Catholic Legacy Society gathering features talk on spiritual warfare
By Linda Oppelt
COLORADO SPRINGS. At the annual Catholic Legacy Society Luncheon on Oct. 26, attendees heard from Jessica Navin, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Spiritual Formation Coordinator. Navin’s topic, spiritual warfare, focused mainly on the spiritual journey of each individual rather than on a larger, cosmic perspective.
Navin presented a concise description of the various ways that spiritual warfare happens in the lives of individuals, and some ways to combat that warfare. Navin defined spiritual warfare as “our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
Navin pointed out that the battle is ultimately about our faith and our greater spiritual journey, and that it is a common, everyday occurrence. “Jesus wants us to understand the ways the demons wage war against us, so that we can fight back,” she said.
Navin outlined some of the typical tactics used by evil spirits in our lives.
The goal of evil spirits, according to Navin, is to shake our trust — so that we no longer “believe God is who he says his is, and who God says you are, and the promises God has made you.”
Even when totally natural occurrences, such as a flat tire, may happen to us, spiritual warfare may cause us eventually to believe that such bad things happen because God doesn’t really care. It may cause us to turn away from God because “he lets bad things happen to me.”
Jesus allows certain bad things to happen to us sometimes for our greater long-term good. Navin recommends reflecting on the question to Jesus, “How are you using this [bad thing] in my life . . . how is this part of my greater spiritual journey?”
Some of the tactics of evil spirits involve having some influence on our human faculties, including our imagination, memory, emotions, reasoning, and perception.
One’s imagination can be influenced when even well-intentioned actions lead us to begin having thoughts of vanity, where we can see ourselves becoming important due to our excellence. Vanity, according to Navin, can “turn us from serving the Lord to serving ourselves.” An example was of a monk who daydreamed about praying for people who would then be miraculously healed, resulting in his popularity.
The negative spiritual influence on memory can happen in multiple ways. It can rewind past sins, making you reluctant to start a new ministry, for example, because the sin can never be forgotten, according to the demons. In your head you hear, “you shouldn’t try to pursue such holy things” implying that you are not good enough due to those past sins.
Another demonic influence on memory concerns when you have experienced a past hurt or wrong done against you, but even if you have genuinely forgiven the person responsible, the memory is brought up again and again, and “tempts you to remain locked in a state of unforgiveness.”
Emotions are another faculty where demonic influence can lead to an intensification of what may be natural human emotion. Anger may be turned to rage; or feeling blue to deep depression.
“The demons try to kick you when you’re down, try to tempt you in those moments” where emotions are getting the best of us, she said. Navin suggests seeking the help of our guardian angels to influence us for good at times like this.
In the faculty of reasoning, the ability to recognize truth comes into play. Navin pointed out that “the more a person sins, the more their intellect is darkened, so they can’t recognize the truth.” Truth is Jesus Christ, and what he has proclaimed. Navin recommends praying for our loved ones who have turned away from Church to receive the gift of faith, and “to ask Jesus to deliver them from any evil spirits that might be influencing their reasoning faculties.”
Another tactic of evil spirits is to use subtle obstacles to keep us from doing the good that we intend — something as simple as the urge to pray. Other things may pop into our minds that seem to have a higher priority, causing us to put off prayer until later, and later, and finally not doing it at all.
In the category of perception, the goal is to cause conflict and disunity, especially between two people. Navin used the example of a husband and wife where one plans a good deed for the other, and innocently asks a question but the spouse perceives the question as an accusation and reacts with suspicion, causing a rift.
Navin suggests three different ways to fight back against spiritual attacks.
One is to know your weakness. Examine yourself honestly, praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance, so that you become aware of where you need to grow in virtue, and where you may be doubting God’s word.
Second, she recommends revealing temptations to a spiritual director or confessor.
“They can help us make a plan of action so that we can resist those temptations,” she said. Also, sometimes merely speaking aloud the temptation causes it to lose strength.
Finally, Navin says to fight back with truth using Scripture passages, as Jesus did in the desert. Memorize some key verses that offset temptations that can be called to mind whenever they arise.
Navin concluded that “in spiritual warfare, Jesus wants us to fight, and to fight bravely.”
(Linda Oppelt is administrative assistant for The Colorado Catholic Herald.)