St. Francis of Assisi on Of the Value and Dignity of the Soul

4 October 2017

Although the modern world seems to only give St. Francis of Assisi the title of the Saint of the environment and animals, the whole truth is that this holy Saint should be known for so much more…

St. Francis of Assisi and the Devil 02

From the Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi

with comment by Brother Leo of Assisi 1882

Of the Value and Dignity of the Soul

St.-Francis-Sacro-Speco-at-SubiacoThe greatest care ought to be taken of the soul, for man has not many, but only one. If God had given us two souls, as He has given us two eyes, or two feet, then should one be lost or taken away, we might guard and save the other. But as we have received only one, very weak and languishing, assailed by three most powerful enemies, and exposed to the fiery darts of the world, the flesh, and the devil, it is not lawful for it to repose securely for one single day, but it must always be striving and fighting. The Apostle gives us to understand how continual this warfare must be, when he says: ‘Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.’

In war, or in a battle, some time is granted to the soldiers to refresh their bodies, to lay aside their arms, to rest from their labours, and to recruit their strength; nor are they, during severe cold, compelled to rest at night exposed to the inclemency of the season, but are allowed to pass the winter in the city. But it is different with wrestlers; for then only can they be permitted to breathe, when one being overcome and thrown to the earth, the other goes away in triumph. The strife with our enemies can never cease, the time of fighting is the whole time of our life, the end of our life will be the beginning of rest; and only after death will the demonwrestler retire, after having endeavoured most strenuously to conquer us in death. Let us, therefore, most earnestly beseech Our Lord to protect us by His grace, and, in the midst of so many dangers, mercifully to defend us from our enemies. Nothing, alas! is more vile than the price for which we sell our precious souls. On the slightest occasion we cast it into hell, and for the smallest and most insignificant reward we deprive it of the inestimable treasure of Divine grace.


The Littlest Flower in Heaven… the greatest Saint of modern time!

3 October 2017

Therese Martin was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon, France. However, only five of these children lived to reach adulthood. Precocious and sensitive, Therese needed much attention. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. She had a spirit that wanted everything.

At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in His merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: “My God, I love You!”

The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”. She described her life as a “little way of spiritual childhood.” She lived each day with an unshakable confidence in God’s love. “What matters in life,” she wrote, “is not great deeds, but great love.” Therese lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love. She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and totally attentive love. Therese’s spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

Therese saw the seasons as reflecting the seasons of God’s love affair with us. She loved flowers and saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title “little flower” remained with St. Therese.

Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.
“My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death,” she said. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese’s signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her “little way.” She has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a Doctor of the Church – the only Doctor of his pontificate – in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and her “Little Way” is a spirituality that the modern world can embrace and with it, find our way to Heaven. When we look at this young woman from a time long ago, we might doubt it, but take a moment, learn about her spirituality that allowed her to become a Doctor of the Church. I think you will be very surprised that she was indeed, “the greatest Saint of modern time”. (Pope Pius XII)

St Alphonsus Liquori’s Most Unique Devotion – The Clock of the Passion

13 April 2017





Sir Anthony van Dyck, Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1628-30

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1628-30

St. Alphonsus (1696-1787) devised the Clock of the Passion as a meditation for Passion-tide during Lent to follow Jesus the last twenty-four hours of His life on this earth. His intent was to motivate each person to cherish a tender devotion towards Jesus Christ in His Passion. The events are put in sequence as found in Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

We have assembled beautiful religious art on the Passion of Christ to coincide with St. Aphonsus de Liguori’s time line placed at the top of each painting. In addition, we have added excerpts from approved Church Litanies to encourage prayer as you meditate on the Passion of Our Lord. In addition, new meditations have been added from the book “The Passion Clock” by St. Alphonsus Liguori. The music chosen is Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy on me, O God) by Gregorio Allegri, who was a priest, composer and singer.

The Passion Clock may be utilized at your own pace and the music lasts for over nine minutes and is set on repeat. If you would rather have no music, simply adjust the volume settings on your computer.

Prayer by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

O my Jesus! I pray Thee make me always remember Thy Passion; and grant that I also, a miserable sinner, overcome at last by so many loving devices, may return to love Thee, and to show Thee, by my poor love some mark of gratitude for the excessive love which Thou, my God and my Saviour, hast borne to me. Amen.

Click HERE to begin the Devotion at Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

14 Day Lenten Series: Day 11: St Hilarion’s Miracles and Combat with Devils as Written by St. Jerome

8 April 2017

St. Hilarion: from his life written by St. Jerome
by Bishop Challoner, 1841

Part11Hilarion was born at a village called Thabatha, five miles from the city of Gaza in Palestine, of infidel parents, who sent him, when very young, to study at Alexandria, where he gave proofs of an excellent genius for his age, and of his good dispositions to virtue. Here he embraced the faith of Christ, and young as he was, could find no pleasure either in theatrical shows, incentives to lust, or any other wordly diversions, but delighted only in frequenting the church, and in religious exercises. Hearing of the fame of St. Antony, he went to visit him in the desert, and put off his secular habit, in order to embrace the same institute. He remained with the Saint about two months, making it his study to observe and learn perfectly the whole order and method of his life;–his continual prayer–his humility–his charity–his mortification–and all his other virtues. Then returning into his own country with some other religious men, and finding that his parents were dead, he distributed his whole substance between his brethren and the poor, without reserving any thing for himself, bearing in mind that saying of our Lord: He that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, Luke xiv. 33. Thus stript of the world, and armed with Christ, being only in his sixteenth year, he took the resolution of retiring into the wilderness (which lies on the left of the road that leads from Gaza into Egypt), without apprehending the dangers which his worldly friends objected, from the robberies and murders for which that place was infamous; but rather despising a temporal death, that he might escape that which is eternal nor regarding the tenderness of his own constitution, which made him very sensible of cold, heat, and other injuries of the weather, and of the hardships and austerities that are incident to that kind of life which he was going to undertake.

On going into the desert, he took on other clothing with him than the frock of a peasant, a sackcloth and hair-cloth, with a leathern habit to wear over it, which St. Antony had given him. Here he built himself a little hut, covered with sedges and rushes, to modify the inclemency of the weather, which served him from the sixteenth to the twentieth year of his age, and afterwards in a cell, which, according to St. Jerome’s account, who had seen it, was but four feet wide, five feet high, and in length but a little longer than his body, so that as he could not stand in it upright, it seemed rather a tomb for a dead corpse, than a dwelling for a living man. Here his diet was suitable to his lodging; his food for the first years being but fifteen dry figs in the day, and that not till after sunset. Afterwards, from the twenty-first to the twenty-seventh year of his age, he took only about eight or ten ounces of lentiles, steeped in cold water, or a little dry bread, with salt and water. For the space of three or four years more, he lived upon nothing but the wild herbs, or roots of the shrubs of the wilderness. From the thirty-first till the thirty-fifth year of his age he confined himself to six ounces of barley bread per day, and a few pot-herbs without oil; which rule he continued to observe to his sixty-third year, when he began to allow himself a little oil with his herbs, but tasted nothing else, either of fruit or of pulse, or of any other kind of food. From that time, as he now supposed that by course of nature he could not have long to live, instead of relaxing in his austerities, he redoubled them; so that from the sixty-fourth year of his age till his death, that is, till he was eighty years old, he totally abstained from bread, and eat nothing, during the four and twenty hours, but a kind of mess composed of meal and herbs, which served him both for meat and drink: and this in so small a quantity, that his whole daily sustenance did not weigh above five ounces. Such was his austerity, with respect to his food, that, throughout these different periods of his life, he ever observed it as a constant rule, never to eat or drink till after sun-set, how weak soever his health might be, not even on the greatest solemnities.

Hilarion had no sooner, in imitation of his great model and master St. Antony, entered upon this course of life, in a vast and frightful desert, where no man before had ventured to dwell, and, like him, applied himself incessantly to God in prayer, than the devil, not bearing to see himself thus trodden under foot by a young man, began to assault him with violent temptations of the flesh, filling his mind with impure imaginations, and inciting him by sensual allurements, to carnal pleasures, of which before he had no conception. The chaste youth perfectly abhorred himself,
St. Hilarion as written by St. Jerome 01He struck his breast, as if he meant by this exterior violence to put those lewd suggestions to flight: he condemned himself to longer, and still more rigorous fasts and hard labour, saying thus to himself: “thou little jack-ass, I will teach thee to kick; instead of corn thou shalt feed only on straw;–I will tame thy courage with hunger and thirst: I will lay heavy burthens upon thee:–I will make thee work both in summer and winter, that instead of wanton pleasures thou mayest think of thy meat.” The Saint was steadfast in his resolution: fasting without intermission, sometimes for three or four days together, and then taking only a little juice of herbs and a few figs for his meal: incessantly praying, singing psalms, and working at the same time, either in digging the earth or in making baskets, till at length, by these exercises, he reduced his body to a mere skeleton. Wherefore the enemy perceiving he could not prevail this way, began to trouble him with fantastic apparitions and other temptations.

One night he was on a sudden surprised with hearing the crying as it were of children, the bleating of sheep, the bellowing of oxen, the lamentations of women, the roaring of lions, and the confused noise of an army of barbarians, with strange and frightful voices. Suspecting them to be nothing but diabolical illusions, he armed himself with the sign of the cross, and with a lively faith, cast himself down upon the ground, to be the better enabled, in this humble posture, to encounter the proud enemy. Then looking forward, it being a clear moon-light night, he perceived, as it were, a coach, drawn by furious horses, coming with a violent gallop towards him: at the sight of which he called upon the name of Jesus, when behold on a sudden the whole fantastic scene sunk down into the earth before his eyes: upon which he burst forth the praises of his Deliverer. At several other times this indefatigable enemy sought various ways, both by day and night, to molest him: either by exhibiting naked figures to excite him to concupiscence, or by seeking to interrupt his devotion and distract him at prayer by a variety of either comic or tragic scenes: but none of these, or any other of his attempts, were able to shake the resolution of the servant of God, or prevent his perpetual application to the love and service of his Maker. One day whilst he was praying with his head fixed on the ground, it happened that his mind wandered on some other thoughts, the watchful enemy, taking advantage of this distraction, jumped upon his back, as if to ride upon him; and whipping and spurring, cried out: “What, art thou asleep? Thou a saint! come shall I give thee some provender?” But this, like the rest of his vain efforts, only served to excite the Saint to still more vigilance and fervor.

About the eighteenth year of his age, the robbers that frequented the desert, took it in their heads to pay him a visit; expecting either to find something in his hut to take away, or looking upon it as a rash attempt in a single boy to venture to dwell alone in their dominions and not be afraid of them. They therefore began their search after him in the evening, and continued it till the sunrising, without being able to find his lodging: but meeting him at day-light, they asked him as it were in jest, “what he would do if he were visited by robbers?” “Oh!” said he, “he that has nothing to lose fears no robbers.” “But,” said they, “perhaps they may kill thee.” “True,” said he, “but I do not dread death: and therefore am not afraid of them, because I am prepared to die.” Amazed at his constancy and faith, they acknowledged that having sought him during the night, they were so blinded as not to be able to find him; and so deeply were they affected with his words, that they promised to amend their lives.

Hilarion had now spent twenty-two years in perfect solitude in the wilderness, conversing only with God and his angels, and only known to the world by the fame of his sanctity, which was spread over all Palestine, when a certain woman of the city of Eleutheropolis, who had lived fifteen years in the state of wedlock without bearing a child, finding herself despised by her husband on account of her barrenness, ventured to break in upon his solitude; and coming unexpectedly upon him, cast herself upon her knees before him, saying: “Pardon my boldness; pity my distress: why do you turn away your eyes from me? Why do you flee from your petitioner? Do not look at me as a woman, but as a distressed fellow-creature. Remember that a woman brought forth the Savior of the world, those that are well stand not in need of a physician, but they that are ill.” At these words he stood still; and having learnt of her, the first woman he had seen since his retiring into the desert, the cause of her grie£, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, bid her be of good heart, and weeping for her, sent her away; but behold within a twelvemonth she returned, bringing her son with her to visit him. This, his first miracle, was followed by a greater.

When Aristeneta, the wife of Elpidius, a Christian nobleman (who was afterwards advanced to one of the first posts in the empire), was on her return from Egypt, where she had been with her husband and her three sons, to see St . Antony, she stopped at Gaza on account of the illness of her children, who were all seized by a semitertian fever, and brought so low that their lives were despaired of by the physicians. The disconsolate mother, hearing of the sanctity of Hilarion, whose wilderness was not far distant from Gaza, went in haste to visit him, accompanied by some of her servants, and thus addressed herself to him: “I beg of thee for God’s sake: for the sake of Jesus our most merciful God; through His cross and His blood; that thou wouldst vouchsafe to come and restore health to my three sons, that the name of the Lord our Savior may be glorified in that pagan city: that when His servant comes into Gaza, Marnas (the idol which they there worship) may fall to the ground.” The man of God excused himself, alleging, that he never went out of his cell, not so much as into any village, much less into a populous city; but she, casting herself down upon the ground, ceased not to importune him with many tears; often crying out,” O Hilarion! thou blessed servant of God, restore to me my sons: Antony has laid his hands upon them in Egypt, but do thou save their lives in Syria.” Her earnest entreaties at length obliged him to promise her that he would come to Gaza after sun-set. No sooner had he arrived at their lodgings, and seen them confined to their beds in burning fevers, bereft of sense, than he called upon our Lord Jesus, when immediately a copious sweat, issuing as it were from three fountains, followed his prayer, and in the space of an hour they took their meat, knew their mournful mother, blessed God, and kissed the hands of the Saint.

No sooner was his miracle published abroad, than multitudes of the inhabitants of both Syria and Egypt began to visit him. Many infidels were by his mean converted to the faith of Christ, and many also, by his example, embraced a monastic life; for, before his time, there were neither monks nor monasteries in Palestine or Syria: he must therefore be considered the father, founder and first teacher of the monastic institute in those provinces. And now it was that he began to be joined by many disciples, whom he trained: up to religious perfection, who were witnesses of the wonderful miracles that God wrought by him. St. Jerome, as one perfectly well informed, has recorded several of the most remarkable, with all their circumstances. A woman of the neighborhood of Rhinocorura, (a city on the confines of Egypt,) who had been blind for ten years, was brought to the Saint to be healed: after having told him that she had, expended her whole substance on physicians, “you had done better (said he) if you had given it to the poor; you would then have given it to Jesus Christ, the true physician, who would have healed you.” She earnestly begged that he would have pity on her; and he, with spitting on her eyes, restored her to her sight. A charioteer of Gaza was also brought to him on his bed, struck in such a manner by the devil, that he could not stir any of the members of his body except his tongue, with which he besought the servant of God to heal him. The Saint told him, that if he desired to be healed, he must first believe in Jesus Christ, and promise to renounce a profession which exposed him to the immediate occasion of sin. To these conditions he agreed, and having received his cure, he returned home, rejoicing more for the health of his soul, than for that of his body.

Marsitas, a young man of the territory of Jerusalem of an extraordinary bulk and strength, who had been possessed by an evil spirit, and done much mischief to many, was dragged? by ropes to the cell of the servant of God, like a mad bull bound in chains. The brethren at the very sight of him were affrighted, but the saint bid the people bring him up and let him loose; which when they had done, he commanded him to bend down his head and come to him. The poor man trembling bent his neck, when laying aside all his fierceness, and falling down he licked the feet of the man of God; and after seven days’ exorcisms was entirely cured. Another man, named Orion, a principal citizen of Aila, a city near the Red Sea, who was possessed by a whole legion of devils, was brought in like manner loaded with chains to the Saint, who happened at that time to be walking with his disciples, and interpreting to them some passages of the Scripture: when behold the possessed man broke loose from those that held him, and running up to the man of God, whose back was turned towards him, lifted him up from the ground on high in his arms: at which all that were present cried out, apprehending that he would do the Saint some mischief; but Hilarion said smiling, “suffer me to wrestle with my antagonist.” Then putting back his hand, he laid hold on the hair of Orion, and bringing him before his feet, kept him down howling, and turning back his neck, so as to touch the ground with the top of his head. Then praying, he said: “O Lord Jesus, I am a poor wretch; do thou release this captive; thou canst as easily overcome many as one.” On this occasion they were all astonished to hear so many different voices issuing from the mouth of the possessed person, and a confused out-cry, as it were of a whole people: but their wonder ceased when they saw the multitude of wicked spirits that was expelled from him by the prayers of the humble servant of God. Orion came shortly afterwards with his wife and children to return thanks to the Saint, and brought him large presents out of gratitude, which he absolutely refused to accept: but when he besought him with tears to take at least what he had brought, and to give it to the poor, he answered; “thou canst better distribute thyself what thou wouldst have to be given to the poor; for thou frequentest cities, and knowest the poor; why should I, who have left my own, covet the goods of others? Many have been imposed upon by avarice, under the name of the poor. Do not make thyself uneasy; it is for both thy sake and mine I refuse thy presents: for if I should accept of them, I should offend God, and the legion of devils would return to thee.”

One Italicus, a Christian of Maiuma, the haven of Gaza, who bred horses for the public races that were to be exhibited at Gaza, came to the Saint to beg his prayers against the enchantments wherewith his pagan antagonist, one of the magistrates of the city, had bewitched his horses. Hilarion, who disliked all these pubhe games, was unwilling to employ his prayers on so vain an occasion. But the other representing to him that it was not by his own choice, but by his office, he was obliged to do what he did; and that the honor of God and religion was here at stake, because the men of Gaza, who, for the most part, were infidels, would take occasion, from his being worsted, to insult, not so much over him as over the church of Christ: the Saint, at the request of the brethren, ordered his earthen pot, in which he used to drink, to be filled with water, and given to him. Italicus took the water, and with it sprinkled his stable, his horses, his chariot, and his drivers, in the sight of the pagans, who made a jest of it, whilst the Christians, confiding in the prayers of the Saint, made no doubt of success. Wherefore, as soon as the signal was given, the horses of Italicus sprung forth-with incredible speed, whilst those of his adversary were presently distanced, and could scarce keep within sight of them that were gone before. Upon this a loud cry of all the people was immediately raised, and even the very adversaries cried out, that Marnas, the God of Gaza, was worsted by Christ. This miracle gave occasion to the conversion of many.

There was also in the same town of Maiuma, a virgin dedicated to God, with whom a young man in the neighborhood was vehemently in love. After having employed, without success, flattering speeches, idle jokes, and other freedoms, which too often pave the way to greater crimes, he went to Memphis in Egypt, to seek a remedy for his wound from the priests of Esculapius. They furnished him with certain magical spells and monstrous figures, graven upon a plate of copper, which he buried under the threshold of the house where the maid dwelt, when behold immediately (in punishment of her having laid herself too open to the enemy, by not flying, as she ought, or not resisting former freedoms) the maid ran mad with love, tearing off her head clothes, whirling about her hair, gnashing with her teeth, and calling upon the name of the young man. Her parents, therefore, took her to St. Hilarion, when presently it appeared how the case stood; for the devil began to howl within her, and to cry out: “I was forced in hither; I was brought from Memphis against my will: where I succeeded well, in deluding men with dreams. But, oh! what torments dost thou make me suffer here! Thou compellest me to depart, but behold I am bound fast, and kept in by the thread and plate that lie under the threshold. I cannot go out till the young man who keeps me here, lets me go.” “Thou art very strong indeed!” said the Saint, “if thou art held by a thread and a plate. But tell me, how didst thou dare to enter into a maid dedicated to God!” “It was,” said he, “to preserve her virginity.” “What! thou preserve her virginity,” said the Saint, “who art the mortal enemy of chastity. Why didst thou not rather enter into him that sent thee?” “Oh,” said the devil, “there was no necessity for my entering into him, who was already possessed by my comrade, the demon of wanton love.” The Saint would hear no more, nor send for the young man, not order the things mentioned to be taken away, to show the little regard that is to be had to the devil’s speeches or signs, but instantly delivered the maid from her wicked guest, and sent her away perfectly cured, after severely reprehending her for admitting of those liberties which had given the devil the power to possess her.

It would be endless to recount all the other miracles that God wrought by this Saint, which rendered his name illustrious, even in the most remote provinces. St. Antony himself, hearing of his life and conversation, wrote to him, and gladly received letters from him; and when any diseased came to him for their cure from any part of Syria, he blamed them for giving themselves the trouble to come so far, since you have, said he, in those parts my son Hilarion. His bright example attracted great numbers to the service of God, so that now there were innumerable monasteries, or cells of religious, throughout Palestine, who all looked upon him as their father, and resorted to him for their direction. These he exhorted to attend to their spiritual progress; ever reminding them, “that the figure of this world passeth away, and that eternal life can only be purchased by parting with the pleasures and affections of this life.” He visited all their monasteries once a year for their instruction and edification: and such was his diligence and charity on these occasions, that he would not pass by the cell of the least or meanest of the brethren without calling in to instruct and console him, insomuch that he went as far as the desert of Kadesh, on purpose to visit one single monk who dwelt there. In this journey he was accompanied by a great number of his disciples into the city of Elusa, on the confines of the Saracens, on a festival day, when the people were all assembled in the temple of Venus, who was there worshipped by the Saracens on account of the star that bears her name. No sooner had they heard that Hilarion, of whose sanctity and miracles they had been previously informed by several of their nation whom he had delivered from evil spirits, was passing by, but all the men, women, and children ran out in crowds to meet him and to beg his blessing. The Saint received them all with the utmost tenderness and humility, and begged that they would henceforth worship the living God, rather than stocks and stones: shedding at the same time many tears, and looking up towards heaven, he promised, if they would believe in Christ, that he would frequently come to see them. So wonderful was the grace that accompanied the words and prayers of the man of God, that they would not suffer him to quit their city, till he had first marked out a plot of ground for the building of a church; nay, their very priest had received the sign of the cross of Christ, in order to his baptism.

Another year, when the Saint was making his visitation, a little before the time of the vintage, he came with all his companions to the monastery of one of the brethren, who was remarkable for being a niggardly miser. This man had a vineyard, and apprehending lest the multitude of the monks that accompanied the Saint should eat up his grapes, he set several men to keep them off with stones and clods in slings, and would not so much as let them taste of them. The servant of God smiled at the treatment they had met with, but taking no notice of it to the niggard, he went on the next day to another monastery, where he and his whole company were kindly received by a monk named Sabas, who kindly invited them (it being the Lord’s day,) to go and feast themselves in his vineyard. The Saint ordered that they should first take the food of their souls, by applying themselves to their religious exercises of prayer, singing psalms, and paying their duty to God: and then after giving them his blessing, he sent the whole multitude of his disciples to the vineyard to take their corporal refection. The blessing of the man of God was attended with so miraculous an effect, that whereas the vineyard of Sabas was not before thought capable of yielding more than a hundred gallons of wine, it yielded that year three hundred, whilst the vineyard of the niggard yielded much less than usual, and the little that it produced turned into vinegar, a circumstance which the man of God had foretold. Hilarion could never endure in religious men any thing that looked like covetousness, or too great an affection to any of those things that pass away with this transitory world: he was moreover endowed by God with the gift of discovering who were addicted to this, that, or any other kind of vice, by the stench that proceeded from their bodies or garments.

And now the Saint, seeing that his hermitage was converted into a great monastery; and that the wilderness about him was continually crowded with the people who resorted thither, bringing their diseased, or such as were possessed with unclean spirits, and that not only the common sort of people from all the neighboring provinces, but even the gentry,–ladies of the first rank,–clerks, monks, priests, and bishops, were daily visiting him, and interrupting his devotions, he bitterly regretted the loss of his former solitude, perpetually lamenting, weeping, and saying, that since he had returned back into the world, he apprehended he should have his reward in this life, because all Palestine and the neighboring provinces took him to be somebody, &c. nor did he cease to mourn and bewail his condition, till he took a fixed resolution to quit his monastery, and retire into some place where he might be unknown, and more freely enjoy his God without the interruption of so many visits. In the mean time, whilst he was meditating upon his flight, the lady Aristeneta, whose three sons he had cured, came to see him, acquainting him with her design of returning into Egypt, to make a second visit to St. Antony. He replied, with tears in his eyes, that he could have wished to have taken the same journey, if he were not kept prisoner in his monastery, but that it was now too late to find Antony alive; for, said he, two days ago the world was deprived of so great a father. Having believed him, she did not proceed in her journey, and, behold, after some days the news of his death was brought from Egypt.

