Posts Tagged Demons

14 Day Lenten Series: Part 13 A Short Explanation on the Rite of Exorcisms

10 April 2017

What is an Exorcism?

Imprimatur: Michael Augustine,
Archbishop of New York, 1893

An exorcism is the exercise of the power left by Christ to His Church to drive out evil spirits and to break their influence over men.

Means of Grace ExorcismIt is certain that the devil has power over men. True, Christ destroyed his dominion, so that he cannot any longer be a hindrance to their happiness. Yet He permits the devil to tempt men, as He Himself was tempted by him, in order to try men and to give them an opportunity to imitate His example, and to drive him away as Christ drove him away from Himself in the desert. But then God permits the evil spirit to afflict man in his body, either to punish him for his sins, or to try him. This we learn from the history of Job and of the possessed man in the gospel. Our Saviour says, “I saw Satan falling from heaven.” By this Our Saviour wished to say that Satan indeed had been hurled by the power of the Blessed Trinity from heaven into hell, yet not that he was totally deprived of his power: else He would not have given to His disciples the power to drive out devils. We read that St. Paul actually did expel evil spirits (Acts xix. 12), and he himself says: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood: but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness” (Eph. v. 12). St. James the apostle says: “Resist the devil, and he will fly from you” (James iv. 7). St. Peter writes: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist ye, strong in faith” (I. Pet. v. 9).

In these struggles the Church comes to our assistance, and in her exorcisms supplies us with a weapon against the devil. A Christian may command the devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, to desist from evil. He need but sign himself with the sign of the cross and sprinkle holy water.

From the Fathers

“The so-called demons or evil spirits seek nothing more than to decoy men from God, the Creator of all things, and from Christ, His only begotten Son. Such persons as are not capable of lifting themselves above the earth are held fast to earthly things, and to things made by the hands of men, by these evil spirits. Such as are competent of rising to the contemplation of heavenly things, if they are not strong in mind, and if they do not live pure and free from passion, these the evil spirits will seek to make godless” (St. Justin Martyr). “Many Christians in the whole world, as well as in your city, were relieved from evil spirits by exorcisms in the name of Jesus Christ Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, though they had failed to find relief from other helpers, potions, and diabolical conjurations. They are cured by having the devils that possess them driven out and rendered powerless ” (The Same). ” The demons which assail men destroy their ill-disposed souls by many false pretences, in order that they may not be able to regain their way to heaven. Sometimes, too, by the tempest of their malice, they agitate our bodies, but by the power of the word of God they are weakened, and the afflicted person is restored to health ” (Tatian). “It is known to most of you that the demons confess themselves whenever, by the power of the word and the fervor of prayer, they are driven out of their victims’ bodies. As soon as they are conjured in the name of the one living God, they tremble involuntarily, and in the consciousness of suffering they either spring forth from the bodies at once or they vanish gradually, according as the faith of the victim or the grace of the exorcist has power and effect ” (Minucius Felix). “Many Christians drive devils out of possessed persons by ordinary prayers and simple means, just as any simple person can” (Origen). “Will the Christian hold vigils before the temples of the idols that he has renounced, or participate in eating where it was so displeasing to the Apostle? And will he take under his protection at night those whom he has exorcised during the day?” (Tertullian.)

EXAMPLES:

A Devil Asserts His Right.

The church historian Tertullian relates a remarkable case of a woman possessed by the devil, which we will repeat in his own words, and without any comment, leaving the reader to make the moral application. Tertullian says: “We have an instance of a woman who went to an improper public spectacle and came back possessed by a devil. When the unclean spirit was forced by exorcisms to explain how he dared to attack a believer, he answered, ‘I acted with authority and right, for I found her in a place that belongs to me.'”

The Confession of a Devil.

