August 30, 2022 by John Boyle
This essay is a sequel to my article, “Disbelief in the Existence of Personified Evil” in the August 2020 issue of this same publication. In that article, I explained Satan’s identity, his motives, his ways, the times in which he attacks, and finally what we can do as members of Christ’s Church to protect ourselves from his influence. I made the point that knowledge of the Enemy encourages people to appreciate the value of their own souls and serves as an important tool for bringing people back to the practice of their faith. Now I will provide three stories that illustrate how this knowledge can be of practical assistance.
My first story involves a woman named Ruth. I met Ruth in a place of prayer. We would run into each other frequently while going to pray. Finally one day we had a conversation which turned to spiritual sharing. She opened up her family life to me, and as I listened, I discerned she had a prayer life but was seeing only half the story. Ruth loved Jesus but was completely unaware of the Enemy and his ways. She was unhappy, though she was prayerful and attended Mass. She did not know the cause of her unhappiness. Ruth wondered if Jesus knew that she loved Him. Being a sensitive soul, she suffered from scruples and had many doubts concerning how Jesus saw her. She often wondered if she was living a hypocritical life, spiritually.
It became apparent to me that she was hearing many voices in her head. In our first conversation I mentioned to her “the three voices”—God’s voice, our voice, and the Enemy’s voice—and explained what I meant. The next time we met, two days later, she told me that what I explained to her completely changed her life spiritually. Ruth was a lifelong Catholic, in her forties, and always spiritually minded. She was good-natured, trying to be a good person. No one ever mentioned the Enemy or spiritual combat to her in relation to the spiritual life. As a result she was hearing and listening to voices that were telling her that no matter what she did, she was displeasing to God.
When we would talk, Ruth would show certain patterns of thought in regard to God. She doubted God’s love for her. She wondered if she was sincere in her spiritual life. She wondered why she was not better, given her prayer life and good efforts. Ruth doubted many things. This doubting led her to believe that maybe she was not living a life that was pleasing to God. But she did love Jesus. She had bad thoughts in her head telling her, “Give up, you’re a hypocrite, Jesus does not love you, stop praying, God does not care.”
This all changed when I told Ruth this was not the voice of God that she was hearing but rather the voice of the Enemy. She believed in the existence of the Enemy, but was completely unaware of the Enemy’s presence in her life and his desire to influence her. Ruth had no idea the Enemy was feeding her these thoughts. She had no idea that the Enemy knew her life, her weaknesses, and her spiritual activities, or that he was always trying to target her in ways that would discourage her from leading a life pleasing to God. The knowledge of this truth alone, concerning the Enemy and his ways, completely changed Ruth’s perspective on her spiritual life and took a heavy burden off her heart. Now she was beginning to believe that Jesus truly did love her, irrespective of her many thoughts and doubts.
Ruth understood that the Enemy was a deceiver by nature and would continue to insinuate these lies into her spiritual life unless she took notice and made some efforts to learn how to discern the difference between God’s voice and the Enemy’s voice. Over time I explained certain principles of discernment to Ruth to help her in this area. She is not a reader of books by nature, so we would meet and pray and then talk about ways to discern the Enemy’s misleading voice. Over time she grew in her ability to discern God’s peaceful voice from the Enemy’s condemning voice. Learning discernment skills also increased Ruth’s ability to understand God’s great love for her. She believed in God’s promises and no longer doubted whether Jesus knew that she loved Him. Ruth was set free from many bad thoughts that for so long made her spiritual life an unhappy journey despite her daily efforts and good intentions. Her prayer life is now deeper and she is also much closer to the Blessed Mother.
Ruth also understands now why Christ’s Church is necessary as a means for protecting her from the Enemy and aiding her growth in the spiritual life. She also better understands the nature of grace and why frequent use of the Sacraments is an important source of many of God’s blessings and graces. Knowledge of the Enemy has helped Ruth become more aware of the need to stay close to Christ’s Church. The Enemy loves a wandering soul. In short, Ruth has a better understanding of the nature of spiritual combat in her spiritual life. She has confidence that Jesus loves her and her intimacy with Jesus continues to grow, whether in trials or joys. She is now free to give more of herself to God and others, knowing that she is always pleasing to God, regardless of her inner feelings or thoughts. Ruth knows that she is deeply loved by God, and that His love is forever.
