Devils and Demons

14 Day Lenten Series: Part 12: Resisting the Enemies of Our Salvation

9 April 2017

Michael4

by Fr. Johann Evangelist Zollner, 1883

On several Sundays during the year the Church gives us selections from the epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians; she does so again today, for the last time in the Ecclesiastical Year. In the second part of his epistle, the Apostle gave his converts at Ephesus instructions as to how they were to lead a pious life; he then exhorted married people, parents and children, servants and masters, to fulfil their duties conscientiously. At the conclusion of it he addresses all the Ephesians and exhorts them courageously to fight against the enemies of their salvation, and to use in this struggle weapons that would ensure victory. The Apostle treats in this epistle

I. Of the enemies against whom we must struggle;
II. Of the weapons which we must use in the struggle against them.

PART I.

1. Brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of His power. The enemies of our salvation are strong; in order to be able to battle against them, we also must be strong. But if left to ourselves and to our own strength, we are weak, so weak that we cannot even think a good, salutary thought.–II. Cor. 3: 5. Yet, in the Lord and in the might of his power, i. e., when God supports us by His grace, we become strong, so strong that, full of confidence, we can say with the Apostle: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”–Phil. 4: 13. St. Francis of Sales suffered great temptations for a long time. He writes with regard to them: “I am attacked so violently that it seems to me as if all power of resistance were wanting to me, and that I should fall if an opportunity offered itself. But the weaker I feel, the more my confidence in God grows; for I am confident that God, even in the presence of the objects of a sinful desire, would impart to me so great strength that I could destroy my enemies as young lambs.” In spite of all our weakness, we need not fear the struggle with our enemies, for God assists us and strengthens us so that we can overcome every temptation, even the strongest. “If God be for us, who is against us?” Rom. 8: 31.

2. Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. The Apostle compares Christians to soldiers who go to war, amply provided with the necessary arms. The enemy with whom they must struggle is the devil, the author of all evil, the father of lies, the seducer from the beginning of the world, who goes about, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.–1 Pet. 5: 8. This arch-enemy of our salvation is not only strong, but also full of cunning; he comes when he is least expected and attacks the unguarded senses, causing the most violent temptations; he does not attack openly, in front, but artfully, sideways, and therefore does not represent the sins to which he wishes to seduce us in their real form, but under the appearance of an indifferent thing, or even a virtue. Thus he calls pride, noble self esteem; avarice, wise economy; impurity, human weakness or natural pleasure; injustices and impositions, good financiering. He studies the weakness of every one, and therefore tempts each man to that sin to which he is most inclined.

3. For our wrestling is 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 high places. In these words the Apostle gives the reason why we must be well armed, for we are obliged to withstand supernatural, not natural powers; and in this struggle it is a question not only of our body and our life, but of our soul and our salvation. By flesh and blood we are to understand men. These also cause us many hard struggles and endanger our salvation by their bad example and scandals, their flatteries and threats, their artifices and violence; far more severe, however, are the struggles, and far greater the danger to our salvation, prepared for us by the evil spirits, because they far surpass men in power, cunning and malice. When the Apostle speaks of principalities and powers, he intimates that there is a hierarchy among evil spirits as well as among good spirits, for, as St. Jerome observes, after the fall they retained the same distinctions of rank as in heaven. The evil spirits, therefore, differ from one another in power and influence; some command, others obey. The Apostle calls them rulers of the world of this darkness. They rule the world, not absolutely, but only so far as God permits them; therefore, without the permission of God, they can injure no one in person or property; as the history of Job teaches us, their power goes only so far as God wills and permits. Concerning salvation, they can injure no one against his will; they resemble, as St. Augustine says, a chained dog that can bark, but can bite only those who go near him. Hence the Scripture says: “Resist the devil and he will fly from you.”–James 4: 7. The addition, of this darkness, means that the evil spirits have power over those men only who lie buried in the darkness of unbelief, error and sin.

Lastly, the Apostle designates the evil spirits as spirits of wickedness in high places. According to the unanimous doctrine of the Fathers of the Church and theologians, all evil spirits are not imprisoned in hell, but can leave it from time to time and visit the earth, in order there to tempt men and do mischief so far as God permits them. I must, however, remark, that wherever they may be, they carry hell, as it were, with them and suffer its torments, and that on the Day of Judgment they will be cast into it for ever. As St. Jerome remarks, it is the unanimous doctrine of the Fathers, that the air it is full of evil spirits who inflict various evils on men. In order to protect the faithful from their injuries, the Church applies sacramentals, especially exorcisms. Make use of those means of the Church, such as the sign of the cross, the invocation of the name of Jesus, and holy water, with devotion and confidence, in order to experience their salutary effects against the power of darkness.

4. Therefore, take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand in all things perfect. As the Apostle says, we have so many and such powerful enemies, that we must take unto ourselves the armor of God, that is, we must have in readiness the necessary means for overcoming all temptations and removing all that is dangerous to salvation, for only in this way shall we be able to resist in the evil day, that is, to stand immovable in the time of temptation, and to persevere in the grace of God. This is the lot of all; we must fight against the enemies of our salvation so long as we live; for “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.” Job 7: 1. We must labor in order to be admitted into heaven, for “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence; and the violent bear it away” (Matt. 1 1 : 12); we must fight and conquer, for no one is crowned unless he has legitimately gained the victory.

But what are the arms that we must use in the combat, in order to win the victory?

PART II.

The Apostle mentions these arms by bringing the complete armor of a Roman soldier before our eyes. A Roman soldier had a helmet on his head, a sword in his right hand, a shield on his left arm, and a coat of mail on his breast, around the loins a broad belt bound with thin iron, and on his feet short, boots provided with sharp points.

1. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice.

(a.) The enemies of our soul endeavor to blind and seduce us by various misrepresentations and lies, as formerly the infernal serpent seduced Eve. They say this or that is not a sin, at least not a mortal sin; that we shall become perfectly happy by committing it; that God is infinitely merciful and indulgent with the weakness of men. We must protect ourselves against these lying suggestions of the devil with the girdle of truth; to his persuasions we must oppose the truths of our holy faith, and reply to him: “What you suggest to me is untrue; for my infallible faith tells me the very opposite, and to that faith I will cling.” If Eve had girded herself about with truth, the devil could not have persuaded her to sin; and if we gird ourselves about with truth in every temptation, we shall be safe against every fall.

(b.) We must have on the breastplate of justice. Justice means here the perfect fulfilment of the divine law, true holiness; the breastplate of justice, therefore, is, as St. Chrysostom observes, a life adorned with every virtue. As the breastplate defends the breast of the soldier against the missiles of the enemy, so justice is a protection against the assaults of Satan. When Satan tempts the just man to pride, he is overcome by humility; when he tempts him to impurity, he is overcome by chastity; when he tempts him to anger and revenge, he is overcome by meekness; in short, when he tempts him to any sin, he is invariably over come by the virtue opposed to that sin. The just man who loves God with his whole heart, and hates and detests sin as the greatest evil, employs the means necessary for the overcoming of the temptation, and for this reason he cannot be overcome by the enemies of his salvation.

(c.) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Roman soldiers wore shoes which covered the feet and ankles, and enabled them to walk safely on all kinds of roads, and prevented injury by bushes and thorns. With such shoes we also must be provided; they consist in a true zeal for virtue, in a continual aspiration to perfection. This zeal is necessary, because walking in the path of virtue has many difficulties in its train. He who falls away from his first fervor and becomes tepid, will soon grow weary in well-doing. The Apostle says that our feet must be shod, that is, we must have great zeal for the gospel of peace; and he thereby indicates that walking in the way of virtue leads us to peace with God. For if we fervently serve God, we already here below enjoy the peace of a good conscience, and the everlasting peace of the children of God awaits us in the next world. When the worldling does so much for the acquisition of temporal comforts and conveniences, which are vain and fleeting, why should we not readily and willingly make any and every sacrifice in order to acquire for ourselves the unspeakable blessing of heavenly peace?

