Circular Letter: Fall 2016
The Angels and the Divine Mercy – Part 4
The Battle around Divine Mercy
“You speak of the great mercy of the Almighty One”
Jesus explained the love of neighbor, particularly under the form of “mercy,” with the parable of the Good Samaritan. This man, himself a foreigner in Israel, bowed down to the poor man who had been almost beaten to death and helped him back to health. While it is true that only one who possesses the effective means to help can practice mercy, it remains that the first principle of mercy is charity itself which is offered to all. Perfect mercy embraces both this loving kindness and the power to help; this is the reason why we find it, first of all, in God Himself, Who is love, and Who has the entire heavenly army at His disposition. He sends them out everywhere, like the apostles “into all the world” (Mk 16:15; cf. Mt 24:31) that His “will be done, on earth as it is” – with them already – “in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
God sends His angelic hosts out because He knows our need; He knows that “the dragon was angry with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17). Consequently, “the whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day” (GS 37; CCC 409). But, the Fathers of Vatican II added, “aided by God’s grace, … [man] succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity” (ibid.), aided also by the holy Angels as God already promised to Moses: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, … then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Ex 23:20-22).
Let us look into this battle as it pertains to the life of all Christians; let us consider it in the light of the experience of Saint Faustina, the “secretary of Divine mercy.” To her, one devil confessed: “You are beginning to torment us even in hell” (Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul. Diary, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2012, p. 323; hereafter will be referred to by “D.”). The reason behind that demonic lament was Faustina’s mission in behalf of Divine Mercy: “How terribly Satan hates God’s mercy! I see how he opposes this whole work” (D. 812). “Satan … said that ‘a thousand souls do me less harm than you do when you speak of the great mercy of the Almighty One. The greatest sinners regain confidence and return to God, and I lose everything” (D. 1167).
Personally, St. Faustina heard our Lord telling her: “You are united to Me; fear nothing. But know, my child, that Satan hates you; he hates every soul” (D. 412).
A universal fact
Jesus spoke very frankly of the possibility of the devil’s actions (cf. Mt 10:16) and so too did Saint Peter (cf. 1 Pet 5:8) and Saint Paul (cf. Eph 6:12). Saint Faustina speaks of the “devil’s traps and snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests” (D. 1052; cf. 1384) and those who are consecrated exclusively to God in the state of consecrated life (cf. D. 307, 1127). But, as Adam and Eve were “tempted by the devil” (CCC 397), so all souls are tempted and Faustina saw “many souls rushing headlong into the terrible abyss of hell” (D. 929).
The enemy attacked Saint Faustina almost everywhere and unexpectedly. People like her, who neither have interest in the world nor trust in themselves and their merits, surrender themselves to God. Notwithstanding, the devil also attacks such souls at any time and in all possible ways; he is like a thief in the darkness of the night, “prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Pet. 5:8). While he remains invisible, the results of his actions can be witnessed. Once “Satan rushed into my room with great anger and fury. He seized the screen and began to break and crush it … and yet the screen was not shattered or broken” (713; cf. 412, 419, 520…). The devils showed themselves to St. Faustina as “many ugly monsters” (D. 540; cf. 713, 1405). Saint Thomas Aquinas gives the following reason for the ugly manifestations of the devil: “Just as man falls by sin from the dignity of reason and so by acting against reason is compared to irrational creatures, so too is the devil, who by sin turned away from the supreme and intelligible goods, when he sought dominion over lower and earthly things, compared with brute animals, in whose likeness the demons frequently appear to men, God having providently required them to assume such forms by which their condition is signified” (St. Thomas Aq., The Literal Exposition on Job, to Job 40:15-32).
