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March 20 / Second Wednesday of Lent

For I hear the whispering of many — terror all around! — as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” ~ Ps 31:13-14

When at the gym, I occasionally toggle between MSNBC and Fox News, which happen to be abutting (not to mention head-butting) channels. Taking in two such opposed world views is a stark reminder that in our currently polarized society, the idea that the “other side” is out to get us is commonly expressed and accepted. We can name our foes with ease. How does this sense of our enemies carry over into our spiritual lives? Do we still countenance the idea that there are “evil spirits who prowl through the world, seeking the ruin of souls,” as the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel memorably phrases it? Or does this seem quaintly old-fashioned to our progressive and psychologically-modulated sensibilities? To me, the psalmist’s sense that there are agents of evil who wish to pry him away from God rings true. Sometimes these devils come in human form — the friend who pressures us to “have one more,” the family member who knows exactly which buttons to push, the neighbor who scoffs at our going to church when we could be out on the golf course or at brunch. Just as often, though, it is the demons inside us who ply their schemes — goading us to behave unkindly or to betray a commitment because, after all, our needs should come first. These whispering spirits are, as the psalmist knows, underhanded and stealthy. (The Hebrew for “whispering” derives from the verb for “gliding or moving gently,” perfectly capturing the insidiousness of their approach.) These plotters want to disrupt our relationship with God. To keep them at bay, we must guard our hearts, watch our souls and, most importantly, trust God by placing ourselves in his protecting, faithful hands.

Loving God, make me watchful against the incursions of the forces of evil, and keep me faithful to you.Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

For the full text of the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel, click here.

More: Lent / Prayer
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Michael Barberi
4 years 11 months ago

Thanks for this Lenten reflection. Great article. I pray the St. Michael's prayer everyday.

Michael Bindner
4 years 11 months ago

People forget that Michael is known for his humility, making his taunt to Lucifer that much .more cutting. Think Oliver asking for more gruel. Incarnate, as predicted, he will side with the poor, not the powerful, as did the Lord. Humility is part of authentic love and acceptance of self and others, not the pride of self reliance. The real Michael will not be who is expected. Great works come from faith, love and hope, not power. They are a surrender to God, not magic power words. That is how our demons are slain.

Jay Zamberlin
4 years 11 months ago

How is a "prayer to St. Michael" as the Church addresses the Archangel, anything but a rejection on "self reliance?" Taunt to Lucifer? Really? - absolutely rich assertion, my dude, in this world run amok with the demonic. The Church has a highly developed theology concerning angels and demons, why does this homespun pap (hers more than yours) appear in a "reputable" so-called Catholic publication? So, by "his taunt" we might assume that your reference is to Pope Leo XIII, who is the author of this prayer. Again, rich assertion that Popes sensitive to the spiritual realm are concocting dubious and ill-conceived prayers. One might be want to study the relative strength and weaknesses of the RCC, prior to and after the disappearance of this "other reliant" prayer from our liturgies, internally and by way of her influence on the world.

We all know that "others" can be "demons" (not actually, but in the sense the author imparts, as agents of thought that would take us off our game) but that assertion seems to be of the same ilk as that of modernists more generally; it's not what she's saying, but what she dances around: are demons real or are they just some sort of evil, or non-God-directed, thought patterns?

There would seem to be a real aversion here towards making any sort of solid, non-equivocating acknowledgment, and I perceive a sort of shame associated with "educated" people towards any sort of belief in that regard. I have noticed, (and this is an addendum) that this author herself has received just such "she's just too pius" opprobrium for some of her "too traditional" (Catholic) perspectives, and by other Catholics, other Catholic Harvard grads. These take the form of polite "screeds" that in soft tones scream out that we modern Catholics DON'T do those things/think that way any more. "We" are safely in the bosum of modern society's "approved" way of being "religious" but "not too much so." Sad, and totally outside of our well established scholarship and theological traditions.

Jay Zamberlin
4 years 11 months ago


Paul Hierholzer
4 years 11 months ago

Perhaps you good folks at America should consider doing away with the readers' comments. They're generally pointless.

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