Any combat training and tactical planning begins with a process of intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination. Recon (reconnaissance) is a military term used to determine the enemy force’s disposition and intention, gathering information (or intelligence) about an enemy’s composition and capabilities. Dr. Peter Kreeft wrote: “You cannot win a war if you are unwilling to admit we are even at war or you don’t know who your enemy is or you don’t know what strategy your enemy is using.”
We have all witnessed how the arid wind of the enemy’s militant secular propaganda campaign has hardened the hearts of so many of our family members, friends, and neighbors. Spiritually speaking, many have crossed into the parched and lifeless valley of the dry bones prophesied in Ezekiel 37. Dead in their sins, with the rigor mortis of indifference giving them hearts like stone, they are without the breath of the Spirit, destined for eternal damnation, unless some campaign of search and rescue is launched.
So why has the devil been so effective? What is his strategy? To better understand the tactics of the devil, it is important to understand his names: “diabolos” means “he who places division or separation,” and “daio,” the root of “demon,” means “to divide.” These names identify the two great tactical campaigns the enemy has deployed, especially in recent decades:
- Cut us off from our (supernatural) supply lines.
- Divide and conquer.
Cutting us off from our supply lines
The first major strategy from the father of lies is actually as old as the Garden of Eden itself. It is simply to convince us we do not need God (Gen. 3:5-6), nor do we need His strength and His power (Eph. 6:10).
In modern times, we have witnessed this in the effective campaign of militant secularists who have sought to de-mythologize our faith, a flat out rejection of the supernatural power of God. Once the devil has us convinced that we can challenge him under our own natural power, or simply deny that he even exists, he’s cut us off from the only real power capable of defeating him: God’s supernatural grace.
More and more common is the modern “secularized” version of religion that sees it reduced to a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. Some seminaries seem to focus on training therapeutic practitioners rather than theologians. In other words, instead of seeing Jesus as God with us — a real and ever-present source of supernatural love and grace — He is reduced to a historic figure we simply emulate as a model in our efforts at self-actualization.
Whether it is art, architecture, music or the Mass, every effort has been made to strip these of any sense of supernatural strength and transcendent beauty. This modern misguided calculation seemed to say, “We must look like the world if we are to win the hearts of the world.”
Sadly, this secular version of religion has become so prevalent that most people’s eyes begin to glaze over at the mere mention of God’s supernatural grace as a necessary source of power in our lives. St. Peter warns us to be fortes in fide, strong in faith, because the devil prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8-9). Lions size up a herd to find the weakest and easiest target. Once we are detached from God and His supernatural grace, we are powerless to defend ourselves from the tactics of the devil.
Our ancestors and all of the saints knew all about this supernatural power and strength and that being in a state of grace was the armor of God that was to be treasured and protected at all cost. Sacred scripture sees this Divine Life in God (state of grace) as the “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:44-46).
In his Prayer of Surrender, St. Ignatius of Loyola identifies this as the only meaningful treasure:
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.
Divide and Conquer
The second modern tactic of the devil is actually the very ancient military strategy of “divide and conquer.” This strategy is defined as one that separates a force that would be stronger if united. As we said, the devil is roaming around like a lion that sizes up the herd to find the easiest target. He is also watching to see who is separated from the herd. Large, coordinated forces are difficult to defeat. If the enemy can separate us into small units or individuals, he can more easily defeat each one.
In 1957, just two years before the call for the Second Vatican Council and the crisis of faith that followed, and just before the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, Sister Lucia (the primary seer at Fatima) said:
The devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, as he knows what it is that offends God the most, and in a short space of time will gain for him(self) the greatest number of souls. Thus the devil does everything to overcome the souls consecrated to God, because in this way he will succeed in leaving the souls of the faithful abandoned by their leaders, thereby the more easily will he seize them.
“Strike the shepherd and the sheep scatter” (Zec 13:7). There’s no doubt that the devil has focused his assault on the religious leaders of our day. While these leaders may have had noble intentions of charity and pastoral sensitivity, the results have been devastating. Decades of lenient, vague and non-confrontational leadership have left the faithful feeble and prone to be “conformed to the pattern of this world” (Rom 12:2). St. Augustine once said, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”
The unfortunate laxity of discipline has permitted confusion and strife where there should be clarity and harmony, an authentic unity based on the truth. As a result, the modern trend among those who believe and teach falsehoods that directly contradict the Church’s teaching is to consider these pockets of dissent as merely “differing tribes” within the Catholic Church. In this deceptive tribal system, those who believe in and teach all that the Church teaches are then considered extreme among these tribes.
Right or wrong, religious leadership seemed to calculate that it is better to refrain from “charged issues” for fear of offending some or even losing members.
In the sights of the enemy — who is even now laying waste to the world — it would be wise for all of us to remember the cautionary words of St. Peter Canisius: “Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.”
Fr. Richard M. Heilman is a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He is a regular guest host on Relevant Radio’s The Inner Life, and is the founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic men’s faith formation..
He is also he founder of the Ladies of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic women’s faith formation. He is the author of the Church Militant Field Manual and the Roman Catholic Man website, which are both dedicated to helping Catholics understand and train for their role in the mission of combating evil and rescuing the souls of our loved ones who have lost the precious gift of faith.
Great article, Father!