Do You Believe in the Devil?


from Helps to Happiness by Father John Carr, C.SS.R.

Do you believe in the Devil?—You suppose you do, you say. For God’s sake mind yourself!

We talk a lot about the Devil. He supplies us with nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, interjections when we indulge in explosive or breezy talk, or wish to drive home a point.

Artists, too, have been busy with him. We all know that goatish-looking creature complete with horns and tail; or that fire-breathing dragon; or that monstrous serpent with very evil eyes—all wearing the dark, sinister-looking green favored by his portrait painters.

It is all a feeble effort to express the inexpressibly wicked; but it can mislead, and the Devil asks for nothing better than that it should.

That he should be just the “painted devil” to frighten “the eye of childhood”; that he should not be taken seriously, but be looked on more or less as a joke; that he should not be believed to be there at all—all this leaves him an open field.

For he hates publicity of any sort. In a word, he hates to be shown up. Let us show him up. Though his “name is Legion, for we are many,” as he tells us, we will keep him in the singular.

We must know then, in the first place, that this Devil is a person, an individual with an intellect, as much a person as you or I.

We must know, in the second place, and we must never forget it, that he is an angel—yes, I said an angel—a fallen one, but an angel still; degraded and despoiled of supernatural gifts, it is true, but retaining his angel’s nature, with its tremendous though perverted powers.

We know his past; he fell from light to darkness, from love to hatred, from bliss to woe, from an eternal heaven to an eternal hell created especially for him.

The intelligence of this evil spirit and his knowledge of men and things gathered through the ages are truly formidable. He knows mortal man well by this: every chink in his amour, every weakness of his heart.

He knows to a nicety what weapon to draw from his well-stocked armory and how best to use it.

Then, behind all this vast power and experience is the driving-force of a hatred for God and for all who would be God’s, and an envy, beside which human hate and envy, even at their worst, are feeble things.

But the Devil has not everything his own way. Though mighty, he is not almighty, as his power falls infinitely short of God’s. His hatred and his longing for our ruin fall infinitely short of God’s love and yearning for our blessedness.

Though near us, he can never get as near as God and never a hairs-breadth nearer than God allows him. And never, never can he force our will to say “Yes” while we want to say “No.”

At the same time the Devil can do much—far, far too much. Occasionally, in the case of great Saints who are interfering greatly with his activities, he comes out into the open, declares himself, tries to terrorize, and even uses violence.

But for the ordinary run of us he remains a hidden foe, working on our imagination, kindling our sensual nature, telling us pleasant lies (he is the Father of them and was so from the beginning), and setting traps of all sorts for our soul.

As his program is immense, and as he knows “he hath but a short time,” he often adopts simpler tactics: he tempts men and women to tempt others. In the giver of bad example, for instance, in the teller of the immoral story and in the seducer, he has most effective agents, who leave him free for further mischief elsewhere.

Such is this Devil whose name we so freely use and whose picture often just raises a smile.

How are you to deal with him, you ask? Pray that you may always recognize him at once and see the cloven hoof, even though it wear the most civilized-looking boot or the daintiest shoe.

Then, don’t argue with him. You are no match for him, and his logic is devastating. Not that he has reason on his side, but his cunning is devilish (we’ll borrow an adjective from him this once).

Then, there are sacred Names he hates to hear, Names that recall his worst defeats: Let him hear them—again and again and again.

In a word, when the Devil tempts you to sin yourself, or to help him in his dirty work by tempting others, then you may—without any violation of charity or any breach of the proprieties—send him literally, unequivocally—above all, wholeheartedly and unhesitatingly—to HELL.

“The Devil exults most when he can steal a man’s joy of spirit from him. He carries a powder with him to throw into any smallest possible chinks of our conscience, to soil the spotlessness of our mind and the purity of our life. But when spiritual joy fills our hearts, the Serpent pours out his deadly poison in vain.” – St. Francis of Assissi

Excellent sermon Spiritual fly swatters, binding prayers, etc.

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