In the Life of St. Bernard we read: “A man brought his possessed wife to the saint. The devil continued to speak in a tone of mockery through the woman: ‘ This vegetarian and root-eater cannot drive me from my slut,’ as he termed the woman. He uttered also other derisive language in order to insult the man of God and degrade him before the people. But the saint knew the wily ways of the devil, and mocked the mocker. He ordered the evil spirit to bring the possessed woman into the church at Pavia, dedicated to Syrus, in order to give the glory of her restoration to that martyr. The saint said to the evil one, ‘Neither St. Syrus nor St. Bernard will expel you, but the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Then he began to pray, and besought God for help to overcome the devil. The evil spirit cried out, changing his tone and language: “Oh, how gladly would I flee from this slut! How gladly I would escape the pains I am suffering on account of these prayers! But I cannot! ‘When questioned why he could not get away, he replied, ‘Because it is not pleasing to the most high God.’ When St. Bernard inquired who this most high God might be, the spirit answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ St. Bernard continued: ‘Then you know the Lord Jesus? Where have you seen Him?’ The devil answered, ‘I have seen Him in His glory.’ ‘Then you were in glory?’ said the saint. ‘How did you come to leave it?’ The evil spirit said, ‘Many of us fell with Lucifer.’ These words he uttered in a doleful, lachrymose tone through the mouth of the woman, in the hearing of all who were present. ‘Would you be willing to return to that glory?’ inquired St. Bernard. To this question the devil replied, in an unusually loud tone of voice, ‘It is too late.’ These were his last words, and he would not answer any further questions. Then St. Bernard prayed once more, the evil spirit fled away, and the woman returned home perfectly restored.”

Obsession as a Punishment for Despising the Advice of a Bishop

Dancing-parties were always looked upon as leading to the commission of sin. About the year 600 the holy Bishop Eligius, like every other true pastor of souls, preached vehemently against this abuse. But his wise words were neglected, just as the advice of preachers and confessors today is often ignored by thoughtless Christians. One day, such a dancing festival being held near his own house, the holy man went out and besought the dancers to stop the scandal. But they laughed and went on with their amusement. Punishment soon came, for some thirty of their number became possessed of the devil, and acted so violently that they had to be put in irons. Their obsession had lasted a year when the holy bishop had them led into the church, and then, throwing himself on his knees before God, he begged that the afflicted sinners might be relieved. His prayers were heard, and the possessed persons went away entirely cured. Do not many persons in our day return from dancing-parties fully possessed by the devil, if not in body, at least in soul?

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 Day Lenten Series: Part Eight: The Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament

4 April 2017

Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament 04

The Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament
or History of Nicola Aubry
by Fr. Michael Muller, C.S.S.R., 1877

“It is indeed a remarkable fact that, as the devil made use of Luther, an apostate-monk, to abolish the Mass and deny the real presence, in like manner God made use of his arch-enemy, the devil, to prove the real presence. HE repeatedly forced him publicly to profess his firm belief in it, to confound the heretics for their disbelief, and acknowledge himself vanquished by our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. For this purpose God allowed a certain Mme. Nicola Aubry, an innocent person, to become possessed by Beelzebub and twenty-nine other evil spirits. The possession took place on the eighth of November, 1565, and lasted until the eighth of February, 1566.”–Fr. Michael Muller

To download the entire book, click on the link below. Alternatively, the book should be displayed below after a brief delay. If the book does not appear automatically, downloading the entire book, or opening in preview will be the best options.

Download the book, “The Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament
or History of Nicola Aubry”


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

2 April 2017

St. Antony by St. Athanasius

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

St. Athanasius composes the Life of Antony

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptation of St. Anthony

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

He retires by himself to a deserted castle for twenty years

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

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

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

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

A Sermon given by him in Egyptian translated into Greek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The number and power of our enemies the demons

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

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

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

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 01

Our Lord’s coming took away their power

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

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

Satan Before the Lord by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1750

 The devil received from God his power to afflict Job


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antony’s own experience of demons

