Appendix One: Some Official Texts of the Catholic Church
In this appendix we shall see a selection of official texts of the Catholic Church concerning angels and demons.
These texts will include some from the official liturgy of the Church, which has always been seen as a source of
The Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church refers to: "When the Lord will come in glory, and all his angels with him"
(cf Matthew 25:3 1) (49). And in the next paragraph
(50), referring to the apostles and martyrs, the
Constitution says that the Church "has always enrolled them, together
with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels, with a special love, and has asked piously for the help of their
In Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Chapter 1:6), we read that the "Son of God, by his death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (cf Acts 26:18)
and from death, and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father". In the Decree on
the Church's Missionary Activity there are two references to the devil. The Father sent Jesus into the world that
"he might snatch men from the power of darkness and of Satan (cf Colossians 1:13, Acts 10:38) and
reconcile the world to himself" (3). And in
paragraph 9: we read of Christ "who overthrows the rule of the devil and limits the manifold malice of evil".
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
there: are also references to the demonic. In
paragraph 16 we read: "But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged
the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator." Finally,
in paragraph, 37 there is a passage which is very
important for the theme of this book: "For a monumental struggle
against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of
the whole world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested (cf
Matthew l3:24-30. and 36-43, 24:13). Caught
in this conflict man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good Nor can he achieve his
own integnty withouk valiant efforts and the help of God's grace".
In the new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church there are a considerable number of reference to angels and demons. Here we will limit ourselves to two
major texts which give a wide general view of the Catholic Church's teaching on angels and demons. It is worth
quoting these texts in full, so that the reader can see clearly what is the official mind of the Catholic Church
on this subject. It is to be hoped that the appearance of the new universal Catechism will help to affirm the faith
of some Catholics whose minds had begun to wobble on the subject of angels and demons
- as, indeed, doubtless on other truths of the Christian faith also.
The Existence of Angels - a Truth of Faith
328: The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred
Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth
of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
Who are They?
329: St. Augustine says: '"Angel" is the name of their office, not of their nature. If
you seek the name of their nature, it is "spirit"; if you seek the name of their office, it is "angel" from what they are, "spirit",
from what they do "angel".'188 With their whole beings the angels are servants
and messengers of God. Because they 'always
behold the face of my Father who is in heaven' they are the 'mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word'.189
330: As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in
perfection all visible creatures, as the splendour of their glory bears witness.190
Christ 'With all his Angels'
331: Christ is the centre of the angelic world. They are his angels: 'When the Son of Man
comes in his glory, and all the angels with him...' 191 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: 'For
in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or
principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him.'192 The belong to him still more because he has made the messengers
of his saving plan: 'Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to
serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?' 193
332: Angels have been present since creation and throughout
the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine
plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated
the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just
to cite a few examples.194 Finally, the angel Gabriel
announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.195
333: From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the
Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God 'brings
the firstborn into the world, he says: "Let all God's angels worship him".'196 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased
resounding in the Church's praise: 'Glory to God in the highest!'197 They protect Jesus in his infancy;
serve him in the desert; strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from
the hands of his enemies as Israel had been. 198 Again,
it is the angels who 'evangelise' by proclaiming
the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.199 They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgment. 200
The Angels in the Life of the Church
334: In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from
the mysterious and powerful help of angels. 201
335: In her Liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore
the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance: in the Roman Canon's Supplices te
rogamus... ('Almighty God, we pray that
your angel...'); in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant
te angeli.. .('May the angels lead you into
Paradise...'), Moreover, in the 'Cherubic Hymn' of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates
the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).
336: From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their
watchful care and intercession.202 Beside each
believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.203 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united
II. The Fall of the Angels
391: Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a
seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. 266 Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called 'Satan' or the 'devil'. 267 The Church teaches that Satan was
at first a good angel, made by God: 'The devil and the other demons were
indeed created naturally good by God, but they, became evil by their own doing'.268
392: Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. 269 This 'fall' consists in the free choice of these created spirits,
who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his' reign.
We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents: 'You
will be like God.' 270
The devil 'has sinned from the beginning'; he
is 'a liar and the father of lies'.271
393: It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin
unforgivable. There is no, 'repentance for the angels after their fall,
just as there is no repentance for men after death.' 272
394: Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the
one Jesus calls 'a murderer from the beginning',:
who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. 273 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 274
In its consequences the gravest of these works:
was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.
