Mary stands ready to crush the head of Satan. Her heel is raised to strike. She awaits our participation in this act of crushing the serpent’s head because it is part of God’s plan that we unite with Her in this victory over evil. We are living the time of the great spiritual battle on earth.
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American Society or the wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it is a trial which the church must take up, and face courageously.” (Pope John Paul II during a visit to the United States in 1979.)
St. Joseph is the Terror of Demons because of his desire and ability to protect the Blessed Mother of God and the Christ-child from all of their enemies. One might then ask, “Who are their enemies?” We know, from Genesis 3:15, that the Church has always held that the Woman who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and her seed would be at enmity with the enemy of mankind, the serpent of old, whose name is called Satan with his ex-angelic followers, known as demons.
St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney (1786-1859) was born in Dardilly, Lyons, France and died in Ars, France. He was a farm hand that taught other children their prayers and catechism. St. John Vianney felt the calling to follow Our Lord as a priest, but he was not a very good student. And, with all classes still being taught in Latin, he did poorly because he was horrible at Latin. But, God guided him and St. John Vianney was ordained in 1815.
St. John Vianney was briefly assigned for a while to Ecully as a parish priest, but in 1818 he was assigned to the parish of Ars, a tiny village near Lyons, which suffered from lax attendance. St. John Vianney immediately began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor. St. John Vianney would spend days in prayer and penance for his parishioners.
But, the devil did not want St. John Vianney to continue his ministery; some estimate that St. John Vianney saved 25,000 souls. And for this the devil frequently tormented St. John Vianney when he tried to get his 2-3 hours of sleep a night.
Because of his priestly zeal, St. John Vianney has been recognized as a the patron saint of parish priests. The man that barely completed his education is now the patron saint of parish priests. By 1855 there were 20,000 pilgrims a year to Ars. They came to hear him and receive the Sacrament of Confession from him. St. John Vianney heard confessions for 16 hours each day in a small confessional. St. John Vianney was also gifted with discernment of spirits, prophecy, hidden knowledge, and working miracles.
One of the first contacts that Padre Pio had with the prince of evil occurred in 1906. One night, Padre had returned to the convent of Saint Elia of Pianisi. He couldn’t fall asleep that night because of the enormous summer heat. He heard the footsteps of someone coming from a nearby room. Padre Pio thought, “Apparently, Friar Anastasio couldn’t sleep either.” He wanted to call out to him so that they could visit and speak for awhile. He went to the window and tried calling to his companion, but he was unable to speak. On the ledge of a nearby window, he saw a monstrous dog. Padre Pio, with terror in his voice, said, “I saw the big dog enter through the window and there was smoke coming from his mouth. I fell on the bed and I heard a voice from the dog that said, “him it is, it is him”. While I was still on the bed, the animal jumped to the ledge of the window, then to the roof and disappeared.”
The Devil attacked Padre Pio with numerous types of temptations. Padre Augustine also confirmed that the Devil appeared to him under many different forms. “The Devil appeared as young girls that danced naked, as a crucifix, as a young friend of the monks, as the Spiritual Father or as the Provincial Father; as Pope Pius X, a Guardian Angel, as St. Francis and as Our Lady.” The Devil has also appeared in his horrible forms with an army of infernal spirits. There were other times when Padre Pio was approached by the Devil but without any apparition. He was troubled with deafening noises and covered with spittle, etc. Padre Pio succeeded in freeing himself from these attacks of the Devil by invoking the name of Jesus.
The struggle between Padre Pio and Satan became more difficult when Padre Pio freed the souls possessed by the Devil. Father Tarcisio of Cervinara said, “More than once, before leaving the body of a possessed, the Devil has shouted, “Padre Pio, you give us more trouble than St. Michael”; also, “Father Pio don’t steal the bodies from us and we won’t bother you.”
In one of the letters to Padre Agostino, dated January 18, 1912, he stated, “The Devil does not want to lose this battle. He takes on many forms. For several days now, he has appeared with his brothers who are armed with batons and pieces of iron. One of the difficulties is that they appear in many disguises. There were several times when they threw me out of my bed and dragged me out of my bedroom. I am patient, however, and I know Jesus, Our Lady, my Guardian Angel, St. Joseph and St. Francis are always with me.”
St. Benedict founded the Benedictine order and drew up the rules that became the basis for life in monasteries throughout Europe. Legends about him tell of his struggles with temptation and the miracles he performed.
In about 525, Benedict founded the famous monastery of Monte Cassino. It was there that he wrote the Benedictine rule that set the standards for monastic life in western Europe. Because of his influence in spreading Christianity through the monastic movement, Pope Paul VI named Benedict the patron saint of all Europe in 1964.
Several accounts tell of Benedict’s struggles with the devil. In one, the devil turned into a beautiful woman to tempt him. To resist giving in to sin, Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush. In another story, the devil held down a stone to prevent it from being used to build the monastery at Monte Cassino. Workers could not move the stone, but after making the sign of the cross over it, Benedict picked up the stone himself.