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 02

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

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

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

Always to demand of the demon who he is

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

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

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

Antony at Alexandria in the persecution of Maximinus

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 04

Is attacked by phantoms of wild beasts and demons

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

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

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

Saves his company from perishing by thirst

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

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

His injunction to write down privately one’s faults

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

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

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

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

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


Sees the soul of Ammon carried to heaven in triumph

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

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

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

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 03

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

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

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

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

His abomination of heresy, especially Arianism

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

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

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

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

He foils philosophers

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

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

Deems the action of faith superior to sophistical arguments

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

The cross of Christ annulling oracles, enchantments, and magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constantine and his sons write to him as a father

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

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

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

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

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

The promise of Christ ensures the happening of miracles

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

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

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

He foretells the death of the persecuting Duke Balacius

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

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

His effect upon all classes of men

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

Antony’s last words to his monks

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

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 06

He expires with great joy

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

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

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

______________________________

Prayer to St. Antony, Abbot and Confessor

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

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be three times.

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

Prayer at the Approach of Temptation

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


Prayer when you have Committed Sin

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

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


14 Day Lenten Series: Part 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


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

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

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

How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘These frightful cries must have terrified you?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Possessed–‘I am immortal.’

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

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

The Cure– ‘In quis es?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cure–‘Do you perform mine?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint John Vianney

Saint John Vianney

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

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

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

Prayer to Obtain a Firm Purpose of Amendment

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

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

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

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


14 Day Lenten Series: Part 3 – “Temptation and the Devils Who Tempt”

30 March 2017
(Above Picture from upper left to right: Christ is tempted by Satan, Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Catherine besieged by demons. Botom row: Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas, Temptation of St. Jerome )

(Above Picture from upper left to right: Christ is tempted by Satan, Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert,
St. Catherine besieged by demons. Botom row: Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas, Temptation of St. Jerome )

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The Devils who Tempt Title

Lift up therefore thy face to heaven. Behold I, and all My saints with Me, who in this world have had a great conflict, do now rejoice, are now comforted, are now secure, are now at rest, and they shall for all eternity abide with Me in the kingdom of My Father.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Temptation is the action of the evil spirit upon our soul, in order to induce us to sin; he excites within us the concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life. Remember the temptation of Eve in paradise, and the threefold temptation of Our Lord in the desert. All the saints were greatly tempted: St. Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, was tempted to blaspheme; St. Francis of Sales was tempted to despair; St. Francis of Assisi was tormented by suggestions of impurity. Some saints experienced temptations against the faith; some temptations lasted for years. God tempteth no man (Jas. i. 13); He simply permits man to be tempted. It is the devil who hammers at you when you are tempted. “Our wrestling is against the spirits of wickedness in high places ” (Eph. vi. 12). On earth we are surrounded by robbers; many of us are overcome and wounded by them.

The conflict with the spirit of evil is a more critical struggle; it is carried on covertly, and against a more powerful adversary–one who spares no pains and knows no shame; who, when he is repulsed, returns all the more defiantly to the attack. For six thousand years he has tempted mankind; such long practice has made him perfect. He excites within us concupiscence of the flesh, or concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John ii. 16). In this threefold manner he tempted Our Lord. Many temptations come upon a man through no fault of his own (witness Job); some are the result of culpable negligence (witness Eve). The evil enemy as a rule attacks our weak point, our affection for creatures. Like a fowler, he attracts the birds to his net by offering them the food they like best. Physical infirmities give the devil more power over us; everyone knows how apt the sick are to be fretful, impatient and exacting. The devil sets to work craftily. He transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. xi. 14); that is, he deceives us by assuming an appearance of candor and piety. His artifices prove his weakness; he would not resort to them were he powerful enough to do without them.

Temptation is not in itself sinful, only acquiescence in the suggestions of the tempter is sin. Hence we ought not to be alarmed and uneasy when we feel the incentive to sin, but we should trust in God’s help, saying: “O Lord, make haste to help me! Jesus and Mary be my help!” To tremble in the hour of temptation betrays a want of confidence in the divine assistance; the devil will assail the fearful soul only the more fiercely. Unless we remain calm, we cannot possibly conquer. Those who lose their composure are like a bird caught in the net; the more it flutters and tries to escape, the more it becomes entangled in the meshes. Our Lord promises us: “In your patience you shall possess your souls” (Luke xxi. 19). The good Christian is like a soldier, who as a rule rejoices when war breaks out, in the prospect of gaining rich booty.

