Spiritual Wickedness

The first post I read on Facebook this morning was about the theft of a tabernacle from a church in Ontario (not made of precious metal, so it’s likely the consecrated Hosts were the target). That, and the ever-increasing number of attacks on churches in France and elsewhere, is a stark reminder that it isn’t only moral/social evils that confront us as Christians but the spiritual wickedness described in Ephesians 6.12:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against a spiritual wickedness in high places.

For Catholics, in particular, I think there has been a tendency during the past 50 years or so to play down the notion of spiritual evil. It has been trivialised, both by those who want to think of evil as an outdated concept and by those who label ‘evil’ anyone or anything they happen to disagree with or who regard a single issue as being determinative of right or wrong. For example, some of my friends who regard abortion as wrong have no difficulty in accepting capital punishment or the inequalities of economic systems that mean millions live in poverty. They proudly proclaim themselves to be pro-life, but I would argue that there is an inconsistency that undermines their claim. In the same way, I cannot dismiss attempts to steal the Blessed Sacrament as inconsequential or the work of a deranged mind. No, let us name evil for what it is: evil.

What I think we often fail to grasp is that evil is subtle. None of us would consent to it if we saw it for what it truly is. In the Rabbinic Targums we find Satan described as a beautiful and seductive creature. On Easter Night we are called upon to reject the glamour of evil. In other words, there is an attraction about evil to which we respond as human beings. It may be the promise of power or wealth or simply the allure of being ‘different’, but the sad truth is that evil has captivated many in the world today. Instead of getting angry, hurling abuse, railing against whatever we perceive to be wrong, I think we have to take up the weapons that the Lord Jesus himself specifies: prayer and fasting.

As soon as I say that, I know I’ll have lost some readers. The kind of prayer I’m talking about isn’t the dutiful ‘Oh, and please Lord, put an end to all evil in the world,’ as quickly forgotten as uttered. Nor is the fasting the kind of token fast that means giving up a glass of wine or a bar of chocolate and possibly feeling a little righteous for doing so. No, I am talking about the kind of prayer that perseveres, makes demands on our time, eats into other activities; the kind of fasting that makes us truly hungry, that invites God into the situation in which we find ourselves.

When I read that Facebook post this morning, my first reaction was to say the Lord’s Prayer — not to condemn the thieves, but to pray for them and to reaffirm my own love and trust in the Lord. I can make a pretty good guess how the sacred Hosts may be abused. I can do nothing about that in concrete terms, but prayer knows no boundaries of time or space. There is hope, despite the darkness. Ultimately, evil will not triumph, but we have a hard fight on our hands in the meantime.

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8 thoughts on “Spiritual Wickedness”

  1. Dearest Sister, a brilliant Blog. I believe that the concept of Evil as you analyse it is central to our contemporary Christian faith. Also your concept of prayer and fasting in this modern world. Thank you for having the courage to write this. Amen. Alleluia. Emmanuel. God is with us, His love embraces us. God is in charge.

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  2. Just as Jesus was taken by force, so the practice continues. The first time it resulted in the resurrection. I wonder if the sacred hosts are deconsecrated by God when stolen? Or do they remain consecrated in order to do some greater good? Whenever I’ve suggested a Church remains open for 24 hour adoration, the priest raises the concern about security. I’ve always felt God can take care of Himself!

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  3. Dear Sister Catherine

    In 2020 talking about evil , not as an instant reaction or and adjective but as a reality which needs to be fought against? – and offering how to do it?
    “Instead of getting angry, hurling abuse, railing against whatever we perceive to be wrong, I think we have to take up the weapons that the Lord Jesus himself specifies: prayer and fasting……… the kind of prayer that perseveres, makes demands on our time, eats into other activities; the kind of fasting that makes us truly hungry, that invites God into the situation in which we find ourselves…….. evil will not triumph, but we have a hard fight on our hands.“

    Perhaps I need to search through your blogs to understand more, such as fasting, truly hungry, as in desire of God in the situation – so you lost me in understanding but not in interest. Thank you

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  4. Just as I was becoming aware of the chatty “glamour” (!) of life in a small country town, the seductive nature of flicking through F-B posts……..and of the silence and space that I need in order to counter-attack the above…..THANK YOU. And – yes, evil is alive and well. We say every night after Compline that lovely prayer “Visit, Lord, we beseech thee, this place…..” and mean every word.

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  5. I once saw someone beating a child, in broad daylight, with other adults looking on scared and doing nothing. Then I saw her eyes. They were completely empty; there was no one at home. At that moment, I understood what evil was. It’s a lack. It’s a lack of everything that makes us loving people. I also realised that she needed love to replace and fill that emptiness, that lack of personhood, not condemnation.
    Sometimes prayer is the only answer at the time, the only lovingness that you can give.

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  6. The Cathedral you mentioned in your post whose Tabernacle was stolen is actually my parish. The grainy footage showing those who did it, the means of transport, and where the broken Tabernacle with its empty Ciborium were found, all point to a crime of poverty and quite possibly addiction rather than anything nefarious, or so our bishop believes. We have many homeless and addicted in our area, a shopping cart was used to transport the stolen Tabernacle (the vehicle of choice among the homeless), and it was found dumped in the old canal near a homeless encampment. It seems that perhaps they though that the brass doors were perhaps more than that and were worth something. It is hoped beyond measure that the Host were dumped into the old canal waters and dissolved there as that is where the Ciborium was found.

    Our bishop has asked our diocese for prayers of reparation from now until mid October:

    “O most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen”

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    • Thank you for that information, Jennifer, which I hope will be publicized. Sadly, we have had cases of satanic profanation in this country and elsewhere of which I have direct knowledge but I mentioned your parish’s experience because it was topical. We all forget very quickly. Please God, good will come of this.

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