Good morning, Father.
In a recent homily by Pope Francis, entitled “How to respond to temptation”, the Holy Father pointed out an aspect of the way in which the evil one acts: the master of lies, in fact, has the ability to deceive people, inducing them to sin by the seduction of his words, so that they move away from the right path almost without awareness of the sins of which they become the actor. Could you provide some practical examples of those evil seductions and, above all, how can a soul immersed in the discipleship of Christ be constantly vigilant so that it becomes ever more capable of recognizing deceptions? Prayer, diligence in partaking of the Sacraments, and entrusting ourselves to Our Lady are excellent shields, but can there be more?
Best wishes and a big thank you.
Answer from the priest
1. The devil can also deceive with moving words. He knows well how to masquerade as an Angel of light, as St. Paul says (2 Cor 11:14).
You ask me for some examples.
I relate to you one taken from the story of the origins of the Dominican friars, and which has as its main character Master Jordan, who was the first successor of St. Dominic at the helm of the Order.
It tells of a lay brother who was possessed by the devil and caused a lot of annoyance to the friars.
2. Here is the narration: “Once again, that obsessed man was hurling abuse against all the friars; but when Master Jordan came by, he stood up, bowed to him in respectful reverence and began to praise him for his extraordinary preaching and for the love he had for the Order, pausing to expound every other virtue of him. This he evidently did to tempt him into pride.
But that holy man, not ignoring the cunning of the evil one, confused him with his humility” (Gerard de Frachet, Vitae fratrum, n. 144).
3. And here is what the Blessed Jordan narrates:
“Through his mouth, that demon hurled many surprising things.
Sometimes that obsessed person, although not very learned in Theology and almost ignorant of Sacred Scripture, made such profound speeches about the Holy Books, that they could have been rightly taken for some of Augustine’s famous works.
It happened then that, if someone listened to him, driven by pride, he began to boast about this beyond measure…
Moreover, he tried very often, while attempting to cover it up under deceitful words, to sow a little of his malice in our hearts.
But I realized it and said to him: ‘Why do you try so hard to double up your deceptions against us? We know your intentions well!’.
And he said: ‘I know what clay you are made of. What you reject and despise when it is offered to you only once, deceived by my malice you end up accepting with ease and pleasure’.
Sometimes he even gave speeches in a preaching voice that were so effective, that by his way of speaking and by the piety and depth of his words, he took streams of tears from the hearts of the listeners” (Jordan 112, 114, 115).
As we can see, it is not enough to judge the holiness and prudence of a person by the beauty and wisdom of his or her speeches.
4. In Vitae fratrum we read furthermore:
“Making use of a possessed man, the devil hurled threats and curses against Master Jordan five times, complaining to him because with his preaching he was taking away many souls from him.
And he said to him: “O blind man, I would gladly make a pact with you: I will no longer spiritually tempt your friars, nor will I harass them physically, if you promise me not to preach any more”.
But the holy man replied: “It shall never be that I make a covenant with death and make a pact with hell” (Gerard de Frachet, Vitae fratrum, n. 145).
5. Here too, Master Jordan attests: “Once, I remember, he made this proposal to me: he would have stopped tempting all the friars if I had ceased to preach. I replied: ‘I will never make a covenant with death or make a deal with hell.
Your temptations, against your will, are useful to the friars and make them stronger in the life of grace, because the life of man on earth is a constant struggle’” (Jordan 113).
6. Master Jordan’s rule for unmasking Satan was always the same: humility.
If there is humility (which is also expressed in the obedience to the instructions of the confessor) the prince of pride is recognized and defeated.
I remember you in prayer and I bless you.