2. In all things taking the shield of faith wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. The Apostle calls faith a shield, for as a shield protects the soldier against the darts, so faith protects the Christian against the sins into which in moments of temptation he is liable to fall. For faith tells us how miserable we make ourselves when we yield to temptation and sin that we forfeit the love and grace of God, all acquired merit, as well as heaven, and expose ourselves to the danger of everlasting perdition; again, faith tells us what a great reward awaits us if we overcome the temptation and remain faithful to God that we acquire the love and approbation of God, and eternal salvation. Who that ponders well on these truths of the faith, could consent to a temptation, and fall into sin? The fiery darts of the most wicked one are especially the temptations to impurity, with which the devil assaults people; also in general all temptations that frequently assail them with great vehemence and allure them to sin. Against these the shield of faith protects us, for its serious truths, when we meditate upon them, place us in a holy frame of mind, inspire us with a detestation of all evil, and urge us to have recourse to God by fervent prayer, whereby we gain strength sufficient to come forth victorious from the most severe struggles.

3. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

(a.) By helmet of salvation we are to understand the hope of eternal salvation. For as the helmet protects the head against all the blows of the enemy, so the hope of eternal salvation protects us against all the attacks of Satan. Witnesses, the holy martyrs. They were promised honors and dignities, riches and pleasures of every description, if they would renounce their faith, but they resisted the temptation and remembered the words of Christ: “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?–Matt. 16: 26. They were threatened with the confiscation of their property, with prison and death, and these threats were executed with unheard-of cruelty; but they remained faithful to Jesus and to the holy faith, and said with the Apostle: “That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.”–II. Cor. 4: 17. It was also in the hope of heaven that so many Christians of both sexes renounced the world, with all its pleasures and enjoyments, and passed their whole lives in seclusion, in mortification, and in works of Christian charity; they said with St. Paul: “I count all things to be but loss, for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ.”–Phil. 3: 8. In all your temptations think of heaven and its unspeakable joys; then it will become plain to you how vain and fleeting is what the world and Satan offer, and so you will turn away from them with contempt and disgust.

(b.) The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The Apostle calls the word of God a sword, which is one of the most effectual weapons to put the evil spirit to flight. But the word of God comprises edifying discourses and hymns, ejaculatory prayers, sermons, catechetical instructions, wholesome admonitions, the Sacred Scriptures, spiritual books, and the lives of the saints. Christ resisted and overcame the devil with the word of God. –Matt. 4: 3-10.

PERORATION

You now know the weapons with which you must fight against Satan. Make use of them, and struggle with courage and determination, with bravery and perseverance. Short is the time of warfare, for it extends itself only over our fleeting earthly life, but the fruits of the victory will endure when time is no more. Blessed are we, if in the days of our earthly life we struggle manfully with the enemies of our salvation and conquer; at the close of our earthly career we can confidently look forward to eternity, and say with the Apostle: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day.”–II. Tim. 4: 7, 8. Amen.

Source: 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.

http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/

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.

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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.

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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 5: The Devils Plan to Ruin Souls and the Protection of the Holy Angels

1 April 2017

The Protection of the Holy Angels Against the Devils 05

Protection of the Holy Angels
Against the Devils

(by Fr. Henri-Marie Bodon, 1624-1702)

“Our whole life,” says the devout St. Bernard, “is nothing but one long temptation;” and this doctrine he had drawn from Scripture, which teaches us the same truth–temptation without, temptation within, temptation on the part of our fellow-creatures, temptation arising from ourselves. It is a strange thing that we should be dangerous enemies to ourselves, that we should be obliged to be upon our guard and distrust ourselves, seeing that our destruction proceeds from ourselves, who often labour with our whole might to accomplish our own ruin. But we have also other battles to fight against enemies mighty in their strength, cruel in their fury, terrible in their cunning, countless in their multitude, indefatigable in their pursuit. Add to this, that they are pure spirits, who strike without being seen, who penetrate everywhere, who, though invisible, see all we do here below, and who contend with those who are excessively weak, and who walk in the midst of a dark night, on slippery paths, where it is almost impossible to keep from falling, and which are surrounded on all sides with frightful precipices, involving woes endless in their duration, and extreme in their intensity. Oh, if men did but meditate seriously upon these great truths, if they did but afford a little entrance to supernatural light, how thoroughly would they change their lives! Then truly would they serve the Lord with fear, and their flesh would be transfixed with dread of the frightful evils to which we are continually exposed, and to which, alas! we scarcely give a thought.

O you, whoever you may be, who read these things, read them not without giving them the greatest heed. These combats which you are about to witness belong to a war which is not waged only against the kingdom in which you dwell, and the persons whom you love, it is against yourself that it is declared; it is you whom these furious enemies attack; it is with them you must fight; it is over their strength and their cunning that you, who are nothing but sheer weakness and blindness, have to triumph, or you must be lost for ever. Repeat these terrible words: Lost for ever! lost for ever! But, in good sooth, do we really know what we are saying when we use these words? And if we know, why do we live like those who have never heard them!

Let us, then, place ourselves in presence of the Divine Majesty, and, after a hearty renunciation, for the love of God only, of all our sins, let us enter again into our interior. Having calmed all our passions, let us consider, in the tranquillity of our soul, that the devils are our infuriated enemies, who have all conspired our eternal ruin; for they are so cruel in their rage that they are not only bent, like our earthly foes, on depriving us of our bodily life, which sooner or later we must lose, or on depriving us of our goods, our honour, and our friends, but it is our soul they plot against, to deprive it of an eternal kingdom, to rob it of a perfect joy and glory, and to plunge it into torments which the eye of man hath not seen, nor his ear heard, neither can his mind ever have conceived, and that for an eternity; that we may suffer inconceivable agonies in perpetual rage and despair, as long as God shall be God. This is why, in order to give us some faint notion of them, they are called in Scripture, wolves, lions, and dragons (E.g. John x. 12; 1 Pet. v. 8; Ps. xc. 13); their cruelty surpassing the power of language to express.

This rage is accompanied with such strength, that we read in Job (xli. 24) that there is no power on earth which can be compared to it, and that the devil fears no one. All mankind united could not resist him without the special assistance of Heaven; and millions of soldiers in battle array would be to this spirit like a little chaff which is scattered before the wind. Therefore it is that these angels of darkness are called in Scripture (Eph. vi. 12; ii. 2) “powers,” and that they are styled princes and rulers of this corrupt world, the greater part of men being brought by sin into subjection to their detestable tyranny.

Add to their fury and strength a countless number of malicious artifices which they employ to seduce us, accompanied with such subtle and wicked inventions that the wisest have been deceived by them, and the most enlightened have been struck with blindness. This is why the apostle calls the devil “he that tempteth” (1 Thess. iii. 5); and the name given him in the Gospel (Matt. iv. 3) is that of ” the tempter.” Again, he is styled in Scripture sometimes the dragon and the serpent, sometimes the hunter, a liar, and the father of lies, a spirit of error and of confusion (E.g. Apoc. xx. 2; Ps. sc. 3; John viii. 44, 1 John iv. 6). The serpent, whose form he took, is the most subtle of beasts, as we read in Gen. iii. 1; and having deceived our first parents by his cunning, he has continued through the course of ages to tempt men by this means, finding it the best adapted to accomplish his end and to succeed in executing his most cruel designs. The lapse of ages only serves to render him more expert in deceit; hence it is that later heresies are generally the most subtle. The temptations he employs become every day more dangerous; and this it is which may well make us tremble, seeing that while we become more feeble, our enemies become more formidable. “How,” said the great Pachomius one day to him, “can you venture to assert that such and such things shall happen to my religious? Do you not full well know that the future is known to God alone, or to those to whom it pleases Him to reveal it?” “True,” answered the devil, “I do not know the future, but the great experience I have of things enables me to form such strong conjectures, that I often easily foresee them before they happen.”

