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KNOW YOUR ENEMY – MANUAL FOR SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Aids in Battle

[‘Manual for Spiritual Warfare’, Paul Thigpen PH.D.] is divided into two parts. The first, entitled Preparing for Battle, looks at the Biblical and and theological foundations for the ongoing warfare between humanity and the devil.

Overcoming the Enemy’s attacks in one’s own surroundings

The second, Aids in Battle, offers aids to help believers in this struggle, including scriptural texts and prayers. As Paul Thigpen indicates in his introduction, the ‘primary purpose of this manual… is to help everyday Catholics recognise, resist and overcome the Enemy’s attacks in their own lives and the lIves of those for whom they bear responsibility.’

Keep the Enemy out of the Camp

The chapter headings for the first part include titles such as ‘Know your Enemy’, ‘Know your Commander and Comrades’, and ‘Keep the Enemy out of the Camp’, while the second part focuses on Church teaching, the lives of the saints, and various prayers, and various prayers, devotions and hymns as aids against demonic or diabolical influence.

Prayers and hymns against demonic or diabolical influence

The author begins by stating that belief in the devil and demons is obligatory for Catholics and Christians generally, based on the Scriptural witness, and particularly those accounts of Christ being tempted and casting out evil spirits. We can be tempted by demons, or attacked in more serious ways, such as by infestation, oppression, obsession, or most dangerous of all, possession, which is when an evil spirit takes control of the body of a victim.

We can be tempted by demons or attacked in more serious ways

Paul Thigpen cautions that while lay people can pray some prayers of deliverance, these are different from the solemn exorcisms of the Church, which should only be performed by designated Church exorcists.

Through His Passion, Death and Resurrection Jesus Christ has already defeated the devil

Through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Christ, the ‘New Adam’ has already defeated the devil, so if we call on him when under any form of diabolical attack, he will always come to our aid. Likewise, Our Lady, the ‘New Eve’, has because of her Immaculate Conception and her obedience to God, great power over the devil and his demonic followers. As St Bonaventure said: ‘Men do not fear a powerful, hostile army as much as the powers if hell fear the name and protection of Mary. Similarly, we can always call on St Michael and our Guardian Angels for help against the devil.

Prayer is more powerful than all the demons

As the author points out, prayer is the number one weapon in our battle against Satan, and calling on the name of Jesus has been for the saints one of the best ways to defeat demonic attack. On this point, St Bernard of Clairvaux said: ‘However great may be the temptation, if we know how to use the weapon of prayer well, we shall come off as conquerors at last, for prayer is more powerful than all the demons.’ St John Vianney agreed with this saying: ‘We cab see how much the Devil fears those who pray, since there’s not a moment of the day when he tempts us more than we are at prayer.’

Assisting at Mass; prayer and fasting

Likewise, taking part in worship is important, and particularly the Mass, as is Eucharistic adoration. Fasting, too, has been recommended as a powerful weapon against the devil, and we can fortify ourselves spiritually by daily reading of the Bible.

Sacraments and sacramentals 

In particular, the sacraments are powerful means of protection against the devil, although the power of sacramentals such as the Sign of the Cross, holy water, St Benedict medals, and blessed objects generally, should not be underestimated.

Humility is the only virtue no demon can imitate

Regarding the struggle against the devil, as St John Climacus said, the essential virtue is humility: ‘Humility is the only virtue no demon cab imitate.’ As an example of this, Thigpen includes the following account from the lives of the Desert Fathers:

Learning from the Desert Fathers

Some people brought a demon-possessed man to an old monk to exorcise him. The monk said to the demon, ‘Get out of God’s creature!’

The Demon replied: ‘I’ll go, but first I will ask you a question: Tell me, who are the goats and who are the sheep? (cf. Mt 25:31-46).

The old mab said, ‘The goats are people like me. Who the sheep are, God alone knows.’

At these words, the demon cried out, ‘Look, I must go out of him because of your humility!’

Avoiding any possibility of demonic contamination

We also have to avoid any possibility of demonic contamination through such things as Ouija boards or any form of participation in magic rituals etc., and also keep a careful watch on our thoughts.

Keeping a very careful watch on our thoughts

The second, larger part of the book opens with a chapter on Church teaching about spiritual warfare and provides a series of quotes from various Church documents to emphasise how seriously the Church takes the whole area of demonic activity.

Relevant scripture passages to read during times of temptation

Then there is a whole section on how the Bible deals with the devil and his followers, including appropriate scriptural quotations and passages which will help the reader during times of temptation.

