If I were Satan

Satan as Antichrist

I thought it would be interesting to put myself in the place of Satan and try to understand better his tactics. This is by no means very comprehensive for Satan is pure spirit and his intellect and means of temptation and disruption in our personal lives and in the history of the world could be the subject of a many volume set of books. But it is an interesting meditation to make and many things come to mind that seem to open up our understanding of Satan along the lines that C.S. Lewis did with his Screwtape Letters. This is my first go at it:

If I were Satan and wished to seek the ruin of human souls, I would prowl about in search of weakness and attack without mercy. I would insinuate doubt and confusion where before there was certitude, I would cause factions where before there was unity, I would disguise evil for good and convince these lowly human intellects that neither I nor evil really exists.

No longer would people fear hell, for there would be no hell to go to; and for those who did believe in hell, they would believe that it was empty or that at least they, themselves, were not destined to go there. People would no longer look to the Church to guide them through this life to the Heavenly Gates. They would look to themselves or to their governments to create a heaven on earth that would be eager to excuse their personal indiscretions and no longer would there be a need to endure the embarrassment of Confession. Besides, they no longer need absolution for sins which they no longer believe in anyway. Many will embrace secular scientific interpretations about our beginnings and our final end: embracing ideas of aliens from outer space and their genetic intervention with human beings over the millennia.

I would make attacks on love. First I might attack the family and the children by destroying marriage and encouraging divorce. I will also separate sexual activity from the procreative, rendering these acts sterile. Thus, these human animals can revel in their debauchery and self-indulgence to their hearts content. All sexual acts shall be seen as licit and private and of no business of the Church. For the new Church that I create will be nothing but a shell of what it was. It will now act as a kindly social worker and encourage many acts of kindness and tolerance, especially when it comes to their judgment of sin. In so doing, all moral acts will be tolerated with kindness leaving one free at last to have a conscience that no longer gives them the least bit of trouble.

If given a chance, I will remake the Church – knowing that my powers will not prevail against the powers of Heaven – but also cognizant that I can confuse and divide men and introduce great confusion; winning many souls for the dark kingdom. I will destroy the beauty, the silence, the reverence and the awe not only in architecture but in every way imaginable. I will encourage worldly chatter in the old hallowed halls and invite everyone to Communion whether they have sinned or not or whether they are Catholic or not. For the Church will be much more tolerant after I have had my way with Her.

Should the Church let down Her guard sufficiently (becoming complacent), I will give Her a new Sacrifice of the Mass that will cause divisions between Her members and encourage the lack of prayer and devotions that were once Her mainstay – many will leave the Church and seek their own factions. Dividing the Kingdom of God will return man to the state of Babel where no one truly understands another which was healed at Pentecost. By then it will no longer matter, for the Church will no longer be silent or reverent and completely unsuitable for prayer or devotions anyhow.  It will simply become a meeting hall that is there to coddle and stroke the people and encourage them in dealing with their sins; a church reduced to an army of social workers. The Church will not demand Confessions; only forgiveness and tolerance of others. Nay, but there is one exception: anyone that holds to the old ways shall be reviled and hated by all. It is the only commandment one must never break. They will be the new enemy of the Church.

This new Mass will no longer be called the Sacrifice of the Mass; it will be called Eucharist or thanksgiving. Yes, it does sound a bit like our holiday by the same name; now devoid of giving thanksgiving to God but a chance to eat with friends and enjoy the bread and circuses of football, drinking to excess and great revelry. So they shall no longer refer to the altar as an altar but as a table and the thanksgiving (Eucharistic) meal. They will eat the food from their own hands with no belief in the difference from the consecrated hands of the priest and our own hands. The lines between priest and laity will be blurred. With this in mind, the idea of sacrifice will of course be missing; all may share a meal together without remembering their sins and ignoring the fact that many have not been to Confession in years. Even Confessions will be renamed Reconciliation as it sounds more like receiving validation of our basic goodness and receiving a pat on the back rather than divulging one’s sins. Even so, no one will see the reason to go to Reconciliation as they will receive all the affirmation they could possibly want from their secular world and also within the newly fashioned Church of the non-judgmental and tolerant.