395: The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is
only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building
up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and
although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature, and indirectly, even of a physical nature
- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides
human and cosmic history. it is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but 'we know
that in everything God works for good for those who love him. ' 275 (Romans
References to the Quotations Given in Extracts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. The Angels
188. St.Augustine En.in Ps. 103, 1, 15: PL 37, 1348.
189. Mt 18:10; Ps 103:20.
190. Cf. Pius XII. Humani Generis.
DS 3891. Lk 20:36; Dan 10: 9-12
191. Mt 25:3l.
192. Co ll:l6.
193. Heb 1:14.
194. Cf. Job 38: 7 (where angels
are called sons of God); Gen 3:24; 19; 21:17; 22:11;
Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13:6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.
195. Cf. Lk l:ll, 26.
196. Heb l:6.
197. Lk 2: 14.
198. Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53;
Mk 1:13; Lk 22: 43:2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
199. Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
200. Cf.Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk
201. Cf. Acts 5:18-20; 8:26-29; 10:3-8;
202. Cf. Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Pss
34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:
23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 2:12.
203. St. Basil Adv. Eunomium III, 1:
PG 29 656B.
2.The Fall of the Angels
266. Cf.Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24.
267. Cf. Jn 8:44; Rev l2:9.
268. Lateran Council IV (l2l5): DS 800.
269. Cf. 2 Pt 2:4.
270. Gen 3:5.
271. 1 Jn 3:8; Jn
272. St. John Damascene. De fide orth
2,4:PG 94, 877
273 Jn 8:44;
Cf. Mt 4:1-11.
274 1 Jn 3:8.
275 Rom 8:28.
It would be possible to give a number of quotations from recent popes on angels and demons, but the following two
passages will have to suffice: In his general audience on 15th November 1972 Pope Paul VI asked the question:
"What are the greatest needs of the Church today?"
This is how he replied: "Do not let our answer surprise you as being
over simple or even superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs is defence from that evil which is called
the Devil. Evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living, spiritual being, perverted
and perverting. A terrible reality. It is contrary to the teaching of the Bible and the Church to refuse to recognise
the existence of such a reality ... or to explain it as a pseudo reality, a conceptual and fanciful personification
of the unknown causes of our misfortunes. That it is not a question of one devil, but of many, is indicated by
the various passages in the Gospel (Luke 11:21; Mark 5:9). But the principal one is Satan, which means the adversary,
the enemy; and with him many creatures of God, but fallen, because of their rebellion and damnation - a whole mystetioui~
world, upset by the unhappy drama, of which know very little." (L'Osservatore Romano 23rd November 1972).
In his general audience on 13th August 1986 Pope John Paul II said:
"To conclude, we must add that the impressive words
of the Apostle John,"The whole world lies under the power of the evil one" (1
John 5:l9) allude also to the presence of Satan in the history of humanity,
a presence which becomes all the acute when man and society depart from God. influence of the evil spirit can conceal
itself in a more profound and effective way: it is in his 'interests' to make himself unknown. Satan has the skill
to deny his existence in the name of rationalism and of every other system of thought which seeks all possible
means to avoid recognising his activity. This, however, does not signify the elimination of man's free will and
responsibility, and even less the frustration of the saving action of Christ. It is, rather, a case of a conflict
between the dark powers of evil and the power of' redemption."
In the liturgy of the Mass there are not a few references ~ to angels. In one of the forms of
the Penitential Rite we ask "all the angels and saints ... to pray
for me to the Lord our God". In the Creed we say "we believe in God maker of all that is, seen and unseen" - the unseen
being the angelic creation. In the Prefaces we join our prayer, with the angels, for example in Eucharistic prayer
II: "And so we join the angels and the saints in proclaiming your glory
as we sing: Holy, holy, holy...". In Eucharistic Prayer I, the priest says: "Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven".
On 29th September we celebrate the feast of the three Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. A few days later
on October 2nd we have the Mass of the Guardian Angels. The Opening Prayer on 2nd October reads: "God our Father, in your loving providence you send your angels to watch over us. Hear
our prayers, defend us always by their protection and let us share your life with them for ever". The hymn for the Morning Office of 2nd October is particularly beautiful:
"They come, God's messengers of love,
They come from realms of peace above,
From homes of never-fading light,
From blissful mansions ever bright.
