Posted by Eric (September 5, 2006 at 5:09 pm)
I came upon a post recently by one Father Joe, priest in Maryland, in which he criticized the notion husbands and wives confront a demonic struggle in the midst of their marriage, and that to be victorious in this struggle they would do well to employ fasting, singled out by Jesus as particularly effective for casting out demons. Fr. Joe writes:
“Marriages are not principally about powers and principalities, they are about dirty diapers, crying babies, doctors’ bills, making beds, fixing the car, going to church as a family, sleeping as husband and wife naked together under the covers, and so much more.”
Unfortunately, my comments in reponse to this passage were removed from the blog. I offer them here—not to give new life to my dispute with Fr. Joe about what he wrote, which was in response to a particular set of circumstances, but because I wish to share what I hope are a few worthy thoughts.
I put it to you [I wrote to Fr. Joe] that you are presenting here a false dilemma. These simple aspects of marital life are the very plain upon which the battle between good and evil takes place, where one’s guardian angel and those devils whose special task it is to seek the ruin of one’s soul struggle for decisive influence.
Satan hates marriage, just like he hates each one of us, and he’s going to try to break through every chink and crack he can. Changing diapers! How easy it is for a man to leave this to his wife—selfishly. And how easy for a wife to resent him for it—bitterly. Even this seemingly mundane thing can be matter of real spiritual battle.
To say that a paritcular issue doesn’t involve the “cosmic battle” is, in fact, to say that it doesn’t involve grace. If the battle between good and evil doesn’t involve diapers, then there’s no grace involved in diapers, and any mother or father could tell you—and I speak here as the father of seven—that it’s only through grace that you survive the diaper years.
Fixing the car! I know all too well how Satan tempts me when I’m working on a mechanical repair. He would love nothing more for me to lose my temper, swear, rudely rebuke the son who’s too slow getting me the wrench I need.
Doctor bills! A man is a fool not to pray for patience before discussing doctor bills with his wife; and no, not because she tries his patience, but because he is a hot-headed fool whose real worry for his families financial state is perverted all too easily into angy words.
And is it necessary to say that the spiritual battle is waged in the midst of that nakedness between the sheets. Pope John Paul II of happy memory said just that:
“Becoming one as husband and wife, they find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight and compete against each other” Wed. Audience, 6/27/84.
He connects this fight directly to the marital embrace itself, noting the prayer of Tobiah before lying together with Sarah as her husband.
John Paul II knew that Satan wants nothing more than to undermine the harmony of husband and wife in the marital bed. Tobiah knew it. You ought to know it too.