The Protection of the Holy Angels Against the Devils 06This, then, is an enemy whom men have had from the beginning of the world, and for six or seven thousand years he has never ceased to busy himself day and night in laying ambushes for them everywhere. St. Anthony one day saw the world full of snares,–the air, the earth, the sea, and all the other waters. There are traps set for the eternal loss of souls in deserts and solitudes, in the midst of cities and assemblies, in palaces and castles, in the humblest cottages, alike in high and low estate; in pleasures and in sufferings, in riches and in poverty, in cloisters and in the world, in eating and drinking, in watching and sleeping, and in the holiest exercises. This enemy has darts and arrows ready prepared to let fly in all sorts of places and against all sorts of persons. He insinuates slander into men’s discourse, and suggests impure thoughts in conversation between persons of a different sex; when anything is said which displeases us, he fails not at the moment to urge us to anger or revenge. He assumes every attitude, and takes every species of form. One while, as St. Augustine remarks, he will take the shape of a wolf, and at another that of a lamb. Sometimes he will come and fight with us in the darkness, at others he will attack us at mid-day. There is a devil called in Scripture “the noon-day devil” (Ps. xc. 6).

He accommodates himself with wonderful tact to all our humours, studying our inclinations from our childhood. He notes the bent of our nature and that which is predominant in us: this is the point at which he especially directs his strongest battery, like the general of an army thoroughly experienced in the affairs of war, who assaults a city in the quarter where it is least defensible. He attacks us through our weakness; he contrives a thousand opportunities of forming intimacies for those who are inclined to love; those who are of a sanguine temperament he excites to impurity and to indulgence in the pleasures of life; the bilious to vengeance; the melancholy to sadness, discouragement, and despair; the choleric to quarrels; the phlegmatic to sloth; the timid to avarice; while lofty natures he prompts to aspire to offices and dignities. He has in his snares baits suited to catch all kinds of persons, varying them according to the inclination of each, and the humour he perceives to be dominant at the moment.

In order the better to succeed, he shows only what is agreeable in honours and pleasures, cunningly hiding the evil in them, as the fisherman hides his hook in the bait he prepares for the fish. He hinders the sensual from reflecting on the shameful diseases, the dishonour and dissipation of substance, which attend upon impurity. He does the same with regard to all the other vices; he fills the imagination only with what pleases the humour, and diverts the eyes from the eternal wretchedness which is the great evil, the sovereign and only evil, lying hidden within this specious and deceitful good.

If he perceives that he gains nothing by one temptation, because at times the soul, by the help of grace, keeps special watch against it, he attacks it with several. He imitates those tyrants who, desiring to pervert Christians, and force them to renounce their holy faith, employed every variety of means to accomplish their purpose; sometimes proposing to them splendid alliances, wealthy marriages, the sweetness of this world’s pleasures; sometimes high offices and an exalted station. And when these generous martyrs were proof against all that could allure the senses, they endeavoured to overcome them by the fear of torments, and of everything most horrible. It is thus the devil makes war against men by all that can charm the senses or gratify the mind, and when he gains nothing in this way, he tries that of sufferings, whether external or internal. He assails us by means of sicknesses, loss of goods or of reputation, the desertion of friends, ill-treatment, contradictions, sadness, weariness, our own ill-humour, interior anguish, repugnances, scruples, and other great sufferings with which he afflicts us in relation both to God and men.

One of his chief objects is to choose his time well. Thus he will tempt a person strongly to impurity at a time when he is most inclined to it, and at the instant he remarks any violent excitement in the senses, or where the time, place, and person lend themselves to it, or on occasions when there is greater difficulty in resisting: as, for example, when a young girl, destitute of all protection, has her chastity assailed by offers of placing her in easy circumstances; or he will incline persons to sin when they are less on their guard, or when they are in some part of the country where they are less provided with spiritual help, or on some day when prayer has been neglected, or other devotional exercises have not been attended to; in a time of lukewarmness, or depression, or uneasiness, or discouragement, when some interval has elapsed since they were at confession and communion, or when they are deprived of sensible sweetness and consolations.

Sometimes these miserable spirits feign to retreat, like those generals who raise the siege of a town in order to retrace their steps, and take it when least expected. They will dissimulate for a length of time in order to make more sure of their blow. For example, you will see persons of a different sex, whether married or not, contract intimate friendships, entertaining at the time no bad intention, and years will sometimes elapse without either the one or the other thinking of evil. The devils do not tempt them, because, being persons who fear God, their intimacy would make them uneasy, if they perceived the danger of it; but when they see hearts deeply engaged, and familiarity established closely and confidently, then it is they put forth their power, and often with too fatal success. Thus they will allow persons to betake themselves to play, amusements, gay company, the reading of romances, good eating and drinking, and such like things, as balls, and parties of pleasure, where too much freedom is permitted; and in all this their object is to prevent souls perceiving that the spirit of devotion is growing slack within them. They will even preserve them from many faults which they might have committed on these occasions, in order that the habit may become so strong in them, that they may find a difficulty in freeing themselves, as they might easily have done at the beginning; and having thus caught them, they then begin to tempt them violently, and make them feel, only too late, the danger to which unknowingly they have exposed themselves.

They amuse with a false peace many who are living in vice or in error, causing them to give large alms, say many prayers, perform many mortifications, and such like works, deluding them with intellectual lights, sensible consolations, and an apparent tranquillity of conscience; and thus they deceive many who are in heresy, and who remain therein captivated by these fair semblances of virtue, which the devils also make use of even to attract those who were far removed from it: this is why heresies which assume the mask of piety are much more dangerous than those which are the offspring of unmixed licentiousness. I once knew a servant of God who was tormented with distressing temptations, and at the same time much inclined to embrace a heretical tenet, but as soon as he began to deliberate about adopting it, all his temptations used to leave him; these spirits of hell employing this stratagem in order to persuade him that he might follow such opinion with a good conscience. It often happens that they have recourse to this artifice to stifle the remorse of those who have abandoned the Catholic faith, lulling their conscience to rest, and prompting them to the practice of many seemingly virtuous actions. They also employ it in the case of certain souls who, fearing to be lost eternally on account of some mortal sin in which they are entangled, try to quiet their self-reproach by good works, and thus to rid themselves, if possible, of their just fear of damnation.

These wretched spirits do their utmost to discover the designs of God with respect to a soul, with the view of misleading it in the ways of grace, and drawing it aside from its vocation. They will induce one who is called to serve the Church in the world, to enter the cloister, while, on the other hand, they will persuade him who is called to the cloister, to become a secular priest. If they observe that a person is called by grace to a wide sphere of action, and has a decided vocation to labour in various places for the good of souls, they will try to fix him in some cure, or prebend, or other benefice requiring residence. The holy man Avila, thoroughly penetrated with this truth, would never consent to the proposals made to him by a great prelate, with a view to detain him in his diocese; and the event proved plainly that the glory of God was interested in the matter. This consideration (independently of the particular reason affecting their Order) constrained several eminent members of the Company of Jesus, as is related in their history, to resist the urgent solicitations of the Emperor, who wished them to accept bishoprics. “Our labours,” they said, “must not be confined to one diocese.” “The whole world,” said the late M. Vincent (St. Vincent de Paul) to an ecclesiastic of great piety, who was refusing a cure of souls to which his uncle desired to present him, in order to enter the Congregation of the Mission–” The whole world must be your cure.”

Others there are upon whom so general a grace has not been bestowed, and these they will induce to burden themselves with too many employments; and thus, by exhausting their strength, they unfit them for the more limited duties which God requires of them. There are directors who have grace given them to conduct souls that are beginning to walk in the paths of virtue; there are others who have grace to guide the more advanced; there are others, again, who are endowed with admirable talents for directing those who are in the highest paths of perfection. It has been remarked that one of the most distinguished servants of God who has appeared in our age, was gifted with a marvellous grace for directing the most perfect souls, and very little, or scarcely any at all, for the conversion of sinners. Holy persons are also to be met with, whose labours in drawing souls out of sin are blessed with extraordinary fruit, but who have but little success in leading men on to eminent sanctity. It is a rare thing to meet with those who have a universal gift of direction: the devils, then, strive to divert the labours of directors from the line of their graces, and to make them undertake either too much or too little in the guidance of the souls which God sends to them. A great man of our day, very generally known by several volumes of Meditations which he published, said to a person who consulted him, “I have no knowledge of that way.” And another religious of the same Congregation said, in answer to a person who asked his opinion concerning his state, “My lights extend only so far.” These were souls truly devoted to God, who, notwithstanding the high esteem in which they were held, were not ashamed to acknowledge that there were certain states in the spiritual life into which they had no insight for the direction of others.

