Posts Tagged Faith

Our Salvation and the Most Precious Blood

1 July 2017

Bloof of the LambMost Precious Blood Importance of Salvation Title

by Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R, 1921


My friends, our souls are immortal. They are spirits that will live forever. Material things are subject to decay and death, but spirits will never die. The universal longing for immortality was planted in the human heart by God. It could not arise from error or misconception. The spirituality of the soul is quite evident from our actions. The actions of inferior creatures are governed by fixed laws, which God has implanted in their very nature. When subjected to the same external conditions, a flower blooms to-day as it did at the dawn of creation, and birds build their nests in our age as their ancestors did in the garden of Eden. But we, with our intelligence and free will, can produce actions that transcend matter. We can form ideas, reason and deliberately exercise dominion over our human actions. And, if we thus produce the actions of spirits, the principle of life within us must be a spirit, though it is not revealed by the surgeon’s knife, nor by the chemist’s test-tube. This teaching of reason is emphasized by the Holy Ghost, who says: “God made man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him” (Wis. ii. 23). Now, as the cradle and the grave of every one is in the vestibule of eternity, we should seriously meditate on those words of our Saviour in which He asks: “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. xvi. 26). For we “were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of Jesus Christ” (i Peter i. 18, 19).


My Brethren, God said to the Israelites of old: “I place before thee this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil” (Deut. xxx. 15). He says the same to us to-day: “I place before you life and death.” We must enter eternity. Before us is the happiness of heaven, or the misery of hell. Every step we take, every breath we draw, brings us nearer the brink of eternity. Enter eternity we must. We cannot return to that nothingness from which God created us. We cannot stray so far away from Him that His all-seeing eye will not be upon us, or that His all-powerful hand cannot arrest us and bring us to judgment. We must go on in existence forever and forever, for “man shall go into the house of his eternity” (Eccles. xii. 5). We must now choose between an eternity in heaven and an eternity in hell. With death the time of our trial will come to an end. As we now sow, so shall we then reap. To encourage us to work for Heaven now, St. Paul said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (i Cor. ii. 9). God was even more explicit when He said to Abraham: “Fear not, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great” (Gen. xv. i). The fact is that we can find our happiness only in God. In creating us He has implanted in our hearts a longing for an endless possession of an infinite good. This He alone can satisfy. St. Augustine acknowledged this longing when he said: “Thou hast created me, O God, and my heart will never rest till it rest in Thee!” If we are interested in our own happiness we will, therefore, not content ourselves with loving God in a negative way by striving to avoid sin. We will ever give Him the first place in our mind’s esteem and in our heart’s affection. We will resolutely turn away from all inordinate concupiscence and avoid the voluntary occasions of sin. Knowing that we can do nothing without God’s help, we should daily renew our consecration to Him and make Him the source of our strength, by fidelity in the practice of our devotions.


Another reason, my dear Brethren, why the salvation of our souls should be the most important affair of our daily life is found in their objective value. We treasure an article in proportion to its intrinsic value. Even a child knows how to choose between a penny, a dime, and a dollar. Now, the fact is, our souls are the most valuable things in this world. This is evident from the history of creation. When God created the sun, the moon, and the earth, with its varied vegetable and animal life, He merely said: “Let them be,” but when He came to the creation of man, the Almighty considered the work of so great importance that the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity first held a consultation. Only then did they say: “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (Gen. i. 26). Again, in proportion to the value of an article we wish to send, we take precaution that it reaches its destination. A postal card may suffice for a message, but an article of importance we send by registered mail or entrust to the keeping of one of our own household. Now, this precaution God took when He created your immortal soul and sent it on the journey to eternity. He entrusted it to the guardianship of an angel, one of His own household. Though Providence watches over the grass in the fields, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the forest, He entrusted man alone to the special protection of a guardian angel.

In the second place, the value of the human soul is evident from the work of the Redemption. You and I might go to a sale and later on regret the rashness of our purchase. But Jesus Christ is the God of infinite wisdom. He could make no mistake nor do a foolish thing. In the parable of the merchant who went into a far-off country in search of pearls He teaches us the objective value of human souls. For He himself is that merchant, who left His starry throne in heaven and came into this country of misery and sin in search of the pearls of our immortal souls. And when He found them, defiled by original sin and steeped in the mire of ignorance and vice, He deliberately estimated their value as immortal images of His Father in Heaven. He then sold everything He had as man to buy those pearls. He sold His honor by allowing Himself to be mocked, reviled and spit upon. He sold His liberty by permitting Himself to be taken prisoner. He sold His virginal flesh by submitting to a cruel scourging and an ignominious crowning with thorns. He sold His very life by consenting to die the shameful death of the Cross. Remember that He said: “No man taketh my life from me: but I lay it down of myself” (John x. 18). The great St. Bernard, therefore, truly says: “O Christian soul, do you wish to know your true value? Then go in spirit to Calvary’s heights. Consider the life of the Saviour on earth, His prayers, His labors, His sacrifices. Yes, estimate this human life of the Son of God at its true value, and you will find the value at which He has estimated your own soul in particular, for He gave this life for your redemption.”

Finally, if we must have an object-lesson in our day to convince us of the importance of saving our immortal souls, we need but look at the Church which our Saviour has instituted to carry on His work on earth. Behold not only those costly temples that have been erected by the faith and sacrifice of the faithful to give “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will” (Luke ii. 14), but concentrate your attention rather on those living temples of the Most High, those other Christs, priests and religious, who have consecrated their lives to the salvation of mankind. With St. Peter they can say to the Master: “Behold we have left all things, and have followed Thee” (Mark x. 28). While other men and women were busy about many things, they thought of the one thing necessary. While others planned their own temporal happiness, they planned for the eternal happiness of all redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ. While many others spent their youth in pursuing the follies of life, they, like the Master, spent their time in prayer, in study, and in self-discipline, to prepare themselves for their sublime ministry. Thanks to the ministry of the priest, you were born to the spiritual life in holy Baptism, cleansed from your actual sins in the tribunal of Penance, and nourished with the living bread that came down from Heaven. He ministers to you the countless blessings of Jesus Christ during life, consoles you in the hour of death and hastens your entrance into Heaven. Behold that countless number of generous women that “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (Apoc. xiv. 4). As the holy women in the Gospel ministered to the Saviour, so these minister to the least of His brethren to-day. They teach our children to know, to love, and to serve God. They adopt our orphans and cherish them with maternal love. Like true angels of charity they minister to the sick and the dying, and they shelter even the aged and the outcast and serve them with filial love. We read in the life of the great St. Francis Xavier, Apostle of India, that he said, when he learned that a child he had baptized had died: “If I had no other recompense for all my labors, privations and prayers than the assurance that a single soul, redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, has been saved, I would consider my life well spent.”


Ah, my dearly beloved brethren, only when we consider the importance of salvation in the light of faith do our souls appear in their true perspective. In the balance of eternity the things that end with time dwindle into insignificance. God and the soul remain. God is eternal; the soul is His immortal image. We now have time, grace and opportunity to save our souls. If now we hearken to the voice of Christ we shall be happy for all eternity; if not, it were better for us if we had never been born. Judas was destined to save countless souls as an Apostle. By betraying his Master for a few pieces of silver he lost his own immortal soul. On the other hand, the good thief heard the Master’s voice only when he saw Him dying at his side. Others had witnessed stupendous miracles, he beheld the Redeemer lay down His life for the human race and humbly begged to be remembered. His faith was rewarded by the promise of Paradise. My friends, what are we prepared to do for our eternal happiness? If there be anyone among you, my hearers, who is not seriously looking toward that end or who has turned away from it, let him take to heart, the warning of St. Paul, who exhorts us that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil, ii. 12.) “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. vi. 2).

Prayer to Venerate With Solemn Worship
The Price of Our Salvation

Almighty, and everlasting God, who hast appointed thine only- begotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be reconciled unto us by His Blood, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our salvation, that the power thereof may here on earth keep us from all things hurtful, and the fruit of the same may gladden us for ever hereafter in heaven Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen

(An Indulgence of 5 Years –Roman Missal)

Through the Holy Spirit
He Offered Himself Without Blemish to God
To the One Who Love Us
Who Washed Our Sins Through His Blood
And Made Us Kings and Priests of God His Father
To Him Be Glory and Power. Amen

Feast of the Most Precious Blood
of Our Lord Jesus Christ
by Dom Gueranger, 1866

John the Baptist has pointed out the Lamb, Peter has firmly fixed His throne, Paul has prepared the Bride; this their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reason for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously on the cycle. The alliance being now secured, all three fall into shade; whilst the Bride herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in her hands the sacred cup of the nuptial-feast.

