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Spiritual Warfare: Benedictine Transformation through Struggle

In the unseen realm, a struggle rages. It's not found in pop psychology self-help books, but it is witnessed by those on the frontlines of spiritual battle. Well-documented exorcisms paint a chilling picture: objects levitating, unearthly voices and more. These manifestations are stark reminders of what those drawn to the spiritual path are up against. St. Benedict was no stranger to these forces, himself tested by a relentless Enemy.

Benedict faced his own assaults from the 'Ancient Foe'. Imagine that lonely monk battling not just physical hardship, but also pride urging him to strive for worldly success. Or, picture him tempted by despair that his reforms are meaningless. These internal challenges can wound far deeper than any paranormal experience. Such temptations aren't unique to monastics; we all confront spirits of greed, jealousy and anger.

True Benedictine victory comes with transformation in Christ.

However, combat with unclean spirits isn't the aim. True Benedictine victory comes with transformation in Christ. Self-knowledge gained in these struggles against both the extraordinary and ordinary work of the devil reshapes the heart, and with that comes freedom. That is why St. Benedict teaches us a school of combat where true peace is the trophy.

World-renowned exorcist Fr. Gabriel Amorth, wielding a cross with a Benedictine medal.

St. Benedict's Rule doesn't just list abstract virtues. It offers weaponry - prayer, obedience to an Abbot for accountability, even manual labor to focus restless energy. His most famous tool is tangible: The Medal of St. Benedict. It's not a good luck charm, but a sacramental – a sign, like the Cross itself, invoking Christ's power. Its Latin phrases like "May the Holy Cross Be My Light" are mighty battle cries on our lips. St. Benedict's medal reminds us we don't fight alone.

Exorcists, those fighting spiritual evil in its most overt form, use the medal often alongside powerful prayers. It is also found in homes worldwide, carried by everyday Catholics trusting in protection. St. Benedict's medal reminds us that our goal is not to pursue a comfy life, but to gain the strength to walk justly through a fallen world.

St. Benedict's medal reminds us that our goal is not to pursue a comfy life, but to gain the strength to walk justly through a fallen world.

This isn't about fear but clear-eyed realism. Our struggles aren't unique; Benedict guides us not with lofty platitudes, but battle experience. Our community of fellow Christians becomes like soldiers on the same front. From heaven, St. Benedict urges us on with his ceaseless intercessions.

His medal is a constant shield and a reminder of why we fight. As temptations surge, as the world groans under weight of its ills, the medal empowers us to face the demonic, knowing victory is won through Christ.

Intrigued by the St. Benedict medal? Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, explains its history and meaning in this Pints with Aquinas video:

Here are some practical ways you can apply these principles to overcome your own inner struggles and experience deeper growth in your everyday life.

Identify the Inner Enemy:

Benedictine Wisdom: "If evil thoughts come to your heart, dash them at once against Christ...disclose them immediately to your spiritual father". (RB 4)

Practical Application: Don't ignore inner turmoil. Name your struggles honestly – greed, resentment, self-doubt – without moral judgment. Openness and self-awareness are the first line of defense. Seek counsel from a trusted mentor if needed.

Humility as a Weapon:

Benedictine Wisdom: "And if any brother...faintly perceives that the mind of any Superior is angered... let him at once, without delay, prostrate himself on the ground at his feet... until that emotion is quieted with a blessing" (RB 71)

Practical Application: Pride makes our struggles seem unique and insurmountable. Cultivate humility in all encounters, recognizing yourself as a flawed yet beloved human. This prevents ego from turning minor setbacks into spiritual catastrophes.

Silence & Discernment:

Benedictine Wisdom: "Speaking and teaching belong to the master; the disciple’s part is to be silent and to listen" (RB 7)

Practical Application: When inner tempests arise, avoid reactive speech or action. Find silence to discern if what is stirring is from God or needs resistance. Journal, pray, or simply sit in silence.

Community as Support:

Benedictine Wisdom: "When they rise for the Work of God let them gently encourage one another, that the drowsy may have no excuse.” (RB 22)

Practical Application: You are not meant to struggle alone. Seek guidance, support, and accountability from trusted spiritual friends. Just as monks bolster each other, the encouragement of others offers strength in difficult times.

Weaponize the Word:

Benedictine Wisdom: "And never to despair of God's mercy.” (RB 4)

Practical Application: Memorize key Scripture passages of comfort, strength, and promise. When overwhelmed by negative thoughts, recite these verses like mantras, allowing God's truth to penetrate and combat the lies of negativity.

Remember: Benedictine spiritual warfare is, for the most part, not about dramatic exorcisms. Rather, it's about consistent small acts of resistance done with deep inner trust in the grace of God.

Called to become a Benedictine monk?

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