Other influences of the enemy can be these: “A sudden illness – a mortal suffering” (D. 321) that appears and disappears suddenly, just like the enemy who causes them. “An extraordinary disgust with life came over me” (D. 1496, 1497), “a strange dislike for everything having to do with God” (D. 1405) and “a strange fear that the priest would not understand me” (D. 173). Saint Faustina tells us that in a moment of spiritual darkness, the devil can awaken even ideas contrary to God and His mercy, a “multitude of thoughts” (D. 644), “thoughts of discouragement” (D. 129). On one occasion, the demon’s “voice took the appearance of my Guardian Angel” (D. 1405), a phenomenon known also from the life of other Saints such as St. Benedict or St. Theresa of Avila; it confirms what Saint Paul already mentioned: “Satan disguises himself as an Angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
The expiatory offering like Saint Faustina’s “act of oblation,” inasmuch as greatly provoking the enemy, opens the soul for such counterattacks of the enemies; they are, yes, possible parts of the spiritual battle (cf. D. 311). The soul remains, however, always free, but when its strength of will is weakened, and it is inattentive, then there is a greater danger that it will consent to temptations. One example would be that one thinks in such dark hours that he has made a bad choice in life and that he should change the state of life and leave the marriage or religious life.
Saint Faustina wrote about the meaning of “all these trials… God often prepares a soul in this way for His future designs and great works” (D. 97). We humans act exactly the same way in all areas of life: We test a machine before we use it, etc. and the more important it is, the stronger the test and the more precise the measurements. This is the meaning of these temptations.
St. Faustina’s counsels for defensive action
Saint Faustina trusted that God “knows what the soul can endure” (D. 101). Therefore, she walked before Him with confidence and hope, as well as with patience, fortitude and perseverance. Thus, always moved by love of God, the Saint looked forward to the supernatural goal and diverted her attention to the machinations of the devil .
– The humble are strong: Although St. Faustina was much hated by the devil, she could affirm that “he does not disturb my peace for a moment” (D. 713); or “the enemy did not touch me” (D. 1646). She reveals her secret: “I fear no blows, because God is my shield. It is the enemy who should fear us and not we him. Satan defeats only the proud and the cowardly, because the humble are strong … Love will not allow itself to be taken prisoner; it is free like a queen. Love attains God” (D. 450).
– Never trust in yourself: St. Paul alerts the Ephesians, “Give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:27). Saint Faustina says that Satan is “looking for idle souls” (D. 1127; cf. Sir. 33:27f.); therefore, one cannot and should not trust oneself: “I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will” (D. 1760).
– Do not bargain, be silent: Jesus knew that the devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), He was severe with him: “Be silent!” (Mk 1:25); “and He would not permit the demons to speak” (Mk 1:34; cf. 3:12). That was then the reaction of St. Faustina too: “My soul remained silent and, by an act of will, continued to pray without entering into conversation with the Spirit of Darkness … submitted myself to God” (D. 1497). Jesus confirmed to her the importance of this attitude: “I am pleased with what you are doing. … Satan gained nothing by tempting you, because you did not enter into conversation with him. Continue to act in this way” (D. 1499) and “Do not bargain with any temptation” (D. 1760).
– He “who trusts in My mercy will not perish!”: Saint Faustina discovered that the devil flees from the presence of God. Therefore, she sought to be nothing in herself, so that God could be all in her. On one occasion, after a Thursday’s Holy Hour in which she “called upon the whole of heaven to join me in making amends to the Lord for the ingratitude of certain souls” (D. 319), while returning “to my cell, I was surrounded by a pack of huge black dogs” (D. 320). One of them spoke up in a rage, “Because you have snatched so many souls away from us this night, we will tear you to pieces” (ibid.). The Saint responded, just coming from prayer: “If that is the will of the most merciful God, tear me to pieces, for I have justly deserved it, because I am the most miserable of all sinners, and God is ever holy, just and infinitely merciful” (ibid.). “To these words all the demons answered as one, ‘Let us flee, for she is not alone; the Almighty is with her!’ And they vanished like dust” (ibid.). Her humility and the reference to God and His will smashed these very wild enemies. Her comportment recalls St. Michael’s humility in the darkness of the angelic trial. He called God in their midst: “Who is like God?” St. James seems to draw this same conclusion for us when he says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7; D. 644, 674, 1411, 1720). “I heard a voice within my soul, ‘Do not fear; I am with you’” (D. 129). And “He who trusts in My mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine, and his enemies will be shattered at the base of My footstool” (D. 723; cf. D. 480). Baptism is the decisive step out of the clutches of the enemy: “The baptized person belongs no longer to himself, but to Him who died and rose for us” (CCC 1269).