This gives the key of today’s solemnity; revealing how its illumining the heavens of the holy Liturgy, at this particular season, is replete with mystery. The Church, it is true, has already made known to the sons of the New Covenant, and in a much more solemn manner, the price of the Blood that redeemed them, its nutritive strength, and the adoring homage which is its due. Yes; on Good Friday, earth and heaven beheld all sin drowned in the saving stream, whose eternal flood-gates at last gave way, beneath the combined effort of man’s violence and of the love of the divine Heart. The festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary, and where the outpouring of the Precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of earth, lowly bowed in adoration before it. How is it, then, that Holy Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the stream of life ever gushing from the sacred fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means exhausted the mystery? The peace which the Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of its wave bearing back the sons of Adam from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed, and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the Sacred Table outspread before them, on the waters’ brink, and the Chalice brimful of inebriation; all this preparation and display would be objectless, all these splendours would be incomprehensible, if man were not brought to see therein the wooings of a love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes, at this moment, as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God (Exod. xxiv. 8; Heb. ix. 20); the dower stipulated upon by Eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which He is inviting all men, and whereof the consummation in our soul is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.

“Having therefore, Brethren, a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ,” says the Apostle, “a new and living way which He hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, let us draw near with a pure heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised. Let us consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works (Heb. x. 19-24). And may the God of peace who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Blood of the everlasting Testament, fit you in all goodness, that you may do His will: doing in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen!” (Ibid. xiii. 20, 21)

Nor must we omit to mention here, that this feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of Holy Church, in our own age. Pius IX. had been driven from Rome in 1848, by the triumphant revolution; but the following year, just about this very season, his power was re-established. Under the aegis of the Apostles on June 28th and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church, faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the Eternal City; and on July 2nd, Mary’s festival, the victory was completed. Not long after this, a twofold decree notified to the City and to the world the Pontiff’s gratitude and the way in which he intended to perpetuate, in the sacred Liturgy, the memory of these events. On August 10th, from Gaeta itself, the place of his exile in the evil day, Pius IX, before returning to re-assume the government of his States, addressing himself to the invisible Head of the Church, confined her in a special manner to His divine care, by the institution of this day’s Festival; reminding Him that it was for His Church that He vouchsafed to shed all His Precious Blood.

Then, when the Pontiff re-entered his Capital, turning to Mary, just as Pius V. and Pius VII. had done under other circumstances, he, the Vicar of Christ, solemnly attributed the honour of the recent victory to Her who is ever the “Help of Christians,” for on the Feast of Her Visitation it had been gained; and he now decreed that this said Feast of July 2nd should be raised from the rite of double-major to that of second class throughout the whole world. This was but a prelude to the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which the immortal Pontiff had already in project, whereby the crushing of the serpent’s head would be completed.


Pentecost: Happy Birthday Catholics Everywhere!

4 June 2017

Whit Sunday Pentecost

Veni, Creator Spiritus

1 Veni Creátor Spíritus,
Mentes tuórum vísita:
Implesupérna grátia
Quae tu creásti péctora.

2 Qui díceris Paráclitus,
Altísimi dónum Dei,
Fons vivus, ignis, cáritas,
Et spiritális únctio.

3 Tu septifórmis múnere,
Digitus paténae déxterae,
Tu rite promíssum patris,
Sermóne ditans gútera.

4 Accénde lumen sénsibus,
Infundeamórem córdibus,
Infírma nostri córporis
Virtúte fírmans pérpeti.

5 Hóstem repéllas lóngius,
Pacémque dones prótinus:
Ductóre sic te práevio,
Vitémus omne nóxium.

6 Per te sciámus da Patrem,
Noscámus atque Fílium
Teque utriúsque Spíritum
Credámus omni témpore.

7 Deo Patri sit glória,
Et Fílio, que a mórtuis
Surréxit, ac Paráclito,
In saeculórum sáecula.


O Come, Creator Spirit, visit our souls; and with Thy heavenly grace fill the hearts that were made by Thee.

Thou art called the Paraclete, the Gift of the Most High God, the Living Fountain, Fire, Love, and Spiritual Unction.

Thou art seven fold in Thy gifts; the Finger of the Father’s hand; the Father’s solemn Promise, that enrichest men with the gift of tongues.

Enkindle thy light in our minds; infuse thy love into our hearts; and strengthen the weaknesses of our flesh by Thine unfailing power.

Repel the enemy far from us, and delay not to give us peace; by Thou our guide, that we may shun all that could bring us harm.

Grant that, through Thee, we may know the Father and the Son; and that we may evermore confess Thee the Spirit of them both.

Glory be to God the Father, and to the Son Who rose from the dead, and to the Paraclete, for everlasting ages! Amen.

Whit Sunday, The Day of Pentecost

(by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)

Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of thy love.

The great day, which consummates the work that God had undertaken for the human race, has, at last, shone upon the world. The days of Pentecost, as St. Luke says, are accomplished (Acts. ii. 1). We have had seven weeks since the Pasch; and now comes the day that opens the mysterious number of Fifty. This day is the Sunday, already made holy by the Creation of the Light, and by the Resurrection of Jesus; it is about to receive its final consecration, and bring us the fullness of God (Eph. iii. 19).

In the Old and figurative Law, God foreshadowed the glory that was to belong, at a future period, to the Fiftieth Day. Israel had passed the waters of the Red Sea, thanks to the protecting power of his Paschal Lamb! Seven weeks were spent in the Desert, which was to lead to the Promised Land; and the very morrow of those seven weeks was the day, whereon was made the alliance between God and his people. The Pentecost (the Fiftieth Day) was honored by the promulgation of the ten commandments of the Divine Law; and every following year, the Israelites celebrated the great event by a solemn Festival. But their Pentecost was figurative, like their Pasch: there was to be a second Pentecost for all people, as there was to be a second Pasch for the Redemption of the whole world. The Pasch, with all its triumphant joys, belongs to the Son of God, the Conqueror of death: Pentecost belongs to the Holy Ghost, for it is the day whereon He began His mission into this world, which, henceforward, was to be under His Law.

But, how different are the two Pentecosts! The one, on the rugged rocks of Arabia, amidst thunder and lightning, promulgates a Law that is written on tablets of stone; the second is in Jerusalem, on which God’s anger has not as yet been manifested, because it still contains within its walls the first-fruits of that new people, over whom the Spirit of love is to reign. In this second Pentecost, the heavens are not overcast, nor is the roar of thunder heard; the hearts of men are not stricken with fear, as when God spake on Sinai; repentance and gratitude, these are the sentiments which are now uppermost. A divine fire burns within their souls, and will spread throughout the whole world. Our Lord Jesus had said: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled (St. Luke, xii. 49)? The hour for the fulfillment of this word is come: the Spirit of Love, the Holy Ghost, the eternal uncreated Flame, is about to descend from heaven, and realize the merciful design of our Redeemer.

Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims, who have flocked thither from every country of the Gentile world: they feel a strange mysterious expectation working in their souls. They are Jews, and are come from every foreign land where Israel has founded a Synagogue; they are come to keep the feasts of Pasch and Pentecost. Asia, Africa, and even Rome, have here their representatives. Amidst these Jews properly so called, are to be seen many Gentiles, who, from a desire to serve God more faithfully, have embraced the Mosaic law and observances; they are called Proselytes. This influx of strangers, who have come to Jerusalem out of a desire to observe the Law, gives the City a Babel-like appearance, for each nation has its own language. They are not, however, under the influence of pride and prejudice, as are the inhabitants of Judea; neither have they, like these latter, known and rejected the Messias, nor blasphemed His works whereby He gave testimony of His divine character. It may be that they took part with the other Jews in clamouring for Jesus’ death, but they were led to it by the Chief Priests and Magistrates of the Jerusalem which they reverenced as the holy City of God, and to which nothing but religious motives have brought them.

