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Even the saints suffered spiritual attack

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God can make us strong, even through our weaknesses
by Msgr. Pedro Lopex-Gallo

Photo Credit: Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna. St. Paul wrote that he is content to with his sufferings, "For it is when I am weak that I am strong." (

The term mystical phenomena is used to embrace all those unusual and mysterious events that surpass the normal powers of the human soul and imply the operation of some higher being superior to the soul, or some unfamiliar factor within the human soul. So understood, the subject would belong to the field of parapsychology which investigates phenomena of this kind in  religion and mysticism, spiritualism, occultism, diabolism and many others. 

The following are the principal and concomitant mystical phenomena, from the beginning to the end of the mystical state: 1) an intuition of God, as distinct from intellectual knowledge; 2) an experimental knowledge, accompanied by spiritual joy, interior absorption in God, disdain for worldly pleasure, and a desire for greater perfection; 3) passive purification of the senses; 4) filial fear of God, love of suffering leading to ecstasy and stigmata, as described by St. Teresa of Avila in Interior Castle (5th-6th); 5) passive purgation of the spirit, as St. John of the Cross describes in Dark Night of the Soul (2:184-204).

Reading the biographies of the saints we discover how God contacted them through mystical phenomena. Many saints have supernatural visions through which they perceive something that is naturally invisible to man. The term supernatural is used to distinguish true visions from hallucinations or illusions caused by pathological mental or diabolical influence.

Revelations are manifestations of hidden truths not normally accessible to man, and usually proceed from a natural, a diabolic, or a supernatural source. Stigmata are the spontaneous appearances of wounds and bleeding that resemble the wounds of Christ. Sometimes the entire body is covered with wounds as if from a scourging, or the forehead is punctured as if by thorns. These wounds usually appear during a period of ecstasy and they do not become inflamed or infected. Stigmatization could be produced by natural causes (autosuggestion, hypnosis, fraud), by the devil, or by a supernatural power.

Bilocation: this phenomenon is the simultaneous presence of a material body in two distinct places at the same time. True bilocation could not occur even by a miracle. What is miraculous in this phenomenon is that while the physical body is circumscriptively present in a given place, the same body is present by a sensible representation in a distinct place.

Levitation is the elevation of the human body above the ground without visible cause and its suspension in the air without natural support. It may also appear in the form of ecstatic flight or

walk. Jesus performed the miracle of walking on the Sea of Galilee and gave this faculty to Peter who walked firmly on water until he doubted.

In total contrast of this divine presence in the soul dedicated to God is the diabolical possession that can only be expelled by exorcism. This is the act of driving out demons or evil spirits from persons, places, or things that are possessed by them.

According to Catholic belief, demons are fallen angels who have rebelled against God. Excluded from friendship with God, they retain nevertheless their natural power of acting upon men for their own evil purposes. This power is limited by divine providence, but it has been given wider scope in consequence of the sin of mankind. Exorcism is nothing more than a prayer to God (sometimes made publicly in the name of the Church, sometimes privately) to restrain the power of the demons over men.

In the Old Testament, the book of Tobit tells of an evil spirit that was said to have killed the seven husbands of Sarah (6:14). Subsequently the angel Raphael took the devil and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt.

In the New Testament, Jesus drove demons out of their victims by the finger of God (Mt 12:22-30) and empowered the apostles and disciples to cast out demons in His name (Mk 3:22-27). The early Christians continued to exorcise demons and today the Church maintains its traditional attitude towards exorcism and recognizes the possibility of diabolical possession.

We are aware of how much the saints suffered from the attacks of the devil. An example is St. Paul himself who describes how he was exalted by the grace of God to the third heaven, and told his readers that “Lest the greatness of the revelations should puff me up, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. Concerning this I thrice besought the Lord that it might leave me, but He said ‘My grace is enough for you.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weakness my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weakness, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:2-10).

Although our body is limited in its physical ability, God can miraculously give his holy people special powers as he does to his saints.


Last Updated on Friday, 26 May 2017 10:01  

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