Local Matters – August 31st, 2019
The following audio and transcript is taken from a talk by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s title “The Demonic Today.” Audio is courtesy of the Sensus Fidelium apostolate. Small edits have been made to the audio (a quick joke Ven. Fulton Sheen relayed was removed and some pauses were shortened to meet time constraints). The original video can be viewed here.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Every nation is very much concerned with Church in our times, and most of them have made sociological surveys. We spent close to $500,000 on a sociological survey. We were trying to discover the moods and attitudes of the American priest. All we ended up with was really a few additional decimal points because we generate new what was wrong. And furthermore, sociological surveys do not touch the essence of the problem, nor do national surveys.
We are not American priests. We are not Philippine priests. We are not German priests. We are Christ’s priests. Where we are is quite secondary.
More important still, the crisis that we are going through is not peculiar to your country or to mine. Germany has it. Africa has it. Europe has it. Every country in Europe.
It is therefore we are suffering from a crises that is affecting the priesthood, the attitude toward Faith. We cannot even say that it’s national. That is why these national surveys are not really profound. Therefore, the trouble is international, everywhere. There must be some other cause than that which we unearth in our surveys. There has to be a supranational cause of the crises in the world today and that supranational cause is the demonic.
The devil in our age has been given a long rope. Whenever there is an outpouring of the Spirit there is also an outpouring of the Satanic. When Moses work miracles, the magicians of Pharaoh simulated a few of them. With Pentecost, there was the martyrdom of Stephen. With the Vatican Council and the descent of the Spirit upon the Council, then there began to be the spread of the demonic in the world.
We never hear about the demonic from our own spiritual writers. In fact, there’s a book for sale out there that I have read in which there is no mention of hell, no mention of Satan, though it is a discussion on the last things. The moral theologians have dropped the Satanic. Who talks about it? The poets, psychiatrists, and the Scriptures.
First poets, they’re always ahead of the times. By poets, I do not mean popular poets. I mean those deep and profound thinkers, really, our prophets. They seem to see what is coming. Though Nietzsche was not a poet, he’s here classified. He wrote a poem, when he was a young man, about the Passion of our Lord, which was very beautiful. He was a great musician, a friend of Wagner, and after he had written in his book on the Antichrist, he went mad something bequeathed shouting against the person of Christ, and the next 11 years lived as a madman until he died. But he makes a madman say that God is dead, a madman says it. And the madman asks what made us strong enough to kill God? He is not denying he is killing God. Will all the waters of the ocean plans us from that guilt? How can we wipe our sword of His blood? The only way that we can ever overcome the killing of God is to by making a new God.
And the madman says the time is not yet. And this was at the end of the 18th century. But he will come. And in the last letter part of that book of Nietzsche, the madman falls silent. And I looked at his hearers again, they too were silent. At last he threw his lantern on the ground and broke into pieces and went out. I come too early. It is not yet my time. This monstrous event is still on the way. It is not yet penetrated men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time. The light of the stars needs time. Deeds need time, even after they’ve been done in order to be seen and heard. The deed is further for men then some stars, and yet, they have done it.
Auden, the English poet, draws his inspiration from the Anabasis of Xenophon, and writes not about the going up but of the Catabasis. Heroic charity is rare. Without it, what except despair can shape the hero who will dare the desperate Catabasis into the snarl of the abyss that always lies just underneath the jolly picnic on the Heath of the Agreeable.
And then this of-quoted poem of William Butler Yates…Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity. Surely, some revelation is at hand. Surely, the second coming is at hand. The second coming. Hardly are those words out when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight. Somewhere in the sands of the desert, a shape with lion body, pitiless as the sun, is moving its sloth eyes, while all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again. But now I know that 20 centuries of stony sleep were vexed a nightmare by a rocking cradle. And what rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.
Added to these poets, great apocalyptic writers like Father Benson: “Lord of the World”, Solovyov: “Three Conversations”, Dostoyevsky:” The Grand Inquisitor”. In each and every one of these masterpieces, it is always someone in the Church who leads the assault. As we read in the Book of Ezekiel, “incipitae au sanctuario meum.” Saint Peter in one of his letters quotes it. The attack must begin first against the Church, led by someone in it. The Book of Revelation, the second beast is the one who speaks in favor of the first; the first is political, and the second is ecclesial. It would be interesting to explain to you some of these these Antichrists as they come.
