Saturday, 15 August 2015

Francis McCullagh (1874-1956) - War Correspondent 'extraordinaire'

‘The Polish churches, not only in Moscow but all over Siberia, were crowded with men as well as women; and I always felt better, physically and spiritually, after visiting them. They were calm asylums for the sane in a country which had gone mad.  They were altars where one could seek sanctuary from the poisoned shafts of ideas more deadly than the spears of the feudal age, from Kropotkin’s fascinating theories of licence, as well as from Lenin’s stern dogmas of oligarchic tyranny.  Even their severe Latin architecture and the plain, veritable cross of Rome on the steeple were a relief after the twisted oriental style, barbaric colours, and distorted crosses of the Byzantine churches; while, on the other hand, the warm glow of life which animated them was an equally welcome contrast to the chill of death which pervaded the ‘Reformed’ chapels. They were mute but eloquent symbols of a greater and an older International than Lenin’s, of an Institution which had witnessed the fall of the Roman Empire, which had survived the dreadful menace of Islam, which had seen many movements madder even than Bolshevism, rise and rage for a season, and then disappear so completely that the man in the street today does not know their very names.
            I had visited many of those churches during the course of my journey, and had found them open when the others were shut, had found the Catholic priest at his post when all the other ministers of religion were fleeing or had fled. The Red torrent had thundered down on them, the leaping spray had hidden them from sight, and the raging waters had cut them off, but when I came back they still stood like the rock on which they are built.  I thought with awe of that tremendous prophecy which I had seen on the dome of St Peter’s:  “The gates of Hell shall not prevail”.
            There was an indescribable comfort and reassurance in seeing exactly the same service as is to be seen in Ireland, Tyrol, Westminster, the Vatican, France, Valparaiso, the Islands of the Outer Hebrides, and every part of the orbis terrarum Semper eadem.  One heard in all these different places exactly the same Latin words leading up to that stupendous sentence pronounced at the Last Supper,  and followed by those simple, soldierly words of the Roman Captain which are engraven to the end of time on the memory of man.  Yet in each place the Church was no exotic, hothouse plant, but a national growth with its roots in the hearts of the people.  Even in Russia the congregations were made up not only of Poles but of Lithuanians, Ukrainians, White Russians, French, Germans, and Austrians.  Meeting once in Siberia a gentle young priest who had remained behind to share the fortunes of his flock, and knowing that Poles do not like to speak Russian when they can help it (though he turned out to be Lithuanian), I addressed him in the best Latin I could muster, and I shall never forget how his eyes lit up when he heard the sound of that stately tongue. Did it remind him of how Nero failed yesterday as Lenin will fail tomorrow?  Nor can I ever forget the Masses I have heard on dark, frosty mornings in isolated Catholic churches far in the heart of Red Russia, and how astonishingly the calm and dignity of the noble service contrasted with the mad roar of revolution outside.  The church was dark, save where the altar candles made the silvery hair of the priest shine like a nimbus and lit up the altar, evoking a picture of the same Sacrifice being offered in a dimly lit Roman catacomb in commemoration of Sebastian the Soldier or of Agnes the Virgin Martyr, while a tyranny as bad as Lenin’s howled itself hoarse outside.  To me the Catholic priests whom I met represented European culture, Christian civilization; and great indeed was the contrast between their scholarly discourse and the mad babble of the Bolsheviks into which I had again to plunge'.                                                  

                                                                     Light of Faith
 The above extract is taken from ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’ by Capt. Francis McCullagh, being an account of his experiences as a prisoner of the Bolsheviks from January to April of the year 1920. I recently acquired an old (1923) copy of this book and have not yet finished reading it. The writer was of Irish birth and was a journalist by profession. As a war correspondent he had covered
the Russo-Japanese war for the New York Herald, the Turkish civil war of 1909, the Portuguese revolution of 1910, various Balkan wars, hostilities in Morocco, and the Italian invasion of Tripoli.
On the outbreak of World War 1 he was sent as a journalist to the Eastern front, where he reported from the Russian side. He then enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the end of 1914, was posted to Gallipoli and spent most of the war in military intelligence. He was then posted to the British Military Mission to Siberia, which was assisting the White Russians in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. Captured by the Russians in early 1919, he persuaded his captors that he was a journalist rather than a British army officer, and was allowed to spend many months wandering around Russia before the increasingly suspicious Russian security services arrested him in Moscow. Under the 'Brest-Livotsk Agreement' he was repatriated to Britain where he wrote many newspaper articles on his experiences in Bolshevik Russia, and also completed this book ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’. 
                   Generals Sakharov and Kolchak, and McCullagh (far right)

