I date myself by adapting an old advertising slogan from years ago when I say, “When Pope Francis talks, people listen.” That cannot be denied. Our Holy Father has a very “plainspoken” style that many find refreshing. He “tells it like it is,” as they say. He has even made some comments that have been taken out of context and misinterpreted and misrepresented. His classic “who am I to judge” remark is a perfect example of this.

But what I find interesting is that few in the media, especially the secular media, have picked up on the fact that Pope Francis talks a lot about Satan, the devil. In my living memory of three popes, I cannot recall any pope talking as much and as bluntly about Satan than Pope Francis. Just a couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis said the following in his weekly general audience:

“The path of salvation, through which the Church guides us and accompanies us with the power of the Gospel and the support of the Sacraments, gives us the ability to defend ourselves from evil. The Church has the courage of a mother who knows that she must protect her own children from the dangers resulting from the presence of Satan in the world, to bring them to the encounter with Jesus. This defense also consists of a call to vigilance: be on guard against the deception and seduction of evil. Because, even if God has conquered Satan, his temptations always return. We know this, we are all under attack. It is not for us to be naïve, but to be vigilant and stand firm in the faith, not to resist the advice of a mother, resist the help of mother Church.”

In his very first homily after being elected Pope, he said the following strong words to the Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel: “When one does not profess Jesus Christ — I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy — ‘Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.’ When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.” That’s pretty strong stuff.

As if to stave off any criticisms of speaking about Satan, Pope Francis said the following in one of his daily Mass homilies from last April:

“We are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life is a struggle: a struggle. That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here… even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Okay, so some of you might be thinking at this point, “Why is the archbishop dwelling on this topic in his column?” That’s a fair question. It is because, like our Holy Father, I want us to be keenly aware of the spiritual struggle we are in for the salvation of our souls. It is my responsibility as a shepherd to guard and protect the flock entrusted to my pastoral care. Some might find this kind of talk unsettling or uncomfortable. I hope so!
What is our defense, or even offense, against the evil that confronts us in this world? Pope Francis clearly hints at it in the homily quoted above. Satan does not want our holiness and does not want us to follow Christ. So striving for holiness and following Christ is exactly what we must do!

An author familiar to some of you, Dr. Peter Kreeft, wrote an interesting essay some time ago entitled “The Winning Strategy.” In it he makes three essential points: First, we are at war. Second, we must know who the enemy is. And third, what weapon will win this war.

One of my favorite lines from the essay is, “If you don’t know that our entire civilization is in crisis, I hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.” We are in a struggle, as our Holy Father points out as well. Pope Francis uses phrases like, “we are all under attack”, “our Christian life is a struggle” and “we must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.” That gets to Dr. Kreeft’s second point: our enemy is Satan.

But it is Dr. Kreeft’s third point that is most important, i.e. the weapon to use in this struggle. It is holiness. It is the sincere effort to become a saint. This corresponds with Pope Francis’ own remarks about what the Evil One does not want in us — holiness and the following of Christ.

It is truly possible to become a saint. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. We fear the price. I am not pointing fingers. I include myself in that category. We fear to give 100 percent of ourselves to Christ and in service of the Gospel. But if we could each do it, if even one quarter of us would give ourselves COMPLETELY to God, we would change the world. At least we would change our small corner of the world in western Oregon.

Archbishop’s Sample schedule

Friday, Sept. 19 —Meeting of the Sharing our Faith Board, Pastoral Center, Portland, 10:30 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 20 — Meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Pastoral Center, Portland, 9:30 a.m.

Sunday, Sept. 21 — Celebration of the Eucharist, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows and 90th Anniversity, The Grotto, Portland, Noon

Tuesday, Sept. 23 — Celebration of the Eucharist, St. Therese School, Portland, 9 a.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 24 — Meeting of NABRS Oregon, Our Lady of Peace Retreat Center, Beaverton, 9 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25 — Catholic Charities Board Meeting, Clark Family Center, Portland, 4 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 26 — Celebration of the Eucharist and Inauguration of Rev. Mark Poorman, CSC, as President of University of Portland, Chiles Center, Portland 11:45 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27 — Luncheon Meeting with State Officers of Knights of Columbus, Portland, 11:30 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27 — Celebration of the Eucharist for their Annual Gathering of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Anthony Church, Tigard, 5 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 28 — Celebration of the Eucharist and Dinner for annual gathering with Deacons and their wives, The Grotto, Portland, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 2 — St. Andrew Church Assembly, Portland, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 3-Monday, Oct. 6 — Annual Meeting for the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre