Spiritual Warfare: Bring in the Reserves

The Holy Spirit is awakening soldiers and has gone out in the back alleys and byways to enlist them.

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I’ve never been a cable TV subscriber so, by default, I have never been a Fox News fan, but I did see some of Tucker Carlson’s early work on YouTube. It was back in the day when his show consisted of bringing on a guest and questioning them into a corner. Often his “guest” was a repeat performer, a villainous “liberal” brought on the show as a sort of vaudeville bad guy minus the black hat and handlebar mustache—entertaining, but not something that I would pay money to see.

Turn the clock ahead a few years; Carlson had become a very serious journalist and culture critic, and Fox News’ star performer—only to be sacked by his own network and put out to pasture. Of course, out to pasture he did not go. 

On X, I recently viewed an interview that Carlson did with Russell Brand. A few years back, Brand was a mouthy, promiscuous lefty whose single goal in life seemed to be setting a record for the most f-bombs dropped in a single sentence. Always incredibly intelligent and articulate, the once obnoxious commentator has been making a lot of sense in recent times—enough so as to make himself persona non grata to the powers that be. So much so that they have pulled out a well-worn playbook to use against him. 

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In an all-too-familiar scenario, someone, supposedly from his past, accused him of rape, and the rest of the media cabal, suddenly stumbling upon their own imaginary collective moral compasses, insisted that such an evil man should be immediately banned (cancelled, actually!) lest he infect humanity with his invective. And subsequently, Brand has been summarily demonetized and his reputation forever blackened without so much as a name assigned to an accuser, much less an actual charge levied by any magistrate—all likely a complete fabrication. 

Such is justice in the twenty-first century. Carlson and Brand’s forty-six-minute conversation moves quickly but deeply, with Brand saying, “People must relearn a connection to their land…We are divorced from nature. We are divorced from our lands. We are divorced from one another, and we are fed such an empty, hollow, vapid, phatic diet of lies.” 

In the course of the conversation, Carlson points out: 

The things that the people in charge hate include nature, and the class of people who are most useful…cops, firemen, teachers, nurses…and farmers. If you don’t have those people, you don’t have a society. You could get rid of every think tank and every sociology department and every liberal arts university and you’d probably be okay. Get rid of the farmers, and you starve to death. 

He goes on to ask, “Why do they hate those things?” 

Brand’s detailed answer ends with, “…but when you talk about this loathing of nature, whether that’s human nature, or botany, or the great expanse, it’s difficult to think that there isn’t something dark at its core,” to which Carlson shouts, “Yes!” Carlson goes on to say, 

Because there is no rational explanation for that. How could you want to despoil nature? How could you hate human nature? How could you want to hurt people? Those are not rational responses to anything…Clearly what we’re watching are the fruits of spiritual war. 

Brand agrees, adding that what is lacking is reverence for both the planet and humanity, and sounding very Chestertonian asks, “What was wrong with feudalism?” The interview culminates with both agreeing that we are in trying times, Brand pointing out that 

If there is one God, one all-powerful God, then surely that God is at work now, and surely that God is creating the perfect conditions for our mutual awakening, and perhaps what is required is the spur, the initiative, of something so unbearable that people will awaken… 

Indeed. For me, this exchange brought to mind a movie that I had just seen for the first time: Abel Ferrara’s Padre Pio. I had avoided the movie when it came out last year because of the poor reviews it received from people I trust. And yet, the actor who played Pio, Shia LaBeouf, had just come into the Church over the holidays, making good on his stated intention to enter the Faith, a fact that rekindled my interest in the movie.

Upon viewing it, I found that much of what I had read about the movie’s flaws was absolutely true. However, what I found lacking in those reviews was a successful attempt to understand exactly what dots the screenwriters were attempting to connect. Here is what I found. 

In the post-WWI milieu of the setting, the movie follows three distinct groups: the socialists, the establishment, and the Capuchin friars.

The socialists recognize the corruption in the establishment. The establishment is unwilling to cede power to godless collectivists, and in the breach—at least, spiritually—stands Padre Pio. Among the extremely sparse dialogue his character has in the movie, he proclaims that he wants to offer all of his prayers and suffering for the release of poor souls in purgatory.

In the script, Padre Pio is offering Mass when twenty socialists, attempting to put into power a man from their ranks who has recently won the local mayoral election, are gunned down by the establishment. Pio, deep in prayer when it occurs, and being the great mystic that he was, is immediately aware of these deaths and agonizes over these souls released into eternity. While in this agony, Christ places a hand on his shoulder. Pio places his hand on Christ’s hand and receives the stigmata. Pio’s devotion to the poor souls is the focus and culmination of the entire movie. 