These artful spirits inspire those whom grace would lead to occupy themselves externally for the good of their neighbour, with a wish for solitude, and incline to an active life those whom grace would draw to retirement. “Oh, how many there are,” says the holy man Avila, in one of his letters which we have already quoted, “who enter holy orders, and intrude themselves into the sacerdotal office, through the instigation of devils; who, seeing plainly their faults and vicious inclinations, know well the profanations and sacrileges which will hence result when such men have to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass almost every day! Many of these would have saved their souls in the married state.

They tempt fathers, mothers, and relatives, by the love of riches or honours, to compel their children, with a view to these objects, to enter into states to which God does not call them. Thus they will force them into the priesthood, or into religion, to relieve their family of the burden of their maintenance, or for the sake of aggrandisement; and from similar motives they will press them to accept some judicial appointment, though they do not possess the required knowledge, or the application necessary to acquit themselves worthily of the duties of a good judge or a good lawyer, or to fulfil the obligations of any other office which may be entrusted to them. Indeed we may say that the great majority of persons, through the arts of these wicked spirits, are altogether differently employed to what they ought to be.

If they cannot turn us aside from the paths of grace, they devise means to make us do things in a different manner to what God wills. Does God require of a soul fasting, watching, and the exercise of holy prayer, they will make it fast, watch, and pray too much. “This,” says the devout Louis of Grenada, “is a common temptation with those who are beginning to serve God, and who often by these excesses render themselves unfit for the performance of what they ought to do, or might have been able to do in course of time. They contrive to conceal from persons the injury they are inflicting on mind and body, so that they may have more time to accomplish the ruin of both one and the other, persuading them that such practices do them no harm. God requires perfection; they urge persons to pursue it with a natural eagerness which proceeds only from self-love. God desires us to feel sorrow for our faults; they will mingle with it anxiety, despondency, melancholy, and vexation. God requires of us that we should labour for our sanctification with the help of His grace; they will neglect nothing by which to move us to impatience, and dishearten us, proving to us, by the repeated faults into which we fall, that success is, so to say, impossible for us. They will do their utmost to make us either outrun grace, or lag behind it, prompting us to do things out of God’s appointed season. We must do good, and we must do that good which God desires of us, in the manner which He desires, and at the time that He has ordained. St Philip Neri was undoubtedly called to the priesthood; but it was God’s design that he should not enter it until he was already somewhat advanced in years; he therefore constantly resisted the solicitations of those who would have induced him to take holy orders before that time had come. The Adorable Jesus came into the world to sacrifice His divine life for its salvation; and He flies and hides Himself until the time prescribed by His Eternal Father has arrived. “He hath put the times and the moments in His own power,” said our gracious Saviour (Acts i. 7); it is not for us therefore either to hurry on before or to linger behind. Our dear Master was to die; but He was to die at the time decreed by His Eternal Father. Silence is a great virtue, nevertheless St Francis reproved one of his religious because he carried it to excess.

God demands of souls the exercise of holy prayer. The devils will detain at discursive prayer, or at simple meditation, those whom the Holy Spirit is attracting to divine contemplation ; while they will raise others to contemplation who ought still to proceed by the discursive way. They will encourage souls to proceed from active to passive contemplation whom the Spirit of God does not lead thereto; while to those whom He has so led, they will suggest fears, and cause others to suggest them. They will give sensible consolations, to draw men away from resting on pure faith, or to enfeeble their bodily powers; they will impel to too much application of the imagination and the understanding, and try to injure the brain. They will transform themselves into ” angels of light (2 Cor. xi. 14),” by false visions, revelations, interior utterances; and their stratagems are so artful, that they will even make their operation pass for purely intellectual visions–an operation so subtle, that it would seem as if the external and internal senses had no share in it, and that it was consequently a supernatural operation of the Spirit of God; and this that men may put their trust in it, and thereby fall more deeply into delusion.

God wishes us to go to confession: they will make us approach this sacrament from self-love, in order to be relieved as soon as possible of the burden of our sins; not so much from the love of God, and the movement of His grace, as from the love of ourselves, because our pride is hurt by seeing itself in so humiliating a condition. It is also observable that such as approach in this manner fall more grievously afterwards. We may confess every day, nay, frequently during the day, as some Saints have done; but then we must do it as they did it.

God requires us to go to communion: the devils will hinder the frequentation of this Sacrament of Love, or they will induce souls to approach it too often who have not the necessary dispositions, and even at times are prompted by a secret movement of self-love, though they do not perceive it. A student, a regent, a preacher, a judge, a bishop, ought to attend to their respective avocations, and fulfil the duties of their state: the devils, under the pretext of retirement, disengagement from the world, or application to prayer, will make them quit their studies, their professional employments, or the care of their diocese and, on the other hand, under the plea of study, business, or the onerous cares which the Episcopate imposes, they will induce them to throw themselves entirely into external occupations, and the prelate, the judge, the preacher, will do nothing but study, talk of business, and mix with the world, without scarcely allowing time for prayer and converse with God.

O my God! to what a miserable state is the human heart reduced through the artifices of these ministers of hell, even in the highest paths of grace! The Venerable Father John of the Cross, a man of eminent sanctity, teaches us that even in those who are aspiring to perfection there is to be found a certain secret satisfaction in their own good works, a wish to give others lessons in the spiritual life, an itching desire to talk about it. The devils, says this great master of the way of perfection, prompt them to perform many of their good works from a motive of self-love. Sometimes they manifest their devotion by exterior demonstrations, such as gestures or sighs, and are too ready to talk of their virtues, though even in the confessional it is with difficulty they can get themselves to make a simple declaration of their faults. At times they make little account of their sins; at others they grieve for them to excess. They are reluctant to praise others, and are too glad to be praised themselves. They are never satisfied with the gifts and graces of God, or with the counsels and directions they receive, or the books they read. They take up curious practices of devotion. When they do not enjoy sensible sweetness in prayer, they are angry with themselves and with others.

They declaim against the vices of others with an intemperate zeal, and rebuke them in the same impatient spirit. They would wish to become saints in a day, and their desires of perfection are so purely natural and so imperfect, that the more good resolutions they make the more faults they commit. They seek after sensible pleasure in their devotional exercises, and take to practising excessive austerities, which they sometimes conceal from their directors; or, again, they will argue with their spiritual fathers, and try to bring them over to their views. They relax their endeavours, and give way to sadness, when contradicted, and believe that all is going ill with them when they are denied their little practices of devotion. They think the ways by which they are being led are not understood, when any opposition is made to their views. They would have God do their will; hence they readily believe that what is not to their taste is not according to the will of God. They envy the spiritual good of their neighbour, and are troubled when they see themselves outstripped in the ways of grace. In fine, they have no love for the cross and pure mortification, for complete abnegation and annihilation of self.

Not but that the devils sometimes avail themselves of sufferings, tempting souls who they foresee will not make a good use of them to long for crosses; or urging them to take them upon themselves, because, not being of God’s disposal, they will easily sink under the weight of them; or, again, they will induce them to augment such crosses as come to them in the order of God’s providence. For instance, God sends some mental suffering which ought to be borne with patience and resignation: they will induce the persons thus afflicted to contemplate their sufferings, to reflect too much upon them, and thus to aggravate their own misery. As they throw a veil over the evil which resides in unlawful pleasures, so they conceal from men the good which sufferings contain; they allow men to perceive only what is painful in them, for the purpose of tempting them to impatience, weariness, despair, and murmuring against the leadings of God’s providence. They exert all their powers to cast souls into a state of despondency, leading them to regard their evils as irremediable, and to look only at this present life, and so urging them to desperation. They even harass souls with painful temptations with respect to God, tormenting them with suggestions against faith, or with fears of their own reprobation, or with doubts as to whether they have consented to sin; confusing the imagination and leaving the mind disquieted, from uncertainty as to whether consent has been given to the temptation or not; raising in people’s consciences scruples with regard to their confessions, which they fancy they have never properly made; persuading persons to make fresh general confessions unadvisedly, and often to repeat their ordinary ones through fear of not having mentioned everything, or of not having been sufficiently explicit, thus keeping the soul in a state of anguish for, as these spirits are themselves devoid of all hope, and in a perpetual state of unrest and unutterable disquietude, the effects they produce are akin to their own wretched condition. Wherever they approach they cause trouble, despondency, sadness, and confusion; and, if they cannot make men the companions of their misery hereafter, they endeavour at least to make them share their wretchedness in the present life; and again, they harass us with contradictions from without, exciting our relations, our friends, and such as are under obligations to us, to provoke us, as we see in the case of Job’s wife, at the same time representing to our imagination their ingratitude and injustice.