I suppose The Grand Inquisitor is the most famous of them all. The scene is set in Seville in the 16th century, Christ Returns, comes to a church and raises a dead little girl to life. And the Grand Inquisitor then attacks him, attacks him for not answering the questions of Satan. The Grand Inquisitor’s a priest, a wizened up old man, about 90 years old. And for page and page in Dostoyevsky, the challenge goes to Christ, repeating the three temptations, but now as a new temptation. Our Lord never answers a word, but at the end he leans over and kisses the forehead of the wizened old man. And for the first time, in perhaps years, blood begins to come to his face, and he says to Christ, “get out, never come back!”
Why are we so fond today of destruction? Why the towering inferno? Why movies that depict disaster? It’s because not being creative on the inside and become destructive on the outside. So literature, therefore, is warning us. As I told you before, we’re at the end of Christendom, and we have not yet taken that into account. But we will see in a few years are we will have to adapt ourselves with the new spirit of Christ to meet it. Now that’s the Poetic and the Literary.
The second: the Psychiatric. Again, the theologians are missing. They’re not speaking of Satan. Rollo May, a professor of psychiatry of Rockefeller Institute, in his book on psychiatry, has three chapters on The Devil. What Is the Devil from the Psychiatric point of view, Dr. Rollo May analyzes the meaning of the word diabolic. It comes from “διαbaλιμε”; tearing apart, rupture, disunity, a splitting. It almost seems that ever since we split the atom, everything else has been split. So we’re splitting the Church, the priests are split among themselves. The bishops are split among themselves. Laity are split. This is the διαbaλιμε tearing us apart, and he says that it is accompanied by three facts. One, a love of nudity; sex without love. Secondly, violence and aggressiveness. Thirdly, a schizophrenic mentality.
He never analyzes these three from a Biblical point of view, but they are exactly the characteristics of the young man in the land of the Gerasenes . This young man, first of all, was naked. Secondly, he was so violent he could not be kept in chains. Thirdly, he was schizophrenic. He was going in two directions. When our Lord said to him, “what is your name?” He said my name is Legion. A Roman Legion was 6000 men. My name is Legion, for we are many. No unity. This is the psychiatric explanation of the demonic.
Now we come to more sound grounds. We come to Scripture and we go back to the 16th chapter of Matthew. In the first conference, we spoke of the democratic, aristocratic, and theocratic government of the Church. And then our blessed Lord saying that he was not just a priest, he was a victim, he came to die. And as soon as our Lord said that Peter said, “this shall not be! We’re willing to have a divine Christ, but we’re not willing to have a suffering victim of Christ.” How modern that language is. And our Lord said “get behind me! Do not try to lead me. I lead you, Satan.”
Satan…Peter personally is Satan. Now, why did our Lord call him Satan? In order to interpret Scripture, you have to really interpreted by other passages. So we go back to the beginning of our Lord’s public life. It began with the temptation. Our Lord was led by the Holy Spirit to meet spirit of evil. Three times he was tempted on the Mount. We know the temptations well, but in order to drive them home, I’m going to speak of them in modern language. The three temptations of our Lord were three shortcuts from the cross.
The first temptation: Satan says to our Lord, “follow your id.” You’re hungry. You haven’t eaten for 30 to 40 days. Look at those little stones down there, they look just exactly like bread. Now, other people are hungry in this land, and their hunger has to be satisfied. And they’ve got other is besides hunger what you suffer from, They’ve got a sex id, they have a power id, they have an aggressive id. You’re never going to win the world if you’re going to crush that id. Satisfy their gullets. Fill their stomachs. Turn those stones into bread and you’ll never need to go to a cross. The world will be yours.
The second temptation was technological. Men love marvels, wonders, great portance; things that are difficult of explanation. Those which demand an appeal to the preternatural. So in order to satisfy this yearning for technological marvels, throw yourself down from this steeple, unhurt. Fly to the moon. They will not remember your name in three weeks. Then give them a new wonder. But sans is the great marvel of our times. Now with your scientific technology, give them these wonders and give him these marvels, and you’ll never need to go to a cross. That’s what they want: excitement, something that will make him say “oh,” and they will not need a cross.
And the third temptation in the world of our Lord: theology is politics. Why bother with theology? The abstractions of your hyperstatic union, belief in the invisible Father. Men are not interested in your theology. You’re never going to draw them to a pulpit. But there is a way of drawing, and I will tell you what it is. Talk politics. That’s what the world wants. See this little globe in my hand? All the political kingdoms there? They’re all mine. Was Satan telling the truth for once in his life? Or was he lying? But he was saying to the Lord, give up the theology of the Cross, redemption, satisfaction, expiation, modification, penance, these will not win man. They like to talk about political liberation. Give then you’ll not need ever go to a cross. And this will be the temptation the Church will have in the next 100 years, watch it.
