Why do demons attack some saints, but seem to leave others alone?

I know the Devil has insidious ways of tempting and going after each of us, and people’s weak spots differ, so the means used by the Devil and his minions also differs.

However, I was just reading about how St. Paul of the Cross was regularly physically attacked by demons, who tried to dissuade him from his priestly vocation or just interfere with his activities. I know there are other saints who were regularly physically attacked by demons, such as St. Padre Pio and St. Martin de Porres. But in other cases saints simply seem to have seen demons rather than getting beaten up by them, or they didn’t have any such experiences though they may have experienced doubt or despair which undoubtedly came from the Devil.

Why do demons manifest in such a physical way to some saints and not to others? All saints are very holy, so I am skeptical that it’s because Saint X was so much holier than Saint Y.

Scholarly/ theological support for your answer would be helpful.

Just my guess: I think we can assume Satan attacks everyone he perceived as holy. Whether those attacks are overt or not may vary for each individual based on Satan’s assessment of their vulnerability. So Satan might believe that Saint X may be knocked off course by a direct attack, but Saint Y would only dig in her heels and recommit to Christ. So maybe for Saint Y it’s better to lay low and see if you can subtly nudge her towards complacency.

Again, just thinking out loud.


Or maybe Saint Z is doubting whether anything metaphysical exists at all and a direct attack would be counterproductive, because it would, if nothing else, lead him to stop considering atheism/materialism.

Could be lots of reasons that are more about tactics than anything.


Yeah, I guess this is similar to another question i was pondering this week about why some people get “slain in the spirit” when they attend a charismatic healing service, and others like me prosaically get their blessing, feel nothing and walk out of the church in an ordinary way. When you see 10 people ahead of you having to be caught and placed in chairs where some of them pass out or burst into tears, and then it’s your turn and as usual nothing exciting happens, you kind of wonder “Am I somehow not as holy as the 10 people ahead of me, or does God have some reason for not making me fall down? Other than the fact that I have to get home and finish some work tonight?” Not that I’m anxious to collapse or anything.


This is also what I am asking myself sometimes but the answer may be the following: just as some saints had visions, ecstasies, locutions, and some seem like they had no any extraordinary or supernatural experience, but they were still extraordinary saints. Someone would say that they were usual persons and wouldn’t ever say that they are saint if they would live with them ( I noticed that some people more love those who had supernatural experiences than every-day saints).

God allowed Satan and his angels to beat some saints, to be visible to them, to do ugly things with His permission. So I believe it is for salvation and greater good, God knows how much someone could endure. I also believe that demon abuse was a sacrifice either for one’s own or for another’s soul.
Also I believe that was showing God’s strenght, love and God’s victory over every evil even though it seemed like God left them alone. Saints or anyone else could never be winner over demons by themselves.
And one more thing, some saints were more attacked by illnesses, some by persecution, some by demons but I think it also depended in which religious circumstances they lived (Middle Age, for example, is known as the penitential period and many devotions oriented to penance and repentance come from MA, like 15 prayers of st. Bridget) so God would let some things to happen for good of other souls.
There could be different obstacles (like demon attacks) or chances for combat on way to sainthood.
I cannot give you sources for my words since those are some my thoughts and I don’t know if someone wrote something about it.


Why do you call these negative signs or see them as some sort of failure? Not sure “slain by the Holy Spirit” is a teaching encouraged the Church… it’s more of a popular belief. Other popular beliefs claim that if one is feeling sick during a Rite they might be possessed or such and fainting in church is seen as a bad sign.
I am not sure how things ARE but relying solely on our emotions is not something Holy Mother Church encourages so don’t feel like you are missing out just because “you don’t feel anything”.
We all get bad ideas and these are as bad as we seeing Satan in flesh or even worse, because we don’t see Him, we think we are right when we are not… and this is his biggest attack…

100% of people are regularly tempted by demons that have a malevolent desire for us to join them in their misery. IMO a few mystics suffer in a more acute or physical way as a lesson and inspiration for the faithful in perseverance. Each person has their gifts and each person serves a particular organ in the body of the Church; teachings from the book of Romans.

It can also be a way to temper people with humility, like St Paul praying to have his thorn removed, but God having something better in mind.



I was just curious, I don’t feel like I’ve “failed”. I do wonder about it, as the priest mentioned a church he’d been to where all but 2 people fell right down when he called down the Spirit, and my first thought was “What was up with those two?”

I think you read a lot of stuff into my post that wasn’t there to be honest. It’s kind of normal to wonder why two people are differently affected by the same blessing, or wonder if one’s own response to it might be different if one were farther along the spiritual path.