Sometimes, by God’s permission, they take possession of the imagination of good people, even to such a degree as to make them see things quite differently to what they really are, thus rendering unavailing everything that can be said or done to undeceive them. That holy man, Father John of the Cross, was imprisoned by the religious of his Order, and strangely ill-treated; he was even stripped of his religious habit, as one who was incorrigible. Men wonder at seeing so great a servant of God treated after this manner by good men, but we have no reason to be surprised: God, designing to make him a man of suffering, permitted the devil to try him cruelly; and to this end these lying spirits made the religious who tormented him look upon him only as a disobedient person, who was wanting in the spirit of submission; and there seemed to be some ground for this opinion: for in a Chapter of the Order which had been held, several distinguished religious, men high in authority, and considerable for their learning and personal merits, had decided that Father John of the Cross should not proceed any further with the matter begun: thus he was regarded as a rebel. People did not fail to say that his designs, however good they might be, ought to be abandoned, since he had been forbidden to think any longer of them; that, moreover, he was a person devoid of discretion, calculated only to attract public attention, and create much confusion in the Carmelite Order, by reason of his imprudent and headlong zeal. No attention was paid to anything alleged on the contrary part; and this, indeed, was clearly apparent in the last persecution to which he was subjected on his death-bed from the Prior of the house where he lay sick. This Prior, though one of the reformed religious, and that too at the beginning of as holy a reform as ever took place, at a time also when the first-fruits of the renewed perfection of this holy Order were most rich and abundant, put an evil interpretation on all the actions of the man of God, and became thereby to him the cause of the severest trials. It is wonderful to find his Provincial visiting this monastery, and doing all in his power, both by his authority and by argument, to soften the mind of the Prior, yet in vain : the devil who possessed his imagination kept it filled with illusions which made him see things quite otherwise than what they were. At last, some little time before the man of God expired, the devil having withdrawn, the superior was seized with a sudden astonishment at what he had done: yet nothing new had occurred, all was as before, only the devil had departed.

The smallest imperfections give great advantage to these apostate spirits. The slightest things, as it is truly observed in the Life of St John Chrysostom, lately published, suffice to furnish them with an occasion for exciting violent passions against those who are combating them by labouring to restore primitive strictness of life and manners. These princes of darkness avail themselves of the most trifling acts of a faithful servant of God to provoke and foment a fierce opposition against him, blackening things the most innocent. In the days of persecution, bishops and priests died in defence of the faith; but now that the Church is in peace, bishops and priests can no longer be persecuted save for maintaining strictness of discipline. The devils do for the imagination what certain mirrors do for the eyes: they magnify appearances, and can make atoms look like high mountains.

They make things seem, as we have said, quite different to what they truly are, like those glasses which change the colour of the objects seen through them. They present very false notions of true devotion, making it appear to consist in what it does not,–that is to say, in particular practices, inward lights and sensible movements ; and making it not to appear where it really is,– that is to say, in a firm resolve to do the will of God in all things, and in the manner He wills. They persuade men of the world that devotion is fitted only for the cloister, and represent it in such a light as to make it seem impossible for them to practise it. All their artifices tend to make it look unattainable to persons living in the world, that they may put the very thought of it out of their minds; or they represent it under so frightful an aspect that they have not the courage to embrace it; or they impute to it the defects of those who profess it, in order to decry it.

As their own nature is all malice, they insinuate a malicious tendency into the minds of men, making them see something evil in the most holy actions, and inclining them to put a bad interpretation on the acts of others : all which is the very opposite to true charity, which thinks well of every one, and when it cannot approve the action, at least excuses the intention. It is one of the commonest faults in the world to be slow to believe what is good, and ready to think what is evil. If we can find nothing to blame in a life, the virtuous tenor of which looks like a reproach to ourselves, we direct our attacks against the interior, and, invading the very recesses of the heart, which is known to God only, we charge it with hypocrisy and dissimulation. St. Teresa relates that the Holy Lady of Cardona spoke readily of her graces, and was very frank in mentioning her virtues, and she regards this conduct as that of a soul who looked to God alone, without considering self : another would have condemned it as proceeding from vanity, and would have suspected this virtuous lady of seeking the esteem of creatures.

Father Caussin, in his “Holy Court,” reflecting upon this truth, that we ought to be very cautious in passing judgment upon the actions of our neighbour, after having highly extolled the conduct of the great St. Francis de Sales, remarks, that a critical spirit would have seen much in it at which it might take exception. For instance, says this eloquent author, the Saint testifies that the recollection of Madame de Chantal, of glorious memory, is so dear to him, that he often recurs to it, and thinks of her with affection, and that even at the holy altar. A censorious spirit might be scandalised at the imagination of a holy man being thus occupied with the remembrance of a woman; and yet in him it was a movement of grace. On the other hand, we read of saints who begged of God that they might never remember, even in their prayers, the women who had recommended themselves to them. Their particular grace led them to act thus; but the ways of the Holy Spirit of God in the conduct of His saints differ so widely that they are an inscrutable abyss to poor human reason.

When the devils foresee that great spiritual assistance is preparing for souls, or that special benedictions are about to be showered on a city, a diocese, or a province, they raise fierce persecutions against those whom God designs to employ for this purpose; they use every means to calumniate them, and to inspire people with a horror of them; and not only do they assail those who are employed in public ministrations, but they persecute such as lead the most retired and solitary life, when they observe in them any extraordinary virtue; for, says St Teresa, these souls never go alone to heaven–they save and sanctify a great number of persons by their prayers and by their union with God. We have seen in our days a religious of the Discalced Carmelites leading a most solitary life on Mount Carmel, imitating those ancient Fathers who retired into the wildest deserts, that he might spend some time in complete separation from the society of men. The rage of the devils against this servant of God is something quite marvellous to read of.

If they apprehend that the genuine piety of some chosen soul, and the extraordinary graces with which Heaven has endowed it, will be productive of much fruit in the Church, they will labour to put some deluded creature forward, making this miserable being pass for a saint, and then they will expose the delusion, in order to lead men to the conclusion that they who are truly moved by the Spirit of God are deceivers likewise, and thus hinder the good which they might have effected. If they see devotion taking firm root in a country, through the solid practice of the frequent use of the sacraments, the exercise of prayer and union with God, they will cause some of those who make profession of devotion to fall into certain faults, and they will then raise a cry against frequent communion, against prayer, and other exercises of piety; they will throw ridicule on the devout, and exert their power to the utmost to oppose the designs of God. O my Lord! exclaims the seraphic Teresa, how does it move one to pity! If a soul is deceived in the ways of prayer, people exclaim and raise a great outcry, and men do not perceive that for one who goes astray from praying amiss, thousands of souls are lost from the neglect of prayer. The pious Louis of Grenada, in his ” Memorial,” devotes a chapter to showing that it is often a great mistake to cry out so much against the abuse of frequent communion; not but that we should condemn such abuse, and have a horror of it; but we fail to observe, says this learned master of the spiritual life, that, under the pretext of some abuses which occur, we not only hinder the great progress of holy souls in virtue, by the frequent use of communion, but also, which is of the highest importance, much glory which would redound to God. Our Lord revealed to St. Gertrude that those who prevented frequent communion, robbed Him of His delight. St Thomas teaches that daily communion was matter of precept in the first centuries. The holy Council of Trent expresses a wish for the restoration of this practice. It is the duty of confessors to examine the state of those who receive holy communion every day, that they may not make a bad use of it; but to disapprove a practice which was so habitual in the primitive Church, and which the last General Council desired, if possible, to restore, can but proceed from the hatred which the spirits of hell have conceived against this Mystery of Love.

