"What?" I responded, "Why?"
H is a seminarian in our group. From what I could tell, he was a rather optimistic and excitable person, very good with the kids, super energetic... Basically all the things I feel I have deficiencies in. I didn't know him well, but I knew him enough to be surprised that he would think of leaving Totus Tuus.
N proceeded to tell me that H had been feeling really down, filled with a negative attitude about the program. He wanted to be there, but something was wrong. As she explained, I recalled what I had felt only a few days previous. Each Saturday we travel to the next parish to attend Vigil Mass and meet our host families. When we arrived at our second week location, it seemed as if I had some mental and emotional block put up. As our group heard Mass, I felt very distracted and had to continually remind myself to refocus. I could not engage in the homily given and struggled through the prayers. I understood rationally that I wanted to be there: there is no better place to be than at Mass. But emotionally, it just wasn't working.
As we exited the cathedral and the girls met with our host family, I felt...less than enthused. I wasn't excited about the new parish. I wasn't excited about the new family. I did not want to be there and only barely attempted small talk as we drove down the street. I would even have struggled to say that I cared. It was like I was completely checked out except for the times I forced myself to try to get back into the real world. It was as if something gloomy and dark was resting upon me.
That is when I realized, as I told N and Y (the other girl we roomed with), that I'm fairly certain the struggle I had had was inspired by Satan.
Okay, watch now as everyone has some sort of "That's a bit far, don't you think?" comment. No. Not at all. As the title of this post suggests, this is the thing no one talks about: the fact that the devil is prowling like a lion seeking to devour us. That imagery makes it seem as if the devil is obvious in his work, but he isn't. He, being an angel, knows far more than a man knows. What's more: he knows man's weaknesses. He knows which buttons to push and when to do so.
I can sometimes be an emotional person, which does not mean that I cry constantly, but I understand and experience some things best through emotions or feelings. While I strive to be rational (since emotions can waver), emotions do play a good part in how I experience things like Mass. That does not mean that if I don't feel blown away, I'll think it was a bad Mass. Of course not. Instead, if I feel as if I cannot connect—if my mind strays, if my heart doesn't seem to be in it, and so on—it is actually much more difficult for me to hear Mass as I am supposed to do. That is exactly what happened to me on Saturday.
It makes sense of course. Our Totus Tuus team is educating children, teaching them about the faith from very basic concepts to very intellectual reaches. We work constantly to inform, inspire and correct these students we have been allowed an amazing opportunity with. The opportunity is worth it, as I remind myself every day, but it is still a lot of work to do. Of course Satan would encourage us to quit, to turn us away from an opportunity to really open up someone's eyes about the faith.
Now that N had told me about H's doubts, I saw how Satan was working. I've even seen since then (this now being more than two weeks later) that when our team becomes stressed, Satan plays upon those chords to make our exhausted, scatterbrained selves even more stressed. He wants us to notice how little sleep we got the previous night. He wants us to replay in our minds the disagreeable conversation we had with someone. He wants us to question how worth it this job is.
So how do you respond when you feel as if Satan is bearing down on you?
Pray. Our group prays a lot. We pray Morning, Evening and Night prayer. We pray the Rosary. We pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. A team member is praying during every class period. We pray at the opening and closing of each day, before meals and during class with the students. We ask for prayers and pray for each other. We have a huge support system at the parishes. We have daily Mass: the ultimate prayer.
Prayer is so important in the Christian life, but I fear we do not pray as often as we should. Do not be discouraged! It is so easy to add prayer into your life to make it a regular thing. If you pray before bed but always fall asleep, pray when you first wake up instead. Pray at set times by starting up the Liturgy of Hours. Pray with your friends and family. Pray as you commute to work or school. Pray the Rosary every day, even if only one decade. Prayer is not only a conversation with God; it is both our sword and shield.
It is a constant battle, or maybe it is battle after battle. Satan doesn't want to give up. But as Y told me earlier today: we may lose a battle, but I want to win the war.
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
cast into Hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.