When it comes to life, be it board games or the boardroom, itsgenerally best to have a plan. Things go better when you strategize. This isespecially true of things like sports and eminently true of war and combat, asmany people in our diocese know well. But often we forget that living ourChristian faith involves strategy, too. It is, after all, spiritual warfare. Itis true there are many other good analogies for the spiritual life, but thereis a reason St. Paul reminds us that were at war with principalities andpowers, and tells us to put on the whole armor of God. We are at war for ourown souls. How do we win? We need astrategy. What does that look like?
If you look at famous battles such as Thermopylae and Agincourt,battles where one army has fought successfully against overwhelming odds, Ithink we can take away three lessons for strategizing and living the spirituallife. To win a battle, we need to know:
1) What weapons are needed to win. For instance, the Greeks hadsuperior tactics and weaponry at Thermopylae.
2) We need to find a way to even the odds, using strategy to comeup with a battle plan and cut our enemy down to manageable size. The English atAgincourt used the terrain to render the French knights useless.
3) We need to cut the enemys supply lines and force them tofight on our terms. Strip the enemy of resources and they lose their will tofight.
I would submit that in the spiritual life, that translates to:
1) Knowing that frequent confession, weekly Mass and daily prayerare your weapons of choice.
2) Strategizing where your conflicts will be likely, having aplan to engage them, and knowing that you dont have to fight all the battlesall at once. Pick a small thing and work on it in manageable pieces. Thinkabout it: The people and things that usually set you off are the same everyday. That guy who annoys you at work? Probably going to be there tomorrow, andstill be annoying. Someone is probably going to cut you off on the Beltway andmake you angry. You can control precisely one person in that equation. Sowhats your strategy?
3) Remove all opportunities for Satan to get to you or lead youastray. Avoid the near occasions of sin.
This is especially relevant with pornography, as itsunfortunately a common habitual sin that a lot of people struggle to conquer inour age, one of our modern overwhelming armies. A lot of people struggle withwatching stuff they shouldnt watch, and then letting that lead them to actpoorly afterward. Many people struggle to conquer this sin, and feel like itsan un-winnable battle. Its not. Freedom is possible. We just have to stand andfight for it. We have to strategize and act.
So, apply the lessons:
1) What weapons are needed to overcome it, or any sin for thatmatter? Basic training and basic weaponry: The essentials are frequent confession,every week if you need to, Mass every Sunday with worthy reception of holyCommunion (hence the confessions), and a daily habit of prayer, at least 20minutes a day. Those are the necessary basics. You will not win without them.
But then what about a winning strategy? Follow the Greeks atThermopylae and the English at Agincourt:2) and 3) Cut your enemy down to size, make your fight easier and eventhe odds, and cut off Satans supply line. Does your computer lead you astray?Then perhaps its time to install a filter that keeps you away from certainsites. Same with the phone. If you think, Well, Ill just end up caving andentering the password anyway, then make it something hard, like the firstletter of every word in the Hail Mary. Youll never remember it withoutpraying. Replace some of the letters. Cut off the access. Make it hard foryourself to fall. If its your TV, cancel the all-inclusive subscription.Perhaps move the TV and computer out of the bedroom to public places. Dontfight Satan on his own terms. Strategize.
Then finally, strategize to give yourself healthy habits: Regularexercise, fasting, and getting involved in the church community all can helpyou build allies and win the fight. You will need friends and people to keepyou accountable. Therefore, plug in. Find a priest, tell him youre fightingfor your freedom and you want allies.
The general outline (know what weapons you need to win, make thebattle small and winnable, cut off Satans supply lines) can apply to all sortsof things in the spiritual life. But the essential thing is to take Jesus up onhis word, decide to follow him, stand and fight. The battle is for our souls,and we must fight or all is lost. But we dont fight alone. God fights withinus and redeems us even when we fall, enabling us to fight again and again. IfGod is for us, who can be against us?
Fr. Miserendino is parochial vicar at St. BernadetteChurch in Springfield.
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