A great servant of God has wisely observed, that there are certain persons in whom the devils seem to entrench themselves as in a fortress, and by whose means they render their temptations the more dangerous. There are persons whose very presence disposes to impurity, while there are others who inspire feelings of revenge, or again, of vanity. The devils lodge themselves in the eyes of some; in their hair, in their hands, and make everything about them fascinating–their voice, their words, the expression of their eyes, their gestures–so that it is difficult not to be seduced by them. People are sometimes surprised at seeing miserable men attach themselves to very ordinary women, deserting for them wives who are both beautiful and pleasing. This often happens through the secret artifices of the devils, who invest wretched beings, who naturally ought to inspire aversion, with a charm to ensnare hearts. A sick man at the point of death was in a state of great peace; one of his friends, a heretic, entered his room to pay him a visit; at the same moment he felt himself greatly tempted against the faith. The devils, who had no vantage-ground from whence to attack this poor sick man, found in this heretic a fortress, as it were, from which to direct their assaults upon him. I was told this by the late M. Le Gauffre, the worthy successor of Father Bernard, of glorious memory; and the circumstance is well worthy of notice, that we may take heed what company we keep, and not give place to the devils to tempt us, particularly at the hour of death. Let us here observe, that as the devils make violent assaults upon us by means of those who are in their power, so also the Spirit of God gives us great assistance by means of those souls which He fills with His presence. The blessed Angela of Foligni, when performing some journey of devotion, was favoured with extraordinary gifts; and our gracious Saviour revealed to her, that if she had chosen any other companion than the one who travelled with her, who was a person of much virtue, she would have been deprived of all these graces. Nothing is more pernicious than conversation with the wicked, nothing more profitable than intercourse with the good.

In fine, the great havoc which these accursed spirits make is by the establishment of heresy. For this end they have recourse to all their artifices; beginning with things which at first are not calculated to excite so much alarm. They instigated Luther to cry out against Indulgences; but they made him commence by declaiming against the abuse of Indulgences and of ceremonies, and then by degrees they got at the faith.

St. Teresa taught that great courage is required in spiritual warfare; and this is very true, since our enemies are not only terrible in their strength, cruel in their rage, and inconceivably formidable in their stratagems, but they are indefatigable in pursuit; they are ever lying in wait to surprise us; they watch for our destruction while we sleep. “Our enemies,” says St Augustine, “are ever on the alert to work our ruin, and we are ever forgetful of our salvation.” They watch without ceasing to make us die an eternal death, and we are ever slumbering when our very salvation is at stake. The necessities of eating and sleeping, and other bodily cares with which we are burdened, never diminish their activity, seeing that they share them not. They are always under arms day and night, and during the whole course of our life, never laying them down. If they appear occasionally to leave us at peace, or to grant a short truce, it is only that they may fight against us at more advantage, and renew the combat with greater violence and more success.

Even St. Anthony of the Desert could not hide from the attacks of devils who took varies forms.

Even St. Anthony of the Desert could not hide from the attacks of devils who took varies forms.

Moreover, they are pure spirits, as swift as thought, penetrating everywhere, pursuing us everywhere; nothing remains closed against them. In vain may you shut and bar your doors, and lock your rooms and your closets, ingress is still as free to them; and as they are invisible, they assail you unperceived; they strike, and you behold no one; they are beside you meditating your ruin, and you know it not; their weapons are invisible: hence you may judge how difficult it is to defend ourselves against them. All this time they tempt us; and Cassian tells us that the Fathers of the Desert knew by experience that they were most strongly tempted at the most holy times, as, for example, during the holy season of Lent.

These attacks become more violent in proportion as our love of God increases. From the moment we begin to serve Him, we must prepare for temptation. Nor ought this to astonish us, for now it is that war is openly declared; hitherto they had given themselves little trouble, for the soul was already their slave. The saints often find themselves on the very edge of the precipice, through the violence of their temptations. It is the saints, says Cassian, who are often the most tempted by the desires of the flesh. That infernal Pharao loads with burdens those who endeavour to escape from his cruel thraldom. There is no spot on earth where we are exempt from this warfare. Our very churches, and the most holy places, do not preserve us from it; they insinuate themselves everywhere. In solitude they caused poor Loth to fall into impurity, who had preserved himself chaste in the midst of a town wholly filled with monstrous licentiousness. There is no period of life which protects us from their assaults. An eminent and holy solitary, who resisted their temptations in his youth, choosing rather to allow his body to be burned in material fire than to abandon his soul to the fire of impurity, and thus had successfully withstood the shameless assault of a woman who laid snares for his virtue, allowed himself, at the age of sixty, to be vanquished by his tempters, through the instrumentality of a woman possessed by them. Let us pause briefly to consider this example, and let us tremble as we do so. A young man, who in the flower of his age had won such glorious triumphs, permits himself to be conquered, and that in old age, after so much fasting and mortification, with a body consumed by great austerities: after so many victories achieved during a long course of years, after a heavenly life, so many extraordinary gifts, so many miraculous graces, he allows himself to be overcome by a woman who was possessed, which in itself should have filled him with horror; and that, too, after having expelled the devil out of her body.

One of their endeavours is to weary us by the length of the contest; and experience sufficiently attests that men will give way at last, after having resisted a long time. A soul will persevere faithfully in its exercises, in spite of all the disgust and repugnance with which it may perform them, although it experiences no sensible feeling of devotion, and goes through them laboriously and painfully; and at last it will suddenly be overcome with weariness, and will yield to the temptation. It will submit itself to the good advice given to it, and will observe with inviolable fidelity the commands laid upon it; yet in the end it will follow its own devices, and give itself up to its own notions and inclinations. When these wretched spirits perceive that they can obtain no advantage, they go for reinforcements; they take with them other demons, still more powerful and malicious, and, returning to the charge, often succeed in vanquishing those who had previously triumphed over them.

Besides all this, their number is beyond conception. St Bernard says that the devils, who are the apes of the Divinity, make a division of their forces, so that every man may have a bad angel, even as he has a good one. St Gregory of Nyssa is of the same opinion. St. Anthony often said that millions of devils roamed over the earth. St Hilarion, his disciple, asserted the same thing, and referred, in confirmation of it, to the Gospel history, whence we learn that one single man was possessed by a “legion ” of them, that is to say, by six thousand six hundred and sixty-six. The glorious St. Dominic delivered an unhappy man from fifteen thousand devils, who had entered his body in punishment for the scoffs he had uttered against the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. This is well worthy of the consideration of those who sneer at associations established by lawful authority; but anyhow let us reflect what a host of enemies are banded together for the ruin of one single man. St Jerome, commenting on the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, declares that it is the general opinion of theologians that the air is filled with these invisible enemies.

Now if this be so, let us consider with a little attention the dangers to which we are exposed, having such enemies to contend with; and let us at the same time reflect what we ourselves are, who have to fight against such forces. We live in the midst of darkness, and even in the full daylight of grace we fail to see, being blinded by our passions. We walk in places where eternal precipices abound, and upon paths so slippery, that the holiest find it a hard matter to keep from falling; we are ignorant of the road we should take, and, as St. Bernard says, we readily choose that which leads to hell; they whom we meet are as blind and ignorant as we are, and, instead of aiding to bring us out of our false ways, serve only to lead us on therein to our ruin. In ourselves we are weakness itself, pierced on all sides with mortal wounds. O my God! O my God! in such a deplorable condition, who shall escape? Alas ! O men, what are we thinking of when we live in forgetfulness of these frightful perils? Is it, then, possible that these truths should be indubitable, and yet that we should give them so little serious reflection? Surely a spell must be upon us, that, having eyes, we see not, having ears, we hear not, and having feet, we yet remain motionless, when Eternity is at stake: we see, we hear, we move only for this present life.

It is because of this blindness and insensibility that the greater part of men become the prey of devils. If we would but let ourselves be guided by the light and movements of grace, unable as we are to do anything of ourselves, we could do all things in Him who is our strength (Phil. iv. 13). It is in His might that we must courageously resist the power of the devils, who, like to crocodiles, fly from those who pursue them, and pursue those who fly from them. “Resist the devil,” so teaches the Divine Word (James. iv. 7), “and he will fly from you.” It is true that our strength is altogether unevenly matched with his, but the power of Jesus Christ supplies for our weakness. The great St. Anthony affirmed, that since the coming of Christ we may vanquish the devil as we would a sparrow, and break his power as if it were so much straw.

