Often you'll hear it said that if you face opposition then that can be a sign that you're heading in the right direction. You'll hear this mantra both within secular situations and within the spiritual life. Now for clarification not all opposition means definitively that you are doing what is right but I think we can all agree that such a concept exists in the sense that it seems to be a universal notion that doing right will bring about resistance and contention.
Opposition in the spiritual life is something that many today will talk about very superficially, however. They'll make reference to temptation, but beyond that spiritual warfare is thought and spoken about in a very elementary way. During an interview he had with Jake Khym & Bob Schuchts on Restore the Glory Podcast Matt Fradd said:
"Trying to understand the Lord of the Rings without reference to Sauron is a pretty lame way of explaining the Lord of the Rings. 'There was this ring, and it was awful, and it wasn't conducive to the flourishing of Hobbiton so they got rid of it; and then things were really good after that.'
Honestly, that's often how we talk about Christianity. 'God exists. He loves you. He desires to save you from your sin, and so He did that' and you respond "Ok, but what about Sauron?"
Just as angels exist, so do the antitheses to them: demons. Just as angels pray for us and protect us, so demons prey on us and attack us, seeking the ruin of our souls through the sins of our bodies. Ironically, the opposition that demons impose on man in the end often end up being that which leads the Christian closer to Our Lord and Our Lady. Or as the exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger puts it that when a person is going through a process of combatting these forces they can begin to realize that "[the demons] are the instruments for their sanctification".
There are four main levels of spiritual warfare of demonic assailment: temptation, oppression, obsession, and then possession, but dissecting these isn't within the scope of this article, however it is very important to be knowledgeable of the battleground upon which we find ourselves. For a more in depth analysis of each of these levels I highly recommend Fr. Ripperger's talk Levels of Spiritual Warfare.
Denial of the existence of a battle does not then make the battle non-existent. It simply can make us a passive participant who, in our willfully oblivious state, can be caught in severe crossfire. Sometimes, however, the demons themselves can wake us up from this oblivious state with their attacks. Their pride, vanity, and their malice can end up alerting us to their presence, and if our response is ordered correctly this alertness can end up leading to their expulsion by the hand of Our Lord.
When I was away from the Church I had a vague understanding of spiritual warfare. Within the Prosperity Gospel movement there was a lot of emphasis on authority and power through word and natural order. Pastors of the likes of Kenneth Copeland can be found giving talks about praying and speaking against demons by "our" authority. It wasn't an uncommon topic. It was definitely more prevalent within Prosperity preaching than other Protestant denominations. By the simple fact that there was a lack of humility within the approach to spiritual warfare, however, showed the overall ignorance on the subject matter by these teachings.
As a Protestant I did undergo a lot of what I came to learn was demonic oppression, in which the demons affect externalities of your life (i.e relationships, finances, job status, material possessions), and I was taught how to combat this was through tithing and enacting my authority through prayer. As long as I was tithing then I was in right standing with God and so therefore would have protection and thus my words as the authority of my household would be recognized by the adversaries of my soul.
At the time I thought the spiritual warfare that I was undergoing was quite a lot to handle spiritually and so I was definitely not prepared for how the Enemy would react to my conversion.
When I was away from the Church I had animosity towards the Bride of Christ. I spoke ill of Catholicism and I felt content with hating Catholics. I spouted against the teachings and the followers. My conversion of heart was a surprise to me just as much as it was for those around me (my conversion story can found here). And with that conversion I was no longer an agent of hate towards the Church, and this loss of grasp upon my intellect and the influence on my will stirred up opposition.
To say it was a battle feels like an understatement. It felt like war. And that's because it was and still is. Along with bringing me back to the Faith, God called us to the front lines for our own sanctification.
The few months that my wife and I underwent re-catechesis on the Faith was a tumultuous time. Especially during the months where I was already back in communion with the Church and my wife was not. The Enemy pulled no punches.
I went through a deep and exhaustive depression, the likes that I had never experienced. I was tempted severely with suicide and self-harm. Thank God that His grace led my will away from enacting either of these.
Demons would manifest in shadowy forms within the house instilling fear, mainly directed at my wife. These emissaries of Satan even altered the appearance of my then five month old son's face to appear as an old man in order to inculcate dread. While my wife was on her way to her first confession in six years she had her car totaled by a random deer. We struggled with our financial stability. We struggled with our unity.
By God's merciful providence we had a great priest by our side the entire way. He prayed with us and for us. He offered mass for us. He would do multi-hour blessings over our house and us. He would teach us how to pray and how to engage in the spiritual warfare. He would arm us with rosaries, Epiphany water, and other sacramentals. The demons, despite their best efforts, simply drove us further into the Faith. The more they made known their presence the more we, like children, sought protection behind the skirt of Mother Church.
This initial warfare that we underwent led us to being more engaged in the spiritual life upon entering the Church than we otherwise would have had we not underwent it. It inspired a close relationship with the sacraments, sacramentals, and prayer. Any and all doubts we may have had while going through the process of coming back to the Church were wisped away by the simple fact that the enemies of our souls desperately did not want us to be within the Catholic Church. If the company which consists of wailing and gnashing teeth despises your actions so much so that they would attack you so openly and loudly then that my friend is a good sign you're on the right track.
Continuation can be found in a later article "How Demons Solidified My Faith (Part 2)" coming soon...