Is the devil real? Putin’s Illegal Invasion

Jerome Novotny, OMI – The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is deepening as Russian illegal forces intensify their shelling; food, water, heat and medicine are growing increasingly scarce. More than two million refugees, including over a million children, have fled Ukraine. As Russia’s military and airstrikes continue, the civilian death toll grows. In this article, let me share a story with you. Many years ago, in a small chapel in 1884, Pope Leo XIII was saying Mass and suddenly he heard voices near the altar. He looked around but could not see anyone, yet what he heard filled him with fear. What the Holy Father heard was a conversation between God and the devil.

The conversation resembles an event found in the Book of Job, in which Satan asks God for, and receives, permission to tempt the faith of the righteous Job. Here, Satan can also be heard boasting to God that he could destroy the Catholic Church if God would let him. All he needed was more time and power. God asked him how much time and power he would need? He replied around a 100 years. God replied, “You will have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”

Shocked by what he had heard, Pope Leo XIII went directly to his office and composed this prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel:

Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

Pope Leo then required that this prayer be recited after Mass to protect the Church and the world from the power and influence of Satan. This custom still exist in many parts of the world.

The point I would like to make is that the devil is real. Evil is a reality. Satan and the other fallen angels hate Jesus and His Church. They are actively involved in the destruction of the Church. One method used by Satan is to create havoc among men which ultimately leads to the destruction of their relationship to God.

Take Ukraine for example. Every day the news is filled with the wide and general destruction the Russian soldiers are wreaking on Ukrainian residents. This unlawful Russian invasion of another country has turned into a one-sided war against a helpless population of Ukrainian women and children. The Russian machine continues to shell major population centers with residential buildings, schools, Churches and hospitals, killing innocent people at random. So far, thousands of Ukraine civilians have been wounded, including 516 killed, OHCHR said, while acknowledging that the real figures are likely “considerably higher.”

The Russian military arsenal includes using cluster bombs, rockets and artillery shells which open in the air, releasing submunitions, or “bomblets,” that are dispersed over a large area and simultaneously hit multiple targets. Tanks, and warplanes with Kalibr (Caliber) cruise missiles or Iskander missiles are just a few. Some of these have been fired from the territory of Russian ally Belarus.

Igor, who is 54, said that his 12-year-old daughter — who had disabilities and used a wheelchair — was killed in a strike that hit their village. His wife, mother-in-law, two sons-in-law and his wife’s friend also died. Two of his grandchildren survived the attack, along with his cat, Marsik.

To intensify the suffering of ordinary residents, the Russian soldiers have damaged the Donetsk-Mariupol pipeline, leaving over 700,000 people without heat while temperatures are below 0 degrees Celsius.

Adding to their crimes against humanity, the military is now targeting refugees trying to flee the country. For example, Russian forces continued to shell the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, despite agreeing to a ceasefire earlier – throwing an attempted mass evacuation of civilians into chaos. Ukrainian civilians remain trapped without power and with little access to food and water. Among the refugees trying to escape are Ukrainian children with cancer or are disabled.

The list continues as the Russian soldiers seek new ways to inflict more torture on the helpless Ukraine residents throughout the country. Western officials warned of their “serious concern” that Vladimir Putin could use chemical weapons on Kyiv.

For me, it is difficult to comprehend how young soldiers, young Russian human beings can intentionally inflict such evil and pain on another group of defenseless human beings, especially the elderly, women and children. Does the Russian population really support Putin’s deadly invasion? I would say NO. At present, he has taken control of Russian free press, radio and TV; has threatened his own population with a 15-year prison penalty for anyone who dares to criticize the war in Ukraine or the military; in short, we have another cruel dictator in the making, not only suppressing his own people but those of other nations as well.

This is a prime example of evil at work. The devil is real. Satan and the other fallen angels will do anything they can to destroy good people. In Ukraine we see a sick dictator invading a foreign country, threatening to use nuclear weapons and appears to be insane enough to use them. This morning his military puppets bombed and destroyed a maternity and children’s hospital in the middle of Mariupol City. A number of children are buried under rubble. My question: How could these innocents possibly threaten the Russian Federation?

In spite of this bleak situation, however, we do not need to be afraid. God is infinitely more powerful than Satan. Good is much more powerful than evil and the truth prevails over lies. However, we should be aware of the devil’s presence in the world and his intention to ruin us. In his first letter, Saint Peter tells us, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion. Resist him, solid in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8). We should be vigilant but never afraid.

In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus goes to the desert to face the devil and his temptations. The devil does his best, offering Jesus all the pleasure and power that the world has to offer. But Jesus rejects the devil and his empty promises. Why? Because He has confidence in His Father’s love for Him. He does not need to turn stones to bread because God will provide food for Him. He does not need authority over the kingdoms of this world because He trusts that God will give Him the Kingdom of Heaven. And He does not have to prove to Satan or to Himself that God will protect Him if He throws Himself off from the roof of the Temple. He has too much confidence in God to do that.

And so, Jesus shows us how we can conquer temptation in our own lives – by trusting in God’s unconditional love for us and His promise that He will always provide for us.

The devil tries to tempt us by playing on our fears. He wants to convince us that God has abandoned us. He wants us to believe that God does not have our best interests at heart. But these are all lies. God loves us. If He commands us not to sin, it is to keep us from harming ourselves. By sinning we harm ourselves and hurt others.

The other lie the devil tries to tell us is that we can’t resist him. He reminds us that we are sinners and tells us we are too weak to stand up against temptation. But that is not true. Though we are sinners, we can still say “no” to temptation. Sin only has power over us if we give in to it. If we resist temptation, solid in our faith as Saint Peter tells us to, then we can overcome it with God’s help.

The devil has one last trick up his sleeve. If we do succumb to temptation and sin, he tries to convince us that God will not forgive us. He tries to heap shame and guilt on us so that we hide from God. It is part of the devil’s strategy to separate us from God and isolate us. Do not believe him! God is always willing to forgive us. There is no sin so great that it makes our Heavenly Father stop loving us.

Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness and put an end to his kingdom through the cross. We remember all that Jesus did to save us and so can face the temptations of our daily lives with confidence and determination. God loves us. God always forgives us. And there’s nothing the devil can do about it.

Questions of war are complicated. But the teaching of the Catholic church is clear: We are against war. And the person who best explained this was St. John Paul II in his address to diplomats in 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq:

“NO TO WAR! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity…. [F]aced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution. War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations.”

In this time of conflict in Ukraine, let us pray for peace and daily recite this prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel:

Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

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