ugly, warts and tubercles and all, to which the strongest man would shudder if he encountered the vision of it, and their ugliness will become apparent at the end of all things, at the Great Battle. Thereafter of which, the great angel of God will stand with one foot on the shore and the other in the sea, clad in the armor of God, and lifting his right arm and his left arm to Heaven, with a sword in his hand, he will shout: "There will be no more time!". The trumpet will sound, that last trumpet, in the twinkling of an eye, and those who are not counted worthy, the ugly demons, and many who are considered beautiful as well, from lucifer, to some other demons, to some of the humans, will be cast into the fiery lake to receive eternal damnation and torment as their everlasting reward. But we digress.
If we are worried about warding off these things, for us and our children, for our friends, and even for our enemies, as we should be, there are ways to protect and guard. For our homes we should always have holy water present at various stations in several rooms, and use it frequently (but not obsessively). Every Catholic can ward off demons by reciting the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel that was given to Pope Leo XIII in a vision, and then the thrice exclamation to the Sacred Heart. When we pray, it can do great wonders. And better to pray at least twice a day even for the layman, and cover all the bases in our prayers, to make doubly sure that if some misfortune happens, God forbid, it was not on account of an omission in prayer on our part, as much as we know. When we pray with strength and vigor and fervency, it can do even more wonders. When we attend mass and treat it as the great union of God and man that it is, rather than as a few songs, a trip up the aisle for Holy Communion, and a quick getaway before the parking lot exits become jammed, we are doing right.
Those who treat God lightly cannot expect God to give them much in return in the way of spiritual blessings, though He does still sometimes, in fact many times, because He is all good. But it is not advisable to test Him in that. And so dear friends, let us be aware of those silent sentries that seek to destroy us, our guardian demons, who endeavor to bring us safely into the arms of satan at the last trumpet call, and often succeed, we say with great sorrow. Rather than yield to them, we should strive to do right, through the power of the Holy Ghost, and our friends the angels and saints, all of whom love us with the love of Christ, who conquered death and sits on His kingly throne at the right hand of our Father in Heaven, awaiting our friendship and calling on us that we may be seated at the eternal banquet. Amen.
Da nobis, quæsumus, Dómine Deus noster, sanctárum Mártyrum tuárum palmas incessábili devotióne venerári,
(Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, ever to venerate devoutly the victories of Thy holy martyrs)