by Ken Rolheiser
Lies, truth and how to defeat the devil

An Oxford philosopher was giving a lecture on the philosophy of language at Columbia University, and came to a curious aspect of the English language. "You will note," said the stuffy Oxford scholar, "that in the English language, two negatives can mean a positive, but never is it the case that two positives can mean a negative." To which someone in the back responded, "yeah, yeah."

The devil is skilled in twisting the truth and making lies believable. Popular literature has stories of beating the devil that start with the biblical Job who remained faithful during all his trials. God beats the devil in that bet.

Goethe’s Faust ultimately triumphs because he has a restless striving that the devil cannot satisfy. He who strives can be redeemed. Then there is Homer Simpson who sells his soul for a doughnut; but fortunately he had given his soul earlier to Marge on his wedding day.

There is a story told about the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady’s Church in Munich. Jörg Von Halsbach, the architect, made a bargain with the devil to help him complete the church in return for his soul.
The devil demanded the building be constructed without windows so heaven’s light could not enter. One day the devil came to inspect the progress. Since he could not enter the building, he stood in the entrance and could not see the windows. 
Halsbach arranged the internal columns of the cathedral so that they would seem to overlap as if they were a wall, hiding the beautiful stained windows. The devil departed the place deceived and frustrated, and clever Halsbach kept his soul.

Another part of the legend tells us the devil agreed to help because this huge building was to be a tavern. When he discovered the truth, the devil was so angry he grabbed a huge stone to hurl against the cathedral. One of the builders quickly promised that a huge tavern would be built across from the cathedral. Today the tavern Ratskellar stands across the street.

Not all of our encounters with the devil have this fairy tale ending. The late Father Gabriele Amorth related encounters he had with the devil in his role as exorcist. “Once, it happened that I asked a demon why, despite his superior intelligence, he preferred to descend into hell; he answered, ‘I rebelled against God; thus, I showed that I am stronger than He is.’ For the devil, rebellion is a sign of victory and superiority.”
Father Amorth asked why the Madonna makes the devil the angriest? “She makes me angry because she is the humblest of all creatures, and because I am the proudest; because she is the purest of all creatures… she is the most obedient to God, and I am a rebel! …Because she always defeats me, because she was never compromised by any taint of sin!”
Father Amorth recalls, “Satan told me, through the possessed person, ‘Every Hail Mary of the Rosary is a blow to the head for me; if Christians knew the power of the Rosary, it would be the end of me!'”

How do we defeat the devil? A simple prayer will undo him. Humility, purity and a pious obedience to God are powerful weapons. And continuing to strive for the good, despite our weaknesses will defeat him.

(563 words)