When it was known abroad that the man of God was upon the point of quitting Palestine, the whole province took the alarm, and no less than ten thousand people, of all degrees and conditions, were gathered together, in order to stop and detain him. But his resolution was not to be altered; and as he had learnt by revelation the havoc that the infidels of Gaza were about to make in his monastery, and all through that neighborhood, under the reign of Julian the Apostate, he gave them broad hints of this his fore-knowledge, saying, that he could not call in question the truth of what God had said; nor could he endure to see the churches destroyed, the altars of Christ trodden under foot, and his children massacred. In short, he assured them he would neither eat nor drink till they let him go. And thus, after he had fasted seven days, they were contented at last to suffer him depart, accompanied by about forty of his monks. With these he made the best of his way to Pelusium, (now called Darmietta) in Egypt, and after visiting the holy solitaries who lived in the neighboring deserts, he waited upon Dracontius and Philo; two illustrious confessors of Christ, of the number of those catholic prelates who had been banished from their sees by the fury of the Arians, under the emperor Constantius. After paying these visits, he hastened to keep the anniversary day of the happy decease of St. Antony in the place where he died: and being conducted by the deacon Baisanes upon dromedaries, three days’ journey through that vast and dreary wilderness, he arrived at length at the mountain of the Saint. Here he found his two disciples, who showed him all the places where their master had been accustomed to sing psalms–to pray–to work–and sit down to rest himself, after being wearied with his labour; as also the garden he had cultivated–the trees he had planted–the instrument with which he had dug the earth–the private cells to which he often retired towards the top of the mountain, &c. and then agreeably entertained him with divers particulars of the acts of the latter part of St. Antony’s life. Hilarion was much moved to devotion with the sight and recital of all this; and after watching in prayer the whole night of the anniversary of the Saint, he returned the same way he came, through the dreary wilderness to the neighborhood of the town called Aphroditon. Here in an adjoining desert, with two of his disciples whom he kept with him, he led so abstemious, abstracted, and silent a life, that on feeling the fervor he now found within himself, he seemed never to have before begun to serve Christ in earnest.

He had not been above two years in this wilderness, when the fame of his sanctity brought all the people of the neighboring country to him, to beg his prayers for rain. For from the time of the death of St. Antony, no rain had fallen upon their land, for the space of three whole years, so that being afflicted with a great famine, they resorted to him, whom they considered as the successor of St. Antony, for a redress of their misery. Moved to pity by the sight of their distress, he lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven to pray for them, and his prayer was immediately followed by plentiful rains. But the rains, whilst they fertilized the earth, having, in falling on the dry hot sand, also produced an incredible multitude of venomous reptiles and insects, with which innumerable persons were struck, they were again forced to have recourse to the Saint, who gave them some oil which he had blessed, with which they were cured. But now finding himself after these miracles greatly honored, he would stay no longer in this place, but departed in order to go and hide himself in the desert of Oasis. In his way thither he passed through Alexandria: and as he made it a rule never to lodge in any city, he went on to a place in the neighbourhood, called Bruchium, where there was a monastery of the servants of God. From hence, when night drew on, he hastened away, telling the brethren, who were greatly afflicted, that they should soon know the reason of his sudden departure. Accordingly, on the next day their monastery was searched by the Gazites, accompanied by officers sent from the governor of Alexandria to apprehend Hilarion, of whose arrival there they had received intelligence. For the infidels of Gaza, who bore a mortal hatred to the Saint, as soon as Julian came to the empire, destroyed his monastery, and obtained an edict from the tyrant, that both he, and his disciple Hesychius, should be sought for and put to death wherever they were found. Of this the Saint had a fore-knowledge by prophetic light, and thereupon withdrew himself: so that the infidels, who had thought themselves, certain of seizing their priest, finding he was gone, departed, saying to each other, that now they were sure he was a magician, and had a foresight of things to come.

He had not been a year in the wilderness of Oasis, before he found that fame had also followed him thither; and therefore now despairing to be able to conceal himself upon the continent, he formed a resolution of seeking out a place in some of the islands of the Mediterranean, where he might hide himself. In order to this he embarked with one only disciple, at Paretonium, a haven on the coast of Lybia, on board a vessel bound for Sicily; hoping that henceforward no one should know him, or become troublesome to him in his retirement. When, behold, in the midst of the voyage the son of the master of the ship, or rather the devil by his mouth, cried out: “Hilarion, thou servant of God, let me alone, at least till we come to land; how comes it to pass, that even at sea thou art still persecuting us.” The Saint would have disguised the grace which God had given him, fearing lest the sailors and passengers should publish his fame when they came to land, and therefore mildly replied: “If my God permits thee to stay, stay if thou wilt; but if he cast thee out, what hast thou do do to complain of me, who am but a poor beggar and a sinful man.” However, upon the solemn promise of the father, and of all the rest, that they would not discover him, he cast the devil out of the boy. When they arrived at Pachynum (now Capo Passaro), he would have paid for the passage of himself and his companion, by giving the captain the book of the gospels, which was all his wealth, but he, seeing their poverty, would not receive it. Wherefore the Saint leaving the sea-coast, withdrew himself into a little kind of wilderness, about twenty miles within the land, and there fixed his abode; living upon what little he could get, by making up faggots, which his companion carried to a neighboring village, bringing from thence in exchange what they stood need of for their food.

But the Saint could not long he concealed here; for soon after his arrival, a man possessed with an evil spirit, being under the exorcisms of the church at St. Peter’s in Rome, the devil cried out thus by his mouth: “Hilarion, the servant of Chiiet, is some days since come into Sicily, where no man knows him, and he thinks himself secret: but I will go and discover him.” This man therefore taking some of his servants with him, and going on board a ship sailed immediately for Sicily; and after coming to shore, being conducted by the devil, he went straight to the hut of the servant of God, and there casting himself at his feet, was perfectly cured. This being noised abroad, great multitudes, who labored under various corporeal diseases, resorted to him to obtain their cure; whilst numbers also of devout and religious people applied to him for their spiritual profit. Amongst the rest, he cured upon the spot one of the principal men of the island, who was swollen up with the dropsy, and who on the same day, returned home in perfect health. This man offered to make him considerable presents, which the Saint absolutely refused, alleging the precept of our Savior, Matt. x. 8. Freely have you received, freely give: which rule he invariably observed in all the other innumerable miracles which he wrought, whether in Sicily or elsewhere, for, he never would receive any thing, no not so much as a morsel of bread from any one of those on whom he had wrought those miracles.

And now his beloved disciple Hesychius, after having sought after him in vain through many different regions came at length to Sicily, upon the report he had heard at Modon in Greece, from a Jewish pedlar, that a Christian prophet had appeared in Sicily, who wrought all kinds of wonderful miracles. No sooner had he found him than the Saint gave him to understand, that he wanted to depart from Sicily into some strange country where he might be utterly unknown. Wherefore, in compliance with his desire, he conveyed him away by a ship to the coast of Dalmatia, where for a short time he led a solitary life, not far from the city of Epidaurus, now called Ragusa. But neither here could he remain long concealed, his miracles every where betraying him. There was at that time, in the neighborhood of Epidaurus, a monstrous serpent, of that species named boas, which did great mischief in destroying both men and cattle; the Saint, to put a stop to this calamity ordered the country people to heap up a pile of wood, and after addressing a prayer to Christ he called the serpent out of his den, and commanded him to go on the top of the pile of wood, and then setting fire to it, he burnt the monster in sight of a great multitude of people. This miracle was followed by another still greater. About this time, viz. the second year of the reign of Valentinian the first, there happened so remarkable an earthquake that, according to Amianus, a cotemporary historian, its like was never recorded, either in authentic or fabulous history. On this occasion, the swelling seas, in several places, broke in and overflowed the land in such a manner as to threaten the earth with a second deluge, and in some places the waves ran so high as to carry the ships along with them, and leave them hanging on the cliffs. The Epidaurians perceiving the danger in which their city as well as many others were in of being destroyed, had recourse to Hilarion, and opposed him to the mountains of water that were just upon the point of overwhelming them. No sooner had the Saint made three crosses on the sand, and lifted Up his arms to heaven, than the swelling waves, though they raged, foamed, and rose up to an incredible height, not able to advance, gradually returned back again and subsided. This wonder, says St. Jerome, who was then a boy in the same province, the city of Epidaurus, as well as the whole country, recount to this day–the mothers relate it to their children, in order to transmit the memory of it to posterity.

The applause that followed these miracles would not suffer the humble servant of Christ to remain any longer in Dalmatia; therefore taking boat privately by night he fled away, and within two days found a ship departing for Cyprus, on which he embarked. In this voyage his ship being pursued by some pirates in two light vessels, there appeared no hopes of escaping them. The ship’s crew being in the utmost consternation, the Saint turning to his disciples said: “Why are you afraid, O ye of little faith?” And when the pirates were now come within a stone’s cast of the ship, he stood on the foredeck, and stretching out his hand to them, he said: “You have come far enough when behold immediately their vessels fell back, and the more they, tugged and rowed, in order to push forward towards their expected prey, the more rapidly were they carried away from it. The Saint landed at Paphos, a noted city of Cyprus, and chose himself a dwelling place about two miles from thence; being now wonderfully pleased that he had found rest, at least for a short time, in this solitude; but scarcely had twenty days elapsed when the devils in different parts of the island published his arrival by the mouths of those that were possessed; and several of these, both men and women, hastened to him and were delivered. Here he remained about two years meditating upon some private place of retirement.

In the mean time he sent Hesychius into Palestine, to salute the brethren there, and to visit the ashes of his monastery; and upon his return proposed that they should sail into Egypt, and advance a great way into the country, to some place inhabited only by pagans. But Hesychius opposed this; and after a long search, discovered a place in the island about twelve miles distant from the sea, amongst mountains and woods that were almost inaccessible, which proved quite to his mind. In this solitude, to which no one could arrive in several places but by creeping, on hands and knees, they found springs of water on the sides of the hills,–a little garden within, with several fruit trees, of which however the Saint would never eat, and near the garden the ruins of an ancient temple, from whence, as both he and his disciples related, were often heard, both night and day, a great noise, like the voices of a whole army of devils. In this solitary abode the man of God dwelt for the last five years of his mortal life, seldom visited by any one but Hesychius, on account of the difficulty of coming at his dwelling, as also because the people were persuaded that the neighborhood was haunted with a multitude of demons. However, there were some that ventured to come to him for the cure of their maladies; their necessities overcoming all difficulties, especially after it was known, that he had cured upon the spot, the bailiff of the place of a palsy, which had deprived him of the use of his limbs, by only stretching out his hand to him, and lifting him up with these words: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.

But now the time arrived which was to put a period to all the labors of his mortal pilgrimage, and unite him eternally to his God, when being now eighty years old he was seized with his last illness. Although Hesychius was then absent, he nevertheless bequeathed to him by will all he had, viz. his book of the gospels, his sackcloth, cowl, and habit. Many religious men from Paphos came to attend him in his sickness, who had heard of his having said, “that he was now going to our Lord;” and with them a holy woman named Constantia, whose daughter and son-in-law he had delivered from death by anointing them with oil. And now he was drawing near his end, when in the very agony of death he distinctly spoke these words: “Go forth my soul: what art thou afraid of? Go forth, why art thou at a stand? Thou hast served Christ almost seventy years, and art thou afraid to die?” and with these words he gave up the ghost. He was immediately buried as he had desired, in the same place: where the devout lady Constantia frequently passed whole nights in prayer at his sepulcher, speaking with him as if he were alive, and desiring the assistance of his prayers. His disciple Hesychius, after ten months, privately conveyed his body away to Palestine, where it was solemnly interred in his own monastery; at which time it was found entirely incorrupt, and sending forth a most fragrant odor. Many great miracles were daily wrought through his intercession, even to the time when St. Jerome published his life, as well at his sepulcher in Palestine, as at the place where he was first buried in Cyprus.

14 Day Lenten Reflection Day 10: St Teresa of Avila’s Combat w/Satan &Encounter w/Hell

7 April 2017

St Teresa of Avila

Exerpts from “The life of St. Teresa of Jesus

of the order of Our Lady of Carmel”, 1916
by Saint Teresa of Avila, Reverend Benedict Zimmerman O. C. D.

Divine Locutions. Discussions on that Subject

. . . . . I look upon it as a most certain truth, that the devil will never deceive, and that God will not suffer him to deceive, the soul which has no confidence whatever in itself; which is strong in faith, and resolved to undergo a thousand deaths for any one article of the creed; which in its love of the faith, infused of God once for all,–a faith living and strong,–always labors, seeking for further light on this side and on that, to mold itself on the teaching of the Church, as one already deeply grounded in the truth. No imaginable revelations, not even if it saw the heavens open, could make that soul swerve in any degree from the doctrine of the Church.

If, however, it should at any time find itself wavering even in thought on this point, or stopping to say to itself, If God says this to me, it may be true, as well as what He said to the Saints–the soul must not be sure of it. I do not mean that it so believes, only that Satan has taken the first step towards tempting it; and the giving way to the first movements of a thought like this is evidently most wrong. I believe, however, that these first movements will not take place if the soul is so strong in the matter–as that soul is to whom our Lord sends these graces–that it seems as if it could crush the evil spirits in defense of the very least of the truths which the Church holds.

If the soul does not discern this great strength in itself, and if the particular devotion or vision help it not onwards, then it must not look upon it as safe. For though at first the soul is conscious of no harm, great harm may by degrees ensue; because so far as I can see, and by experience understand, that which purports to come from God is received only in so far as it corresponds with the sacred writings; but if it varies therefrom ever so little, I am incomparably more convinced that it comes from Satan than I am now convinced it comes from God, however deep that conviction may be.

In this case, there is no need to ask for signs, nor from what spirit it proceeds, because this varying is so clear a sign of the devil’s presence, that if all the world were to assure me that it came from God, I would not believe it. The fact is, that all good seems to be lost out of sight, and to have fled from the soul, when the devil has spoken to it; the soul is thrown into a state of disgust, and is troubled, able to do no good thing whatever–for if it conceives good desires, they are not strong; its humility is fictitious, disturbed, and without sweetness. Any one who has ever tasted of the Spirit of God will, I think, understand it. Nevertheless, Satan has many devices; and so there is nothing more certain than that it is safer to be afraid, and always on our guard, under a learned director, from whom nothing is concealed.


St. Teresa speaks of some exterior temptations and apparitions of Satan,
and how he ill-treated her.

Now that I have described certain temptations and troubles, interior and secret, of which Satan was the cause, I will speak of others which he wrought almost in public, and in which his presence could not be ignored (2 Cor ii. II).

I was once in an oratory, when Satan, in an abominable shape, appeared on my left hand. I looked at his mouth in particular, because he spoke, and it was horrible. A huge flame seemed to issue out of his body, perfectly bright, without any shadow. He spoke in a fearful way, and said to me that, though I had escaped out of his hands, he would yet lay hold of me again. I was in great terror, made the sign of the cross as well as I could, and then the form vanished–but it reappeared instantly. This occurred twice. I did not know what to do; there was some holy water at hand; I took some, and threw it in the direction of the figure, and then Satan never returned.

On another occasion I was tortured for five hours with such terrible pains, such inward and outward sufferings, that it seemed to me as if I could not bear them. Those who were with me were frightened; they knew not what to do, and I could not help myself. I am in the habit, when these pains and my bodily suffering are most unendurable, to make interior acts as well as I can, imploring our Lord, if it be His will, to give me patience, and then to let me suffer on, even to the end of the world. So, when I found myself suffering so cruelly, I relieved myself by making those acts and resolutions, in order that I might be able to endure the pain. It pleased our Lord to let me understand that it was the work of Satan; for I saw close beside me a most frightful little negro, gnashing his teeth in despair at losing what he attempted to seize. When I saw him, I laughed, and had no fear; for there were some then present who were helpless, and knew of no means whereby so great a pain could be relieved. My body, head, and arms were violently shaken; I could not help myself: but the worst of all was the interior pain, for I could find no ease in any way. Nor did I dare to ask for holy water, lest those who were with me should be afraid, and find out what the matter really was.

I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water. They run away before the sign of the cross also, but they return immediately: great, then, must be the power of holy water. As for me, my soul is conscious of a special and most distinct consolation whenever I take it. Indeed, I feel almost always a certain refreshing, which I cannot describe, together with an inward joy, which comforts my whole soul. This is no fancy, nor a thing which has occurred once only; for it has happened very often, and I have watched it very carefully. I may compare what I feel with that which happens to a person in great heat, and very thirsty, drinking a cup of cold water–his whole being is refreshed. I consider that everything ordained by the Church is very important; and I have a joy in reflecting that the words of the Church are so mighty, that they endow water with power, so that there shall be so great a difference between holy water and water that has never been blessed. Then, as my pains did not cease, I told them, if they would not laugh, I would ask for some holy water. They brought me some, and sprinkled me with it; but I was no better. I then threw some myself in the direction of the negro, when he fled in a moment. All my sufferings ceased, just as if some one had taken them from me with his hand; only I was wearied, as if I had been beaten with many blows. It was of great service to me to learn that if, by our Lord’s permission, Satan can do so much evil to a soul and body not in his power, he can do much more when he has them in his possession. It gave me a renewed desire to be delivered from a fellowship so dangerous.

Another time, and not long ago, the same thing happened to me, though it did not last so long, and I was alone at the moment. I asked for holy water; and they who came in after the devil had gone away,–they were two nuns, worthy of all credit, and would not tell a lie for anything,–perceived a most offensive smell, like that of brimstone. I smelt nothing myself; but the odour lasted long enough to become sensible to them.

On another occasion I was in choir when, in a moment, I became profoundly recollected. I went out in order that the sisters might know nothing of it; yet those who were near heard the sound of heavy blows where I was, and I heard voices myself, as of persons in consultation, but I did not hear what they said: I was so absorbed in prayer that I understood nothing, neither was I at all afraid. This took place almost always when our Lord was pleased that some soul or other, persuaded by me, advanced in the spiritual life. Certainly, what I am now about to describe happened to me once; there are witnesses to testify to it, particularly my present confessor (Either Fr. Dominic Banez or Fr. Garcia de Toledo), for he saw the account in a letter. I did not tell him from whom the letter came, but he knew perfectly who the person was.

There came to me a person who, for two years and a half, had been living in mortal sin of the most abominable nature I ever heard. During the whole of that time he neither confessed it nor ceased from it; and yet he said Mass. He confessed his other sins; but of this one he used to say, How can I confess so foul a sin? He wished to give it up, but he could not prevail on himself to do so. I was very sorry for him, and it was a great grief to me to see God offended in such a way. I promised him that I would pray to God for his amendment, and get others who were better than I to do the same. I wrote to one person, and the priest undertook to get the letter delivered. It came to pass that he made a full confession at the first opportunity; for our Lord was pleased, on account of the prayers of those most holy persons to whom I had recommended him, to have pity on this soul. I, too, wretched as I am, did all I could for the same end.

He wrote to me, and said that he was so far improved that he had not for some days repeated his sin; but he was so tormented by the temptation that it seemed to him as if he were in hell already, so great were his sufferings. He asked me to pray to God for him. I recommended him to my sisters, through whose prayers I must have obtained this mercy from our Lord; for they took the matter greatly to heart; and he was a person whom no one could find out. I implored His Majesty to put an end to these torments and temptations, and to let the evil spirits torment me instead, provided I did not offend our Lord. Thus it was that for one month I was most grievously tormented; and then it was that these two assaults of Satan, of which I have just spoken, took place.

Our Lord was pleased to deliver him out of this temptation, so I was informed; for I told him what happened to myself that month. His soul gained strength, and he continued free; he could never give thanks enough to our Lord and to me as if I had been of any service–unless it be that the belief he had that our Lord granted me such graces was of some advantage to him. He said that, when he saw himself in great straits, he would read my letters, and then the temptation left him. He was very much astonished at my sufferings, and at the manner of his own deliverance: even I myself am astonished, and I would suffer as much for many years for the deliverance of that soul. May our Lord be praised for ever! for the prayers of those who serve Him can do great things; and I believe the sisters of this house do serve Him. The devils must have been more angry with me only because I asked them to pray, and because our Lord permitted it on account of my sins. At that time, too, I thought the evil spirits would have suffocated me one night, and when the sisters threw much holy water about I saw a great troop of them rush away as if tumbling over a precipice. These cursed spirits have tormented me so often, and I am now so little afraid of them,–because I see they cannot stir without our Lord’s permission,–that I should weary both you, my father, and myself, if I were to speak of these things in detail.

May this I have written be of use to the true servant of God, who ought to despise these terrors, which Satan sends only to make him afraid! Let him understand that each time we despise these terrors, their force is lessened, and the soul gains power over them. There is always some great good obtained; but I will not speak of it, that I may not be too diffuse. I will speak, however, of what happened to me once on the night of All Souls. I was in an oratory, and, having said one Nocturn, was saying some very devotional prayers at the end of our Breviary, when Satan put himself on the book before me, to prevent my finishing my prayer. I made the sign of the cross, and he went away. I then returned to my prayer, and he, too, came back; he did so, I believe, three times, and I was not able to finish the prayer without throwing holy water at him. I saw certain souls at that moment come forth out of purgatory–they must have been near their deliverance, and I thought that Satan might in this way have been trying to hinder their release. It is very rarely that I saw Satan assume a bodily form; I know of his presence through the vision I have spoken of before, the vision wherein no form is seen.

I wish also to relate what follows, for I was greatly alarmed at it: on Trinity Sunday, in the choir of a certain monastery, and in a trance, I saw a great fight between evil spirits and the angels. I could not make out what the vision meant. In less than a fortnight it was explained clearly enough by the dispute that took place between persons given to prayer and many who were not, which did great harm to that house; for it was a dispute that lasted long and caused much trouble. On another occasion I saw a great multitude of evil spirits round about me, and, at the same time, a great light, in which I was enveloped, which kept them from coming near me. I understood it to mean that God was watching over me, that they might not approach me so as to make me offend Him. I knew the vision was real by what I saw occasionally in myself. The fact is, I know now how little power the evil spirits have, provided I am not out of the grace of God; I have scarcely any fear of them at all, for their strength is as nothing, if they do not find the souls they assail give up the contest and become cowards; it is in this case that they show their power.


Our Lord shows St. Teresa the place which she had by her sins deserved in hell. The Torments there. She narrates how it pleased God to put her in spirit in that place of hell she had deserved by her sins. She tells a little compared with what there was besides of what she saw there.

Some considerable time after our Lord had bestowed upon me the graces I have been describing, and others also of a higher nature, I was one day in prayer when I found myself in a moment, without knowing how, plunged apparently into hell. I understood that it was our Lord’s will I should see the place which the devils kept in readiness for me, and which I had deserved by my sins (1). It was but a moment, but it seems to me impossible I should ever forget it, even if I were to live many years.

The entrance seemed to be by a long narrow pass, like a furnace, very low, dark, and close. The ground seemed to be saturated with water, mere mud, exceedingly foul, sending forth pestilential odors, and covered with loathsome vermin. At the end was a hollow place in the wall, like a closet, and in that I saw myself confined. All this was even pleasant to behold in comparison with what I felt there. There is no exaggeration in what I am saying.

St. Teresa of Avila Book 01

But as to what I then felt, I do not know where to begin, if I were to describe it; it is utterly inexplicable. I felt a fire in my soul. I cannot see how it is possible to describe it. My bodily sufferings were unendurable. I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life, and, as the physicians say, the greatest that can be borne, such as the contraction of my sinews when I was paralyzed, without speaking of others of different kinds, yea, even those of which I have also spoken, inflicted on me by Satan; yet all these were as nothing in comparison with what I felt then, especially when I saw that there would be no intermission, nor any end to them.