It is the hour of Tierce, the third hour of the day (Our nine o’clock. Acts, ii. 15), fixed from all eternity, for the accomplishment of a divine decree. It was at the hour of midnight, that the Father sent into this world, that He might take flesh in Mary’s womb, the Son eternally begotten of Himself: so now, at this hour of Tierce, the Father and Son, send upon the earth the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from them both. He is sent to form the Church, the Spouse and Kingdom of Christ; He is to assist and maintain her; He is to save and sanctify the souls of men; and this His Mission is to continue to the end of time.

Suddenly is heard, coming from heaven, the sound of a violent wind: it startles the people in the City, it fills the Cenacle with its mighty breath. A crowd is soon round the house that stands on Mount Sion; the hundred and twenty Disciples that are within the building, feel that mysterious emotion within them, of which their Master once said: The Spirit breatheth where He will, and thou hearest His voice (St. John, iii. 8). Like that strange invisible creature, which probes the very depth of the sea and makes the waves heave mountains high, this Breath from heaven will traverse the world from end to end, breaking down every barrier that would stay its course.

The holy assembly have been days in fervent expectation; the Divine Spirit gives them this warning of His coming, and they, in the passiveness of extatic longing, await his will. As to them that are outside the Cenacle, and have responded to the appeal thus given, let us, for the moment, forget them. A silent shower falls in the House; it is a shower of Fire, which, as holy Church says, “burns not, but enlightens, consumes not, but shines (Responsory for the Thursday within the Octave).” Flakes of fire, in the shape of tongues, rest on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples: it is the Holy Ghost taking possession of all and each. The Church is now, not only in Mary, but also in these hundred and twenty Disciples. All belong now to the Spirit that has descended upon them; His kingdom is begun, it is manifested, its conquests will be speedy and glorious.

But let us consider the symbol chosen to designate this divine change. He Who showed himself under the endearing form of a Dove, on the occasion of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, now appears under that of Fire. He is the Spirit of Love; and love is not only gentle and tender, it is, also, ardent as fire. Now, therefore, that the world is under the influence of the Holy Ghost, it must needs be on fire, and the fire shall not be checked. And why this form of Tongues? To show that the heavenly fire is to be spread by the word, by speech. These hundred and twenty Disciples need but to speak of the Son of God, made Man, and our Redeemer; of the Holy Ghost, Who renews our souls; of the heavenly Father, who loves and adopts us as His children; their word will find thousands to believe and welcome it. Those that receive it, shall all be united in one faith; they shall be called the Catholic Church, that is, universal, existing in all places and times. Jesus had said: Go, teach all nations (St. Matth. xxviii. 19)!–the Holy Ghost brings from heaven both the tongue that is to teach, and the fire, (the love of God and mankind,) which is to give warmth and efficacy to the teaching. This Tongue and Fire are now given to these first Disciples, who, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, will transmit them to others: so will it be to the end of time.

An obstacle, however, opposes the mission at the very onset. Since the confusion at Babel, there have been as many languages as countries; communication by word has been interrupted. How, then, is the word to become the instrument of the world’s conquest, and make one family out of all these nations, that cannot understand each other? Fear not: the Holy Spirit is all-powerful, and has provided for this difficulty. With the other gifts, wherewith He has enriched the hundred and twenty Disciples, He has given them that of understanding all languages, and of making themselves understood in every language. In a transport of holy enthusiasm, they attempt to speak the languages of all nations their tongue and their ear take in, not only without effort, but even with charm and joy, this plenitude of word and speech which is to re-unite mankind together. The Spirit of love has annulled the separation of Babel; men are once more made Brethren by the unity of language.

How beautiful art thou, dear Church of our God! Heretofore, the workings of the Holy Ghost have been limited; but now, He breatheth freely where He willeth; He brings thee forth to the eyes of men by this stupendous prodigy. Thou art the image of what this earth was, when all its inhabitants spoke the same language. The prodigy is not to cease with the day of Pentecost, nor with the Disciples who are its first receivers. When the Apostles have terminated their lives and preaching, the gift of tongues, at least in its miraculous form, will cease, because no longer needed: but thou, O Church of Christ! wilt continue to speak all languages, even to the end of time, for thou art to dwell in every clime. The one same Faith is to be expressed in the language of every country; and thus transformed, the miracle of Pentecost is to be kept up forever within thee, as one of thy characteristic marks.

The great St. Augustine alluded to this, when he spoke the following admirable words: “The whole body of Christ, the Church, now speaks in all tongues. Nay, I myself speak all tongues, for I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ now speaks all languages, then am I in all languages. Greek is mine, Syriac is mine, Hebrew is mine, and all are mine, for I am one with all the several nations that speak them (Enarratio in Psalmum cxlvii. vers. 14).” During the Ages of Faith, the Church, (which is the only source of all true progress,) succeeded in giving one common language to all the nations that were in union with her. For centuries, the Latin language was the bond of union between civilized countries. However distant these might be from one another, there was this link of connection between them; it was the medium of communication for political negotiations, for the spread of science, or for friendly epistolary correspondence. No one was a stranger, in any part of the West, or even beyond it, who could speak this language. The great heresy of the 16th century robbed us of this as of so many other blessings; it dismembered that Europe, which the Church had united, not only by her Faith, but by her language. But let us return to the Cenacle, and continue our contemplation of the wondrous workings of the Holy Spirit within this still closed sanctuary.

First of all, we look for Mary; for Her who now, more than ever, is full of grace. After those measureless gifts lavished upon her in her Immaculate Conception; after the treasures of holiness infused into her by the Incarnate Word during the nine months she bore Him in her womb; after the special graces granted her for acting and suffering in union with her Son, in the work of the world’s Redemption; after the favors wherewith this same Jesus loaded her when in the glory of His Resurrection; after all this, we should have thought that heaven had given all it could give to a mere creature, however sublime the destiny of that creature might be. But no. Here is a new mission opened for Mary. The Church is born; she is born of Mary. Mary has given birth to the Spouse of her Son; new duties fall upon the Mother of the Church. Jesus has ascended into heaven, leaving Mary upon the earth, that she may nurse the infant-Church. Oh! how lovely, and yet how dignified, is this infancy of our dear Church, cherished as she is, fed, and strengthened by Mary! But this second Eve, this true Mother of the living? must receive a fresh infusion of grace to fit her for this her new office: therefore it is, that She has the first claim to, and the richest portion of, the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Heretofore, He overshadowed her and made her Mother of the Son of God; now, He makes her the Mother of the Christian people. It is the verification of those words of the Royal Prophet: The stream (literally, the impetuosity) of the river maketh the City of God joyful: the Most High hath sanctified His own Tabernacle (Ps. xlv. 5). The Spirit of Love here fulfils the intention expressed by our Redeemer when dying on the Cross. Woman! said Jesus to her, behold thy Son! St. John was this son, and he represented all mankind. The Holy Ghost now infuses into Mary the plenitude of the grace needful for her maternal mission. From this day forward, she acts as Mother of the infant Church: and when, at length, the Church no longer needs her visible presence, this Mother quits the earth for heaven, where she is crowned Queen; but there, too, she exercises her glorious title and office of Mother of men. Let us contemplate this master-piece of Pentecost, and admire the new loveliness that beams in Mary from this second Maternity. She is inflamed by the fire of divine love, and this in a way not felt before. She is all devoted to the office put upon her, and for which she has been left on earth. The grace of the Apostolate is granted to her. She has received the tongue of fire; and although her voice is not to make itself heard in public preaching, yet will she speak to the Apostles, directing and consoling them in their labors. She will speak, too, to the Faithful, but with a force, sweetness, and persuasiveness, becoming one whom God has made the most exalted of His creatures. The primitive Christians, with such a training as this, will have a vigour and an energy enough to resist all the attacks of hell, and, like Stephen, who had often listened to her inspiring words, die Martyrs for the Faith.

Let us next look at the Apostolic College. The frequent instructions they have been receiving from their Lord, during the forty days after His Resurrection, have changed them into quite other men; but now that they have received the Holy Ghost, the change and conversion is complete. They are filled with the enthusiasm of faith; their souls are on fire with divine love; the conquest of the whole world, this is their ambition, and they know it is their mission. What their Master had told them, is fulfilled: they are endued with Power from on high (St. Luke, xxiv. 49) and are ready for the battle. Who would suppose that these are the men who crouched with fear, when their Jesus was in the hands of His enemies? Who would take these to be the men that doubted of His Resurrection? All that this beloved Master has taught them is now so clear to them! They see it all, they understand it all. The Holy Ghost has infused into them, and in a sublime degree, the gift of Faith; they are impatient to spread this Faith throughout the whole earth. Far from fearing, they even long to suffer persecution in the discharge of the office entrusted to them by Jesus that of preaching His name and His glory unto all nations.