They will no longer speak of transubstantiation and will use the confusing term “real presence” to speak of Christ in the Eucharistic Species. In this way, it will be confused with the protestant term which at times means: consubstantiation, trans-signification or trans-finalization. There will no longer be seen a distinction between these competing and opposing theological doctrines. This will allow no Church to claim an exclusive right to the Sacrament that Christ once gave to His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The lines will be confused and obfuscated by changing the use of terms. People will then believe that no church is better than another and that all churches are basically the same. Salvation can be gained in any religion and there will no longer be a need to evangelize our neighbors or to send missionaries to convert other faiths. Such meddling in other denominations and faiths will seem, in itself, to be unkind and expressing a self piety that is completely unacceptable; what will be derided as Triumphalistic in their approach. This new enlightened approach will confuse all Christian churches and create a complete ambivalence among their members.

After that I will present new Rites for the Church: I will rewrite the Rite for the Ordination of Priests, for the Rite of Baptism and for the Rite of Exorcism. Confusion will enter into many factions as to the legitimacy and efficacy of the new Rites and render a fog surrounding the Sacramental validity as offered by the Church. Doubt will reign among the more informed Christians and apathy will reign among the lukewarm Christians. Hatred and distrust will be the undercurrent between these various groups. In fact the Church will more and more appear to be an extension of a political party and one more organization among many that pushes their own political and social agenda. Each will push an ideology that split their unity into a multi-faceted coalition of personal beliefs. They will decide on truths based on their individual beliefs.

So beneath it all, love will be replaced with infighting between factions and the Churches will be divided in an effort to isolate each of them into competing groups vying for dominance in their public discourse. It will be indistinguishable between the political discords we see in the public square.

My plan will nearly be complete. My attacks on the priests, theologians and biblical scholars will produce discordant expert commentary that fundamentally disagrees with one another. The Church will no longer be viewed as a Church that speaks with a single voice but many voices with disparate views. Confusion will abound and the striving Christian will be busy digesting, fighting and arguing with one another to such an extent that the primary purpose of worship and prayer will be almost lost to the world.

It is not important that the Churches sacraments remain valid, protected by the Holy Spirit. It is more important that I introduce doubt and divide my foe. My plan is not to win the war; for it is ordained that in the end the war will be lost. However, my desire to inflict as much pain and loss on my enemy will allow me to win many battles before the day when the King of kings returns to dispose me from my throne as Prince of the World.

The trick you see is not so much to overcome the ability of the Church to bind the Sacraments with validity by the guidance of the Holy Spirit but it does not stop me from fomenting distrust, disillusionment, confusion and doubt within the people. Their membership in this Church will be compromised and many defections are certain to stir up great discord and win many to my dark camp where I can subjugate them and torment them for an eternity. I will then have some satisfaction and gratification in denying Christ those who were destined for His Kingdom. I relish the destruction of these souls and the sadness of Christ.  To this end, I will certainly find some success. It will be my only solace throughout eternity. And think of the many secular souls that I will reap because of the divisions in the Christian churches. No clear voice of morality and truth will exist to dissuade their fall into the pit for which they are now destined. My plan is nearly complete, but I have reserved a few secret tactics to catch mankind unaware. Watch my cunning and how flawless my militant strategies will be carried out; often without my minion’s own knowledge of their complicity or how they ultimately share in my plans.

A Prayer for Guidance

…and a word of caution.

