St. Teresa of Jesussaid: “May what was said be of help that the true servant of God might pay no attention to the scarecrows the devil set up in order to cause fear. We should know that each time we pay no attention to them they are weakened, and the soul gains much more mastery.
The Devil You Don’t Know:Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life by Louis J. Cameli
Keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith. I Peter 5, 8-9
This book is about recognizing the devil in our lives. “The evil one”, as he is also known, does not present himself in obvious ways. He is sneaky. He whispers in our ears little lies, temptations and thoughts that are distressing. If not recognized, he can do great damage to one’s soul, and does so on a regular basis. This has been the case with me.
As one who has been abused by a member of the clergy, I have struggled with feelings of shame, self-blame, self-loathing, isolation, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety … let’s see, the list could go on and on. I believed a lie for many, many years that I was led to believe by my abuser. Certainly that opened a door for the evil one to perpetuate the lies.
The devil is not mental illness. Abuse can lead to mental illness such as major depressive disorder, PTSD, and so many more things. These are two with which I am familiar. However, I believe the shame, self-blame and things of that nature, while psychologically induced, can be exasperated by the evil one. In my own experience, when I stay closer to Jesus through prayer, the sacraments, His word and in fellowship, I am less bothered by these things.
St. Ignatius of Loyolarefers to “the enemy” as an evil spirit, the influences of the world, and inclinations of our sinful self (concupiscience). “The enemy” is not necessarily the same as “the evil one” or “the devil”. It is important to recognize the difference for the discernment process. It determines how one responds to the temptation, thought or disposition.
The author lays out the body of his book into five sections: The Devil Among Us; and The Ordinary Work of the Devil: Deception, Division, Diversion and Discouragement, one section devoted to each of the four.
From the book:
Coupling alertness with resistance, which means holding close to faith in Jesus Christ and maintaining an attitude of discernment.
Some senses of struggle are within myself. Outside forces or agents can conspire to thwart me. Hence, St. Ignatius’ description.
Sin, Guilt and Identity
Sins are acts that we commit or omit. They are our responsibility, but they do not define us. However, we are sinners. It has little to do with feeling guilty, which passes. Common lines of experience that help fill out the picture of what it means to be a sinner, as defined by the author:
Distance from Home A feeling that I have not yet arrived; a longing for God.
Inner Division “A feeling of being divided within ourselves… or a feeling of war within”.
Interior Woundedness: The wounded person feels pain and perhaps weakness. One needs healing to stop the pain and to gain strength.
A Sense of Burden: We find ourselves carrying things within ourselves that weigh us down and leave us with diminished freedom. The essential element of this sense of burden is that it takes away our freedom to be ourselves. We long to have the weight lifted.
Longing for Love: Another marker of the experience of being a sinner is longing for a love that is complete but seemingly out of reach. “We want to love and to be loved. Still, even with the intuition of this love’s presence, we know that we do not have it and perhaps cannot have it”.
“The net impact of these experiences and this identity as a sinner is to leave us vulnerable to the incursions of the evil one… We exist provisionally”.
These five things may be common lines of experience of what it means to be a sinner, but I think every one of them is compounded exponentially because I have been abused. This, I believe, is because for so long I believed I was a horrible, awful, terrible sinner – worse than the ordinary one – because that is the message I had received from my abuser. This is something with which I still struggle.
I am grateful to Father Cameli for writing this book because it helped clarify for me truth vs. lies, Jesus vs. evil, loving vs. objectifying. Lies, evil, objectifying = abuse. Jesus = healing.
Next time we will examine The Ordinary Work of the Devil: Deception.
For more information on the book click here to go to Amazon.com.