“Evil is no longer just a deficiency, but an efficiency, a living, spiritual, perverted and perverting being.”

During the General Audience on 15 November 1972 Paul VI delivered an address on the invocation of our principal prayer: “Our Father… deliver us from evil!”.

In this he confirmed the traditional doctrine on the Devil, and stressed the necessity of studying again and examining closely this chapter of Catholic doctrine.

Here are a few of the main points that (especially in these days) are worth seriously considering (especially if you happen to be a politician … or a bishop):

We find evil in the realm of nature, where so many of its expressions seem to speak to us of some sort of disorder. Then we find it among human beings, in the form of weakness, frailty, suffering, death and something worse: the tension between two laws-one reaching for the good, the other directed toward evil.

We come face to face with sin which is a perversion of human freedom and the profound cause of death because it involves detachment from God, the source of life.

Evil is not merely an absence of something but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others.

“I put on the armor of God,” the Apostle tells us, “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.”

The Devil is the number one enemy, the preeminent tempter.

He is “a murderer from the beginning, . . . and the father of lies,” as Christ defines him. He undermines man’s moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive aspirations.

Are there signs, and what are they, of the presence of diabolical action? And what means of defense do we have against such an insidious danger?

We can presume that his sinister action is at work where the denial of God becomes radical, subtle and absurd; where lies become powerful and hypocritical in the face of evident truth; where love is smothered by cold, cruel selfishness; where Christ’s name is attacked with conscious, rebellious hatred, where the spirit of the Gospel is watered down and rejected where despair is affirmed as the last word; and so forth.

Defense Against the Devil

Grace is the decisive defense. Innocence takes on the aspect of strength. Everyone recalls how often the apostolic method of teaching used the armor of a soldier as a symbol for the virtues that can make a Christian invulnerable. The Christian must be a militant; he must be vigilant and strong; and he must at times make use of special ascetical practices to escape from certain diabolical attacks. Jesus teaches us this by pointing to “prayer and fasting” as the remedy. And the Apostle suggests the main line we should follow: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. “

With an awareness, therefore, of the opposition that individual souls, the Church and the world must face at the present time, we will try to give both meaning and, effectiveness to the familiar invocation in our principal prayer: “Our Father . . . deliver us from evil!”

Read all of it for yourself

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