Attempts to play down the influence of the devil

There is also a chapter entitled ‘Help from the Saints,’ which contains many striking quotations, such as this text from Thomas Aquinas: ‘When the Devil is called the god of this world, it is not because he made it, but because we serve him with our worldliness.’

Apart from the above, the Manual for Spiritual Warfare contains many useful prayers, litanies, and devotions to strengthen us against demonic attack.

A resource in the struggle against the evil which is all around us

At a time when many people, even within the Church, are playing down the influence of the devil, this book is a very valuable resource in the struggle against the evil which is all around us.”

– Donal Anthony Foley, The Catholic Times, 16th January 2015. For subscriptions please contact The Universe Media Group, Allerton House, St Mary’s Parsonage, Manchester M3 2WJ

 

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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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A FIRM DEFENCE AGAINST THE WILES OF ALL MY ENEMIES, VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels

O most sweet Lord Jesus Christ, transfix the affections of my inmost soul with that most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene, holiest apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, that it may desire Thee, and faint for Thy courts, long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the Refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial Bread, who hast all sweetness and savour, and the delight of every taste. Let my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, upon whom the Angels desire to look, and my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savour.

May it ever thirst for Thee, the Fountain of life, the Source of wisdom and knowledge, the Fountain of eternal light, the Torrent of pleasure, the Richness of the House of God.

May it ever yearn for Thee, find Thee, stretch towards Thee, attain to Thee, meditate upon Thee, speak of Thee, and do all things to the praise and glory of Thy holy name, with humility and discretion, with all virtues; a firm defence against the wiles of all my enemies, visible and invisible; a perfect quieting of all my impulses, fleshly and spiritual; a cleaving unto Thee, the one true God; and a blessed consummation of my end when Thou dost call.

And I pray that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to bring me a sinner to that unspeakable Feast where Thou, with Thy Son and Thy Holy Spirit, art to holy ones true light, fullness of blessedness, everlasting joy, and perfect happiness. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

– St Bonaventure

 

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NEVER LET A DAY PASS WITHOUT MEDITATING ON THE PASSION OF CHRIST

Let us meditate on the Passion

“In the opinion of Saint Bonaventure, meditation on the Passion is the first and most important of all devotions. And did not all the saints make the sorrows of Jesus Christ the constant object of their contemplations? Thus, to all souls who wished to advance in the love of God, the seraphic Doctor gave the advice never to let a day pass without meditating on the Passion.

According to Saint Augustine, it is more advantageous, and more meritorious for heaven, to shed a single tear at the remembrance of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, than to fast every week for a year on bread and water. The Venerable Louis de Blois says that a meditation, even a simple reading on the Passion, is more beneficial to the soul than any other exercise of piety whatsoever. Nay, more, according to Saint Francis de Sales, all love, which has not its origin in the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is frivolous and dangerous.

‘Behold Him,’ cries the same saint, ‘behold this Divine Saviour stretched on the cross as on a pyre of honour, on which He dies for love of us, a love more agonising than death itself. Ah! why do we not fly to Him in Spirit, to die on the cross with Him, Who has been pleased to die for love of us. I will hold Him, we should exclaim, and I will never leave Him; I will die with Him, burning in the flames of His love; the same fire will consume the divine Creator and His miserable creature. My Jesus is all mine, and I am all His; I will live and die on His bosom, and nothing shall tear me from it!”

– St Alphonsus, in Laverty & Sons 1905 (eds)

Some of the numerous ways of meditating on the Passion of Christ:

– Assisting at Holy Mass

– Reading the Passion of Christ in either of the four Gospels and praying about it to Our Lord

– Reading the Bible passages about the Suffering Servant (Isaiah)

– Looking prayerfully at the crucifix for about a quarter of an hour, thinking at all times of His inexhaustible, selfless love for us (if possible, kneeling)

– Making the Stations of the Cross in Church

– Reading the Stations of the Cross (see ‘devotions’)

– Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary (see ‘devotions’)

– Meditating on Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (see ‘devotions’)

– Praying the fifteen St Bridget prayers on the Passion of Our Lord (see ‘devotions’)

– Praying the Seven Dolours of Mother Mary (see ‘devotions’)

 

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PRAYER TO ST BONAVENTURE

O God, you gave blessed Bonaventure to your people as a minister of eternal salvation; grant that, as he taught us on earth, he may also intercede for us in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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SI COR NON ORAT IN VANUM LINGUA LABORAT – IF THE HEART DOES NOT PRAY, THE TONGUE LABOURS IN VAIN

MYSTICAL THEOLOGY

“Every great reforming council has looked back to the scriptures, the early Christian community and the Fathers of the Church for their inspiration. This was particularly true of the Fourth Lateran Council, whose reforms were successfully put into practice thanks to the inspirational genius of St Francis more than to anyone else… What I would like to do now is to show how, by following the example of St Francis, we can help make the teaching of the Second Vatican Council ever more successful in our own lives and in the lives of the wider Church.