These sufferings were nothing in comparison with the anguish of my soul, a sense of oppression, of stifling, and of pain so keen, accompanied by so hopeless and cruel an infliction, that I know not how to speak of it. If I said that the soul is continually being torn from the body it would be nothing,–for that implies the destruction of life by the hands of another; but here it is the soul itself that is tearing itself in pieces. I cannot describe that inward fire or that despair, surpassing all torments and all pain. I did not see who it was that tormented me, but I felt myself on fire, and torn to pieces, as it seemed to me; and, I repeat it, this inward fire and despair are the greatest torments of all.

Left in that pestilential place, and utterly without the power to hope for comfort, I could neither sit nor lie down: there was no room. I was placed as it were in a hole in the wall; and those walls, terrible to look on of themselves, hemmed me in on every side. I could not breathe. There was no light, but all was thick darkness. I do not understand how it is; though there was no light, yet everything that can give pain by being seen was visible.

Our Lord at that time would not let me see more of hell. Afterwards I had another most fearful vision, in which I saw the punishment of certain sins. They were most horrible to look at; but, because I felt none of the pain, my terror was not so great. In the former vision our Lord made me really feel those torments, and that anguish of spirit, just as if I had been suffering them in the body there. I know not how it was, but I understood distinctly that it was a great mercy that our Lord would have me see with mine own eyes the very place from which His compassion saved me. I have listened to people speaking of these things, and I have at other times dwelt on the various torments of hell, though not often, because my soul made no progress by the way of fear; and I have read of the diverse tortures, and how the devils tear the flesh with red-hot pincers. But all is as nothing before this; it is a wholly different matter. In short, the one is a reality, the other a picture; and all burning here in this life is as nothing in comparison with the fire that is there.

I was so terrified by that vision,–and that terror is on me even now while I am writing,–that though it took place nearly six years ago, the natural warmth of my body is chilled by fear even now when I think of it. And so, amid all the pain and suffering which I may have had to bear, I remember no time in which I do not think that all we have to suffer in this world is as nothing. It seems to me that we complain without reason. I repeat it, this vision was one of the grandest mercies of our Lord. It has been to me of the greatest service, because it has destroyed my fear of trouble and of the contradiction of the world, and because it has made me strong enough to bear up against them, and to give thanks to our Lord, who has been my Deliverer, as it now seems to me, from such fearful and everlasting pains.

Ever since that time, as I was saying, everything seems endurable in comparison with one instant of suffering such as those I had then to bear in hell. I am filled with fear when I see that, after frequently reading books which describe in some manner the pains of hell, I was not afraid of them, nor made any account of them. Where was I? How could I possibly take any pleasure in those things which led me directly to so dreadful a place? Blessed for ever be Thou, O my God! and, oh, how manifest is it that Thou didst love me much more than I did love Thee! How often, O Lord, didst Thou save me from that fearful prison! and how I used to get back to it contrary to Thy will.

It was that vision that filled me with the very great distress which I feel at the sight of so many lost souls, especially of the Lutherans,–for they were once members of the Church by baptism,–and also gave me the most vehement desires for the salvation of souls; for certainly I believe that, to save even one from those overwhelming torments, I would most willingly endure many deaths. If here on earth we see one whom we specially love in great trouble or pain, our very nature seems to bid us compassionate him; and if those pains be great, we are troubled ourselves. What, then, must it be to see a soul in danger of pain, the most grievous of all pains, for ever? Who can endure it? It is a thought no heart can bear without great anguish. Here we know that pain ends with life at last, and that there are limits to it; yet the sight of it moves our compassion so greatly. That other pain has no ending; and I know not how we can be calm, when we see Satan carry so many souls daily away.

This also makes me wish that, in a matter which concerns us so much, we did not rest satisfied with doing less than we can do on our part,–that we left nothing undone. May our Lord vouchsafe to give us His grace for that end! When I consider that, notwithstanding my very great wickedness, I took some pains to please God, and abstained from certain things which I know the world makes light of,–that, in short, I suffered grievous infirmities, and with great patience, which our Lord gave me; that I was not inclined to murmur or to speak ill of anybody; that I could not–I believe so–wish harm to any one; that I was not, to the best of my recollection, either avaricious or envious, so as to be grievously offensive in the sight of God; and that I was free from many other faults,–for, though so wicked, I had lived constantly in the fear of God,–I had to look at the very place which the devils kept ready for me. It is true that, considering my faults, I had deserved a still heavier chastisement; but for all that, I repeat it, the torment was fearful, and we run a great risk whenever we please ourselves. No soul should take either rest or pleasure that is liable to fall every moment into mortal sin. Let us, then, for the love of God, avoid all occasions of sin, and our Lord will help us, as He has helped me. May it please His Majesty never to let me out of His hands, lest I should turn back and fall, now that I have seen the place where I must dwell if I do. I entreat our Lord, for His Majesty’s sake, never to permit it. Amen.

When I had seen this vision, and had learned other great and hidden things which our Lord, of His goodness, was pleased to show me,–namely, the joy of the blessed and the torment of the wicked,–I longed for the way and the means of doing penance for the great evil I had done, and of meriting in some degree, so that I might gain so great a good; and therefore I wished to avoid all society, and to withdraw myself utterly from the world. I was in spirit restless, yet my restlessness was not harassing, but rather pleasant. I saw clearly that it was the work of God, and that His Majesty had furnished my soul with fervor, so that I might be able to digest other and stronger food than I had been accustomed to eat. I tried to think what I could do for God, and thought that the first thing was to follow my vocation to a religious life, which His Majesty had given me, by keeping my rule in the greatest perfection possible.

(1) Way of Perfection, ch. xiii. 2.–As Ribera remarks, it does not follow from this passage that St. Teresa had ever committed a mortal sin–and thereby deserved hell–as there is abundant evidence even from her own words that she never had such a misfortune, but only that she would have fallen into grievous sins if she had not mended her life.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

14 Day Lenten Series: Day Nine: St Francis and His Confrontation with devils

6 April 2017

St. Francis of Assisi and the Devil 01

St. Francis expelling devils from Arezzo, by Benozzo Gozzoli

The below related account is from the Manual of the Third Order of St. Francis, 1884

One of the favourite wiles of Satan is to irritate men against one another, as in the following instance, related by St. Bonaventure: One day the blessed Patriarch Francis went to Arezzo. That city, which had long been a prey to civil dissensions, was verging on its ruin. Francis beheld the demons dancing with joy on the walls of the city, and exciting in the hearts of its people the fire of hatred against each other. Calling to him Brother Sylvester, a man of dove-like simplicity, he said, “Go to the gate of the city, and in the name of Almighty God command the devils, in virtue of holy obedience, to depart immediately.”

The Brother hastened to fulfil his orders, and cried out in a loud voice, “All you evil spirits who are gathered together in this place, I command you, in the name of Almighty God and of His servant Francis, depart hence.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the discordant voices were hushed, the people’s angry passions were calmed, the fratricidal feud ceased, and peace was restored to Arezzo. The pride and jealousy of the infernal spirits had threatened the ruin of the city, but the wisdom of the humble Francis saved it from destruction.

“Let all bitterness and anger, and indignation and clamour, be put away from you,” says the Apostle (Ephes. iv. 31). Listen to the touching commentary on this text by the prince of Christian eloquence:

“Bees will never enter into an unclean hive. Hence, those who rear them purify the hive for the new swarm by fumigation, perfumes, and spiced wines; otherwise the unpleasant odour would drive the bees away. It is the same with the Holy Spirit. Our soul is like a hive, which is fitted for receiving swarms of spiritual graces; but if it contains only gall and bitterness and anger, these holy swarms will take flight. Hence it is that this holy and wise Cultivator purifies our hive so carefully. He does not make use of any instrument of iron; but He invites us to receive the spiritual swarm, and in order to fit us for its reception He purifies us by prayer, labour, and other means. See how He cleanses our heart; He banishes falsehood and anger, and next He teaches us how to root out the evil entirely–that is, by keeping no bitterness in the soul. Hatred infects the whole soul, ruins it completely, and ends by hurling its victim into hell. We must subdue, or rather exterminate, this wild beast. Let us follow St. Paul’s admonition, ‘Let all bitterness be banished from amongst you'” (Hom, on Ephes. xv.).

May our congregations always be homes of peace, concord, and fraternal charity! This divine virtue is an assured pledge of all heavenly blessings, and an infallible guarantee of their duration.

“Charity is the mother of all other virtues. Let us spare no pains to plant it in our souls, and it will enrich us with every good. At all seasons we can gather its fruits, which grow unceasingly and never fail. Thus we shall obtain everlasting goods. May we all acquire them by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, belong glory, power, and honour, now and for evermore. Amen” (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. xxxi.).

The following exerpts are taken from
The Mirror of Perfection
by Brother Leo of Assisi

How he put the demons to flight by humble words

One time Blessed Francis went to the church of St. Peter of Bovara, near the village of Trevi, in the valley of Spoleto, and with him went Brother Pacificus, who in the world had been called the King of Verse, the noble and courteous Doctor of Song. This church was deserted, and Blessed Francis said to Blessed Pacificus, ” Do you return to the Leper Hospital, as this night I wish to remain here alone, and early in the morning come back to me.” And so he remained alone, and, having said Complin and other prayers, he desired to rest and sleep, but could not. And his soul began to fear and to feel diabolical suggestions, and going out of the church, making the sign of the cross, he said: “On the part of God Almighty I command you, O demons, to do to my body all the Lord Jesus Christ permits you to do. And since I have no more inveterate enemy than this body of mine, avenge me on this my adversary and worst enemy.” Instantly the temptation ceased, and going back to the place he had left, he slept peacefully.

The vision of Brother Pacificus, wherein he saw and heard
that the throne of Lucifer was reserved for the humble Francis

In the morning Brother Pacificus returned to him. Blessed Francis was standing before the altar in prayer, and Brother Pacificus remained outside the choir, also praying before the crucifix. And while he was absorbed in prayer he was lifted up in spirit and rapt into heaven, whether in the body or out of the body God alone knoweth; and he saw in heaven very many seats, and one amongst them was raised above the others, glorious to behold, adorned with splendour and many precious stones, so that he marvelled at its great beauty, and wondered whose seat this could be. And he heard a voice that said: “This was the seat of Lucifer, and in his place will be seated the humble Francis.”

When he had returned to his senses St. Francis suddenly came out to him, whereupon this friar fell at his feet, and stretching out his arms in the form of a cross, as if he already saw him on that throne in heaven, cried, “Father, grant me your forgiveness, and pray God to have mercy on me and condone my sins.” Taking his hand, Blessed Francis raised him up, knowing at once that he had seen some mysterious vision during his prayer, for he spoke to Blessed Francis not as if he were still in the body, but as if he were already an inhabitant of heaven. Afterwards, as he did not like to speak of it directly to Blessed Francis, he hinted at it, as it were, and while talking of other things, said, “What do you believe of yourself, Brother?” To which Blessed Francis answered, “It seems to me I am a greater sinner than any one else in the world.” At this instant Brother Pacificus heard an inner voice say: “By this may you know the truth of the vision revealed to you, since Lucifer for his pride was hurled from his seat, while Francis by his humility has merited to be exalted and gloriously enthroned!”

Of certain temptations permitted by the Lord to try him:
First, how the Devil entered a pillow he had under his head

When Blessed Francis remained in prayer at the Hermitage at Grecio, in the last cell beyond the large one, one night in the first sleep he called his companion who rested near him; and, rising, the companion came into the passage outside the cell where was Blessed Francis, who said to him: “Brother, I cannot sleep tonight, nor stand upright in prayer, because my legs tremble, and it seems to me as if I had eaten bread made of tares.” When his companion spoke to him compassionately, Blessed Francis said: “I verily believe the devil is in this pillow under my head.” For although he would never lie on a feather bed nor use a feather pillow, the friars, against his will, had constrained him to use this pillow of feathers because of the ailment in his eyes. He now threw it to his companion, who caught it in his right hand, and put it on his left shoulder, and as he was going along the passage to his cell, he lost his speech, and could neither let go nor move his arm, but remained standing erect and immovable, quite unconscious. When he had remained like this for some time, by the grace of God Blessed Francis called to him, and turning round he at once threw the pillow from him.

Returning to Blessed Francis he told him all that had happened to him, and the blessed Father said: “When I was saying Complin I felt the devil come into the cell, and now do I see how cunning is this devil. Seeing he cannot harm my soul he seeks to deprive my body of its needs, so that I cannot sleep nor stand up in prayer, and by this means he tries to prevent the devotion and gladness of my heart so that I may murmur at my ailments.”

Of a serious temptation he had more than two years

When he was dwelling in the Place of St. Mary he was severely tempted in the spirit for the profit of his soul. And by this was he so greatly afflicted both in body and soul that he would often withdraw from the company of the friars, being unable to show that cheerfulness he was wont to do. Notwithstanding, he mortified himself by abstaining from food and drink and speech, shedding abundant tears, and praying constantly that God might be pleased to deliver him from this affliction. When he had been thus tormented for more than two years, praying one day in the Church of St. Mary he heard in spirit the words of the Gospel: If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain remove from thence thither, and it shall remove.

Blessed Francis asked, “Lord, what is this mountain?” and it was said to him: “This mountain is thy temptation.” Then said Blessed Francis, “Lord, be it done to me as Thou hast said.” At once he was set perfectly free, so that it seemed to him as if he had never had the temptation.

In the same way on the holy Mount Alverna, at the time when he received the Stigmata of the Lord in his body, the temptations and tribulations inflicted on him by the demon caused him so much suffering that he could not be cheerful as was his custom. He said to his companion, “If the friars knew how and what grievous tribulations and sufferings the demons inflict on me they would be moved with pity and compassion towards me.”

Of the temptation he had through mice, and how the Lord
consoled him and assured him of His kingdom.

Two years before his death, when he was at St. Damian’s, in the cell that was made of straw mats, and he suffered so greatly from his eyes that for sixty days he could not bear the light of day nor even that of a fire, the Lord, in order to increase his merits by the increase of his sufferings, permitted a great number of mice to enter his cell, who, day and night, ran over and around him to prevent his praying or resting. And when he was eating they would climb on the table, and infested him in such numbers that both he and his companions saw it to be a diabolical temptation.

Blessed Francis finding himself so grievously afflicted was one night moved to pity for himself, and said internally: “Lord, come to my aid in my sufferings that I may bear them patiently.” And in spirit it was said to him: “Tell me, Brother, if for these thy sufferings a great and precious treasure were offered thee, one compared to which the whole world is as nothing, wouldst thou not greatly rejoice?” Blessed Francis replied: “Great, Lord, must be that treasure and precious beyond compare, and much to be admired and desired.” Then he again heard it said to him: “Therefore, Brother, rejoice and exult in thy infirmities and tribulations, and as for thy rest heed it not, but be as secure as if thou wert already in My kingdom.”

And rising in the morning he said to his companion: “If the Emperor bestowed on one of his servants a whole kingdom, would not that servant have great cause to rejoice? And if again he gave him his entire Empire would he not rejoice still more?” Then he added: “Therefore it is fitting I should support my ailments and tribulations with much gladness, and taking comfort in the Lord give thanks to God the Father, and His only Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, for all the grace given me by the Lord, since He has deigned to assure me, his unworthy servant, while still living in this world, of His kingdom. Therefore I desire in His praise, and for our consolation and the edification of our neighbour, to compose a new Praises of the Lords Creatures, which we use every day, and without which it would not be possible to live, and by which the human race often greatly offends the Creator. And continually are we ungrateful for so many graces and benefits, not praising the Lord Creator and Giver of all good as we are bound to do.” And seating himself he meditated for some time, and after said, “Most High Omnipotent Good Lord,” &c, composing a song thereof, and taught his companions to say and sing it.

So great was the sweetness and consolation of his spirit that he called for Brother Pacificus, whom the world entitled the King of Verse and Courteous Doctor of Song, and desired to send him with other friars to go together through the world, preaching and singing the Praises of the Lord. And he desired that he amongst them who was the best preacher should first preach to the people, and when the sermon was ended all the others should sing together the Praises of the Lord, as the Lord’s minstrels; and at the end he desired the preacher should say to the people, “We are the Lord’s minstrels, and the reward we ask of you is that you turn to true repentance.” And he added: “For what else are the Servants of the Lord but His minstrels to lift up the hearts of men and move them to spiritual gladness?”

And specially would he say that the Friars Minor were given to the people of God for their salvation.

How on being beaten by demons he knew it was more pleasing to God that he should stay in poor and humble places than with Cardinals

One time Blessed Francis went to Rome to visit my Lord of Ostia, and after remaining with him some days went thence to visit the Lord Cardinal Leo, who was greatly devoted to Blessed Francis. And as it was winter time and the roads were unfit for travelling, because of the cold and wind and rain, he begged him to remain a few days, as a poor man amongst the other poor he entertained daily at his table. This he said knowing that Blessed Francis ever wished to be received and treated as a poor man, although the Lord Pope and the Cardinals desired with much reverence and devotion to receive him as a guest, for they venerated him as a Saint. And the Cardinal added, “I will give you a good retired house, where you can pray and eat as it pleases you.”

Then Brother Angelo Tancredi, one of the first twelve friars, who was then living with this Cardinal, said to Blessed Francis: “Brother, there is close by a spacious tower and so retired you might well believe yourself in a hermitage.” When Blessed Francis saw the place it pleased him, and returning to the Lord Cardinal he said: “My lord, perchance I will remain with you for a few days.” Thereat was the Lord Cardinal pleased and glad. Then Brother Angelo went and prepared a place in the tower for Blessed Francis and his companion. And as Blessed Francis did not desire to come down from there while he remained with the Cardinal, nor that any one should come to him, Brother Angelo promised, and ordered that food should be brought there to him every day for himself and his companion. When Blessed Francis had gone there with his companion, on the first night, when he tried to sleep, demons came and beat him soundly. And calling his companion he said to him: “Brother, demons have beaten me soundly; stay near me, for I fear to be alone.” Therefore his companion remained near him all night, for Blessed Francis was trembling like a man in a fever, and they kept vigil all the night together.

Meanwhile Blessed Francis said to his companion, “Why have the demons beaten me, and why has the Lord given them power to hurt me?” Then he added: “The demons are the police of the Lord, and as the governor of a land sends his police to punish evildoers, so the Lord by His police, the demons who in this world are His ministers, corrects and chastises those He loves. Often even the perfect Religious does wrong in ignorance, and when he does not recognise his fault he is chastised by the devil, that he may diligently search and consider both within and outside himself in what he has offended. For in those who are truly loved of the Lord in this life He leaves nothing to be punished hereafter. By the mercy and grace of the Lord I am not conscious in myself of any offence that I have not confessed and made satisfaction for, yet by His grace the Lord has given me to know clearly when I please or displease Him.

Therefore, it may be He has chastised me by his police, because, though the Lord Cardinal has shown me compassion, and this refreshment is necessary for my body, my friars, who wander through the world, and other friars who live in hermitages and poor houses, when they hear I am staying with the Lord Cardinal, might have reason to murmur against me, saying, ‘We have to support every adversity while he has his own consolations.’ As I am ever bound to set them a good example, since for this reason I was given to them, it is more edifying to the friars when I dwell with them in poor places rather than elsewhere, and they are better able to bear their trials patiently when they know I have to bear the same.”

This was ever the whole and constant study of our Father in all things to set a good example and never to give the other friars occasion to complain of him. Hence, whether he were ill or well, so many and great were his sufferings that those friars who knew this, such as we who were with him to the day of his death, cannot read or recall these things without shedding tears, and bearing all tribulation and want with greater patience and joy.

In the morning Blessed Francis came down from the tower, and going to the Lord Cardinal, told him all that had happened to him, and of the conversation between himself and his companion, finally adding: “Men repute me to be a holy man and, behold, demons chase me from my retreat.”

The Lord Cardinal was greatly diverted with him, but knowing and venerating him for a Saint would not contradict him nor compel him to stay. Then Blessed Francis bade him farewell, and returned to the Hermitage of San Colombano near Rieti.

From the Works of the Seraphic Father
St. Francis of Assisi, 1882

Of the Value and Dignity of the Soul

The greatest care ought to be taken of the soul, for man has not many, but only one. If God had given us two souls, as He has given us two eyes, or two feet, then should one be lost or taken away, we might guard and save the other. But as we have received only one, very weak and languishing, assailed by three most powerful enemies, and exposed to the fiery darts of the world, the flesh, and the devil, it is not lawful for it to repose securely for one single day, but it must always be striving and fighting. The Apostle gives us to understand how continual this warfare must be, when he says: ‘Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.’

In war, or in a battle, some time is granted to the soldiers to refresh their bodies, to lay aside their arms, to rest from their labours, and to recruit their strength; nor are they, during severe cold, compelled to rest at night exposed to the inclemency of the season, but are allowed to pass the winter in the city. But it is different with wrestlers; for then only can they be permitted to breathe, when one being overcome and thrown to the earth, the other goes away in triumph. The strife with our enemies can never cease, the time of fighting is the whole time of our life, the end of our life will be the beginning of rest; and only after death will the demonwrestler retire, after having endeavoured most strenuously to conquer us in death. Let us, therefore, most earnestly beseech Our Lord to protect us by His grace, and, in the midst of so many dangers, mercifully to defend us from our enemies. Nothing, alas! is more vile than the price for which we sell our precious souls. On the slightest occasion we cast it into hell, and for the smallest and most insignificant reward we deprive it of the inestimable treasure of Divine grace.


St. Francis of Assisi and the Devil 02

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

14 Days Lenten Series: Part Seven: St Dominic and the Attacks of the Devil

3 April 2017
 St. Dominic and the Devil by Pietro della Vecchia: The story of the Devil's appearance to St. Dominic in the form of a monkey derives from a medieval legend, according to which the saint seized his tormentor and forced him to hold a lighted candle while he studied. St. Dominic released him only after the candle burned down and singed his fingers.

St. Dominic and the Devil by Pietro della Vecchia: The story of the Devil’s appearance to St. Dominic in the form of a monkey derives from a medieval legend, according to which the saint seized his tormentor and forced him to hold a lighted candle while he studied. St. Dominic released him only after the candle burned down and singed his fingers.

Attacks of the Devil. Legends
by Augusta Theodosia Drane, 1891

On the second Sunday in Lent, being the first after the settlement of the nuns at S. Sixtus, Dominic preached in their church, standing, as it is said, “at the grating,” that is, so as his discourse should be heard both by them and by the congregation assembled in the public parts of the church. As he did so, a possessed woman who was in the midst of the crowd interrupted the sermon, “Ah, villain!” cried the demon, speaking through her voice, “these nuns were once all mine own, and thou hast robbed me of them all. This soul at least is mine, and thou shalt not take her from me, for we are seven in number that have her in our keeping.” Then Dominic commanded her to hold her peace, and making the sign of the cross, he delivered her from her tormenters in the presence of all the spectators. A few days after this she came to him, and, throwing herself at his feet, implored to be allowed to take his habit. He consented to her request, and placed her in the convent of S. Sixtus, where he gave her the name of Amata, or, as we used to call her, Amy; to signify the love of God displayed in her regard. She afterwards removed to Bologna, where she died in the odour of sanctity, and lies buried in the same tomb with Dominic’s two other holy daughters, Cecilia and Diana, the latter of whom was foundress of the convent of women in that place.

In speaking of this and other examples of the malice of the demon, which are narrated in the history of S. Dominic, we cannot but observe something perhaps a little distinctive about them. Never do we find one instance in which Satan was permitted the least power to vex or trouble him. Never, as with so many other saints, was he suffered to do him bodily harm, or to assault him with grievous temptations. The evil one appears to us always baffled and contemptible, as in the power of one who is his master, the very Michael among the saints. Yet though always petty, and as it were ridiculous, he ceased not in his efforts to thwart and disturb him, and chiefly directed his malice against the friars and sisters of S. Sixtus, grievously trying them by perpetual distraction, as though he hoped thereby at least to diminish something of the fervour of their devotions.