Writing a Catholic blog can be perilous especially for one who has taken as his apostolate, the responsibility for guiding new converts in the faith. On the one hand, you want to make sure they have been given a solid understanding of all the teachings of the faith and have grounded them in the traditions of the Church and on the other hand you want to make sure that you do no harm: for we can never forget that it is Christ who plows the field of the new convert’s soul. How I or others tend that fertile field is a responsibility that bears with it everlasting consequences and presents many dangers both for the catechist and the catechumen.

This may be a useful metaphor.

Some Catholic dialog is like fertilizer: too strong for the young roots – capable of burning and extinguishing the life within them. For the stronger plants, spreading manure (the vile waste that God uses to grow us in our spirituality), is useful in making a plant stronger and more alive.

This blog was not intended for the newly formed Catholic with delicate souls but I am aware that it is always possible that my posts may reach these souls from time to time. So it is a balancing act that must be dealt with in a serious manner. It is to some extent the same challenge as dealing with a group of individuals with varying needs: we do our best to encourage those who are inquiring about the faith and entering RCIA without giving them too much too soon.

We desire for all our new converts to seek holiness in their lives and  to develop an understanding that the Church and Her Sacraments are indispensable in achieving that goal. Her sacred theology can help souls understand when their spiritual quest is going off course and the Church can provide devotions and prayers that lead souls closer to God.

Unfortunately a journey toward holiness, oftentimes leads to issues difficult to understand and to assimilate. Though you do not want to ignore what may be an impediment to a seeker, one still wonders if the newly initiated Catholic has been formed sufficiently to face these problems. Is it better to leave them in their struggles until such time that the Holy Spirit moves them to either seek counseling, find a spiritual director or should they confront the issues by themselves? If meditated upon with a mature spirituality (I speak here of souls who are no longer in danger of becoming despondent or melancholy) the extent of the spiritual battle is made quite apparent; both for our own soul as well as the soul of the Church. And the mature soul is enlivened to enter into this warfare to fight for his soul and for His King, the Church.

So should we explain the attacks of Satan on Christ’s Church and more specifically on these new and delicate souls? Though the dangers are certainly already present, they will always appear sometime in the future as one advances in holiness but is it too much, too soon? My considered answer would be no unless it is a one on one conversation. It is more properly handled by their confessors and by a trusted Catholic who can converse face-to-face making sure that they do not misunderstand what is being said. In that way they may come to understand the value of the evil faced and how they can use it for their own advancement and eventual salvation.

We wish to strengthen their bonds to the True Church and thus to Christ. In time we want them to recognize the wounds that Christ in His Mystical Body endures from age to age and will always face. However, I feel that this is a topic for the mature and not for the neophyte whose instruction may not have been as solid as we would have wished.

As a catechist I am always struck by the diversity of souls that come into the church. Every soul is different and thereby unique to them. In an inquiry class, for instance, I was faced with a young evangelical that just couldn’t quite wrap his mind around many of the arguments for the veracity of the Catholic Church. I had nearly exhausted every apologetic I that I had in my arsenal. To my rescue, a friend of mine gave the young man the book Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie and it happened to do the trick; he never looked back. In fact, he bought about a dozen copies of the book to hand out to his evangelical family and friends. He is now a faithful member of the Catholic Church.

As a blogger, I have been given a venue to say many things that are not appropriate to discuss with individuals that I instruct within a group. Therefore, I must continually pray for guidance, hoping of course that a spiritual initiate might not read into my posts a negative assessment of the Faith itself. Let me assure you, it is far from my purpose, to ever devalue the One True Church that I have come to love. Misread articles are a great source of worry and give me pangs of conscience as I publish many of my posts. It is always possible that they can create confusion in those who are unaware of real situations that are going on in the Church. I do believe, however, that these situations, though that may cause a soul grief, will be revealed one way or another as they become better informed Catholics. God will use these difficulties, not to their detriment but to their advancement.

