The news of SatanCon in Boston spread alongside the advertising campaigns for "The Pope's Exorcist" and "Nefarious." It seemed almost orchestrated. Suddenly, Catholic social media was full of information -- of uneven quality -- about all things demonic. And consequently, a lot of people's curiosity was piqued. That, of course, shouldn't surprise anyone. There is something mysterious about evil, something that draws our attention, even holds it.
It's hard to know how -- or even whether -- we should respond. On the first page of the preface to the original edition of his "Screwtape Letters," C.S. Lewis notes: "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
I understand dismissing the notion of devils and demons as primitive mythology. This is the post-modern, post-Christian, what-I-can't-see-doesn't-exist 21st century. It's hard for people to believe in such things -- especially if they don't believe in God. We are rational and scientific, after all. We follow only the data and the facts. And yet, with all the violence, alienation, and deception we see on a daily basis, it might actually be easier to admit the possibility of evil beings we cannot see than benevolent ones that are equally invisible.
On this score, the Church in Boston should be applauded. Despite its claim to being the self-proclaimed heir of Athens and the city's reputation as home to America's intellectual elites, the archdiocese didn't waste any time acknowledging the enemy on the prowl. And that's not easy or without cost. Responding to SatanCon with prayer vigils and Masses takes effort, and so does letting people know about them. But I'd bet that many who have no trouble recognizing the Church's positive contributions to the community at large will see all this as ridiculous, unnecessary and medieval. They couldn't be more wrong. I can picture Boston intellectuals shaking their heads and wondering why, in this day and age, the Catholic Church couldn't be just a bit less Catholic and churchy.
Certainly, there are also many who do believe in the existence of evil actors in the spiritual realm. Our first house was on Gallows Hill in Salem. Over the 12 years we lived there, any doubts we might have entertained about the reality of spiritual warfare disappeared. A dark history, an official witch, rampant occult practices among high school students, and the fact that we'd purchased that house from self-professed practicing Wiccans provided sufficient and convincing evidence. And friends, it is all very real.
But this is, I think, where Lewis's wisdom shines most. Those of us who have no trouble believing in agents of evil can find it difficult to avoid "an excessive and unhealthy interest" in them. We naturally gravitate toward what we fear. We become hyper-vigilant about the darkness we perceive and proactive about managing the threat. We end up giving the devil far more than his due, and that is exactly what he wants.
Church in Boston, don't fall for that temptation. Do not be afraid. The evil one is in the world, but remember: "You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 Jn 4:4). Go to sacramental Confession, adore Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and receive him at Mass. Pray more intently this weekend, and be sure to pray for all those who are lost enough to attend something like SatanCon, as well as the poor Marriott employees who are required to work this event. Know that Catholics across the nation and around the world are praying with you and for you. And when it's over, get back to Easter and the victory of the Risen Lord.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.