tirsdag 14. august 2012

# 7 – Our daily struggle with Satan.

Yes, you are reading right. The heading says daily struggle! The title is from a book written by Rev. Livio Fanzaga. The full title is: «The Deceiver – Our Daily Struggle With Satan». The picture I have photographed is from  the cover of the book.

I had been catholic for a couple of years when I stumbled upon the book in a catholic online bookstore. The word «daily» made me curious and I bought it. I received it in my post box at a day when I was going to a party with other Catholics who were in the same Bible study as me. Since I always seem to  get some sort of problems with my concentration if there are too many hours between meals, I always eat something light before going out. So I did that day too! I ran from the post box to my home and put on the stove to heat a little meal. I was curious about the book and unpacked it immediately in front of the stove in the kitchen. It caught my attention so completely that I forgot the stove. Suddenly, as if it was taken out of a fictional movie, there came smoke out of the stove and it passed right beside my book avout the devil and hit me in my face. Guess who was quick to turn the stove off?

Later on that evening, I told the person sitting next to me at the table at the party, about the book and the episode about the stove and the smoke. He seemed a little bit scared and didn't seem interested to hear about the devil. Who wants too, at a party ...? Still I have never forgotten that he seemed a little scared before we changed the topic to speak about.

I wonder if all the jokes we can hear about the devil, is because deep inside people are afraid of the big demon. May be they feel better if they pretend that he is a joke?

If so, they are wrong! Father Fanzaga tells in his book that nothing suits the devil better than that people try to tell themselves that he doesn't exist. This is because the more people think that the devil is of no danger to them, the more easy it is to deceive them. Let us look at a common example wich I know happens to some people: If a person goes out with some business-partners, get too much to drink and have forgotten the idea about the temptations of the devil, than he will be much more easy to deceive into being unfaithful to his wife than if he in his despair remember the fallen angel.

May be you wonder if I have bought Father Fanzaga's ideas to easy? If a man (or woman) deceives the one he (she) is married to, doesn't that come from himself? Why does he need the devil to do evil? Yes, you are right. He (she) doesn't need the devil to deceive him (her). He (she) is capable to do evil on his own.

Let me try to explain where the devil fits in. If a person is living as a Christian who take his (her) faith seriously, that person will be aware of his (her) inner weaknesses and try to protect himself (herself ) against these weak sides. In the case about the business dinner the person who feels that he is drunk, will stop drinking immediately and say no to all sort of temptations if he is aware of the existence of the devil. He will know that now that he has become drunk by an accident he has to guard himself. Maybe he folds his hands beneath the table and asks for Gods protection.

When I talk about temptation, I think of all kind of sins, not only sexual sins. The example above is just an example for illustration. As soon as the person starts to practice his (her) faith with lesser intensity, some of his (her) inner defense will fall. Let us imagine that a person likes to sleep so long that he (she) will miss Sunday Mass if he (she) doesn't force himself (herself) to get out of bed. Some day the person says: «I'm too tired today. To miss Mass only once cannot be such a big failure». He (she) stays in bed and miss the grace of the Eucharist. Afterward the person regrets and wants to go to confession, but in some way manage to forget that. The Sunday thereafter the same happens and the next and the next. The will to chose between good and evil is weakened. The person stops to go to Mass and tell his (her) family that he (she) loves God, but God is everywhere so why bother to get out of bed when he (she) can have a much needed rest instead. It is Sunday and he (she) rests in bed. No offense is done he (she) tells himself (herself).

This about missing Mass for no valid reason (being sick, have to stay home with sick children/parents etc) is just an example. For some people the Mass becomes a habit that one doesn't think about other times in the week. It is something one do out of habit and not because of a hunger to meet Jesus in the Eucharist. Only one hour with a habitual meeting with God  without thinking so much about what is really happening ... During the week there are no prayers, no reading in the Bible, no thoughts about God ... That person is just as much at deep water as the person who never goes to Mass.

May be you are curious about where the devil comes in, how I explain it? After all, everything I have said so far can be explained through the psychological learning theories. There is no need to drag the devil into it to explain it. Yes, I agree with that if we presume that there exists no supernatural world. If we, however, are willing to accept the doctrine that there is a supernatural world that we cannot see, then there is a place for the devil in our understanding of the total reality. After all we say in the creed: «I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen

In his book Father Fanzaga explains that the devil's pattern after his fall has been the same as we have read about in the Genesis in the Bible. Satan twists things around for Eve. He asks his questions in such a way that Eve starts to doubt what God really said. After starting to doubt she suddenly experience the lust to taste the fruit. It's no accident that the devil is portrayed as a snake in the Bible. A snake lurks around his prey until he find the best moment to suddenly bite.