2. God allows us to be tempted out of mercy, for the good of our souls. As the schoolmaster examines his scholars in order to give them a good testimonial, so God deals with the souls of men; He allows us to be tried by temptation to give us the opportunity of manifesting our loyalty to Him, and acquiring a claim to the recompense He promises us. Thus He has only our welfare in view. The tempter however, the evil enemy, means no good to us; he aims at our ruin, as the history of Job testifies. Temptations may therefore be said to be a mark of the divine favor. The archangel Raphael said to Tobias: “Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee ” (Tob. xii. 13). God sends temptations to those whom He trusts; hence it is that those who fear Him are more sorely tempted than other men. The devil does not tempt those who are already in his power, but those whom he fears will elude his grasp or who may be injurious to him. St. Ephrem in a vision saw a large city, the inhabitants of which were very corrupt; only one devil was sitting on the wall, and he was half asleep. But in the desert he saw a whole swarm of devils busily engaged within the cell of a hermit. Thus the fact that a man is greatly tempted proves him to be a friend of God, and a stranger to, an enemy of the devil. Pirates do not attack an empty ship, but one which they know to be returning home with a valuable cargo. A king does not take up arms against loyal subjects, but against rebels who resist his authority. Temptations have besides the following advantages: They rouse us from a state of tepidity (they are what the spur is to the horse); they cleanse us from imperfections, as the stormy sea throws out foreign substances; they make us humble, by acquainting us with our frailty; they increase our strength, as a high wind makes the tree strike deeper root; they augment our charity, as the breeze makes the flame burn more fiercely; they afford us a means of expiating sin in this life; finally, they add to our glory hereafter, as the beauty of a jewel is enhanced by polishing. Thus we see that the tempter does us good service, and his temptations are steps in the ladder which leads to heaven. Therefore let him who is tempted rather pray for strength to resist the temptation than for its entire removal. We read that St. Paul thrice besought the Lord that the angel of Satan might depart from him, and asked in vain (2 Cor. xii. 8).

God permits every man to be tempted, but He never permits us to be tempted beyond our strength. Temptations must come to every man. No one can be crowned unless he has conquered; no one can conquer unless he fight, and no one can fight without an adversary. Hence temptations must come. For this reason God subjected the angels to a probation, and also our first parents. And subsequently to the Fall trials have been the lot of mankind (witness Job and Tobias). ” The life of man upon earth is a warfare ” (Job vii. 1). The Apostle compares the Christian to one who runs in a race (1 Cor. ix. 25). “Yet God will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear” (1 Cor. x. 13). The devil can only tempt man within the limit God sets him, as we learn from the history of Job. And when God permits violent temptations to assail us, He gives grace sufficient to enable us to withstand them (2 Cor. xii. 9). The stronger the temptation, the more abundant is the grace; the greater the danger, the more potent the divine assistance. No sinner can venture to say as his excuse that the temptation was too great for him to resist.

3. We ought to protect ourselves from temptation by assiduous work, by keeping our thoughts fixed upon God, and by continual self-conquest. In order to hold a fortress against the enemy two things are necessary: (1) Strong fortifications and well-guarded gates; (2) In case of attack valiant defense. In like manner we must protect our soul, to prevent the entrance of the evil enemy. Our fortifications will be: Continual occupation; this is the surest means of holding temptations aloof. Thieves do not break into a house where work is going on. Idleness is the parent of crime. We shall also find it easy to resist temptation, if we keep our mind fixed on God. A traveler journeying towards a fixed destination meets with few difficulties on his way, whereas the vagrant, wandering hither and thither, is sure to get in trouble. So it is with the Christian who makes God his final end, and one who has no aim in life. Hence Christ exhorts us: “Watch ye and pray, that you enter not into temptation ” (Matt. xxvi. 41). Wolves do not approach a watch fire and the devil leaves those alone who are on their guard. When Moses stood with arms uplifted to God, Israel was victorious; but when through weariness he let them fall, that moment the enemy prevailed. The majority of the sins good people commit come from forgetfulness of God’s presence; the habit of self-control also greatly helps us to conquer temptation. He who is accustomed to repress his impulses is like a soldier, well trained in the use of arms before he goes to battle. Practice in self-conquest strengthens the will. But attachment to creatures makes a man an easy prey to the devil; just as one who carries a heavy load cannot run away when robbers attack him.