– The Holy Angels: As ministers of God, the faithful Angels are sent into the spiritual battle – as an “adversary to your adversaries” (Ex 23:22). With “the power of God,” they can overcome all diabolic attacks, provided we do our part to collaborate with God’s grace. God asked Saint Michael “to take special care” (D. 706) of St. Faustina. At the gate of the Convent, God “set a Cherub over it to guard it” (D. 1271).
More frequently, Saint Faustina spoke about the help she received concretely from her Guardian Angel. Once, she called for his help against the demons: “When … a great multitude of demons blocked my way … I immediately asked my Guardian Angel for help, and at once the bright and radiant figure of my Guardian Angel appeared and said to me, ‘Do not fear, spouse of my Lord’” (D. 418, 419). On another occasion, when “Satan shook my bed. I awoke instantly, and I started to pray peacefully to my Guardian Angel” (D. 412; cf. 1799).
The holy Angels are involved in almost everything. As they helped her pray during her Holy Hour (cf. D. 319f) so too did they help her in the defense of the dying: “The Lord said to me, My daughter, help Me to save a certain dying sinner. Say the chaplet that I have taught you for him. When I began to say the chaplet, I saw the man dying in the midst of terrible torment and struggle. His Guardian Angel was defending him … a multitude of devils was waiting for the soul. But while I was praying the chaplet, … the rays which issued from Jesus’ Heart enveloped the sick man, and the powers of darkness fled in panic. The sick man peacefully breathed his last” (D. 1565).
– Profession of faith: St. Michael defends through the profession of faith: “Who is like God!” the simple invocation or mere reference to the name of God. Jesus explained to the Saint: “When a soul extols My goodness, Satan trembles before it and flees to the very bottom of hell” (D. 378). And the Saint experienced it: “One whisper of the name of Jesus dissipated all that” (D. 873), the presence of the evil. “I said, ‘Glory is due to God alone; be gone Satan!’ And in an instant this soul fell into an abyss” (D. 520). “As soon as I said, ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,’ the [evil] figures vanished in a sudden whir” (D. 323).
– Prayer: Firm faith makes prayer authentic and effective. In prayer, the soul directs herself to God. She acts with the baptismal grace, so that the power of God strengthens her. The soul recognizes, in the spiritual battles, her own nothingness and God as the Creator and Savior (cf. CCC 2096, 2097).
Like an exorcism, a militant, liberating effect can be observed from the recitation of prayers, some more so than others, like: the Creed, the Our Father, the Magnificat of Our Lady, the Angelus with the powerful reference to the Incarnation of the Son of God, and especially her Rosary. St. Grignion de Montford says: “When people say the Rosary together it is … an army that is attacking [the devil];” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, Montfort Publ., Bay Shore, NY 1954, ch. 46, p. 98; cf. ch. 36, p. 81).
We especially recall the recitation of the official prayer of the Church, or the Liturgy of the Hours, which “is the very prayer which Christ himself in union with His Body directs to the Father” (CCC 1174), and which “is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God” (CCC 1175).
– Sign of the Cross: The sign of the Cross is, according to an old tradition, a simple sign by which we profess all truths of our faith: the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, our Redemption on the Cross and Holy Baptism. So, Saint Faustina recalls: “I glanced around and saw many ugly monsters. So I mentally made the Sign of the Cross and they disappeared immediately” (D. 540), or “I immediately made the sign of the cross with my little crucifix, and the beast fell quiet and disappeared at once” (D. 713; cf. 1405). How meaningful, then, is the old custom, blessing oneself with a small sign of the cross first on the forehead, then over the lips and heart and, only then, making a large one, which is the custom today accompanied by a prayer which is a small exorcism which should be prayed daily by everyone. “Through the sign + of the holy Cross free me + from my enemies, Almighty + God, the Father and + the Son and the Holy Spirit!”
– Divine Mercy Chaplet: Among the very effective prayers is the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which Saint Faustina received from God. Through this prayer, the Angel of the wrath of God became helpless (cf. D. 474-475), and similarly, another Angel was hindered who would have caused “much havoc … through this storm” (D. 1791) so that Saint Faustina “recognized that this prayer was pleasing to God, and that this chaplet was most powerful” (ibid.). She hears Him saying, “This prayer will serve to appease My wrath” (D. 476; cf. 1565). Its power lies in the reference to the infinite value of the merits of the Passion of Christ (cf. e.g. D. 367-369).