Look at Peter. You easily recognize him by that majestic bearing, which, though sweetly tempered by deep humility, bespeaks his pre-eminent dignity. A few hours ago, it was the tranquil gravity of the Head of the Apostolic College; now, his whole face gleams with the flash of enthusiasm, for the Holy Ghost is now sovereign possessor of this Vicar of Christ, this Prince of the word, this master-teacher of truth. Near him are seated the other Apostles: Andrew, his elder brother, who now conceives that ardent passion for the Cross, which is to be his grand characteristic; John, whose meek and gentle eye now glistens with the fire of inspiration, betokening the Prophet of Patmos; James, the brother of John, and called, like him, the son of thunder (St. Mark, iii. 17), bears in his whole attitude the appearance of the future chivalrous conqueror of Iberia. The other James, known and loved under the name of Brother of Jesus, feels a fresh and deeper transport of joyousness as the power of the Spirit thrills through his being. Matthew is encircled with a glowing light, which points him out to us as the first writer of the New Testament. Thomas, whose faith was the fruit he took from Jesus’ Wounds, feels that faith now made perfect; it is generous, free, unreserved, worthy of the brave Apostle of the far East. In a word, all Twelve are a living hymn to the glory of the almighty Spirit, Whose power is thus magnificently evinced even at the onset of His reign.

The Disciples, too, are sharers, though in a less degree than the Apostles, of the divine gifts; they receive the same Spirit, the same sacred Fire, for they, too, are to go forth, conquer the world, and found Churches. The holy Women, also, who form part of the assembly of the Cenacle, have received the graces of this wondrous Descent of the Holy Ghost. It was love that emboldened them to stand near the Cross of Jesus, and be the first to visit His Sepulchre on Easter morning; this love is now redoubled. A tongue of fire has stood over each of them, and the time will come when they will speak, with fervid eloquence, of Jesus, to both Jews and Gentiles. The Synagogue will banish Magdalene and her Companions: the Gentiles of our western Europe will receive them, and the word of these holy exiles will produce a hundredfold of fruit.

Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews has collected round the mysterious Cenacle. Not only has the mighty wind excited their curiosity, but, moreover, that same divine Spirit, Who is working such wonders upon the holy assembly within, is impelling them to visit the House, wherein is the new-born Church of Christ. They clamour for the Apostles, and these are burning with zeal to begin their work: so, too, are all. At once, then, the crowd sees these men standing in its midst, and relating the prodigy that has been wrought by the God of Israel.

What is the surprise of this multitude, composed as it is of people of so many different nations, when these poor uneducated Galileans address them, each in the language of his own country? They have heard them speak before this, and they expected a repetition of the jargon now; when, lo! there is the correct accent and diction of every country, and with such eloquence! The symbol of unity is here shown in all its magnificence. Here is the Christian Church, and it is One, One though consisting of such varied elements: the walls of division, which divine justice had set up between nation and nation, are now removed. Here, also, are the heralds of the Faith of Christ: they are ready for their grand mission; they long to traverse the earth, and save it by the word of their preaching.

But, in the crowd, there are some who are shocked at witnessing this heavenly enthusiasm of the Apostles. These men, say they, are full of new wine! It is the language of rationalism, explaining away mystery by reason. These Galileans, these drunken men, are, however, to conquer the whole world to Christ, and give the Holy Ghost, with His inebriating unction, to all mankind. The holy Apostles feel that it is time to proclaim the new Pentecost; yes, this anniversary of the Old is a fitting day for the New to be declared. But, in this proclamation of the law of mercy and love, which is to supersede the law of justice and fear, who is to be the Moses? Our Emmanuel, before ascending into heaven, had selected one of the Twelve for the glorious office: it is Peter, the Rock on whom is built the Church. It is time for the Shepherd to show himself, and speak, for the Flock is now to be formed. Let us hearken to the Holy Ghost, Who is about to speak, by his chief organ, to this wondering and attentive multitude. The Apostle, though he speaks in one tongue, is understood by each of his audience, no matter what his country and language may be. The discourse is, of its own-self, a guarantee of the truth and divine origin of the new law.

The fisherman of Genesareth thus pours forth his wondrous eloquence: “Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and, with your ears, receive my words! For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken of by the Prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids, will I pour out, in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you also know. This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, by the hands of wicked men, have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell (the tomb), as it was impossible that He should be holden by it. For David saith concerning him: ‘My flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in the Tomb, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.’ Ye men, Brethren, let me freely speak to you of the Patriarch David: that he died and was buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. Whereas, therefore, he was a Prophet, he spoke of the Resurrection of Christ; for neither was He ‘left in the Tomb,’ neither did his ‘flesh’ see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses. Being exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear. Therefore, let all the House of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ this same Jesus, Whom you have crucified (Acts, ii. 14-36).”

Thus did the second Moses promulgate the New Law. How must not his hearers have welcomed the stupendous gift of this new Pentecost, which put them in possession of the divine realities foreshadowed by that figurative one of old! Here again, it was God revealing Himself to His creatures, and, as usual, by miracles. Peter alludes to the wonders wrought by Jesus, Who thus bore testimony of His being the Messias. He tells his audience, that the Holy Ghost has been sent from heaven, according to the promise made to this Jesus by his Father: they have proof enough of the great fact, in the gift of tongues of which themselves are witnesses.

The Holy Spirit makes His presence and influence to be felt in the hearts of these favored listeners. A few moments previous, and they were disciples of Sinai, who had come from distant lands to celebrate the by-gone Pasch and Pentecost; now they have faith, simple and full faith, in Christ. They repent the awful crime of His Death, of which they have been accomplices; they confess His Resurrection and Ascension; they beseech Peter and the rest of the Apostles to put them in the way of salvation: Men and Brethren! say they, what shall we do (Acts, ii. 37)? Better dispositions could not be: they desire to know their duty, and are determined to do it. Peter resumes his discourse, saying: “Do penance, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call (Ibid. 38, 39).”

The Jewish Pentecost pales at each word of the new Moses; the Christian Pentecost manifests itself with clearer light. The reign of the Holy Ghost is inaugurated in Jerusalem, and under the very shadow of that Temple which is doomed to destruction. Peter continued his instructions; but the sacred volume has left us only these few words, wherewith, probably, the Apostle made his final appeal to his hearers: “Save yourselves from this perverse generation (Acts. ii 40)!

Yes, these children of Israel had to make this sacrifice, or they never could have shared in the graces of the new Pentecost; they had to cut themselves off from their own people; they had to leave the Synagogue for the Church. There was a struggle in many a heart at that moment; but the Holy Spirit triumphed; three thousand declared themselves disciples of Christ, and received the mark of adoption in holy Baptism. Church of the living God! how lovely art thou in thy first reception of the divine Spirit! how admirable is thy early progress! Thy first abode was in the Immaculate Mary, the Virgin full of grace, the Mother of God; thy second victory gave thee the hundred and twenty Disciples of the Cenacle; and now, three thousand elect proclaim thee as their Mother, and, leaving the unhappy Jerusalem, will carry thy name and kingdom to their own countries. Tomorrow, Peter is to preach in the Temple, and five thousand men will enroll themselves as Disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Hail! then, dear creation of the Holy Ghost! Militant on earth; triumphant in heaven; beautiful, noble, immortal Church! all hail! And thou, bright Pentecost! day of our truest birth! how fair, how glorious, thou makest these first hours of Jesus’ Spouse on earth! The Divine Spirit thou givest us, has written, not upon stone, but upon our hearts, the Law that is to govern us. In thee, O Pentecost! we find realized the hopes foreshadowed in the mystery of the Epiphany; for though thyself art promulgated in Jerusalem, yet thy graces are to be extended to all that are afar off, that is, to us Gentiles. The Magi came from the East; we watched them as they visited the Crib of the Divine Babe, for we knew that we, too, were to have our season of grace. It was Thou, O Holy Spirit! that didst attract them to Bethlehem: and now, in this Pentecost of Thy power, Thou callest all men; the Star is changed into Tongues of Fire, and the face of the earth is to be renewed. Oh! grant that we may be ever faithful to the graces Thou offerest us, and carefully treasure the Gifts sent us, with Thee and through Thee, by the Father and the Son!

