In another period when Satan was trying to gain entry to the superior part of the soul the very effort to make an act of faith seemed impossible: “The devil roars and shouts continuously around my poor will, which does and says nothing else with firm resolution than: ‘Long live Jesus…I believe.’ But who could tell you how I pronounce these words? With timidity, without strength and without courage, and I must do myself violence” (Epistolario, 08.11.1916).
In the monthly bulletin, “I Fratini” of the Capuchins in Foggia, a former seminary student who had Padre Pio as his Spiritual Director and confessor, writes about how the devil manhandled the sickly friar. One night he and his fellow students heard the frightening noise of iron bars banging together in Padre Pio’s room, as well as a sound like a train traveling at high speed through a tunnel. In the morning they found their director worn out from his curtain were twisted by hands of enormous strength. Padre Pio was in no condition to talk about what happened at the moment, but a few days later he related how the devil had beaten him because he could not bring about a sin of impurity in one of the Fratini due to the prayers of Padre Pio.
Numerous were the cases of physical assaults by the devil on Padre Pio throughout his long life. Even as late 1964, Padre Pio was so bruised from an attack of the Devil that he could not say Mass. On occasion the visible black and blue marks remained for weeks. Such cases of physical assault by the devil are nothing new in the Lives of Saints. St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Nicholas of Tolentino and in our own times the Holy Cure of Ars, all experienced the same fury of the evil one.
To our very scientific age where everything has to be proven in a controlled laboratory setting in order to be credible, these constant direct interventions of the devil in the life of Padre Pio may seem simply impossible to take seriously. For who of us has seen or who knows of anyone who has seen the devil? Yet, we have the above evidence in a man who practiced the Christian virtues in a heroic degree, was very human, had a keen sense of humour and displayed none of the tell-tale signs of a neurotic. Then too, we have the evidence of the many miracles he performed.
The church does not base its doctrine on the devil upon such awesome instances as we find in the life of Padre Pio. On the contrary, Padre Pio’s experiences are explained and rendered intelligible by the Church’s doctrine. The ordinary Christian would be foolish indeed to ignore the testimony of Padre Pio’s experience with the evil one. It is a powerful and existential dramatization of the traditional Catholic teaching that the devil is indeed working through our imagination and senses to bring about our downfall. Though he is clever and a master of deceit, he can never directly move a person’s intellect or will. He is relentless in his attempts to destroy the Church and human souls, but our victory is sure if we follow the example of the Stigmatic Franciscan of Pietrelcina.
Padre Pio speaks to us today by his life and his words. “Temptations, discouragement and unrest are the wares offered by the enemy. Remember this: if the devil makes noise it is a sign that he is still outside and not yet within. That which must terrify us is his peace and concord with the human soul… The soul must give free access to the Lord so that it be fortified by him in every respect and with all kinds of weapons; that his light may enlighten it to combat the darkness of error; that it be clothed with Jesus Christ, with his justice, truth, the shield of faith, the word of God, in order to conquer such powerful enemies. To be clothed with Jesus Christ it is necessary to die to oneself…The Cross is the standard of the elect. Let us always keep close to it and we will succeed in conquering in everything and over everyone.”
Taken from the Knights of the Immaculata Magazine (July to August 1989 pp. 28 and 35)