They come to watch around us here,
To soothe our sorrow, calm our fear:
Ye heavenly guides. speed not away,
God willeth you with us to stay.
But chiefly at its journey's end
'Tis yours the spirit to befriend,
And whisper to the willing heart,
'O Christian soul, in peace depart.'
To us the seal of angels give,
With love to serve thee while we live;
To us an Angel-guard supply,
When on the bed of death we lie."
I cannot resist the temptation to quote also the inspiring Preface of the Angels:
"Father, all -powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
In praising your faithful angels and archangels,
we also praise your glory,
for in honouring them, we honour you, their creator.
Their splendour shows us your greatness,
which surpasses in goodness the whole of creation.
Through Christ our Lord
the great army of angels rejoices in your glory.
In adoration and joy
we make their hymn of praise our own:
Holy, holy, holy..."
I find myself wondering how a Catholic who dos not believe in the existence of personal angels
feels as he or she hears the texts cited above in Mass. What sense does he or she make of it all? How can we ask
God to 'defend us always by their protection"
if angels do not exist? How can we ask to "share your life with them
for ever" in heaven if there are no personal angels? How can we praise "your faithful angels and archangels" in the Preface if
they do not really exist?
At the Renewal of Baptismal promises in the Easter Vigil we are exhorted to "renew the promises we made in baptism when we rejected Satan and his works". These questions then follow: "Do you reject Satan?
And all his works? ... And all his empty promises?. Or the celebrant can use alternative questions, which include:
"Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?"
At baptisms there is the Prayer of Exorcism and Anointing before Baptism: "Almighty
and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue
man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendour of your Kingdom of Light."
And in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, there are the prayers of Exorcism, one of which includes: "We pray for these your servants, who worship you as true God. Look upon them and enlighten
their hearts, free them from the snares and malice of Satan, heal their weakness and blot out their sins".
Finally, at my funeral, God willing, they will sing or say the beautiful Antiphon: "May the angels lead you into paradise". May they be real angels!
Appendix Two: The Saints and Demons
The lives and teachings of the saints are an important source of instruction on the subjects of angels, demons,
and spiritual warfare. The saints are people who through the grace of God are special examples of how the Christian
life should be lived - and when I use the word saint I am not only thinking of people who have been canonised,
though in this Appendix I shall concentrate largely on them.
The saints over the centuries provide us with a great variety of ways of living the Christian life. Compare, for
example, the life style of a Father of the Desert in the fifth century with that of a busy mother of a family in
our own times. However, there are certain basic characteristics which are found in the life of every saint, whenever
and wherever they lived. The saints were people of great faith, hope, love, and humility. The saints were truly
men and women of prayer. And the saints recognised that they were involved in spiritual warfare.
As a monk I am very much aware that spiritual warfare against demonic forces is definitely a part of the monastic
tradition. In the third century St. Anthony of Egypt, according to his life by St. Athanasius, was very much involved
in fighting demons. It is recorded that he was even physically beaten by demons. And he was well known for his
ministry of liberating people from demons. The monks, especially the hermits, were seen as going out into the desert
to do battle with the devil with the aid of God's grace.
St. Benedict, who is called the Patriarch of Western Monasticism, lived in the fifth century and wrote a famous
rule for monks and nuns. In the Prologue to this Rule, St. Benedict refers to the monk as "he that takes the evil spirit that tempts him, and casts him and his temptation from the
sight of his heart, and brings him to nought; who grasps his evil suggestions as they arise and dashes them to
pieces on the rock that is Christ". In the first chapter of the Rule, St. Benedict
refers to hermits as "those who not in the first fervour of their
conversion, but after long probation in a monastery, having learned in association with many brethren how to fight
against the devil, go out well-armed from the ranks of the community to the solitary combat in the desert".
In St. Gregory the Great's short life of St. Benedict there are a considerable number of references to the devil.
The devil is usually seen as tempting people and frequently as being cast out by St, Benedict. In chapter two we
read that as a young man St. Benedict "was seized with an unusually violent temptation. The evil spirit recalled
to his mind a woman he had once seen, and before he realised it, his emotions were carrying him away". St.