The mystery of Pentecost holds so important a place in the Christian dispensation, that we cannot be surprised at the Church’s ranking it, in her Liturgy, on an equality with her Paschal Solemnity. The Pasch is the redemption of man by the victory of Christ; Pentecost is the Holy Ghost taking possession of man redeemed. The Ascension is the intermediate mystery; it consummates the Pasch, by placing the Man-God, the Conqueror of death, and our Head, at the right hand of the Father; it prepares the mission of the Holy Ghost to our earth. This mission could not take place until Jesus had been glorified, as St. John tells us (St. John, vii. 39); and there are several reasons assigned for it by the Holy Fathers. It was necessary that the Son of God, Who, together with the Father, is the principle of the procession of the Holy Ghost in the divine essence, should also personally send this Divine Spirit upon the earth. The exterior mission of one of the Three Persons is but the sequel and manifestation of the mysterious and eternal production which is ever going on within the Divinity. Thus the Father is not sent either by the Son or by the Holy Ghost, because He does not proceed from them. The Son is sent to men by the Father, of Whom He is eternally begotten. The Holy Ghost is sent by the Father and the Son, because He proceeds from both. But, in order that the mission of the Holy Ghost might give greater glory to the Son, there was a congruity in its not taking place until such time as the Incarnate Word should be enthroned at the right hand of the Father. How immense the glory of Human Nature, that it was hypostatically united to the Person of the Son of God when this mission of the Holy Ghost was achieved! and that we can say, in strict truth, the Holy Ghost was sent by the Man-God!

This divine Mission was not to be given to the Third Person, until men were deprived of the visible presence of Jesus. As we have already said, the hearts of the Faithful were henceforward to follow their absent Redeemer by a purer and wholly spiritual love. Now, Who was to bring us this new love, if not He Who is the link of the eternal love of the Father and the Son? This Holy Spirit of love and union is called, in the Sacred Scriptures?, the “Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10);” and it is on the day of Pentecost that the Father and Son send us this ineffable Gift. Let us call to mind the words spoken by our Emmanuel to the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Sichar: If thou didst know the Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10)! He had not yet been given, He had not yet been manifested, otherwise than in a partial way. From this day forward, He inundates the whole earth with his Fire, He gives spiritual life to all, He makes His influence felt in every place. We know the Gift of God; so that we have but to open our hearts to receive Him, as did the three thousand who listened to St. Peter’s sermon.

Observe, too, the Season of the Year, in which the Holy Ghost comes to take possession of His earthly kingdom. Our Jesus, the Sun of Justice, arose in Bethlehem in the very depth of winter; humble and gradual was His ascent to the zenith of His glory. But the Spirit of the Father and the Son came in the Season that harmonizes with His own divine characteristic. He is a consuming Fire (Deut. iv. 24); He comes into the world when summer is in his pride, and sunshine decks our earth with loveliest flowers. Let us welcome the life-giving heat of the Holy Ghost, and earnestly beseech Him that it may ever abide within us. The Liturgical Year has brought us to the full possession of Truth by the Incarnate Word; let us carefully cherish the Love, which the Holy Ghost has now enkindled within our hearts.

The Christian Pentecost, prefigured by the ancient one of the Jews, is of the number of the Feasts that were instituted by the Apostles. As we have already remarked, it formerly shared with Easter the honor of the solemn administration of Baptism. Its Octave, like that of Easter, and for the same reason, ended with the Saturday following the Feast. The Catechumens received Baptism on the night between Saturday and Sunday. So that the Pentecost Solemnity began on the Vigil, for the Neophytes at once put on their white garments: on the eighth day, the Saturday, they laid them aside.

In the Middle-Ages, the Feast of Pentecost was called by the beautiful name of The Pasch of Roses, just as the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension was termed the Sunday of Roses. The colour and fragrance of this lovely flower were considered by our Catholic Forefathers as emblems of the Tongues of Fire, which rested on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples, and poured forth the sweet gifts of love and grace on the infant Church. The same idea suggested the red-coloured Vestments for the Liturgical Services during the whole Octave. In his Rational, (a work which abounds in most interesting information regarding the Medieeval Liturgical usages,) Durandus tells us, that in the 13th Century, a Dove was allowed to fly about in the Church, and flowers and lighted tow were thrown down from the roof, during the Mass on Whit Sunday; these were allusions to the two mysteries of Jesus’ Baptism, and of the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.

At Rome, the Station is in the Basilica of Saint Peter. It was but just, that special honour should be paid to the Prince of the Apostles, for it was on this day that his preaching won three thousand converts to the Church. Though the Station, and the Indulgences attached to it, are at Saint Peter’s, yet the Sovereign Pontiff and the sacred College of Cardinals solemnize today’s Service in the Lateran Basilica, which is the Mother Church of the City and the World.


Good Shepherd Sunday

30 April 2017

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

“I am the Good Shepherd.”–John 10.

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, and well does the title become Him. Many other names are given to our Lord in Holy Writ. He is called “God” and “Lord,” the “Father of the Family,” the “Promised Messiah,” the “Saviour and Redeemer of His People.” That He deserves them all, every well-instructed Christian readily understands; for He is, indeed, both God and Lord the Father of the family, which, as Messiah, He has redeemed and saved.

Good Shepherd MainOne name, however, is especially applicable to Him, that of the “Good Shepherd.” Christ calls Himself, emphatically, the Good Shepherd; and it is profitable for us to consider what this title of Christ means, as the elect are frequently typified by our Lord and His Prophets as sheep. The more clearly, then, we realize what the shepherd is to the sheep, the more ready and willing shall we be to follow Christ, our Good Shepherd, as His faithful sheep. Let its, therefore, today consider Christ as the Good Shepherd, and reflect on the qualities that entitle Him to this appellation.

Mary, thou who art next to Christ, the Good Shepherdess of His flock, thou zealous and first follower of the Lord, pray for us, that thy divine Son may acknowledge us as His sheep, and may be to us a Good Shepherd our Redeemer, our Lord! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!

Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd, and such indeed He is. To prove this, we need only think of the attributes which Christ mentions as belonging to a good shepherd. The first of these is: “To know his sheep.” Every good shepherd, of course, knows his sheep; but none know their flock so well as Christ knows His. Even the most careful shepherd is not always able to recognize a sheep that has strayed from the flock, so that he may lead it back to the fold. Christ, however, as Good Shepherd, knows every human soul which He redeemed, and knows it better than the soul knows itself He knows every one. He knows the thoughts, the words, the wishes, and the actions of each all his good and all his evil inclinations. He has a thorough and complete knowledge of each and every man.

A good shepherd calls his sheep, that they may remain near him, and not stray away from the flock and the good pasture; and the sheep know His voice. How perfectly Christ possesses all the qualifications of a Good Shepherd! An inner and an outer voice is continually calling us. He admonishes, instructs and guides us by His voice. We hear it in the depth of our heart, through the inspirations of His grace, and we hear it, too, in the admonitions and warnings of those whom He has installed as His vicars upon earth.

Happy are we it we listen to this voice, if we follow it, and avoid the dangers which threaten our salvation! Happy are we if, when tempted, we make use of all those means of evading the persecutions of Satan which Christ points out to us! The good shepherd loves his sheep, and goes before them. How admirably our Lord fullills this duty to us! “I am the way,” He cries to us, “follow Me.” “I am the Truth and the Life.”

The path of virtue and perfection lies before us, glorious in the light ot our Lord’s example an example of the perfect fulfillment of the great commandment of loving God above all things and one’s neighbor as one’s self. If we but follow the voice of Christ, it will guide us in the way of salvation, into the best, the most nourishing of meadows, which is His Holy Word–the instructions and the graces which He imparts to us through His Church. How refreshing, strengthening and delicious is this pasture! Nor is this all; but He does for us what no other shepherd does for his sheep, He sacrifices Himself for us, and nourishes its, soul and body, with His sacramental flesh and blood.

What a Good Shepherd! And, to accomplish this, what does He do for each one of us? He not only leads us by His almighty power and goodness towards heaven, but He also offers Himself up daily for us all in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “A good shepherd,” says our Lord, “protects his sheep.” And Christ promised His powerful protection to His Church, which is the flock of the Good Shepherd, when He said: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her;” nor shall they prevail against any of His children who make use of those weapons and means of salvation which He intrusted to them.

