“The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.” –St. Thomas More
To have “Saintly Sass” is something that is key to overcoming our temptations. In fact, it is practically key to our salvation. What do I mean exactly by “Saintly Sass”? Well, essentially what I mean is having so much confidence in God that when the evil one is trying to get in between you and Him, you see Satan as nothing more than a joke for trying. In this article, we are going to look at some stories of Saints who have had physical/frightening encounters with Satan, but where so confident in the power of God, the Devil was merely just an annoyance to them.
An important thing to note is that Satan will not do any more work than necessary to get you to be his slave. What I mean by this is if all it takes for you to stop praying is just him whispering a subtle lie in your head saying, “it won’t work, God is too busy to deal with you,” than that is all he will do. The Devil does not care about you to put in more work than necessary. Satan has only one play in his play book: To confuse you. Either by exploiting fear, anger, or anything you give to him. Satan has lost all power through the death of our Lord and the only power he ever has is the power we decide to give him over us.
St. Anthony the Great was known for his hermitage to the desert to be devoted to God through fasting, prayer, and other disciplines of the body and spirit. Satan, of course, was angered by this because he lost all authority over him. In Satan’s anger, he and his demons one night, when St. Anthony was sleeping in a cave, beat him repeatedly and severely to the point where he was speechless and presumed dead. A friend of St. Anthony found him and, in a hurry, nursed him back to health. When St. Anthony was revitalized, he ran back to the cave where the demons had beaten him and proclaimed: “Here I am- Anthony! I refuse to run from your blows, even if you beat me again, nothing will separate me from the Love of Christ.”
The demons wanted to try a different strategy now since he came back. They took on the forms of different animals like bears, lions, tigers, leopards, etc. and tried to frighten St. Anthony. Here’s where his Saintly sass comes in. He proceeds to say “If any of you had any power within you, it would only take one of you to beat me. But the Lord has broken your strength and these scare tactics are only a sign of your weakness.” I imagine that the fires of Hell could never burn the demons like this statement did. The demons were forced to leave out of their humiliation and the fact that St. Anthony knew God was on his side.
St. Teresa of Avila, one of my favorite Saints, was given the task by God not to start her own order, but to reform the order she joined (Carmelites) so that they could put their focus back on God. Satan, of course, did not like this since he had steered the order off the path of righteousness and was afraid he would lose it. St. Teresa had a lot of instances where she encountered Satan and beat him through the power of God but my favorite instance would have to be this one: One night, Satan appeared to St. Teresa of Avila as she was trying to sleep.
When she saw the dark figure before her, she became frightened because she thought it was a burglar or an intruder to harm her or her convent sisters. She then realized that the figure before her was Satan and she then proceeded to say: “Oh, it’s only you. I thought it was someone who could actually harm me.” The devil was left humiliated and powerless to do anything since he was given no fear to exploit. St. Teresa’s guardian angel was most likely snapping in a “z” formation that night.
St. Gemma Galgani is another amazing Saint who fought the devil. She was a young devout girl who even bore the stigmata and would suffer for the sake of other’s salvation. So because she was a victim soul, the devil despised her. He flat out told her “You can pray for yourself, but if you pray for anyone else, I will surely come after you.” This did not stop her of course because it meant she was doing the right thing. Satan was so upset that he was losing souls because of her suffering that, one night, God allowed him to attack her full force.
He took the letters she was writing to her spiritual director from her hands and tore them up. He then proceeded to beat her horribly and toss her around by her hair that he actually pulled off some of it of when throwing her. Throughout this chaos, she had full faith that Jesus was with her and started offering up her sufferings for the salvation of souls. The devil, realizing what she was doing, went away cowardly since he was being his own downfall. She then shows her sass when she writes to her spiritual director saying: “If you would have seen him, when he fled making faces, you would have burst out laughing! He is so ugly!…. But Jesus told me not to be afraid of him.” Looks like she got the last laugh in the end.
The point in sharing these stories of the Saints is to show on how much confidence in God we should have knowing He has conquered all. But when evaluating these stories, you see what the common weapon is used by all these Saints: Humility. They are humble in their actions by knowing God is in control and is more powerful than any challenge He allows to happen. Humility is key and it is the “Nuclear Warhead” of spiritual warfare as said by Fr. John Corapi.
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”– St. Augustine.
Now of course, we probably won’t experience any extraordinary demonic activity the way these Saints did. We will, however, have ordinary activity such as temptations and doubts in our head. Those small battles are especially when we should show our Saintly Sass. When the Devil entices you with something sinful, just scoff and say “I don’t like to be on the losing team,” and in the name of Jesus, send him away.
St. Teresa of Avila said, “If the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future [Revelation 20:10].”
So remember that no matter what difficulty you go through, as long as you stay with God, you’ve already won.