Once indeed he made a more serious attempt against Dominic’s life. One night, as he prayed in the church of Santa Sabina, a huge stone was hurled at him by an invisible hand from the upper part of the roof, which all but grazed his head, and even tore his hood, but falling without further injury to the saint, was buried deep in the ground beside him. The noise was so loud that it awoke several of the friars, who came in haste to the spot to inquire the cause; they found the fragments of the broken pavement, and the stone lying where it fell; but Dominic was kneeling quietly in prayer, and seemed as if unconscious of what had happened.

Another story, of a similar character, is told as follows: “The servant of God, who had neither bed nor cell of his own, had publicly commanded his children in chapter, that in order that they might wake the more promptly, to rise to matins, they should retire to bed at a certain hour, in which he was strictly obeyed. Now, as he himself abode before the Lord in the church, the devil appeared before him in the form of one of the brethren, and though it was past the prohibited time, yet did he remain in the church with an air of particular devotion and modesty. Wherefore the saint, judging it to be one of the friars, went softly up to him, and desired him to go to his cell, and sleep with the others. And the pretended friar inclined his head, in sign of humble obedience, and went as he was bid; but on each of the two following nights, he returned at the same hour and in the same manner. The second time the man of God rose very gently (although, indeed, he had reason to be somewhat angry, seeing he had at table during the day reminded all of the observance of that which had been enjoined), and again desired him to go away. He went; but, as we have said, returned yet a third time. Then, it seemed to the saint that the disobedience and pertinacity of his brother was too great, and he reproved him for the same with some severity; whereat, the devil (who desired nothing else, save to disturb his prayer and stir him unto wrath, and move him to break the silence) gave a loud laugh, and, leaping high into the air, he said, ‘At least I have made you break the silence, and moved you to wrath!’ But he calmly replied, ‘Not so, for I have power to dispense, neither is it blameworthy wrath when I utter reproofs unto the evil-doers.’ And the demon, being so answered, was obliged to fly.”

On another occasion, as he was by night walking about the convent of S. Sabina, guarding his flock with the vigilance of a good shepherd, he met the enemy in the dormitory, going like a lion seeking whom he might devour; and recognizing him, he said, “Thou evil beast, what doest thou here?” “I do my office,” replied the demon, “and attend to my gains.” “And what gains dost thou make in the dormitory?” asked the saint. “Gain enough,” returned the demon. “I disquiet the friars in many ways; for first, I take the sleep away from those who desire to sleep in order that they may rise promptly for matins; and then I give an excessive heaviness to others, so that when the bell sounds, either from weariness or idleness they do not rise; or, if they rise and go to choir, it is unwillingly, and they say their office without devotion.” Then the saint took him to the church, and said, “And what dost thou gain here?” “Much, answered the devil; “I make them come late and leave soon. I fill them with disgusts and distractions, so that they do ill whatsoever they have to do.” “And here?” asked Dominic, leading him to the refectory. “Who does not eat too much or too little?” was the reply; “and so they either offend God or injure their health.”

Then the saint took him to the parlour, where the brethren were allowed to speak with seculars, and to take their recreation. And the devil began maliciously to laugh, and to leap and jump about, as if with enjoyment, and he said, “This place is all mine own; here they laugh and joke, and hear a thousand vain stories; here they utter idle words, and grumble often at their rule and their superiors; and whatsoever they gain elsewhere they lose here.” And lastly they came to the door of the chapterroom, but there the devil would not enter. He attempted to fly, saying, “This place is a hell to me; here the friars accuse themselves of their faults, and receive reproof and correction, and absolution. What they have lost in every other place they regain here.” And so saying, he disappeared, and Dominic was left greatly wondering at the snares and nets of the tempter; whereof he afterwards made a long discourse to his brethren, declaring the same unto them, that they should be on their guard.

The Legend of St. Dominic

This Legend was compiled by Gerard de Frachet from the Book of Epilogues of Brother Bartholomew of Trent, one of the saint’s first companions, and from the History of the Foundation of the Order, composed by Blessed Jordan of Saxony, and dedicated by him to his sons by grace and joint heirs to glory. The Legend dates between 1255 and 1257.

St. Dominic Delivers a Glutton Possessed by the Devil

One of the brothers at Bologna, who had care of the sick, used sometimes, without permission, to eat some of the food which was left. While thus busied one evening, the devil entered into him, and he began to bellow horribly. The holy father came to the spot with the rest of the brethren who were hurrying to the brother’s assistance, and pitying his condition bade the devil speak up and say Why he had gone into him. Then the demon answered him: “I hold possession of him since he richly deserves it, for contrary to the letter of your constitutions, and without leave, he has been in the habit of eating the meat left by the sick.” On hearing this the tender father replied: “And I, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, do absolve him from his sin, and command you in the name of the same Jesus, that you go out of him and vex him no longer”; and at once the brother was freed from his tormentor.

How the Possessed were Delivered at the Grave of St. Dominic

Brother Chabert of Savoy, a stirring and graceful preacher, and famed for many miracles after death, was a student in Bologna at the time, and on the day after St. Dominic’s burial was present with many more spectators while a possessed man was being led to the saint’s grave. No sooner bad he entered the church than the devil began to cry out: ‘What is it that you want with me, Dominic?’ and repeatedly howled out the name of Dominic. Those present brought the man over to the tomb and the devil went out of him.

In Temptations
from the Mission Book, 1853

When you are tempted to anger, say–“Oh my Jesus, give me patience! Bless me, Mary, my Mother!”

If wicked thoughts come into your mind, say quickly–“Jesus and Mary, help me!” Repeat the Hail Mary or some other prayer, until you have banished them.

Prayer in Time of Temptation

O God, Who restorest the wicked to justice and desirest not the death of the sinner; we humbly entreat Thy Majesty, that by Thy heavenly help and constant protection Thou wouldst graciously shield Thy servants who trust in Thy mercy, that they may always serve Thee and never be separated from Thee by any temptation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

14 Day Lenten Series:Part Six:The Life of St. Antony of the Desert by St. Athanasius

2 April 2017

St. Antony by St. Athanasius

The Life of St. Antony of the Desert
by St. Athanasius, compliled by Thomas Allies, 1896

St. Athanasius composes the Life of Antony

About the year 365, Athanasius, at the request of some monks–Western, as it is supposed–drew up a life of St. Antony. With these words he began it:

“It is a good contest in which you have entered with the monks of Egypt, purposing to equal or surpass them in your resolute exercise of virtue; for you also have monasteries, and the name of monks is cultivated among you. This your purpose is worthy of praise, and may God accomplish your prayers for it. But since you have asked of me also concerning the mode of life of blessed Antony, in your wish to learn how he began his ascetic training, and what he was before it, and what was his life’s end, and if the things said of him are true, that you may set yourselves after his example, I have most readily accepted your charge. For to me also the sole remembrance of Antony is a great gain. And I know, too, that when you hear me, together with your admiration of the man, you will wish to imitate his purpose. For the life of Antony is a sufficient ascetic standard for monks. Do not, then, disbelieve the things recorded to you of him. Rather think that you have heard but little, for certainly they cannot have told you all. For even at your request the things which I send you by letter will be few memorials of him. Do not, then, cease to inquire of those who sail hence. For if each tell you what he knows, the narrative will scarcely reach that one’s merits. I wished, then, upon receiving your letter, to send for some of the monks who had been most accustomed to be with him, so that from their information I might tell you more. But the sailing-time was drawing in, and the letter-carrier was urgent. So I made haste to write to your piety what I myself know, for I have often seen him, and what I have been able to learn from him, for I followed him no little time, and poured water over his hands, carefully herein rendering the truth, so that the hearer may neither distrust any things as excessive, nor from defect form an unworthy conception of the man.

“Antony was an Egyptian, born of noble and prosperous Christian parents, and himself brought up a Christian. When a child, he was kept by them in their own house, knowing none beyond. As he grew up, he would not receive a literary education, not desiring intercourse with other children. All his desire was to be a plain man in his own home. Nevertheless he frequented the church with his parents; he knew no idleness, nor as he advanced did he disregard them. He was obedient to them, he attended to his studies, retaining the fruit he derived from them, nor, though brought up in abundance, did he give his parents trouble by costly habits and the pleasures belonging to them. He was simply content with what he found.

“At the death of his parents he was left alone with a very young sister at eighteen or twenty years of age, and managed for himself both house and sister. Before six months were over, going as usual to the church and collecting his own mind, he thought, as he walked, how the Apostles left everything and followed the Saviour, and how those engaged in business brought their possessions and placed them at the feet of the Apostles for distribution to the poor, and how great was the hope laid up for them in heaven. As these thoughts were in his mind he entered the church, and heard the Gospel read in the which the Lord said to the rich man, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.’ But Antony, as if receiving this thought from God, and as if the reading had been for Him, going straight out of the church, gave away to the village his ancestral property, three hundred rich and excellent arource (Measure of 100 square cubits), that he and his sister might be free of all claim from them. All his other goods he likewise sold, and collecting a considerable sum, gave them to the poor, keeping a little for his sister.

“Entering the church another time, he heard in the Gospel the Lord saying, ‘Be not solicitous for the morrow.’ Not enduring to wait any longer, he went out and gave the rest away to those who wanted it. But he gave the charge of his sister to faithful well-known virgins, putting her in a house of virgins to be brought up (This is noted as the first recorded instance of such a house; it would date about A.D. 270). He devoted himself to the ascetic life, with a strict and careful treatment. For there were not yet many monasteries in Egypt, nor did the monk yet know of the great desert, but every one who wished to keep watch over himself exercised himself alone near his own village. In the neighbouring village there was at that time an old man who from youth had practised the solitary life. Antony saw and followed him, and remained near his own village, and there, if he found any zealous person, would seek him out like a prudent bee, and not leave him till he had got something from him. Thus he so strengthened his mind as never to return to his parents’ condition nor to remember his relations, but his whole heart was to the perfection of the ascetic life. He worked with his hands, having heard ‘if a man will not work, neither let him eat,’ and part he gave to his own support, and part to those in want. He prayed continually, knowing that incessant private prayer is a duty. He was so attentive to reading that he lost nothing, but retained everything, making his memory serve him for books.”

Athanasius now describes the life of Antony during fourteen years, from his twenty-first to his thirty-fifth year, that is, from A.D. 271 to 285, which was at the beginning of Diocletian’s reign. This was a time of increasing severity throughout, in which he practised the virtue of all he saw around him, cherishing the continence of one, the kindliness of another, the prayerfulness of a third: he fasted, he lay on the ground; above all, he cherished piety towards Christ and charity towards others. They esteemed him a special friend of God. He underwent every temptation belonging to his age, but without ever failing. The most remarkable incident told of him by his great biographer is, that having shut himself up in a tomb, he remained long alone in it. The friend who brought him at intervals bread for his support, found him once lying as it were dead on the ground, and severely beaten by an attack of demons in the night. The friend rescued him, and having taken him back, Antony suffered another attack from all sorts of beasts and reptiles, who appeared to surround him.

Temptation of St. Anthony

At last he was relieved from these. Light streamed upon him, and he became aware of a presence to whom he cried, ‘Where wast Thou? why didst Thou not appear to heal my pains?’ And the voice answered, ‘Antony, I was here; but I waited to behold thy struggle. Since thou didst endure and wast not conquered, I will ever be thy helper, and give thee a name to be known over the earth.’ So he arose refreshed, and felt his bodily strength increased. He was then near thirty-five years old.”

He retires by himself to a deserted castle for twenty years

The next day he invited the old man above mentioned to go with him and inhabit the desert. When he declined this, both on account of his age and because there was no custom of the kind, Antony at once set off by himself to the mountain. Neither a silver disk which he found in the road lying before him, nor a vast mass of gold afterwards, could induce him to stop. He passed both in haste, and finding on the other side the river a deserted castle full of reptiles, he entered it. He took with him a quantity of bread sufficient for six months, as is a Theban custom, and finding water within, he closed the door and took up his abode there alone for twenty years. Thus he cultivated a solitary ascetic life, receiving bread twice a year for his support from the top of the house.

The years which he thus lived alone were from A.d. 285 to 305, which was the third year in which the persecution of Diocletian was raging. His friends often tried to see him, but he would not open to them. They heard at the door strange noises, as of a multitude fighting within, but looking through the keyhole, they could see nothing. In their terror they would call out for Antony. He would come near the unopened door, and tell them to fear nothing, but sign themselves with the cross and suffer those illusions to proceed. He was unhurt by these diabolic attacks, and celestial visions afterwards refreshed him. They heard him singing, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him.”

Thus for nearly twenty years, leading apart an ascetic life, he scarcely stirred from his ruined castle, nor was seen by any one. But after this, many desiring to imitate his life, they burst the doors, and Antony came forth as one initiated in a mystery from a shrine and under a divine impulse. Then first he appeared outside his encampment to those who approached. They were astonished to behold him with a body unchanged. An inactive life had not produced obesity, nor had his fastings and diabolic contests made him meagre. He was just as they had known him before his retirement. His mind was pure, neither dissolved by pleasure nor affected by depression: the sight of a multitude did not disturb him, nor their greetings rejoice him. He was as a man altogether even, ruled by reason, standing in his native steadfastness. The Lord healed by him many that appeared before him suffering in their bodies, liberated others from devils, and bestowed grace upon Antony’s speech. He consoled many in their sorrow ; he restored the friendship of others, enjoining upon all to value nothing in the world more than the charity of Christ. In his conversation he urged to remember the good things prepared for us, and the loving-kindness of God to us, who spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. So he persuaded many to embrace the monastic life. Thus arose monasteries in the mountains also, and the desert became inhabited by monks, who left their homes, and inscribed themselves as citizens of heaven.

It is from this time forth, when Antony had pursued thirty-five years of ascetic life–the first fifteen in or near his own village of Koma, the next twenty in his ruined castle alone–and was now fifty-five years of age, that Athanasius presents him to us as a pattern and leader of men. He was to live fifty years more, the years from 305 to 355, years embracing both the last and greatest of the ten persecutions, the proclamation of the Church’s freedom by the victorious Constantine in 313, the holding of the first General Council in 325, the fresh breaking out of the Arian heresy by the scheming of the court-bishop Eusebius, and the gradual alienation of Constantine, and the bitterest persecution of the Catholic faith when the third son of Constantine, by the death of his brothers, had become sole emperor. All these things Antony witnessed in the last fifty years of his life; and, as need required, he came forth from the solitude of his monastery to meet any trial of his brethren. “The need consisted in visiting them (Sec. 15).” Thus Athanasius mentions that he went for this purpose so far as the canal which passes to Arsenoe (Suez). It was full of crocodiles. He only prayed, and embarked with all his company, and they passed over uninjured. From this time we are to consider him not only as often alone in the ruined castle, or in what is called the inner monastery in the desert, but as meeting those who were leading an ascetic life, guiding them and acting upon them. “When he returned to his solitary life, he pursued the same vigorous labours as before. But by constant intercourse he increased the zeal of those who were already monks; he stirred many others to the love of the ascetic life, and quickly, by the attraction of his word, the monasteries multiplied greatly, and all these he governed as a father.”

A Sermon given by him in Egyptian translated into Greek

The sermon which Athanasius here gives at considerable length, translated by him from the Egyptian into Greek, may, I suppose, be esteemed a summary of Antony’s doctrine, as to its leading points, made by Athanasius, and comes to us with the double authority of the father of monks and of the man who was the pillar of orthodoxy at the time he published it, in the year 355, that of his fifth banishment by the Arian emperor Valeus.

One day, when he was on a progress, and all the monks came to him and asked that they might hear his precepts, he spoke thus to them in the Egyptian tongue: “The Scriptures are indeed sufficient for our standard of teaching, but it is well for us to exhort each other in the faith, and encourage ourselves by mutual converse. Do you then, as children to a father, bring to me what you know, and I, as being your elder in age, share with you my knowledge and my experiences. First of all, let diligence be your common possession. After beginning, not to draw back, not to give way in your labours, not to say, ‘It is a long time since we began to be ascetics;’ rather, as if every day were the first, increase your willingness, for the whole life of man is very short measured with the ages to come, so that all our time is nothing put beside eternal life. In the world everything is valued at its price, and a fair exchange is made. But the promise of eternal life is made for a small cost. For it is written, the days of our years are threescore and ten years, but if in the strong, they are fourscore years, and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. Well, then, if we continue ascetics all the eighty years, or even a hundred, we shall not reign only a hundred years, but ages upon ages instead of the hundred. And if our conflict be upon the earth, our inheritance will not be there. We have the promises in heaven. We put off a corruptible body, we take it back incorruptible.

“So, my children, let us not faint, nor think we are a long time about it, or are doing something great; for ‘the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.’ Nor, looking on the world, should we think that we have renounced something great, for the whole compass of the earth is very small to the whole compass of heaven. If we were lords of the whole earth, and had renounced it all, it would be worth nothing compared with the kingdom of heaven. If one should despise a brass coin to get a hundred gold coins, so the lord of the whole earth who renounces it, gives up little and receives a hundred-fold. But if all the earth is not worthy of heaven, he who gives up a few acres is as one who leaves nothing. If he gives up a house or a lump of gold, let him neither be boastful nor listless; for if we do not give it up for virtue’s sake, yet we give it up when we die, and often, as Ecclesiastes reminds, to those whom we do not wish. Why then do we not give it up for virtue’s sake to inherit a kingdom? On this account do not take up a desire of possessing. What is the gain of possessing things which we do not even take with us? Why not rather possess those things which we can take with us, such as prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, understanding, charity, love of the poor, faith in Christ, gentleness, hospitality? If we possess these things, we shall find them ready at our coming to welcome us in the land of the meek.

“By such things every one may persuade himself not to be neglectful, and especially let him consider himself to be the Lord’s servant, and one who owes service to his Master. As, then, the servant would not dare to say, ‘As I worked yesterday, I will not work today,’ or measuring past time, refuse the present, but day by day, as is written in the Gospel, shows the same readiness to please his lord and not endanger himself, so we remain ascetics day by day, knowing that if we neglect a single day, allowance will not be made us for the past time, but there will be anger against us for the neglect. So we have heard in Ezekiel. So Judas for one night lost the labour of the past time.

“Let us then, children, cling to our ascetic life, and not be listless. For in this we have our Lord for fellow worker, as it is written, to every one that chooses the good, God works together unto good. And not to be careless, it is well to meditate on the Apostle’s word, ‘I die daily; for if we live as dying daily, we shall not sin.’ The meaning of which is, that every day as we rise we should think that we last not till the evening, and when we go to rest, expect not to rise, since our life by nature is uncertain and measured every day by Providence. With such a disposition, and so living daily, we shall not sin, nor have a desire for anything, nor be angry with any one, nor lay up treasure on the earth; but, as expecting daily to die, we shall be without possessions, and yield everything to everybody; we shall not hold to desire of woman, or any other unseemly pleasure, but turn away from it as transient, ever waging the conflict, and forecasting the day of judgment. For the greater fear and the conflict with torments ever overcomes the softer pleasure and redresses the yielding soul.

“Having then begun and entered on the way of virtue, let us contend the more to reach the future, and no one turn back, as Lot’s wife, especially as the Lord has said, ‘No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven.’ But to look back is nothing but to change purpose, and again be worldly minded. But be not afraid when hearing of virtue, nor think it strange because of the name. For it is not far from us, nor exists outside of us. The thing is in ourselves, and the matter is easy, if we have only the will. The Greeks journey and pass the sea to learn literature; but we have no need to journey for the kingdom of heaven, nor to pass the sea for virtue. For the Lord has said already, ‘The kingdom of heaven is within you.’ Therefore virtue has only need of our will, since it is in us, and is made of us. For virtue consists because the soul is naturally intelligent. And it is in its natural condition when it remains as it was made, and it was made beautiful, and very upright. For this Josue enjoined the people, ‘Make straight your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel,’ and John, ‘Make straight your ways.’ For that the soul should be upright, is that its natural intelligence should be as it was created. And again, the soul is said to be vicious when it declines and is perverted from what it is by nature. So then the thing is not difficult, for if we remain as we are made, we are in virtue; but if we turn our mind to corrupt things, we are judged to be vicious. If, then, the thing were to be got from outside us, it would indeed be difficult, but if it is in us, let us guard ourselves from evil thoughts, and as those who have received a deposit, keep the soul for the Lord, that He may recognise His own work, being still as He made it.

“Let it be your effort that anger do not tyrannise over you, nor desire master you; for it is written, ‘The anger of man worketh not the justice of God,’ and ‘When concupiscence hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, but sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.’ But living as we do, we must keep constant watch, as is written, ‘With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it.’ For we have terrible and crafty enemies, the evil demons, and our wrestling is against these, as the Apostle said, ‘Not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.’ Great then is their multitude in the air about us; they are not far from us. Large also is the difference between them. Much might be said of their nature and their difference, but such a description belongs to greater than to us. What now presses on us and is needful is only to know their insidious designs against ourselves.

The number and power of our enemies the demons

“First, then, let us know this, that those who are called demons are not as they were made; for God made nothing evil. They also were made good, but falling away from their heavenly-mindedness, and wallowing in the earth, they deceived the Gentiles with phantasies, but they try everything in their envy against us Christians, wishing to hinder us from entering heaven, that we may not ascend to the place from which they have fallen. Hence the need of much prayer and asceticism, so that receiving through the Spirit the gift of discerning spirits, one may be able to know what concerns them–how some are less bad, and some worse, and with what study each of them employs himself, and how each of them is overcome and cast out. For their deceits are multifold, and the movements of their plotting. Now the blessed Apostle and those about him knew these things when they said, ‘We are not ignorant of his devices.’ But we ought to be corrected by each other from what we have experienced about them. I, at any rate, having some experience about them, speak to you as my children.

“If, then, they see that all Christians, and monks especially work hard and advance, their first attempt is to put offences in their way. These offences are bad thoughts. But we are not to fear their suggestions. They are foiled at once by prayers and fastings and faith in our Lord. But when foiled, they do not rest. Again, they make crafty and deceitful approaches. For when they do not succeed in deceiving the heart by openly filthy pleasure, they make a different attack. They try to alarm by various appearances. They assume the shapes of women, wild beasts, reptiles, huge bodies, military troops. But neither have we to dread these their appearances, for they are nothing and quickly disappear, especially if you guard yourself by faith and the sign of the cross. They are venturesome and very shameless. For if they be also conquered in this, they try another way, and pretend to prophesy, and to foretell things about to happen, and to show themselves as tall as the ceiling, and big in proportion, that they may carry away by such appearances those whom they failed to deceive by thoughts. But if they find the soul protected here also by faith and hope, as a last means they bring on their ruler.”

And Antony said that they often appeared such as the Lord revealed the devil to Job (xli. 9 -11), in the words, “His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning: out of his mouth go forth lamps like torches of lighted fire: out of his nostrils goeth smoke like that of a pot heated and boiling. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame cometh forth out of his mouth.” “The ruler of the demons appearing in such guise, the deceiver by his big words, as I have said, inspires terror, as again the Lord convicted him, in his words to Job (xli. 18): ‘He shall esteem iron as straw, and brass as rotten wool: the sea he regards as a pot of ointment, and its abyss as his captive: he regards it as a walking-place.’ But by the prophet he says (Isaias x. 14): ‘I will take all the earth in my hand as a nest, and as eggs are gathered that are left.’ Such are the boasts which they made, and such their promises to deceive the worshippers of God. But neither thus are the faithful to be frightened by his appearances or to listen to his words. He is false and says nothing true. With all these big words, and with his confidence, he has been taken as a dragon by the Saviour’s hook (Job xl. 19); like a beast of burden his nostrils have received the bridle, as a fugitive slave his lips have been strung. The Lord has bound him as a sparrow to be mocked by us. He and the demons with him, as if they were scorpions and snakes, are put to be trodden under our feet as Christians. A proof of this is our present mode of life defying him. For he who boasted that he would wipe up the sea and gather the earth in his hand, he is not able to prevent your asceticism, nor my words against him. Do not therefore listen to what he says, for he is false, nor fear his appearances, which are also false. It is not really light which appears in them. Rather they hear the prelude and image of the fire in preparation for them, and they try to frighten men by the flames in which they are to be burned themselves. They really appear, but they quickly disappear, injuring no one of the faithful, but carrying in themselves the likeness of the fire which is to receive them. Therefore they are not to be feared, for all their contrivances by the grace of Christ come to nothing.