Saint Thomas, in his commentary on the letter to the Thessalonians, in which there was revealed a man of lawlessness, says that the last struggle of the Church will be the Potestas Politica.
This politics begin to absorb us–sometimes begin to absorb too much our attention as priests, and as bishops. Now this was the third temptation of our blessed Lord. They were shortcuts from the Cross, the way to win the world without talking about sin or guilt. See, politics admits only social guilt. Technology admits only social guilt. Following of id admits only individual pleasures, but no personal guilt.
Now let us go back to the scene at Ceasarea Philippi. Our blessed Lord calls Peter “Satan”. Why did he call him Satan? Because he’s saying “no, you’ll not go to the cross, we’ll not have this. Well admit your divinity, but we will not admit you’re a victim. We’ll admit you’re a priest. But we refuse to admit that you’re a victim for sin.” And that is why our blessed Lord called him Satan.
What, then, is the demonic? The demonic is the temptation away from the Cross of Christ and redemption. That’s the essence of the demonic. This is an example of the demonic, taking down of crucifixes from our hospital rooms, from our school rooms.
I went to a bishop’s meeting in the convent, and sister was–she didn’t look like a sister, but she said she was. Did you ever hear about the very modern sister that went in to see the pastor? And she said, Father, you didn’t know I had red hair did you? He said, I didn’t know you had varicose veins either. And she said, you know that we put a sign out in front of our convent the other day for sale crosses, which they wore, and you know that in two hours we sold out of those crosses to hippies.
You see, as we drop things, the world picks them up and perverts them. As nuns dropped the habits the girls put on maxi coats. We dropped the Rosary, the hippies put beads around their necks; and they become useless to us.
But the point is, the essence of the demonic is the anti-Cross and all that that means; it means sin, it means redemption, it means glorification, it means a resurrection, it means an eternal peace and joy…but not the Cross.
So we have even movements in the church today where we have the Spirit without a Calvary, no mention of a Cross, or of discipline, just the celebration.
When we talk in our holy hour tonight, we will see another evidence of the demonic, so that we’re not to think that it is spectacular, it is phenomenal, it is extraordinary; it isn’t.
And notice that in the New Testament, there were two priests who left, there are now two priests who were demonic, or at least–well, one I should not say perhaps is demonic. But the two mention that left, one was Dimas. Dimas was the companion of Paul and Luke and Saint Paul says of him, Dimas has gone back to the world; that’s one kind, the kind that just go in for worldliness. The other kind stays in. They stay in to disrupt from within. Judas stayed in. And in the Holy Hour tonight, we will see how he stayed in.
Now who have the best comprehension of the demonic? Only those of us who were truly Christlike. It is because we know what clear water is that we are offended by foul waters. It is only because we know Christ that we begin to see evil in its depth. Because evil is relational. Evil has no substance of its own. It is a parasite on goodness. And the more Christlike we are, the deeper is our vision of the evils of the world on the evil that can creep into the Church.
How long this conflict with the forces of evil will last? Well, we do know that now it is intensifying. And it centers so much in the Eucharist. Which brings us to the necessity of the Holy Hour.
I don’t know whether you have many tabernacles robbed. We do. One diocese there were two. Country parish is within seven miles of one another by the Blessed Sacrament was stolen. Corpus was torn off the crucifix. No Christ on the Cross.
Where there is a priest to offer the Black Mass there’s no need of stealing hosts, but there must be a consecrated host for a Black Mass; that is an absolute essential. For everything will be done backwards. The Our Father would be said backwards. Prayers will be said backwards. And when the priests join the movement, they have the body of Christ to re-crucify. So much so that some of our churches asked to have lights that are put even facing the tabernacle so that when anyone approaches the Tabernacle, it makes a circuit and an alarm goes off. We may be a little lax and our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, but Satan is not, as the Scriptures tell us, Satan believes; he believes. And this, then, is an additional reason for the holy hour.
Now there are 1000 times 10,000 roads down which any one of us may travel for a lifetime. But all of those roads are going to end in front of two faces. One, the merciful face of Christ, and the other, the miserific face of Satan. And either one of those faces will speak to us and say, “Mine.”
We have already spoken. We are Christ’s.