The Angels and The Struggle for Souls

Saint Michael by Rafael.

"Upon the reception of this letter and as henceforth every year, at church on the Sunday after Saint Michael’s feast day, you are asked to preach on the Holy Angels and on their help against the devils, and afterwards outside, in as solemn a manner as possible, to do the Exorcism of Leo XIII, inserted in the first appendix of the Ritual."

With these words, the great missionary and bishop, Alain de Boismenu, was concluding his Pastoral Letter, on September 29, 1922, on the feast day of Saint Michael.

Satan exists and he fights against us

Be sober and watch: Because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.

The danger must be great and continual if, every night, the Church feels obliged to warn all her priests and throughout the whole world to pass through them this motto of her first Pope, to which after mass, we answer by exorcizing the world of roaming devils.

The devilish peril is indeed enormous. Satan, the personal enemy of Jesus-Christ, is also ours, thanks be to God! With Christ, we are hated; and Satan’s rage, against the Redemption, is fiercely aimed at us who continue it.

It is a hard combat, and we are the ones who are at its head. So, we have to accept this and to skillfully and vigorously fight it. Woe to us, if we were ever to fail to recognize our enemy and his strength!

Certainly, the final victory is already assured; we battle for God. But in the midst of our struggle, how many souls does the opponent kill, how many slaves does he not make! The whole goal of his war is this: depopulate the kingdom of God to populate his own kingdom.

For there are really two kingdoms that divide the whole world and that rival the souls; two armies that are always and violently at war: the army of Jesus-Christ, the Church, fervently trying to rescue the souls; and the army of Satan, furiously trying to lose them.

It is an unremitting and merciless war. Many are indifferent to it; many only see it as fictive. Yet, it is very real. It is the invisible background of the world’s history, till the end of time.

Firstly, we must firmly believe in this terrible reality.

Holy Scripture and the Faith confirm it. It inspires almost all the prayers of the Church and fills her life, the life of saints and also our lives, as Christians and Apostles, with struggles.

We must adopt the keen feeling of this war and recognize who leads it, what are its troops and its means of attack.

Also very real and very much alive is the character of Lucifer. We know his history. His loss of the supernatural world deprived him of the magnificent dominion that the perfection of his nature was giving to him over inferior creatures. Whence came his implacable hatred against God, his jealousy against super-naturalized faithful, his rage to regain them and thereby take revenge on God, in depriving Him of the accidental glory that His elects procure for Him.

Satan now lives on this rage. He has only one means to satisfy it: to deprive men of the supernatural and to bring them back to the natural level, where his superior nature reassumes his advantages and his dominion.

Many devils infest our world

In order to do this, he has his legions of devils. Thrown into our world, they inhabit and infest it; they meddle with our lives and, without respite, infernally assault us. What power they use against us! Although degraded, their nature nevertheless remains angelic and much superior to ours. And they thoroughly know of what we are made. And for our merit and His glory they use the power which God has granted them to play with us.

They act upon our senses and influence our imagination, they intoxicate our intelligence with pride and put it into a panic; they distribute exactly the right favors or sufferings which each one needs to sin more easily, affecting those who are just, gratifying those who are evil, always with the goal of alienating souls from the supernatural world.

How well Satan has succeeded with the civilized world! See how he has restricted the role of the supernatural in their lives. He holds them firmly imprisoned. Humanity becomes purely human again; it has quickly returned to his obedience to him. Whether worshiped or denied, whatever is most according to his best interests, this old murderer efficaciously leads humanity to its ruin.

In this case, do believe it; the enemy does not sleep either. A strong diabolical battalion attacks our people and penetrates all our apostolic works.

Concerning our pagans, his effort consists in maintaining them in their paganism. Ordinarily, for this, it is enough to keep them inclined toward the earth, buried in their material and moral misfortunes, firmly caught up in the system of ancient customs that absorb their life: a tight net that very effectively isolates them from Christian influence. The low statistics of our catechumens proves this.

But the devils works are not limited to this. Sometimes the demons manifest themselves to surely lock up their subjects under the obedience of fear. Experts when it comes to the forces of nature, they can perform astonishing prodigies, we know this; they can frighten man, hit, harass him, make him ill or cure him, even take possession of his organs, bind them or make use of them, this is well known. They can enslave him by material advantages, prestigious successes, and even with formal pacts, true sacraments of this great ape God. And by these means, he secures, in this world, servile and powerful agents. Nowadays, spiritualists abound!