I have been fortunate in that I have managed to obtain four books (old copies) by McCullagh namely:-
‘The Bolshevisk Persecution of Christianity’, containing a detailed account of the staged State trial of  several prelates and priests culminating in the murder in custody of Mgr  Budkiewicz, and the sentence of death passed on Archbishop Cieplak, later commuted to life imprisonment to assuage world-wide condemnation of the the trial;  
 ‘Red Mexico’ an account of the terrible persecution of the Church in Mexico in the 1920s, and the role of the United States government in aiding the Masonic Mexican government;    
‘In Franco’s Spain’ being an account of events in Spain during the Civil War of the mid 1930s;  
 'A Prisoner of the Reds',  the book I am currently reading. 
I am amazed and impressed by the achievements of McCullagh, a brave man by any standards, both physically and morally. As a journalist he was fearless in reporting the facts, with his Catholic faith shining like a beacon throughout his work. As a young man he attended a Seminary to test his vocation, but in spite of glowing reports from others, decided that he was not suited to the priesthood. Thereafter journalism  was his life. I strongly recommend these books, the early editions effectively primary source material for detail of some of the terrible persecutions of the Church in the first three decades of the 20th century.

                                              'The Bolshevik' (1920)  by Kustodiev

I hope to publish further posts on Francis McCullagh, in his day a renowned and highly regarded war correspondent, but now largely forgotten. He deserves to be rescued from obscurity, and  publicly recognised as the honest and fearless journalist that he was, and above all as a man who loved God and His Church and was not afraid to say so. In the above quoted passage, it is revealing to read his comments on the universal and traditional Latin Mass celebrated in the isolated Catholic churches in the heart of Red Russia, which gave him ‘indescribable comfort and reassurance’, and his experience of  'the calm and dignity of the noble service, contrasted with the mad roar of the revolution outside'. He was describing experiences of  nearly one hundred years ago, with the world a ‘maelstrom’ of bloodshed, violence, and increasing godlessness. Sadly the universality of the traditional Latin Mass is, in practice, no longer the case, and the use of the vernacular and the post Vatican 2  'Novus Ordo' Mass – with variations depending on the country and the celebrant, perhaps diminishing that sense of  'spiritual unity' once so universally evident in Christ’s Church. The world today is threatened with destruction, physical and moral, with ungodly and powerful nations deliberately following the wide road that leads to perdition, with Christ’s Church persecuted and vilified by enemies both outside and within the Church itself. The world today is as much a maelstrom of bloodshed, violence, and godlessness, as it was in 1920, but sadly the Church now seems somehow less visible, less united, and sometimes almost deferential in its attitude to the world. Nevertheless we live in certain hope that Christ will never abandon His Church, and that the gates of Hell will never prevail. Glory to God in the Highest!

'Holy Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'

Sunday, 26 July 2015

'O my God, teach me to love Thee in Time and Eternity' - Bishop Richard Challoner (1691-1781)

         Bishop Richard Challoner

 Richard Challoner, born September 29, 1691 at Lewes, Sussex, and died January 12, 1781 in London. His father, also Richard Challoner, ‘a rigid Dissenter’, and wine-cooper of that place, died whilst he was a  child, and his mother with her son, took up domestic service in  the Catholic  household of Sir John Gage, at Firle near Lewes, shortly after moving to Warkworth, Nottinghamshire, in the service of a devout Catholic widow, a descendant of the Howard family. To the influence of these Catholic households can reasonably be attributed the conversion or reconciliation to the Church of Mrs Challoner, and the reception of her son when he was about 13 years old. 
Through the services of the Rev John Gother, chaplain to the Catholic Howard family, Richard Challoner was sent at the age of 14 years to the English College, Douai, in Flanders, where he was to spend the next twenty-five years, with but one brief visit to England during that time.
 In the summer of 1708, Challenor finished the ‘Humanities’ course, and immediately began the ‘Divinity’ course, consisting of two years Philosophy and four years Theology, in preparation for the priesthood.

