Why we need the Church, the Sacraments, and the Saints to fight Satan

“We cannot divorce ourselves from the interpersonal network into which God has created us,” says Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, “… if we recognize that, all the better: you are in a community, so you better find the right one.”

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., is the author of several books, most recently of a trilogy on spiritual battle and Catholic spirituality. (Images: Ignatius Press)

In the first part of my conversation with Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, we spoke about spiritual warfare, fighting Satan, and escaping the darkness of evil. These and many related topics are addressed in his trilogy entitled Called Out of Darkness: Contending with Evil through the Church, Virtue, and Prayer. The first two volumes, Christ Versus Satan in Our Daily Lives: The Cosmic Struggle Between Good and Evil (Ignatius Press, 2020) and Escape from Evil’s Darkness: The Light of Christ in the Church, Spiritual Conversion, and Moral Conversion (Ignatius Press, 2021) are now out. The third volume in the current trilogy, entitled The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church: Principles of Personal and Social Ethics, is due out from Ignatius Press early next year.

In this second part of the interview, Fr. Spitzer further discusses the nature of the struggle against evil and the role of the Church, the saints, and the sacraments in combating sin.

CWR: Why is it important that we have the Church to help us in this struggle against evil? There might be some who would say “It’s sufficient to simply call on Jesus for help.” So what is it that the Church uniquely offers in this struggle?

Fr. Spitzer: It’s a very good question. Of course, we can always start off with the question: Why did Jesus start the Church? What did he have in mind when he said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I’ll give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever you declare loose on earth will be loosed on heaven, what you declare bound on earth will be bound in heaven.”

Why did he say that? Why did he do that?

The reason for me is threefold: first, we are interpersonal by our very nature. We are meant to be in community by our very nature. We’re not alone in the world, so the very first thing we need to acknowledge is the whole Enlightenment philosophy that we are autonomous agents, out there solo by ourselves. That’s a fallacy. We’re all interrelated with each other, and that’s how God created us. He didn’t create us as autonomous human beings, that’s wrong. If we make that assumption from the very beginning, then we have no responsibility to the community, no responsibility to the cosmic order that God has created us in, no responsibility for the Mystical Body of Christ—if we start from that assumption, everything we do from that point on will be dead wrong, because we are interpersonal beings, we are communitarian.

We cannot divorce ourselves from the interpersonal network into which God has created us. That’s the first thing that’s really important, and if we recognize that, all the better: you are in a community, so you better find the right one. If you sit in your room by yourself, I assure you that you will go nowhere and do nothing. The idea of “my private spirituality” is based on a wrong assumption about who you are, and a wrong assumption about how God created the world and how God interacts with us. We are not little automatons, he relates to us through the community and relates to the community through us.

Second thing: do you think you can really intuit what the truth of the Scripture is all by your lonesome? Do you really think you can just do this on your own? Do you really believe you can just sit on your bed and read a couple theology books and get it all figured out without a Church, without a definitive interpreter? Do you really think you can get beyond your biases?

Heck, I can’t get beyond my biases—I’ve got the principle of Infinite Spitzerian Rationalization: give me five minutes and I can rationalize anything to my advantage! If you’re smart enough, sensitive enough, you can rationalize to your heart’s content. We need someone to turn to in order to get an objective appraisal of the truth. Luther was wrong! There’s no possible way that a layman with Scripture is more powerful than a Church”, the saints, the collective wisdom of the Church through the ages, through the power of the Holy Spirit that is granted to the offices which Jesus started.

The historian Arnold Toynbee said there is no institution like the Catholic Church that is armed with the sword of the hierarchy and the shield of the magisterium and the helmet of the papacy. This is a former secularist saying this! There is no other social institution that can compare with the Catholic Church. No other social institution has lasted for 2,000 years or is likely to last beyond 2,000 years. Those institutions started by the Church are by far the most resilient, effective, and long-lasting. Why do you think that might be? Because it really is this divine will inspiring it. We need the truth. Without the truth, all by our lonesome, we are going to be dead wrong, filled with our own rationalizations, biases, and lack of knowledge. Jesus started the Church because he wanted to keep us on track and give us a mode of accountability.

The third reason we need the Church, in simple terms: we need those sacraments. Look at what happened when the Protestant churches moved away from the Catholic Church. What’s the first thing they lost? The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, etc. We need those sacraments.

This is part of why I like to talk about Eucharistic miracles. I’m not ashamed of using Eucharistic miracles, I think it’s fantastic. And frankly the scientific investigation that the latest Eucharistic miracles have been subjected to is really, really excellent. It’s first-rate. So I think we’re talking about Jesus coming right down to us and saying, “Hey, believe me! This is my real body and blood, and I’m coming to be with you because I’m going to take the full power of my transformative presence and my transformative love and put it into your hearts. This is me.”