Benedict overcame the temptation by rolling in nettles and briars, and never suffered from a temptation of that
kind again. Note that it was the evil spirit who was seen as causing the temptation.
In chapter eight we learn that after St. Benedict moved to Monte Cassino "the assaults he had to endure were all the more violent, because the very master of evil
was fighting against him in open battle". St. Benedict had turned the temple of
Apollo into a chapel dedicated to St. Martin. "Such losses the ancient
enemy could not bear in silence. This time he did not appear to the saint in a dream or under a disguise but met
him face to face and objected fiercely to the outrages he had to endure. His shouts were so loud that the brethren
heard him too, although they were unable to see him". St. Benedict himself saw the devil, who had "an
appearance utterly revolting to human eyes".
Some readers will doubtless wish to object that the extraordinary happenings recounted in ancient lives of the
saints are to be regarded as legend not fact. I am not of course claiming that St. Athanasius' life of St. Anthony
is to be considered entirely as history in the modern sense of the word. However, I do not think that all the extraordinary
happenings there can simply be dismissed as legend. One reason for this is that extraordinary supernatural events
are very much happening in our own times, where the evidence is convincing. So if Padre Plo was physically beaten
by the devil, as we shall see later, then there is no reason to affirm that it did not happen to St. Anthony.
Some people who claim to be very reasonable, objective, and scientific are in fact prejudiced, unobjective, and
unscientific when presented with evidence which goes contrary to their own preconceptions. Thus many people will,
despite the evidence, dismiss all healing miracles because they do not believe that healing miracles could happen.
One priest very much involved in psychology to whom I mentioned the case reported in the Introduction of a woman
levitating when she was being exorcised simply replied: "I do not
believe it happened." Because he did not believe that such a thing could happen,
he simply dismissed the testimony of reliable people.
One could quote from the lives of so many saints on their experience of being attacked by demons whom they regarded
as personal beings, not mythical ideas. For example, St. Francis of Assisi in the twelfth century was visiting
Rome when, it is recorded: "The very first night he was there, when
he had finished praying and was trying to get some rest, he was surrounded by devils who attacked him brutally.
They beat him severely for a long time and then went off, leaving him half-dead".
St. Catherine of Siena in the 14th century, recounting a painful experience near the end of her life, wrote: "And then after a little the terror of the demons began so that I seemed to be stupefied.
They were mad with rage, as though I, a worm, had been the cause of their having had the Holy Church which they
were holding so long, snatched from their hands. And so great were both the terror and the physical pain that I
wanted to fly from the study into the chapel".
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits in the 16th century, meditates on the two standards, one of
Christ, the other of Lucifer, in his famous Spiritual Exercises. Under the Standard of Satan he writes:
"FIRST PRELUDE. This is the history. Here it will
be that? Christ calls and wants all beneath His standard, and Lucifer, on the other hand, wants all under his.
SECOND PRELUDE. This is a mental representation of:
the place. It will be here to see a great plain, comprising the whole region about Jerusalem, where the sovereign
Commander-in-Chief of all the good is Christ our Lord; and another plain about the region of Babylon, where the
chief of the enemy is Lucifer.
THIRD PRELUDE. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for a knowledge of the deceits of the rebel
chief and help to guard myself against them; and also to ask for a knowledge of the true life exemplified in the
sovereign and true Commander, and the grace to imitate Him.
The Standard of Satan
FIRST POINT. Imagine you see the chief of all the enemy in the vast plain about Babylon, seated on a great throne
of fire and smoke, his appearance inspiring horror and terror.
SECOND POINT. Consider how he summons innumerable demons, and scatters them, some to one city and some to another,
throughout the whole world, so that no province, no place, no state of life, no individual is overlooked.
THIRD POINT. Consider the address he makes to them, how he goads them on to make snares for men and bind them with
chains. First they are to tempt them to covet riches (as Satan himself is accustomed to do in most cases) that
they may the more easily attain the empty honours of this world, and then come to overweening pride.
The first step, then, will be riches, the second honour, the third pride. From these three steps the evil one leads
to all other vices."