         On 28 March 1716, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Tournai. In the official record of ordination, the president described him in the college diary, as 'notable for learning and piety, if ever man was'.

          Now ordained and with the additional responsibility of 'Prefect of Studies', Challoner was awarded a Theology degree at the University of Douai, his thesis dealing with  the  'Infallibility of the Pope', basing his proposition  on the authoritative teachings of St Thomas Aquinas. This was a controversial subject particularly in the Europe of the day where Jansenism, Josephism, Gallicanism,  and nationalist pride in its various forms, had  support in powerful places, and this work revealed the faith, courage, determination, and intellect of Challoner, qualities that were to be continually displayed throughout his long and demanding life.

  In 1730 he obtained the President’s consent to leave for England. The College diary records that -  ‘on 18th August, set out for London and the English Mission, the Reverend Richard Challoner, here known as Willard, Doctor of Theology and professor thereof for ten years (who had taught Humanities and Philosophy for five years). Confessor and Prefect of Studies, a man well versed in every kind of knowledge, endowed with remarkable piety and inflamed with zeal for souls and the love of God and his neighbour’.

A college student had this to say about Challoner’s imminent departure:-
                   'Lest, all completed, you should now desire
                   Mov’d by a glowing zeal hence to retire,
                   Oh! With your presence bless us yet! Oh, stay,
                   And to perfection show us still the way!
                   Let Britain want a while your saving hand:
                   For howe’er great your pains, or good your heart,
                   You there can act but one Apostle’s part.
                   But here your conduct and instructions breed
                   A race of Shepherds fit Christ’s flock.'

 At this time in England:-
“By the statute of Queen Elizabeth, 27, c.2, it is High Treason for any man who is proved to be a priest, to breathe in this kingdom.”
Later a 'less severe statute' was added, which authorised a fine and short imprisonment.  However to somewhat redress the 'status quo', a statute of King William III condemned any priest convicted of exercising his functions, to perpetual banishment - a vindictive law which was nevertheless enforced at Croydon against a certain Rev John Baptist Maloney as late as 1767.

    Chapel of the Sardinian Embassy, London, used by the local Catholic community.

Charles Butler in his biography of Richard Challoner, had this to say:-
"From his arrival in London till he was consecrated Bishop, he was a perfect model of a Missionary Priest. He avoided more intercourse with the world than was absolutely necessary, assiduous in the discharge of his duties, with daily meditation, celebration of Mass, and reading of office; frequently visiting his flock carrying piety and recollection wherever he went; he was cheerful, and the cause of cheerfulness in others; always serene, affable, unaffected, prudent and charitable, never said anything which tended, even remotely, to his own advantage.  He reproved with the greatest gentleness, his conduct abundantly verifying the golden maxim of St Francis de Sales, ‘that a good man is never outdone in good manner’.  His visits were always short, and nothing, except the most urgent necessity, ever kept him from returning to his abode at a very early hour, that he might be in the way to hear confessions, to give advice, to catechise, to attend to the calls of the sick or dying, or to exercise any other missionary duty, for which it should be necessary or expedient that he should then be found at home…….he considered himself as particularly commissioned to preach the gospel to the poor, whose cellars, garrets, hospitals, workhouses and prisons were much more agreeable, as well as familiar, to him than the splendid habitations of the great and opulent …..”

