Evil will seek us out, like a lion seeking someone to devour. It is inevitable. For the vast majority of us, our battles with evil will occur in the form of temptation rather than physical manifestations of the devil, and to be honest, I am glad. I think I would scream like a small infant if I saw the devil; we should count our blessings.
In 1968, an old Capuchin friar from Italy named Padre Pio died. His entire life was a battle, a direct battle with evil. When reading about him, I was nervous that I would have nightmares. His encounters with Satan were direct and frequent and real. His life for some can seem like that of a comic book character, so far from what we experience in life that it must not be real. His life presents to us a challenge, a challenge to embrace the reality that surrounds us: a spiritual reality engaged in a battle for souls.
The amazing stories of his life demonstrate his tremendous conformity to the life of Jesus Christ. As in the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament, Padre Pio dealt with demons directly, performing a number of exorcisms. But, continuing after the example of our Lord, his most effective battle plan was to love. When dealing with an enemy that hates and desires all souls to either grow in that same hate or in a cold indifference, love becomes the ultimate weapon for achieving victory.
Our Lord became man because of the great love He has for us – and love creates the potential for suffering. Jesus suffered persecution, torture, and a gruesome death, because He loves us perfectly.
Padre Pio also loved much. He loved Jesus intimately and desired all souls to be freed from the grips of sin and Satan so that they might be free to receive the love of our Heavenly Father and to give of themselves in love back to Him. His life bore the extreme illustration of his suffering, most evidently in the 50 years he bore the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.
Just as a soldier goes off to fight for a country and people he loves, so did Padre Pio fight because of his love for God and humanity. The suffering of his life showed the tremendous lover of souls that he was and the dedication to fight that he embraced. He truly sought to guard and protect the souls of men.
For us, Padre Pio is a tremendous example of masculine strength every Christian man should imitate. To love is to fight. To fight is to love, especially Christ. In doing this, the spiritual battle waging on around us will be won. St. Pio could have easily proclaimed the words of St. Paul, “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), on a daily basis. His story, his life is one of hope and inspiration. As men, we need that…often.
I hope we engage in this unseen battle by seeking to love sacrificially our Savior, our Church and every soul.