I don’t think the morale of the American people has ever been higher than it was during World War II. We were united in a great war against a common, clearly identified enemy; we had entered the war after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor which was, without any question, a justifying reason for us to be fighting. There was no flag-desecration or draft-card-burning in those days.
Those of us who can remember those days will recall the things we did for the war effort. We bought war bonds, or Liberty bonds as they were called; we saved scrap metal and turned it in at collection depots; we uncomplainingly put up with rationing, with scarcities of all sorts. I didn’t see a Hershey bar for months at a time, and when we spent the summers on the Mississippi gulf coast, we had to cover the upper half of our headlights with black tape to be less visible to the German submarines off shore.
I speak of these things today because in the gospel we find Our Lord talking about the eternal war between God and Satan, between good and evil. It reminds me of that situation that occurred sometime around the time of World War II when a teenage boy in the midwest was possessed by the devil. His non-Catholic family took him to a hospital which was, by the providence of God, a Catholic institution. When the boy was taken into his room there, he began to rant and rave and point with rage and hatred at the crucifix on the wall. “Get that thing out of here,” he shouted repeatedly. It was that that made the nursing Brothers suspect diabolical possession. The parents were asked permission to have an exorcism performed. The bishop of the place (Kansas City, as I recall) assented, and a priest was sent to act as exorcist. During the exorcism, when the boy was sprinkled with holy water, he screamed, “You’re burning me! Get that stuff off of me!” and writhed in what seemed like real pain. The exorcism was successful, and the child was taken home to lead a normal life after that bizarre event.
We are at war with Satan; it will go on until the end of time. And what are our weapons in this ongoing struggle of ours? Prayer, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the practice of virtue, kindness toward others, the accepting of our daily crosses with patience and in union with the great Cross of Christ, and the various forms of self-denial and mortification that are so appropriate during this holy season of Lent. As Our Lord tells us in the gospel, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me, scatters.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.