Between 1734 and 1737, in spite of his additional responsibilities, Challoner wrote five more controversial works, as well as editing a new edition of Gother’s ‘Essay on the Change and Choice of Religion’ and providing a new translation of the ‘Imitation of Christ’. His final book of this period was entitled ‘The Catholic Christian instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies and Observances of the Church’ which for more than a century was to remain the standard work of instruction on these points.
Bishop Petre writing to Rome in 1739, had this to say of Richard Challoner:-
“many remarkable gifts of mind, his great humility and gentleness, by his assiduous fidelity in reclaiming sinners to the way of life taught by the Gospel and to the truths of our religion; by his marvellous power in preaching, in instructing the ignorant and in writing books both spiritual and controversial, he has won not only the esteem but the veneration of all who have either heard him preach or who have read his books.”
In spite of strong objections by Bishop Challoner himself, who considered himself unworthy of such an appointment, he was consecrated co-adjutor Bishop by the incumbent Bishop Petre, on 29 January 1741, the feast of St Francis de Sales.
In 1740 was published  Challoner’s ‘The Garden of the Soul: or a Manual of Spiritual Exercises and Instructions for Christians, who living in the World, aspire to devotion.’ This small and inexpensive work combined the functions of a prayer book with information, instructions and practical advice, and it proved so popular that seven editions were printed in seventeen years. The difference between the ‘Garden of the Soul’ and its predecessors was that it gave, as it were, the theory as well as the practice: it was a treatise on the spiritual life, as well as a collection of exercises therein. Other works included Memoirs of Missionary Priests, as well Secular as Regular and of other Catholics of both sexes, that have suffered death in England, on Religious Accounts, from the Year of Our Lord 1577 to1684’,  published in 1742 in two volumes, which won itself a place with his ‘Garden of the Soul’ and ‘Meditations’ in the affections of Catholics.
For those of his flock for whom he wrote, conformity would have brought all that made life in their world worth living. Their temptation was one of despair in an hostile environment, and these books and others like them, provided the spiritual sustenance and encouragement so desperately needed for their faith to survive.

he writes, "makes more for the old Religion, than an impartial view of the first origin of all these new sects of pretenders to Reformation. Every circumstance that attended the change of Religion introduced by these Reformers, demonstrates that God had no hand in their work. The motives which set these men to work were visibly bad: the means they employed to compass their ends were illegal and unchristian; and the fruits that ensued both in Church and State, and in the lives and manners of particulars, were such as a good tree could never have produced. All which things, as they are undeniably plain from history, clearly show that none of these new sects have any share in the Church of Christ; which therefore must be sought for elsewhere, viz. amongst the followers of the old Religion: there Christ left it and there alone we shall find it." (The Grounds of the Old Religion-1741)

Bishop Challoner’s pastoral responsibility covered the London District, which included Kent, Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and Jersey and Guernsey; also Maryland and Pennsylvania in the American colonies, and certain islands in the West Indies. There were about 20,000 Catholics in London itself, and in the counties which formed the London Vicariate were an additional 4/5000 souls. Bishop Challoner made various diocesan visitations in England, horseback being the usual mode of transportation, and he could be away from his residence for up to two years at a time.

Throughout his life, Challoner showed an immense capacity for work and a clear judgement of priorities, particularly  in his writings which included prayer-books, catechisms, Saints’ lives, martyrologies, controversy or ascetical writings, whatever he considered would best serve the salvation of souls. The result might not be the absolute best, but it would be the best that he could do at the time. For him the priority was that well or less well, the work should be done when it was needed. Those who knew him spoke of "his tender compassion for the weakness and frailties of mankind; that sweetness of speech and behaviour which gained the affection of all who knew him, and by which he led them to the love of God." They spoke of the "sweetness and affability of his discourse", and say how "the mildness and modesty, which were the distinctive marks of Dr. Challoner's character, were visible in his countenance and attracted every heart to him". He was devout and prayerful in his habits, and "he made it his constant and invariable practice (which all his acquaintances observed) to renew the love of God in his heart whenever he heard the clock strike, by signing himself with the sign of the Cross, and saying, 'O my God, teach me to love Thee in Time and Eternity ' - which practice he also recommended to all the faithful, and for that reason inserted it in the Catechism which he published for the instruction of children"          

  Douai Rheims version of the Bible (contemporary publication)

There had long existed a need for a new English edition of the Douai Rheims Bible, He set out to revise the text according to the Clementine edition of the Vulgate, and to rewrite it in such English as could be understood by the people of his day. In effect he produced what was practically a new translation which was to serve not only as the basis, but also the substance of later versions. The New Testament was completed first, and after approval by two theologians at Douai, was published in 1749, with the Old Testament following a year later. In the public domain he is perhaps most  remembered for this work.

