Just about every Tuesday night here in the monastery (except on big Feast Days), before retiring to our “cells”—the monastic term for our bedrooms—we sing Compline or Night Prayer together. The psalm from this liturgical office is followed by a New Testament reading that reminds us that “Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (see 1Peter 5:8-9a). That’s a pretty heavy thought to take to bed with you. But the Church is very serious about our salvation and through the ages has called our attention to the fact that there is a spiritual battle going on continually for our very souls. Or as the letter to the Ephesians puts it: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood; but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness…” (see Eph. 6:10-12).
So there is an invisible warfare going on all the time. God’s ancient foe is at work 24/7 seeking to undermine and overthrow all the good things that God has created and all that God is trying to accomplish in our world. These days we are living through are particularly filled with the influence of dark forces, and one of the greatest targets for the devil’s fury is the institution and sacrament of marriage and the family. If the family, which is the fundamental building block of all civilizations—and marriage is the foundation of the family—is distorted, dismantled and destroyed, then human beings will never develop into what God intended them to be. Unfortunately, as we well know, traditional Christian marriage as understood from the teachings of Christ is under fierce attack.
An enlightening story told by the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (1938-2017) former Archbishop of Bologna, Italy and founding President of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, gives us crucial insights into this spiritual struggle going on. In a recent interview before he died on September 6, 2017, Cardinal Caffarra indicated that the beginning years of the John Paul II Institute (1983-1984) were extremely difficult and that there was much opposition to it. He explained that it was not wanted within and outside the Church, because of the vision it was proposing. Without asking anyone, the thought occurred to him that he would write to Sister Lucia, the Fatima seer, for her spiritual assistance. In a letter to her, he simply explained that there were many difficulties and begged for her prayers, adding, “I do not expect a reply.” To his great surprise, after 2-3 weeks a hand-written letter from her arrived. Her ending words made a deep impression on him. She wrote,
“Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.”
The Cardinal related:
“This remained engraved on my heart and amid all the difficulties we had encountered—and there have been so, so many—these words have always given me great strength.” Then the interviewer asked the prelate: “When you initially read Sister Lucia’s words, did you think she was speaking of that moment in history?” Caffarra responded: “I began thinking a few years ago, after almost 30 years, Sister Lucia’s words are taking place.” [Note: That would have been in 2013-2014] He then concluded: “Satan is constructing an anti-creation.”
In our very midst, we are seeing and experiencing the truth of these sentiments. All around us we have examples of families in crisis, families being attacked on all levels by forces of darkness that want to obliterate the very notion of family life—modeled for us by the Holy Family. The family is, after all, the first building block of society, the domestic church, the first school, the first hospital. Within this earliest school, children are taught their first lessons in morality and gospel values which ultimately give shape to our cultures and societies.
What can we do to stop this tremendous onslaught against our families and against God’s divine plan for marriage and family life? How do we protect ourselves from an all-ensuring battle that wants to dismantle each of our households and the Christian values we hold dear?
Herein, enters our hero of the story: the faithful friend of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey (1875-1960). Father Mateo was a half English, half Peruvian priest who grew up in Chile and traveled the world imploring families to invite the Sacred Heart of Jesus into their homes and to honor and serve Him as the King of Love. His wide experience of families in different countries throughout the world made him fully cognizant of the ravages they had suffered by receiving education that was neutral towards God. He wrote,
“The devil realizes that you are likely to have a great future. Maybe that is why there is such a terrific attack against the home—an attack on marriage and on the natural laws, a fight to eliminate Christ and His influence in the home. What is the bombing of cities compared with the awful destruction of the home?”
Providentially, as a young boy, Fr. Mateo was placed in a school run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Gradually, a desire grew in his heart to dedicate himself to the priesthood, and so at age 15 he entered religious life. Son of an English Protestant Father, he was allowed to become a religious on one condition. His father declared: “If you desire to become a priest, it is my wish that you become a saintly priest.”
Early on in his priesthood, during his first mission in the city of Valparaiso, Chile, he witnessed firsthand the spiritual destitution of the people. To cope with society’s problems, political solutions were advocated as the prime remedy. Father Mateo saw that the evil eating away at society was secularism, that is, the absolute and total exclusion of God and the natural moral law from all domains of human life. “Secularism,” as Pope Benedict XVI points out, “is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God, which is the source not only of the believer’s happiness, but of the harmony of public life itself.”
In 1906, when Fr. Mateo was 31 years old, a violent earthquake reduced the city of Valparaiso to ruins. Day and night, the young priest devoted himself to the countless destitute and totally exhausted himself. Seeing his health rapidly decline, his doctors recommended an extended rest and forbade him all work for a year. In hope of restoring his health, his superior sent him to Europe, and this trip proved to be the turning point in his life. Mateo had always had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and had always wanted to visit the sanctuary at Paray-le-Monial, France where St. Margaret Mary received her apparitions of the Heart of Jesus. As he was praying there on the first day of his arrival, August 24, 1907, he suddenly felt his whole being stirred. He not only received a physical healing but had an interior enlightenment that the Sacred Heart was calling him to work for the Christian regeneration of families and society.
From this powerful insight, Mateo was able to define and devise a plan following the revelations of St. Margaret Mary, where Jesus promised that He would establish peace in homes that would honor Him. Therefore, Father Mateo wanted to establish a worldwide crusade to make the Heart of Jesus the King of the family and thus extend His reign over the entire world. He would endeavor to accomplish this by entering a picture or statue of the Sacred Heart into homes so that each household member would be reminded of the love of Christ and would show it by living a truly Christian family life. For over 40 years, Father Mateo traveled the world imploring families to welcome Christ into their homes and to place His image in a place of honor there. This visual sign that the home was now the domain of Christ’s loving heart and the homage paid to Him, would draw down heaven’s blessings, peace and protection.
To further extend the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Mateo began promoting the Holy Hour in the home. He realized that to keep the flame of love alive in our hearts, something more was needed. Through the Holy Hour, numberless sins and offenses and negligences could be atoned for… not just our offenses but also other people’s, to repair the honor of Christ and to promote the eternal salvation of souls. Grasping the power of prayer, particularly at night, he declared right before he died, “Tell everyone that Father Mateo preaches from his bed (he had both of his legs amputated because of gangrene) and that he insists on noctural adoration, the most beautiful flower of his work. This is the prayer of the home, in union with the Heart of Jesus, prayers in the spirit of reparation, at night, during the hours of darkness.”
Interestingly enough, I had just finished reading the book In Sinu Jesu by an unnamed Benedictine Monk. It records the messages he received in prayer from the Lord. In the November 12, 2012 entry, Jesus says:
By noctural adoration you will obtain from My Heart things which cannot be obtained from Me in any other way, especially the liberation of souls from the influence and oppression of the powers of darkness. More souls are saved and liberated by adoration made during the night than by any other form of prayer: this is the prayer that unites you most closely to My own nights passed entirely in prayer during My life on earth. Come to Me, then, by night and you shall experience My power and My presence at your side during the day. Ask of Me whatsoever you will by coming to Me at night, and you will experience My merciful help at break of day.
So for those of you who can’t sleep at night or wake up periodically during the nighttime hours, cast an interior glance at the Sacred Heart of Jesus and beseech him for his help for you, for your family, for the world. Turning to the Heart of Christ for all our personal and family dilemmas and keeping His Sacred Image in our homes is a powerful way to protect ourselves from the machinations of the Evil One.†