(Note: the material below is just one retreat that Paul has written and led — for either youth or adults — numerous times.)
“Be self-controlled and alert!
Your enemy the Devil
prowls around like a roaring lion,
looking for someone to devour.” St. Peter *
“Weapons of the Spirit”
The Enemy is real and ruthless.
His strategy is deceitful and deadly.
The battleground is your heart and mind.
But, you are not alone, and you are not defenseless!
This booklet belongs to _________________________________________________
*(I Peter 5:8)
Intro: The “Unholy Trio”
Because of the Fall, we… suffer the impact of Original Sin, which darkens our minds, weakens our wills, and inclines us to sin. The devil, the evil in the world around us, and the sinful desires of our own flesh, all combine to create an “unholy trio” against which we must engage in daily spiritual battle.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks clearly of this “hard battle”:
405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. …
407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.298 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action299 and morals.
408 The consequences of original sin and of all men’s personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John’s expression, “the sin of the world”.300 This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men’s sins.301
409 This dramatic situation of “the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one”302 makes man’s life a battle:
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. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right,
and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.303
295 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513 298 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14. 299 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25. 300 Jn. 1:29.
301 Cf. John Paul II, RP 16. 302 1 Jn 5:19; cf. 1 Pet 5:8. 303 GS 37 § 2.
. . . .
Sacred Scripture teaches these things clearly as well. While the phrase, “the Devil, the world, and our flesh” may not appear as such, (just as the word “Trinity” does not appear), the truth of the presence of this “unholy trio” in our lives is witnessed to again and again in the pages of Sacred Scripture… and, undeniably, in our own lives.
Read and reflect on the following verses… which member of the “unholy trio” does each one warn us against?
1st Peter 2:11 James 4:1 & 4:4 & 4:7-10
1st Peter 5:8 Gal. 5:16-17
1st John 2:15 – 16 Eph. 6:12
James 1:14-15 2nd Tim. 2:24-26
2nd Tim. 3:9-10 Matt. 16:21-23
How does our traditional three-part Lenten discipline address each member of the trio?
Session One: “Know Your Enemy!”
Millions of people think that Satan, (aka, “the devil”), is a figment of human imagination; a non-existent being akin to orcs, goblins, and elves. They are mistaken. Holy Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, clearly teaches that Satan does exist. One has only to read the daily papers, or watch the evening news, to know that Satan exists and is as active today as he ever was in the past. Of all the enemies the human race has – especially those members of the human race who are part of the Church, the Body of Christ – this Enemy is the most dangerous.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church leaves no doubt about the truth of the existence of Satan, and of his works, and of his ways:
391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”268
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.”270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.271
266 Cf. Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24. 267 Cf Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9. 268 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800. 269 Cf. 2 Pet 2:4. 270 Gen 3:5. 271 1 Jn 3:8; Jn 8:44.
The name Satan means _______________________ (“devil” means __________________________)
When this word is used as a proper noun, it describes the chief of the fallen spirits, the most malevolent adversary of God and man, (Jn 1:6, 12; 2:1; Zech. 3:1), hostile to everything good or pure.
His Aliases & Titles:
Matt. 12:24 “B_____________________” (means ______________________________________)*
John 8:44 (two) “a murderer” and the “F___________________________________________”
John 14:30 “the _________________________________________________________________”
2 Cor. 4:4 “the ____________________________of this world”
2 Cor. 6:15 “Belial” (In common use, a Hebrew word for “ __________________________” )
Eph 2:2 “the P________________________________________________________________”
Rev. 9:11 (two names)
“A_________________________” (means ______________________________)
“A_________________________” (means ______________________________)
(This passage also refers to him as “the angel of ___________________________” )
Rev. 12:10 “A __________________________________________________ “
Rev. 20:2 “the D_________________, the A______________________________”
Nowhere does Holy Scripture specifically explain the origin of Satan, but two passages that biblical scholars often point two as possible “poetic” descriptions are: Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 29:12-19 (Look up both passages, read them together. What words or phrases suggest to you that the prophets are talking to someone “beyond” the person they are addressing?)
If these passages do disclose something to us about the origin of Satan, what do you “sense” might have happened? What was the root of his sin?