During  this same period, Challoner  urgently sought a suitable location for a Catholic boy’s school within convenient distance of London.  Lord Aston’s manor house of Standon Lordship in Hertfordshire, was eventually chosen, and  the school opened in the autumn of 1749, which as St Edmund’s, Old Hall, Ware, was later to become the Westminster diocesan seminary, reverting back to a school in the mid -1970s.                      

In 1751 Challoner published his ‘Instructions and Meditations on the Jubilee’ which had been proclaimed in 1750 by Pope Benedict XIV.  In one passage he contemplates the loss of God which is the chief horror of hell, and writes;
            “They have lost Him totally: they have lost Him irrecoverably:  they have lost Him eternally.  They have lost Him in Himself: they have lost Him in themselves: they have lost Him in all His creatures.  The lively sense of this irreparable loss, and of all the consequences of it, continually racks their despairing souls:  they cannot turn away their thought one moment from it:  it grips them with inexpressible torments.  Whichever way they turn to seek any one drop of ease or comfort, in Him or from Him, they meet with none:  all things conspire against them:  all things tell them they have lost their God.”

 When considering the perfections of God, he talks of - “His truth is infinitely charming”, and “What a joy it is to a true lover of God, to think that whatsoever may come to himself or to anything in the world, his Love at least, whom he loves without comparison more than himself and all things else, will always be infinitely glorious, infinitely rich and infinitely happy.”
From his modest Holborn lodgings, Challoner combined a life of recollection and prayer, with one of unending pastoral activity in his work for the poor, the sick and those in prison. The situation was aggravated by the widespread suspicion of all things Catholic, with prisons filled with those suspected of supporting the unsuccessful Jacobite revolt of 1745.

 'March of the Guards to Finchley' by William Hogarth.  (Satirical depiction of troops mustered to defend London from the 1745 Jacobite uprising)
For priests the threat of arrest and denunciation by paid informers was very real, and continued for many years.  Charles Butler, in his short ‘Life of Challoner’, writes, "In all these transactions Dr Challoner conducted himself with great prudence and firmness.  Scanty as was his income, he was the chief refuge of persecuted priests.  The expenses attending the prosecutions of them, their imprisonments, removals, concealments and other vexations were almost always discharged by him; he defrayed them with kindness, and in a manner that showed how greatly he honoured the sufferers in their sufferings and wants.”

  In 1760, Challoner founded a school for ‘poor girls’ at Hammersmith.  At about the same time, and acting on his own initiative and in the face of opposition from the Catholic gentry who were afraid of provoking a Protestant backlash, he founded Sedgeley Park School, near Wolverhampton, later to become Cotton College.

 A spirit of worldliness pervaded the whole of the 18th century, inevitably casting its shadow on all Catholics, particularly those who, due to circumstances, had little opportunity to practise their faith. Challoner himself, in spite of constant endeavours to sustain the faithful, was not immune to a sense of helplessness and even failure, in the ceaseless struggle against the tide. In a letter he wrote to his friend Bishop Hornyhold just before Christmas 1769, thanking him for his kindness and good wishes, he continues,’O dear brother, for Our Lord’s sake, earnestly pray that in His great mercy he would forgive me my innumerable sins, and prepare me for that great appearance, in which I have reason to dread the account I must give not only for myself but for so many others who through my fault or neglect, are walking on in the way of perdition. Oh! ‘tis a melancholy thing to see the great decay of piety and religion amongst a great part of our Catholics, and God grant this may not be imputed to me by reason of my sins and negligences’.

Now in his early eighties. yet always seeking ways of instructing and encouraging his suffering and scattered flock, Challoner turned his attention to the Douay Catechism which had been in use by Catholic children for over a century. He decided to make certain revisions, and to enlarge it, and in 1772 his revised popular catechism was published at St Omer, entitled ’Abridgement of Christian Doctrine: Revised and enlarged by R.C.’ This updated work was to be the standard work for English Catholics for generations to come.                  