And what, you may ask, does this have to do with Carlson’s interview of Brand and their agreement that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare? If Brand—not the most religious person—can sense the nature of what is taking place all around us, it stands to reason that the same can be said for his sizable following. The Holy Spirit is awakening soldiers and has gone out in the back alleys and byways to enlist them. (Perhaps Abel Ferrara might be added to that list?) Warfare cannot be waged without weapons, and troops must be fed and led. Padre Pio’s food of choice and weapon of choice were the Eucharist and the Rosary; his twelve-star general, the Blessed Mother; his troops, the reserves—the poor souls. If Brand—not the most religious person—can sense the nature of what is taking place all around us, it stands to reason that the same can be said for his sizable following.Tweet This

Perhaps the greatest blow delivered to the Faith by Martin Luther was his illogical dismissal of purgation. Purgatory, like Hell, is a great gift. Fallen angels, having rejected God, could not stand to be in His presence. We see this demonstrated biblically by the reaction of the demons in Christ’s presence. When Jesus came into the presence of the possessed, they were greatly distressed. God does not torture—not souls, not fallen angels. Hell, though still as painful as, well, hell, was a kindness, a place of relief from his omnipresence, and purgatory is the greatest kindness ever. Looking upon the face of God is not for the faint of heart, and it is painful for the ill-prepared. 

Employing the well-used biblical typology of fire, St. Paul says that “If anyone’s work will remain, which he has built up, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work will be burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself, however, will be saved, but, in this manner: as through fire.” The love God has for us is a purifying fire that burns away all that is unholy. 

Whatever purgation consists of, it does not lie outside the realm of the Communion of Saints. The only thing that lies outside of that realm is Hell. Consider that God doesn’t need angels for messengers. He is omnipresent and can deliver any message He chooses without any help whatsoever. Similarly, He has no need for the saints. He loves the Communion of Saints that He has created and brings meaning to our existence through shared experience—the Mystical Body of Christ will not be set aside. Whatever the metaphysics of purgation, we, the Mystical Body, are part of it. 

I have friends of many different philosophical and spiritual persuasions, and if we were all to enter Heaven exactly as we are with all of our pettiness and pride, how would that be Heaven? Free will cannot be dismissed—it is an irrevocable gift, the only one that differentiates us from the animals. When our souls pass into the next life, that gift is not lost. For Luther, who proclaimed that “Free will is a lie,” perhaps the math works out—there is no purgatory, and Heaven is filled with zombies. I suspect that many, perhaps most of us, will not be able to look upon the face of the Almighty and not experience self-inflicted purgation.   

Luther, of course, despised the Letter of James because it discredited his entire “faith alone” narrative, destroying his house of cards. His narrow focus prevented him from considering the simple mechanics, if you will, of entering the presence of Infinite Good. God allowed Luther to play his hand for a reason. Protestants say prayers of intercession for one another but not for the repose of the souls of their loved ones—and not for the intercession of the saints, canonized or otherwise. 

And can it be denied that, for Catholics, the emphasis on praying for the poor souls was not exactly catapulted to the fore by post-Vatican II culture? And what of the Rosary? Has there been a post-Vatican II renaissance of the cult of the Blessed Virgin? 

After all, our current pontiff says, “I like to think Hell is empty; I hope it is.” It seems unlikely that he thinks there is a throng of well-disposed souls waiting to see the face of God—waiting in purgatory to be called to duty. Perhaps such emotive, rose-colored-glasses theology and centuries of Protestantism have, serendipitously, created a vast heavenly army reserve for our times—a formidable army awaiting marching orders. 

The Padre Pio script, whatever the intent of its writers, has shown a light on a relatively little-known aspect of the great modern saint’s spiritual success: his love for and dedication to those souls in purgation. Indeed, the great spiritual gifts granted him may have come at the prayerful behest of those souls to whom he dedicated his life. I sense this dynamic was not lost on LaBeouf, who has promptly entered the Church. 

It is long past time to call up the reserves. Purgatory is part of Heaven, and the pain of purgation is the pain of awaiting the beatific vision. These souls have a great desire and incentive to serve, and they can only do so through prayer. They can storm Heaven for our spiritual needs. May our increased daily prayers and offerings for the consummation of their destiny be their call to arms and our road to a saintly, deeper holiness.  


  • Jerome German

    Jerome German is a retired manufacturing engineer, husband, father of eleven, and grandfather of a multitude. He contributes articles to Crisis Magazine and Catholic Stand. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he has recently (under the pseudonym Jerome Linus) taken up the long-overdue task of recording and publishing songs that he has been writing for most of his life. His first effort, In God We Trust, hit stores worldwide on January 12.

tagged as: Catholic Living

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