Satan is a real, spiritual, being – a “person” in the same way the Holy Spirit is a “person.” Sacred Scripture teaches that he has:
1. (2 Cor 11:3) _____________________________;
2. (2 Tim 2:26) _____________________________; and,
3. (Rev. 12:10) _____________________________.
Furthermore, he is treated by God as a morally responsible being, not an impersonal power or thing, who of his own “free will” chose to rebel against God, and will suffer the due punishment. (Matt. 25:41, see also CCC par. 392-393)
Satan is totally obsessed with hatred for the Almighty and all things holy and good. He never tires of trying to get others join him in his rebellion against the authority of the Almighty God, the Holy One. By his deceit, he lured Adam and Eve into sin against God, thereby stealing their innocence from them, and making them – and all their descendents – his slaves. Every redeemed child of God who has confessed faith in Christ, all who have been baptized in the name of the Triune God, marked with the Cross and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, have been released from his dominion (Col. 1:13) – and have entered the battle against him. (cf. Liturgy for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism)
Satan’s battle-plan is simple, but deadly:
1. To lure people into sin (Genesis 3:1-12), and make them his slaves ( John 8:34).
2. To oppose, hinder, and counterfeit the plan of God. (Daniel 10:10-14; Rev. 13:1-10)
3. To blind the minds of unbelievers, and snatch the Word of God from their heart. (2 Cor. 4:4; Luke 18:2)
4. To deceive and destroy believers, (2 Cor. 11:14; I Pet 5:8), tempting them to sin and to shipwreck their faith. (Acts 5:3; Heb 3:12-13; 2nd Tim. 4:9-10a; 1st Tim 1:18,19)
BUT… and this is crucial to remember: “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”275 “ (CCC 395) 275 Rom 8:28.
His Ultimate End
Though he is a spiritual being of enormous power, cunning, and wrath, the Devil is NOT equal with God. He is not invincible. He can be - and, in fact, has been – defeated, and faces eternal punishment.
1. Judgment pronounced in Eden (Gen. 3:14-15)
2. Judgment prophesied by Christ ( Luke 10:18)
3. Judgment sealed at the Cross (John 12:31,32)
4. Cast into the Lake of Fire at the end of time. (Rev. 20:10)
Session Two: “Know Your Weakness” (Anatomy of Temptation)
(“I can resist anything, except temptation” Mark Twain)
How does temptation work on us?
WHY does temptation work on us?
What’s the difference between temptation and sin?
Why do I seem to give in to the same temptation over and over?!
There are a LOT of questions we have about temptation and sin – questions that will help us understand how to be ready to meet temptations when they confront us. A quick survey of several passages of Holy Scripture should help to answer these questions?
How does James describe the way temptation works? (James 1:12-15) How would you describe that in your own words?
How does God describe temptation to Cain? (Gen 4:7) What was Cain’s first sin (in this account)?
How would you define the sin of David? (2nd Sam 11:1-5) What was David’s first “mistake”?
What was the temptation for Gehazi? (2nd Kings 5:1-27)
How does the Apostle John describe these three types of temptation? (I John 2:15,16) In which of these areas do you most often feel tempted?
Compare Genesis chapter 3, (“the Fall”), which the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, as recorded by St. Matthew (4:1-11). What do you see?
Area of Temptation
Adam & Eve
“The beginning of all evil temptation lies in a flighty mind and insufficient trust in God… Temptation, at first, is but a simple thought in the mind; the imagination then embellishes it and it takes on the appearance of something quite desirable; then follows a powerful attraction and finally the will’s consent.” (The Imitation of Christ, Bk 1, Ch 13, para 5)
“It is not according to man’s nature to bear the cross and love it, to chastise the body and bring it into subjection, to avoid honors and suffer insults. It is not man’s nature to despise one’s self and to wish to be despised, to endure opposition and failure, or to desire no prosperity whatsoever in this world.
If you take a look at yourself, you will realize you have none of these, but if you put your trust in the Lord, He will send you strength from heaven, empowering you to subject the world and the flesh to your holy desires. Nor will you fear the devil, your enemy, as long as you are dressed in the armor of faith, and are signed with the cross of Christ.” (The Imitation of Christ, Bk 2, Ch 12, para 9)
Read, slowly, several times, Romans 6:1-14. What principles, what eternal truths regarding sin and temptation, are you struck by as you read? Put them down in writing.
