In watching Shingeki no Bahamut—sine dubio the best show of the past season, the temptation of Jeanne D’Arc struck me enough to produce the present article. Their portrayal of demons and how they tempt people advancing in virtue is very true to reality. Note well, the devil does not tempt everybody in the way that Jeanne was tempted but only the virtuous.
According to Aristotle, there exist four kinds of people in the quest for virtue. Well, Aristotle does list two more; but one is a worse state of the vicious man, and the other is lukewarm. Neither are especially important to my arguments here or to Aristotle himself. The four classes consist of the vicious, the inconstant, constant, and the virtuous. The vicious freely and painlessly commit sins out of habit; the inconstant fall often though they intend to do the right and are pained by their sins; the constant avoid wrongdoing even though the practice of virtue feels painful to them; and the virtuous joyfully and often painlessly do the right thing. The devil does not bother to tempt the vicious, sometimes finds it necessary to tempt the second, fights against the progress of the third, and–in his bitterness at their good fortune–wages total war against those sane individuals who love the practice of virtue.
Most of us are slightly insane in believing that sinful deeds are good for us. We believe so either because of the pleasure obtained in the sinful act (occasions of lust, sloth, or gluttony come to mind) or because sinning appears to be to our advantage (e.g. theft or destroying a personal enemy’s reputation through slander and detraction). On the other hand, the virtuous make for very difficult targets for the devil, because not only do their minds and will tend toward the right but even their affections and emotions. Every sin repulses them, no matter how apparently advantageous or pleasurable, while the thought of any good deed spurs them to action no matter how arduous, self-effacing, or painful. They possess true wisdom and solid good habits. So how does the devil make war on them?
We see the answer in Jeanne D’Arc’s temptation, which spans episodes nine and ten: the devil assaults them with darkness in order to take away their wisdom. Not only does Martinet try to make the sinful desirable for Jeanne but even persuades her that goodness itself does not exist. Martinet mocks her belief that she is a holy knight and states flatly that the gods have abandoned her. Jeanne makes the fatal mistake, which everyone makes, of actually talking to the devil and engaging with his ideas instead of treating them with contempt. Demons lack all wisdom and deal exclusively in lies–no matter how persuasive their words or how close they seem to match reality. By engaging with them, we only become entangled and influenced by them. Our Lord provides the perfect example of how to deal with devils when He does not permit them to speak (Mark 1:25 and 1:34).
Shingeki no Bahamut‘s gods are finite beings; therefore, they did indeed abandon her. However, when the devil tells us that God has abandoned us, we ought instead understand that the devil is panicking in seeing that God works ever more strongly in perfecting our souls. In Jeanne’s case, Martinet even resorts to impersonating the gods in order to induce despair into her soul. I can think of two saints against whom the devil has impersonated Our Lord: St. Martin of Tours and St. Padre Pio. The people of St. Martin’s time esteemed him as equal to the apostles. Padre Pio is the greatest saint of modern times. Both saw through the devil’s schemes. The more hotly pursued we are by evil, the more tightly God binds us to Himself: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
Sadly, Jeanne allows her mind to become so disturbed by the abandonment of the divine and the problem of evil that she drinks Martinet’s poison. Similarly, if we allow despair and distrust of God to guide our choices, we shall doff our wisdom, imprudently indulge our senses, and eventually drink the poison of the vices. Fortunately, such failings do not turn us instantly into demons! But, how shameful for someone who has been given so many graces and the honor of participating more in Christ’s Passion than other people to not only distrust God but to show Him scorn! Surely, God will bring down many punishments upon such people and abandon them to the deepest hell!
No, God is infinitely more merciful than even St. Michael in Shingeki no Bahamut. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes, “When we fly from Thee, Thou pursue us; when we turn our backs, Thou present Thyself before us; when we despise Thee, Thou entreat us; and there is neither insult nor contempt which hinders Thee from laboring unweariedly to bring us to the attainment of that which the eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and which the heart of man cannot comprehend.” People are weak and ignorant, stray from the truth, and sin. However, God is ever faithful, even if we are unfaithful: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). God Himself restores the light lost amidst darkness and the faith lost in bitter trials. This restoration may take a long time, but we are assured to be more blessed then than we were before–as was the case with Job. No matter how dark and bitter our present circumstances, God never swerves from being generous, good, merciful and caring.