By Martin Herbert
In this battle between Satan and the humble Franciscan Friar the stakes were high. As time went on the struggle would become more and more intense, the temptations more subtle and stronger. God would even allow the devil to physically manhandle him. But in his role as victim for the Salvation of souls, the more he suffered the more effective he was in snatching souls away from the domination of Satan and opening them up to the saving grace of Christ.
Fr. Augustine McGregor, OCSO in his masterful article, “The Adversary,” describes the many onslaughts the devil used against the young religious.
“Now with his entry into Religious life there is an intensification of diabolical fury. Hell unleashes the whole of its malice on the young friar, venting its rage in any number of different ways: terrifying visions, assaults camouflaged under bodily appearances. The enemy comes in many guises, even under the appearance of an ‘angel of light.’ In one period he plays on the still unpurified senses by lewd, obscene and impure visions and suggestions and in general acts externally; later, in another period when the soul is more purified, while the first diabolical manifestations do not entirely disappear Satan now directs his assaults to the superior part of the soul-the impede the young friar in the exercise of the theological virtues and his growth in divine love…”
“…By the time Padre Pio was ordained, Satan obviously was fully aware of the work which Divine Providence intended to effect through him, and by particularly malicious solicitations sought by every means the young priest’s downfall. Padre Agostino records how the devil employed his superior faculties to tempt Padre Pio. Using the triple concupiscence (1 Jn. 2:16; 5:19) and man’s own corrupt nature the devil came at Padre Pio in the first place by a series of attacks on the senses, animals, black and filthy; naked females dancing lasciviously; sometimes without any apparitions, there would be such tricks as filthy spitting into his face or he would be tormented with defending noises; at other times, he received beatings from a ‘cruel man’ (carnefice). Under the guise of good the devil appeared even as the Crucified and often came in the form of his Spiritual Father of Father Provincial. He also appeared to him in the form of saints such as Pius X and St. Francis and even as Our Lady and in the form of his Guardian Angel.”
On one occasion the devil appeared in the likeness of his spiritual director Father Agostino, a Capuchin priest who live some distance from the friary where he was stationed. The false friar advised him to give up his penitential life, for God did not approve of it. Surprised at such advice, Padre Pio had the presence of mind to ask the “friar” to repeat after him, “Blessed Be Jesus!” The Devil left at once in a cloud of smoke, leaving behind a sulphurous smell.
His intense struggle to overcome the devil in those early years can be understood better from his own words. “The struggle with hell,” wrote Padre Pio in 1915, “has reached the point in which it is no longer possible to go on. The ship of my soul is about to be overwhelmed by the ocean waves…I feel crushed by the infernal forces and I am afraid of being reduced to nothing from one minute to the next” (Epistolario, No. 239)
Often in Padre Pio’s letters there is the recurring confession of “anguish” caused by repeated diabolical assaults: “…also in the hours of rest the devil does not refrain from afflicting my soul in different ways” (22.10.1910); “…The enemy of our health is so irate that he does not leave me one peaceful moment, waging war in various ways” (29.11.1910) “In these days the devil is really at me in every possible way and keeps at it as much as he can. The ‘miserable one’ will redouble his efforts to harm me” (29.03.1911).
Taken from the Knights of the
TO BE CONTINUED...