Discernment is critical to spiritual combat with the Enemy. Revealing the Enemy’s true existence in our spiritual lives is the first step. But having assisted the soul in regards to awareness of Satan’s continual watchful presence, we now must help the person understand how the Enemy works in our personal lives. Without discernment we will be unable to tell the difference between God’s voice, Satan’s voice and our voice. We cannot follow God if we do not know His will for us in our lives. This is where Christ’s Church comes in. The teachings of the Church, the Bible, Catholic books, and spiritual direction can help the soul know God’s will for us on some level. A prayer life is certainly necessary. Discernment skills, like any skill are not gained overnight. This is actually a lifetime project but every path starts with a beginning. Awareness of the Enemy uncovers the need for discernment.
With discernment comes the need to know Jesus’ gentle and peaceful voice. Thus the soul comes to know the importance of Christ and the role of the Church. If we wish to give the wandering sheep a sound reason why they need to return to the True Church, this is it. Without the Church’s assistance, the Enemy has a clear advantage over the wandering soul. I have been told by Jesuit priests that the Enemy loves it when souls try to go it alone in regards to their spiritual lives. No direction is bad direction. Or, if you are not getting your direction from the Church, then where is your direction coming from? When I bring up the issue of discernment in the spiritual life I usually get the same response as I initially received when I first brought up the existence of the Enemy. These things are new so these truths generally catch souls off guard. However, once the soul begins to see how the various puzzle pieces fit together in regards to spiritual combat, it all makes more sense.
My second story involves a woman named Samantha. I first met Samantha when I went into a diner with a friend to have breakfast. She was a waitress at the diner and she came over to take my order. I had been there before but we had never met. As she was taking my order I felt prompted to ask her where she was from and other casual questions. It was not long before I felt this was someone who was searching, spiritually. By the time I departed with my friend, Samantha had given me her cell number and asked if I could meet and talk with her on her day off. I agreed that I would get back to her, and soon after, we met and talked.
Samantha was about 24 years old when we met in 2007. She had a young child who was in the custody of her parents. Samantha was not able to care for her child due to her immaturity and her dependence on a very powerful street drug, heroin. She was spending almost all her income on this drug. She had been struggling with heroin since she was a teenager. She also lived with a man who was drinking frequently. When I met Samantha she was at a low point in her life. She was abused at a young age and from that time, she felt she was unloved and was responsible for all the bad things in her life. She had no sense of having any value as a person. She was on a downward spiral due to her sense of worthlessness. She felt alone, depressed, and was living without any purpose or hope.
As I was listening to her speak about her past and present life, it became clear to me that Samantha was listening to and fighting against many voices in her head telling her many things. These voices said, “You are worthless, you are unlovable, it’s all your fault, you are responsible for all the bad things in your life,” and so on. The voices were constant and filled with accusations. This was where I found Samantha. I began to speak to her about the Dark One, his voice, and the loving Jesus and His voice.
Samantha and I would meet on her days off and I would begin to tell her about the three voices; God’s voice, our voice and the Enemy’s voice and the difference between the three. Awareness that one of the voices she was fighting against was the Enemy, the father of lies, helped Samantha realize she had believed many things about herself that were untrue, and had been for many years. Samantha’s guilt was the cause of her negative feelings about herself. She did not believe God would forgive her for her past life. She did not believe God loved her or wanted to help her. Samantha thought she was beyond God’s acceptance and love. She had never before experienced unconditional love and felt she was not worthy of being loved.
But when I helped Samantha realize the voices she was listening to were from the Enemy and not God, gradually she began to see the truth; that God is love and created her out of His love for her, loved her deeply, and had a purpose for her. The Enemy, who lies and deceives, influenced her to walk away from God and follow his dark and evil ways. Samantha knew that she had made some bad choices in her life but now was beginning to feel a sense of hope that God did love her. She could love herself and with God’s help, turn a new page in her life and start on a journey filled with faith, love and hope in God.