“We must place all our confidence, then, in Jesus Christ and His holy Cross, and in the protection of His Blessed Mother, who has crushed the head of this wretched serpent; and we must make use of the sacraments, of holy water, of holy images, to bring to nought all his efforts, keeping ourselves always, on the other hand, in the practice of humility, a virtue which is all powerful to frustrate the temptations of hell, but without which all the other virtues will avail but little against its assaults. St. Anthony, of whom I have just spoken, when he had a vision of the world filled with snares, and saw a devil, whose head touched the stars, carrying off the greater part of souls as his prey, was penetrated with grief, and, crying out aloud, the holy man exclaimed, “Who, then, shall be able to escape these traps, and from the hands of this infernal monster?” To which a voice from heaven replied, “Anthony, humility shall do this.” This virtue must be accompanied with an entire distrust of ourselves. If we put any confidence in our own strength, in our experience, our discretion, our resolutions, we are lost; sooner or later we shall infallibly perish : and we must be greatly on our guard against a secret self-reliance, which is sometimes imperceptible to ourselves; it appears to us that when we have gone through certain devotional exercises the victory is gained, and then our Lord permits us to fall grievously.

There are some souls who see clearly enough certain imperfections, which they detest; they groan, they strive, and yet they cannot conquer them: this is, said that holy The Protection of the Holy Angels Against the Devils 04man, Father de Condren, because these souls have not as yet thoroughly learned their weakness, their insufficiency, their helplessness.Mistrust in ourselves ought to be followed by fear. “Fear the Lord,” it is written (Ps. xxxiii. 10), “all ye His saints.” If the saints must work out their salvation with trembling, what ought sinners to do? One thief near the Cross is saved; another equally near is lost. God pardons one of His disciples who denied Him; He condemns another who betrayed Him. There is a Heaven, but there is also a Hell. Some have truly repented at the hour of death; thousands and thousands have died in sin. In fine, the most brilliant lights of the Church have been seen to suffer an eclipse; men who were as angels upon earth have, at the last moment of their life, precipitated themselves into hell by a movement of pride; pillars of the Church have been shaken and overthrown; they who had brought to others the pure light of faith have fallen into heresy; saints have become devils.

For this cause we should stand strictly on our guard, and give no place to temptation, by avoiding all those occasions which might lead us into it.” Watch and pray,” says the Divine Word (Matt, xxvi . 41), “lest you enter into temptation.” It does not say lest temptation enter into you, but lest you enter into temptation. When it is by God’s dispensation that we find ourselves in peril, we shall, by the help of His divine assistance, escape; but if it is of our own seeking that we are involved in it, we shall perish. Joseph’s temptation was far stronger than that of David: Joseph was young, David was old; Joseph was pursued by the caresses and threats of a woman who importuned him incessantly, David was pursued by no one. The chastity of Joseph was assaulted by a woman who was his mistress; by resisting her he ran the risk of his life; by giving the reins to passion he might attain to a great temporal fortune. David was a king; he had nothing to fear and nothing to expect, save the remorses of his conscience. David was more advanced in the spiritual life, and he was the man according to God’s own heart. Nevertheless, David was vanquished by temptation, and Joseph resisted; and this was because David exposed himself to the temptation, while Joseph met with the danger while acquitting himself of his duty in the order of God’s providence. The Three Children were delivered from the furnace of Babylon, and Peter from the peril of the waters; but should you throw yourself into fire or into water, you would be burned or drowned. If you are of a bilious temperament, why do you not shun the occasions of anger? If you feel disposed to love, why do you not discreetly avoid the company of women? You lose your temper at play, why then do you not renounce gaming? You are full of distractions when you pray in places not sufficiently retired, why then do you not choose such as are more appropriate? St Ignatius, the founder of the Company of Jesus, was favoured with the privilege of suffering no distractions in time of prayer; but it behoved him, on his part, to do what in him lay. When he failed to withdraw himself far enough from the world and from its noise, he no longer enjoyed this grace.

Be prompt also in resisting temptation. The same saint said that the serpent easily draws in his body where he has insinuated his head. The negligence with which you resist temptation gives great hold to your enemies. They greatly fear those souls who resist their attacks from the very first, because they perceive that these attacks serve but to win crowns for them. If a burning coal were to fall on your dress, would you not instantaneously, and with the greatest expedition possible, shake it off on the ground? and however short a time you might allow it to rest on your clothes, would they not be injured by it? Although the negligence may not be fully voluntary, from the advertence of the mind not being entire, it is still a venial sin; and one single venial sin gives a strange power to the devil to tempt us. When the exorcists of the possessed at Marseilles had committed the most trifling little fault, they were powerless against the devils for some time. On the other hand, when we have promptly repulsed temptation the devils are afraid of returning, and their strength is weakened. We must never deliberate: a town which parleys is all but taken. The very moment we perceive the sin, or the occasion of sin, we must break off, we must go away; we must suffer anything rather than dwell upon it.

In combats where chastity is concerned we must conquer by flight. Do not stay considering the temptation; fly as fast as you can. Temptations against purity have charms for the senses, which catch you if you look at them. In temptations against faith we must never reason; “we must fly,” said St Francis de Sales, “by the door of the will, and not by that of the understanding. Beware of going in search of arguments to conquer these sorts of temptations. Dispute not with the devil, he is too clever for you; you will never disentangle yourself from the difficulties he will present.” The holy Bishop whom we have just quoted relates that, this spirit of subtilty and malice suggested to him so powerful an objection against the Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, that, without a special succour of grace, he had been lost. This is why this incomparable prelate would never mention what the difficulty was which formed the matter of his temptation, for fear it might cause the loss of some soul.

In other interior sufferings we must abandon ourselves entirely to God, and avoid all voluntary reflection upon them. We cannot prevent the imagination from being assailed by them; but we ought to bear them with patience, and not minister to or aggravate them by willingly dwelling on them. They usually incline persons to reverie, and this they should avoid, occupying themselves in some quiet way, that they may give the least possible place to them. An exaggerated apprehension of them imprints their images more strongly on the mind, and, in the case of temptations to impurity, the senses are consequently more excited.

In sufferings arising from scruples or other disquietudes, the remedy is, not to abide by your own judgment, but to take advice of some person of experience in these ways (for there are eminent directors who have no knowledge of them), one also who is learned and gifted with decision, and to refer the matter to his opinion, whether it be question of not reiterating general confessions, although you may yourself believe you have need of so doing, or of not continuing to accuse yourself of certain faults or doubts; for, after all, the order which God has established in His Church is that we should be directed, not immediately by Himself, but by means of those whom He has called to the sacred functions of the priesthood. A person who, acting against his conscience, should commit a sin which he judged to be mortal, although in fact it was only a venial fault, would doubtless, supposing he acted with full deliberation, be guilty of a grievous sin; but if, notwithstanding his own opinion of the enormity of the fault, he should put it aside, out of submission to the judgment of his director, who is more enlightened and better skilled to discriminate between sin and sin, he would assuredly be right in so doing. But, you will say, he is going against his conscience. True, but then it is a conscience in error, and he follows the rules of a conscience rightly informed, that of the director. Neither should we trouble ourselves because the idea occurs to us that we have not explained ourselves with sufficient clearness, or that the director does not fully understand our state (temptations common to almost all who suffer in this way), nor perplex ourselves as to whether our sufferings are the consequence of our sins; for, after having renounced our faults, it is expedient that we should bear the penalty of them in peace. The pains of Purgatory are certainly the penalties and chastisements of sin; but does this prevent the souls subjected to them from bearing them with tranquillity, and a perfect resignation to the decrees of God?

