Seven Ways The Devil Sabotages Lent
Published: March 15, 2012
Lent is a big muddle for the devil. He hates it when people fast and pray and give alms. We know he tempted Jesus in the desert, and we should be on the lookout for the devil’s appearance in our Lenten wildernesses as well. And here are seven of his poisonous ploys:
1. He assures us that we needn’t go to confession during Lent. “You’re fine just as you are,” he whispers. “After all, you’re a good person at heart. Sure, you may have committed a sin or two, but you told God you were sorry, right? And besides, didn’t you go to confession last year … or was it the year before that?”
2. Whenever we try to tame a particular desire, he’ll put roadblocks in our way. If you gave up clothes shopping, for example, he will assure you that online purchases don’t count, since you’re not at the mall. If you gave up booze, he’ll try to convince you that a mimosa is just fine, since it’s served at breakfast!
3. As you head over to the adoration chapel, all sorts of things will happen to throw you off course. You may be suddenly seized with an uncontrollable desire to call a friend or clean out a closet or compose a poem. Long story short: You never get to the chapel, and the devil dances for joy. As British poet William Cowper said, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”
4. The poet Baudelaire said the devil’s greatest accomplishment was getting people to think he wasn’t real. During Lent, the devil will make good use of this achievement, trying to persuade you that the temptations you wrestle with have nothing to do with spiritual warfare. Once you buy into this lie, he has you firmly in his clutches and can turn up the heat, so to speak. For me, it helps to recall the words of British author and priest Ronald Knox: “It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil when he is the only explanation of it.”
5. In Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the devil refused to submit to God, saying, “I will not serve.” And whenever we are inclined to serve someone during Lent, whether that means helping a child with homework, visiting a neighbor who is ill or calling a relative who is lonely, the prince of darkness will suggest that we’d be better off using the time to relax and enjoy ourselves.
6. If you veer off course during Lent, the devil will try to whip you into a frenzy of regret. He’ll tell you that since you’ve broken one promise, you should just give up entirely. He’ll try dissuading you from doing the one thing necessary—which is running to Christ and asking for mercy and forgiveness.
7. Most of all, the devil will try to discourage you from keeping your Lenten vows. He will murmur in your ear that you have always lacked will power—and no wonder you (choose one): ate that brownie; drank that beer; watched that show on TV. And if this happens, remember that discouragement never comes from God but always from the devil.
As we enter the final weeks of Lent, keep in mind that we can defuse the devil’s attacks through prayer and frequent reception of holy Communion. Also remember, as St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “The Devil can make suggestions, (but) he doesn’t have the power to compel you against your will.”
And here’s a powerful prayer that helps fend off the devil’s attacks:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.