I think it’s kind of fitting that the Feast of the Guardian Angels takes place at the beginning of October… especially since the rest of the month is full of spiderwebs, skeletons, and reminders of the fact that there is evil in the world.
Next week, I’ll touch a little more on Halloween and why I don’t think it’s something that has to be over-Catholicized, but today, I do want to focus on the presence of Satan in our lives.
It’s tradition and teaching within our faith that each one of us has a guardian angel assigned to us at our conception; this angel helps us in our pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty, which in turn will take us to eternal life. What isn’t as well known is that some Theologians hold the belief that Satan also assigns a fallen angel to us in that same moment. This demon is charged with the task of distracting, confusing, and misleading us. Our Guardian Angel helps us to accept God’s will for our destiny, our personal tempter tries to make us forge our own.
Neither spirit is capable of controlling us, all they can do is influence our hearts and minds. For me, for a good part of my life, I spent a lot of time living under the influence of my tempter – and I didn’t realize it for too long.
You see, I didn’t realize I was doing anything bad. I was following Church teaching, I was frequenting the sacraments, I was trying not to be sinful… but Satan, “the master of lies” was able to take my desire to do good, and twist it into something harmful. In my ignorance, I had no idea what was happening until it was too late. I was deeply embedded in a pitiful state.
You see, my tempter had succeeded in making me think that I was much more sinful than I actually was. He highlighted all my failures, constantly reminding me of them, and always hinting that I was probably going to fail again. He also had me thinking that I could not be friends with God while I was imperfect. I could not have an intimate relationship with him until I was worthy… and I had to work, work, work, work, work to earn my worthiness. Despite all my efforts to be perfect, I couldn’t do it. And I thought that God was deeply displeased with me. I couldn’t show him well enough that I loved him above everything else in my life. I did not believe in his unconditional love and mercy.
There was a lot of grace that helped me to break free from this line of thinking… but in all honesty… it took me years.
I had fallen into a habit, an obsession actually, of trying to do good and then convincing myself I had failed. I was so hateful towards myself… and so distant from God because I was afraid of him! Come December, Blessed is She will be publishing a post I wrote about my struggles with scrupulosity– a type of religious OCD. It really felt as though I was living in hell… everything was focused on me… and I knew that “me” was a terrible, unloving, and weak human being.
Thanks to the sacraments and my guardian angel, I didn’t stay in that place. Little by little, grace got through. One of the sacramentals I was introduced to during this time was the medal of St. Benedict.
St Benedict lived in Italy during the fifth century. He founded the Benedictine order. He had a deep devotion to the cross and worked many miracles with it, which is why the cross appears on both the front and the back of the Benedictine medal.
There is so much beauty and wisdom crammed into this tiny space… the raven, the book, the rays of light, the words… all of them have an incredible meaning. However, what helped me the most to break free of the over-powering influence of my tempter is the writing on the back.
Pictured on the bottom of the picture to the left, the back of the medal is dominated by the image of the cross. On the arms of the cross are the initial letters of a rhythmic Latin prayer: “Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!” These words translate to English as follows: “May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!”
Above the cross is the word, “pax” (peace) which has been a Benedictine motto for centuries. Around the margin of the back of the medal, the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B are the initial letters, as mentioned above, of a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan: “Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!” The English translation gives me chills, “Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”
I got myself a medal and had it blessed by one of the friars on campus. I wore it attached to my scapular, over my heart. Whenever my feelings of anxiety and self condemnation started to build, I’d remember this Latin exorcism. I ended up adapting it slightly and making it a mantra for myself. Anytime I recognized the influence of my tempter, I’d silently engage only to say, “drink your own poison.” Then I would drop the thought and walk away.
Whenever spiritual warfare is running rampant, I continue to rely on the wisdom of this sacramental. It’s become a major part of my life. A few years back I found this version of the medal in a local Catholic book store. I took it with me when Pope Francis came to Philly in 2015 and had it blessed by him. I always wear it when I’m feeling especially weak. It serves as an important reminder for myself that I have the power to accept or reject the outside influences of my daily life.
There is no “proper” way for carrying or wearing the Medal of St. Benedict. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, attached to one’s rosary, kept in one’s pocket or purse, or placed in one’s car or home. The medal is often put into the foundations of houses and building, on the walls of barns and sheds, or in one’s place of business. Once my fellow teacher and I glued them under all the desks in our classroom!
I wanted to share my experience with you, because later this week I am pairing up with Catholic Box for a giveaway. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that yesterday we revealed the print we designed specifically in honor of Pope St. John Paul II. The print, along with a few other goodies will be a part of our giveaway which focuses on the pursuit of sainthood. For me, the medal of St. Benedict is a major source of grace in my life. It helps me out on a regular basis. It helps me to remember to reject Satan when he whispers his lies. This medal is a huge help to me in all my spiritual pursuits, which is why our giveaway will include the Medal of St Benedict in magnetic form from Catholic Car Magnet (I love this alternative to a typical bumper sticker since it wont depreciate the value of my car, and I can remove it easily at any time I want).
If you want to make sure you get updates and information about the giveaway, be sure to sign up for SwapMail (I really will not spam you). Your subscription results in five automatic entries and you can unsubscribe any time!