Some time ago, I was attending Marywood University in Scranton during the summer months. The convent where I was living was closed for the summer since all the Sisters living there were teachers and they were enjoying their summer break as I “hit the books.”
Because I was living alone, I had the dubious job of going grocery shopping for my needs for the week. I decided to shop at Gerrity’s Grocery store. I put the few items that I needed in my cart and began to wait in line at the checkout. My thoughts drifted as I waited for the woman in front of me to check out her groceries. Being totally absorbed in my own thoughts, I absent-mindedly draped my hand over the handle of her cart. By this time, she began loading up her cart with her packages. When she looked up and saw me standing there and actually touching her cart, she went into a rage. She violently pushed the cart into me, waking me up. As I apologized to her, she began screaming at the top of her voice about the Catholic Church and the messed up priests and nuns. Every four-letter word that she knew she threw at me with hatred and a contempt that silenced me. I looked at her face and saw a darkness that I could only describe as evil.
The young gentleman that was checking out her groceries got redder and redder with every four-letter word that she threw at me. I looked up and noticed that a crowd of spectators was beginning to gather. She pushed her cart to the end of the lane, continuing to scream at me as I calmly began to put my groceries on the conveyor belt. I looked up at her face and knew instinctively that no matter what I would say, it would not calm her. Silence was the only solution. As I heard her scream, I began to pray for her.
Since she did not get a response from me, she pushed her cart out the front door still screaming at me. The crowd began to disperse and the gentleman behind the register said, “Does that happen to you often?” “No,” I replied. “Did you hear what she said about you?” I responded, “Not really. I was too busy praying for her.” His eyes got as big as saucers and he said, “Really? I wanted to slug her.” Gently, I said, “What would that prove? That she was right? What you saw in her was evil. The only way you can handle that is through prayer.” “WOW! Is that how you stayed so calm? You are a better person than I,” he said. “No,” I added, “just a little bit older.”
I could not help of thinking of this as I began my reflection on the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “deliver us from evil.” Sometimes I think that often our modern day conversations about evil and Satan are reduced to fiction as a bygone belief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The devil is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.” (2851) He is very much engaged in warfare with believers at every minute of the day! In short, the Evil One has lost the war but still battles hand-to-hand with us. His temptations never end. Even Jesus experienced them! Remember that scriptures declare after Jesus was tempted in the desert, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) If we rely on our own personal wiles and strength to fight against evil, we will fail. We must constantly turn to a loving God who gives us strength to fight and do good.
The Catechism explains it this way: “When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return. By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has ‘the keys of Death and Hades,’ who ‘is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (2854)
In dealing with evil, sometimes we need to be shaken from our “sleeping.” That shove of a grocery cart taught two people about evil: a student at Marywood and a young adult working behind a register. God is an amazing teacher!
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness