St. Padre Pio’s Lessons on Defeating Satan
Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is best known for having stigmata (wounds of Christ on his body), bilocation (ability to be in two places at the same time), thousands of physical healings, spiritul conversions and other miracles that happened through his intercession. Before going to San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy where the saint spent most of his life I read a few books about him that formed an image of a “miracle man” whom I was curious to see (St. Pio’s body is incorrupt and can be seen in San Giovanni Rotondo). However after sitting in front of his body and reading about him for a few hours I had discovered something that was so central in St. Padre Pio’s life but at the same time so often overlooked – his daily fight with temptations and satan. Today we live in the world filled with evil which exposes us to all kinds of temptations daily. St. Padre Pio’s life provides a wonderful example of how satan and his temptations can be confronted and defeated. Therefore I would like to start series of articles about St. Padre Pio by writing about satan and temptations in the life of this saint.
The Three Visions of St. Padre Pio
St. Padre Pio spent most of his life as a member of the Franciscan order which he joined on January 22, 1903, at the age of 15. In 1902, months before entering religious life, Francesco Forgione saw a vision where he met Jesus or as he described in his letters, a “man of majestic appearance and rare beauty, shining like the sun”. In the vision, Jesus took Francesco into a countryside where two large groups of people were present – the first one of “very handsome men dressed in robes which were as white as snow” and the second one of “very ugly men dressed in black robes (…) who appeared to be more like dark shadows”. Francesco was put in the space between the two groups of people and saw a dark giant creature whose forehead was touching the clouds coming toward him. Francesco was asked by Jesus (who was still near him) to fight the monster. Francesco was afraid and asked Jesus to spare him from the fight but Jesus’ response was, “You cannot escape this. You must fight. Courage! Go, fight boldly and with confidence. I will be here beside you to help you and I will not allow the creature to defeat you”. Francesco entered the battle and with the help of Jesus made the monster and the group of ugly people in dark clothes flee. As the reward for the fight, Jesus put a beautiful crown on Francesco’s head but then immediately removed it saying, “Another crown, more beautiful than this, will be yours if you learn to fight this creature you have just defeated. He will be back to attack you. Fight bravely and count on my help. Don’t be afraid of being harrased by him nor terrified by his terrible appearance. I will be with you and I will help you every time so that you will be victorious over him”.
On January 1st, 1903, a few weeks before Francesco joined the Franciscans, he had a second vision. After receiving Communion on that day, he received a very clear understanding that in his religious life he would constantly be fighting the ugly monster (satan) which he saw a few months ago but he should not be afraid of it because Jesus will support him in this fight.
A few days later, on January 5th, 1903, the day before he left his native Pietrelcina to join the monastery, Francesco had a third vision where Jesus and his Mother Mary assured Francesco of their love and protection.
The Fulfillment of the Three Visions: Devil’s Temptations and Attacks on St. Padre Pio
During the next six decades, satan appeared to St. Padre Pio multiple times and in many different forms: as a devil, a beast, a man, a woman, a friar, a Crucifix, Our Lady, an angel, saint Francis and many others. These apparitions were accompanied by temptations and physical attacks that had a goal of destroying St. Pio’s faith, hope and trust in God and thus preventing this saint from bringing (through his priestly ministry) thousands if not millions of souls to heaven that would otherwise be headed to hell.
St. Padre Pio could identify the demonic origin of these apparitions as soon as they start because they would always bring a feeling of disgust to his soul. These apparitions would include various kinds of temptations, such as the ones against purity (devil appearing as a dancing woman, introducing impure thoughts and images into his mind), against faith (devil suggesting to deny the truths of the Catholic faith, bringing blasphemous thoughts to the saint’s mind, asking him to stop telling his spiritual director about what is going on in his spiritual life, destroying letters from spiritual director or even appearing as a penitent during confession and trying to convince St. Padre Pio that there was no such a thing as sin and that what the Church considers to be sinful actions these were just “natural” and “normal” human actions) and many others.
St. Padre Pio also frequently experienced physical attacks from the devil (such as beating, dragging his body on the ground, throwing his things around the room, making noises at night, etc.) The devil was using these torments with the purpose of weakening St. Padre Pio’s faith and will, and sowing doubts in God’s love (how can loving God allow such violent things to happen?)