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That’s a good point. Maybe the manifestation was more as a lesson for the community that the people were living in. If one is off by oneself in a hermitage, there is no one else to see the lesson. Since God does what he does for the increase of faith, and the saints themselves likely had a lot of faith already, sometimes things happen for the benefit of the observers rather than the person.

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The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis? I haven’t read it for ages, but it might touch on this.

I myself have no experience or great thoughts on demons.


Exorcists have taught that hell imitates heaven in a similar but opposite fashion. As patron saints are known to “specialize” in various ways of helping, certain demons specialize in their means of attacking.

It is not necessary to fall down to “prove” that a blessing has been given.

Some do feel the strength of it, and some fall down because they are somewhat “prepared” to fall down. (power of suggestion).

I read a critique on the falling phenomena a long time ago, and don’t have it with me to respond at length.

I do remember a very long time ago being taken to a healing Mass and prayers of Father Robert de Grandis, and I remember him saying to the throng that was in the church:
“Do not fall down”. No one fell down.


This is the best question during the pandemic.

Four-horns demons attacks all unless being peace with them. Do not confront all kinds of tricks, traps, their snares but run to Jesus and Holy Queen of Legion of Angels immediately to handle them.

They come to trick and harass me since the lock down started horribly and detained me like prisoner.

I was very disappoint most churches were so wrong and did not deliver the holy communion like fast food service while pilgrims line up inside the cars. Also very disappointed the church did not teach the pilgrims publicly to defend. Since the lock down, I guess probably demons have attacked numerous Christians.

Since a phenomena of home apparitions of Jesus, Holy queen, monstrance which dripped blood to my bread on live stream mass, I was out of trouble!

Yeah but Divine Providence sees to it that things get around. St Anthony of Egypt lived and died and would have been lost to history if not for St Athanasius writing his biography, and now he is cherished as an early pillar of monasticism. Demons might be unholy but they know what holiness is and they knew St Anthony was a terrifying threat: prayer, fasting, silence, meditation, retreat from worldly life. Those things are what destroyed Nazism and the USSR, if you believe in this stuff, which I do.

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To me, the only reasonable explanation is that God allows this or that concerning this or that saint. The Devil as such would do it ALL if allowed. The more interesting point to me, is that when it comes to saints, the Devil is but a useful tool to test the holy ones. No matter how many saints he has failed to gain, he keeps going for the next saint he is allowed to tempt. Seems like the enemy cannot help himself in that sense.

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Don’t worry too much about that - I have a Pentecostal friend who said he faked a response like that because he believed it was expected of him, and I’ve heard others say the same…


Aquinas’s reply to why God allows demons to assail people (question 114 of the first part of the Summa) is because of their malice, and God allows it because it is a means of achieving greater holiness. So the demons have their free will, kept in check by angels, and why they attack this or that saint is their own choice. Since their aim is to tempt based on a person’s vulnerability, we can speculate that the devil may prefer to stay hidden to aggravate doubt, but act more directly against those saints who struggle more with passions than doubts.

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I had a genuine experience of “resting in the Spirit” so I can attest that it isn’t [always] fake, although one might argue that it’s a kind of hypnosis. It definitely isn’t some kind of reward for holiness though, in my opinion. I certainly was not expecting or wanting it to happen.


I only know about my experiences growing up Pentecostal. I’ve been slain in the spirit. It’s real. For me it was definitely an altered state of consciousness. I couldn’t stop. I had no control over myself when I was speaking in tongues. I now doubt what spirit was at work there. I can’t speak at all to similar situations in Catholic settings- but it certainly sounds extremely similar in some respects. I want zero percent to do with anything that even smacks of that these days. It’s hard not to judge, so I’ll just leave it alone. Your post did spark a personal story of mine though.

I once went on a missions trip to Argentina back in the 90s. We had to pray every morning before going out. One girl lamented that she’d never fallen out and others echoed that. Lo and behold, at our group prayer time they started to fall like dominoes (all but me, the main pastor, and another girl). It’s because it was a mass psychosis. I felt nothing. I even rolled my eyes when they started falling because it was predictable. I then proceeded to watch people get worked up over some alleged demonic attack during an evening service. I saw, heard, and witnessed nothing of the sort. I also witnessed people dancing around in the spirit and going whacko- including my youth pastor- who had never done such things before. He later admitted it wasn’t of God and he just got caught up and did it. Everyone I ever took with me to church growing up, couldn’t leave fast enough. They all left scared and they all commented on how it felt oppressive.

Anyway, back to your post, nothing at all may have been up with those two in the service that priest mentioned. For all we know, they may have been the most holy people there. Maybe they had greater spiritual gifts.


Yeah, I don’t want to think badly of people but I wonder how much of it is monkey see monkey do.

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