CWR: The first book has an appendix of scientifically-validated miracles associated with the Blessed Virgin, the saints, and the Eucharist. What role can miracles like that play in this cosmic struggle, especially when they have been subjected to such rigorous scientific investigation?

Fr. Spitzer: I think it plays two big parts. We’re dealing with a culture that has been de-catechized, has almost no sensitivity to the presence and power of Christ among us.

Now if you’re really into your faith, you’ll know that if you even feel the presence of evil around you, you can just say “In the name of Jesus, I command you, be gone, Satan,” and truly, he will back off at that name. You know that; I know that. I’ve done it in my own personal life, and with respect to other people as well. And I can tell you, there’s a power in that name; if you have faith and you say those things, the devil cannot resist.

However, let’s take most people in this culture who just poo-poo everything. No—God’s really present! Before we even get to the Holy Spirit and how he moves and works in our lives, first let’s see if there’s anything we can subject to science. Of course, you can’t have a scientific proof for a miracle, because a miracle is trans-physical and all science has to begin with objective observations. So, that being the case, we can have a very good circumstantial case to do that with, so we can say there’s no natural explanation, and all the evidence suggests some power beyond the natural world. Everybody loves and respects science, so I thought that would be a good place to start.

Think of some of the healings at Lourdes, or the tilma from Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is just incredible and boggles the mind. How are you going to explain these? How are you going to explain this Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires, where you can actually see the transition between the bread and the cardiac tissue (which comes from the upper left ventricle of the heart) loaded with white blood cells? What do you think, that the Church is going to perpetrate a fraud like this? This tissue reflects immense trauma, and the white blood cells mean the tissue would have had to have been taken from someone while they were still alive, since white blood cells disappear upon death.

So it doesn’t make any sense that the Church would have somehow managed to perpetrate a fraud like this.  What is the alternative? How are these things happening? Maybe God really is operating through the prayers of the saints. Maybe God really is operating through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Maybe God really is operating through the Eucharist.

Alright, we’ve established a foundation. So now let’s go back and see how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, through consolations and desolations, through dreams, through the “school of the cross”, through conspiracies of divine providence. There’s something strange going on here—yes, of course you have the ability to doubt and to question. But on the other hand, there are a lot of good probabilistic grounds to believe, even without evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt”. God will not enslave us to a miracle, but at the same time he is going to give us enough clues so that if you have the eyes of faith and are open to the possibility that he loves you and wants to guide you, you will see it unmistakably.

That’s the second thing we have to do: see that God is present in our lives. He is not just “out there”, he is here, and now. We can see him in our lives, in the lives of the people around us. We begin to see this kind of indirect amalgamation of all these things, almost as if there’s this great impresario putting together the orchestration all around us, all the while allowing us to be free. But there is this vast conspiracy of divine providence. We are not alone. Certainly the devil is there, and he has his own conspiracy, but we know that ultimately the divine conspiracy will win.

We are giving the upper hand to the devil, but we ought to be giving it to the Lord of life, the Lord of love. If only we had eyes to see. But of course, at the end of the day, the devil and his minions will be cast down into hell, and God will win.

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About Paul Senz 113 Articles
Paul Senz has an undergraduate degree from the University of Portland in music and theology and earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from the same university. He has contributed to Catholic World Report, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, The Priest Magazine, National Catholic Register, Catholic Herald, and other outlets. Paul lives in Elk City, OK, with his wife and their four children.


  1. We are giving the upper hand to the devil, but we ought to be giving it to the Lord of life, the Lord of love. If only we had eyes to see

    Jesus teaches us that we should look to ‘The sign of the times’

    “We cannot divorce ourselves from the interpersonal network into which God has created us

    But has not the elitist element within the church done this as we have a Church within a Church?

    To understand the workings of evil in the present day we look to the ‘Sign of the Times’ that is reflected in the Halloween festival which today represents the body of Frankenstein.

    The Frankenstein’s Wedding Event, Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds – 19th March 2011.
    This Live drama event produced by the BBC was the most amazing setting, especially lit up the way that it was and with the ‘larger-than-life’ full moon overhead.
    Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery It was founded in c.1152. It was disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.

    As Christians we speak of ourselves as the Body of Christ but make no mistake there is another body (Frankenstein / Religion) and its body is made up of foul and diabolical parts (as reflected In the Halloween festival). Which is in direct opposition to the body of Christ. While His body the Church is been torn apart from without and ‘within’ as the flock in the West is been decimated. (Assimilated)

    This body is held together by a ..V.. which I believe signifies one of the five points of the Pentagram that transforms itself into a Circle of Worldly Power. All circles of worldly power rely on secrecy; this gives an advantage based on deception and serves the Evil One. He cannot be beaten at his own game, the early Christians used signs and gestures, but these can be duplicated, then we have duplicity and confusion at play; for those on the outside, like me, friend or foe you no longer know.

