'Prepare for Battle!'
By Chris Sparks (Dec 9, 2014)
I was out to dinner with Dave and Joan Maroney, the Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM) shortly before their Divine Mercy for America presentation at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on All Saints' Day. We were talking about their work of evangelization and catechesis, some of the challenges they face because of the culture, and where all those challenges come from.
The list of obstacles was long, and included the rise of popular occultism and neopaganism; apathy in the parishes; the fruits of generations of poor catechesis; the distractions of modern life with its endless busy-ness, which causes so many people to be distracted from doing what's most important; and so much else.
And where do these challenges come from? Many of them come from the post-Christian culture in which we live, with its rejection of the notions of objective truth and goodness, its endless pursuit of wants rather than needs, its very limited memory, and its determination to make the desires of fallen human beings its be-all-and-end-all.
Of course, the challenges MOMM faces don't just come from the culture. Individual human hearts certainly play a role. We do have free will, and our choices matter: whether we welcome the challenge of truth and love; whether we say yes to God's grace and merciful action in our hearts and lives; whether we have hearts of stone or hearts of flesh. Our society, with all its power and pleasures, its material wealth and spiritual poverty, also plays a role in aiding or obstructing the mission of the Church. The fashions of the age create great storms and currents for the barque of Peter, the Church of Jesus Christ, to endure.
But there's more to the spiritual landscape on which the great struggle for souls occurs, as Scripture makes plain:
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens (Eph 6:11-12).
So the ordinary Christian life involves a grand cosmic struggle, fought with the weapons of grace and virtue, of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, of the Word of God and the Sacraments. But the present times demand more from us than ever before. In a piece on John Allen's 2013 book The Global War on Christians, Fr. Dwight Longenecker recalled "two warnings from [St.] Pope John Paul II. In 1976 he said to a group of American bishops,
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian community realizes this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.
Then in 1981 he warned,
We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ. ... How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time, too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary."
According to the discernment of St. John Paul II, we're facing a truly apocalyptic struggle in the present age, a struggle which may last for a long or short period of time, but one which we must fight with the greatest of care and trust in God, staying close to our mother Mary and her Son.
But at dinner that night, Joan was adamant that a lot of people in the Divine Mercy movement aren't nearly as aware as they should be of the reality of spiritual warfare, or fighting as they need to. Why? Because Divine Mercy devotees, perhaps more than anyone, are targets for the enemy, the devil.
I have now learned that Satan hates mercy more than anything else. It is his greatest torment. ... The glory of the Divine Mercy is resounding, even now, in spite of the efforts of its enemies, and of Satan himself, who has a great hatred for God's mercy. This work will snatch a great number of souls from him, and that is why the spirit of darkness sometimes tempts good people violently, so that they may hinder the work. (Diary, 764 and 1659)
The Divine Mercy movement is the tip of the spear of the forces of heaven in the great conflict at the end of the world, as Jesus made clear to St. Faustina:
I heard these words spoken distinctly and forcefully within my soul, You will prepare the world for My final coming (Diary, 429).
I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming (Diary, 1732).
No matter how far or near the end is, we're part of the divine preparation. As such, the spiritual battle may be more fierce for us at times than for our brethren. We can see just how fiercely the devil hates Divine Mercy, and so how great the struggle can get, in the Diary of St. Faustina.
I was surrounded by a pack of huge black dogs who were jumping and howling and trying to tear me to pieces. I realized that they were not dogs, but demons. One of them spoke up in a rage, "Because you have snatched so many souls away from us this night, we will tear you to pieces." I answered, "If that is the will of the most merciful God, tear me to pieces, for I have justly deserved it, because I am the most miserable of all sinners, and God is ever holy, just, and infinitely merciful." To these words all the demons answered as one, "Let us flee, for she is not alone; the Almighty is with her!" And they vanished like dust, like the noise of the road, while I continued on my way to my cell undisturbed, finishing my Te Deum and pondering the infinite and unfathomable mercy of God (Diary, 320).
You are united to Me; fear nothing. But know, my child, that Satan hates you; he hates every soul, but he burns with a particular hatred for you, because you have snatched so many souls from his dominion (Diary, 412).
When I had taken a few steps, a great multitude of demons blocked my way. They threatened me with terrible tortures, and voices could be heard: "She has snatched away everything we have worked for over so many years!" When I asked them, "Where have you come from in such great numbers?" the wicked forms answered, "Out of human hearts; stop tormenting us!"
Seeing their great hatred for me, I immediately asked my Guardian Angel for help, and at once the bright and radiant figure of my Guardian Angel appeared and said to me, "Do not fear, spouse of my Lord; without His permission these spirits will do you no harm." Immediately the evil spirits vanished, and the faithful Guardian Angel accompanied me, in a visible manner, right to the very house. His look was modest and peaceful, and a flame of fire sparkled from his forehead (Diary, 418-419).
The devil hates the work of Divine Mercy, and yet the power of the holy angels is greater than the forces of hell. We shall have their help, the intercession of the saints, and all the grace of God as our help so long as we remain joyfully united to God, bear our cross in trust and dependence upon the divine strength, and believe that "all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).
Since Advent is the season for contemplating the coming of Christ, let's think about what we need to do to remain faithful to the end, something all of us (myself especially) need to work on:
• Regularly go to Confession, attend Mass, and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
• Root out mortal sin from your life, and promptly repent of venial sin, always trusting in the mercy of God and getting back up from your falls.
• Read the Scriptures on a regular basis.
• Remain in communion with the Holy Father and obedient to the magisterial teaching of the Church (which can be found in summary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).
• Observe the Hour of Great Mercy at 3 p.m. every day.
• Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
• Have copies of the image of the Divine Mercy which you regularly venerate.
• Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday and receive the graces God wishes to bestow.
• Prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday with the Novena.
• Pray the Rosary daily.
• Make your total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
• Do the works of mercy.
• Consider perpetually enrolling yourself, your friends, family, neighbors, priests and religious, bishops, community leaders, enemies, and all those especially in need of God's mercy in the Association of Marian Helpers.
Let us renew our fidelity to the message and devotion of the Divine Mercy, our trust and reliance on Jesus and Mary Immaculate, and our prayers for and to the Holy Souls in purgatory, so that we may run the race faithfully, finish strong, and bring a great many holy souls along with us to heaven in the end.