“They are full of fraud and ready for every change and transformation. Often they pretend to sing psalms in tune, being invisible, and they quote the Scriptures. Sometimes when we are reading, they repeat like an echo the same things. When we are sleeping they awake us to prayer, and this they constantly do, scarcely allowing us to sleep, sometimes transforming themselves into the likeness of monks, they pretend to speak piously, that in the like shape they may lead us into error, and so draw us under deception whither they will. But give no attention to them, though they wake to prayer, though they give counsel to eat nothing, though they feign to accuse and reproach as to matters in which they have had joint knowledge with us. It is not for piety or for truth that they do so, but to lead the simple to despair, and to call the ascetic life unserviceable, and to make men loathe it, as if the monastic life were burdensome and oppressive, and to hamper those who pursue it.

“Now the prophet sent by the Lord (Habakkuk ii. 15) condemned the misery of such in the words, ‘Woe to him that giveth drink to his friend, and presenteth his gall, and maketh him drunk.’ For such conduct and purposes subvert the road leading to virtue; and the Lord in His own person silenced the demons though they said the truth, as ‘Thou art the Son of God,’ and forbade them to speak, lest they should sow their own malice upon the truth, and that He might accustom us never to attend to such like, though they seem to say what is true. For it would be unseemly that we who possess the Holy Scriptures and freedom by gift from the Saviour should be taught by the devil, who kept not his own place and took up another mind. Therefore he forbids him when using words from the Scriptures, saying, ‘To the sinner God hath said, Why dost thou declare My justice, and take My covenant in thy mouth?’ (Ps. xlix. 10). For thus they do, and talk, and make confusion, and practise hypocrisy, and disturb, to deceive the simple. They make noises, and laugh foolishly, and hiss, and if not attended to, they shed tears and lament as being beaten.

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 01

Our Lord’s coming took away their power

“Now the Lord, as being God, silenced the demons, but we, as being taught by the saints, should do as they did, and imitate their fortitude. For they, when they saw these things, would say, ‘I have set a guard to my mouth when the sinner stood against me: I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence from good things’ (Ps. xxxviii. 2); and again, ‘But I as a dead man heard not, and as a dumb man not opening his mouth; and I became as a man that heareth not’ (Ps. xxxvii. 14). So we should neither hear them, as if we were foreigners, nor listen to them though they wake, us for prayer, though they speak about fasting. Rather, we should follow steadfastly our own ascetic purpose, and not be deceived by them who do everything fraudfully. But we should not fear them, though they seem to assault us, even if they threaten us with death. For they are powerless, and can do nothing except threaten.

“I have hitherto spoken transiently about this, but now I must not hesitate to speak with greater breadth, for the remembrance will be a protection to you. When our Lord came among us, the enemy fell and his powers were weakened. For this it is that, having no power, yet being a tyrant, though fallen, he is not quiet, but threatens, though he can only use words. Let every one of you consider this, and he can despise the demons. Now if they were confined in such bodies as we are, they might say, We do not find men, because they conceal themselves; if we found them, we should hurt them. And we should be able by concealing ourselves to escape them, shutting the doors against them. But if they are not so, but are able to enter though the doors are shut, and if they and the devil, their chief, are in all the air, and they are of evil will and ready to hurt, as the Saviour said, ‘The devil, the father of malice, is a murderer from the beginning,’ and now we are alive, and our mode of life is especially against him, it is plain they have no strength. For the place does not prevent their plotting. Nor do they see us to be their friends, that they should spare us; nor are they lovers of the good, that they should correct them. But they are malignant, and are anxious for nothing so much as to hurt those who cherish virtue and worship God. But because they can do nothing, for this they do nothing, or only threaten. For if they had the power, they would not wait, but would do the evil at once, having a purpose ready for this, and most of all against us. See now, we meet together and speak against them, and they know that if we advance they are powerless. If, then, they had the authority, they would leave no one of us Christians alive; for piety is the sinner’s abomination. But since they have no power, they rather wound themselves, for they can execute none of their threats. For this also we should consider, in order not to fear them. If the power to act were theirs, they would not come with tumult, nor make appearances nor deceive with transformations. But it would be sufficient for a single one to come and do what he was willing and able to do. And particularly because every one who has authority does not kill with appearances nor frighten with tumults, but uses his authority immediately as he wills. But the demons, having no power, are like actors on a stage, changing their figures, and frightening children by the appearance of a multitude and their dressings up. Whence they should be the more contemptible as being powerless. The real angel sent by the Lord against the Assyrians had no need of tumult, nor of external appearances, nor of noises, nor of applause; but he quietly used his authority, and killed at once a hundred and eighty-five thousand. But demons such as those who have no power try to frighten by appearances.

Satan Before the Lord by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1750

 The devil received from God his power to afflict Job

“But some one may allege the history of Job; why then did the devil go out and do everything against him, and stripped him of his goods, and slew his children, and struck him with a painful sore? Let him reflect that it was not the devil who had the power, but God who delivered Job to be tried by him. The devil being absolutely able to do nothing, asked and received, and did it. So that from this the enemy is even more to be despised, that with all the will he had not the power against a single just man. If he had had the power, he would not have asked for it. But having asked for it not once only, but a second time, he is shown to be weak and powerless. Nor is it to be wondered at that he had no power against Job, since he could not have destroyed even his cattle unless God had permitted. Not even over the swine had he authority, for, as we read in the Gospel, they besought the Lord, ‘Send us into the herd of swine.’ If they have no authority over swine, how much more have they none over men made after the image of God.

“We must, then, fear God alone, but despise them, and have no dread at all of them. But the more they do these things, let us increase the tenor of our asceticism against them. For an upright life and faith in God is a great defence. They dread in ascetics the fasting, the watching, the prayers, the meekness, the tranquillity, the disregard of wealth and vainglory, the humility, the love of the poor, the almsgiving, the gentleness, and above all, their piety towards Christ. For this they do everything not to meet those who tread them under foot. For they are aware of the grace given to the faithful against them by the Saviour in His words, ‘Behold, I give you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.’

“If, therefore, they also pretend to foretell, let no one heed. For they often foretell the coming of brethren days beforehand, and they really come. But this they do not out of regard for the hearers, but to persuade them to give credit, and so to destroy them when once reduced under their power. Hence do not attend to them, but disregard them, as not needing such things. For what wonder that they, possessing bodies more agile than men, and seeing those beginning their journey, they run before and announce them. A horseman can anticipate a traveller on foot. They deserve no wonder for this, for they know beforehand no future event. For God alone knows all things before they happen. But these like thieves run forward and report what they have first seen. To how many do they signify now what we are about, that we have met, and are engaged about them, before any one of us leaves and reports this. A swift-footed boy can do this, outrunning a slower one. What I say is, if any one begin to walk from the Thebais, or any other place, they do not know whether he will walk before he begins; but when they see him walking, they run forward and announce his arrival beforehand. And thus these arrive later; but often, if the walkers turn back, the announcers are proved false.

“So with regard to the waters of the river, sometimes they are deceptive. They have seen that great rains have fallen in Ethiopia, and they know that the river’s overflow arises from them, and before the water reaches Egypt they run forward and tell of it. Men also could have done this, had they been able to run as fast. So the watchman of David, by ascending the tower, saw the runner sooner than he who remained below ; and the runner himself told before the rest, not things which had not happened, but things already on the way and done. So these demons choose to labour and signify things to others only to deceive. But if in the meantime Providence will so act about the water, or those on the way–for Providence may do so–the demons have spoken falsely, and those who listen to them have been deceived.

“Thus arose the oracles of the Gentiles, and so they were deceived by the demons in old time. But this deception came to an end. For the Lord came, who annulled the demons, together with their craft. For of themselves they know nothing, but like thieves they spread abroad what they have seen in the case of others. They conjecture rather than foretell. For if they sometimes tell the truth, they are not to be admired for this. Physicians experienced in diseases, seeing a recurrence of the same disease in others, often from their experience conjecture the result. Pilots, again, and husbandmen, seeing with their experience the state of the air, foretell storm or fair weather. They could not on this account be said to foretell by a divine inspiration, but from experience and habit. So that if the demons sometimes say likewise by conjecture, let no one wonder at them nor attend to them. What good is it to the hearers to learn from such days beforehand what is coming ? What is the worth of knowing such things, even if it be truly known? There is no virtue in this, nor is such knowledge any proof of a good disposition. No one of us is judged because he did not know it; no one is blessed for having learnt it and known it. Every one’s judgment consists in this: if he has kept the faith and well fulfilled the commandments.

“We should not therefore think much of this, nor practise for it an ascetic and laborious life, but rather to please God by upright dealing. We should pray, not to have foreknowledge, nor ask this as a reward for asceticism, but that our Lord may be a fellow-worker in our victory over the devil. But if we would care at all to know things beforehand, let us keep the thoughts pure. For I am confident that a soul pure on all sides, and erect according to its nature, is able, becoming transparent, to see more and farther than demons, having the Lord who reveals to it, such as was the soul of Elisaeus, seeing what was done by Giezi, and beholding the powers that stood on his side.

“When then they come to you at night, and desire to tell you future things, and say, ‘We are angels,’ listen not, for they are false. But if they praise your asceticism and bless you, do not hear them, nor seem to notice; rather cross yourself and the house and pray, and you will see them disappear, for they are cowards, and terrified at the sign of the Lord’s cross, for by this the Saviour stripped them and made them an example. But if they persist with impudence, dancing with contortions and showing all manner of appearances, do not quiver or crouch, nor attend to them as if they were good, for it is easy and in your power to distinguish the presence of the good and the bad by the gift of God.

Joy attends on the presence of good spirits,
disturbance on that of evil

For the sight of the good brings no disturbance; for ‘he shall not strive nor cry, nor shall his voice be heard.’ But it happens in quietness and meekness, so as to breathe joy and exultation and confidence in the soul. For the Lord is with them, who is our joy and the power of God the Father. So that the thoughts of the soul remain in undisturbed tranquillity, so that, being irradated, it sees of itself those presented to it. For the desire of divine and future things enters into it, and it will wish to be joined with these, even so as to depart with them. And if some, as being men, fear the sight of the good, these with their appearance take away the fear by love; as Gabriel did to Zachariah, and the angel who appeared at the divine monument to the women, and as He who said to the shepherds in the Gospel, ‘Fear not.’ For their fear arises not from the soul’s cowardice, but from recognising the presence of superior beings. Such like is the vision of the holy.

“But the disturbed phantoms of the evil breaking in is accompanied with noise, echoing, and clamour, like the motion of uneducated young men and robbers. Hence the soul immediately contracts fear, disturbance, disorder of thought, dejection, hatred of the ascetics, listlessness, sorrow, domestic remembrances, and fear of death; and then desire of evil things, disregard for virtue, unsettlement of disposition. When then you feel fear at seeing any one, should the fear be at once removed, and there be substituted an inexpressible joy, good courage, confidence, a recovery and tranquillity of thought, and the other qualities mentioned, and fortitude and love towards God, take good courage and pray. For the joy and settlement of the soul indicate the sanctity of Him present. So Abraham exulted when he saw the Lord; so John when he heard the voice of the mother of God leapt in exultation. But if on the appearance of any disturbance arise external noise, worldly apparatus, threat of death, or the other incidents, be assured that it is an evil incursion.

“And let this too be an indication to you. When the soul remains crouching, it is the presence of enemies, for the demons do not remove the dread of such things, as did the great Archangel Gabriel to Mary and to Zacharias, and he who appeared to the women at the monument. But rather when they see men in fear they increase the appearances, to frighten them the more, and so advance upon them and mock, saying, ‘Fall down and worship.’ So they deceived the Gentiles, for they were esteemed by them the gods they pretended to be. But the Lord did not leave us to be deceived by the devil when He spoke in rebuke to one presenting Him such appearances, ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ Let the crafty one then for this be more and more despised by us, for what the Lord said, He did for us, that the demons, hearing also from us such words, may be overthrown by the Lord who so rebuked them.

“As to the casting out of demons, we are not to boast, nor be lifted up by healings, nor to admire him only who casts out demons, and hold as nobody him who does not cast them out; but we are to learn the degree of asceticism in each one, to imitate and emulate or to correct. For to work signs is not ours; that is the Saviour’s part. To His disciples He said, ‘Rejoice not that the demons are subject to you, but that your names are written in heaven.’ For to have our names written in heaven is a witness to our virtue and life, but to cast out demons is a grace of the Saviour’s gift. For so He answered those who put their boast not in virtue but in signs, and said, ‘Lord, have we not in Thy name cast out devils, and in Thy name done many miracles? Amen, I say unto you, I know you not.’ For the Lord does not know the ways of the impious. And we must chiefly pray, as I said before, to receive the gift of discerning spirits, that, as is written, we may not trust every spirit.

Antony’s own experience of demons

“Now I could wish to stop here, and to say nothing about myself; but that you may not think me to speak thus at hazard, but be assured that I say it from experience and reality, even though I become as one unwise; but the Lord who hears me knows the purity of my conscience, and that I do not record this for my own sake, but out of charity and for your instruction. I repeat the practices of the demons which I have seen. How often have they blessed me while I have execrated them in the name of the Lord. How often have they foretold the inundation of the river, and I have said to them, ‘What have you to do with this?’ At times they have come with threats, and surrounded me as soldiers in all their armour. At other times they have filled the house with horses and wild beasts and reptiles, while I sung, ‘Some in chariots, and some on horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God’ (Ps. xix. 8), and they were overthrown by the Lord through the prayers. Sometimes they came in darkness, having an appearance of light, and said, ‘Antony, we have come to enlighten thee,’ and I closed my eyes and prayed, and suddenly the light of the wicked was extinguished. A few months afterwards they came singing psalms and quoting the Scriptures, but I, as a deaf man, did not hear them. Sometimes they shook the monastery, but I remained unmoved and prayed. After this they came again, and clattered and hissed and danced. When I prayed, and, reclining, sung to myself, they began at once to weep and cry, as if all their force was gone; but I gave glory to God, who had pulled down and made a mockery of their boldness and madness.

“Once there appeared with state a demon of very great stature, and he ventured to say, ‘I am the power of God; I am Providence. What wilt thou that I give thee?’ Then, with the name of Christ, I spat at him with all my power, and attempted to strike him, and I really seemed to have struck him; and instantly that huge one with all his demons disappeared at the name of Christ. As I was fasting, the deceiver once came in the form of a monk, having, as it seemed, a quantity of loaves, and he advised me, saying, ‘Come, eat, and cease these great labours; you, too, are a man, and will be ill.’ But I perceived his deception and got up to pray. This he could not bear, for he disappeared, and he looked like smoke as he went through the door.

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How often he put before me the appearance of gold in the desert, only that I might touch it and look at it, but I sung him down, and he wasted away. They often cut me with stripes, and I said, ‘Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ,’ and then they laid more vigorously blows on each other. But it was not I who stopped and annulled them, but the Lord, who said, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’ But I, children, remembering the apostolic word, ‘I have in a figure transferred to myself,’ that you may learn not to faint in your ascetic life, nor to fear the appearances of the devil and his demons.

“But since I have become foolish in what I have said, receive this also for your security, and to be fearless, and believe me, for I am not untrue. Once there was a knock at my door in the monastery, and I went out, and saw one thin and very tall. And I asked, ‘Who art thou ?’ and he said, ‘I am Satan.’ I asked, ‘Why then art thou here?’ He answered, ‘Why do the monks and all other Christians blame me without cause? Why do they execrate me every hour?’ I replied, ‘Why dost thou trouble them?’ He said, ‘It is not I who trouble them; but they disturb themselves, for I have become powerless. Have they not read, “The swords of the enemy have failed unto the end, and their cities thou hast destroyed”? (Ps. xi. 7). No place remains to me, no weapon, no city. They have become Christians everywhere. At last the desert is filled with monks. Let them protect themselves, and not execrate me without reason.’ Then, being in wonder at the grace of the Lord, I said to him, ‘Thou art always a liar, and never speakest the truth. Yet now, against thy will, thou hast spoken truth. For Christ has come, and has made thee powerless, and has cast thee down and stript thee.’ When he heard the name of the Saviour, not bearing the fire kindled by it, he vanished.

“Now if the devil himself confesses that he has no power, we ought utterly to despise him and his demons. Indeed, the enemy, with his dogs, has so many deceitful snares, but we, having learnt his weakness, may despise him. So, then, let us not fail in mind, nor think cowardly thoughts in the soul, nor make up fears for ourselves–such as, lest the devil should come and overthrow me, lest he should lift me up and then cast me down, lest he should suddenly set upon me and confound me. Let us have no such thoughts, nor be sorrowful as if we were perishing. Rather be of good heart and rejoice ever, as being saved, and reason in our minds that the Lord is with us, who routed and broke them up. Let this be always in our mind and thoughts, that, as the Lord is with us, our enemies will do nothing to us. For when they come, they become such to us as they find us, and they adapt their appearances to the thoughts which they find in us. If they find us crouching in fear and disturbed, immediately, like robbers who have found an unguarded spot, they set upon us, and urge with an addition the thoughts with which we ourselves are occupied. If they see us in fear and terror, they increase the terror by their appearances and their threats, and so the miserable soul finds its chastisement in this. But if they find us rejoicing in the Lord, pondering on future blessings, absorbed in the things of the Lord, counting all things to be in the Lord’s hand, and that the devil can do nothing against a Christian, and has absolutely no authority against any one; when they see the soul protected by such thoughts, they slink away ashamed. Thus the enemy, seeing Job guarded all round, receded from him; but when he found Judas naked, took him captive. If, then, we would despise the enemy, let thoughts of the Lord be always with us, and the soul ever rejoice in hope, and we shall see the snares of the enemy vanish like smoke. They will fly from us, rather than pursue us; for they are, as I said, very cowardly, always expecting the fire prepared for them.

Always to demand of the demon who he is

“And let this be a sure sign to you in yourselves of fearlessness respecting them. When any appearance takes place, do not fall prostrate in fear, but, whatever it be, ask first confidently, ‘Who art thou, and whence comest thou?’ And if it be a vision of saints, they satisfy you and change your fear into joy. If it be diabolical, it at once becomes weak, seeing a well-established mind; for it is a sure sign of tranquillity simply to ask, ‘Who art thou, and whence comest thou?’ So Josue asked the question, and received the answer, nor was the enemy concealed from Daniel’s inquiry.

“In these words of Antony all took delight. The love of virtue grew in one man, another was aroused from his neglect, others would have a false opinion corrected. All were led to despise the insidious attacks of demons, while they wondered at the grace given by the Lord to Antony for the discerning of spirits. So there came to be monasteries in the mountains, like tents filled with divine choirs; they sung psalms, they studied, they fasted, they prayed, they exulted over the hope of things to come, they gave themselves up to almsgiving, they had charity and agreement with each other. There might you see a country a part of piety and justice. Injustice was neither committed nor suffered, nor was there any complaint against the taxgatherer; but a multitude of societies, and the mind of all bent upon goodness. A spectator of the monasteries and of such order among the monks would have cried out, ‘How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel! As wooded valleys, as watered gardens near the rivers, as tabernacles which the Lord has pitched, as cedars by the water-side.’

“At this time, retiring within his own monastery, he increased the severity of his life, daily sighing over the thought of the heavenly mansions, desiring them, and considering man’s daily life. For he was ashamed of eating and sleeping, and the other necessities of the body, when he thought of the soul’s intelligence. Often when about to sit down to eat with a number of monks, as he remembered this spiritual nourishment he shrunk away, seeming to blush if he were seen by them eating; still he ate by himself for the body’s need, yet often with the brethren also, ashamed indeed, but to benefit them by his words he would say that all thought should be given to the soul rather than the body, while something should be allowed to its necessity.

Antony at Alexandria in the persecution of Maximinus

“After this ensued the persecution of Maximinus, (a.d. 310), when Antony left the monastery and followed the martyrs to Alexandria. He desired to be a martyr himself, but would not give himself up. He attended on the confessors in the mines and prisons. He was zealous in his presence on the judgment in court, encouraging them to persevere, in waiting upon them in their passions and accompanying them till they were consummated. The judge seeing his fearless demeanour and that of those with him, ordered that no monk should appear in the court, nor stay at all in the city. All the rest kept themselves concealed that day. But Antony put on a white dress, and stood the next day on a high spot in view of the judge. While all were wondering, and the commander with his train in arms passed by, Antony stood fearless, showing the Christian ardour, for he wished, as I said, to be himself a martyr.

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 05

He seemed like one in sorrow at his exclusion from martyrdom, but the Lord was protecting him for our good and that of others, that he might be the teacher of many in the ascetic life which he had learnt from the Scriptures, for at the mere sight of his bearing many were eager to embrace his manner of life. Thus again he followed out his custom of serving the confessors, and as a comrade in their bonds, helped their needs.

“When the persecution ended, and the sainted bishop, Peter, had been martyred, he retired and went back to his monastery, and was there daily bearing witness in his conscience, and taking part in the contests of faith. For he practised a still greater severity; he perpetually fasted; he had an inner-clothing of hair, and an outer one of skin which he kept to the end, never giving himself the refreshment of water, even for the feet, not dipping them in water, but in case of necessity. Nor did any one see him undressed, nor was the body of Antony ever seen naked, but when after his death he was buried.

“While he had thus retired, with the resolution neither to show himself nor to admit any one, a certain Martinian, an officer of high rank, pressed himself upon him, bringing with him a daughter possessed. As he remained a long time knocking at the door, and urging Antony to pray God for his daughter, he refused to open, but leaning down from above, he said, ‘Man, why do you cry out after me? I too am a man like yourself. But if you believe in the Christ whom I serve, go and pray to God according to your belief, and it shall be.’ Now the other believed at once, invoked Christ, and went away with his daughter delivered from the devil. By him also many other things the Lord did, who said, ‘Ask, and you shall receive.’ For a great number of sufferers, when he refused to open the door, only slept outside the monastery, and believing and praying in faith, were delivered.

He retires three days’ journey to a mountain in the desert

“But when he found himself disturbed by the number, and not allowed to keep retired as he wished, being anxious lest he should either be puffed up himself through the things which the Lord was doing by him, or that others should think of him for more than he was, he resolved upon reflection to ascend to the Upper Thebaid among those to whom he was unknown. So he took loaves from the brethren, and sat by the banks of the river, waiting for any vessel to go by, that he might embark and go up with them. While he was thus occupied, a voice came to him from above, ‘Antony, where art thou going, and why?’ Not at all disturbed, but as one accustomed to be so called, he answered, ‘Because the crowds will not let me be quiet, I wish to ascend to the Upper Thebaid, because of the many disturbances which happen to me here, and especially because they ask of me things beyond my strength.’ The voice answered, ‘If thou ascendest to the Thebaid, or, as thou art thinking, descendest to the herds, thou wilt have to undergo double as great a trial. But if thou wouldst be really quiet, go now to the inner desert.’ Antony replied, ‘And who will show me the way, for I know it not?’ The voice at once showed him Saracens who were about to take that road. So Antony approached them and begged that he might go with them to the wilderness. They willingly received him, as if to fulfil a divine injunction. He travelled with them three days and three nights, and came to a very lofty mountain. Under it was a stream of very pure, sweet, and very cold water, and a plain outside it and a few neglected olive-trees.