In 1778 the Catholic Relief Act came into being, politically motivated by the English parliament in order to induce men from the largely Catholic Scottish highlands to join the army in the war in the American colonies. The Relief Act was nevertheless hugely beneficial to all Catholics throughout England and Scotland, but provoked fierce opposition from Protestant factions leading to the infamous Gordon Riots of 1780 which led to many deaths and widespread destruction in London, with Bishop Challoner himself a principle target.

          'The Gordon Riots'  by  John Seymour Lucas (Wikipedia)     

On January 10th, 1781, at 25 Gloucester Street, London, Bishop Challoner suffered a stroke, and two days later he died, with his chaplains in attendance. He was buried in the family vault of a friend Mr Bryan Barrett, at Milton, Berkshire where according to the legal requirements of the time, the parson had to read the Anglican burial service.
The plate on the coffin was inscribed “Right Revd. Doctor Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra”, and in the Parish Register, the presiding clergyman wrote,
“Anno Domini 1781, January 22. Buried the Reverend Richard Challoner, a Popish Priest and Titular Bishop of London and Salisbury, a very pious and good man, of great learning and extensive abilities”.   (N.B. The reference to Salisbury was a mistake by the Anglican authorities)
In 1946, the body of Bishop Challoner was interred and removed to the chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine in Westminster Cathedral.
In many ways the great revival of the English Catholic Church in the 19th century, owed much to the apostolic zeal for souls and the pastoral care of this holy Bishop. His writings particularly, kept the flame of Catholicism burning  in an England steeped in Protestantism; writings which provided  spiritual counsel, encouragement, and learning, on all matters Catholic, a constant source of sound spiritual direction for those of his own time and generations to come. He and his fellow Bishops and Priests laboured in rocky soil, but not in vain. By their labours and prayers and with the grace of God, the Catholic religion survived in England, enabling others to later reap the rich rewards of Catholic emancipation and the full re-establishment of the Church in the 19th century.

The cause for the beatification of Bishop Challoner seems to have been rather at a standstill for many years, although some  years ago the Dean of Birmingham Cathedral expressed an interest in reviving it. The object of this post, inadequate though it may be, is with God's blessing, to revive and honour the memory of Bishop Challoner with a view to encouraging devotion to this cause,  to the glory of God, and to the immeasurable spiritual benefit and encouragement of us all, particularly the Catholic faithful in England, and indeed in Scotland, to which people he showed great practical charity through his friendship with  Bishop George Hay, co-adjutor Bishop in Scotland.
Prayer for the Beatification of Bishop Challoner
'O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the blessed in thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in Heaven, for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Tomb of Bishop Richard Challoner in the chapel of  St Gregory and St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral.
Click on the links below for more detailed information on the life and times of Bishop Challoner  

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Satan is a liar and the father of lies

The world prefers to deny or ignore the reality of Satan, which is of course exactly what he wants. It really does seem to be the case that every month humanity sinks even deeper into the mire of materialism, secularism, and religious unbelief, to the temporal and eternal detriment of all mankind.  The world's leaders intimate that they have everything under control, and to a degree they possibly have as far as money, international trade, and scientific and technological development are concerned, and yet endless and savage warfare, misery and suffering, and death, combine to destroy hope and create despair for a huge number of  the world's peoples. The horrors and evil of such self-destruct policies as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, to mention but a few, coupled with a deliberate policy of brain-washing the young and impressionable by officially endorsed teaching of same-sex lifestyle, with parental  responsibilities being taken over by the State,  combine over time, to numb the spiritual sensibilities of so many people  initially opposed to such measures. Evil becomes common-place to the extent that it becomes quietly accepted, and over time taken for granted, and this is exactly what Satan wants. The following informative and instructive article, 'Four common tactics of the devil',  written by Mgr Charles Pope, on the 'Washington Diocese' blog,  deserves to be read as widely as possible.

