Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
From out of nowhere, swarms of black flies appeared in the middle of winter, attacking the screen porch of LaToya Ammon's Indiana home. She heard footsteps climbing the basement stairs, then heard the door from the basement open into the kitchen; but when she went to check, there was no one there.
There were other, even stranger things: One of her children was seen to be levitating above her bed, completely unconscious. A doctor reported that her son, during a medical check-up, ran up the wall of the examination room. A case worker from the Department of Child Services, a police officer, health care workers—all saw firsthand the extraordinary attacks on LaToya and her three children. According to a report in USA Today, Captain Charles Austin of the Gary police department was originally skeptical; but after a thorough investigation, he came to believe that evil resided in the home, and he refused to enter. “Why go where evil possibly is there?” he asked.
In 2014 a Catholic priest, Fr. Mike Maginot, was called in to dispel the evil spirits from the family's home in Gary, Indiana; and using a traditional prayer authorized by the Catholic Church, Fr. Maginot performed four exorcisms to cast out the demons which had made life difficult for the Ammon family.
Register correspondent Patti Armstrong told the story of the exorcisms when they occurred, back in 2014; and this week she updated the story, reporting that the home that was believed to be the site of demonic activity had finally been demolished.
Could all of this really point to the presence of evil spirits here on earth? Can demons intrude into everyday human activities, revealing themselves through paranormal events, unfamiliar smells, shadowy specters? Certainly, there are some skeptics who regard the events in Indiana as figments of the imagination, perhaps a psychotic episode.
But throughout recorded history, humans have encountered the spirit world. Paul Thigpen, author of the 2014 classic Manual for Spiritual Warfare, talks about the powerful enemy that is out to destroy you. And in his new book Saints Who Battled Satan, Thigpen recounts the stories of seventeen holy warriors who can “teach you how to fight the good fight and vanquish your ancient enemy.”
In just 234 pages, Saints Who Battled Satan calls to mind early Church fathers, martyrs, medieval hermits and religious men and women, and present-day contemplatives. What unites these Christian heroes from different times and different lands is that each faced off against Satan and his minions, and successfully fended off extraordinary assaults and everyday temptations.
- St. Anthony of the Desert, alone in a secluded place, was tempted by the Devil disguised as a woman and, when he did not give in to her feminine guile, was severely beaten by a mob of demons.
- St. Benedict of Nursia encountered the Devil disguised as a physician, carrying a physician's instruments and riding on a mule. The Devil attacked one of the monks at St. John's Oratory, throwing him to the ground and torturing him mercilessly. But when Benedict saw what was happening, he struck the monk on the cheek, causing the demon to flee.
- St. Ignatius Loyola experienced ten months of spiritual combat; but out of this season of spiritual warfare came one of the greatest books on spiritual battle strategy, The Spiritual Exercises. The plan outlined in that book is still in wide use today among Jesuits and others who seek a stronger life of faith.
- St. Perpetua was a young married noblewoman who lived in the third century, and who suffered persecution and martyrdom under the reign of the emperor Septimus Severus. Perpetua's family, especially her father, begged her to renounce her faith and thus secure her freedom; but she refused to recant and she was flogged, then gored and thrown by a wild cow in the Colosseum. Her last words, spoken to her dying comrades, were, “Stand fast in the faith, and love one another, all of you, and don't allow my sufferings to cause you to stumble.”
- The Devil appeared often to St. Gemma Galgani, trying to tempt and terrify her. When she was dying of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five, the Devil tried one last time to make her stumble. First her imagination was drawn to fantasies calculated to provoke fear, sadness, anxiety and revulsion. When that didn't work, she was subjected to bodily injuries and phantoms of horrible beasts attacking her. With no priest on hand to rebuke the demons, Gemma did it herself; then she cried out to heaven for help.
Besides the seventeen stories of brave and holy saints, Dr. Thigpen includes brief scenes from the lives of other saints who battled evil spirits: St. Serapion rebuking the demon, so that a flame shot out from his breast; St. Paul of the Cross, who was visited by demons in the form of cats, dogs or evil birds; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was visited by a dark and menacing figure, eyes flashing like two coals as he gnashed his teeth.
But the goal of Thigpen's stories is not to frighten, but to inspire. Just as the saints achieved glory by fending off Satan's attacks, we can stand firm today. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are encouraged to be sober, be watchful. For just as in Gary, Indiana, just as in the early days of the Church, your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. “Resist him,” the Scripture exhorts, “firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.”