The two great Spanish Carmelite saints in the 16th century both wrote about the
devil on many occasions. St. Teresa in her Life wrote: "It was only
rarely that I saw Satan take a bodily form; I know of his presence through the vision I have spoken of before,
the vision wherein no form is seen". St. John of the Cross wrote of
the devil in the Spiritual Canticle:
"There is no human power that can
be compared with his, and thus only the divine power suffices to be able to conquer him, and the divine light alone
to penetrate his wiles".
The above quotations are short snippets in passing, which amongst other things, show clearly
that the saints in question really believed in the existence of personal demons. Now I want us to look at greater
length at the demonic experiences of St. John Vianney, the Curé d'Ars (1786-1859), a very great saint who
lived nearer to our limes and concerning whose life there is plenty of historical evidence. I am quoting at some
length from the well-known biography, The Curé d'Ars,
by Abbé Francis Trochu, (TAN Books). This book devotes a whole chapter to 'The Curé d'Ars and the
'For the space of some 35 years - from 1824-1858 -the
Curé dAis was subjected, even outwardly, to the molestations of the evil one. What if, by preventing him
from taking both food and sleep, Satan had? succeeded in inspiring him with a distaste for prayer, penance, and
the exertions of the apostolic life, and in obliging him to give up the cure of souls! But the enemy of our salvation
was disappointed and' defeated. "The struggles of M.Vianney with the devil," said Catherine Lassagne.
"helped to render his charity more evident and more disinterested."'
'It was indeed a battle, and in order
to fight it the holy man had no other resource than patience and prayer. "I sometimes asked him", his
confessor relates, "how he repelled these attacks." He replied: "I turn to God; I make the sign
of the cross; I address a few contemptuous words to the devil. I have noticed, moreover, that the tumult is greater
and the assaults more numerous if, on the following day, some big sinner is due to come".'
This knowledge was his comfort during sleepless nights.
'At the beginning I felt afraid,'
he confessed to Mgr. Meimod, one of his friends and faithful penitents; 'I
did not then know what it was, but now I am quite happy. It is a good sign: there is always a good haul of fish
the next day.' 'The devil gave me a good shaking
last night,' he would say at times; 'we shall
have a great number of people tomorrow.' ' The grappin is very stupid: he himself tells me of the arrival of big
sinners .... He is angry. So much the better!'
It is also recorded that
'the evil spirit remained invisible, but his presence
could be plainly felt. He threw over the chairs and shook the heavy furniture of the room. With a faithful voice
he shouted: "Vianney, Vianney! potato eater! Ah! thou art not yet dead! I shall get thee all right".
Or, roaring like a beast, growling like a bear, or snarling like a dog, he rushed at the curtains of the bed, which
he shook violently.'
Borrowing from the accounts of Catherine Lassagne and from his own recollections, Frère
Athanase relates that the devil
'reproduced the sound of a hammer driving nails into
the wooden floor, or that of hooping a cask; he drummed on the table, on the chimney-piece, on the water jug; or
he sang with a shrill voice, so that M.le Curé used afterwards to tell us derisively: The grappin has a
very ugly voice indeed.'
'On more than one occasion M.Vianney experienced
a sensation as of a hand passing over his face or of rats scampering over his body.'
'One night he heard the buzz of a swarm of bees; he got up, lit his candle,
and was about to open the window to let them out - but he saw no bees.'
'Another time the grappin endeavoured to throw him out of bed by pulling
away his straw mattress. More frightened than usual, M. Vianney crossed himself, and the devil left him in peace.'
It is important to remember that other people also heard the sounds and saw the physical chaos caused by the devil.
The Curé's sister, for example, when visiting him was frightened when she heard a "tremendous noise". The Curé said to her:
"O my child! you should not have been frightened:
it is the grappin. He cannot hurt you: as for me, he torments me in sundry ways. At times he seizes me by the feet
and drags me about the room. It is because I convert souls to the good God."
Then there was the occasion when a mysterious fire broke out in the Curé's room. His bed
was burned, but inexplicably the fire did not spread to other things. The fire started without any apparent human
cause, and ended inexplicably. It was regarded by the Curé and others as an attack of the devil.
Two other points must be mentioned in passing. The Curé was, with the permission of the local bishop, very
active in the ministry of exorcism. There are numerous accounts of people delivered by him from evil spirits. The
other point is that the Curé was severe about involvement in spiritualism and the occult. Problems to do
with involvement in spiritualism and the occult are not new!