 'Lucifer and the rebel angels being cast from heaven by St Michael the Archangel' - Gustave Dore (19th c)

Four Common Tactics of the Devil
By Monsignor Charles Pope

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in demonic possession.  Movies and books, along with human fears and fascinations, are largely the cause.  Although actual demonic possession is somewhat rare, it does occur. Each diocese ought to have an appointed exorcist to assess possession. This exorcist, with the permission of the bishop, should use the Rite of Major Exorcism when true and morally certain possession has been determined.

But because actual possession is quite rare, most of us should be looking out for the more common ways that the devil attacks us.  His usual tactics are more subtle and pervasive, and we ought not let the exotic distract us from the more commonplace.

One of the key elements in any contest is to understand the tactics of your opponent and to recognize the subtleties of his strategy. In the spiritual battle of life we need to develop some sophistication in recognizing, naming, and understanding the subtleties of the Devil’s common tactics.

A 2011 book by Fr. Louis Cameli, The Devil You Don’t Know, is of great assistance in this matter. Having read it a couple of years ago, I think it would be of value to reflect on four broad categories of the Devil’s tactics, which Fr. Cameli analyzes in his book.

While the four categories are Fr. Cameli’s, the reflections here are largely my own, though surely rooted in Fr. Cameli’s excellent work. I highly recommend reading the work, in which the categories are more fully described.


                                            'the devil is a liar and the father of lies'

 Here are four common tactics of the devil.  

I. Deception – Jesus says, The devil was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44).

The devil deceives us with many false and empty promises. Most of these relate to the lie that we will be happier and more fulfilled if we sin or deny aspects of the truth. Whatever passing pleasures come with sin, they are just that—passing. Great and accumulated suffering eventually comes from almost all sinful activity. Yet despite this experience, we humans remain very gullible; we seem to love empty promises and put all sorts of false hopes in them.

The devil also deceives us by suggesting all sorts of complexities, especially in our thinking. He seeks to confuse us and conceal the fundamental truth about our actions. Our minds are very wily and love to indulge complexity as a way of avoiding the truth and making excuses. So we, conniving with the devil, entertain endless complications by asking, “But what if this? And what about that?” Along with the devil, we project all sorts of possible difficulties, exceptions, or potential sob stories in order to avoid insisting that we or others behave well and live according to the truth.

The devil also seeks to deceive us with “word-smithing.” And thus the dismemberment and murder of a child through abortion becomes “reproductive freedom” or “choice.” Sodomy is called “gay” (a word that used to mean “happy”). Our luminous Faith and ancient wisdom are called “darkness” and “ignorance.” Fornication is called “cohabitation.” The redefinition of marriage as it has been known for millennia is labeled “marriage freedom” or “marriage equality.” And thus through exaggerations and outright false labeling, the devil deceives us. We too easily cooperate by calling “good,” or “no big deal,” what God calls sinful.

The devil also deceives us through sheer volume of information. Information is not the same as truth. Data can be assembled very craftily to make deceptive points. Further, certain facts and figures can be emphasized to the exclusion of other balancing truths. And thus even information that is true in itself can become a form of deception. The news media sometimes exercise their greatest power in what they do not report. And this, too, is a way that the devil brings deceptions upon us.

We do well to carefully assess the many ways Satan seeks to deceive us. Do not believe everything you think or hear. And while we ought not be cynical, we ought to be sober. We should seek to verify what we see and hear and square it with God’s revealed truth.

II. Division – One of Jesus’ final prayers for us was that we would be one (cf John 17:22). He prayed this at the Last Supper just before He went out to suffer and die for us. As such, He highlights that a chief aspect of his work on the cross is to overcome the divisions intensified by Satan. Some point out that the Greek root of the word “diabolical” (diabolein) means to cut, tear, or divide. Jesus prays and works to reunify what the devil divides.

The devil’s work of division starts within each one of us as we experience many contrary drives: some noble, creative, and edifying; others base, sinful, and destructive. So often we struggle internally and feel torn apart, much as Paul describes in Romans chapter 7: The good that I want to do, I do not do … and when I try to do good, evil is at hand. This is the work of the devil: to divide us within. And as St. Paul lays out in Romans 8, the chief work of the Lord is to establish within us the unity of soul and body, in accordance with the unity of His truth.