“Antony loved this place as moved to it by a divine impulse, for it was this which he who spoke to him by the banks of the river pointed out. At the beginning, then, receiving some loaves from his fellow-travellers, he remained alone in the mountain, no one else being with him; for he kept to that place in the future, esteeming it as his own home. The Saracens themselves, seeing his earnestness, went that way on purpose, and with pleasure brought him loaves, and he had also from the palm-trees some slight and cheap succour. Afterwards the brethren, becoming acquainted with the spot, remembering as children their father, took care to send bread to him; but Antony, seeing that through this bread some had trouble and were put out, sparing the monks in this also, took thought for himself, and when some came to him, asked them to bring him a spade and an axe and a little corn. When these were brought him, he inspected the land round the mountain, and finding a very small spot suited for it, he tilled it, and as it was abundantly supplied with water, sowed it. And as he did this every year, he got bread from it, being pleased to trouble nobody for this, and to be a burden to no one. After this, seeing again some that came to him, he also cultivated a few herbs, that any guest might be refreshed after that hard journey. At first the wild creatures in the desert, which came for the water, hurt his seed and its cultivation; but he gently caught hold of one of them, and said to them all, ‘Why do ye hurt me who never hurt you? Go away, and, in the Lord’s name, never come here any more.’ And from that time, as if in fear of some command, they never approached the place again.

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 04

Is attacked by phantoms of wild beasts and demons

“He himself remained alone in the inner mountain, given up to praying and the ascetic life. Now the brethren who came to him besought him that in their visits, at intervals of months, they might bring him olives and pulse and oil, for now he was an old man. And we learn from those who approached him in his life there what wrestling he underwent, as it is written, not against flesh and blood, but against the demons who resisted him. For they heard there tumults, and many voices, and blows, as of arms, and they saw the mountain by night becoming full of wild beasts; they also beheld him fighting, as it were, against visible foes, and praying against them. Now he encouraged those that came to him, while he contended himself, bending his knees and praying to the Lord. And it was truly a spectacle of wonder that, being alone in such a desert, he was neither fluttered by the assaulting demons nor feared the savageness of so many quadrupeds and reptiles, but in truth, as it is written, trusted in the Lord as on Mount Sion, unshaken and undisturbed in mind, so that the demons rather fled and savage beasts kept peace with him.

“Now the devil, as David sings, watched Antony, and gnashed his teeth upon him, but Antony was consoled by the Saviour, remaining unhurt by the other’s craft and all his many deceits. But while he lay awake in the night, the devil set upon him wild beasts. All the hyenas seemed in that desert to come out of their caverns and encircle him, and he in the midst of them, each of them with open mouth threatening to devour him. But perceiving the enemy’s art, he said to them all, ‘If you have received power over me, I am ready to be devoured by you; but if you are put here by demons, wait not, but depart, for I am Christ’s servant.’ At these words of Antony they fled, as pursued by the scourge of the word.

“A few days after, as he was working, for he would not do without work, some one standing at the door pulled the string he was plaiting, for he was making baskets, which he gave to those who came in return for what they brought him. When he rose he saw a wild beast, shaped like a man as far as the thighs, with the legs and feet of an ape. Antony only sealed himself with the cross, and said, ‘I am Christ’s servant; if thou wast sent against me, here I am.’ The beast with his demons fled away so quickly that he dropt down in his speed and expired. The death of that beast was the defeat of the demons. They tried everything to drive him out of the desert, which they could not effect.

Saves his company from perishing by thirst

“He was once besought by the monks to go down with them, and visit for a time themselves and their habitations. He went with these monks, and a camel carried loaves and water for them, all that desert being without water. There is no drinking-water, except only in that mountain whence they had drawn it, and where his monastery was. So when the water failed, and a burning heat ensued, they were all in danger. They went about and sought water everywhere, and at last they could no longer walk, and lay on the ground. They let the camel go, despairing of themselves. The old man, seeing them all in danger, was in great sorrow and groaning; he went away a little from them, knelt, and stretched out his hands and prayed, and the Lord straightway caused water to spring up where he stood praying, and so they all drank and were restored. They filled their skins, and sought after the camel, and found her, for her cord had got entangled with a stone. They gave her to drink, and charged her with the skins, and so journeyed on in safety. And when they reached the outside monasteries, they all embraced him as their father, and he feasted them with his words, as one who brought them hospitality from the mountain and gave them support. So there was joy in the mountains, advancement and consolation from their mutual faith. Antony himself rejoiced when he saw the zeal of the monks and his own sister, now grown old in her virgin estate, and the superior of other virgins.

“After some days he went back to the mountain, and then many came to him, and other sufferers ventured to come. Now he had constantly repeated one charge to all the monks that came to him. This was, to trust in the Lord, to love Him, and to keep themselves from impure thoughts and fleshly pleasures, according to the proverb, ‘Be not deceived by fulness of the stomach.’ Also to avoid vainglory, to pray constantly, to sing psalms before and after sleeping, to revolve the commands of Scripture, to bear in mind the actions of holy men, so that the soul reminded of them may be harmonised by them. Specially he advised them continually to meditate on the Apostle’s saying, ‘Let not the sun go down upon your anger.’ And this he extended to every command, so that the sun should not go down, not only upon our anger, but upon any other sin; for that it was good and necessary that neither the sun should condemn us for the day’s malice, nor the moon for the night’s sin, nor simply for its thought. That this may be kept it would be well to listen to the Apostle, who says, ‘Try your own selves, prove yourselves.’ Daily, therefore, let each take to himself an account of his actions by day and by night. If he has sinned, let him cease sinning; if he has not sinned, let him not boast, but persevere in the good, and not be negligent, and let him not condemn his neighbour nor justify himself, as St. Paul said, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things. For the things which we do are often hidden from us: we do not know them, but the Lord knows all things. Leaving, therefore, the judgment to Him, let us sympathise with each other, bearing each other’s burdens, but judging ourselves, and endeavouring to make up that in which we are wanting. Let this, too, be observed for security against sinning.

His injunction to write down privately one’s faults

Let us each mark and write down the actions and movements of the soul, as if we were reporting them to each other, and be assured that we shall cease from sinning through shame of being known, and even from thinking the bad. For who wishes to be seen when he sins, or who in sinning does not rather practise falsehood to escape notice? As, then, we should not commit impurity in sight of each other, so if we were to write down our thoughts as if reporting them to each other, we shall the better keep ourselves from filthy thoughts, through shame of being known. Let the writing then be instead of the eyes of our fellow-ascetics, so that blushing to write as to be seen, we may not even think the bad. Thus forming ourselves we shall be able to subject the body to please the Lord, and to tread under foot the deceits of the enemy.

“This is what he urged upon those who came to him; with those who suffered he sympathised and prayed. And often, and in the case of many, the Lord heard him; but when he was heard, he uttered no boast, and when he was not heard, he did not murmur. But he always gave thanks himself to the Lord, and invited the suffering to be patient, and to know that cure belonged neither to him nor to men in general, but to God alone, who does when He will and to whom He chooses. So the sufferers received the old man’s words as if they were a cure, learning, also, themselves a patient rather than a heedless mind, while those who were healed, learned not to thank Antony, but God alone.

“A certain Fronto, who belonged to the court, and had a frightful malady, for he was swallowing his own tongue, and was in danger of losing his eyes, came to the mountain and besought Antony to pray for him. Antony having prayed, said to Fronto, ‘Go away, and you will be cured.’ But he persisted in remaining several days, and Antony continued saying, ‘If you stay here you will not be healed. Go away, and as soon as you come to Egypt, you will see the sign which takes place in you.’ The other believed and went, and as soon as he beheld Egypt, his malady ceased, and the man became sound according to the word of Antony, which he learned in prayer from the Saviour.

“A certain virgin from Busiris, in the region of Tripolis, had a very terrible and loathsome complaint, for the humours falling from her eyes and nose and ears became instantly worms, and her body was paralytic, and her eyes contorted. Her parents, hearing of the monks who went to Antony, believing in the Lord who had healed the woman with the issue of blood, besought the monks to let them accompany them with their daughter. As they declined, the parents with the child remained outside the mountain with Paphnutius, the confessor and monk. The others went in to make a report only, as they intended, about the maiden. Antony anticipated them, and described the malady of the child and how she had travelled with them. Then, when they asked him to allow the others to come in, this he would not permit, but he said, ‘Go, and you will find her cured, if she be not dead. For such a power as this belongs not to me, that she should come to a wretched man such as I am. This cure is for the Saviour, who works in every place His mercy to them who call upon Him. So the Lord granted it to her prayer, and His loving-kindness signified to me that He will heal the child’s malady as she is there.’ At least the miracle took place, and when they went out, they found the parents rejoicing and the child cured.

“As two brethren were on the way to him, the water failed on the road, and one of them had died; the other, no longer able to journey, was on the point of it; he lay on the ground expecting death. Antony being in the mountain, called two monks who happened to be there, and urged them to take a vessel of water and run upon the road to Egypt, ‘For of two who were coming here, one is already dead, and the other is about to die, if you do not hurry; for this has been shown to me in prayer.’ So the monks came, and found one lying dead, and buried him; the second they recovered with the water, and led him to the old man; for it was the distance of a day’s jouruey. If any one should ask why it was not told before the other died, the question is not a right one, for the decision as to death did not belong to Antony, but to God, who judged in the case of the one and revealed in the case of the other. But this alone was the miracle of Antony, that, sitting in the mountain, he had the heart awake, and the Lord showing to him things at a distance.

Sees the soul of Ammon carried to heaven in triumph

“Another time, when he was seated in the mountain and looked up to heaven, he saw some one carried up in the air, and the great joy with which he was met. Wrapt in wonder at this blessed company, he prayed to learn what it was, and forthwith a voice came to him that it was the soul of Ammon, the monk of Nitria. Now Ammon had continued an ascetic to his old age, and the distance from Nitria to the mountain, where Antony was is a journey of thirteen days. Those with Antony, seeing the old man in a state of amaze, desired to know what it was, and heard that Ammon was just dead. He was well known, because he had often been there, and because of the many signs which had been done by him. This is one of them. He had once to pass the river Lycus in a time of inundation, so he besought Theodorus, who was with him, to be at a distance from him, so that in swimming through the water they might not see each other naked. When Theodorus was gone, he scrupled further at seeing himself naked. While he was thus hesitating, he was suddenly carried to the other side. Theodorus, then himself a devout man, when he drew near and saw that Ammon had come before, and was not even wet, asked to know how he got over. When he saw him not willing to say, he insisted, clinging to his feet, that he would not let him go until he had learnt it from him. Ammon, seeing the persistency of Theodorus, begged in his turn from him that he would not disclose it until his death. And so he revealed that he had been carried over aud placed on the other side, and had not even walked on the water, and that this was not possible for men, but for the Lord alone, and for those to whom He gave it, as He did to the great Apostle Peter. So Theodorus, after the death of Ammon, declared this. But the monks to whom Antony told the death of Ammon marked the day, and when, thirty days after, brethren from Nitria came up, they inquired, and learned that Ammon had died on that day and hour in which the old man had seen his soul carried up. And both these and the others wondered at the purity of Antony’s soul, how at the distance of thirteen days off he had known it immediately and had seen the soul carried up.

“Also, the Count Archelaus once finding him in the outer mountain, asked him only to pray for Polykratera, the wonderful Christ-bearing virgin in Laodicea (This epithet would seem to intimate that Polykratera had received the stigmata). For she suffered dreadful pains in her stomach and side from the excess of her ascetic life, and was altogether weak. So Antony prayed, and the Count marked down the day of his prayer; and when he came to Laodicea, he found the virgin well. Inquiring on what day her sickness had ceased, he brought out the paper on which he had marked the time of the prayer, and finding it agree, showed immediately the writing, and all who read it were astonished that the Lord had made her sufferings cease when Antony was praying and invoking the goodness of the Saviour for her.

“And in the case of those who came to him, he often told it days beforehand, sometimes a month, and the cause for which they were coming, some only to see him, some for sickness, some being vexed by devils, and all these thought nothing of the inconvenience or labour of the road. Every one returned when he had received the help. He would let no one who heard and saw such things wonder at him for it, but rather wonder at the Lord who granted to us men the knowledge of Him according to our capacity.

“As once when he came down to the outside monasteries, he was asked to enter a vessel and pray with monks; he was the only one who perceived a grievous and most fetid smell. The sailors said fish were preserved in the vessel, and it was their smell. He said it was of another kind. Even while he was speaking, a young man possessed, who had hidden himself in the boat, suddenly cried out. The demon being rebuked in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, came out of him. The man was cured, and all recognised that the ill smell had come from the demon.

“Another, a nobleman, came with a singularly horrible possession, who did not know that he was being brought to Antony. They who brought him besought Antony to pray for him. In his compassion for the youth he prayed for him, and kept watch the whole night over him. As the morning came on, the young man suddenly rushed upon Antony and assaulted him. When those who were with him were very indignant, Antony said,’ Be not hard on him; it is not he, but the demon in him, who, being rebuked and ordered to depart into dry places, has fallen into a rage and done this. Glorify therefore the Lord, for to have so attacked me is a sign to you of his being cast out.’ At these words of Antony the young man at once became well, and having recovered his right mind, knew where he was, and saluted the old man, giving thanks to God.

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 03

Has a vision of his soul encountering “the powers of the air”

“Many other similar things concerning him very many monks have said to have taken place. Yet even these are not so wonderful as other more wonderful things appear. Once as he was sitting down to eat, and rose up to pray about the ninth hour, he felt himself carried away in spirit, and seemed, as it were, out of himself and accompanied into the air. Then certain fierce and terrible ones standing in the air attempted to prevent his passing through. When his guides fought against these, he heard questions asked, whether he was not subject to them. But when they tried to call him to account from his birth, his own guides prevented this with the words, ‘As to what has passed since his birth, the Lord has effaced it, but from the time he became monk and gave in his name to God, an account may be asked.’ When they made accusations but produced no proofs, his path became open and unimpeded. Then at once he saw himself, as it were, come back, standing complete and all Antony as before. He forgot to eat, and remained all the rest of the day and through the night sighing and praying, for he was amazed when he saw against how many we have to struggle, and through how many labours we must make that transit of the air, and he remembered the Apostle’s words, ‘According to the prince of the power of the air.’ For herein is seated the power of the enemy to fight and endeavour to prevent those who pass through it. Whence it was he urged them ‘to take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day,’ that the enemy, having nothing evil to say against us, may be ashamed; and we, knowing this, should remember the Apostle’s words, ‘Whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not, God knoweth.’ Now Paul was ravished up to the third heaven, and having heard unspeakable words, came down; but Antony saw himself to have reached the air, and to have contended till he gained his freedom.

“And again he had this gift. Sitting by himself in the mountain, if he was doubtful as to any question, that was disclosed to him by Providence in prayer, he was blessed to be, in the words of Scripture, ‘taught of God.’ For after this he had a disputation with certain who came to him respecting the state of the soul and the place it would be in after death. And on the following night some one called to him from above, ‘Antony, rise, come forth, and see.’ So he came forth, for he knew to whom he owed obedience, and looking up, he beheld one, huge and frightful, standing and reaching to the clouds, and certain ascending as if winged, and that one stretching out his hands, by which some were stopped, and some flew above him, passing on then, and carried upwards without disquietude. Over these that huge one ground his teeth, in those that fell away he rejoiced. And straightway a voice said to Antony, ‘Understand what thou seest.’ So his mind was opened, and he understood that it was the passage of souls, and that the huge one standing was the enemy that envies the faithful, who prevails over those subject to him, and prevents their passage, but is unable to prevail over those who do not obey him, as passing beyond him. Seeing this again, and as one reminded of it, he the more contended to advance with what met him day by day. He did not tell these things of his own accord, but remaining long in his prayers and wondering in himself, when those who were with him asked him questions and pressed him, he was compelled to speak, as a father cannot conceal from his children, esteeming also that his own conscience was pure, but that the narration would be serviceable to them, by learning that the fruit of ascetic life is good, and visions are often a consolation for labours.

“He was likewise patient in temper and humble in spirit. For being such a one as he was, he most exceedingly honoured the rule of the Church, and considered every cleric to precede him in rank. He was not ashamed to bow his head to bishops and presbyters, and if a deacon ever came to him for assistance, he would talk with him about this, but gave way to him in prayer, not being ashamed to learn himself. He often asked questions, and would listen to those about him, and acknowledged the gain from anything good said. His countenance also possessed a great and singular charm. He had also this gift from our Saviour: if he was among a great number of monks, and some one who did not know him wished to see him as soon as he came, he passed by the rest and hurried to him as if attracted by his looks. Yet he was neither taller nor bigger than others, but the man was struck by the character and purity of his soul. For as his mind was never disturbed, his outward senses were also in repose. His countenance was cheerful because of his soul’s joy. You might feel the state of his mind from the motions of his body; as it is written, ‘A glad heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by grief of mind the spirit is cast down’ (Prov. xv. 13). So Jacob discerned Laban’s plot against him, and said to his wives, ‘The face of your father is not as it was to me yesterday and the other day’ (Gen. xxxi. 5). So Samuel knew David by his beautiful eyes and his milk-white teeth; for he was never disturbed from the tranquillity of his soul, never gloomy in face by the cheerfulness of his thought.

His abomination of heresy, especially Arianism

“In faith and piety he was indeed admirable. With the schismatical Meletiaus he would hold no communion, seeing from the beginning their malice and transgression. Nor did he practise friendship with the Manichees, or any other heretics, but only spoke with them for their conversion. He esteemed and he avowed friendship and intercourse with them to be injury and destruction to the soul. So he abominated the Arian heresy, and declared to all that he neither associated with them nor shared their evil belief. When some of these Ariomanites came once to him, having examined and found out their impiety, he chased them from the mountain, saying their words were more venomous than the poison of serpents.

“When once the Arians spread the falsehood that he agreed with them, he was indignant against them. Then, at the request of the bishops and all the brethren, he came down from the mountain into Alexandria and publicly condemned them, saying this was the final heresy and the forerunner of Antichrist. And he taught the people that the Son of God was not a creature, nor was generated from the non-existent, but that He is the Eternal Word and Wisdom of the Father’s substance. Therefore it is impious to say there was a time when He was not, for He was ever the Word co-existing with the Father. Wherefore, hold no communion with the most impious Arians. For there is no communion between light and darkness. For you are pious Christians, but they, calling the Son and Word of God the Father a creature, differ in nothing from the heathen in that they serve the creature rather than God the Creator. Believe that the whole creature is indignant against them because they number with created things the Creator and God of all, in whom all things have been made.

“Now all the people rejoiced to hear the Christ-opposing heresy anathematised by so great a man. They of this city flocked together to see Antony. Both the heathens and those called their priests came to the church, saying, ‘We desire to see the man of God.’ For all so called him. There, too, the Lord had delivered through him many from devils, and from mental complaints. Many heathens also wished but to touch the old man, trusting for benefit from it. In those few days as many became Christians as would be seen in a whole year. Then, as some thought he was disturbed by such numbers, and tried to prevent any approaching him, he said, quite undisconcerted, ‘These are not more than the demons whom we fight with in the mountains.'”

The time of this visit of Antony to Alexandria is marked as after the accession of the writer to the patriarchate, which occurred in A.D. 328, by the following words: “As we were attending on him at his departure, and had reached the gates, a woman cried out behind, ‘Wait, man of God; my daughter is terribly disturbed by a demon. Wait, I beseech you, lest in running after you I perish.’ When the old man heard it, at our request he willingly waited. As the woman reached us, the child was thrown on the ground. Antony prayed, and on his naming Christ, the unclean spirit went out of the child and she rose up cured. The mother blessed God, and all gave thanks, and he went away rejoicing, as to his own home.

He foils philosophers

“He was also very wise, and it was remarkable that, without having had a school education, he was a readywitted and understanding man. Once two Greek philosophers came to him, thinking they could try Antony. He was in the outer mountain. He knew the men by their look, came out to them, and said by an interpreter, ‘Why take you so much trouble, philosophers, for a fool?’ They replied that he was not a fool, but an extremely wise man. He rejoined, ‘If you came to see a fool, your labour was thrown away. If you think me a wise man, be as I am. Good things should be imitated. If I had come to you, I should have followed your example; but if you have come to me, be as I am. For I am a Christian.’ They retired in astonishment, for they saw the demons also fearing Antony.

“Some more like these came to him in the outer mountain, thinking to make a mock of him, as he did not know letters. Antony said to them, ‘Which do ye consider the first, mind or letters? or which is the cause of the other–mind of letters, or letters of mind?’ They replied, ‘Mind was first, and the inventor of letters.’ Then Antony said, ‘He who has a sound mind has no need of letters.’ This struck both the bystanders and the philosophers. They went away wondering to see such understanding in an untaught man, for he had not an uncultivated character as one nurtured in the mountain and grown an old man there, but he was at once graceful and urbane. His language was seasoned with heavenly salt, so that no one felt a grudge towards him, but all that came to see him took pleasure in him.

Deems the action of faith superior to sophistical arguments

“Yet besides these, others also came of those who in the repute of the Greeks are wise, and they asked of him an account of our faith in Christ; and as they attempted to reason about the preaching of the divine cross, in the wish to mock at it, Antony, pausing a little, and first pitying them in their ignorance, spoke through an interpreter, who rendered his meaning well. ‘Which is better, to confess the cross, or to ascribe adulteries and corruption of the young to those whom you make to be gods? that which we say is a certain proof of fortitude, an avowal of the contempt of death, while yours are passions of impurity. Again, which is superior, to say that the Word of God has not changed, but being the same, has assumed a human body for the salvation and blessing of men, in order that, by partaking of human generation, He may make men to share the divine and intelligent nature, or to assimilate the divine to things without reason, and so to worship four-footed and creeping things and images of men, for these are the things which you wise men adore? Or how do you venture to mock at us when we say that Christ has been manifested as a man? You who, separating the soul from heaven, say it has wandered and fallen from the vault of heaven into a body, and would that it migrated only into a human body, and did not pass into quadrupeds and reptiles; for our faith asserts the presence of Christ for the salvation of men, but you are in error narrating of an ungenerated soul. We dwell upon the power and man-lovingness of Providence, that even this was not impossible to God, while you assert that the soul is an image of the mind, ascribe falls to it, and pretend that it is changeable, and finally, you make the mind itself convertible for the body’s sake. For such as was the image, the like it follows that must be whose image it is. But when you suppose such things concerning the mind, consider that you blaspheme the Father Himself of the mind.

The cross of Christ annulling oracles, enchantments, and magic

“‘But as to the cross, which is the better thing to say? If the wicked plot against it, to endure the cross, and not to shrink from any death, how terrible soever, or to invent the wanderings of Osiris and Isis, the snares of Typhon, the flight of Saturn, the devouring of children, the slaughter of fathers. These are the points of your wisdom. And when you make mock of the cross, why do you not admire the resurrection? For those who told of the one wrote the other. Or why, when you mention the cross, are you silent about the raising of the dead, the recovery of sight to the blind, the paralytics healed, the lepers cleansed, the walking on the sea, the other signs and prodigies which show Christ not to be man but God? You seem to me to be quite unjust to yourselves, and not to have read our Scriptures with a fair mind. But read them for yourselves, and see that the actions of Christ demonstrate Him for God, who came among us for the salvation of men.

“‘Now tell us yourselves what belongs to you. Of things without reason, what? that they are reasonless or savage? If, as I hear, you would like to say that these things are spoken mythically by you, that you turn the rapt of Proserpine into an allegory of the earth, make the lameness of Vulcan to be fire, Here to signify the air, and Apollo the sun, and Artemis the moon, and Poseidon the sea, not the less you are not worshipping Him as God, but you serve the creature rather than pay God the service of His creation; for if you have put such things together because the creature is beautiful, you should have gone only far enough for admiration, and not turned things made into God, lest you should give the honour of the Maker to what is made. Otherwise you transfer the honour of the architect to the house he has built, or that of the general to the soldier of the line. What do you say to this, that we may know whether there is any ridicule in the cross?’