Let us now consider the cases of two Catholics who lived in this century who were both the object of violent attacks
by the devil - and both of whose canonisation causes have been officially introduced. The first is the famous Italian
Capuchin, Padre Pio (1887-1968), whose funeral was attended by 100,000 people. In his book, 'Padre Pio. The True
Story', Bernard Ruffin writes:
"Because of his intense spiritual life, Padre Pio
saw manifestations of supernatural power where many would not. For instance, in August 1912, for a space of several
days, whenever he began to write to his superiors, he was seized with violent migraine headaches and spasms in
his writing arm. Recognising this as devilish interference, he prayed and was able to write again. Many of the
unseen attacks were in the form of temptations against purity.
"Many of the diabolical attacks, however, were quite physical and were accompanied by terrifying noises that
could be heard by neighbours. Pio was struck by actual blows that left visible bruises. Padre Pio continued to
receive visits from his guardian angel. as well as from Jesus and Mary."
Bernard Ruffin gives more than one example of these attacks.
"The community sat down to eat, while Pio, as usual,
remained upstairs in bed. During the course of the meal, everyone heard a terrific crash, just as if, as Paolino
put it, a huge drum of gasoline had been dropped from a height and had crashed to the floor. Immediately Paolino
ran upstairs to find Plo pale and drenched in perspiration, as if he had gone swimming in his nightshirt. The same
thing happened for several successive nights."
Here is a final incident:
"That night Padre Plo was alone in his room. At
ten o'clock some of his colleagues heard a terrific crash. Running to his room, they found the padre on the floor
in a pool of blood. His face was swollen and discoloured, and he was bleeding profusely from his nose and from
a deep cut on his forehead. There were no signs of forced entry, nothing was broken, and everything was in its
usual place except for a pillow that, instead of being in Plo's armchair was neatly tucked beneath the old man's
"The guardian, Padre Carmelo of San Giovanni in Galdo, asked who had put the pifiow under his head. Weakly,
Plo replied, 'The Madonna.'
"Padre Pio's injuries were real. His gash required stitches. For five days he could not celebrate Mass in
public. As Father Joseph Pius recalls: "His face was cut above the right eyebrow. His eyes were black, all
black under the eyes. His shoulders were terribly bruised. I saw it."
It should also be mentioned that a considerable number of people were delivered from evil spirits
through the ministry of Padre Pio.
The second person is Marthe Robin (1902-1981), a French woman who, like Padre Pio, received the stigmata, and who
played a key role in the foundation of lay communities. For fifty years she lay paralysed on her bed, for about
the last forty of which she was blind, and she neither ate - apart from Holy Communion - drank, or slept for many
years. Five bishops and two hundred priests were present at her funeral.
Marthe Robin was very much involved in spiritual warfare with the devil, and this also, amongst other things, took
the form of physical attacks. Frequently the furniture in her room was thrown about and this paralysed woman was
sothetimes half thrown out of her bed. Indeed, when she was found dead her body was lying on the floor. No human
being had entered the room, and as a very paralysed person she could not possibly have moved from the bed.
Some readers may think that in this chapter I have concentrated too much on the physical attacks of the devil.
After all, are not the spiritual aspects of demonic attacks more important and far more common? Yes. But people
who do not believe in the existence of personal demons will psychologically explain away the spiritual attacks
as something purely natural and human. It is however difficult to explain away the physical attacks of the devil
such as those mentioned in this chapter. The historical evidence is surely very clear for the Curé d'Ars,
Padre Pio, and Marthe Robin. Some theologians regard the devil and demons as myths. But myths do not create loud
noises, set beds on fire, throw people around, or inflict wounds that have to be stitched.
Some people may wish to suggest that these three were psychologically sick people suffering from hallucinations
and that their followers were caught up in some form of collective hysteria. Hallucinations and hysteria, however,
do not result in the extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness, including many lasting conversions and physical miracles,
such as we see in the lives of the Curé d'Ars, Padre Pio, and Marthe Robin. "Thus you will know them by their fruits". (Matthew 7:20).