Read, and write out, LEGIBLY, 1st Corinthians 10:13 on the 3×5 card provided; on the top line write “Promise of Escape from Temptation.” Read it to yourself, three times, quietly. Begin to memorize this verse in preparation for next week.
Session Four: “Know Your Weapons!” (Arsenal of the Spirit)
St. Paul gives us an insight into both the source of, and the resources for, the spiritual battle we find ourselves fighting daily, when he exhorts the Christians in Ephesus, (and the Christians in Raleigh!):
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 righteous-ness, 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… (Eph. 6:10-18)
First: Whose strength we are called to rely on? St. Paul writes in Romans (13:14), “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In putting on Christ, and the new man in Him, we put on the “whole armor of God.” Let us learn to make the Sign of the Cross thoughtfully, intentionally, devotionally – as if we are “suiting up” for the battle of the day.
Believers have once for all overcome him; but on the ground of this fundamental victory gained over him, they are ever again to fight against and overcome him, even as they who once die with Christ have continually to mortify their members upon earth (Ro 6:2-14; Col 3:3, 5).
Second: How does this armor apply to us spiritually? How does it help us to be armed and ready to meet and defeat the “unholy trio”?
a. “belt of truth…”
When a Roman soldier began to dress himself in his armor, the first piece he put on was the belt. The belt was crucial, because all the other pieces of armor were attached to it. Truth is that revelation of God, found in Christ, and known in the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, rightly proclaimed and protected through the living voice of the Magisterium. But it is not enough to KNOW, the truth, we must LIVE it as well:“If we say we have fellowship with Him, while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.” 1st John 1:6
b. “breastplate of righteousness…”
The breastplate – hinged at the shoulders and attached front and rear to the belt – was a crucial piece of defensive armor, for it covered the heart and other vital organs. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness helps one to withstand the devil’s tricks and deceptions. It guards ones heart from self-deception. The breastplate is “put on” by a daily examination of conscience, and frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance.
c. “as shoes… the readiness given by the gospel of peace,”
Roman soldiers wore a very special kind of footwear, a cleated sandal which provided them protection for long marches, and firm footing for battle. Part of our defense is being always ready for duty, fulfilling our mission by having a zeal for spreading the ‘Good News” of salvation, of peace with God, and helping others come to the knowledge of the Truth, and the fullness of the Faith. “And on your feet let active readiness to well-doing appear, and a
journeying to righteousness.” (Clement of Alexandria)
d. “the shield of faith”
The shield carried by a Roman soldier was curved to fit around the body and large enough to shield the entire body. Most shields were made either of plywood, in two or three layers, laid at 90° to each other, or planks, butted together at the edge. They were usually covered with a layer of leather. Faith is OUR shield; it needs to be strong, and as large as we are, to protect us from head to foot. When we let down our shield, when we waver in faith, then we become vulnerable to the flaming missiles of the Enemy, the lies and doubts and accusations and temptations of Satan. Daily prayer, seeking God’s provision for our needs, God’s strength for our trials, will keep our shield up.
e. “helmet of salvation… “
While a soldier might survive a broken arm or a few fractured ribs, an injured head can debilitate his movements. A particularly hard blow to the head can immobilize him. The Helmet of Salvation is the hope of salvation; the hope of salvation from Hell, and more importantly, salvation from sin. The importance of hope can be seen in our daily lives. A working man will put all his energies into his job in the hope that his efforts will be noticed and result in material and other rewards. Should he lose his job, it is the hope that he will get a better one that will sustain him. Take away his hope of gaining profitable employment and you would have effectively incapacitated him. He will sit at home and despair. Take away his hope in life, itself, and you would have destroyed him completely. “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on … the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8) “…The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, ….” 2 Corinthians 10:4 – 6
f. “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God…”
Every other piece of equipment the soldier wears or carries is “defensive” – it protects him, but it doesn’t provide him anything with which to attack. The sword, however is both a defensive and an offensive weapon. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God – His complete revelation in Christ, which comes to us in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Bible is a CATHOLIC book… but most of our Bibles are lying around “rusty. Yet a firm grip on the promises of God found in Scripture would allow us to take the battle to the Enemy, and win the victory over the “unholy trio.” “…He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that THROUGH THESE you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3) Our battle cry should be: “NO RUSTY SWORDS!!”