“As they were disconcerted and twisted themselves about, Antony smiling said again through the interpreter, ‘These things are evident at first sight; but since you would rather trust in argument, and as you profess this art, would wish us also not to worship God without argumentative proof, tell us yourselves how are facts, and especially the knowledge of God, accurately distinguished? Is it by proof from words or from the operation of faith? And which is first, faith by operation or demonstration by argument?’ They answered that faith by operation is the first, and that this is accurate knowledge. Antony said, ‘Well answered; for faith arises from the disposition of the soul, but reasoning is from the art of those who compose it. To those, then, who have the operation of faith, proof by arguments is not necessary, or rather superfluous. For that which we perceive by faith you attempt to establish by argument, and often you are not able to express what we understand, so that operation by faith is better and firmer than your sophistical arguments.

“‘Certainly we Christians do not hold the mystery in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith supplied to us through Jesus Christ from God. And that my word is true, see we that have not learnt letters believe in God, knowing by His works His providence over all, and that our faith is operative; see now we rest upon faith in Christ, and you upon sophistical contests of words, and the phantoms of images disappear among you, but faith among us extends itself on every side; and you by syllogisms and sophistry do not change Christians to heathenism, while we, teaching faith in Christ, strip bare your superstition, while all Christians recognise Christ for God and the Son of God. You, with all your eloquence, do not prevent the teaching of Christ, while we with the mere name of Christ crucified chase away all demons whom you dread as gods. And where the sign of the cross takes place, magic is powerless and spells do not work.

“‘Say, at least, where now are your oracles? where are the Egyptian enchantments? where are magical appearances? when have all these stopped or become powerless except when the cross of Christ came? Is it then worthy to be jested on, or are the things annulled and convicted by it of weakness worthy of this? It is strange, again, that of your things nothing has ever been persecuted, but is honoured by men from city to city, while those who are Christ’s are persecuted, and yet our affairs flourish and increase beyond yours. Yours, while celebrated and applauded, perish away, but the faith and doctrine of Christ, mocked by you and persecuted often by emperors, has filled the world. For when has the knowledge of God so shone forth, or when has temperance and the virtue of virginity been so bright, or when has death been met with such contempt except since the cross of Christ came? No one doubts of this when he sees the martyrs for Christ’s sake despising death, when he sees the virgins in the churches preserving their persons in purity and spotlessness for Christ’s sake?

“‘And these proofs are sufficient to show that faith in Christ alone is true religion, but you are entirely without faith when you seek out arguments in words. We prove, as our Master said, not in persuasive words of Greek wisdom, but we persuade by faith, which manifestly anticipates any verbal apparatus. See, there are here those suffering possession.’ These were some who had come to him disturbed by devils; and leading them into the middle, he said, ‘Either do you deliver them by your syllogisms, or, if you will, by art or magic, invoking your own images, or if you are unable, take up the battle against us, and you shall behold the power of the cross of Christ.’ With these words he invoked Christ, he sealed the sufferers with the sign of the cross a second and a third time, and immediately the men stood sound in their right mind and thanking the Lord. Those called philosophers were astonished and truly struck dumb by the understanding of the man and by the sign which had taken place. But Antony said, ‘Why are you astonished at this? It is not we who have done it, but Christ, who through those that believe does it. Do you then believe, and you will see that it is not art of words which is with us, but faith through love working in Christ, which, if you also were to possess, you will no longer seek verbal arguments, but will deem faith in Christ self-sufficient.’ These were Antony’s words, and they, admiring him in this also, retired, saluting him and acknowledging their obligations to him.

Constantine and his sons write to him as a father

“The fame of Antony reached even to the emperors, for the Emperor Constantine and his sons, the Emperors Constantius and Constans, hearing what he did, wrote to him as to a father, and desired to receive an answer from him; but he did not make much of writings, nor took pleasure in their letters. He was the same as he was before the emperors wrote to him. But when the letters were brought to him, he called the monks and said, ‘Do not be surprised if the emperors write to us; it is a man after all; but rather be surprised that God has written His law for men, and has spoken to us by His own Son.’ He wished then not to receive the letters, saying he did not know how to answer such things; but being urged by the monks that the emperors were Christians, and that if disregarded they would be offended, he allowed them to be read and replied, accepting them as adoring Christ, and gave them precepts for their salvation–not to value greatly present things, but rather to remember the judgment to come, and to know that Christ is the only true and eternal king, and invited them to be humane and to be solicitous for justice and the poor. They graciously received what he said. So was he acceptable to all, and all esteemed him as a father.”

The Emperor Constantine died in the year 337, nineteen years before Antony ended his long life of 105 years. The visit of Antony to Alexandria, mentioned above, when Athanasius, as archbishop, attended him on leaving to the gate of the city, and witnessed the healing of the poor woman’s child by his invocation of Christ, must have taken place before the first banishment of the archbishop by Constantine into Gaul. And Antony’s declaration against the Arians, with the invitation received from the bishops to come for that purpose, might well indicate the troubles raised by the faction of Eusebius.

“Being thus well known, and answering those who came to him in such a manner, he returned back to the inner mountain and continued his accustomed ascetic life. And often as he sat with those who came to him or walked with them, he became dumb, as is written of Daniel. The hour being past he continued to converse with the brethren. Those present were aware that he beheld a vision; for when in the mountain he often saw events which were taking place in Egypt, and told them to Bishop Serapion, who was there, and saw Antony absorbed in the vision.

Sees in vision the Arian profanations in Egypt
two years before they happen

“Sometimes when seated at work he became as it were in ecstasy, and broke constantly into groans at what he saw. Then after an hour he turned to those present, groaned, fell into trembling, prayed, and bending his knees, remained so long. Then the old man rose up and wept. Those present fall into trembling, and in great alarm besought him to tell them what it was, and they urged him much until he was compelled to speak. Then, with a deep groaning he cried, ‘My children, it were better to die before the things I behold take place.’ To their further requests he said, weeping, ‘Wrath is about to fall upon the Church, and it is about to be given up to men like to brute beasts. For I beheld the table of the Lord’s house, and mules standing in a circle all about it, and so kicking all that was within it as would happen with disorderly beasts lancing out their heels. You must have heard how I groaned, for I heard a voice saying, “My altar shall be profaned.”‘ This is what the old man saw, and two years afterwards the assault of the Arians took place, and the plundering of the churches, when they seized on the sacred vessels by force, and caused them to be carried by heathens, and compelled the heathens from their workshops to attend their meetings, and in their presence committed on the table what deeds they chose. Then we all understood that the kicking of the mules signified before the event to Antony what the Arians are now doing in defiance of reason, as if they were cattle. But after seeing this sight he called those with him and said, ‘Children, do not lose courage. For as the Lord has been angry, so will He heal. And quickly again will the Church recover her own order, and shine as usual, and you shall see those who have been cast out restored, aud impiety retreating into its own lair, and the holy faith speaking publicly everywhere in full, freedom. Only do not pollute yourselves with the Arians, for their teaching is not that of the apostles, but the teaching of demons and of their father the devil; it is rather without a parent, without reason, and of no sound mind, like the absurdity of mules.’

The promise of Christ ensures the happening of miracles

“Such were the acts of Antony; but we should not disbelieve that so many miracles have been done through a man. For it is the promise of our Saviour in the words, ‘If you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you, and again, Amen, Amen, I say unto you, if you ask the Father anything in My name, He shall give it you. Ask, and you shall receive;’ and it is He who says to His disciples and to all that believe on Him, ‘Heal the sick, cast out demons; freely you have received, freely give.’

“Antony then did not heal by commanding, but by praying and naming Christ, so that it was plain to all that it was not he who did it, but the Lord, who through Antony was showing His love to man, and healing the sufferers. Antony’s was the prayer and the ascetic life, for which he sat in the mountain aud rejoiced at the sight of divine things, but was vexed at being often disturbed and drawn into the outer mountain. For all judges claimed to bring him down from the mountain, since it was not possible for them to enter in there, as those who were on their trial followed them. They claimed, however, that he should come, if only they might see him. Now he turned away from this, and tried to evade going to them. But they insisted, and set forward in charge of soldiers those who were under their charge, that he might come down, if only for the excuse of these. Thus enduring constraint and seeing them in lamentation, he came into the outer mountain. Yet the inconvenience he was put to was not without fruit. For his coming was an advantage and a benefaction to many. And the judges he helped by advising them to prefer justice to everything, and to fear God, and to know that with what justice they judge they shall be judged. But he loved his stay in the mountain more than anything.

“Once, then, suffering such compulsion of those who were in need, and the commander having many times urged him to come down, he came and wished to return, after a few words touching on salvation and for those in need. But he who is called Duke begged him to remain awhile; he said he was unable to stay with them, and he used a graceful image to express this. ‘As fishes kept long out of water on the dry ground die, so monks lingering with you and loitering lose their strength. So the fish must hasten back to the sea, and we to the mountain. If we stay behind, we may forget what is within.’ When the general heard this and many other things from him, he wondered and said, ‘Truly this is the servant of God, for how can a private man have so great an understanding unless he were beloved by God?’

He foretells the death of the persecuting Duke Balacius

“There was a certain commander named Balacius, who bitterly persecuted us Christians through his zeal for those unhappy Arians. And he was so cruel that he beat virgins, and stripped and scourged monastics. Antony sent to him and wrote a letter after this sort: ‘I see wrath coming upon thee. Cease then to persecute Christians, lest the wrath seize upon thee, for it is just on the point to reach thee.’ Balacius with a laugh threw the letter on the ground and spat on it, and insulted the bearers of it, bidding them to take this answer to Antony, ‘Since thou carest about monks, I am just coming after thee.’ And before five days were over the wrath came upon him. For Balacius had gone out with Nestorius, the Prefect of Egypt, to the first mansion in Alexandria, and both were mounted on horseback. They both rode private horses of Balacius, the most gentle that he had. But before they had reached the spot, the horses began, according to their wont, to play with each other. And suddenly the gentler of the two, ridden by Nestorius, dismounted Balacius with a bite, and fell upon him, and so tore his thigh with his teeth, that he was immediately carried into the city, and died in three days. And all wondered that what Antony had foretold was rapidly fulfilled.

“Such was his admonition to the cruel, but he so advised the rest who came to him that, forgetting beside it lawyer’s work, they blessed those who retired from the life of the world. But for those who were wronged he so espoused their cause as if not others but himself was their sufferer. And, again, he was sufficient to help all, so that many soldiers and possessors of large means cast aside the burdens of life and became monks. In a word, he was given by God to Egypt for a physician. Who came in sorrow to him and did not leave rejoicing? Who came weeping for his dead and did not at once put aside his mourning? Who came in anger and was not changed to friendship? Who met him in the gloom of poverty, and, when he heard and saw him, did not despise wealth and take consolation of his poverty? What spiritless monk came to him and did not grow strong under his hand? What young man coming to the mountain, and seeing Antony did not at once forsake pleasures and embrace temperance? Who approached him under temptation of a demon and did not find rest? Who came vexed in his thoughts and did not obtain tranquillity?

His effect upon all classes of men

“For this also was a great force in Antony’s ascetic life, that, as I have said, possessing the gift of discerning spirits, he knew their motions, and was not ignorant of the bent and affection in each case. And not only he was not deceived by them, but by addressing those who were perplexed in their thoughts he showed them how they would be able to overthrow insidious attacks. He described the weaknesses and the craft of the workers. Every one came down to the combat, as it were, anointed by him, in confidence against the designs of the devil and his demons. How many girls with suitors, only by seeing Antony at a distance, remained virgins to Christ? Some came, also, from foreign parts to him, and these returned with assistance like the rest, as sped by a parent. Certainly at his death all felt like orphans, and encouraged themselves simply by his memory, bearing in mind his advice and his exhortations.

Antony’s last words to his monks

“What the end of his life was deserves both to be narrated by me and to be heard, as is your desire, by you. For this also was one to be wished for. As was his wont he visited the monks in the outer mountain. He had been informed by the Divine Providence of his coming end, and spoke thus to the brethren: ‘This is the last visitation I am making of you, and I shall be surprised if we see each other again in this life. The time is come for me also to be resolved, for I am nigh to a hundred and five years old.’ When they heard it they wept, and fell about the old man and embraced him. But he, like one betaking himself from a foreign city to his own, spoke rejoicing, and charged them not to be remiss in their labours, nor to relax in the ascetic life, but to live as if their death was that day, and, as I said before, to be careful to keep the soul from defiling thoughts, and to emulate the saints. But do not approach the schismatic Meletiaus, for you know their wicked and profane purpose. Nor have any communion with the Arians, for their impiety also is plain to all. And if you see the judges patronising them, do not be disturbed: for their imagination will end; it is mortal and short-lived. The more, therefore, keep yourselves pure from these, and maintain the tradition of your fathers, and especially pious faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learnt from the Scriptures and often have been reminded of by me.’

“But when the brethren urged him to remain and die with them, he would not hear of it, for many reasons, which he indicated even by his silence, but for this especially. The Egyptians love to bury and wrap in linen the bodies of the good dead, but especially of the holy martyrs, but not to cover them under ground. They place them on low couches and keep them in their houses, meaning by this to honour the departed. Now Antony often urged even bishops to charge their people about this, and in like manner he instructed laymen and reproached women, saying this was not a lawful nor even a holy custom. For even to this time the bodies of patriarchs and of prophets are kept in monuments; nay, our Lord’s own body was placed in a sepulchre and a stone was placed upon it, and covered it until He rose again on the third day. And by these words he showed that an unlawful thing was done by any one who did not conceal the bodies of the dead, though they be holy. For what body is greater or more holy than the Lord’s body? Now many, when they heard this, buried for the future in the earth, aud gave thanks to the Lord for the good instruction.

“Knowing this himself, and fearing lest they should do the same to his own body, he was careful to take leave of the monks in the outer mountain, and went into the inner mountain, where he was accustomed to remain, and after a few months fell sick. Then he called two who were with him, and also lived within, ascetics for fifteen years, and who ministered to him on account of his age, and said to them, ‘I am going, as is written, the way of our fathers, for I see myself called by the Lord; but do you watch, and not lose your long time of exercise, but as if you were now beginning, be zealous to keep your earnestness. You know the demons lie in wait for us; you know how savage they are, and how weak in power. Fear them therefore not, but yearn for Christ and trust Him; live as those who may die daily, watching yourselves, and remembering my precepts to you; and let there be no communication between you and the schismatics, nor at all with the heretical Arians. For you know how I also turned away from them on account of the battle against Christ and the truth shown in their heresy. But take all pains to join yourselves first and chiefly with the Lord, and then with the saints, that after death they may receive you as well-known friends into their eternal habitations. Think of these things, be thus minded, and if you care for me, remember me also as a father. Do not let them carry my body into Egypt, lest they lay it up in their houses. It was for this I entered the mountain and came here. You know, too, how I ever reproved those who did this, aud ordered them to stop such a practice. Do you then bury my body and cover it in the earth. And be my word guarded by you so that no one know the spot but you alone; for in the resurrection of the dead I shall receive it back from our Saviour incorrupt. But divide my clothing, and to Athanasius the bishop give one sheepskin and the cloak on which I lie, which he gave to me when new, and which has grown old with me; and to Serapion the bishop give the other sheepskin, and take you the goat’s-hair vest. And now farewell, children, for Antony changes his abode, and is no longer with you.’

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 06

He expires with great joy

“With these words, when they had kissed him, he stretched out his feet, and looking upon those who came after him with joy, and being very joyful because of them, for when he reclined he appeared with a cheerful countenance, he expired and was added to his fathers. And those two burying him, as he had charged, and enfolding his body, covered it in the earth. And no one knew henceforth where he was buried, save only those two. And each of those who received the sheepskin of blessed Antony and his worn vestment preserves it as a great thing; for the sight of them is as beholding Antony still, and the putting them on is as bearing his admonitions with rejoicing.

“This was the end of Antony’s life in the body, and such like his beginning as ascetic; and if this be but a brief account beside his merit, yet from this estimate what Antony, the man of God, was, who from youth up to such an age kept with an even tenor his ascetic fervour. Age did not subdue him to the indulgence of more costly food, nor did bodily weakness make him change the manner of his clothing. Nor did he even wash his feet in water. Yet in every respect he remained unhurt. His eyes were perfect and uninjured, with good sight; he had not lost a single tooth: they were only worn under the gums through his great age; in feet and in hands he remained sound, and he appeared brighter and more ready for exertions of strength than all those who used variety of foods, and baths, and change of clothing. This gave him a great name everywhere; all wondered at him; those even who had not seen him longed for the sight–an assurance of his virtue, and of a soul dear to God. For Antony became known not for his writings, not for Gentile wisdom, not for any art, but solely for his piety. No one can deny that this is a gift of God. For how was a man hidden in a mountain, and dwelling there, to be heard of in Spain, in Gaul, in Rome, and Africa, unless it were God, who everywhere makes known His own, and who had promised this in the beginning to Antony? For though they work in concealment, though they wish to be hid, yet the Lord shows them as lights to all; that thus also those who hear of them may recognise that the commandments are sufficient for success, and may be encouraged to embrace the way of virtue.

“Read, then, this to the other brethren, that they may learn what the life of monks ought to be, and be persuaded that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ glorifies them who glorify Him, and not only leads those who serve Him to the end up to the kingdom of heaven, but likewise here makes those who conceal themselves and earnestly seek retirement to be conspicuous and celebrated both for their own virtue and for the advantage of others. Should there be need, read this also to the heathen, that even by such means also they may learn that our Lord Jesus Christ is not only God and the Son of God, but that likewise those who serve Him lawfully and believe in Him piously as Christians, convict the demons whom the heathen themselves esteem to be gods not only to be no gods, but trample upon them and chase them away as deceivers and corrupters of men. In Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”


Prayer to St. Antony, Abbot and Confessor

O glorious Saint Antony, who, upon hearing only one word of the holy Gospel whilst assisting at the divine Liturgy, didst forsake the riches and ease of thy father’s house, thy native land and the world, in order to retire into the wilderness; who, notwithstanding the heavy burden of years and the ravages of a lifetime of penance, didst not hesitate to leave thy solitude and go up to Alexandria in Egypt to reproach openly the impiety of heretics and to strengthen the wavering faith of Christians, as a true confessor of Jesus Christ, eager to receive the palm of martyrdom, had thy Lord permitted it; ah, give us the grace to be ever zealous in the cause of Jesus Christ and of His Church, and to persevere even to the end of our days in our adherence to Catholic truth, in the observance of His commandments, in the practice of His counsels and in the imitation of thy virtues; that so, having faithfully followed thine example here on earth, we may come to marvel at thy glory in heaven and to be partakers of the same, through all the ages. Amen

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be three times.

(An indulgence of 300 days.– June 3, 1896)

Prayer at the Approach of Temptation

My God! let me rather die than offend thee. My Divine Savior! assist me by Thy powerful grace: mercifully preserve me from yielding to this temptation, and give me a great horror for sin. Lord! save me, or I shall perish. Amen

Prayer when you have Committed Sin

Alas! my God, another fault! Art thou not ready to withdraw Thy graces from me? But, my infinitely good God! I repent; and I offer Thee in expiation of this fault, all that my Divine Savior has done to expiate it;–I offer Thee the sorrow of His Sacred Heart. My God! be propitious to me for His sake, and because I am a sinner. Amen

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

14 Day Lenten Series: Part 4 – “How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons”

31 March 2017
(Above Picture from left to right: The bedroom of St. Jean Marie Vianney, where many of his battles with the demonic took place; a portrait of the saint in prayer)

(Above Picture from left to right: The bedroom of St. Jean Marie Vianney, where
many of his battles with the demonic took place; a portrait of the saint in prayer)

How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons

The numerous instances recorded in the lives of the saints, of the manner in which those holy men were assailed and tormented by wicked and malignant spirits, appear to have found their counterpart in that marvellous episode in Vianney’s life which now lies before us.

Soon after the Cure d’Ars had opened his house of refuge for the poor orphans of the district, the strangest noises began to disturb his rest at night, and to trouble the quiet of his presbytery. His own account of the origin of these persecutions is as follows: “It was about nine o’clock at night, I was just going to bed, when the demon came to torment me for the first time. Three heavy blows were levelled at the door of my court-yard: you would have thought some one was trying to break it open by force. I opened my window, and asked ‘Who is there?’ but I saw nothing, and commending myself to God, I quietly retired to rest. I had not, however, gone to sleep, before I was again startled by three still louder knocks, not now at the outer door, but at that on the staircase, which led to my chamber. I rose up, and cried out a second time, “Who is there?” No one replied. At the first commencement of these noises at night, I imagined that they were caused by robbers, and fearing lest the beautiful ornaments of the Viscount d’Ars might be in danger of being carried off, I thought it well to take precautions. Accordingly, I had two courageous men to sleep in the house, who were ready to assist me in case of need. They came several nights successively. They heard the noise, but discovering nothing, they were convinced that it proceeded from other causes than the malice of men. I myself soon came to the same conclusion; for one night in the midst of winter, three violent knocks were heard. I rose quickly from my bed, and went down into the court-yard, expecting to see the intruders making their escape, and intending to call for help; but, to my astonishment, I saw nothing, I heard nothing, and, what is more, I discovered no traces of foot-marks upon the snow. I resigned myself to God’s will, praying Him to be my guard and protector, and to surround me with his angels if my enemy should again return to torment me.”

If the object of Vianney’s invisible persecutor was to strike terror into his heart, he succeeded only too well; for the poor Cure confessed that in the early times, before the cause of these mysterious noises, which were renewed every night for hours together, was known, he was often ready to die with fear in his bed. His health, indeed, was so much affected by the strain upon his nerves, caused by the terrible apprehension he endured, that he visibly declined. Kind friends offered to keep watch round the house, and to sleep in the room adjoining his own; and several young men, under arms, stationed themselves near the church, where they could command a view of all the approaches to the presbytery.

Some of these good people were very much terrified, among others, Andre Verchere, the wheelwright of the village, who, when his turn to act as sentinel came round, was installed, his gun by his side, in a room in the presbytery. At midnight he heard a frightful crash close to him. It seemed to him that all the furniture in the room fled to pieces under a storm of invisible blows. The poor man cried out for help, and the Cure came quickly to his assistance. They searched the room and the house, examining every corner, but all in vain.

When Vianney was entirely convinced that these unearthly sounds had no humanly assignable cause, he dismissed his guards. By degrees his alarm was, in some measure, allayed, and in the end he became in a manner accustomed to this terrible visitation.

Before this period poor Vianney had been a prey to a different kind of conflict. He had been tormented by the most despairing thoughts of his future destiny. He seemed continually to see under his feet the lake of fire, and to hear a voice telling him that his place was already marked in it. Day and night he was haunted by the fear of being eternally lost; and, after having combated and overcome this internal temptation, he had less difficulty in resisting his external, though invisible foes. Still, the martyrdom to which he was now subjected was no light one. It lasted, not for days or months, but for thirty-five years, with different phases, and under different forms, but almost without intermission.

At midnight three violent knocks against the door of the presbytery generally warned the Cure d’Ars of the presence of his enemy; these knocks were followed by others more or less heavy, according as his sleep was more or less profound. After having diverted himself by making a frightful uproar on the staircase, the demon entered the room, seized the curtains of the bed, shook them so furiously that the poor inmate never could understand why they were not torn to atoms. Sometimes the malignant spirit knocked like some one who was demanding admittance, and the next moment, without the door being opened, he was in the room, moving about the chairs, deranging the furniture, rummaging everywhere, calling the Cure with a mocking voice, ‘Vianney, Vianney!’ and adding to his name the most outrageous qualifications and menaces. ‘Eater of truffles, we shall have you, we shall have you! We hold you, we hold you!’