The Second Vatican Council was preceded by what was called the ‘New Theology’ that inspired it. This was in fact the very ancient theology that prevailed at the dawn of Christianity, but reinterpreted and re-presented, thanks to the ‘modern’ biblical, liturgical and historical research that enabled this Council to take place. The sadness was that one vital branch of early Christian theology had been forgotten by the scholars who promoted the ‘New Theology’; this vital branch was central to the vision of St Francis and St Bonaventure, and was what is called ‘mystical theology’. The main reason for this was that over the centuries the very word ‘mystical’ has been debased by the early influence of the Greek philosophy of Neoplatonism. As a result the word mystical is now primarily used to refer to psychological states of awareness and various dubious ‘mystical’ phenomena. This was not how it was used by the Fathers of the Church.

THE HIDDEN LIFE

St Paul called the central mystery of our faith ‘The Mysterion’. By this he means the fullness of God’s Plan for humanity, revealed by Jesus Christ, to draw all who would receive it into His HIDDEN or MYSTICAL life that He continually receives and returns in kind to His Father. Christians who, by ‘carrying their daily cross’ and practising ‘the prayer without ceasing’ came to experience this mystical life in such a way that they could eventually say with St Paul: ‘I live, no it is not I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.’ These Christians came to be called ‘mystics’ by the early Fathers of the Church because of their single-minded commitment to entering into the mystery of Christ (The Mysterion), and not because they had ecstasies or strange esoteric experiences. It was after being empowered by the experience of living in Christ that many of them gave their lives for Him in what came to be called ‘red martyrdom’ and in what later came to be called ‘white martyrdom’, when the days of systematic persecution came to an end. Both of these ‘mystical martyrs’ have been the supreme witnesses to the faith, inspiring their brothers and sisters to remain steadfast in times of persecution, and to reform in times of spiritual decline.

QUIETISM

It was only in the aftermath of the Council of Trent (1545-63) that the indispensable role of the ‘mystic’ in the church was gradually undermined. This was, in the main, due to its counterfeit, Quietism. It carried the ‘via negativa’ of Neoplatonism to the ultimate extreme. The believer was not only encouraged to do absolutely nothing in prayer, but to do nothing about temptations either! It was thanks to the Church’s success in crushing Quietism, which was condemned in 1687, and in promoting the Gospel of ‘good works’, for fear that Catholics would fall into the enemy camp, that mystical prayer simply fell into abeyance. In his monumental history of the Catholic Church, Monsignor Philip Hughes put it this way: ‘The most mischievous feature of Quietism was the suspicion that it threw on the contemplative life as a whole… At the moment when, more than at any other, the Church needed the strength that only the life of contemplation can give, it was the tragedy of history that this life shrank to very small proportions, and religion, even for holy souls, too often took on the appearance of being no more than a divinely aided effort towards moral perfection.’

In the years that followed nothing was done to repair the damage, and by the time the 20th century had fully dawned, a resurgence of Neoplatism had changed the original Christian meaning of the word mystical. It now came to be used, almost exclusively, to refer to inner psychological states of transcendental awareness. It was not surprising that both ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ theologians looked on mystical prayer, that was so important to St Francis and St Bonaventure, with deep suspicion. Sadly this meant that there has been a failure to emphasise the profound mystic spirituality that abounded in the early Church and which later inspired the Franciscan Spring in the 13th century.

SCHOLA DIVINI AMORIS

The inner spiritual love that inspires those whose spirituality is centred on and grounded in the Risen Christ and the love that animates Him are always the best possible ambassadors to bring the sort of true and lasting renewal that followed in the wake of the Fourth Lateran Council. The early history of the Franciscan order bears witness to this. Every council depends for its success on two things – the action of the Holy Spirit and hearts ready and open to receive Him. God is continually loving us through His Holy Spirit, but if we do not freely choose to receive this loving, then we prevent God from acting through us as He wants to do.

Love can only be received by loving, and in the most ancient and hallowed teaching of the great spiritual writers prayer is the place where loving is learnt, in prolonged and protracted periods set aside for that purpose. As the Franciscan Mystic, Angela of Foligno put it, ‘Prayer is the ‘Schola Divini Amoris’ (the school) where loving is learnt.’ This is the school where the great saints and mystics learn the selflessness that opened them to receive the love that St Paul said ‘surpasses the understanding’.