    It was put to me many years ago, “it’s a bit like the game of tag, you pass the lurgy (British slang) to someone else” Conclusion you then become part of Groupthink (The Body). While also been told jovially “the new holder of the lurgy always has the option to get rid of his load (Worldly troubles) by passing it on”

    While the V (Two finger sign often used covertly) is used widely within society which often promotes advantage or the expectation of advantage in commerce, education, healthcare, publishing, media, etc, and all organized community activities including those within the religious sphere which enables corruption to flourish.

    I personally have witnessed the use of this V by some of the laity within the church often in collusion with the hierarchy and this creates a hidden (occult) church within church one which enables all types of injustice to flourish while mirroring the reality of the corruption in society at large in effect the present leadership of the church is entangled with the evil Prince of this world and those who will not speak out about this evil situation collude with it. Self-protection is what the Church leadership sort dereliction is what they bought.

    The laity (Body of Christ) have been lulled/led by those who collude with evil ..V.. (For some possibly thinking they are doing good (avoidance of scandal, etc) into passivity by a Hierarchical church within a church rather than actively encourage the laity to be involved in critical thinking about the faith and their responsibility to serve the Truth in all situations.

    So, ‘The sign of the times’ asks us to reflect deeply on the events unfolding before our eyes and to respond to them “Don’t think that I have come to bring peace to the world. I have come to bring a sword.” the spiritual weapon of Truth.

    ‘One of the apocalyptic signs mentioned in the Gospel is the “dismay of nations.” This is certainly evident today, and unlike many times in the past, we are all personally affected by it’.

    Jesus directs us: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

    While many who bore witness to the Truth in the past and now hopefully many again will raise their heads above the safety of the Parapet, so to say, are reflected in

    Revelation 7:14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Christ’s Mystical Body is the Church in the world Fr Spitzer identifies it’s doctrinal centrality in the Chair of Peter. We are in the most unusual scenario during a papacy that as Toynbee well puts, exemplifies “the sword of the hierarchy and the shield of the magisterium”. Although our helmet of the papacy is better signified as the bare headed Bergoglio who refused the Tiara as “carnivale” setting the tone for things to come, a new paradigm in which all is under scrutiny for possible modification if not reversal, the death penalty and much more significantly the issue of Eucharistic coherence. Whether those who practice Catholicism discordantly may worthily receive the Eucharist. Gratefully the sacraments themselves haven’t been damaged. So Fr Spitzer’s initial advice, choose your companions well matters. In context this is what exists, a Church represented by pockets of the faithful in contrast to a sea of moral wanderers, the new paradigmatic Trans welcoming presbyter multi colored banners. Papal indifference? That answer is not ours. God knows. What we know is the truth of revelation as inscribed on parchment by the Evangelists.

  3. Jesus the Christ declared: “The gates of Hell shall not prevail (withstand) the spiritual-Gospel forces of His Holy Church. Thus, we continue to fight our own sinful flesh, the sinful culture/society, and the power of the Evil One-Satan. Remembering being baptized into the Body of Christ-His Church we are already victorious. JESUS LIVES! The victory is ours! Soli Deo Gloria!

  4. I think of how exorcists, holy priests, and others call upon us to use the Sacramentals of Excorcized Salt, Excorsized Holy water, and Exorcised oil. We are told they are powerful instruments against satan. That they repel satan and satan does not like them. Well, some priests in our Diocese reported to the Bishop that people were abusing these sacramentals. I had only just been introduced to these holy items. I asked a priest to bless some oil for me, he said No because people are abusing them, and he turned around and told the Bishop I was abusing these. The Bishop cancelled out of the Diocese any blessing of such Sacramentals. That priest looked like he was giving himself a pat on the back for a job well done. There is nothing left in the Church for us. “where would we go Lord, you have the words of eternal life?”.

  5. Fr. Spitzer looks like he is giving dangerous advice in dealing with evil. In the field of exorcism there are two types of prayer, imprecatory and deprecatory. The form invoked in the article is imprecatory prayer where the person is agreeing to a battle with the demon. From what I’ve read and heard this should only be done by the clergy with permission from their bishop. It is my understanding that laity should only use deprecatory prayer, because they do not have the full backing of the Church behind them like an authorized exorcist does.
    There is an article on the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology that gives a presentation of this subject by Adam Blai a demonologist with a mental health background. It is titled “What to Know About Catholic Deliverance and Exorcism” He also has videos on YouTube.
    The article covers the dangers in using the direct approach in dealing with demons.

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