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This spring at the Clergy Conference for the Diocese of Bismarck, Fr. Louis J. Cameli from Chicago presented from his book, The Devil You Don’t Know: Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life. While the media gives us lots of images of how the devil works, Fr. Cameli suggested that the devil is usually much less flashy, much more insidious and does not seek to frighten us and turn us away, but seeks rather to engage us and dupe us. Fr. Cameli spoke of four works of the devil: deception, division, diversion, and discouragement, in individuals and institutions, which derail us from seeking God. The only hope we have against the devil is Jesus Christ, our way to the Father.      In some ways, the most dangerous of the devil’s works is discouragement. In deceit, the devil keeps us from the truth; in division the devil divides our strength and our support; in diversion the devil leads us astray – but through discouragement the devil lets us see all of the good work we want to accomplish but convinces us that it is out of our reach. In discouragement the devil manages to block our progress everywhere. The devil uses three major forms of discouragement: regression, diversion, and paralysis.       First is regression: seeking to return to what used to be. The iconic example is in the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land when the people castigated Moses for taking them out Egypt (Ex 16:3). The reality of the manacles of slavery and the cruelty of Pharaoh were brushed aside as fear of the present reigned in the people’s hearts. Regression can happen to all of us today in a myriad of ways. Longing for an idealized past ensures that we are not caring or taking on responsibility for others or trusting in God’s goodness. The temptation is to live in another time rather than the time we have been given.      Second is diversion: turning aside to avoid what is facing us. The great example here is when Israel got tired of waiting for Moses to come back down the mountain and made the Golden Calf (Ex 32). Aaron blames the people and the calf itself for coming out of the fire. One of the downfalls of our modern life is that we are completely surrounded with the possibility for diversion! Though our connections to the wider world can often be very good, at other times our phones and computers keep us from simply being ourselves in front of God. Cultivating a sense of uncomfortable repentance or metanoia is quickly curtailed as there is another text message received or other information to be down-loaded. With these tiny steps, diversion leads us away from the presence of God.      Third is paralysis: when we give up our goal as impossible. After scouting the land, Israel becomes discouraged and is convinced they cannot invade the land (Num 13-14). As a consequence, after arriving at the edge of the Promised Land two years after leaving Egypt, they must now wait thirty-eight more years, going nowhere, until all that generation is dead. Death is the ultimate paralysis here: those guilty never arrive, just as they feared. But it also means that the people are blocked from progress and have to go the long way around, facing unnecessary dangers and obstacles along the way. Today, this can often mean that we are too afraid to take risks for God: to love, to care, and to worship.       In discouragement, what we need most of all is hope; trust that what God offers us is possible. Another remedy is vision, that image of where we hope to come, of what God is offering. “Without a vision, the people perish,” said the sage of Proverbs (29:18), not that we need a vision statement, but that we need the vision given us by God, the vision that we are made by and for God. Both of these, of course, come through the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who encourages and guides us – thereby reversing the devil’s discouragement.         Finally, we also need leisure, a true Sabbath rest. Our culture loves the dedicated life of working, or at the bare minimum being on call “24/7” every hour of the day and every day of the week. Yet, to make this sort of work possible, we then need escape – playing, being entertained, or plunging into our own interests. So our life becomes a sort of pendulum between work and escape, work and escape. That’s not a human life. It’s a life worthy of a truck; when it’s not going down the road, it’s being serviced and filled with gasoline. We have reduced ourselves to parts in the machine of production and consumption.       God calls us to rest: after the twelve go out preaching, when they return Jesus tells them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). This is the true purpose of the Sabbath rest: not to escape the demands of work, but to restore our humanity, in the only way possible: by resting with those close to us, spending time with family and friends, and especially with God.      We have seen how discouragement tries to take away our freedom by reducing us to slaves, or even to parts of a machine. God is the one who sets us free, restores our humanity in a Spirit of hope and truth, makes us whole again.