In sufferings from temptations to blasphemy or the idea of reprobation, we ought quietly to avoid voluntary reflections thereon; and at these times a general consideration of our Lord is more advisable in prayer than a special meditation upon the mysteries, because the temptation is maintained and increased by a distinct consideration of the truths of faith. Above all, we must be careful not to give way to discouragement, whatever faults we may commit. Were you to fall a hundred times in the course of a day you must rise again a hundred times. Would it not be absurd in a man to remain lying in the middle of a street, in the mire and dirt, because he had happened to fall down several times? Let us indeed humble ourselves for our faults, and feel regret on account of them, but never let us be discouraged by them. This is a universal maxim: weariness and impatience are the cause of much evil. Let us learn to bear with ourselves in our defects, waiting with patience for the Lord to help us. Too much eagerness to attain perfection is a hurtful temptation, for we often desire it from self-love. Our pride makes us wish to see ourselves speedily perfect, and leads us to be astonished when we fall, which is all that of ourselves we can do. “The just man,” says the Apostle (Rom. i. 17), ” liveth by faith:” this is the great and sure rule of the spiritual life. Do not guide yourself according to tastes, sensible experiences, or, on the other hand, by feelings of dryness and heaviness; but walk by faith, which will show you that God ought to be equally served and adored in the time of tribulation as in that of consolation; thus you will faithfully persevere in your spiritual exercises, without considering your repugnances or inclinations in the matter. Neither again will you be deceived if led by extraordinary ways, which are often the cause of much loss of time to directors, who have to discern whether the graces in question come from the Spirit of God, from the devil, or from the imagination, and frequently they are mistaken.

Those servants of God who concluded that St Teresa’s extraordinary graces were illusions, because of sundry imperfections they noticed in her, were themselves deceived. “We draw a wrong inference,” says the learned Bishop who has written the life of the Saint, “when we conclude that the gifts we perceive in a soul come not from the Spirit of God because that soul is imperfect, for they are sometimes bestowed in order to free it from its imperfections. If a soul, whatever interior words it may hear, or whatever vision it may behold, rests only on pure faith, leaving these things for what they may be worth, it will never swerve from truth: if they are the work of the devil, he will only reap shame and mortification thereby; if of the Spirit of God, He will operate in the soul, independently of its attention or reflections.” The practice of having pictures in our churches was introduced by the Spirit of God, and he who should blame this practice would be a heretic. Nevertheless, were we to stop short at the image, instead of passing on from the image to that which it represents, doubtless we should greatly err. Now, even the visions which the Spirit of God produces are but figures or images of the Divinity, they are not God Himself, and the Spirit of God accords them to us only in order to raise us to Him. Now, as faith is the closest means of union with God, we should abide by that. In fine, an entire and perfect abandonment to the Divine will with regard to all things and in all things, without any special desire, is the great secret for overcoming temptations. We must remember that we ought not to attach ourselves to the means which lead to God, however excellent they may be, nor to any practice, however good, but take it up and leave it according as it is fitting that we should do either one or the other, for all these means are not God, in whom alone we ought constantly to rest as our one only end.

Before concluding this subject, I am desirous to point out a common but dangerous temptation, which renders almost all our actions either profitless or imperfect: it is that the devil labours to make us be occupied with anything but what we are about. If you are engaged in prayer, he will make you think of some good action you have to perform: when you are performing this action, he will occupy your mind with some other; and thus you are always thinking of something you are not doing, and never think well of your actual employment, or only give half your thoughts to it. Now, each moment has its own special blessing; do well whatever you are doing; and that you may do it well, think of nothing else. The moment that is past is no longer yours; the future is not yet come; the present, therefore, is all you have. Here, then, is the devil’s stratagem: by getting you not to attend to the present, and keeping you always rehearsing, as it were, for the future, he leaves you no moment really your own.

Another of his stratagems is to give you a taste for employments which are not suitable to your state. What good do you derive from letting your imagination run upon the life of a Carthusian, if your state is one of exterior occupations? And what is the use of Carthusians thinking of preaching or visiting hospitals, seeing that their call is to live the life of solitaries? We should do wonders, as we think, if we did those things which, however, we shall never do; and we give no thought to performing well that which is our everyday duty. You are placed in a state where salvation is difficult, and in spite of yourself you must remain there. Lay it, then, seriously to heart that it is in this perilous state that you must work out your salvation, and do not waste your time in picturing to yourself other states of life on which you will never enter. Strive, however, in whatsoever condition you find yourself, to regulate your passions well; and know that the least is capable of plunging you into a miserable state of blindness, such as will even render you incapable of profiting by advice: and for this reason, that our passions, deceiving us, make us see things quite different from what they are. Thus, with a view to taking counsel, we describe them as we conceive of them, and counsel is given us according to our description, by which means we are often in great error, even while following advice, and this through our own fault, so that we are without excuse before God. Now, it is through our passions, which they make use of, that the devils deceive us in our view of things, as we have already remarked.

The Protection of the Holy Angels Against the Devils 02

But the God of Heaven is more desirous of our salvation than hell is furiously bent on our destruction. As He thoroughly knows our powerlessness, in the excess of His divine mercies He gives us succour proportioned to our weakness; and while hell is perpetually on the watch to work our ruin, His eyes are ever lovingly intent upon defending us. He sends us the blessed angels of His heavenly court, by an order of Providence which the Church styles “wonderful,” to uphold us in the battles which we must fight against these powers, whose force would infallibly overwhelm us without so special a protection. ” A man’s soul,” says St Bernard, ” is sometimes thrown into such great disorder, his mind is overcome with such distressing weariness, his heart is oppressed with such excruciating anguish, his body is so greviously afflicted, and the besetting temptation is so urgent, that without a powerful help he would succumb. At such a time,” continues this Father, “it needs the assistance of the angels: it needs the consolation of these spirits of Heaven; in its present languid state it would be unable to walk; it is needful, then, that the angels should carry it in their arms. I hold as most certain that when the soul is in this condition, they support it, so to say, with both hands, bearing it so gently through all those perils which inspired it with most dread, that in some sort it feels them without perceiving them. We have to walk upon asps and basilisks; we have to tread under foot lions and dragons; how necessary, then, is it that we should have the angels for our masters and guides! how needful it is that they should even carry us–us especially, who are like weak children! But how easily do we traverse these dangerous roads when borne in their arms! What do we fear? They are faithful, they are wise, they are powerful: let us but follow them, and never separate ourselves from them. Whenever, therefore, you are suffering from some great temptation or affliction, have recourse to your good angel; say to him, ‘My lord, save me, save me! for I am on the point of being lost.'”

These are the sentiments of this great Saint, and they sufficiently manifest to us both the necessity and the sweetness of the protection afforded by these amiable princes of Paradise. As kings put robbers to death in their dominions to preserve the property and lives of their subjects, so do these glorious spirits destroy the power of the princes of hell, for the salvation of our souls and the glory of their Sovereign: thus it is said in Scripture (Tob. viii. 3 ; Apoc. vii. 1, xxii. 2) that they bind the devils; that is to say, they restrain their power. The hermit Moses was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh; and having sought the Abbot Isidore, to lay his troubles before him, and obtain some remedy, this abbot caused him to behold a troop of devils under sensible forms, prepared to attack him more fiercely than ever, the sight of which greatly afflicted this servant of God; but little by little he showed him a much more numerous band of holy angels armed for his defence, saying to him, ” Know, my son, that with the Prophet Eliseus (4 Kings vi. 16) we must declare that we have more with us than against us; “which so comforted him that he returned to his cell full of joy, and firmly resolved generously to resist all the assaults of the spirits of hell. I say the same thing to you, dear reader, after having spoken to you of the temptations of the devils, of their rage, of their power, of their stratagems, and of their multitude: we have more with us than against us. This truth is very sweet and well fitted to console us in all our troubles; but I would beg you to meditate on it a little at your leisure. We hope to return to the subject, with God’s assistance, when treating of the confidence we ought to feel in the protection of the holy angels, of which we shall speak by and by. We will but add one word more. Know that a single devil, if God permitted it, would be able to destroy all the men on the face of the earth, were they all so many warriors armed cap-a,pie; but know also that one single angel of Heaven is stronger, in the power he receives from God, than all the devils united. Remember, moreover, that all these blessed angels keep watch in our defence with a goodness beyond all imagination, and that the devils have a wonderful fear of them, even more than they have of the Saints, always excepting Her who can admit of no comparison, the incomparable Mother of God: for this reason, that the good angels having fought generously for the cause of God against these apostates at the time of their rebellion, they have merited to acquire a peculiar empire over them. Add to which, the remembrance which the devils have that they once enjoyed the same power of attaining to glory, whence they have so miserably fallen, as also the sight of the blessedness which these possess, and of which they are themselves deprived, strangely torments them.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


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