PRAYER OF THE HEART

It is this love, learnt in prayer, that has for centuries inspired great saints to renew the Church and to do so repeatedly. I am not just talking about vocal prayer that we share with others when we take part in the liturgy, but of the deep personal prayer that was the heart and soul of all and everything that St Francis said and did. I am talking about what St Bonaventure called ‘the prayer and the spirit of devotion’ on which he insisted all renewal depends. I am talking about what St Bernadine of Siena called ‘the prayer of the heart,’ which vocal prayer depends on. In the Franciscan hermitage of Fonte Colombo, St Bernadine had these words written and set in gold around the choir stalls where his friars chanted the divine office: Si cor non orat in vanum lingua laborat (If the heart does not pray, then the tongue labours in vain). In other words, the power of vocal prayer depends on the profound personal prayer that determines the quality of a person’s relationship with God before they even open their mouths.

On 11 October last year our former pope, Benedict XVI, announced that the Church would celebrate a Year of Faith which will end on 24 November this year. What better way to do this than by beginning again to deepen our own personal prayer life…”
– This article by David Torkington was published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue April 2013. For subscriptions, please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy

 

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THE SPIRITUAL BEGINNINGS OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS

…John Duns Scotus didn’t just wear a Franciscan habit, he was Franciscan through and through like “Franciscan Rock”. Unlike many priests and intellectuals who became Franciscans after their initial training, Scotus was firstly grounded in Franciscan Spirituality from the age of 15 by his uncle Elias at the Friary in Dumfries in Scotland, where he had joined the Order.

He was born around 1266 and went to Oxford in about 1289, so he must have spent about eight years living and imbibing the spirit of St Francis first. The works that would have had the greatest influence on him would have been the writings of Francis himself, most especially his “Rule and Testament” and his “Admonitions”, then St Bonaventure’s “Life of St Francis” and his two great spiritual works, “The Tree of Life” and the “Itinerarium Mentis in Deum”. It would be difficult to say how many of the other early lives or writings about Francis would have been available to him, possibly none of them. This was because once St Bonaventure had completed his authoritative “Life of St Francis”, other early writings were all ordered to be burnt by the Chapter held in 1266 in the interest of fraternal unity.

Above all other works then, this work became mandatory reading for all prospective friars. It was in this work that he first read about the revelation of the “Primacy of Love” that was to dominate his theological thought. It was of the interval just after Francis saw the Seraph approach and just before he received the stigmata that Bonaventure wrote: “Eventually he understood by a revelation that he was to be totally transformed into the likeness of Christ crucified, not by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the fire of His love consuming his soul”.

Like any novice, John Duns Scotus would be taught how to pray, beginning at the beginning. The beginning was meditating on the life of Jesus on earth, and there was simply no better companion to the Scriptures for this purpose than Bonaventure’s work: “The Tree of Life”. Once an experienced director, whether it was his uncle Elias or another, discovered that his meditation had led John into contemplative prayer, he would have placed in his hands the “Itinerarium Mentis in Deum”. This would have enabled him to understand why, and how, he was now being led into the mystic way. It would explain too why he wasn’t just interested in theology because he wanted to enter into theological speculation for the sake of it, or for academic preferment like many of his contemporaries, but for something more important.

For Scotus the very raison d’etre of all theology is to love God, and through love to seek communion with Him. This he discovered firstly by reading Bonaventure’s “Life of St Francis” and secondly through reading the “Itinerarium” inspired by the revelation of the “Primacy of Love” and written by St Bonaventure at La Verna, the very place where that revelation had been received. That is why John Duns Scotus’ theological inspiration didn’t begin at Oxford or Paris, but at La Verna, where he learnt from the revelation that Francis received there the absolute importance of the “Primacy of Love”. This key revelation then, was not only the inspiration for St Bonaventure’s “Itinerarium Mentis in Deum”, but for the mystical theology of Blessed John Duns Scotus.
– This is an excerpt from the article “Real Franciscan” by D.Torkington, published in the “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue December 2012. For subscriptions etc. contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy.

PRAYER TO OBTAIN THE CANONIZATION OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS:

O Most High, Almighty and gracious God, Who exalt the humble and confound the proud at heart, grant us the great joy of seeing Blessed John Duns Scotus canonized. He honoured Your Son with the most sublime praises; he was the first to successfully defend the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; he lived in heroic obedience to the Pope, to the Church and to the Seraphic Order. O most holy Father, God of infinite love, hear, we beseech You, our humble prayer, through the merits of Your Only-Begotten Son and of His Mother, Coredemptrix and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 
 

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