By Fr. Joseph Gill
Bishop Caggiano, recently tweeted something that was so profound that it stopped me in my tracks! The core of it is that the devil has three weapons in today’s modern world: deception, division, and distraction.
A penetrating analysis! Our world is filled with these three D’s – and we can see examples of it every day.
Deception – In 2016, 10% of the population of the United States said that they do not believe in God. This is a ten-fold jump from 1944, when only 1% of the population was an officially-declared atheist. (Interestingly, in 2016, the city with the highest percentage of atheists was…San Francisco, with over 20% of its population not believing in God). We live in a world where many people hold erroneous beliefs about human dignity, the right to life, what marriage is, and so many other fundamental topics. Even in our everyday life, we may struggle with deceptions such as “Oh, I don’t really need to pray” or “I’m so worthless, no one could love me.”
So how do we defeat this tactic of the devil? We must live in the truth! There is only one truth and it comes from Jesus Christ, not ourselves, not our culture, and not from the world. St. Josemaria Escriva said, “For the modern apostle, an hour of study is an hour of prayer.”
Of course, studying does not replace prayer, but it is so important. We must know what the Catholic Church teaches and what Christ has revealed about who God is, who we are, and how we are to relate to the world around us. We must have the truth so interwoven into our lives that we “are transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2) and start to see the world with the eyes of Christ. We will also be able to recognize the counterfeits when they arise.
Division – every day it seems like the world is getting more and more shrill, as people live in their online camps and do not know how to have respectful dialogue with people of opposite opinions. This, unfortunately, includes many Christians. Every now and then I wade into the “comments” section of an online article, and immediately I regret it! It seems like many people are content to just shout at each other – and this happens in real life, too, in our own families and neighborhoods.
I believe the answer to division is love. Love always assumes the best about the other. As St. Paul said, love “is never rude, or envious, or self-seeking. It does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the truth.” Love means that even though a person may have a different opinion from ours, we can still recognize the good in them and acknowledge it, treating them with the respect that they deserve as a child of God. Of course, the truest form of love is to help others encounter the truth! Even this must be done in a Christ-like manner.
Distraction – Finally, the Bishop says that the third tactic of the devil in the modern world is distraction. Nielsen released a study in 2018 that claimed that American adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with media – from TV to radio to internet and everything in-between (and we’re only awake for 16 hours total!). With all that time in the digital world, is it any surprise that we have lost touch with nature, each other, and especially God?
The way to overcome this distraction is disconnecting from the things that do not lead to real encounters with God and one another. Do we really need to check our email one more time? Do we really need to check our social media every couple of minutes to see how many more people liked our post? Will that one extra article really enrich our life as much as a walk through in nature on a Fall day? When is the last time we used our phones to talk to a real, live person instead of texting them? Disconnection leads to real connection – with God, with ourselves, with one another!
Classically, the Church has always seen the world, the flesh, and the devil as the triumvirate of temptation. Bishop Caggiano’s insight, though, is that the devil is now using three strong tactics in the modern world – deception, distraction, and division. But we can overcome these three tactics through truth, love, and real connection with God and one another. How can you set to work on these in your life?
Fr. Joseph Gill is a priest of the diocese of Bridgeport, CT. Originally from Maryland, he was ordained in 2013, he has worked in parish ministry and as a high school chaplain. His passions are forming young disciples of Christ and using media to evangelize. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.