As a Catholic educator I have observed over the years that, due to the ever-increasing secularization of American culture, many baptized Catholics appear not to live the life of discipleship, wherein it is not they who live, but Our Lord who lives in them. Why? As a result of sin, and its instigator, the devil. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para.. 1237)
If ever there was one who believed in the devil’s existence, it was Our Lord, who called him “the ruler of this world.” We must remember, however, that while the spirit of anti-Christ has been with us since the dawn of history, our enemy is no more than a rebel angel whom God permits to test us. The Father never wills evil, but He does permit Satan to tempt us, just as he allowed the passion of His Son, through which He showed that regardless of the demonic action, God always attempts to bring a larger good out of our enemy’s apparent conquests.
The primary spiritual combat zone here is the human will; because God always respect our integrity, our free will, He never forces us to do good nor to abandon evil choices. Rather, He sends us His grace and truth. As mentioned in my first chapter, it is the enemy who seeks to breach the integrity of the human person, and effect the ruin of souls. And it must also be said that the contemporary polarization in the church discussed in the second chapter is a clear attack by the Evil One. As Basil Cardinal Hume has observed: “I suspect that it is a trick of the devil to divert good people from the task of evangelization by embroiling them in endless controversial issues to the neglect of the Church’s essential role, which is mission.” Thus, in this spiritual combat, trials will come, but God knows they are edifying for us, for they disclose the nature of the enemy and our own need for salvation and growing in relationship with Him.
So it is that because of the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, many Catholics do not practice their faith to the point of standing out from those who are ignorant of Christ. In approaching the vexing questions of modern society, too many Catholics take positions based on a liberal-conservative spectrum, rather than on the teachings of Jesus Christ which come to us via His church. Only genuine conversion, metanoia, the fruit of evangelization, will change this reality, allowing Catholics to experience the joy of faithful discipleship. No ideology may substitute for real personal conversion. In essence, metanoia means to question one’s own way of living, to start to see life through God’s eyes, and turn away from conformity to this world. Genuine conversion predisposes us not to see ourselves as the measure of all things, but to a humility that trusts ourselves to God’s love, which becomes the measure of all things. This was the central teaching of Vatican II: a renewed call to the faithful to strive after holiness, which means doing the Father’s will in all things, empowered by His grace.