The Church has enemies
At Easter every Eastern Catholic hears the chant from the words of the Prophet: Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face (Ps. lxvii. 2). Moses writes that this was also chanted by the Israelites when they set out from the camp (Num. x. 35).
The Litany of the Saints includes this petition: “That Thou wouldst humble the enemies of Thy holy Church, We beseech Thee, hear us.” And again in the prayer after Holy Communion by St. Thomas the Christian prays that the Sacred Mysteries may be “my strong defense against all my enemies, visible and invisible.”
So what is clear from this is one thing: the Church has enemies. The official prayerbook of the Church—the Holy Psalter—is replete with violent images of enemies and warfare. As the Prophet declares: Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war (Ps. cxliii. 1) and again I shall beat them as small as the dust before the wind; I shall bring them to nought, like the dirt in the streets (Ps. xvii. 43). Thus not only does the Church have enemies, but in her prayer she fights against them manfully with great violence. So who are these enemies?
That these enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil
In the Roman Catechism, in the section on the parts of the Church, we are told that those who are still breathing members of the Church form the part known as the “Church militant.”
It is called militant, because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
These three enemies are the source of all temptations. These are the three enemies defeated by our Lord in his own temptation, and these three enemies are renounced in our baptism. St. Thomas explains these three enemies in his section on Our Lord’s temptation:
For at first [Satan] tempted Him to that which men desire, however spiritual they may be—namely, the support of the corporeal nature by food [the flesh].
Secondly, he advanced to that matter in which spiritual men are sometimes found wanting, inasmuch as they do certain things for show, which pertains to vainglory [the world].
Thirdly, he led the temptation on to that in which no spiritual men, but only carnal men, have a part—namely, to desire worldly riches and fame, to the extent of holding God in contempt [the devil]. (III q41 a4)
These sources are all connected, but we can summarize them like this:
- The world – temptation from outside a man (at the natural level)
- The flesh – temptation from inside a man (from his own nature laboring under Original Sin)
- The Devil – temptation from outside a man (at the preternatural level)
Each of these manifests themselves in a particular way against each individual and each society. In the future we will treat our current enemies in more detail.
Now Dom. Scupoli says that the foundation of the spiritual life is distrust of self and trust in God (Spiritual Combat, ch. I). This is because only God is totally above nature and by supernatural grace can give power to man to overcome his enemies. He delivered me from my strongest enemies, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me (Ps. xvii. 18).
That our weapons in this combat are prayer, fasting and alms
It is a De Fide dogma of the Church that we can merit nothing for our salvation without God’s power through supernatural grace (Ott, 246ff). Grace present in the Sacraments and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the ordinary source of God’s supernatural power. In Confirmation – the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit – a man receives full initiation as a Christian warrior:
By Confirmation we are armed and arrayed as soldiers of Christ, publicly to profess and defend His name, to fight against our internal enemy and against the spiritual powers of wickedness in the high places (Introduction to Sacraments).
When grace is operative within us, we have power to use the weapons of a Christian to overcome our enemies and truly merit our salvation. The weapons of every Christian are the Three Eminent Good works: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Each weapon is specifically aimed at each enemy, but taken generally they include all good works.
Alms are against the world. This can be defined as performing good works for your neighbor, particularly in giving material aid to the poor. Instead of allowing the world to pressure you to sin, good works call the world to convert to Christ. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Mt. v. 16).
Fasting is against the flesh. It may be defined as denying the inclinations of our disordered desires, particularly by limiting food. Instead of allowing the flesh to pressure you, fasting calls the flesh to submit to Christ. I beat my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway (I Cor. ix. 27).
Prayer is against the Devil. It is defined as lifting the mind and heart to God, particularly during private prayer. Instead of allowing the Devil to pressure your mind and heart, you call your mind and heart to Christ. For thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away: thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever (Ps. lxxii. 26).
The purpose of this site is to unite Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. Therefore let every man go to God for his power and his weapons. Let every soul fight manfully against these enemies, and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand us. All nations compassed me about; but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them (Ps. cxvii. 10).