In his latest column for the Catholic Sentinel, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon discusses the realit of Satan’s presence in the world. The context for his reflections is a recent conference he attended on the subject of demonic possession and exorcism.
While an undue fascination with the details of possession might not be spiritually healthy, Bishop Vasa points out that the opposite problem–ignoring the existence of the devil and the reality of evil–is much more prevalent in today’s society.
Following is an excerpt from Bishop Vasa’s thought-provoking column:
“The devil is insanely jealous of us. He is jealous because God, bypassing the angelic spirits, chose to link His divine nature with our human nature in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The singular purpose of Satan, then, with a fervor which is fed by jealousy, is to sabotage as many of the individual relationships with God as possible. We are assured that those who maintain a strong relationship with the Lord in prayer and sacraments are extremely unlikely to fall prey to possession, but we are all victims of ongoing temptation.
“It is this role of tempter which C.S. Lewis explores in The Screwtape Letters. A sensitivity in the spiritual life needs to include an awareness of the tactics of the devil and a firm resolve to avoid and resist the wickedness and snares of the devil. This is precisely the purpose of the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. In that prayer, we acknowledge that we are involved in a battle with the forces of evil, ‘Saint Michael, Archangel, defend us in battle’ and we ask his specific intervention, ‘be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.’ We then go one step further invoking God’s own direct assistance, ‘May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,’ and then back to Saint Michael and all the angels, ‘and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits.’ Then at the end of the prayer we take note of the reason why we have sought the intercession of the great Saint Michael in the first place. This is because those evil spirits are the ones ‘who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.’ These souls whom Satan and his evil minions prowl about the world seeking to destroy are not anonymous other souls but rather our own souls and those of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
“It is certainly important that we not become excessively consumed or obsessed by the presence and activity of the evil one, but it is also most important that we not be oblivious to his presence or activity, for it is real. All one needs to do is look at the state of moral confusion which reigns in our present society. The killing of the sick or elderly because they want it is being promoted as some kind of right or good but this can be so only in the topsy-turvy world of Screwtape and Wormwood [fictional devils in The Screwtape Letters]. When taking the life of an innocent pre-born child is seen as right and a right and when the preservation of precisely that right becomes the object of a political campaign, I suspect the letter from Screwtape to the demon master of that campaign would be filled with praise. When a whole society begins to question whether marriage really requires one man and one woman, faithfully committed to each other in an exclusive and child-centered relationship, Satan must be very pleased indeed. Screwtape’s letters to the untiring tempters who pulled off that coup would have to be filled with devilish pride. For that kind of confusion and moral inversion to have made this kind of progress in our society, it was and is necessary for Satan to have been very active and at the same time to remain very hidden. When he is so subtly hidden, there is no limit to the wickedness and snares of the devil.
“When we look at our society and see the depths of depravity to which it has already sunk we must, like in the parable of the wheat and the tares, come to the unmistakable conclusion that ‘an enemy has done this.’”