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When Pope Francis talks about the Devil he assumes we really believe in him. Do we?

Do most Catholics believe that the Devil exists?

By on Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis (CNS)

I see that my blog on the projected Black Mass at Harvard has stimulated some vigorous debate – largely from those who, like myself, believe in the reality of evil and make no bones about the large part the Devil plays in it. Following on from that blog I must now report some good news: according to an article by Phil Lawler in Catholic Culture, entitled “Victory at Harvard: Satan defeated, the Eucharist enthroned”, the Black Mass did not take place on the Harvard campus as was expected; apparently it took place at a later time on Monday evening in an upstairs room “at a nondescript Chinese restaurant.”

As Lawler emphasises, the evening was actually a “great victory for the Catholic faith in Boston” because the most significant event that took place on Monday evening was, ironical under the circumstances, the Holy Hour of Adoration at St Paul’s church, Harvard Square, which had been deliberately arranged to coincide with the projected Black Mass. The church was packed and many people had to stand outside the doors. Lawler reports that “the young people kneeling on the stone steps, the reverent hush in the church, the booming resonance of the Tantum Ergo all radiated the vigor and joy of the Catholic faith.” It sounds terrific; I wish I had been there to experience it.

All this makes me realise that we must never underestimate the power of good to triumph over evil. God might work in mysterious ways but he never stops working, occasionally directly, at other times behind the scenes and through the agency of grace-filled fellow human beings. Lawler goes on to say that “as the procession made its way slowly down Massachusetts Avenue, some passersby dropped to their knees…others joined in the hymns…When was the last time that the city of Cambridge, bastion of secular liberalism, saw such a strong display of the Catholic faith?” When indeed? I know that when the Oxford Oratory arranges its annual Eucharistic procession through the streets of Oxford (another university town of secular liberal tendencies) it is a most moving supernatural occasion. Undoubtedly the Boston procession would have had a similar effect. I have never forgotten the story a friend once told me, of a once-Catholic chum of his (an American, as it happens) who had left the Faith for many years. He happened to witness the Blessed Sacrament being carried through the streets, fell on his knees and returned to his faith in that instant.

Lawler concludes his report, “All this happened because a few deluded students scheduled a blasphemous mockery and the Catholic community responded appropriately: not with an impotent fit of anger but with a confident show of faith. Satan overplayed his hand and got burned again.” We are reminded that although the Devil is diabolically clever and that we should never attempt to dialogue with him, his intellect is also malignantly distorted and he thus does stupid things; he lacks the prudence to act with wisdom that is the gift of grace. Malice may be powerful – whoever has experienced it hardly needs to be told this – but it is not invincible.

Today’s post also brought a new CTS booklet worth reflecting on: “Who is the Devil? What Pope Francis Says”, by Deacon Nick Donnelly, whose “Protect the Pope” blog I sorely miss (he wrote some excellent pieces on the saga of the Mater Dei hospital in Dublin and its response to the new Irish law on abortion, which I freely quoted from in my own blogs on the subject.) As Donnelly writes, “Every time the Holy Father speaks about the devil he assumes that we believe that Satan and the legion of demons are real, objective creatures. But do we?”

It’s a good question.