The cloistered contemplative life is ordered exclusively to prayer, the one force that Our Lord said could dispel certain demonic strongholds. The early Christians were aware of this. In looking at the early monastic literature, one of the principal motives which drew men into the desert was to battle with Satan, and this in imitation of the Savior who entered the desert to battle with Satan. And their battles were not merely personal. They were trying to bind the demons, to tie them down so they could not go into the cities, where the people lived, to tempt them. So they saw themselves as soldiers, indeed, officers in the Lord’s army engaged in a real spiritual warfare, fighting back the demons so they could not enter into society.
This is what contemplative communities should be, centers of prayer to fight back the demonic. Entering the cloister has always been seen metaphorically as entering the desert, far away from the distractions of the world, and as a place where one fights the demons within oneself—but also to fight back the forces of evil as they attack the Church and society. We are all in the midst of this spiritual warfare, but the fighting is particularly intense in the cloister. If they win the battle within their own souls, within the cloister, then the demonic strongholds will be broken and we can more easily overcome the devil’s influence in our families and in society and successfully.
Now that is the responsibility of all Christians, to pray. But the contemplative life is exclusively ordered to and organized around the ministry of intercession. And because of their consecration to that work, their prayers are especially efficacious.
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