Appendix Three: The Saints and Angels
In the last chapter we have been dealing with the fallen angels, not the glorious ones. Experience of demons is
much more common than experience of good angels in the lives of the saints and other Christians. The reason for
this is surely that on the positive side, the experience of Jesus himself and of his mother are much more frequent
and are what dominates. Many Christians have had some kind of experience of Jesus who have never been aware of
the presence of angels. Nevertheless there have been a very considerable number of reports of the experience of
angels in the lives of the saints and other Christians.
In the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 27, verse 22) Paul
said to the men in danger of shipwreck:
"I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there
will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to
whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul, you must stand before the emperor; and
indeed, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you' ".
As we shall see, angelic appearances and messages like this one to St. Paul did not end with
the New Testament. The following pages give a small sample of these.
St. Benedict (480-c.550) in a vision "saw the soul
of Germanus, the Bishop of Capua, being carried by angels up to heaven in a ball of fire"
- subsequent enquiry revealed that the bishop had died at the time of the vision.
A number of the early martyrs of the Church were reported to have been helped by angels in their
martyrdoms. St. Theodosius said that "an Angel came to my side and
refreshed my burning wounds". Three angels appeared to St. Eulalia and comforted
her with consoling words. St. Vincent was also comforted by angels, with whom he sang the praises of God. One of
the soldiers present at the martyrdom of St. Lawrence saw an angel, and this led to his conversion.
Angels appeared more than once to St. Dominic (1170-1221) and to some of his brethren. When St.
Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) received the stigmata on
Mount Alverna, a seraph "with six resplendent and flaming wings" came to him.
Michael the Archangel is said to have appeared several times at a cave on Monte Gargano in Italy,
starting in the fifth century. There is now a sanctuary there dedicated to him. Another shrine was built in the
eighth century at Mount-Saint-Michel in France following an apparition of St. Michael to a bishop. St. Joan of
Arc (1412-1431) saw the Archangel Michael frequently, and at her trial, at which she was wrongly condemned, the
judges tried to persuade her that she had been seeing the devil disguised as St. Michael.
St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440) for many years was accustomed to seeing her guardian angel at her side. She described
him in these words: "His aspect is full of sweetness and majesty;
his eyes are generally turned toward Heaven; words cannot describe the divine purity of that gaze. His brow is
always serene; his glances kindle in the soul the flame of ardent devotion. When I look upon him, I understand
the glory of the angelic nature, and the degraded condition of our own. He wears a long shining robe and over it
a tunic, either as white as the lilies of the field or of the colour of a red rose or of the hue of the sky when
it is most deeply blue. When he walks by my side, his feet are never soiled by the mud of the streets or the dust
of the road".
Two other saints nearer our own times had remarkable experiences. St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was on a number of
occasions protected by a large black dog when he was making dangerous journeys. The dog, which he called Grigio,
mysteriously appeared when needed and equally mysteriously vanished when the danger was over. Was the dog a protecting
angel? St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was, like St. Frances of Rome, constantly able to see her guardian angel,
with whom she chatted familiarly. She once said when referring to her sufferings caused by illness: "How could I have ever borne those awful pains had it not been for the presence of my Angel?"
In 1916 the Angel Guardian of Portugal appeared three times to the three child visionaries in
Fatima. Sister Lucy writes:
"Suddenly, though the day was very mild, a strong
wind began to sway the branches of the tree and we glanced up to see the cause of it. We saw over the trees a light
as white as snow and in the midst of it the form of a young man as brilliant as crystal, as when it is lit up by
the light of the sun.
As he approached us, we began to see his features clearly. We were surprised,
absorbed by what we saw, but we said not a word. On coming near us he said, 'Do not be afraid, I am the Angel of
Peace. Pray with me.'"
In the three appearances the angel taught them to pray and spiritually guided them. Of
course some people will say that all this was just the imagination of young children or made up by them to attract
attention. But these three visits of the angel resulted in very remarkable spiritual growth - and such growth would
not have followed purely human imagination or invention.
Padre Plo (1887-1968) had a strong devotion to the angels, especially his guardian angel. Indeed, a whole book
has been written on his relationship with the angels, whom he saw frequently in visions: Send
Me Your Guardian Angel, by Fr. Alessio Parente OFM.Cap. Padre Plo used to tell his
spiritual children to "send me your guardian angel" when they were in trouble. He once said to someone: "Didn't
you see all those Guardian Angels going backwards and forwards from my spiritual children bringing messages from
them?" Padre Plo wrote in a letter:
"On the 20th of this month I offered the Holy Sacrifice
for you. My good Guardian Angel knows this and I have entrusted him many times with the delicate task of coming
to console you".
