Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on how we as Catholic Dads can arm our kids against the World and the Flesh. This week, we come to the true enemy: the devil.

For some reason, we hear very little of the devil these days. It is almost as though we have grown out of believing in such superstitious things. Such an attitude is a profound mistake.

Even from the most superficial reading of the Gospels, it is clear that Our Lord believed in the devil and indeed saw him as the enemy whom He had to overcome. Furthermore the constant witness of the Church, both in its teaching and the lives of the saints, and more recently, the Catechism, attests to the reality of the devil. And I believe it is important for many reasons that our kids understand this reality.

One reason is that without understanding the reality of the devil, it is hard both to appreciate the full wonder of salvation, and to recognise the nature of the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves.

To take the simplest example, it is a common experience (in my family, at least) to find that immediately after confession, one or other of us is nearly always provoked in some way to lose his temper, get cross with someone else or similar… Why is that? My view is that precisely because we have been to confession, the devil makes a fresh attack, desperate to undermine the grace received. If we understand that, we are fore-armed and better placed to resist such attacks.

So what do we know about the devil? First, that his intelligence and power are of the angelic order. Like all things he was created good, and was a powerful angel, but he refused to serve, and was corrupted. We also know that there is no truth in him, and that he hates all that God loves. For this reason, some of the primary targets of his hatred are life and love.

That explains the constant attack on the unborn in a culture that has abandoned God: it allows the devil to strike both at human life at the earliest stage, and at humanity’s power to procreate through love.

It also explains his unrelenting attack on marriage, striving to corrupt that sacrament which is concerned first and foremost with sanctifying love and generating new life.  That puts us in the firing line, as Catholic Dads.

And our kids need to know this. They need to know why the culture wars around abortion are so fiercely contested and so important. They need to know that the minute they commit themselves to another for life, both of them will be under attack, just as they are after going to confession, and for similar reasons.

They need to know that the devil is too powerful for them to fight alone, and that to try to do so is pride and folly.  They need to know that the devil is the correct target for our ange and our hatred.  And above all, they need to know that all the help that they will ever need is only a prayer away.

For one of the reasons that people talk less about the devil these days is a concern that it may lead to people being frightened. But the correct solution to that is not to keep people in ignorance (a strategy that plays straight into the devil’s hands) but rather to educate them.

For while the devil is intelligent and powerful, he is not all-intelligent or all-powerful. He is the opposite of St Michael, not of God. And St Michael has already thrown him out of Heaven; and our God has completely vanquished him on Calvary.

That is what our kids need to understand. Yes, we are in the middle of a spiritual battle with a fearsome adversary. Yes, we need to arm and forewarn ourselves, and recognise his preferred times and patterns of attack. But above all, we know the war has been won, that Christ is victorious, and that these are just the last skirmishes. They may be deadly for us, but only if we refuse to ask for and accept Christ’s help.

That explains the importance of a sacramental life, a life of grace: that is the spiritual armour the Church provides.  It explains the need for an active prayer life, so that we are never caught all alone…

One of my favourite prayers in this regard is the prayer to St Michael, which I give here in the English translation (which I find more robust than the American):

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, prince of the heavenly host. by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

More powerful even than that is the Our Father; and more powerful than that is the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

So that’s this week’s challenge: how do we help our kids to recognise and understand the reality of the spiritual battle, in ways which encourage them both to prepare themselves, but above all to rely on Christ’s saving power to defend them in the day of battle?

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