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 dry 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 dry and lifeless valley of the dry bones prophesied in Ezekiel 37. Dead in their sins, with the rigor mortis of indifference hardening their hearts, 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: 1) Cut us off from our (supernatural) supply lines and 2) Divide and conquer.
Cut 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.
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” (emphasis added).
“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, 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. However, St. Peter Canisius cautioned: “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.”
Furthermore, we see that, for many reasons, one of which includes very poor catechesis in recent years, modern Catholics have all but completely forgotten the strongest force in all of God’s creation for battling evil and rescuing souls: The Communio Sanctorum (Communion of Saints). This exchange of blessings has all but completely shut down.
Spiritually speaking, the devil is doing all that he can to catch us isolated and unarmed on the battlefield — no spiritual armor, no spiritual weapons, and no comrades in the heavenly realm to fight alongside of us. In other words, the reason evil is promoted so effectively today is because we’re ignoring God’s offer of supernatural strength and power and ignoring the mightiest of all allied forces: the Communion of Saints.
Excerpt from Father Heilman’s book, Church Militant Field Manual