At other times, without giving himself the trouble to mount, he hailed Vianney from the court-yard, and, after having vociferated for a long time, he would imitate a charge of cavalry, or the noise of an army in march. Sometimes he drove nails into the floor, with heavy strokes as of a hammer, sometimes he cut wood, sometimes sawed and planed planks like a carpenter actively employed in the interior of a house, or he would play upon the table, the chimneypiece, and especially upon the water-jug, always choosing in preference the most sonorous objects.

Sometimes the Cure’ heard in the hall below him a noise like that of a horse bounding up to the ceiling and again falling down heavily on his four feet. At other times it was the noise of a great flock of sheep grazing above his head. One night when he was more than usually disquieted, he said, ‘My God, I willingly make to Thee the sacrifice of some hours’ sleep for the conversion of sinners. Immediately the infernal troupe disappeared, and all was silent. All these details were given by M. Vianney himself.

For several nights consecutively, he heard such loud and menacing clamours in the court, that he trembled with fear. These voices spoke in an unknown tongue, and in the most confused manner. The tumult they made recalled to Vianney’s mind the recent invasion; he compared it to the noise of an Austrian army. And on another occasion, making a still more characteristic comparison, he said that, ‘Troops of demons had held their parliament in his court.’

Rumours of these marvellous histories were circulated far and wide; they were received in divers manners, and elicited the most contradictory opinions. It appears, however, to have been universally acknowledged by all who knew Vianney that he had not the temperament of a visionary, but was possessed of all the qualifications of a good witness–good eyes, good ears, and a good judgment.

Catherine relates many confidences made to her by the Cure, during the early days of this extraordinary and mysterious persecution. The following extracts are taken from her notes:

M. le Cure often says, “I do not know if they are demons, but they come in great bands; you would say they were a large flock of sheep: I can hardly sleep.” One day he remarked, “I was just falling asleep, when the grappin (The nom de guerre which Vianney gave to the demon whom he supposed to be his chief tormentor) began to make a noise like that of a man hooping a cask with bands of iron.”

“August 18, 1825. M. the Cure told us yesterday that the demon sung in his chimney like a nightingale!

“September 15th. M. the Cure has ordered us to enlarge his mattress, because the demons throw him out of bed. “I have not seen him,” said he, “but he has many times seized me and precipitated me out of my bed.” One night, when M. the Cure had come to the Providence to visit a patient, he said to me, ‘Listen to what happened to me this morning. I had something on my table–you know what it was. (It was his discipline.) Suddenly it rose up and moved along like a serpent. This frightened me a little. You know there is a rope fastened to one end of it; I seized hold of it, it was as stiff as wood. I placed it again on the table; it again began to move, and went round three times.'”

Vianney’s brother-priests were at first little disposed to believe in the reality of these diabolical manifestations; they sought to account for them by natural and physiological causes. “If the Cure d’Ars lived like other men,” said they “if he took a proper quantity of sleep and nourishment his imagination would be calmed, his brain would no longer be peopled with spectres, and all this infernal phantasmagoria would vanish.”

About this time a venerable cure, M. Granger, who had known and loved Vianney since the commencement of his ministry at Ars, anxious to procure for his people the benefit of his presence amongst them, prayed him to join the missionaries who were about to celebrate the approaching jubilee with the usual services. Vianney immediately acceded to his friend’s wishes; he remained three weeks at Saint-Trivier, preached from time to time, and confessed many penitents.

The vexation to which the Cure d’Ars was subjected on the part of his spiritual foes was now everywhere talked about. His clerical companions made it a subject of amusement, “Come, come, dear Cure,” said they, “do as others do, nourish yourself better: that is the way to finish with all their jugglery.”

One night, however, they assumed a more serious tone, the discussion became more animated, and the raillery of Vianney’s companions more bitter and reproachful. It was agreed that all this infernal mystification had no other origin than delirium and hallucination, and the poor Cure was consequently treated as a visionary and an enthusiast. To all this he answered not a word, but retired to his room, apparently insensible to everything but the joy of being persecuted. Soon afterwards his joking companions separated for the night, with the indifference of wise men, who, if they believed in the existence of the devil at all, had at least a very feeble faith in his intervention in the affairs of the Cure d’Ars.

But behold! at midnight all the inmates of the house are awakened by a horrible fracas. The cure is shaken from the very foundation, the doors bang, the windows clatter, the walls totter, sinister cracks are heard, as if the whole building were just about to fall to the ground.

In a moment everyone was on his feet. They recollected that the Cure d’Ars had said, “You must not be surprised if you should hear a noise this night.” They rushed simultaneously into his room, where they found him in tranquil repose. “Get up,” cried they, “the house is falling to the ground.” “Oh, I know what it is,” replied he, smiling; “return to your rest, there is nothing to fear.” They were reassured, and the clamour ceased.

An hour later in the night a faint bell was heard. The Abbe Vianney rose up and went to the door, where he found a man who had travelled several leagues to confess to him. This, we are told, was no unusual occurrence; it often happened that after the most cruel nights the Cure found at his door in the morning pilgrims who had made long journeys in order to be confessed by him.

Indeed, when the persecution to which he was subjected was more than usually violent, he received it as a sign of some signal mercy, or some special consolation about to be granted to him. One of the missionaries, an ancient soldier of the empire–M. the Abbe Chevalon–was so much struck with the strange adventure we have just recounted, that, when afterwards relating it, he said, “I have made a vow to God never again to joke over these histories of apparitions and nocturnal noises; and as for the Cure d’Ars, I believe him to be a saint.”

In the meantime Vianney’s tormentor appeared to be unceasingly occupied in devising new modes of attack. No longer content with disturbing his unfortunate victim by frightful noises and knocking of doors, he now sometimes hid under his bed; and the whole night long the poor Cure’s repose was interrupted and his ear distracted by piercing cries, or mournful groans, or smothered sighs.

“The demon is very cunning,” said he one day, in his catechism, “but he is not strong; a sign of the cross soon puts him to flight. A few days since he made an uproar, like the driving of all the carriages in Lyons, over my head; only last night troops of demons were shaking my door–their speech was like an army of Austrians, I did not understand a word of their jargon,–I made the sign of the cross, and they departed.”

One night he was suddenly awakened by feeling himself lifted up in the air. “Gradually je perdais mon lit,” said he. “I armed myself with the sign of the cross, and the grappin left me.”

Another time the demon is said to have assumed the form of a soft pillow, and when the poor Cure placed his head upon it, there issued forth a plaintive groan. He confessed that this time he was really terrified; it seemed to him that this new device of his enemy imperilled his soul. He invoked the aid of Heaven, and he was immediately left in peace.

When he was called on one occasion to assist in some missionary labour at Montmerle, his indefatigable foe followed him; and on the first night of his stay, he found himself drawn all round the room in his bed. He arose early the next morning, and went to the confessional. He had hardly sat down before he felt himself lifted up and tossed about, as if he had been on a rough sea in a frail bark.

“I once went on a mission to Montmerle,” he remarked, long afterwards, to the Abbe Toccanier; “et je m’en suis bien vu avec le grappin. He amused himself by carrying me round the room in a bed on rollers.”

When he went to Saint-Trivier, to preach at the jubilee, he set out on foot early in the morning. As he walked along, reciting his chaplet, the air around him became full of sinister light; the whole atmosphere appeared to be on fire, and the trees on either side his path like columns of flaming light. He, however, quietly pursued his way, trusting to the protection of the Virgin and his good angel, and seeing nothing in these manoeuvres of his enemy but a new sign of God’s blessing upon his work.

We believe it was about the same time that the destruction, or, at least, the profanation, of a picture of the Annunciation, which the poor Cure highly valued, took place.

The relation of M. Monnin is as follows: “Seeing that the Cure d’Ars honoured this sacred image with a special worship, what did the wicked grappin? Every day he covered and disfigured it with mud. It was in vain that it was cleansed and washed; the next day it was found blacker and more polluted than ever. These cowardly insults were repeated, till at length M. Vianney, renouncing the consolation which he derived from the contemplation of this picture, determined to have it removed. Several individuals were witnesses of these odious profanations, or have, at least, had the opportunity of observing the traces of them. M. Renard testifies to having seen this picture so contaminated, that the face of the Holy Virgin was hardly discernible.”

Towards the end of Vianney’s life these demoniacal persecutions were less violent and less continuous; during the last six months they ceased altogether; and even before that time his invisible foe ceased to disturb him at night, and confined his attacks to the short interval of rest which the poor Cure allowed himself in the afternoon. Sometimes on these occasions he raised a hue and cry at his door, imitating alternately the growling of a bear, the barking of a dog, and the howling of a wolf.

Sometimes he called him, with his rude and insolent voice, ‘Vianney, Vianney, come!’ giving him to understand that numerous penitents were awaiting him.

Vianney often expatiated to his friends upon the vexation he experienced, when one day his malignant enemy seized a vessel containing holy water, which was placed at the head of his bed, and broke it to pieces before his eyes.

But what appears to us to be one of the most extraordinary of these demoniacal manifestations was the burning of Vianney’s bed. We relate the circumstance exactly as it is recorded by the Abbe Monnin, who was at Ars at the time, and all but an eye-witness of the fact:

“One morning, at the time of the first celebration of the quarante heures at Ars, as I was going out very early, in order to assist in the services, I perceived at the threshold of my door a strong and overpowering smell of burning. The mass, the catechism, and some confessions detained me at the church till nine o’clock; on my return, I found all the village congregated round the presbytery ‘What is the matter?’ said I, approaching one of the groups. ‘What! do you not know,’ cried they, ‘that the devil set fire last night to M. Vianney’s bed?’ . . . . . I entered the house, and went straight to the Cure’s sleeping apartment, where I indeed found all the traces of a recent and hardly-extinguished conflagration. The bed, the curtains, and all that surrounded them–including some old paintings on glass, which Vianney greatly valued, and of which he had said only a few days previously that they were the only things in this world that he prized, and that he had refused to sell them, because he wished to leave them to the missionaries–all had been consumed. The fire had stopped before the shrine of Saint-Philomene; and, describing from that point an exact geometrical line, it had destroyed all that was on the one side, and spared all that was on the other side of the holy relique. In the midst of the confusion the Cure arrived; but he hardly appeared to perceive what was going on. He crossed several people who were carrying away the debris without asking them any questions; and it was not till after the mass that, as he was signing some images, he suddenly interrupted himself, and fixing upon me his grave and gentle gaze, he said, ‘I have long besought this grace of God, and now at last He has granted my request: now I am the poorest in the parish; they have all a bed, and I, thanks to God, none have.’ At noon, when he came to see me, we conversed a little more in detail over the event of the night. I told him that everyone was agreed in thinking it a wicked trick of the demon; and asked whether he too thought that the malignant spirit had had to do with it. ‘Oh, my friend,’ replied he, ‘that is very evident; not being able to burn the man, he has burnt his bed . . . . .he is very angry. . . . . It is a good sign'”

In 1829, a young priest, the son of the good widow whose acquaintance we made in the first pages of this book–the Abbe Bibost–came to Ars, in order to make a retreat in the parish of the man he so highly revered. M. Vianney, who had directed his first steps in the priesthood, received him with much kindness, and offered him a room in his house.

“I was intimately acquainted with this priest,” says the Abbe Renard, “and it happened that Providence also led me to my native parish at the time of his stay there. In our first interview the conversation turned upon the extraordinary events which were occurring at Ars, and of which the whole country were talking.

“‘You sleep at the presbytery,’ said I, ‘tell me, is it true that the devil makes all this clamour at night?’

“‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘I hear him every night. He has a rough, harsh voice, like the cry of a wild beast; he seizes the bed-curtains of M. Vianney, and shakes them violently. He calls him by his name; I have distinctly heard these words, Vianney, Vianney, what are you doing there? Go away, go away!’

“‘These frightful cries must have terrified you?’

“‘Not exactly; I am not fearful, and besides, the presence of M. Vianney reassured me; but I sincerely pity the poor Cure. I should not like to live with him.’

“‘Have you questioned M. Vianney upon this subject?’

“‘No; I have frequently thought of it, but the fear of giving him pain has closed my lips. Poor Cure! Poor holy man! How can he live in the midst of this uproar?'”

In 1842, an ancient officer of the French army, who was at that time attached to a brigade of the gendarmes, came to Ars. He had risen, on one occasion, at midnight, and was, with many others, awaiting Vianney at the door of the chapel. Finding the Cure did not immediately appear, he took a turn round the presbytery, in order to keep himself awake. He was sad at heart, having lately been visited by a heavy affliction; but he states that at this moment he was oppressed by a sensation of mingled disquietude and apprehension, for which he was unable to account.

Suddenly he was startled by a strange and unearthly sound, which appeared to proceed from the window of the presbytery. He distinctly heard these words several times repeated, in a rough, harsh, and shrill voice: ‘Vianney, Vianney! come, come!’

Seized with horror, he fled from the spot. The church clock at that moment struck one, and soon the Cure appeared–a light in his hand. He found the unfortunate gendarme in the most violent agitation. He endeavoured to reassure him, and conducted him to the church.

Before he had asked a question, or heard one word of his history, he astonished him with these words: “My friend, you are in much affliction; you have just lost your wife, but trust God, and He will come to your aid. First, put your conscience in order, and then will you more easily put your worldly affairs in order.”

“Yielding to the counsel of the holy man,” said the tried penitent, “I began my confession. In my trouble I could hardly put two words together, but the good Cure assisted me. He penetrated the very depths of my soul, and he revealed to me many things of which he could not have been informed, and which astonished me beyond expression. I did not know that it was possible to read men’s hearts in this manner.”

It is attested by Catherine, and the other directresses, that at the Providence strange noises were heard on the stairs and in the dormitories, which never could be accounted for, and the cause of which could never be discovered.

Many other instances of these mysterious and terrible manifestations are attested by the Abbe Monnin, but we think that those which we have stated may suffice.

We cannot, however, close this chapter without recording one or two facts, too closely connected with the subject which has now been engaging our attention, to be omitted. It is affirmed that several persons came to Ars from different places, and at divers periods, bearing marks, more or less positive, of demoniacal possession.

Two of these unhappy beings–a man and a woman–constantly appeared at Ars, and were known by all the inhabitants. Vianney did not profess to practise exorcism, but, in the instance before us, he treated one of these afflicted individuals as if his body only, and the other as if body and soul were possessed. It is affirmed that when, in the midst of the most fearful and violent attacks, he pronounced his blessing over them, they instantly became calm.

The following dialogue is declared to have been found in a narrative of undoubted authenticity, and bearing every mark of incontestable truth. It is entitled, “Dialogue between a Possessed, from the neighbourhood of Puy, in Velay, and the Cure d’Ars.” This colloquy took place in the afternoon of January 23, 1840, in the chapel of Saint-John Baptist, and in the presence of eight witnesses:

The Possessed–‘I am immortal.’

Cure– ‘Are you then the only person who will not die?’

The Possessed–‘I have never committed but one sin in my life, and the fruit of that sin I am ready to share with all who will. . . .’

The Cure– ‘In quis es?’

The Possessed– ‘Magister caput.’ Then continuing in French, ‘Vilain crapaud noir! How you torment me! It is a mutual warfare between us, which shall overcome the other; but, do what you will, you are often doing my work. You think your people well disposed; they are not. Why do you examine the consciences of your penitents? What is the use of so much investigation? Is not my examination sufficient?’

The Cure–‘You say you examine the conscience of my penitents? Have they not recourse to God before all?’

The Possessed–‘Yes, with their lips. I tell you it is I who examine them. I am oftener in your chapel than you think. My body goes out, but my spirit remains . . . . . I like to hear plenty of talking . . . . All who come to you are not saved. You are a miser.’

The Cure–‘It would be difficult for me to be a miser. I have but little, and that little I give with all my heart.’

The Possessed–‘It is not of that kind of avarice that I speak. You are a miser of souls. You rob me of all you can, but I shall endeavour to get them back again. You are a liar! You said, a long while ago, that you wished to depart from this place, and here you still remain. What do you mean by that? Why do you not retire and rest, as others do? you have worked long enough. You wished to go to Lyons.’ [This was true. M. Vianney thought much, at that time, of Fourvieres.] ‘ At Lyons you would have been as avaricious as you are here. You talked of retiring into solitude.’ [This was also true. He was anxious to make a retreat to Fourvieres, or to La Trappe.] ‘Why do you not do so? ‘

The Cure–‘Have you anything else to reproach me with?’

The Possessed–‘ I sifted you well last Sunday, during the mass, you remember?’ [The Cure confessed that he had, at that precise time, experienced extraordinary trouble and embarrassment.] ‘Your violet robe has just written to you, but I so managed it that he forgot what should have formed an essential part of his letter, and he is greatly vexed thereby.’ [M. Vianney had that day received a letter from his Bishop.]

The Cure–‘Will my lord allow me to depart?’

The Possessed–‘He loves you too much. . . Your violet robe is as great a miser as you are, and he equally embarrasses me; but, no matter, we have lulled him to sleep with respect to an abuse in his diocese. . . . Come, lift up your hand over me, as you do over so many others who come here every day. You imagine that you convert them all. You are mistaken. It is very well for a moment, but I find them again. I have some of your parishioners on my list.’

The Cure–‘What do you think of . . . ?’ naming a priest of great piety.

The Possessed–‘I do not like him.’ [These words were pronounced in a tone of concentrated rage, accompanied by frightful grinding of the teeth.]

The Cure–‘And of . . . ?’ naming another.

The Possessed–‘Very well. He lets me do what I like; there are crapauds noirs, who do not embarass me as you do. I perform their mass; they say mine.’

The Cure–‘Do you perform mine?’

The Possessed–‘You weary me. Ah, if the Virgin did not protect you; but, patience, we have brought greater than you to ruin; you are not dead yet. Why do you rise so early? You disobey your violet robe, who has ordered you to take more care of yourself. Why do you preach so simply? You will pass for an ignorant man. Oh, how I like those grand sermons which disturb no one, and which allow people to live in their own way, and do as they like! Many sleep at your catechisms, but there are others who are touched to the heart by your simple words.’

The Cure–‘What yo you think of the dance?’

The Possessed–‘I surround a dance as a wall surrounds a garden.’

On one occasion an unhappy woman, who gave proof of possession, said to Vianney: ‘Why do you make me suffer so much? If there were three upon earth like you, my kingdom would be destroyed. You have robbed me of eighty thousand souls.’ The Cure addressed himself to the daughter of this unfortunate woman. ‘You will commence,’ said he, ‘this day a neuvaine to Sainte-Philomene, and you will bring her to me to-morrow in the sacristy. I will hear her confession after I have performed the mass. In the meantime, let her kneel down, and I will give her my blessing.’

The poor child implored him to deliver her mother, but he refused, saying he was not authorised.

This poor woman passed ten days at Ars, made a general confession, and left in a much more tranquil state. She exclaimed before several people, at a moment when she was much agitated: ‘Ah, if all the lost could come to Ars, they would profit by it more than you all.’

Some one asked her what made the tables turn. She answered, ‘It is I; magnetism, somnambulism–all that is my affair.’

Saint John Vianney

Saint John Vianney

Prayer To Obtain The Conversion Of Sinners.
St. John’s Manual, 1856

O God, have mercy on me a sinner, and permit me to offer Thee my earnest supplications on behalf of all souls in sin; for Thou willest not the death of a sinner, but his conversion. When Moses besought Thee to pardon a rebellious nation, Thou couldst not resist his entreaties. It grieves Thee, when none interpose to appease Thine anger; Thou commandest us to pray for one another, assuring us that; by causing a sinner to be converted from the error of his ways, we deliver our own souls from death, and cover a multitude of iniquities. Relying on thy merciful promises, I come before Thee with great confidence, to implore for others the pity I so much need myself. Forgive them, O Lord! for they know not what they do; open their eyes, that entering into themselves, they may see the extent of their crimes, and feel how sad a misfortune it is to have forsaken Thee.

Open their ears to the sound of that Almighty voice, which can raise the dead to life; soften the obduracy of their hearts, that they may no longer resist Thy grace. Remember Thy tender mercies; remember the precious blood of Jesus Christ; save the souls which have been purchased at so great a price. Hear our prayers, inspired by the Spirit of thine own charity, and offered from the sole motive of pleasing and glorifying Thee. Amen.

Prayer to Obtain a Firm Purpose of Amendment

My God, I desire to do all that Thou hast asked of me. Permit me, prostrate at Thy feet, to declare my devotion to Thy service. Too long, O Lord, have I served the devil and the world! I will now, in Thy presence, renew with true sincerity the promises I made at Baptism:

“I renounce the devil with all his works, the world with all its pomps, the flesh with all its temptations, and I will cling to Jesus alone forever and ever.”

Repeat this several times, and say a decade of the Rosary to obtain strength to keep your good resolution.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

The Silent Saint – A Tribute to Saint Joseph

19 March 2017

Editor’s Note: Originally published on March 19, 2010, the first day of publication of We are reprinting it for the  7th Anniversary of ACBlog. This is one of the most read pieces on the site and after you read it, you will know why.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day from AlwaysCatholic


The Silent Saint
by @AncientSoul

On March 19th, the anniversary of the debut of this blog, we remember St. Joseph. I think St. Joseph is one of the most forgotten of all Saints, yet … which of the other Saints were ever closer to our dear Lord? I have to stop and stand in awe of this faithful servant of God. Is he quoted in the Bible frequently? No. Does he have the fanfare and notoriety that many other Saints have? Not so much.

Let’s stop a moment and really consider his role in redemption. One can hardly focus on St. Joseph without first looking at our Blessed Mother. Here we find a young girl not barely ‘sweet sixteen’ who is told something quite unbelievable to the average person, namely that she would conceive the Son of God in a miraculous way and remain a virgin. We all know this, but I think often many take it for granted that the times in which she lived were precarious at best. An unmarried woman that found herself pregnant would soon feel the biting sting of stones tearing and bruising her flesh and breaking her bones. Still, she trusted and accepted according to the Perfect Will of God without hesitation!

Then we have to look towards Joseph. An older man .. a widower who was to marry this young girl, yet what to do when he learns that she is with child? He knew full well what would be her fate if he publicly declared this. His kind and protective nature decided to just divorce her quietly and not cause her undue pain and scandal. We all know that God sent the angel to him in a dream to explain the situation and Joseph, trusting God as Mary did, believed and took her for his wife.

I would imagine they were both a little nervous about it all … wondering how this could be .. what would happen next … how would it all turn out?? I can only imagine the prayerful lives of faith that they led allowing them to trust to that extent and rely on God for the very next step all along the way. We all know the stories from our childhood, but have we ever stopped to really think what it all must have been like? Fleeing into Egypt .. fleeing from Herod … losing Jesus as a young Boy and finding Him in the Temple amidst the elders, questioning and being questioned. St. Joseph taught the God-Man his carpentry trade. He and Mary played with Him, watched Him grow, comforted Him when He fell and taught Him how to pray!

So little is written of St. Joseph in Scripture .. neither Joseph or Mary together, have very many words recorded. But are there any more significant people in Scripture than the Mother and Foster-Father of the Christ Child? They don’t say much, but they sure lead by example! St. Joseph was a faithful servant while on earth, chosen by the Holy Trinity to be a wonderful Foster-Father to Jesus and a faithful and protective virginal husband to Mary.
As the head of the Holy Family, he is also the Patron of the Catholic Church. He is also the Patron Saint of families and workers as well. We need to call on him for his protection, guidance and support in all things.

One of St. Joseph’s most famous titles is Patron of a Happy Death. Why? How could death not be happy if one was to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary? We must never forget his suffering either. He truly is our Friend in Sufferings with all the fear, anxiety and panic he must have gone through in his diligent care of his beloved Family! Let us always turn to our foster father St. Joseph, asking him to present our petitions to our dear Lord and our Blessed Mother with the same tenderness and concern in which he protected them while on earth. Let our prayer be always to strive to embrace the perfect Will of God in all things with a joyful and trusting heart as St. Joseph shows us by his shining example.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph .. please pray for us!

Please click HERE for more Saint Joseph from Mary at BattleBeadsBlog!

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