St. Gemma Galgani
In her Diary she writes: in her Diary she writes:
“This evening I felt I could not collect myself; I said a few evening prayers and went to bed. To tell the truth, I foresaw a bit of a storm because Jesus had warned me a few days ago, saying: “The enemy will try you with one final battle, but it will be the last because now that is enough.” I could not help but thank Him for the strength He had always given me, and I prayed that He would want to give me strength for this final test as well, that is to say last night.I went to bed, as you know well, with the intention of sleeping; slumber was not long in coming when almost instantly a tiny, tiny man appeared, all covered in black hair. What a fright! He put his hands on my bed and I thought he wanted to hit me: “No, no,” he said, “I am not able to hit you, don’t be afraid,” and as he said this he lay down on the bed.I called Jesus to help me but he did not come, but this doesn’t mean he abandoned me. As soon as I called his name I felt liberated, but it was sudden.Other times I had called Jesus but He had never been ready like last night.You should have seen the demon afterward, how angry! He rolled around on the floor, cursing; he made one last effort to take away the cross I had with me but then he instantly fell backward. How good Jesus was with me last night. The devil, after that last effort, turned toward me and said that since he had not been able to do anything, he wished to torment me the rest of the night. “No,” I told him; I called my guardian Angel, who opened his wings and alighted next to me; he blessed me and the devil ran away. Jesus be thanked. This morning I learned that at the very moment the devil was rising in fury, the scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows had been placed on me [by Cecilia Giannini] and I realized that when the devil was trying to take something off of me, it could be nothing but that. My Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, also be thanked.”
Another time in her Diary she writes:
“It happened today as usual. I had gone to bed, in fact I was asleep, but the devil did not wish this. He presented himself in a disgusting manner; he tempted me but I was strong. I commended myself to Jesus asking that He take my life rather than have me offend Him. What horrible temptations those were! All displease me but those against Holy Purity make me most wretched. Afterward he left me in peace and the Angel Guardian came and assured me that I had not done anything wrong. I complained somewhat, because I wished his help at such times, and he said that whether I saw him or not, he would be always above my head.”
In his biography, Father Germanus writes:
“With a view to protect her from these Satanic attacks and apparitions, I enjoined on her, under whatever form the persons of the other world might appear to her, to at once repeat the words “Viva Gesu!” (“Long live Jesus!” –editor). I was unaware that our Our Lord Himself had given her a similar remedy in the words: “Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be God and Mary!)
And the docile child, in order to obey both, used to repeat the double exclamation-
“Viva Gesu! Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be Jesus! Blessed be God and Mary!) The good spirits always repeated her words, whereas the malignant ones either did not reply, or else pronounced only a few words, such as “Viva” or “Benedetto”, without adding any name. By this means Gemma recognized them and scorned them accordingly. ”
Regarding the attacks from the devil, at times she would find comfort in her sense of humor. She once wrote to Father Germano stating “If you would have seen him Father, when he fled making faces, you would have burst out laughing! He is so ugly!…. But Jesus told me not to be afraid of him”
Certainly Satan must have growled with rage at the zeal of this holy girl, finding how she snatched his choicest victims from him. He often appeared to her with eyes of fire and in threatening tones said: “While acting for yourself, do as you please, but listen well, do nothing for the conversion of sinners; if you attempt it, I shall make you pay dearly for it.”
St. Antony of the Desert
Antony began the life of a hermit, living in a tomb. He spent his time in prayer, study, and the manual work necessary to earn his living, while practising the strictest self-denial. He ate only bread, with a little salt, and water, which he never tasted before sunset, and sometimes only once every several days. He wore sackcloth and sheepskin, and often knelt in prayer from sunset to sunrise. When he did sleep, it was on a rush mat or the bare floor. Thus, he became Antony the Great: the giant of holiness, the athlete of the spiritual order, the colossal mystic whose name dominates early Christianity in Egypt.
Here the devils assaulted him most furiously, appearing as various monsters and worldly temptations such as rich clothing, delicious food, and beautiful women. They even wounded him severely. But his courage never failed, and he overcame them all by confidence in God and by the Sign of the Cross. One night many devils scourged him so terribly that he lay as if dead. A friend found him that way and, believing him dead, carried him home. When Antony awakened, he persuaded his friend to carry him, in spite of his wounds, back to his solitude. Here, prostrate from weakness, he defied the devils, saying, “I fear you not; you cannot separate me from the love of Christ.”
Hereupon the fiends appearing again, renewed the attack, and alarmed him with terrible noises and a variety of spectres in hideous shapes until a ray of heavenly light chased them away. He cried out as we so often do when besieged by the enemy: “Where were You, my Lord and my Master? Why weren’t You here from the beginning of my conflict to assuage my pain?” A voice answered: “Antony, I was here the whole time; I stood by you, and saw your combat. And because you manfully withstood your enemies, I will always protect you, and will make your name famous throughout the earth.”
Not only did the devils assault him in this way, they also tempted him with thoughts about failed opportunities for doing good with the property he had given away. This is a common ploy of the evil one: to attempt to pull us away from the vocation to which God has called us, making us slothful or dissatisfied with our own role in the salvation of the world and the glorification of the Father.