Samantha wanted to have a personal relationship with Jesus. She began praying and reading, and soon after, entered a clinic to help herself get off street drugs and start a new life. Samantha was happy and filled with hope at this time and knew now that the bad voice she had been listening to her whole life was that of the Enemy. No one ever told her this. She was also learning discernment skills which would help her make better decisions in her life, personally and spiritually. Samantha was on a good path. She was getting off drugs, felt better about herself, and was growing spiritually in her relationship with Jesus.
After Samantha entered a drug rehab program, she went to live with some girls in a drug rehab house under adult supervision. I lost contact with Samantha for about nine months. One night Samantha called to tell me she had a relapse. A man came into her life and as he was doing drugs, Samantha soon fell again to the same vice. We met and talked, but I could see that Samantha had fallen back into her weakness. I know this about the Enemy. He does not give up so easily. After a year or so I found out that Samantha had died of an accidental drug overdose.
Samantha’s story is a story of sadness and hope. Surely it is sad that Samantha could not break the deadly attraction that she had to street drugs. To do so would have required a long rehabilitation process and lots of care and love from loving and knowledgeable people. Samantha did not get that care, but she did realize that God loved her. She came to know Jesus and the great story of why He came to give us the gift of eternal life. Perhaps Jesus in His loving way called Samantha home to spare her further suffering. After many years of doing drugs and drinking since the age of twelve, Samantha was far older than her years. She died at the age of twenty-six. Samantha accepted Jesus into her heart. Jesus takes Samantha into His Heart, seeks out the lost, and when He finds them, places them on His shoulders and takes them home.
The one thing necessary is prayer. The Enemy knows the truth of prayer better than saints and mystics. He will do anything and everything to stop a soul from praying, for he knows full well what will happen if the soul develops a deep prayer life. The soul cannot travel the way of deep prayer and sin at the same time for long. Either he or she will give up prayer and go backward or will persevere in prayer and eventually give up sinful habits. The Enemy knows this fact very well, that is why he tries with all his effort and devices to discourage the soul from prayer in the beginning. It is the beginning that matters. Satan knows what we don’t. Mary knows too. That is why in every Marian apparition Mary says “Pray, pray, pray.” It is the one thing Mary always requests of us.
The battle we are in is a spiritual one. Prayer is a spiritual weapon. We will not defeat the Enemy by human action. Saint Padre Pio stated that the rosary is the greatest weapon against the Enemy. That’s just one. But unless the Church rediscovers the power of prayer and teaches the same to the faithful, no matter what else we do, all will be in vain. The spiritual battle cannot be won without prayer. Discernment is impossible without prayer and turning away from sin and turning toward a life of virtue is impossible without prayer.
Through these two stories we can see how knowledge of the Enemy led Ruth and Samantha to a deeper appreciation of their souls and was an important key to bringing them back to the practice of their faith. It is also important to note the role both discernment and prayer played in their spiritual lives. Knowledge of the Enemy can also lead someone from ordinary practice of the faith to genuine discipleship.
Joe is someone I met and spent much time with over a span of about two years. Joe was Catholic. He attended Mass more than once a week, read spiritual books and went to confession. On this account, Joe was under the impression that his spiritual life was going well, but as he admitted, he was still living according to his willful desires. After some time Joe’s life became more difficult. He was visited by adversity in multiple ways. I remember Joe saying to me once, when we were leaving Mass together, “I did not sign up for this.” Joe thought that if he went to Mass and did some good things for God, in return, all would go his way. He did not believe God desired us to be saints; he thought being a “churchgoer” was all God wanted. So when life began to get difficult, Joe thought God was not living up to His end of the bargain. Joe would say to me, “I’ve been duped.” Joe was confused by the turn of events in his life and became despondent in his spiritual life.
