An aspect of Christianity that does not get spoken of enough is that Christians are at war. Ignoring this has created a dangerous state of complacency, which has and will continue to sustain many casualties. Christians are at war on two fronts, and we must acknowledge this. First, with an unseen, ancient enemy intent on our destruction and second, with our sinful inclinations. St. John the Apostle reminds us in Revelation 12:17 that Satan "went off to make war... on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus," and Paul recognized the force at "war" with his mind that made him "captive" to sin (Romans 7:23).
The reality of war is that it does sustain casualties. We will lose family, neighbors and friends when we fight under the standard of Christ. Jesus warned of this in Matthew 10:34, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother."
Whether or not our family become casualties in this war, however, can be mitigated if we become, as Paul said, "good Soldiers of Christ" (2 Tim 2:3). But how do we begin to become combat-effective so that we can survive and help others survive as well? We must develop a warrior mindset for the spiritual combat.
We will discuss some aspects of the warrior mindset, but first, if you are hesitant, remember, "The Lord is a man of war" (Exodus 15:3). So let us proceed to three fundamental things for developing a warrior mindset: training, fortitude and vigilance.
First, a good soldier understands that training keeps him alive in combat, so train like your life depends on it because it will. Remember Psalm 144:1: "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle." As a soldier exercises his body with his unit, exercise your spirit with your unit, the Church. Pray the liturgy of the hours, which "is intended to become the prayer of the whole people of God" (CCC 1175), and attend Mass and the sacraments frequently.
Train with your weapon, the rosary. As St. Padre Pio has said: "The rosary is the weapon for these times." Draw your weapon from the armory at least once daily and learn it intimately; it draws us closer to the life of Christ.
Just as soldiers prepare to endure austere conditions, we must also train our bodies to be uncomfortable to resist the temptations of the flesh. Take a cold shower, fast from a meal, and abstain from meat on Fridays outside Lent. Paul reminded us in Romans 8:13: "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live."
Increase your skill set. Learn new techniques and skills on the battlefield, learn about and use a new sacramental, learn a novena, read about the saints, continually increase your knowledge of your faith, and read the Catechism and scripture as much as possible.
Fortitude follows in developing the warrior mindset. The Catechism describes fortitude as "the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations" (CCC 1808). As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:11, "Fight the good fight." Commit to this early, understanding that you must follow through with this mission.
Training will be challenging, but the battle will be even more brutal if you neglect your training because of a lack of fortitude. When you are tired and tempted to put aside your training, you must persevere and rely on scripture to overcome this, knowing that scripture is "profitable for ... training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16).
Lastly, be vigilant. Never forget, as Peter warned us, "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). You must be ready at all times to engage in battle so that you can "resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet 5:9).
That said, we must not worry, because we do not fight alone. "The Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore, my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me" (Jer 20:11).
Matthew Weller — SFA Theologians Guild Member