We’re carrying a new book called The Devil in the Castle, which revisits Saint Teresa of Avila’s writings in light of what was said about spiritual warfare and defense against the demonic. “Have you ever considered that the devil is active in your prayer life?” asks the book, right off.
“In the parish church where you attend Mass?
“In the lives and actions of people of goodwill all around you?
“The saints remind us of a key aspect of living the spiritual life that we are wont to forget simply because we can’t see it and because we have been conditioned by the media and popular culture to think the devil works visibly only in ‘bad’ people or in extraordinary ways, as in the movies.
“And although demons are certainly capable of extravagant or extraordinary manifestations, their ordinary work flies under our radar because it just isn’t that spectacular, though it is deadly.
“In fact, subtlety, illusion, and deceit are their preferred methods of attack. An invisible battle for souls is being waged in and around us without reprieve, and we remain ignorant of it to our peril.”
Demons work overtime leading good souls astray. And precious little if anything is said about it, from most pulpits — this despite the fact that Jesus said His main mission was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). His main mission!
As author Dan Burke points out, Saint Teresa — a doctor of the Church — saw devils with her own eyes and described how she tensed up and turned cold in their presence, which came even during Mass as she knelt to receive Communion.
“At another time I had a vision of a different kind, which frightened me to the core,” she wrote. “I was in a place where a certain person died, who as I understood had a very bad life, and that for many years.” Though the man, toward the end, had reformed to a degree, she recalled, he had not been to Confession and she watched in vision as devils grabbed the sheet he was wrapped in and “seemed to toss it to and fro.”
In the end, God and His Mercy intervened and the man’s body was carried ceremoniously to the grave, preventing this person who had been trying to reform from being dishonored in such a way.
Many times, we don’t realize how the devil is affecting us. We don’t see our deep faults. Lent is the time to ask for this illumination — to search and destroy evil as we meditate and pray in the desert.
As Burke points out, the evil one can even give us “peace,” though — like anything Satan bequeaths — it doesn’t last long, and leaves the person in a worse place than before. Among other guides in the book, Burke recommends as a daily examen to set aside five minutes to reflect on the day, either in the evening or the next morning; to ask the Lord to help you see what He wants you to see; to ask the Blessed Mother for help in this regard; to sit quietly for a moment and go over your day, as if hovering above it, looking at areas where you sinned or fell short of God’s desire for you; examine areas where you succeeded, improving your thought life and behavior; consider each area with respect to shortcomings, thank God for the illumination, ask for healing in those areas, and request forgiveness.
Where you have succeeded, offer praise. You will soon find yourself succeeding at a greater rate.
Close this time of prayer with thanksgiving for God’s forgiveness,” writes the author. “If you have committed a mortal sin, get to Confession as soon as you can.”
One might add: go to Confession, period, at least once a month, as Our Lady has urged. In this way do we cleanse (as long as we don’t keep repeating bad habits) and have the chance of avoiding purgatory.