4. When we are tempted we ought to betake ourselves immediately to prayer, or think of our last end, or of the evil consequences of sin. If the enemy dares to attack the fortress in spite of the ramparts raised about it, it behooves us to defend it manfully. When assailed we must instantly assume the defensive; for of all things it is most important to repulse the first onslaught. The greater our determination, the sooner will our adversary be discouraged. If we falter, he will force an entrance, and gain the mastery over our imagination. He acts like soldiers, who when they have taken the enemy’s guns, instantly turn them upon him. St. Jerome says that he who does not resist immediately is already half conquered. A conflagration can be extinguished at the outset, but not later on. A young tree is easily bent, not an old one. But since we can do nothing in our own strength, we must strive to obtain divine grace. Wherefore let him who is tempted have recourse to prayer; let him imitate the apostles when a storm arose on the sea of Genesareth; or the child who, when he sees a large dog coming, runs to his mother. He who neglects prayer in the time of temptation is like a general, who, when surrounded by the enemy, does not ask for reinforcements from his monarch. Adam fell into sin because when he was tempted he did not look to God for help. We should say a Hail Mary, or at least devoutly utter the holy names of Jesus and Mary. ” These holy names,” St. John Chrysostom declares, ” have an intrinsic power over the devil, and are a terror to hell.” At the name of Mary the devils tremble with fear; when she is invoked their power forsakes them as wax melts before the fire. Prayer is the weapon wherewith to ward off the assaults of our spiritual foe; it is more potent than all the efforts of the demons because by prayer we procure the assistance of God, and nothing can withstand His might. Prayer is exactly opposed to temptation for it enlightens the understanding and fortifies the will. The sign of the cross and holy water have also great efficacy against the spirit of evil. He flies from the cross as a dog flies at the sight of the whip. Holy water derives its efficacy from the prayers of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas and many other saints frequently made use of the sign of the cross with excellent results. St. Teresa on the other hand constantly employed holy water. It is well to sprinkle the sick and dying with holy water, and we should never omit to take it on entering a church.

A second means of conquering temptations is to turn our thoughts elsewhere, above all to think of the last things: of death, of the judgment, of eternal punishment. “Remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin” (Ecclus. vii. 40). Or we may consider the terrible consequences of sin. The Romans used to say: “Whatever thou doest, act wisely and think of the end.” In some cases, especially when temptations against the faith or against purity present themselves, the wiser course is to despise the temptation rather than grapple with it. Proud people, like the devil, are soonest got rid of by ignoring them altogether. If the passer-by takes no notice of the dog, he soon leaves off harking. If one keeps still the bees do not harm him, but if one drives them off, then they sting. Again, we may follow Our Lord’s example, and resolutely forbid the tempter to remain. Christ repulsed him with the words: “Begone, Satan” (Matt. iv. 10). St. James bids us: “Resist the devil and he will fly from you ” (James. iv. 7). One may also retort upon the tempter by quoting the word of God, as Our Lord did. St. Peter says: “Whom resist ye, strong in faith” (1 Pet. v. 9). Another means of overcoming temptation is by humbling ourselves before God. “To the humble He giveth grace” (1 Pet. v. 5). St. Augustine in the hour of temptation was accustomed to exclaim: “Thou knowest, O Lord, that I am but dust and my frailty is great.” When we are pressed hard by temptation, it is well to confess to the priest those sins of our past life of which we are most ashamed; this is a sure means of repelling the severest temptations. It is advisable to acquaint one’s confessor with all one’s temptations. Satan would have us keep silence concerning them, whereas it is God’s will that we should discover them to our superiors and spiritual guides, for if sinful thoughts are disclosed, the temptation is already half overcome. To open its griefs gives, moreover, great relief to the troubled heart.