To the initiated and well formed Catholic, I do not think anyone will come to the same conclusions a newly formed or poorly formed Catholic might. I believe that they will understand my love for the Church and my love for Christ; they will see that my sole motive is the propagation of the faith and the advancement of souls to a deeper spirituality and to a life that desperately wants to grow in holiness. At least I like to think that. Only lives lived for holiness and rooted in Christ, can change our world and our culture. Actions and behaviors speak louder than words among those in secular society. It is the only meaningful answer for the problems the secular faces.

For those who find some of my topics disturbing, I actually wish that you do not read them but return to them only when or if you feel drawn to such topics. Having strong convictions in the Catholic Faith is paramount for the examination and evaluation of internal strife and fractures that exist in our Catholic culture.

I therefore pray, and ask all my readers to also pray for me and for one another, that we all might walk that narrow path that will not hinder the workings of our Lord and Savior within these new souls which He has called. But instead, let us help raise up warriors in Catholic apologetics, prayer and the love of God and neighbor. May they go forth to advance in all works of holiness and draw closer to God every day as they draw their nourishment from the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church.

May God be ever in my mind and in my heart and guide me to say only that which He Himself would have me say. May my readers likewise be enlivened in their faith and come to recognize the spiritual combat that we each are called to undertake in our own individual way for the advancement of souls. This I ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

Why Should I Attend Church with all the Hypocrites?

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam at St. Ignatius in Chic...

QUESTION: I do not attend Church because, as I see it, the parishes I’ve visited are filled with hypocrites. For sure, they are overflowing with those who profess Christian beliefs and virtues but they do not live as though they held these beliefs nor do they practice the virtues that they profess. I am better off just staying home and keeping myself away from such people.

 ANSWER:

Christ once spoke a parable that gets to the heart of this matter. In Luke Chapter 18, verse 9 through verse 14 he says the following: And to some who trusted in themselves as just and despised others, he spoke also this parable: “Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: ‘O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” __ Luke 18:9-14

Those who think that they are not sinners foolishly exalt themselves because as scripture says, we are all sinners. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar: and his word is not in us.” __ 1 John 1:8-10

So we should not be surprised to find ourselves amid sinners and hypocrites when we enter a Church. It is the place that they need to be. It is during the spiritual journey (begun in the Church) that some (not all) find their way to Heaven. There are no guarantees. It is a journey of faith that first has us professing the Truths of Christ with our lips though not necessarily with our actions. But in time this profession, coupled with the grace of God, can eventually lead us to accept these Truths in our hearts as well. At such time, we will make a strenuous effort to live the life that we have professed with our lips. But hypocrites should no more stay out of the Church because of their hypocrisy than we should stay out of the Church because they are sitting in the pews next to us. We all stand in need of the transforming love of Christ and we all need to seek His grace in overcoming our deficiencies.

The Church offers unique help and grace in our journey to God. For through the sacraments of the Church we are given the strength to continue the fight and the journey and the hope that is necessary in this quest. Without the sacraments we would succumb to despair and we would quit the journey altogether or fool ourselves into thinking that we could gain the sanctifying grace that is necessary for our salvation by ourselves. Let me illustrate by using an analogy to illustrate what this might be like.

 Let us say that I live in Maine with my family and I’m offered the job of a lifetime in Los Angeles. Let us also suppose that the only way that I can get to Los Angeles (as I haven’t the means to fly) is to drive in my car. So my hope is to drive to LA in my car and reach the destination that I long for. Thankfully, the highways are supposedly inspected for safety and the speed limits are regulated by law so that I can have great hope of arriving in LA without any mishaps along the way so long as I obey the speed limits that are posted along the highways. Now we also have hope that our fellow travelers will obey these speed limits and that all the roads have been inspected and that the bridges are safe, etc. But as we know, though most people profess to be law-abiding citizens, most do break the speed limit laws and from time to time our roads are not safe, sometimes due to criminal neglect. Should I abandon the only means that I have to reach LA because of this hypocrisy among my fellow drivers and the poorly managed government agencies that were established by our law makers to inspect these roads and keep them safe? Is my fear of going on this journey with all these hypocrites sufficient cause to abandon my only hope for occupational success? I do not know anyone who would stay in Maine because of it. Most would still take the chance and get in their car and begin the trip, even if they were law-breakers themselves.

