By Fr Derek Anton
I write on the controversy concerning the fashion show held recently in a cathedral. I wish to make a link to the intense spiritual battle that is being waged in our time, referring to the tactics of the evil one in the context of this debacle.
Opportunity: The Devil is an opportunist. He knows our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and will make use of every chance and seize every opportunity to infiltrate our lives. Notice that it was said the person who was charged with monitoring and ensuring adherence to guidelines “stepped away for a bit and the designer…flouted the guidelines” (4, November 5, Trinidad Express). You cannot let your guard down.
Legalism: The Devil is very legalistic. He is interested in breaking rules, but also knows the loopholes, and will take advantage if you do not adhere to the rules that should protect you. Notice that someone in the middle of the controversy said that the “guidelines were not made clear before the event” (3, November 7, Trinidad Express). Not an attempt to use reason and be respectful was made, but just another opportunity to take advantage.
Distraction: The evil one will distract us and make us get caught up in side-issues and miss the real substance of the matter. Officials of the show said, “they felt some reactions to the event to be ‘hypocritical’ and noted that no alarm had been raised over shirtless male models” (4, November 5, Trinidad Express). The officials were right: both the women’s and the men’s lack of apparel was WRONG. But to distract us from this transgression, we are invited to get side-tracked by a red herring.
Man and woman are equal in dignity before the Lord but notice how in our times there is a spurious narrative that wants to claim that men and women are the same. Notice also how this false equality is then used to encourage us to accept all sorts of false conclusions, including an attempted redefinition of marriage, and the widening definitions of an assortment of genders— both related to the blurring of the distinction between, and uniqueness of, male and female.
My intent is not to demonise anyone. I am simply trying to show how the evil one sets traps for us all, into which we often fall prey. I also mean no disparagement of any religious group.
Guard your territory
I refer to a report in the Catholic News in late October 2017 (October 23 issue), which dealt with someone wearing a devil costume (among other costumes) in a funeral at the Catholic cathedral. Apparently, many on social media thought this inappropriate. Two views printed sought to rationalise the presence of the costume. I would guess that most of the faithful familiar with the concept of ‘playing devil’ at Carnival time, would simply have wondered what the devil was doing playing in the cathedral.
Just two weeks later, there was another article in the Catholic News (November 5, 2017 issue) concerning the use of Eucharistic images in promoting some sort of Halloween Street Festival, with an understandable response of indignation.
There is a profound link between these two incidents: a quoted response in the Halloween case actually referred to “ignorance and indifference to sacred symbols” and the desire to reclaim “the sacred dignity of places to be sacred places. We have lost that sense of sacredness in our lives.”
But if you let the devil play in Church, he will think he can desecrate your religious symbols anywhere. This is another characteristic of the evil one: if you give him an inch, he will take a mile. You cannot give him ‘permission’, because he will think he has a ‘legal right’.
Guard your territory. Do not give up one inch of ground. Using the church yard for the fashion show would have been just as inappropriate. It may well be time for us to reconsider the hosting of fundraising Carnival fetes in our Catholic secondary schools.
As we think of “sacred spaces”, note that some of these schools fall under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and have their own chapels. Not to mention the potential desecration of the “sacred spaces” of the souls of those who attend these schools for formation as young men and women.
Necessarily, the Church is always looking outwards to advance the Kingdom. Her nature is to be missionary, to bring salvation to the world but this mission is conducted in hostile territory, with a major spiritual battle taking place right now. Every good tactician-warrior knows that if you go out to meet the enemy, you must ensure that the homestead is protected. We need to reclaim and protect our sacred spaces.
The essentials of the Message of Fatima come to mind: Repentance, Conversion, and Reparation. It is a message very relevant to our own time.
Let us be mindful that we ought to make reparation for the transgressions of others, as well as for our own. And we need to be awake, alert and astute in this spiritual battle, for as Jesus has said: “…the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light” (Lk 16:8).
Fr Derek Anton is parish priest for Chaguanas.