I started to talk to Joe about God’s desire for our purification and sanctification as well as about the Enemy of souls. It seemed like Joe was hearing this for the first time. He had been Catholic all his life but knew nothing about purification of souls or Satan. This knowledge changed Joe’s way of looking at his spiritual life. I spoke to Joe about spiritual combat. Satan is real and targets our weaknesses to influence our thoughts and behavior. God permits the Enemy to tempt us in order to help us grow spiritually. Through cooperation with grace we grow in holiness and intimacy with Christ. Joe initially thought intimacy with Jesus was meant only for canonized saints and that the Enemy targets only very holy people. At the same time, however, Joe would admit he was still doing some things that he knew were displeasing to God. He continued to have bad thoughts that appealed to his desires and still seemed to be fighting these inner thoughts; the patterns were basically always the same. Joe never even thought the Enemy was targeting him. I told Joe about the motives of the Enemy. Satan wants our soul for eternity.
Joe began to take this to heart. He knew now that he must take his spiritual life much more seriously, and he did. Joe now saw the Enemy for who he truly was and realized that only Jesus could help him overcome the Enemy, and with him, his worldly and sinful desires. Knowledge of the Enemy began to make sense to Joe, and with this new perception, he took measures to resist the Enemy and move closer to Christ. As a result, Joe started to pray more for God’s help. Together, we prayed the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet. Joe started reading the Bible more carefully and learned more in regards to God’s desires for each of his children. This all brought Joe closer to Christ’s Church and helped him see the true value of grace as a way to ward off the Enemy. Before, Joe’s view of the sacraments was superficial, but now, he saw the true meaning behind teachings of the Church. His perception of the Church began to change. It is not just a building but a divine institution established by Christ to sanctify our souls and lead us to eternal life.
With this knowledge, Joe came to understand why trials and adversity, as well as joys and blessings, were part of our spiritual journey. Knowledge of Satan’s existence and his motives helped Joe see more clearly the path which Jesus wishes us to take within His Church. Spiritual combat made sense. This led Joe to want to be more than just someone who attended Mass. He wanted to be ready to meet Jesus when He came for him. Joe’s love for Jesus increased as did his love for the Catholic Church.
For a long time, Joe lived with a partial knowledge of spiritual realities. As Joe was given the full picture, and the pieces came together, the reasons for the Church’s existence and her mission made more sense. With knowledge comes appreciation which leads to love. Truth and love are really inseparable. As Joe gained a clearer knowledge of the Truth, he was ultimately led to Christ’s Church with new appreciation and gratitude. Joe grew in peace and joy, even as he persevered in his spiritual life. When I first met Joe he was a “churchgoer.” Slowly, Joe became a true disciple of Jesus, focused on following Him and His holy will.
How does Jesus wish us to bring back the lost sheep and lead “churchgoers” to genuine discipleship? We need to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Divine means are necessary to overcome the Enemy’s power and influence. The Enemy has already taken hold of the lost sheep. How are we to proceed? My experience has shown that we need to start the way the Lord Jesus did when He instructed his Apostles. We need to teach the Gospel, full and in its entirety. We need to tell souls the truth. It is not really prudent to leave out half the story. We only need to see the sheep leaving in greater and greater numbers to know that the present way is not working. They are leaving due to a misunderstanding. The Enemy loves it when we leave him out of the picture. He wishes to remain hidden. He wishes his silent influence to remain just that, silent. We must reveal him. It’s time! His time of working under cover of darkness must come to an end! If we do as Jesus requests us, then Jesus will reward our humility and boldness.
When and how to reveal the Enemy of souls is a challenging question. Do we leave him out of the picture so as not to scare or make souls uncomfortable? Did Jesus mention the Enemy of souls? Did He reveal the reality of Hell? How about the Blessed Mother revealing Hell to the three children of Fatima? What does spiritual combat mean when it comes to our salvation? By our ignoring Satan, will he go away?
The Enemy of souls does not wish us to reveal him. That is a fact. We help him, then, by not revealing his existence. We must reveal both Christ and Satan. The Gospel must be taught in its entirety. The Truth is clear. It is up to each of us to share it.