Charles Coughlin was a Catholic Priest, pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan. A popular, dynamic preacher, Coughlin was the first clergyman to capitalize on the new medium of radio in the mid 1920’s.
Known as ‘the radio priest,’ Coughlin’s listeners mounted well into the millions by the end of that decade. When the depression fell to its depths in the early 1930’s, Coughlin’s messages became more and more political. He supported Franklin Roosevelt vigorously in 1932, but later broke with FDR over what he perceived as the undue influence of bankers in the New Deal.
Coughlin was silenced by the Catholic Church before World War II, and, while he continued as Pastor of the Shrine, he kept a low profile in the community at large.
Fast forward about 25 years. In the mid 1960’s, Father Coughlin finally consented to address a business and professional mens’ luncheon at the old Book Cadillac Hotel in Downtown Detroit.
I was there. Still standing straight as a stick, he began his remarks in the firm, high pitched voice that had become familiar to the nation three decades before. I shall never forget his opening line:
I want to talk to you men today about a subject that is as modern as tomorrow. I want to talk to you about the Devil.
You could hear a pin drop as he mesmerized five hundred Catholic men with example after example of the on-going influence of Satan in modern society. His message was chilling. There is evil in the world. Lucifer lives. He invades the hearts and minds of countless human beings and beckons them to do his awful work.
His challenge went to the core of Western Civilization. If you believe in God, if you believe in Jesus Christ who, the Bible tells use ‘cast out evil spirits’ then you must believe in the Devil.
I could not help but recall Father Coughlin’s speech when I heard the reports of the Charleston Massacre. The hatred and venom that would prompt a young man to murder nine innocent human beings, in a Church, in a House of Worship, literally shouts at a slumbering world.
He is here. He is among us. He poisons the souls of the unwary. He commands a twenty year old man in Connecticut to murder his mother and then massacre 20 children at the Sandy Hook elementary school.
He insinuates himself under the skin of a Colorado man and leads him to slaughter a dozen movie goers in their seats.
He twists and confuses the minds of people – even educated people – even religious people who, like Nidal Hasan, taunted the Creator of the Universe with false praise as he killed 13 people in the Fort Hood rampage.
He is in the world. And yet. And yet, the blood of martyrs has always been the seed of Christianity. The faith filled men and women of the Mother Emanuel congregation have given the world a thundering antidote to the works of the Devil.
In an hour of hurt, they have spoken of forgiveness. In a storm of hatred, they have talked of love. In a sewer of racial bigotry they have served a banquet of good will, of kindness, of solidarity with a nation, once proudly Christian and still silently faith filled.
There will always be evil. Lucifer still stalks the earth. But he is no match for our God. Let us pray, my friends, let us believe, and let us pray.