Is it likely that, here and in every country, having all these means to make themselves be feared and obeyed, the devils never use them? So who, then, maintains such a vague and half-conscious but nevertheless real cult, and which influences so much the life of our people, holding them so firmly in the fear and under the rule of the Spirits, keeping them far from us?

To see the devil everywhere is an error; to see him nowhere is a worse error, perhaps good for an “animal-man”, not for the “spiritual man”!

The attitude in front of the devil's attacks

A priest should know, above all, that from the most cruel and terrifying persecutions to the most childish favors or teasing, the demon makes use of everything to seduce and obtain the ruin of souls; and for my part, I very well see that the infinite goodness of God allows even orders these manifestations to unmask the enemy and to push souls to their sole asylum: the Church.

Reserve is essential concerning this type of account. You know that these things are possible, even likely. If you mockingly or disdainfully receive a story of this kind, and the story is true, you immediately put a stop to any further confidence; you have closed your access to a soul in difficulty; you have diminished or even completely destroyed your personal reputation and credibility in your teaching. I add that you then make yourself the object of pity and are gently despised. That has been seen.

How then are we to receive such confidences? First, frankly acknowledge the possibility of such an account; take advantage of the opportunity to assert the diabolic power and malice to the one who is confiding in you and arm him against this tyranny: if he is a pagan with Baptism; if he is a catechumen, already with prayer and the sign of the Cross; and if he is a Christian, again with prayer and with the Cross, with recourse to his Guardian Angel, and especially by the serious practice of the Christian life.

For our Christians are attacked, and maybe much more than are the pagans.

Special attacks against Christian souls

How much Satan wants these defectors captured by grace from his dominion. The beauty of these baptized souls inflames his covetousness, stirs up his spite and hatred. How he knows the price of a supernaturalized soul! To gain it back, he would stir up all of hell and would set about the task himself.

Look at him at work against our Christians. First of all, he alienates them, as much as he can, from the sacraments, from the church, from the school, from you. With his best accomplices, the bigamists and sorcerers, he maintains in the village the strength of scandal and of superstitious fears; this dirty Spirit, this pagan putrefaction where moral turpitude ferment, may heal; lastly he plays and plays in a furious manner, on the whole scale of temptations, and launches against these fragile souls such an assault that it is amazing if even one of them is able to resist.

The fact is that Christians are armed in another manner than the pagans. They have an extremely strong and continuous divine grace. For them, it is there in abundance and within reach through prayer, the sacraments, in the help of their angels and priests. In order to win, they only have to will it with the very little good will of which they are capable; this is enough for the infinite pity of God who will do the rest.

It is up to you, fathers of these souls, to enlighten them well about the necessary struggle and its stake; it is your role to often reveal the enemy to them, his attacks and accomplices; it is your role to tell them who their auxiliaries are, the way to call them, where to get their weapons and how to handle them. We are at war: captivate them and keep them in great shape; you are heads.

Subsequently, help them with all your priestly powers. Generously use, in their favor, the incomparable arsenal of the Ritual, where the Church offers you so many prayers, rich with her merits and authority, powerful to deliver people and things from the dominion of the devil.

It may happen that the devil go beyond ordinary temptation and openly harass our Christians, even and especially our good Christians, whom he vexes and obsesses even possesses. These are exceptional cases which must nevertheless be expected and seriously dealt with. This is a priestly duty. Do not hesitate then to try a private exorcism. If the enemy is there and if he is obstinate, let me know.

Less rare and déjà-vu are the cases where a quick call to the Guardian Angel, a short exorcism: Vade retro Satana! will end an unusual silence in the confessional, a suspicious obstinacy, a strange obscene or sacrilegious attack.

Beware. The rogue is around, more often than we expect, so occupied in trying to regain souls, so skillful in puzzling us.

Shepherd, watch, your adversary goeth about! Believe in his presence and his activity. Without any hesitation, give him his large part in the evil that upsets you. You will be right. You also will be more patient, more compassionate with the souls that are more manipulated and thus less guilty, less ungrateful. Realize well the state of war, the attacks will be less painful for you; you will lastly be stronger and more clear-sighted in the combat against a more closely watched and better revealed enemy.

