Lent can be a difficult Liturgical Season for some Christians. In addition to the fasting, abstinence, sacrifices, alms-giving, and penance, it often seems like the devil ups the ante on spiritual warfare. It’s almost like he is throwing a satanic temper tantrum. And you know what? He actually might be.
The devil hates Lent.
During Lent, the Catechism tells us that “the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” We hear about how Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert. So it makes sense that the faithful may experience more temptations during Lent as we strive to unite ourselves more closely with Christ.
But this is not why the devil hates Lent.
The devil hates Lent because Lent is good for our souls. Really good. And if something is good for our souls, that is bad news for Satan. In fact during exorcisms demons have been known to scream out in agony, “I hate the season of Lent! People do what they should always do and I hate it!”
Read more: Lent – Victory over the Demonic
So how can we beat the devil during this season of penance? Here are four ideas!
1. Make this your best Lent
What it is it that we can do that makes demons writhe in pain and the devil throw tantrums? We can start by observing Lent through an increase in prayer, fasting at least on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstaining from meat on Fridays. We can increase our acts of mortification, alms-giving and penance. All of these practices have the spiritual effect of strengthening one’s conscience, self control, and ability to resist temptations.
Want to make the devil really angry? Make at least one good confession before Easter. The Sacrament of Reconciliation alone has the power to stop the devil’s plans in their tracks and derail all his efforts to snatch a soul away from God. This is why Satan hates Lent. A soul sincerely trying to observe Lent well renders him impotent and thwarts his best efforts at tempting that soul away from God’s Grace.
2. End Lent better than you started it
Lent is not meant to be observed in a vacuum. A person should strive to develop at least one good spiritual habit, or try to tame one of the passions that needs reining in, and then keep it up! If you want to really mess with the devil’s plans, do something or mortify yourself in a way that you will continue after Lent is over, and fast well.
Perhaps as part of Lent you will observe the Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fasts and then choose a mortification, a ‘fast’ from something that is not good for you. During Lent it is particularly encouraged to choose something to “give up.” This is a form of fasting. It can be something that distracts you from praying, something that prevents you from growing closer to God, a vice, a bad habit, or something that you really like, but don’t need.
Fasting is powerful. “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity,” Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote.
In scripture Jesus told us that there are some demons who can only be removed or stopped through fasting. No wonder the demons shriek about their hatred of Lent!
3. Don’t give up!
Lent lasts a long time. It is not uncommon to start off well – full of good intentions and zeal – only to crash about half way through. It is at this point that you may feel tempted to give up.
Don’t give up! The lie the devil will try to tell you is that you failed. You couldn’t stick it out! You just aren’t cut out for this holy stuff, this spiritual life. Nice try. Now get back to “normal” again. Perhaps he will further whisper another lie: that you did great up until then, that you deserve a break! You’ve done enough! You can skate through the rest of Lent!
Don’t listen. God is much more interested in our efforts and our perseverance than we often give Him credit for. He knows we may fall off the Lenten wagon – maybe more than once! What he cares about is that we climb back on.
Whatever God’s reasons for allowing us to have a tough Lent, we can have confidence that He is pleased with sincere efforts. Our efforts, even though imperfect, merit great grace for souls. No wonder the devil tries to whisper deceitful lies to tempt you to give up. He hates a soul filled with grace – it is like a force field that blocks his every move!
4. Turn to our Lady for help this Lent
The devil hates Lent, but he hates Our Lady even more. Our Heavenly Mother, sinless, who Pope Saint John Paul II called “our guide for our Lenten journey” lived a very long Lent in her heart. One could argue that her Lent began at the words of Simeon, “And a sword shall pierce your heart…”
Mary will come to our aid when the crosses, the sacrifices, the sufferings of Lent seem too much to carry. Mary comes to aid the determined but failing sinner and lends her aid in persevering.
When it seems that Lent is a lost cause, turn to Mary. She will carry you to the foot of the Cross, and then to the empty tomb and the Upper Room. This is because Mary knows. Mary knows that Lent itself is not the destination. Satan hates this most of all, because Christ’s suffering, death, and Resurrection are the devil’s defeat. He has lost. For all Eternity he is the loser. And he is the sorest loser of all time.
This Lent, be prepared for a demonic tantrum or two – to experience some temptation and spiritual warfare- but don’t worry. With Mary’s help and a sure confidence in God’s pleasure at seeing your efforts to persevere, you will arrive at Easter holier than you were when Lent began, with some new good spiritual habits and a firmer grasp on your self control. The devil hates Lent, but you don’t have to!