by Fr Richard Heilman | July 30, 2018 10:36 AM
Peace Through Strength
The Challenge to Enter the Supernatural Life
“The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” -Psalm 29:11
By Sam Guzman of Catholic Gentleman
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)
A few days ago, I wrote about how fear can dominate and even destroy us. It can lead to a myriad of faults, both great and small. Most of all, it can neutralize us and render us impotent in the service of God.
What is the alternative? How can we move from fear to faith? The answer is simple: We must learn to have confidence in God alone.
In all of our spiritual battles, we face an army of unseen enemies. To think we could face them alone is the greatest folly, for these are spirits of immense power and they desire nothing less than our annihilation.
Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, in his classic work that every Catholic should read, The Spiritual Combat, recommends we begin each day imagining these thousands of demons ready to devour us:
“Imagine the enemy before you, that particular vice or disorderly passion that you are trying to conquer—imagine this hideous opponent is about to overwhelm you…At your left is Lucifer and his troops, ready to support the passion or vice you are fighting and resolved to do anything to cause your defeat.”
Such a sight is enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone. But Dom Lorenzo does not stop there.
“At the same time, picture at your right Jesus Christ, your Invincible Leader, accompanied by the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, whole companies of Angels and Saints, and particularly by the glorious Archangel Michael….Imagine your guardian Angel thus spurring you on: “Today you must fight to conquer your enemy and anyone who tries to ruin you. Be courageous. Do not be afraid or cowardly. Christ your Captain is here with all the power of Heaven to protect you from the enemy, and to see that they never conquer you, either by brute power, or by trickery. Hold your ground! Do violence to yourself, no matter how painful it is. Call out for the help of Jesus and Mary and all the Saints. If you do this, you will be victorious.”
It does not matter how weak you are—how strong the enemy may seem, either in number or in power. Do not be discouraged. The help you have from Heaven is more powerful than all that Hell can send to destroy the grace of God in your soul. God, the Creator and the Redeemer, is Almighty and more desirous of your salvation than the devil can be of your destruction.
His point is clear. We are weak. We are helpless. We cannot face this dreadful enemy alone. The sooner we realize this fact, the better off we will be, for humility is the prerequisite for any victory in the spiritual life. We should have confidence however, because we have a heavenly army fighting with us. Our guardian angel, the saints, the Archangel Michael, our Blessed Mother, and above all, Christ himself are all fighting for us.
All the great saints and holy men and women through the ages knew this. They found their boldness in God’s power and not their own.
Think of the young shepherd boy David. Before Goliath, he was no more threat than an insect. Yet, his confidence, his boldness was not found in his physical strength or ability, but in God alone.
You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Would that we all had such courage! The Israelite armies cowered in fear because they had no faith. David confronted the giant because he knew the God he served and his confidence was in him.
It was such holy boldness, such confidence in God that inspired St. Clare of Assisi to face down an army with nothing more than the Eucharist. It was such courage that enabled the Holy League at Lepanto to defeat an invading army against incredible odds. It was the same fearlessness that inspire the North American martyrs to bring the Gospel to Native Americans, though they were tortured and killed in the most horrific ways. It was the same courage that inspired the Apostles to face persecution, beatings, and martyrdom with perfect peace.
The whole history of the church is the chronicle of men and women inspired by what the world would consider an insane courage. When they knew they were in the center of God’s will, they threw caution to the wind and ventured forth boldly and without fear.
We have a tremendous need for such courageous men and women today. The world is falling into an abyss of evil. Darkness is spreading unchecked. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, we live in a culture of cowardice and fear. No one wants to risk anything for our Lord, and our service to him is often merely lip-service. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good Catholics to do nothing.” And that is what too many of us are doing.
Yet, we can have the same confidence, the same courage and boldness. The only three ingredients we need are complete distrust of self, which is humility; confidence in God, which is faith; and grace, which is strength.
The need is great, and there are few who want to follow our spiritual captain, Our Lord Jesus Christ, into the fray. Let us not be numbered among the cowardly. Let us shake off our complacency and choose the path of courage. Let us pray tirelessly and fight boldly for all that is good, true, and beautiful, always trusting in the power of God to come to our aid. For in him, with him, and through him is certain victory.
As we continue this “Peace through Strength Challenge,” we want to pledge to adhere to (restore?) the best foundational practices of an authentically strong Catholic. If you obey Christ and His Church 100% (remain loyal), and practice the following (All, not most or some), you will be strong in God’s supernatural grace, and you will live in peace. You’ll notice we are not addressing such things as tithing, volunteering and catechesis. Why? Because all of these will follow as we are filled with supernatural grace. Grace fills us with a hunger for “the more” of knowing and pleasing God.
Make a plan: Ask yourself, “Can I embrace all of these now? Or, do I embrace some, and add others over time?” Either way, you’ll want to make these foundational practices a regular habit in order to be a “strong Catholic.”
Support System: You may want to create or join a “Peace Through Strength Squad” of 3+ people. Maybe create a Facebook group. Also, try to join together with an “Accountability Buddy.”
Commit to these practices from July 16 – October 7.
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