Yes, the most holy name of Jesus alone protects us triumphantly in every danger that threatens our salvation, for no one shall be conquered or lost who pronounces with confidence this holy Name, and with it calls for help. For, to protect and save us, Jesus gave His life, and the last drop of His blood. This Christ did for us His children, His sheep. Never has an earthly shepherd done a work like this; never could it have been done. Where was there ever found a shepherd who was wounded and slain for his sheep? Yet Christ was wounded and slain for us! “He has delivered Himself for me,” can every soul exclaim gratefully and lovingly with St. Paul? For me, He was born one cold winter’s night; for me, He fled into Egypt; for me, He remained working in Nazareth; for me, He bore all the toils of His apostolic life; for me, He was scorned, scourged and crucified! What a Good Shepherd!

A good shepherd guards his sheep; but still, at the last, every sheep becomes the prey of death. Christ, the Good Shepherd, calls to us: “He that believeth in Me, although he be dead, shall live.” Death, since Christ has redeemed us, is no longer to us what death is to a sheep, namely, destruction. No; through Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for us, we have a right to exclaim: “O death! where is thy sting?”

Oh, the goodness our Shepherd shows to us, especially if we consider the relationship in which this Good Shepherd stands to us! As Shepherd, He is at the same time our Father, who has made us children of God. He is our Brother, and a Brother who has taken to Himself our nature, and elevated it above the choirs of angels. He is our Friend, and what a Friend! He gave His life for us! He is our King, and how generous, how wise, how grand a Monarch, who will place us all on thrones! He is our Bridegroom, and what a union awaits us with Him in the joys of heaven!

Let us follow Him like good sheep, that He may lead us into the fields and meadows of Paradise! Amen!


“My sheep know Me, and hear My voice.”–John 10.

No one doubts that Christ has the right of calling Himself our Good Shepherd, since the qualities which He mentions, when speaking of the good shepherd, are strikingly apparent in Himself. But is it qually clear that we are His sheep? Do we bear the marks which Christ gives us to recognize His sheep? How many, alas! of those who, because they have been baptized and educated in the bosom of the Church, style themselves Catholics, deserve that reproach of Christ, which we find in the Apocalypse: “Thou hast the name of being alive, and thou art dead “(3 – 1).

Reflecting on the marks by which Christ distinguished His sheep, and listening to the secret revelations of our own consciences, let each one examine and see if, perhaps, this reproof of Christ be not directed to himself. In this manner will each one be able to determine whether he belongs or not to the fold of Christ, the Good Shepherd. What, then, are the marks which, according to the words of Christ, distinguish the true sheep of the fold? I will point them out to you today.

O Mary, devotion to thee is one of the signs by which the true sheep of Christ’s fold are recognized, pray for us, that we may receive the grace not only to be called Catholics, but also to live a Catholic life! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!

In the words: “My sheep know Me,” we have the first sign by which Christ describes His sheep. In how few of the many who call themselves children of the Catholic Church can we trace this sign in its full and comprehensive significance? There are multitudes who believe in Jesus Christ, and outwardly fulfill their duties as children of the Church, and yet are strangers to that intimate knowledge which their close relationship with Christ, as souls redeemed by Him, naturally supposes. How many, who, though baptized, live like children of the world, without further instruction, and know Jesus only in name!

They know Him as the Redeemer and Saviour of mankind, but are grossly ignorant of the beneficent and manifold relationship in which He stands to them as the Dispenser of the innumerable blessings of redemption. How many fail to grasp the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Father!” Ah, how loving a Father! It is He that restored to us the glorious birthright of the children of God, which we had lost in the fall of Adam and by our own personal sins, thus becoming children of Satan instead of children of God.

How many understand not the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Lord and King!” and fail to appreciate the happiness of being His subjects, soldiers of the Church militant, fighting valiantly under her standard, and strong in the hope of reigning one day with Christ, the “King of kings!” How many fathom not the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Brother!” Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Christ has become in very deed our Brother! How many consider not the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Friend!” How great a Friend has He not been to us! He has shed the last drop of His blood for us; and we know, according to His own rule, that “greater love no man hath, than that a man lay down his life for his friends!” Finally, as a reward of His friendship, He invites us to share with Him the joys of heaven. How many know not the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Light!” Yet He is “the true Light that enlighteneth every man who corneth into this world.” How many ponder not the meaning of the words: “Jesus our Counsel, our Example, our Guide!” Still what a depth of instruction they contain! He is, indeed, our Counsel, our Example, our Guide; and He Himself calls upon us: “Follow Me.”

Lastly, how many understand not the meaning of the word: “Jesus our Solace, in all the woes and trials of life; Jesus our Hope; our Strength;–Jesus the Joy of our heart;–our All!” This intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ we secure by prayer, and, especially, by devotion to the blessed Sacrament of the altar. That there is no more effectual means of acquiring a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ than frequent communion with Him present upon our altar, is the testimony of all who have reached that sublime union of which St. Paul speaks, when commending the hidden life through Christ in God.

Therefore, if we consider the lives of the majority of those who call themselves Catholics, how few shall we find among them who can say in the full acceptation of the words: I know Jesus! If we possess this personal knowledge of God, then our lives will be stamped with those other characteristics, which Christ enumerates, when He speaks of the sheep whose Shepherd He is.

He says: “They hear My voice, and follow Me.” Doubtless, if our knowledge of Christ be real, it will be inseparable from a desire to please Him, and, hence, to know and fulfill His will. Is that your case?–“They hear My voice, and follow Me.” How certain, how characteristic a sign of the true sheep, the true follower of Christ!

In order to understand the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and to hear and follow the voice of Jesus, we must not only be thoroughly in earnest and filled with a great longing to do His holy will, but we must also be animated with that loving confidence, which is so well symbolized by the sheep following the voice of the shepherd and crowding around him. They hear My voice, and follow Me with true self-abnegation, perseverance and love of the cross, upon the path which I walk before them.

The true sheep of the flock of Christ flee all the occasions of sin, and dread losing sight of Him. They are watchful, and seek the protection of their Shepherd at the slightest approach of danger. The real sheep of the fold of Christ understand how to use those means which He bequeathed to His Church, in order to heal the wounds her children may have received from the wolves of the spiritual life, and they know, moreover, how to guard themselves against new attacks.

As this trait of being with Christ is distinctive of His sheep, so, too, is that abhorrence they experience for those hirelings who seek to corrupt them, and for the wolves of sinful inclinations, which threaten to tear them to pieces. Christ as the Good Shepherd protects them by His gracious providence, and they follow Him as predestined souls towards the pasture-lands of eternal life ! Amen !

14 Day Lenten Series: Part 14: Does Satan Exist?

11 April 2017

Does Satan Exist

by Fr. Michael Muller, 1881 A.D.

There are many who absurdly enough deny the personal existence of Satan. They assert, with an air of profound wisdom, that the word “devil,” “Satan,” is simply the imaginary personification of all the evil influences to which we are subject in this life. But what can be more absurd than to deny what all nations, without exception, have always believed, and still believe–the personal existence of the devil. What can be more impious than to deny what we find asserted in plain words, on almost every page of Holy Writ–the personal existence of the devil.

Holy Scripture tells us that Satan, in the form of a serpent, seduced Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit; it declares that all the gods’ of the Gentiles are devils; it tells us that the devil is the prince of this world; that he goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; it bids us resist the devil, and he will flee from us. St. Paul speaks of the prince and the powers of the air that besiege us, and against whom we must put on the whole armor of God, and do valiant battle.

Moreover, Holy Scripture speaks of demoniacs, or persons possessed with devils; and among the marvellous works ascribed to Jesus Christ, is that of expelling demons, or casting out devils.

The Catholic Church plainly and unequivocally recognizes the existence of Satan, as may be gathered from the prayers and ceremonies of Baptism, as well as from the significance of the Sacrament itself; and not only his existence, but his power over the natural man, and even material objects. The Catholic Church has also her exorcists, and her precise forms and prayers for exorcising evil spirits.

Besides, every Christian knows that the Son of God became man and died upon the cross for no other purpose than to destroy the works of the devil, and to redeem mankind from his power.