That's how the devil use our weaknesses to deceive us in the moments we are most weak and not prepared to be in a battle with evil forces. According to Father Fanzaga that will also happen at our deathbed. We have to be prepared for the last battle also if it comes. I know about people that died smiling, safe and in the belief that Jesus was around the next corner.

Whenever we lower our inner defense against the devil, the more easy we become his prey. I'm not talking about possession. One don't have to be possessed to get tricked by the devil. One only has to lower ones inner defense. 

I'm not talking about the sins that we seem to not gain control over and confess again and again and again. Our willingness to go to confession is the proof that we don't want to be a slave of this or that sin. God is always merciful to the sinner that never stops to repent, who always is willing to receive His grace and mercy. This is one of the «things» we mean when we talk about free will. We might fall into sin, but we are free to chose to go where we know that we will receive the mercy of God. We are also free to decide if we don't want that mercy. If the devil had hands, he would have clapped them when he saw us decide to not receive God's mercy, - when he saw us decide to slip away from God, just one tiny bit at a time. According to Father Fanzaga the devil's aim is to draw us away from God, so that we will chose the same destiny as himself, to be outside of God's mercy. In that way he thinks he is hurting God who lose so many of his loved ones to this traitor and deceiver.

How do we get outside of God's mercy? By hardening our hearts and make decisions that are not good according to the will of God. (See the ten commandments and the commandment about loving one's neighbor as oneself).

God is willing to be merciful toward us as long as we are on this side of life (that means in our bodies before body and spirit departs when we die). God doesn't force us to accept his mercy. We have to be willing to receive it. The more we harden our hearts, the less willing we will become.

The lesson is to understand that to believe in God as a catholic is that we take the whole packet about the Church's teachings, not only parts of it.

To me it has been a blessing (as I have already told in blog-post #6) that I found the book written about the devils techniques that Father Fanzaga once wrote. And so it will be to you if you take the time to read and to try to really understand what is in that book or a similar one.

When we know the deceiver's techniques, it's more easy to remember to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-19); prayers, holy water, crucifix, read in the Bible, use 20 minutes daily to pray the Rosary (Virgin Mary is one of the devils worst enemies because she said yes to let God share in her flesh).

One of the most interesting topics in the book is about how the devil can use people to destroy other people. Let's say that a person you like has a trait that is difficult to live with for you. Since there is so much about the person you like, you do the best to overlook the trait you could have been without in the other person. One day, however, you feel that now the person shows too much of that trait that you don't like. Suddenly you find yourself talking behind back about that person and as a coincidence the person you are talking to feel it the same way. Both of you start to demonstrate your irritation (without a word when the other person is around so he (she) feels it and starts to feel unsure). As if that isn't enough, one of you, or both, start(s) being hen(s) that loose your feathers here and there ..., like poisoned bombs you don't have to take responsibility for.

Father Fanzaga says that when a group, a family, a school class who were at peace with each other suddenly starts being angry at each other, there is one or more people in the group that the devil wants to destroy. It could be wise to stop up and think about what is so important about this group that the devil wants to destroy it? Is it worth to give in to the devils temptation to try to break down the once really well functioning group? Since family is one of the most important pillars in the society, how much wouldn't it «gladden the devils heart» to see it destroyed? Think about it.

I highly recommend Father Fanzaga's book about the deceiver and our daily struggles with him. I think it's out of print now, but that it still can be bought used by some book sellers online. If you cannot find it, I would advice you to seek for a book about the same topic in a catholic bookstore. It's well worth to learn about the strategies of the evil one, how to recognize him and how to protect oneself when temptation comes. Remember he can do nothing to you when you fight him with God at your side. God has already thrown him out if Heaven. For you God is preparing a place in Heaven if you want to have that place.

Remember Satan and his demons have no power to place thoughts or desires in your mind that weren't there from before. What he might do, however, is to "help you" to use your bad traits (sinful sides) more and more: "Did God really say that? The Bible is about 2000 years old, so everything in it cannot be valid today .... ".

Please remember that it is not necessary to  go around thinking about the devil all day long! If you do that I presume that it will not take long before you have turned yourself into a paranoid type. It is important to have the knowledge about him stored in your memory for use when you need it (when you feel that you are about to give into temptation), but not to use too much of  the time God has given you to fear the fallen angel. God should be your center, not the devil.

Back to the reason that perhaps keeps you reading here. I'm sure you didn't expect to find stuff about the fallen angel and his demons. Well, as said in former writings, I believe that people who are doubting and curious enough to try to find out if their doubt is valid, will not give up reading ...The same goes for them who want to help others to not fall away from Church.

In my next inputs, I will try to say some words about the the questions I recommended you to write down your personal answers to.

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