Devils who Tempt

The Devils who Tempt 02All the angels whom God created were, at the beginning, in the grace of God and well pleasing to Him. But many of the angels sinned through pride, and were cast down by God into hell forever (2 Pet. ii. 4). When God created the angels, He created them all in His grace. But none can be crowned without a struggle (2 Tim. ii. 5), and God subjected the angels to trial, that so, according to the universal law of the universe, they might earn their reward of eternal happiness. In this trial a large number of the angels fell. They desired to be equal to God, and refused to submit their will to His (Cf. Is. xiv. 12-14). They did not abide in the truth (John viii. 44). Hence arose a great war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. The dragon was cast out and all his angels with him (Apoc. xii. 8, 9). They were all cast down to hell; not that they were confined to any local hell, for they are allowed to wander about the earth tempting men, but they carry their hell with them wherever they go, inasmuch as they everywhere suffer the torments of hell. Their leader was Satan, or Lucifer, for this was his name before he fell, and he is said to have been the highest of all the angels. The number of the fallen angels is less than that of those who remained faithful. The fall of the angels was the more terrible, because they had previously enjoyed such a high estate. The higher the place from which we fall, the worse the fall. At the Last Day the evil angels will be judged, and their wickedness and its punishment will be made known to the whole world (Jude 6; 2 Pet. ii. 4). To deny the existence of the evil angels is a grievous sin against faith.

The evil angels are our enemies; they envy us, seek to lead us to sin, and can, with God’s permission, injure us in our bodies, or in our worldly goods. The evil spirits are our enemies. With all their spite they can do nothing against God; so they vent their fury against men, who bear the image of God. Many theologians have asserted that the places of the angels who fell will be filled in heaven by men. “The knowledge that a creature of earth will occupy his place in heaven,” says St. Thomas, “causes the devil more pain than the flames of hell.” It was the devil who led our first parents to sin, and also Judas (John xiii. 27). The devil can also, so far as God permits, injure the bodies and the goods of men, as in the case of Job and the possessed in Our Lord’s time. The devil’s great object is to effect the ruin of the Church, which he knows is to be the means of destroying his power on earth (Matt. xvi. 18; Luke xxii. 31). He also knows that he and his angels will one day be judged by the saints (1 Cor. vi. 3). Many believe that as God assigns to each child at its birth a guardian angel, so the devil assigns to each a special devil to tempt it. Hence we must imitate the Jews when rebuilding the Temple (2 Esdr. iv. 17). We must work with one hand and with the other defend ourselves against the foe.

Yet the devil cannot do real harm to anyone who keeps the commandments of God and avoids all sin. The dog that is tied up cannot do any harm to those who keep out of range of his chain. The devil is like this dog. He can work on our memory and our imagination, but he has no power over our will or our understanding. He can persuade us, but he cannot compel us to evil. We must therefore energetically and promptly repel all bad thoughts that the devil puts into our heads. “Resist the devil,” says St. James (iv. 7), “and he will fly from you.” Our Lord dispatched the devil very promptly when He said “Begone, Satan!” It is a great thing to treat the devil and his temptations with great contempt, and also to turn our thoughts to other things, and not allow ourselves to be disturbed or troubled by his suggestions. He who allows himself to dwell on evil thoughts draws near to the dog who is chained, and is almost sure to be bitten by him. If the devil were allowed to use his full power against us we could not resist him, for when he fell he did not lose any of his natural powers, though he lost eternal happiness.

God gives the devil special power over some men:

1. God often allows men who are striving after high perfection, whom He especially favors, to be tried by the devil for long years in some extraordinary way, in order to cleanse them from their imperfections, and thoroughly humble them.