The Devil That You Don’t Know

by Fr. Boniface Muggli, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
This spring at the Clergy Conference for the Diocese of Bismarck, Fr. Louis J. Cameli from Chicago presented from his book, The Devil You Don’t Know: Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life. While the media gives us lots of images of how the devil works, Fr. Cameli suggested that the devil is usually much less flashy, much more insidious and does not seek to frighten us and turn us away, but seeks rather to engage us and dupe us. Fr. Cameli spoke of four works of the devil: deception, division, diversion, and discouragement, in individuals and institutions, which derail us from seeking God. The only hope we have against the devil is Jesus Christ, our way to the Father.      In some ways, the most dangerous of the devil’s works is discouragement. In deceit, the devil keeps us from the truth; in division the devil divides our strength and our support; in diversion the devil leads us astray – but through discouragement the devil lets us see all of the good work we want to accomplish but convinces us that it is out of our reach. In discouragement the devil manages to block our progress everywhere. The devil uses three major forms of discouragement: regression, diversion, and paralysis.       First is regression: seeking to return to what used to be. The iconic example is in the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land when the people castigated Moses for taking them out Egypt (Ex 16:3). The reality of the manacles of slavery and the cruelty of Pharaoh were brushed aside as fear of the present reigned in the people’s hearts. Regression can happen to all of us today in a myriad of ways. Longing for an idealized past ensures that we are not caring or taking on responsibility for others or trusting in God’s goodness. The temptation is to live in another time rather than the time we have been given.      Second is diversion: turning aside to avoid what is facing us. The great example here is when Israel got tired of waiting for Moses to come back down the mountain and made the Golden Calf (Ex 32). Aaron blames the people and the calf itself for coming out of the fire. One of the downfalls of our modern life is that we are completely surrounded with the possibility for diversion! Though our connections to the wider world can often be very good, at other times our phones and computers keep us from simply being ourselves in front of God. Cultivating a sense of uncomfortable repentance or metanoia is quickly curtailed as there is another text message received or other information to be down-loaded. With these tiny steps, diversion leads us away from the presence of God.      Third is paralysis: when we give up our goal as impossible. After scouting the land, Israel becomes discouraged and is convinced they cannot invade the land (Num 13-14). As a consequence, after arriving at the edge of the Promised Land two years after leaving Egypt, they must now wait thirty-eight more years, going nowhere, until all that generation is dead. Death is the ultimate paralysis here: those guilty never arrive, just as they feared. But it also means that the people are blocked from progress and have to go the long way around, facing unnecessary dangers and obstacles along the way. Today, this can often mean that we are too afraid to take risks for God: to love, to care, and to worship.       In discouragement, what we need most of all is hope; trust that what God offers us is possible. Another remedy is vision, that image of where we hope to come, of what God is offering. “Without a vision, the people perish,” said the sage of Proverbs (29:18), not that we need a vision statement, but that we need the vision given us by God, the vision that we are made by and for God. Both of these, of course, come through the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who encourages and guides us – thereby reversing the devil’s discouragement.         Finally, we also need leisure, a true Sabbath rest. Our culture loves the dedicated life of working, or at the bare minimum being on call “24/7” every hour of the day and every day of the week. Yet, to make this sort of work possible, we then need escape – playing, being entertained, or plunging into our own interests. So our life becomes a sort of pendulum between work and escape, work and escape. That’s not a human life. It’s a life worthy of a truck; when it’s not going down the road, it’s being serviced and filled with gasoline. We have reduced ourselves to parts in the machine of production and consumption.       God calls us to rest: after the twelve go out preaching, when they return Jesus tells them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). This is the true purpose of the Sabbath rest: not to escape the demands of work, but to restore our humanity, in the only way possible: by resting with those close to us, spending time with family and friends, and especially with God.      We have seen how discouragement tries to take away our freedom by reducing us to slaves, or even to parts of a machine. God is the one who sets us free, restores our humanity in a Spirit of hope and truth, makes us whole again.

The Devil That You Don’t Know

by Fr. Boniface Muggli, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601