Five years ago, I became a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. During his time on Earth, Padre Pio made this promise many times: “Once I take a soul on, I also take on his entire family as my spiritual children. If one of my spiritual children ever goes astray, I shall leave my flock and seek him out….I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered.” Anyone can become a spiritual child of Padre Pio, so long as they imitate Pio’s virtue and faith in their words and deeds. What’s great about having Pio as a spiritual ‘dad’ is that his intense personality and passion for the Lord makes him excellent at motivating a spiritual child to keep on going when they are feeling weary.
An aspect of his life that anyone would find fascinating would be his many encounters with Satan. According to high-profile exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, “The devil appeared to him [Pio] under many different forms: as a big black cat… or repulsive animal, clearly intending him harm, as well as under the appearance of naked and provocative young girls who danced obscene dances, obviously to test the chastity of the young priest. However, the worst was when the Devil took on the appearance of his spiritual director, or posed as Jesus, the Virgin Mary or St. Francis.” Satan would even have his minions beat Pio senseless, making the Capuchin friar fall out of his bed!
If Pio were to hear a fellow Christian deny the existence of the devil or reduce the evil one to a mere metaphor for evil in general, he might say something to the effect of, “I doubt it was a mere metaphor that ripped my clothes from me while making my room shake.” Pio was known for his occasional sass… Unfortunately, if Pio were walking among us today, he would likely come across Christians who either keep their lips sealed about Satan or just don’t believe in the Prince of Darkness altogether.
Why did I bring up that I’m a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio? It is because what concerned him also concerns me, and one thing that disturbs both myself and the man who went toe-to-toe with Satan himself is the lack of parish priests, pastors, and other leaders in the Christian faith who are willing to openly call out Satan as the puppeteer of the world’s evil. Imagine my shock when I read a 2009 article from Barna.org that revealed that in America, four out of ten Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being, but rather is a symbolic representation of evil. If that’s not an alarming sign of the times, I don’t know what is.
So why should Christians of all denominations be more vocal about Satan and his influence?
Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. 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. – Catechism of the Catholic Church #391
Yes, even Satan started out as “good”… He was known as Lucifer, a powerful angel held in high regard. What led Lucifer to fall was thought to be the sins of pride and envy. Michael the Archangel, whose name means “Who is like God?” stood opposed to Lucifer’s rebellion. However, Lucifer, in his fall, was able to take one-third of Heaven with him in his descent. Just think about that for a minute: Lucifer is so cunning that he actually talked one-third of God’s angels into turning their backs on the One who brought them into being.
Peter’s first letter warns, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (5:8)
Think about this for a moment: a lion is a powerful animal that is able to lurk in the bushes, watching its prey. Once it jumps into the light, it lands on the weaker creature, pinning it to the ground before devouring it. Satan operates the exact same way. He does his work in the shadows, watching and waiting for the right moment to strike. His favored method involves coming to us in the form of something appealing and enticing. He disguises what is evil as something good. By the time he does reveal his true colors we are far too deep into his lies. Saint Angela Merici tells us, “Remember that the Devil doesn’t sleep, but seeks our ruin in a thousand ways.”
Speaking of Satan’s love of lying, John 8:44 states, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
When he pushes them to commit sins, he removes all shame, as if there were nothing wrong with it, but when they are going to confession, he returns that shame magnified and tries to convince them that the priest will be shocked by their sins and will no longer think well of them. Thus the devil tries to drive souls to the brink of eternal damnation. Oh, how many lads does Satan steal from God, sometimes forever by this trick. – St. John Bosco
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln of Nebraska warns, “Because Satan would like to destroy our relationship with God and ensnare us with lies, we must be on vigilant guard against his temptations. If we don’t believe in Satan, we won’t recognize his efforts to confuse us, to bind us and to tempt us away from God’s will.” How are we supposed to keep an eye out for what is dangerous if we refuse to accept that the danger exists? If your home was on fire, you wouldn’t turn your head and say, “Well, there isn’t really a fire. It’s just a metaphor for bad luck.” No, you would call the fire department and have it put out as quickly as possible. Yet many Christians keep quiet about Satan’s presence because they are either worried about being labeled as an “extremist,” or they have become so worn down by all the terrible events taking place on Earth that they shield themselves with apathy. Evil happens when good people are unwilling to make their voices heard.
Priests, bishops, as well as pastors and reverends from all Christian denominations have a responsibility to speak from the pulpit about the enemy who seeks to drive us away from the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we are to know about our Savior, we should also know about the Wicked One whose goal is to divide our communities and conquer our souls. Only by clinging to Jesus, His Mother Mary, the angels and the saints will we be able to fight back against the fallen angel who wants to drag as many children of God down with him as possible.
Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.