– Holy Water (and other sacramentals): Especially known for its purifying effect is Holy Water, the sacramental “which recalls Baptism” (CCC 1668). Used devoutly, it purifies us from venial sins and renews our union with God. As an act of faith, it is like a shield against the flaming darts of the enemy (cf. Eph 6,16). Saint Faustina further notes: “holy water is indeed of great help to the dying” (D. 601). The Saint made use of it very spontaneously, even in the presence of a priest, because she saw the demons present and they fled: “Once, when one of our sisters became fatally ill and all the community was gathered together, there was also a priest there who gave the sister absolution. Suddenly, I saw many spirits of darkness. Then, forgetting that I was with the sisters, I seized the holy water sprinkler and sprinkled the spirits, and they disappeared at once” (D. 601).
– Suffering and prayer: Saint Faustina recognized the power of penitential works that accompany prayer, especially suffering: “I saw that my suffering and prayer shackled Satan and snatched many souls from his clutches” (D. 1465; Mt 17:21).
– Sacraments: The most powerful means of grace, of course, are the sacraments: The refusal to sin, sincere repentance, and sacramental confession are a victory over the enemy. The sacrament of reconciliation includes an act of humility on the part of the penitent that destroys the pride and influence of the enemy. Saint Faustina says: “All sorts of blasphemies and curses kept pressing upon my ears. Distrust and despair invaded my heart. … At first, I was very much frightened by these horrible things, but during the first [opportune] confession, I was set at peace (D. 311; 19, 1560, 1736). In Confession is brought to light what the enemy has done. He abhors light and therefore flees (cf. Jn 3:19-21; St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, n. 326, 13st Rule of Discernment).
Saint Faustina constantly gave testimony regarding the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. About His role in the spiritual battle she says: “Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory; and so it is” (D. 91; 159, 356). “I find myself so weak that were it not for Holy Communion I would fall continually. One thing alone sustains me and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw my strength; in it is all my comfort. I fear life on days when I do not receive Holy Communion. I fear my own self. Jesus concealed in the Host is everything to me. From the tabernacle I draw strength, power, courage and light. Here, I seek consolation in time of anguish. I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart” (D. 1037; cf. 1824).
– Obedience: When Satan appears like an angel of light, that is, in pious forms, as, for example, encouraging St. Faustina to confess daily or to pray for herself (and not for others), then it is difficult for souls who want to please God in all things to discern the devil’s hand in this stratagem. Faustina found clear discernment through the confessor, “I felt that the confessor’s words were Jesus’ words” and to that Jesus added, “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications. Oh, how good it is to live under obedience, to live conscious of the fact that everything I do is pleasing to God!” (D. 894). Experiencing the many tricks of the devil, the Saint said: “Satan can even clothe himself in a cloak of humility, but he does not know how to wear the cloak of obedience” (D. 939). “It was only out of obedience to my confessor…, and this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival” (D. 77; cf. 99, 535). Jesus said, “Be absolutely as frank as possible with your confessor” (D. 1499; cf. 1760, 269, 646, 938).
– Active vigilance: Finally, the repeated warning of Jesus, “Watch!” (Mt 24:42; cf. 25:12-13); watch and be prepared (cf. Mt 24:43). “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:41) finds also in St. Faustina their echo: “I often heard these words in my soul: Strengthen yourself for combat – repeated over and over at various times” (D. 145). And true enough, she confesses: “Despite the peace in my soul, I fight a continuous battle with the enemy of my soul. More and more, I am discovering his traps, and the battle flares up anew” (D. 1287). How sober are her words: “I see and feel all my misery. I begin my day with battle and end it with battle. As soon as I conquer one obstacle, ten more appear to take its place. But I am not worried, because I know that this is the time of struggle, not peace” (D. 606). “I do not lose heart. I trust God’s grace, which abounds in the worst misery” (D. 606; cf. D. 1630). Her Divine spouse comments: “Your vigilance pleases Me” (D. 1787).
The Angels do not wish us to be afraid, anxious, and nervous. With the help of the holy Angels one can be sure:
“In spite of Satan’s anger,
the Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and
will be worshipped by all souls” (D. 1789).
Fr. Titus Kieninger
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