We continue reading an antique book I recently acquired, printed in 1910. If you “have an ear to hear”, it is one of the most insightful and almost prophetic books I have ever read; speaking to us today from nearly a century ago …
II. Our Spiritual Foes
All the powers of hell are in league to deprive souls of their faith. This has ever been the case and will continue to be so, as long as there is in this world a soul to deceive. Our life on earth is a constant warfare (Job 7:1). A warfare, not against creatures of flesh and blood, but against spiritual principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places (Eph 6:12). The great force capable of resisting the assaults of the evil one is faith (1 Peter 5:9), but not every form of faith suffices to repel every kind of evil spirit, there are some against whom special weapons must be used, as our Lord Himself taught us.
One day He saw a man in the midst of the multitude, who fell down on his knees before Him saying, “Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffereth much, for he falleth often into the fire and often into the water, and I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not heal him.” Jesus exclaimed: “O, unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me.”
He commanded the devil to come out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said, “Why could not we cast him out?” Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence thither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-20).
Ordinary faith suffices to cast out the ordinary evil spirits, but in order to overcome more powerful adversaries, extraordinary faith is needed, and it can be acquired only by prayer and fasting. If any one asks why prayer and fasting are essential, we must reply, “Man consists of body and soul, there are two substances within him, the one material and the other spiritual, and in order to resist the spirit of evil, these two substances must be brought into contact with the spirit of good, and spiritualized, each in its own way. The soul is spiritualized by prayer and the body by penance, which raises it into the regions of the spirit, just as prayer uplifts the soul. These are two wings enabling man to rise towards God, and it is only in proportion as he does so, that he gains strength to resist evil. His degree of exaltation indicates the measure of his strength, and his exaltation is proportionate to the power of prayer and penance that he has attained. Faith raises man to God, and man is too feeble to overcome evil if he lacks faith; the greater his faith the greater his strength. If he realizes his own weakness in face of the enemy, he must strive to lift himself up to God and to increase his faith, and both are done by way of prayer and penance.
The whole human race, outraged by the attacks of the evil one, also needs to be raised up, and to increase in faith, and neither can be done except by way of prayer and penance. But how can nations be uplifted? How can they recover faith that is dying out? How can a people, incapable of praying or of suffering, be brought back to prayer and penance? . . .
At the present day there is urgent need of both, for the evil spirits going about to destroy souls are more numerous and more terrible than ever.
Impurity triumphs everywhere, in our theatres and places of amusement, on holidays and in the streets, in pictures and books, in public institutions and even in private families. Crime of every sort abounds. The minds of all classes are being corrupted by education interwoven with falsehood, blasphemy, error and impiety. A spirit of pride and rebellion embitters individuals and stirs up the masses. Urged on by the powers of hell, men strive to enjoy pleasure in all its forms, they seek to please their bodies, hearts and minds. They wish to enjoy life, and beyond this they have no further aim, but for the sake of enjoyment they are breaking down the old barriers of respect for authority, of self-control and dignity, of uprightness and honesty, of faith and loyalty. All the old beliefs and customs, traditions and habits, even family and social life are in danger of being swallowed up in a great cataclysm of foulness, bloodshed and sin.
If ever there was a time when the struggle against evil called for valiant soldiers bearing powerful arms, it is the present. May God give us brave men, well armed, that right may triumph over wrong!
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