Friday, April 11, 2008

Bp. Vasa: Battling the Devil

Bp. Vasa has a reflection on battling evil in his weekly column which is very insightful.

The drive, which by the way is not by far my favorite drive, gave me an opportunity to listen to several more hours of presentations on Deliverance or Healing Ministry. I found the theological presentations to be extremely well balanced and carefully worded. I found the tone of the questions to be genuinely and openly inquisitive. It was, or so it appeared to me, a gathering of folks devoted to combating evil and yet extremely cognizant of the need to do so, not in opposition to the Church, but rather in full cooperation with Her. There appeared to be only a very slight hint of tension when a distinction was drawn between what the laity had been doing in the area of Deliverance Ministry and what the official “Church” had apparently not been doing. It was noted that there were only four bishops at the Conference and, while attendees found this most encouraging, the small number seemed to be indicative of the reluctance, on the part of the official “Church,” to give a full stamp of approval to all that has been taking place. I think the Conference, which was largely educative in nature, very successfully brought a solid theological foundation to the deliverance experiences of priests and laity. At the same time the deliverance experiences of the priests and laity were given significant validation.

The Church officials, who spoke from both a theological and experiential base, were very effective in pointing out the spiritual dangers inherent in engaging in a deliverance ministry without adequate preparation, training and most especially official approbation by the Church. These theologians spoke about the devil with a bit of deference but without fear. In general, the theme was that we do not want to engage the devil in direct battle without the full faith and credit of the Catholic Church behind us. The distinction between what every baptized person can and should do and what the Church does officially is very important. For instance, it is perfectly legitimate and encouraged for everyone to pray for a deliverance from evil. We do this daily in the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil. Amen” We do the same when we say that powerful Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Power of God - thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.” Notice that both of these involve an invocation either to God directly or to the Archangel to intervene on our behalf. This is significantly different from the kind of declaration which implies that the person speaking is the chosen or appointed instrument of God. For example: “I adjure you by the living God to depart from this place or person and never return” or “I bind you in the Name of Jesus” or “I command you in the Name of Jesus.” The Conference presenters spoke repeatedly about the need to be very careful in the use of language. If the person using the language of direct deliverance has not, in fact, been appointed in an official act of the Church then the “appointment” is either presumed to have come directly from God (which then implicitly calls into question the nature of the authority given to the Church) or the person is ‘self appointed” or “self anointed” which can be nothing other than the prelude to anarchy.

In addition to the theological discussions there were also very challenging spiritual presentations. One, in particular, captured my attention. The presenter delved into the topic of addictions and “sins of thought.” She specifically mentioned the harboring of angry, jealous, envious, or resentful thoughts. In this regard I thought again of Pope Benedict’s Encyclical. He quotes the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh (d. 1857): “I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is for ever (Ps 136). The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind - shackles, iron chains, manacles - are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone - Christ is with me.” (Spe Salvi, 37) He certainly had reason to complain, to impugn his captors, to deride them and criticize them but he seemed to know that those things would be from the devil and he chose to listen to God instead. I think he has a lot to teach us.

Bishop Robert Vasa, Catholic Sentinel online edition, April 11, 2008

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  1. Good quote on sins of thought - anger, resentment, et al. Now where have I heard that before??

    We have people in our parish who have declared themselves to be privy to all sorts of gifts such as healing and tongues. I am very suspicious of this sort of stuff and find it very worrisome.

  2. Isn't it wonderful to listen to a shepherd teaching? I just love it. It gives the grace of reassurance and peace to the sheep. I think Bp Vasa must be a mighty man from all I read about him. His flock is very lucky.