“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. During interludes of calm, I exercise myself and keep watch, lest the enemy find me unprepared. And when I see his great fury, I stay inside the stronghold; that is, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
Many of us will identify these words of Saint Faustina in her Diary. Throughout life, we fight a continuous war on the spiritual plane – against ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, as it has often been said and written. I think we sometimes imagine that as we grow older, the battles will ease to some degree – however, experience then reveals to us that this is usually not the case at all; we must continue to fight, for the war goes on. And none of us are exempted from this warfare, even though many have no idea that it is even taking place.
The Church, thankfully, has a very clear perception of the reality of what is taking place all around us, and she constantly reminds us of this – at the proclamation of every Gospel, and in the celebration of every Sacrament. Saint Peter tells us –
“be sober and vigilant. Your opponent, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion.. resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings” (1 Pet. 5: 8-9).
The Saints, too, have continuously counselled us to be watchful and on our guard, noting that we will all be subject to temptations of one sort or another. In the Spring of 1914, a spiritual daughter of Saint Pio wrote to the holy friar telling him of her spiritual battles and temptations, asking his advice and assistance. In his written reply, he wrote –
“I am moved spontaneously to ask the Lord to command the enemy to desist somewhat from his fierce attack, or else to redouble your strength and enable you to endure the struggle with gracious resignation to His most holy will. But while I am thus grieved and pray, I also feel a spiritual joy on account of Jesus’ very particular love for you. The storm that rages around you and perturbs you is certainly a proof of this love. Don’t think this is just my own personal conviction; it is God himself who tells us that temptation is a proof of the soul’s union with Him: My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation. (Sir 2:1).”
Whilst the Saints remind us that the battle is real, they remind us even more so that we have the armoury we require to fight the good fight – prayer; the Sacraments; the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and the Saints; and the inescapable love of God, manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ, and especially in His Sacred Heart.
As long as our life lasts, whether short or long, may we have confidence in the goodness of God that He will grant us every necessary grace; and that in those times when we might fall, the mercy of God always seeks to embrace us anew.