The world is embroiled in war. Yes, right now. In fact, there are several, especially if you count those under the nomenclature of “armed conflict.” The Republic of Yemen is in a Civil War mainly between the Houthis and Hadis. There’s also the Tigray War in Ethiopia (which also involves Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia).
Why do I bring these up? Well, it’s interesting how we go about our lives thinking the world is at relative peace. There is some tension in the South China Sea, but the United States is out of Afghanistan, and we never hear about Iraq anymore. As far as unsuspecting Americans go, the world is at peace. But is it? I’ve already shown this isn’t exactly the case, but there’s a greater war going on than anything we will find on the news. At least not directly.
The war between Good and Evil has existed since Satan, and his angels rebelled against God and fell. As Jesus said, He “... saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), who now “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This is of far greater importance, and yet we hear very little about this war.
“The best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
This quote of disputed origin is profoundly true of the world today. Yemen and Ethiopia aside, we carry on with our lives and pay little attention to the greatest battle of history, which is going on around us, with us as participants. Obliviousness and lukewarmness will get you killed in a combat zone, and this is no different. The question isn’t whether you are participating; you are. The question is, “Which side are you on?”
Some people are easy targets for the demonic, which gently seduces them into sinning and diminishes their remorse for offending God. Some fight with the strength of God, and even if they fall, they rise again like Jesus from the grave.
What is Spiritual Warfare?
Spiritual warfare (or combat) is the conscious resistance against Satan and his forces.
What are the sides?
We know the enemy, but they make Navy Seals’ guerilla tactics look weak and ineffective. One temptation here, apathy there, and voila: you’re a prisoner of war! Now, it’s important to note that not every bad thing in life is demonic. A deacon once told me, “It’s not like there’s a demon under every rock.” It’s true, so discernment is required to fight this effectively, lest we become like Don Quixote fighting windmills.
We are blessed to have more than just us fighting Satan and his forces (which we couldn’t do alone). We have backups and reinforcements, and it’s essential to know your team. Of course, God is, but so are His angels, the Saints (particularly Mary), the Angels, and Archangels (particularly St. Michael).
What are the objectives?
The objective is simple and summed up rather nicely by Jesus at the “Great Commission” in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20)
Baptism is easy and often occurs in infancy. It’s the rest of life that’s difficult. The “observe all that I have commanded you” is the kicker. Spiritual combat is taking battle orders from the King. The objective is to do this and convince others to join the winning side (our advantage is that Scripture tells us who wins).
What Equipment Do We Have?
I’m going to cheat a little here and not research a ton because St. Paul did it all for me. I trust him! In his Epistle to the Ephesians, he writes:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:10–18, ESV-CE)
So, in short, our most effective weapons and armor in this battle include: Truth, Righteousness, the Gospel, Faith, Salvation, and the Word of God. Having these does not mean that we will come out unscathed, but it’s worth it.
Using Our Equipment
Keep the troops close. We do this through several means. We call upon our defense with prayers of deliverance from the King, such as the Our Father (“deliver us from evil”). Then, there are the Special Forces. We can say the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, who battles Satan on a regular basis (Daniel 12:1, Jude 9:1, Revelation 12:7). And then there’s St. Joseph (the Foster Father of Jesus) and Mary, the Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1), who is our Mother (Revelation 12:17). They protected Jesus from the serpent. They will protect us, too. Their intercession will not leave us unaided, and particularly, the Rosary is a great help in our spiritual battles.
Another form of prayer that is useful for this fight is Eucharistic Adoration. No matter what type of prayer it is, there are few better ways to keep the enemy away than spending time with Our Lord. The 4th Century monk, Evagrius of Pontius, said, “If your soul grows weak, pray. As it is written, pray in fear and trembling, earnestly and watchfully. We ought to pray like that, especially because our unseen and wicked enemies are vehemently trying to hinder us.” When you place yourself in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the enemy will flee.
Additionally, there are many references to fasting in Scripture. Even note that Jesus assumed His disciples would fast. Matthew 6:16 says, “And when you fast,” not “if.” It was a regular part of Judaism by then, and Jesus did not abolish this practice for Christians. It has a spiritual efficacy and is often tied to repentance, seeking God’s assistance, or spiritual combat.
In battle, there are few things worse than desertion or treason. First and foremost, we must avoid the “near occasions of sin” (if you know you have a particular weakness, avoid situations where you might succumb to it). When we do sin, we should flee to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and make a complete confession and resolve to sin no more. Jesus gave that gift to the Church (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). As the Act of Contrition says, we do it because we love Jesus and not simply to escape judgment. Let’s win the war together!
Part of remaining in a state of grace involves making sure to close any doors where there might be a satanic influence. This includes not using and confessing previous use of tarot cards, horoscopes, ouija boards, palm readers, psychics, and other New Age practices. These are not simply fun pastimes – they’re actually demonic. Many dioceses have noted years of spiritual oppression of people involved in these and have established deliverance ministries to help free people from spiritual attacks. If you have engaged in these, seek out these ministries and ask them for assistance.
The End Game
Spiritual warfare is – or at least should be – a normal part of a Christian’s life. However, it is rarely talked about in most circles. We have armor and weapons for the battle, allies, and reinforcements, and winning tactics. Now we need to go, glorifying the Lord by our lives, and make the most of what we have to fight for the Kingdom of God. Revelation 20 should come with a spoiler alert: God wins. On an individual level, we only win if we fight for the winning side. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). That is the importance of spiritual warfare.
Stephen Muff, Esq, MPA is a Catholic Christian who lives in Northern California with his wife and two daughters. He serves on his parish council and is participating in a three-year faith formation program for the laity. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and DC and currently works in-house for a financial technology company.