 Why should it be any different for us when we begin the spiritual journey that Christ asks us to make? Though there is more at risk (our eternal happiness) some seem to make this argument to their own eternal loss.

Our hope is in the Church – not in our own privatized faith. Our own actions merit nothing unless they are somehow attached to the actions of Christ and the merit that He has gained for us. This is precisely what the Church offers. It is Christ Who made the Church an indispensable vehicle for those who seek Him. It is Christ that promised the Holy Spirit to the Church and it is Christ Who feeds us at the altar and forgives us our sins through the sacraments of His Church. Do I stay away from these gifts because I am not comfortable with the company that I have to keep? No more so than I should abandon the above trip to LA because I do not like or trust the other drivers on the road. Do I stay away because I too am a hypocrite who has sinned far too often? No more so than all the sinners who are called to repentance and a new life in Christ.

When everyone who professes their faith becomes perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect, we will no longer stand in need for the aid only available through the Sacraments of the Church. But until then, I hope that the rest of us are growing in holiness and laboring at being transformed in Christ for the greater glory of God.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Q & A on Confession

MoveThat.com Confessional

Question: I have heard it said that the Catholic Church introduced the present practice of Confession at the Fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215). If so, it would seem that Confession is no more than the present discipline of the Church and not a Sacrament per se. Therefore, the confession of one’s sins directly to God without a priest, such as Protestant’s employ, would seem acceptable. Why should we continue to confess our sins privately to priests in this modern age?

Answer:

First of all the Fourth Lateran Council did not (as Calvin claimed) institute the practice of Confession as we shall presently see. The Council of Trent made this clear in the following statements: 1.) “The Church did not, through the Lateran Council, ordain that the faithful of Christ shall confess – a thing which it knew to be necessary and instituted of divine right – but that the precept of Confession should be complied with at least once a year” (Sess. xiv., ch.5).  2.) “If anyone denies either that Sacramental Confession was instituted, or is necessary for salvation, by divine right, or says the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church has observed from the beginning and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention, let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Sess. xiv,. Can 6). Let’s look historically at several statements from the Early Fathers of our Faith that we might justify the above statements made by our Church.

St. Cyprian (A.D. 200-258) in his treatise De Lapsis, 28, 19 states the following: “Let each one of you confess his sins, while his confession may still be received, and his satisfaction and the absolution of the priest are pleasing to the Lord.”  St. Pascian of Barcelona(A.D. 390) when answering the objection of the Novatians that God alone can forgive sins, says: “This is true, but that which He does through His priests is also done by His own power. For He said to His Apostles: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven.’ Why should He speak thus, if it was not lawful for men to bind and loose?” (Epis. Ad Symp., i. 6.)  There are many other writers who could be cited as well but these should suffice to prove our point; that private Confession to a Priest was an early practice of the Church. It is interesting to note that Confession to a Priest has been retained by all of the Eastern Churches that separated from the Roman Church long ago (some as early as the fifth and ninth century) proving that it was common practice at the time of separation.

A final point to consider when speaking of Confession: If the Church all of a sudden instituted such an unpopular practice, as Confession seems to be, don’t you think that an upheaval would have occurred such that the world would be teeming with historical records decrying this practice? No such records are to be found – for it is a fiction to think that Confession is not a Sacrament instituted by Christ from the beginning, protected and preserved by the Church, for our own good and the Salvation of all. It was our Lord’s desire that the Sacrament of Penance should be administered by His Church to bind and loose in heaven what is bound or loosed on earth. How, then, can a priest forgive your sins if he does not know them? Our Lord saw our need for Confession – no man or church founded by men would ever have instituted such a practice on their own. That would be inconceivable!