Strong in faith, resist him. To the degree that the Christian life grows in you, the diabolical activity grows also. This becomes more and more apparent in the attacks against our works, in the assaults against our zeal. It wants us to go beyond our limits.

Courage my dear Fathers; his efforts will be wasted and we will gain our heaven and our people’s heaven. It is his own war, but it is also God’s war.

Jesus-Christ is with us in the fight

Afterwards and in the meantime, we are not alone in the battle. Jesus-Christ, our adorable Master, fights in His person with us. He is the One who, in advance, defeated the World and its Prince. His union delights us, His love elevates us, His grace carries us, and His Angels are our allies.

The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him, and shall deliver them. O taste and see that the Lord is sweet! (Ps. 33).

Yes, He is sweet the Lord God to give us His Angels, dear and brave comrades in arms and for life, exquisite friends who are infinitely helpful to us, to our faithful and even to our pagans!

The Holy Angels

Nothing tells us that anyone has a personal devil. On the other hand, it is certain that we all have our own Guardian Angel; and surely our countries, our Church, our Christendoms have theirs; and we can believe that God increases the heavenly reinforcements when the combat is harder and the enemy more numerous.

By nature equal to the devils, the holy Angels have, over them, the advantage of grace. They see right through the tactics and intrigues of the opponent. None of our dangers escapes them. Sometimes they spontaneously remove them, they always warn us of them, and if we want, they powerfully help us to face them, pacifying our passions, enlightening our intelligence, fortifying our will, and uniting themselves to us to obtain additional grace and strength. Happy are they to serve God in serving us, their service is a service of love.

For, our beloved Angels love us with a friendship, which surpasses our dreams. As they know the price of our souls, they more ardently seek our salvation than Satan could ever want our loss. To save us, they use every resource, which their powerful nature puts at their disposition; they use every kind of thoughtfulness, which springs from their devotedness whose is never discouraged.

Attentive to our every danger, to our smallest needs, they protect us and help us in every path of life, which is truly, our own; yes, even in the ordinary details of our everyday existence: happy above all, when our summons and our personal effort make their mission easier.

Only in heaven will we realize their services and our debt towards them.

But it especially in our spiritual paths, in our apostolic career, that the holy Angels manifest all the power of their friendship, if we know to invoke them with simplicity and faith.

Since they have an accurate evaluation of the difficulties of our ministry and the impacts of its moves, likewise its obstacles, in us and in souls, the angels can act in consequence, by themselves and through their heavenly colleagues; and they do this all the more efficaciously to the degree that our prayer has better armed them.

We must, in fact, recall that the angelic assistance, like any grace of God, is governed by the great providential law, which proportions grace to prayer.

Ah! If only our faith were more simple, and the sentiment of the presence of our Angels, of their love, of the value of their services was stronger! If only we were more attentive to their inspirations, more prompt to call upon them, more confident in their assistance, what strength for our ministry and us! How many errors avoided, difficulties overcome, falls avoided and miseries spared!

The angels live with us, let us live with them; our solitude, the mother of sadness and discouragement, will be broken. Come now; this life of an evangelist is too difficult to be lived on one's own. The Good Lord knows it well. He has taken care of this, live with the dear companion that He gives you.

At the altar, in the confessional, at school, in your visits - everywhere may he be the intimate confidant of your life. You will quickly feel the great sweetness and strength of this heavenly familiarity, and you will see the beautiful fruits of this done by two works.

Ensure the same benefit for your Christians. From childhood, at school, at the time of their first communion, teach these little ones to know their Guardian Angel, to love him, to pray him, to rely on him and to take shelter under his wing. What amiable and easy devotion, which during their whole life will remain infinitely helpful to them.

At church, take advantage of the feasts of the angels to preach belief in and recourse to Angels, in order to emphasize, the striking contrast of love and hatred between the good angels and the devils in the fight for our souls. Finally, tell your faithful how grateful they must be to Lord Jesus for the marvelous gift of His holy Angels and acknowledge all the services of their friendship.

Upon the reception of this letter and as henceforth every year, at church on the Sunday after Saint Michael’s feast day, you are asked to preach on the holy Angels and on their help against the devils, and afterwards outside, in as solemn a manner as possible, to do the Exorcism of Leo XIII, inserted in the first appendix of the Ritual.

Saint Michael by Master of Belmonte - Metropolitan Museum of Art.