We are in a time full of possibilities for both light and darkness.
Which demon frightens you the most? The demon that haunts my dreams the most these days is political violence. I see its blood and fire building up, about to burst upon America where I live, and upon Europe, the cradle of Western civilization.
What’s a demon? It’s a terrible, dark power, opposed to God and creation—cunning, relentless, insatiable. Saint Peter describes the dark power as “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Pope Leo XIII instructed Catholics to pray to Saint Michael the Archangel against the dark power that seeks “the ruin of souls.”
And how have we responded? Since Adam and Eve, we’ve listened to the seductive lies of the serpent. Trusting our wisdom and doubting God’s, we try to cut a deal with darkness, to use just a little bit of it, to get what we tell ourselves we need, want and deserve. Turning the spigot, we open ourselves to the dark, sure that we can contain the great flood we’ve released. We’re all familiar with that story; we know it never ends well. Yet again and again we start the flood, telling ourselves, “This time it will be different.”
Stefan Molyneux offers a terrifying meditation on the demon of political violence that’s being let loose in America:
“When someone comes to you with an argument, and you respond with… sarcasm, you waken the demon.
When someone comes to you with an argument, and you respond with abuse, you call the demon.
When someone comes to you with an argument, and you respond with rage, you summon the demon.
When someone comes to you with an argument, and you respond with violence, you are the demon.”
Not long after that speech, rioters at UC Berkeley beat strangers, smashed windows and set fires, while shouting “Down with fascism” to prevent a speaker they disagreed with from speaking on campus. Molyneux exhorts us to “subjugate will to reason and evidence” in order to contain the demon of political violence. That exhortation has been failing since the trial and death of Socrates. Why?
The Catholic Church knows something about human nature that apparently escapes the likes of Molyneux and Socrates. The Church, illumined by Christ, knows that the human will is weakened by sin, and cannot consistently choose the good, the true and the beautiful apart from the life of sanctifying grace. The Church knows that the only way to exorcise the demon of political violence from our hearts (and be sure, that’s how evil enters the world, through the human heart—Matthew 15:9) is through repentance, firm purpose of amendment, and being conformed to Christ through the Gospel and the sacraments.
We’ve seen so often those who misunderstand what the Church can offer the fallen world. Some ask the Church to respond to the demon of political violence with calls for “dialogue.” What those misguided folks mean, apparently, is that the Church must sit at a round table, one equal among many, and “dialogue” about human needs and flourishing, as if She did not already know what God intends for human life, and what God provides for human life through the Church alone.
The only honest and fruitful dialogue in which the Church can engage is that of Mother and child, teacher and pupil. Christ has already entrusted to the Church He founded all that we need to know and do in order to live well in this life and enter well into eternal life. It does no one any good to ask the Church to engage in a pseudo-dialogue about how to triumph over the powers of darkness, while ignoring Her God-given storehouse of wisdom and treasury of grace.
We are in a time full of possibilities for both light and darkness. This year is the centenary of Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima; Lent is right around the corner; Western civilization is at a crossroads, if not a tipping point. What are we to do?
Business-as-usual, a life without significant change in mind, heart and practice, can’t be enough. Let’s start with a profound examination of conscience, followed by Confession. Let’s ask, “What in my life do I place above Christ?” Let’s ask, “What daily sacrifice can I undertake in reparation for the sins of the world against the Divine goodness?” Let’s commit to daily Rosary and frequent Eucharistic adoration. Ask Saint Michael to help you wage war against a specific sin you’ve tolerated for too long. Ask your patron saint to help you acquire a specific virtue. Do the duties of your state in life with great love—whether you feel like it or not. And let’s pray that good shepherds will guard and feed their flocks as the wolves tighten their circle around us.
When I write next, I will reflect on Jesus’s exhortation to “turn the other cheek.” Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has taught and lectured in North and Central America, Europe and Asia and is known for his classes in both rhetoric and medical ethics. He has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry and religious formation and is a member of the National Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association. His book on preaching, “I Have Someone to Tell You: A Jesuit Heralds the Gospel” is now available at Amazon in both paperback and electronic form.