g. “with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance…”
One of the most vital components of any war is maintaining constant communication with Command HQ. Not only does this communication allow you to request reinforcements should you need it, you have constant access to instructions on what you are required to do in a particular situation, and access to vital intelligence. It is no different in our spiritual battle, where prayer serves as our communication link with God, and keeping the lines static free—having no unrepented sin on our conscience—ensures for more effective communication. Most spiritual battles are won with prayer; the battle “on the ground” will only be won with sufficient “air cover.” “Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation…” Matt. 26:41
Key Scriptures for “the battle”
Lust of the Flesh: Rom. 6:12-14; Rom 12:2; Rom. 13:11-14; 1st Cor. 6:18-20; Gal. 5:24-25; 1st Peter 2:11
Lust of the Eyes: Matt. 6:19-21; Matt 16:24-26; Matt. 19:23-24; Luke 12 32-34; Phil. 3:8-11; Heb. 13:5
Pride of Life: Matt. 7:1-5; Matt. 20:26-28; Luke 14:11; Romans 12:1; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; James 4:6- 7
Key prayers for “the battle”
Litany of Humility
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart; Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved …
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
T hat others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should;
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen
The “Jesus Prayer”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
The “Fatima Prayer”
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to heaven,
especially those in most need of salvation.
Petitions of St. Augustine
O Lord Jesus, let me know myself, let me know Thee,
And desire nothing else but Thee.
Let me hate myself, and love Thee,
And do all things for the sake of Thee.
Let me humble myself, and exalt Thee.
And think of nothing else but Thee.
Let me die to myself, and live in Thee,
And accept whatever happens as coming from Thee.
Let me forsake myself, and walk after Thee,
And ever desire to follow Thee.
Let me flee from myself, and turn to Thee,
That so I may deserve to be defended by Thee.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,
And be amongst those who are chosen by Thee.
Let me distrust myself, and trust in Thee,
And will to obey for the love of Thee.
Let me cleave to nothing but only to Thee.
And be poor for the sake of Thee.
Look upon me, that I may love Thee.
Call me, that I may see Thee,
And forever possess Thee. Amen.
(a partial indulgence)
Miraculous Medal Prayer
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
“GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!”…“IT IS WRITTEN…”
You cannot be half a saint.
You must be a whole saint, or no saint at all.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Prayer for Purity
Lord, set aflame my heart and my entire being with the fire of the Holy Spirit,
that I may serve you with chaste body and pure mind.
Session Four: “Plan Your Warefare” (The Battle for Holiness)
The key the any battle lies in having superior strength of arms, and a carefully laid battleplan.
As Christians, the first key to victory in the spiritual battle is the recognition of our complete inability to wage warfare in our own strength: “I will rather boast of my weaknesses, for when I am weak, THEN am I strong.” (“Be strong IN THE LORD and in the strength of HIS might.”) So, the first step in the battle for holiness is to admit our complete powerlessness, and our total dependency on God.
Second, and closely related to the first, is the understanding that the strength which God gives us has a specific name: GRACE. We are told in Sacred Scripture that, “God opposes the proud, but gives GRACE to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you up in due time.” The second step in preparing for battle is disposing yourself to receive grace through the means of grace, primarily in the sacraments of Penance, and the Holy Eucharist. “Sacramentals” are also important means of tn the battle. (What “sacramentals” are readily available to anyone?)
In the book, “Spiritual Combat”, Lorenzo Scupoli (1530-1610) outlines that the first two steps in the battle for holiness are: 1. Distrust yourself; 2. Trust God. Beyond that, he encourages us to: 3. Use trustworthy spiritual exercises; 4. Pray; and, 5. Rely on the Eucharist.
Now, we come to the battle plan. As everyone’s battle is personal, everyone will need a personal battle-plan. Let me suggest this as a way to create one.
Passage: (What passage of Sacred Scripture…
Principle: …contains a teaching or admonition or exhortation…
Problem: …points to a problem in your spiritual life, a battle for which…
Plan: …you need a battle plan – a specific, concrete, DAILY battle plan…
Progress: …which you are going to share with someone who will hold you accountable,
on least A WEEKLY BASIS.)
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it… They do it to receive a perishable wreath (“crown”), but we an imperishable.” 1st Cor. 9:24, 25
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness…” Ephesians 6:12