Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Devil ...

..... wears Prada is real. The "Day by Day" meditation in MAGNIFICAT for today reminded me of something I recall striking me strongly during the early days of Pope Francis' pontificate. That was Pope Francis' readiness to talk about the reality of the existence of the devil, as an ordinary part of  Christian experience.

MAGNIFICAT reproduced a large part of this report of a homily by Pope Francis in April 2014. It is worth reading the report in full to capture Pope Francis sense of conviction about the reality of the devil, and of the three characteristics of his temptations: growth, spread and then self justification.
“Of course one of you will say: but Father, you are so old fashioned, speaking about the devil in the 21st century!”. To this Pope Francis replied: “watch out, the devil exists! The devil exists even in the 21st century. And we must not be naive. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle against him”.
The same contrast that we see between Christ and Satan in the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent, and in Pope Francis' homily, is portrayed vividly in the "Meditation on Two Standards" of the fourth day of the second week of St Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. Firstly the Standard of Satan:
Consider the address he makes to them, how he goads them on to lay snares for men and bind them with chains. First they are to tempt them to covet riches (as Satan himself is accustomed to do in most cases) that they may the more easily attain the empty honors of this world, and then come to overweening pride.
The first step, then, will be riches, the second honor, the third pride. From these three steps the evil one leads to all other vices.
And secondly, the Standard of Christ:
Consider the address which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this enterprise, recommending to them to seek to help all, first by attracting them to the highest spiritual poverty, and should it please the Divine Majesty, and should He deign to choose them for it, even to actual poverty. Secondly, they should lead them to a desire for insults and contempt, for from these springs humility.
Hence, there will be three steps: the first, poverty as opposed to riches; the second, insults or contempt as opposed to the honor of this world; the third, humility as opposed to pride. From these three steps, let them lead men to all other virtues.

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