Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easter Warfare

With the Easter Season in full swing and the tough disciplines of Lent behind us, it is understandable that we are lulled into believing we can simply cruise through this easy time in our faith without much effort. Easter joy can blind us to the reality that Spiritual Warfare is all around us. We must remember that the devil is not on Spring Break and he does not observe an Easter Holiday. Our souls are still under attack as they were throughout Lent – perhaps more so.

This is especially true for those who were newly baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil. Like spiritual newborns, they are in need of our protection.  An article by Msgr. Charles Pope describes the situation:

“It is sobering for me to consider how many of the people I have baptized quietly slipped away from the Church in the years that followed. A couple of years ago I was looking at my notes from past Easter Vigils and gradually my mouth came open. For as I looked back over those notes going back fifteen years, I saw the names of many I had prepared for baptism and reception. But more than half were gone now. And of only a very few could I say, ‘Ah, they have moved and I know that they are in a parish there.’

“I was, frankly, stunned. Some of them had been intense, joyful and excited to be baptized and received. I remember the joy of those congregations gathered at the vigil as, one by one the catechumens went down into the water. ‘Alleluia!’ went forth the song, as each of them emerged from the font. And joy too was expressed for those received into full communion. And now half of them gone, quite certainly lapsed.

“I cannot find any hard data on line, but, I have talked to RCIA ‘experts’ who do work at a national level and they quietly affirm that, within five years, 50% of those who came through RCIA are no longer practicing the faith in any real way. I cannot show you the hard numbers, but I have personally found this to be true.”

These new converts who abandon the faith need our help. But before we assist them, we must be fully aware of what we are up against, as Msgr. Pope explains:

“[T]hey are likely under some level of spiritual attack. Demon, thy name is lethargy, thy name is boredom, thy name is sorrow and sloth, distraction and forgetfulness. Jesus warned:

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mk 4:15-19)

“Yes, spiritual attack is real. So is the world and the flesh.

“I think, in the early days of RCIA we figured that those who entered in this way had a great advantage over “cradle Catholics,” for they had come to the faith as adults, and made a mature decision to follow Christ. Yes, they would remain firm. But we are waking up from that notion. We need to be more vigorous and sober in our assessment of what new and returning Catholics face. Satan is sure to make some moves on them…”

There are some who would deny that Christianity has anything to do with “warfare” – this type of imagery is frowned upon by Catholics who like to decorate their churches with pictures of rainbows and butterflies, and dislike talk about sin and hell and final judgment. But Spiritual Warfare is a reality and we are all combatants. Easter does not bring a ceasefire to this war, and the newly baptized are not neutral parties. Indeed they are prime targets for the Enemy. Do not allow your Easter celebration to cloud your spiritual judgment. The battle rages on and our new recruits need our prayers and encouragement.

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