Now, to assert that there is no devil is to assert that Jesus Christ suffered so much from no motive, that His mission had no object; it is to deny the work of Redemption. What can be more blasphemous than such an assertion?

Again, what can be more contrary to sound reason than to deny the existence of the devil? They who deny the personal existence of the devil must either deny the existence of evil altogether, which is absurd, or they must admit the existence of an unbeginning–eternal principle of evil–which is a palpable blasphemy.

God alone has existed from all eternity. By His word He has created heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible. God, in His infinite wisdom, created beings gifted with intelligence and free will, and consequently, capable of acting wrong as well as right. All the works of God, when they came forth from His hands were good, very good. It was, then, by the abuse of their intelligence and free-will, it was by refusing to observe the just laws of God, that His creatures became wicked, and that evil was introduced into the world.

Satan and his hosts were created by God as bright and beautiful angels; but of their own free will, they rebelled against God. “Behold they that serve God are not steadfast, and in His angels he found wickedness.” (Job, iv., 18.) Considered in their nature the angels could sin just as well as man, for the gift of impeccability is not a gift of nature, but of grace alone.

It was natural for all the angels to love and glorify God, the only source of their eternal glory; but, in the rebel angels, soon after their creation, that divine love was extinguished by an abuse of free-will. They sinned in wishing through pride and envy, their own particular good, in opposition to the will of their Sovereign Creator. By these two sins, the chief of the rebel angels seduced vast multitudes of angels. “From pride all perdition took its beginning.” (Tob. iv., 14.) “Pride is the source of all sins.” (Ecclus. x., 15.) “Satan is the king of all the children of pride.” (Job. xli., 25.) “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer? Thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High.” (Isai. xiv., 12, 13.)

What the bad angels wished to obtain by their rebellion was to be like unto God; they wished to be equal to Him in splendor and glory, but not in power, for they knew it was impossible for any created being to be equal to God in His infinite power. Their transgression consisted in wishing to be like unto God without merit or supernatural grace. Their pride and envy confounded them, and God abandoned them in that state of perversity.

They also aspired after pre-eminence and domination over all in the new creation, which was an additional crime to their blasphemous culpability, by which they forfeited eternal glory. “Thou (Lucifer) wast the seal of resemblance, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. * * * Thou wast in all the delight of God’s Paradise ; thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation, until iniquity was found in thee. Thou hast defiled the sanctuaries of heaven by the multitude of thy iniquities; thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy beauty. Therefore I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee to devour thee. * * *” (Ezech. xxviii.)

The prevarication of the highest angel in the celestial hierarchy was the cause of the defection of all the rest. The pride of Lucifer, prince of the cherubim, and chief of the rebel angels, was the first provocation to the disobedience of all the others. It cannot be supposed that he constrained them, but seduced them to rebel; for it is said in the Gospel: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt, xxv., 41.) “And the dragon’s tail drew away the third part of the stars of heaven.” (Apoc. xii.,4.)

Now, the order of divine justice requires that whoever commits a crime at the instigation of another, must undergo the same penalty as the author. St. Peter says: “Man becomes the slave of him by whom he is overcome.”

The rebel angels were not long in deliberating as to whether they should follow Lucifer, nor was a long discourse necessary to excite them to rebellion. Angels are as quick as lightning in all their operations. They instantaneously, though freely, consented to the sentiments which were manifested in their spiritual language by their powerful chief. The moment they rebelled, they were changed into hideous demons, and cast out of heaven. They are so obstinate in perversity that they can never be free from their diabolical propensities. Their crime has fixed them for ever in wickedness, as death fixes man irrevocably either in glory or in damnation.

An angel conceives all things instantaneously, by means of his spiritual faculties, as man does conceive the first principles of right and wrong by means of his intellectual faculties. Man is changeable and inconstant in his choice; but the angel fixes his choice irrevocably by the first act of his will. That act, in the choice of divine love and obedience, was the cause of eternal beatitude for the faithful angels, and that instantaneous free act of the rebel angels, was the cause of their everlasting punishment and damnation. As the glorification of the good angels increases more and more in heaven, so the torments of the wicked angels increase proportionately in hell. “And there was a great battle in heaven; Michael and his angels fought with the Dragon and his angels; and that great dragon, that old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world, was cast out of heaven with all his angels. And they were thrown down with the beast and false prophets, into a pool of fire and brimstone, where they shall be tormented day and night during ages and ages.” (Apoc. xii.)

The rebel angels have two places of torture: hell, where they shall remain eternally, to undergo the punishment of their crime; and the dark, gloomy air, where they shall be till the day of general judgment.

As God makes use of the good angels to inspire us with acts of virtue and keep us from vice, so he permits the devil to lay snares for us and entice us to sin. St. Paul tells us that numbers of those wicked spirits surround us on all sides. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of darkness, and the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Eph. vi., 12.) Hence it is that they are called the Princes of darkness, of the air, and of the world. They differ in order; for though they never enjoyed the order of heavenly glory, and forfeited, by their disobedience, the order of grace and the supernatural gifts with which they were endowed at their creation, yet they have preserved the order of their nature, so that those whose natural intellectual faculties were greater are higher in rank and greater in power. Hence they form a kind of hierarchy. Their prince and chief is sometimes called Lucifer, who was the prince of the cherubim; sometimes Belial (that is, the Rebel), also Satan (i. e., the Enemy), or Beelzebub, from the chief idol of the Accaronites.

The rage, malice, and envy of the devils against man, and their enmity to all good, are implacable. Satan, the chief of the fallen spirits, makes his attacks upon men by putting on all shapes: sometimes by craft, or by snares and stratagems, as the old serpent; sometimes by disguises, transforming himself into an angel of light, and assuming the air of piety; sometimes by open assaults and violence, as the roaring lion.

He studies and observes every one’s character, natural dispositions, inclinations, virtues and vices, to find out, and make his attacks on every one’s weak points.

The natural subtlety and strength of Satan are exceedingly great, as appears from the perfection of his being, which is purely spiritual, and from examples, when God has suffered him to exert his power in a more remarkable manner. Holy Scripture tells us that the devils hurried the swine into the lake; that they killed the first seven husbands of Sara; that they have slain armies in one night; have often disturbed nature, and stirred up tempests, which struck whole provinces with terror, and ravaged the whole world.

What did Satan not do against holy Job? He killed his cattle and his children. He covered Job himself with ulcers from head to foot. And, in our own day, what did he not do against the saintly Cure of Ars, in France, for the space of thirty years?

Moreover, by clear proofs, it is also manifest that Satan can, by divine permission, enter our bodies, compel, as it were, the human being to stand aside, and use our organs himself, and do whatever he pleases with them. But he cannot annihilate the human being, or take from the soul its free-will. It is always in the power of the possessed to resist, morally and effectually, the evil intentions of the devil. The possessed person retains his own consciousness, his own intellectual and moral faculties unimpaired, and he never confounds himself with the spirit that possesses him. He always retains the power of internal protest and struggle. Whenever this power is exercised, and there is clearly a struggle, there is no reason to believe that he is responsible for the crimes which the body, through the possession of the devil, is made to commit. But unfortunately it very often happens that this power to protest is not exercised, and the possessed person yields his moral assent to the crimes committed by the demon that possesses him.

Such diabolical possessions have been more or less frequent in different times and places. This is confirmed by the testimony and experience of all ages, and of all nations, even to the remotest Indies. Such facts both the Old and New Testaments evince.

However, with regard to the effects of magic and possession of devils, the Catholic Church says, in her Ritual, that such extraordinary effects are not to be easily supposed. That superstition, credulity, and imposture are to be guarded against, and that natural distempers, such as certain species of madness, extraordinary palsies, epilepsies, or the like, are not to be construed into effects of enchantments or possessions, which are not to be presumed upon ridiculous compacts and signs, nor upon vulgar prejudices and notions of the manner in which such things are done, but must be made apparent by circumstances.

The criteria of demoniac invasion or possession, as laid down by the Catholic Church for the guidance of exorcists, are the following:–

1. Understanding of unknown languages.
2. Power of speaking unknown or foreign languages.
3. Knowledge of things passing in distant places.
4. Exhibition of superior physical strength.
5. Suspension of the body in the air during a considerable time.