God allows His elect to be constantly besieged by the devil for years, and to endure temptations of extraordinary violence. Sometimes the devil appears to them in visible form; sometimes he assails their ears with hideous sounds; sometimes he is permitted to strike them and to throw them on the ground. God protects their life, but allows the devil to torment them with bodily pain and with sickness. They suffer the most terrible temptations against faith and against purity. The evil one has no power over their souls, but sometimes God allows him power over their bodies, so that they do and say the most extraordinary things in spite of themselves, in order that so they may be humbled in the eyes of men. Holy Job was assailed by the devil; and so was Our Lord in the desert; so were St. Anthony, St. Teresa, St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, the Cure d’Ars, and many other saints. These holy persons knew that God would never allow them to be tempted beyond their powers of resistance, and that God permitted these temptations for their greater sanctification. They were perfectly resigned to the will God, and at length drove away the devil by their fearless resistance to his assaults.

Thus when the devil threatened the life of St. Catharine of Sienna, she answered, “Do what you can; what is pleasing to God is pleasing to me.” St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi said to him, “You do not seem to know that you are preparing for me a glorious victory.” St. Anthony in the desert defied him, saying, “How feeble you are! I suppose that is why you are bringing such a crowd of devils to tempt me.” When those who are tempted meet the devil with the courage of a lion, he has no more power against them than a startled hare, but when they fear him, then he comes on with all the force and boldness of a lion. He can always be driven away by the means of grace provided by the Church; by the sign of the cross, by invoking the name of Jesus and Mary, by holy water, by earnest prayer, by the use of relics, etc. The more violent the assaults of the devil, the greater will be the protection afforded by almighty God to His servants; often during times of trial they have revelations from God, or saints and angels appear to them to console and strengthen them. Those who deny the reality of these occurrences, of which we so often read in the lives of the saints, show very little acquaintance with the spiritual life.

Yet it is the spirit of the Church to receive all accounts of these preternatural and supernatural occurrences with great caution, as there is always a danger of illusion or deceit. Nor need ordinary mortals fear such special attacks of the evil one; they are reserved for the special friends and favorites of God.

2. It also sometimes happens that God allows men of vicious lives, or those who sin against faith, to be punished or led astray by evil spirits. God sometimes permits that the bodies of men who have given themselves over to the indulgence of their passions be possessed by evil spirits, as a town is occupied by a general who has conquered it. This state is called possession. In the time of Our Lord there were many thus possessed, and who in consequence were dumb (Matt. ix. 32), blind (Matt. xii. 22), and exceeding fierce (Matt. viii. 28). God permitted that then there should be many such, that He might show the power of the Son of God and the feebleness of the devils in His presence, and that He might drive them forth from those whom they tormented.

At the Approach of Temptation

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

When you have Committed Sin

Alas! my God, another fault! Art thou not ready to withdraw thy graces from me? But, my infinitely good God ! I repent; and I offer thee in expiation of this fault, all that my Divine Saviour has done to expiate it; I offer thee the sorrow of His Sacred Heart.

O Jesus! come to my help and grant me grace not
to yield to this temptation. My Jesus, mercy.

(100 days indulgence each time)

Admonitions of the Saints

God gives the Devil power against us in two modes: either for punishment when we sin, or for glory when we are tested.–St. Cyprian of Carthage

Draw near to God, and Satan will flee from you–(St. Ephraem the Syrian)

The soul possesses freedom; and though the Devil can make suggestions, he doesn’t have the power to compel you against your will.–(St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

The Devil’s snare doesn’t catch you unless you are already nibbling on the Devil’s bait.–(St. Ambrose)

The strategy of our adversary can be compared to the tactics of a commander intent upon seizing and plundering a position he desires. The leader of an army will encamp, explore the fortifications and defenses of the fortress, and attack at the weakest point. In the same way, the adversary of our human nature examines from every side all our virtues, theological, cardinal, and moral. Wherever he discovers the defenses of eternal salvation to be the weakest and most lacking, there he attacks and tries to take us by storm.–(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

 

(To be continued in Part IV: The temptations of St. John Vianney and his conflict with the devil.)

Source:Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...