Satan is alive and well

THE DECEIVER. Our Daily Struggle with Satan. By Livio Fanzaga; translated from the Italian (Roman Catholic Books, P.O. Box 2286, Fort Collins, Colo. 80522, 2000), 234 pp. PB $22.95.

Temptation to evil is something that all men are subject to. The three sources are the world, the flesh and the devil. C.S. Lewis in his masterful Screwtape Letters describes in great detail how the devil tempts weak human beings to embrace evil under the appearance of good. Since man’s will is ordered necessarily to the good, when he chooses something forbidden by God, which is what we mean by sin, then he must choose it under some aspect of good. Thus the bank robber plans to buy many good things with the money he takes from others.

Fr. Livio Fanzaga, the author of The Deceiver, is well known in Italy. This book, which was recently translated into English, was a bestseller in Italy in 2000. He is also known well in Italy for his radio broadcasts. This book makes an excellent companion volume to Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. In twenty‑two chapters Fr. Fanzaga studies the tactics of Satan from many different angles.

Many of our contemporary Americans, living in a hedonistic and relativistic culture, do not believe in the existence of the devil. The reason for this is probably that they do not believe in God or they have a very distorted idea of who God is. But the devil or Satan is a truly existing, personal enemy of God and enemy of man. He is so full of hatred of good that he could be defined as hatred itself—in contrast to God who is the essence of goodness. Consequently, there is a perpetual struggle or war going on between Satan and his devils and God and his angels. Satan is mentioned often in the Bible and Fr. Fanzaga documents his statements about the devil by quoting Scripture often; he also refers to the magisterium of the Church, especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The existence of the devil, described in the Bible as a “liar” and the “prince of this world,” is a dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.

Modern atheists and unbelievers laugh at the mention of the devil, but his existence should be obvious to anyone who watches television regularly or reads the newspapers and news magazines. Terrorism, murders, thefts, deceptions, adulteries, fornication, homosexuality, abortion, same‑sex marriages, wars and so forth spell out various aspects of man’s inhumanity to man. The Bible says, and the Church repeats it, that Satan is behind much of this.

All of these evils involve sin which is a rejection of God and his grace. Those who reject God, like Judas, fall into the hands of the devil. If they die in the state of mortal sin, they go straight to hell. That is what the Church teaches, even though it is a scandal to many moderns and many Catholics also ignore it or reject it.

God has destined man for a supernatural end—the face-to-face vision of God for all eternity. Man’s true end is not in this world but in the next. So there is a tremendous struggle going on between God and Satan for the eternal destiny of immortal human beings.

What Fr. Fanzaga has done is to spell out in great detail how the devil works—how he tempts. He contrasts the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the temptation of Jesus (the Second Adam) in the wilderness. The devil wins the first round but is totally defeated by Jesus in the second round.

The devil is powerful, he is active and he is everywhere, but his influence is not irresistible. He was defeated by Jesus on the Cross who merited the grace of eternal salvation of all mankind. The author rightly points out that the devil can tempt us, but he cannot force consent of the will. He can deceive but he cannot force. Only God has access to the free human will and he can influence it by his grace. So if one prays regularly, especially the Rosary, attends Mass and receives the Sacraments, he or she has little to fear from the devil. But the devil is patient and he waits to attack us at our weakest point. Therefore, one must be vigilant at all times and be faithful.

If you would like to know more about the tactics and strategy of the Satan, then I recommend this book as a companion to Screwtape Letters. It will be very helpful to confessors and spiritual directors.

Kenneth Baker, S.J.
Ramsey, N.J.

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