And of course the devil’s attack against our inner unity spills out into many divisions among us externally. So many things help drive this division and the devil surely taps into them all: anger, past hurts, resentments, fears, misunderstandings, greed, pride, and arrogance. There is also the impatience that we so easily develop regarding those we love, and the flawed notion that we should seek other more perfect and desirable people. And thus many abandon their marriages, families, churches, and communities, always in search of the elusive goal of finding better and more perfect people and situations.

Yes, the devil has a real field day tapping into a plethora of sinful drives within us. His goal is always to divide us, both internally, and from one another. We do well to recognize that regardless of our struggles with others, we all share a common enemy. As St Paul writes, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Feuding brothers will reconcile when there is a maniac at the door. But the first step is noticing the maniac, and then setting aside lesser divisions.

                  'The temptations of Christ' -  (fresco) Sandro Botticelli

 III. Diversion – To be diverted is to be turned away from our primary goal or task. And for all of us, the most critical focus is God and the good things waiting for us in Heaven. Our path is toward Heaven, along the path of faith, obedience to the truth, love of God, and love of neighbor. And thus the devil does all that he can to turn us away from our one true goal.

Perhaps he will do this by making us too absorbed in the passing things of the world. Many claim that they are too busy to pray, or go to Church, or seek other forms of spiritual nourishment.  They become absorbed in passing, worldly things and ignore the lasting reality that looms.

Anxieties and fears also distract us. Through these, the devil causes us to fixate on fears about passing things and fail to have the proper fear of the judgment that awaits us. Jesus says, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt 10:28). In other words, we should have a holy reverence and fear directed towards the Lord. In this way, many of our other fears will be seen in better perspective, or will even go away altogether. But in this matter of fear, the devil says just the opposite: we should be afraid of the thousands of things that might afflict us on this passing earth, and not think about the one most significant thing that awaits us—our judgment.

At the heart of all diversion is the fact that the devil wants us to focus on lesser things in order to avoid focusing on greater things such as a moral decisions and the overall direction of our life.
Once again, we must learn to focus on what matters most and refuse to allow our attention to be diverted to lesser things.

                          'The temptation of St Antony' - Lucas Van Leyden

IV. Discouragement – As human beings, and certainly as Christians, it is good to have high aspirations. But Satan often seeks to poison that which is good. For along with high aspirations we sometimes lack the humility to recognize that we must make a journey to what is good and best. Too easily, then, Satan tempts us to be impatient with ourselves or others. We sometimes expect to reach our aspirations in an unreasonably short amount of time and show a lack charity toward ourselves or others. Some grow discouraged with themselves or others and give up on the pursuit of holiness. Others give up on the church because of the imperfections found there.

The devil also discourages us with open-ended aspirations. The fact is, there is always room for improvement; we can always do more. But here the devil enters, for if we can always do more, then it is also possible to think that we’ve never done enough. And thus the devil discourages us, sowing unreasonable demands within us as to what we can or should do each day.

The devil also discourages us through simple things like fatigue, personal failings, setbacks, and other obstacles that are common to our human condition and to living in a fallen world with limited resources.

In all these ways the devil seeks to discourage us, to make us want to give up. Only a properly developed sense of humility can help to save us from these discouraging works of Satan. Humility, which is reverence for the truth about ourselves, teaches us that we grow and develop slowly, that we do have setbacks, and that we live in a world that is hard and far from perfect. Being humble and recognizing these things helps us to lean more on the Lord, and to trust in His providential help, which grows in us incrementally.

Here, then, are four common tactics of the devil. Learn to recognize and name them. In this way we can start to gain authority over them. Consider reading Fr. Louis Cameli’s book to learn more.

I have compiled here a list of demonic titles and descriptions from the Rite of Major Exorcism that refer to some of these tactics of the Father of Lies. You can view it here: Titles of Satan from the Rite.

                                               Immaculate Conception (c 1628)
 'She shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel' (Gen.3:15)

 With ack. and thanks to Mgr Charles Pope - 'Community in Mission' website, a.k.a.  'Archdiocese of Washington'.
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