This week, Angelus features a selection of passages excerpted from “Rebuking the Devil,” a new book released May 29 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) presenting a survey of Pope Francis’ teachings on the history of the devil, his empty promises, and works, and how we can actively combat him. The book can be purchased at the USCCB’s online bookstore at https://store.usccb.org, for $12.95.
In his homilies and addresses, in his audiences and meditations, and in his interviews and his apostolic exhortations, Pope Francis addresses with regularity the topic of the devil and his works.
As a Jesuit, his thought is heavily influenced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus and author of the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius taught extensively about the battle between good and evil, about how we must choose between the “two standards” of following Christ or following the ways of the devil, as well as about our need for sound discernment of spirits.
Francis offers practical pastoral guidance — culled from the wisdom of the Church — for resisting temptations and doing spiritual battle with the “evil one,” the “ruler of the world” (John 14:30).
Neither a myth nor a symbol
[W]e should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech, or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families, and our communities.
“Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). — Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World), no. 161
The devil is present in history
The “dragon,” evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! — Homily, World Youth Day Mass, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 24, 2013
‘Terrible things in the world’
When you watch television, at home, remember these two things: there is a struggle against good and evil in the world, there are many suffering children, there are wars, there are dreadful things, because the struggle is between God and the devil. . . .
There are terrible, terrible, terrible things in the world, and this is the devil’s work against God; but there are holy things, saintly things, great things that are the work of God. There are hidden saints. — Address, Paul VI Audience Hall, Dec. 31, 2015
We all have to pass through death. Yet it is one thing to pass through this in the hands of the devil, and quite another to pass through it in the hands of God. — Morning Meditation, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Nov. 12, 2013
A faker from the beginning
Often [the devil] hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being “modern,” “like everyone else.” He distracts us with the view of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. — Homily, Mass in Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18, 2015
Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promises, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. — Address, “Costanera” Riverside Area, Asunción, Paraguay, July 12, 2015
Devil is a ‘loser’
God has defeated the devil, and he did it on the cross. He defeated the devil, but in his own way. The devil is a loser and has been defeated. Do you know how dragons are? They have a very long tail, and even if they have been killed, they continue to shake that tail for a while. What happened to the devil is like what happens to big and scary dragons that are defeated and killed. Their long tail moves and can still cause damage. . . .
Jesus’ death defeated death. The devil is a loser — don’t forget it! He is like a dragon or a dangerous dinosaur that wags its tail for a while even if it’s already dead. — “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World,” Loyola Press (2016), p. 23
Plays on our discouragement and sadness
I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. — Homily, Palm Sunday Mass, St. Peter’s Square, March 24, 2013
Makes us feel worthless
Never think that you have nothing to offer or that nobody cares about you. Many people need you; think this. Each of you think in your heart: “Many people need me.” The thought, “No one needs me,” as [St.] Alberto Hurtado used to like to say, “is the voice of the devil.” “No one needs me.” The devil wants to make you feel you are worthless . . . and to keep things the way they are. That’s why he makes you feel worthless, so that no one changes, because the only one that can make changes in society is the young person, each of you. — Address, Santiago, Chile, Jan. 17, 2018
Fosters fear of failure, commitment
There is one particular puddle which can be frightening to young people who want to grow in their friendship with Christ. It is the fear of failing in our commitment to love, and above all, failing in that great and lofty ideal which is Christian marriage. You may be afraid of failing to be a good wife and mother, failing to be a good husband and father.
If you are looking at that puddle, you may even see your weaknesses and fears reflected back to you. Please, don’t give in to them! Sometimes these fears come from the devil, who does not want you to be happy. — Address, Kampala, Uganda, Nov. 28, 2015
Inspires pessimism in evangelizers
We must tell each other the truth: The work of evangelizing, of freely carrying grace ahead, is not easy, because we are not alone with Jesus Christ; there is also an adversary, an enemy who wants to keep men and women separate from God and for this reason instills in hearts disappointment when we do not see our apostolic commitment immediately rewarded.
Every day the devil scatters in our hearts seeds of pessimism and gall, and it is discouraging, we become discouraged.
“It’s no good! We’ve done this, that and the other and it’s no good! And look how that religion attracts people whereas we don’t!” It is the devil who inspires this . . . [he] does not want us to be evangelizers. — Address, Paul VI Audience Hall, June 17, 2013
A shift of values
When the demon enters so gently, politely, and takes possession of our attitudes, our values shift from service to God towards worldliness. — Morning Meditation, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Oct. 13, 2017
Gossiper as ‘terrorist’
Divisions are a handy weapon that the devil uses to destroy the Church from within. He has two weapons, but the main one is division; the other is money. The devil enters through the pocket and he destroys with the tongue, with divisive gossip; and the habit of gossiping is a ploy of “terrorism.”
The gossiper is a “terrorist” who drops the bomb — gossip — in order to destroy. — Address, Clementine Hall, Sept. 9, 2016
Christians ‘must know how to discern’
How can I know whether something is of the Holy Spirit or of worldliness, whether of the spirit of the world or of the spirit of the devil? . . .
The instrument that the Spirit himself gives us is discernment: to discern, in any case, as one must do. This is what the Apostles did. They met, they spoke and they saw that this was the path of the Holy Spirit. . . . Those who did not have this gift, or who had not prayed, so as to ask for it, remained closed and still. . . .
[Christians] must know how to discern, especially at a time with so much communication, with so many novelties, to know how to discern: to discern one thing from another, to discern which is the novelty, the new wine that comes from God; which is news that comes from the spirit of the world and which is news that comes from the spirit of the devil. — Meditation, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, May 8, 2017
Refuge in the word
Let us remember this: At the moment of temptation, of our temptations, there is no arguing with Satan, our defense must always be the word of God! And this will save us. In his replies to Satan, the Lord, using the word of God, reminds us above all that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3); and this gives us the strength, sustains us in the struggle against a worldly mindset that would lower man to the level of his primitive needs, causing him to lose hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and for his love. — Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, March 9, 2014
Seek Gospel joy
We are called to respond to this worldly astuteness with Christian astuteness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of departing from the worldly spirit and values, which the devil really favors, in order to live according to the Gospel. How is worldliness manifested? Worldliness is manifested by attitudes of corruption, deception, subjugation, and it constitutes the most ill-chosen road, the road of sin, because one leads you to the other! It’s like a chain, even if — it’s true — it is generally the easiest road to travel.
Instead, the spirit of the Gospel requires a serious lifestyle — serious but joyful, full of joy! — serious and challenging, marked by honesty, fairness, respect for others and their dignity, and a sense of duty. And this is Christian astuteness! — Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 18, 2016
Hypocrisy, the devil’s language
[Hypocrisy uses] the same language as the devil who sows that duplicitous language in communities in order to destroy them. [Therefore,] let us ask the Lord to protect us from falling into this vice of hypocrisy, [from] masking our attitude, but with evil intentions. That the Lord might give us this grace: “Lord, that I might never be a hypocrite, that I might know how to speak the truth and if I cannot say it, to stay silent, but never hypocrisy.” — Meditation, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, June 6, 2017
For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, eucharistic adoration, sacramental reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach. If we become careless, the false promises of evil will easily seduce us. — Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World), no. 162
Prayer and the sacraments
Let us prepare ourselves for the spiritual combat: Evangelization asks true courage of us partly because of this inner fight, this battle in our hearts, so speak with prayer, with mortification, with the desire to follow Jesus, with the sacraments that are an encounter with Jesus, that are speaking to Jesus: thank you, thank you for your grace. — Address, Paul VI Audience Hall, June 17, 2013
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