Fr. Alessio Parente writes:
"Obviously for Padre Pio, after Jesus and Mary
came his Guardian Angel, who played a very important role in his sanctification and mission. He and his Guardian
Angel are so closely linked with one another that it is impossible to separate them. His Angel knew how to guide,
enlighten, and direct him along the difficult path to sanctity, and Padre Pio was a very docile instrument in his
The wife of an Anglican vicar, Hope Price, has produced a remarkable book of accounts of contemporary
Christians' experiences of angels:Angels - True Stories of How they Touch our Lives
(MacMillan 1993). After feeling moved by the Lord to undertake this venture, she
placed notices in Christian papers asking people who had experiences of angels to send her accounts. Large numbers
of Christians replied to this request, and after careful discernment she put many accounts together in the form
of a book. From reading this book one realises that apparitions of angels to Christians are obviously happening
in our times, and not so infrequently. There is a striking similarity between some of these accounts - one might
say that there seem to be four main categories of experience.
In the first, the angels are seen in traditional form with wings, and often glowing with light. In the second category.
the angels appear as ordinary human beings, perform an act of service, and then usually suddenly and inexplicably
vanish when their task is completed. In the third group, the angels are not seen or heard, but their presence is
deduced from what happened, for example, a car is inexplicably saved from a bad accident as if by unseen hands.
Finally, in a fourth set of experiences, people hear heavenly singing - a friend of mine told me that when her
grandmother was dying she and her mother who were praying in the room heard the most wonderful heavenly singing
and music for about ten to fifteen minutes. I will add that quite a number of the accounts in the book concern
dying people - the angels appear as if to lead them to heaven.
There is one case in this book on which I would like to expand, that of an Anglican woman, Dorothy Kern (1890-1963).
On February 17th 1912 she was dying, after having been bed-ridden for five years - the doctor did not think she
would survive the night. She had received Holy Communion on 4th February and she and her sister then heard what
they were convinced was angelic singing; then she became unconscious. She had a vision of a
"wonderful altar, formed as it were by angels As
I looked I saw one coming towards me. I thought he was coming for me and held out my hands towards him, but he
smiled and said, 'No, Dorothy, you are not coming yet'." Then she heard a voice saying "Dorothy"
three times. "I answered, 'Yes, I am listening. Who is it?' Then a great light came around me and an angel
took my hand in his and said, 'Dorothy, your sufferings are over. Get up and walk'. He passed his hands over my
eyes and touched my ears, and then I opened my eyes and found myself sitting up in bed ... The angel again said
to me: 'Get up and walk'. They brought the dressing-gown. When I had put it on I got out of bed unassisted. Part
of the light which emanated from the angel came to the right side of my bed. I put my hand on it, and it led me
out of the room, along a passage and back into my bedroom. Though I had not walked for nearly five years, I now
walked quite steadily, not the least bit shaky; indeed I felt well and strong and strong and might never have been
ill at all."
Her emaciated, discoloured, and skeleton-like body was immediately restored to a normal, plump,
healthy condition. The tubercular meningitis and other illnesses had disappeared immediately.
I have chosen to mention these apparitions of angels to Dorothy Kerin at some length for two reasons. First, her
immediate healing was surely one of the most remarkable healing miracles ever recorded - and the medical evidence
for the healing is overwhelming. Secondly, because after later receiving the stigmata Dorothy became one of the
main pioneers of the renewal of the healing ministry in the Christian Church. She went on to found the well-known
healing centre at Burrswood (Kent), which is still flourishing today. So her miraculous healing by Jesus, which
was linked with the apparitions of angels, led to a life and ministry of very exceptional fruitfulness for the
Kingdom of God. False apparitions or hysterical imagination would not have led to such great fruitfulness.
It makes me sad to think of Christians who do not believe in angels. Of course, Jesus, not angels, is the centre
of our faith. But what a pity not to be aware of the protecting angels whom Jesus has given us and not to look
forward to praising God with the angels in heaven, later!
Copyright © 1997 Benedict M. Heron OSB
This Version: 24th October 2001