Devil’s temptations and violence often lasted for hours which would leave St. Padre Pio exhausted, physically wounded and his soul “enveloped in darkness”. After St. Padre Pio complained to his Guardian Angel about the sufferings caused by the devil, the Angel revealed to him the meaning of these sufferings: “Jesus permits these assaults of the devil because (…) he wants you to resemble himself in the torments he endured in the desert, in the Garden and on the Cross”. During one of his apparitions, Jesus himself also explained to St. Padre Pio why he allows all the temptations and sufferings to happen: “I want your soul to be purified and tried by a daily hidden martyrdom; do not be frightened if I allow the devil to torment you (…) for nothing will prevail against those who groan beneath the Cross for love of me and whom I have taken care to protect.”
Jesus kept his promise – St. Padre Pio never gave in to temptations or physical attacks from the devil. He kept fighting, won the war against satan and received the crown of holiness that Jesus promised him in 1902. Moreover, after going through the decades-long war against the devil, St. Padre Pio learned the best ways of handling temptations and satan’s attacks. As a priest he shared that knowledge with the people he ministered to and he continues to share that knowledge with us today – through the letters he had written during his life and through the books written by others about him.
How to Defeat Satan and His Temptations, According to St. Padre Pio
“The devil is like a rabid dog tied up to a chain; beyond the length of the chain he cannot seize anyone. And you: keep a distance. If you approach too near, you let yourself be caught. Remember that the devil has only one door by which he enters the soul: the will. There are no secret or hidden doors.” – St. Padre Pio.
- Do not dwell on what satan insinuates: only he who flees will win.
- Stop seeing in your soul only weakness and sinfulness – satan is using these thoughts to make you lose courage and perseverance of holiness.
- Be vigilant always – satan is at work all the time and waits for the best moment to strike you.
- Pray continuously – although satan is a fallen angel he is still an angel which means that his intelligence is higher than that of a human being. Therefore for a human being to defeat satan divine help is needed. By praying continuously you will be close to God and his help will always be near.
- Be humble and trust in God – “satan fears and trembles before humble souls”, said St. Padre Pio. Satan easily overcomes those who (just like satan) are arogant and trust in their own stenght. But satan runs away from humble souls because he knows that these souls put their trust in God’s hands and therefore God will always answer their prayers.
- Be devoted to Jesus on the Cross. “The best way to avoid falling is to lean on the cross of Jesus”, St. Padre Pio wrote. “Never fear the tricks of satan, because even though they might be vigorous they will never move a soul who keeps itself attached to the Cross.” “Imagine you have Jesus Christ crucified in your arms and on your breast and kissing his side, say: Behold my hope, behold the living source of my happiness, I will hold you close, o my Jesus, and I will not leave you until you have put me in a place of safety.”
- Ask Saint Michael the Archangel and your Guardian Angel for help. The very name Guardian Angel suggests the role that God has assigned to each Guardian Angel – to guard us against and to protect us from all dangers the greatest of which are sin and the loss of heaven. Because sin is often caused by temptation, we should ask for Guardian Angel’s protection as soon as we experience the first signs of temptation or even better – before temptation even starts. When Lucifer and his wicked angels revolted against God it was Archangel Michael who led the faithful angels in the battle against the wicked ones and drove them out of heaven. Archangel Michael can be helpful when we need to drive satan away from our souls, too.
- Grow in devotion to Our Lady who, according to St. Padre Pio, administers the stregth and courage in our fight against satan and whose Rosary he often called the weapon againts satan. On October 7th (the feast of the Holy Rosary) in 1916 St. Padre Pio had a dream, “I seemed to find myself at the window of the choir-stalls of the little church in San Giovanni Rotondo, and on the square in front of this there was an enormous crowd. After having observed that countless multitude of people, leanig out of the window of the little choir-stalls, I asked: ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ And all that crowd, in unison, with a deafening and thundering voice, shouted at the top of their voices: ‘The death of Padre Pio!’ I realized that they were all devils!!! At these words I returned to the choir-stalls to pray. The Madonna immediately came to me. With a grief-stricken maternal glance and determined gestures she placed in my hand a ‘weapon’ saying to me: ‘With this weapon you will win!’ I brought it to the window of the little choir-stalls and all those people, in a flash, fell to the ground, dead.” Shortly before his death, St. Padre Pio expressed his last wish to his spiritual children: “Love Our Lady and make her loved! Always recite the holy rosary!”