Although Satan, with implacable envy and malice, studies to disturb our temporal happiness and to compass our eternal ruin both by stratagems and open assaults, yet it is certain that he can tempt and assail us only to a certain degree; he can go only the length of his chain, that is, as far as God permits him. This is evident from the history of Job. Before Satan was bound, or his power curbed by the triumph of Christ over him, and the spreading of the happy light and influence of the Gospel throughout the world, the empire which Satan exercised on earth was much greater than since that time. However, there can be no doubt that, in our own days, the power and influence of Satan over an immense number of men is great, very great;, and it will increase in proportion as they approach heathenism and infidelity, and leave the true, the Catholic religion.

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 Six:The Life of St. Antony of the Desert by St. Athanasius

2 April 2017

St. Antony by St. Athanasius

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

St. Athanasius composes the Life of Antony

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptation of St. Anthony

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

He retires by himself to a deserted castle for twenty years

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

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

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

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

A Sermon given by him in Egyptian translated into Greek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The number and power of our enemies the demons

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

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

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

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

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

Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius 01

Our Lord’s coming took away their power

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

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

Satan Before the Lord by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1750

 The devil received from God his power to afflict Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antony’s own experience of demons

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

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

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

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

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

Always to demand of the demon who he is

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

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

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

Antony at Alexandria in the persecution of Maximinus

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

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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.

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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 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

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

11 February 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes


Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors, and already many have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and physical. We come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain for us, O loving Mother, the granting of our request.

(state your request)

Through gratitude for your favors, we will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that we may one day share your glory.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your divine son while upon earth. You have the same influence now in Heaven. Pray for us; obtain for us from your Divine Son our special requests if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.


The Christmas Birds via @AncientSoul

24 December 2016


was a particularly cold and blustery Christmas Eve this year ….. Carol
bundled up the children for Midnight Mass, and tried one last time to
encourage Jim to join them. Now, Jim was a kindly man; a good father a
loving husband … in fact, there was nothing anyone could say at all
against this upstanding civic leader!

Jim’s only
‘deficit’ (if you could call it that), was that
he chose not to go to Church ……………………….. ever.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God.. it was simply that he felt ‘uncomfortable’
with structured religious activities of any sort, hence he avoided
them as much as possible.
At any rate, Carol and the children had left and Jim settled down in front
of a nice roaring fire with his slippers, the newspaper and a cup of his
favorite raspberry hot chocolate. This was HIS time to relax, with most
of the hustle bustle of the season behind him now, he relished the thought
to be alone and kick back!

He placed
his “reading” glasses auspiciously at the end of his nose and began to
peruse the newspaper. “THUMP”… “THUMP” he heard against the front of
the house. “hmmmmm, must be some kids having one last snowball battle
before Mass” he thought to himself with a grin, remembering his own

Again he
heard: “THUMP”…”THUMP”…. “THUMP”, but this time against the glass
of the new bow window just installed this past fall! He figured he’d better
stick his head out the door and have a chat with the kids before things
got out of hand. When he turned on the front light and looked out the
door there was noone in sight at all. Convinced that he needed MORE
rest and relaxation than he thought, he returned to his paper, his fire
and his (now) luke-warm raspberry hot chocolate.

No sooner
did he sit down, then once again, the “THUMPING” started; but this time
it was harder and more frequent. Determined to confront whoever was playing
games with him and robbing him of his solitude, he bundled himself up,
went out the back door and around the house to ‘catch ’em in the act’!!

As he made
his way around the house in the blustering wind, and snow storm, he marveled
as he recalled how, in his youth, he was impervious to such trivialities!

He rounded
the west corner of the house and could see plainly the front landing and
the bow window that he was attempting to protect. His plan of attack worked!
There were the villains right there in plain sight!! Much to his surprise
however, it was not a snowball fight at all … it was a group of cold,
frantic birds.

he heard, was their feeble attempt to find some shelter from the biting
storm that raged wildly. Jim’s heart melted at this pitiful sight!! He
ran to the barn, and put on the light, hoping that they would notice and
take shelter in there for the night ….. but HOW to get them IN
there? He ran in the house, grabbed a loaf of bread and made a trail of
crumbs from the front door to the barn, but – to no avail. He turned off
the front door light and paraded back and forth from there to the barn
with a flashlight, hoping the birds would follow him, but his strange
presence only served to frighten them and add to their misfortune.

in his frustration, and knowing that if he didn’t do SOMETHING to save
, they would surely DIE … he got a broom and attempted to SHOO
them into the barn. Unfortunately, this caused more havoc than the other
attempts, and left Jim standing there feeling completely helpless.

As he was
mulling over his feeble attempts and trying to find a way to make the
birds UNDERSTAND that he was trying to help them and bring them
to safety, he realized that whatever he did only served to frighten them.
He thought: “If I could only just become ONE OF THEM, then they
wouldn’t be afraid of me
, and I could make them understand that
I was only trying to ……… trying to ………. “

At that
very moment the Church bells rang, Jim realized that this was exactly
what Jesus had done for humankind. He became ONE OF US so
He could SHOW US THE WAY to salvation (“safety”). Jim fell to knees
in adoration of that Little Babe in the Manger and thanked God for the
Precious Gift of His SON on the first Christmas, so very
long ago!!

(He also started going to Church with the family
on a regular basis! )

not the
end …. it’s just ……….. the BEGINNING :-)

May the New Year be especially kind to US ALL!

Father, may Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Please
bless and protect our land, those we hold dear, those persecuted,
especially those suffering for You in the Middle East and other non
Christian nations. Comfort the afflicted and those that feel unloved
and neglected, particularly the lonely and abandoned young and old
ones. Abba, please give to the dying this day, a contrite heart and
the grace to at least beg Your Mercy with their last conscious thought
or dying breath. May all those who can’t speak for themselves, particularly
the unborn, have caregivers that love You and keep Your commandments,
that Your Perfect Will be done in all things. May jobs and homes be
found for those that are needy. May families grow in unity and love
rather than distance and hatred. More than anything, please give us
a heart and the grace to detach from the things that keep us from
closer union with You so that we may strive to focus on You and heaven
as we wait in joyful hope for You to return to make all things right.

Sweetest and most Glorious
Triune God, read our hearts and know that we adore you. Increase our
Faith, show us how to love You more perfectly, know You better and
trust and serve You always in all things. Keep us always in Your Perfect
Will and protect us from the evil ones that seek to lead us to perdition.
All good things come from You oh God Most High. We give You thanks
for everything we have ever received since the moment of our conception;
particularly our parents, family members, friends and those we hold
dear along with all placed in our path along the way, for our precious
Faith, life, love, hope and all that we can become for each other
by Your grace.

need to beg the Holy Spirit to engulf the minds and hearts of all
mankind to be open to the Truth, Love,
Mercy and Goodness of Christ our Lord, Savior and Triune God!
When you pray … do not forget your friends and loved ones; both
here on earth and those that have passed on.
May the Good Lord shower His most Choice Blessings on those that love
Him and
open the hearts and minds of those that are


blind and deaf.
May He have mercy on us all!

Keep the wicks
trimmed and the oil lamps full!

for Christmas or anytime!!

If you read just one thing today, read this…

29 June 2015

Mr.Jack Keithley is a colleague and more importantly, a friend. He has written an essay concerning the Church and our society today. It is not a feel good piece to help us lick our wounds. It is Truth, unvarnished. If I could write like Jack, this would be exactly what I would write.

The Church

Posted by Jack Keithley at his blog,
The Glad Night
crubling churchThe credibility of the Catholic Church in America is in crisis. This is nothing new. In the mid-90s, flocks of Catholics left for the emotionally appealing alternative of evangelical Christianity. It suited them, with the direct sermons and uplifting music and videos. The Church here had little to entice them back: architecture was reduced to the simplified and the homilies were, largely, pointless. Still, some of the devout clung on, hoping for something in addition to the Eucharist to feed them.

Then came the fallout of 2002, when the devout were forced to deal with the horrors of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. It seemed impossible to believe at first, until the number of cases grew and the number of dioceses involved expanded. One wondered how he could remain in the fold. Hypocrisy seemed to be the norm rather than the exception. Many felt betrayed, others beleaguered; a great number stopped attending altogether. The lawyers fed the bishops with lines to appease the courts and insurance companies, but no lines were provided to appease the remaining faithful.

for the rest of this essay, please click HERE

Jack Keithley is an educator in St Louis. He is currently teaching a course, “The Apologetics of Flannery O’Connor” for the Paul VI Institute of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

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