"You remember, my child, a certain ball which you attended a short time ago?"
"You met a young man there, a stranger, elegant in appearance and of distinguished bearing, who at once became the hero of the fete? and you wished he would invite you to dance? You were vexed and jealous when he preferred others to you?"
"You are certainly right, Father."
"Do you recollect that when he left the assembly you thought you saw, as he walked, two small bluish flames beneath his feet, but you persuaded yourself that it was an optical illusion?"
"I remember it perfectly."
"Well, my child, that youth was a demon. Those with whom he danced were in a state of serious sin! And do you know why he failed to ask you?
"It was owing to the Scapular which you did well not to lay aside and which your devotion to Mary impelled you to wear as your safeguard."
In his life of Francis Yepes, who died in the odor of sanctity in the year 1617, Father Velasco tells us of most extraordinary encounters with Satan. Once, when the Venerable Francis was at prayer, the demon came, under the form of a black raven, throwing itself upon the holy man and beating him with its wings. But instead of being troubled, Francis took his Scapular, invoked the name of Mary, and put the enemy to flight. Another time, as he was respectfully kissing his Scapular, Satan approached, bearing a golden chain, and said: "Come, wear rather this chain of gold about your neck; throw away that object there which is insupportable to us and serves but to torment us!"
In this twentieth century (now21st!) we have difficulty in appreciating a Marian Sign which torments Satan. One of his greatest conquests is that the modern world disbelieves in him. Today, clergymen as well as laymen often fear to claim acquaintance with such things as violent diabolical possession (rather speaking of "hysteria", or "violent anti-religious complexes") for fear of descending, in the estimation of their hearers, into the category of the over-credulous. One refers frequently to Satan as "Old Nick," divested of his terror, more a myth than a living force and more a joke than the most powerful and horrible enemy we have. When a venerable Brother Andre is diabolically assaulted in this twentieth century, the incident goes almost unnoticed; when nocturnal noises, unseen blows, curtain fires and the like, attest the hatred of some unseen enemy to the holiness of a Cure of Ars, we believe but seem to ignore the fact that these same enemies are ours.
It used to be that Satan did not so completely hide himself as he does today. In the time of Christ the very mention of his name struck fear into human hearts; it was the name of the black prince of this earth who sometimes possessed his victims not only to make them rabid denouncers of God, iconoclasts, fomenters of spiritual and temporal revolution (like the modern demons of Russia) but even to torture them, causing them to throw themselves against obstacles or cruelly to tear themselves.
Not dreaded today as he once was, those whom Satan ensnares to sin do not realize that he is their worst enemy but think him rather one to bring them pleasure, one who is a material friend. Hence, although fallen angels were once forced to cry out after a great public conversion, "O Scapular, how many souls you snatch from usl"3, it is to be feared that the power of Mary's Garment against spiritual enemies will most probably be underestimated today. Even though the Venerable Francis Yepes was given to understand that Satan fears three things most, the invocation of the names of Jesus and Mary, and the wearing of the Scapular, still, in these days of Satan's victory of silence, the great value of a practice most dreaded by him is liable to go unnoticed. If we happen to perceive little things that would indicate the presence of the spiritual wolves in sheep's clothing, like the favored young woman who interviewed the Cure of Ars, we most likely convince ourselves that they are but delusions. If we refuse to recognize our enemies, how can we possibly appreciate our safeguard?
But the power of the Scapular is a reality whether we are ready to appreciate it or not. In making a promise of Salvation the Blessed Virgin has given us a Sign of Victory—a Sign before which Hell trembles!
Those who do appreciate the power of Mary in the Scapular against Satan, have often, through the mere pressing of the Scapular to their lips, been able to cause the most violent temptations to melt away. They know that due to their devout wearing of the Scapular with its presence of Mary, Satan dare not come near them. We discover traces of fright in the words uttered by Pope Leo XI as the Scapular was accidentally being removed from his shoulders at the papal investiture: "Leave me Mary, lest Mary leave me!"
When learned writers apply the following passage of Scripture to Mary: "Her bands are a binding of salvation," Saint Lawrence Justinian asks: "Why bands except it be that She binds Her servants and thus prevents them from straying into the paths of vice?"4 And Saint Alphonsus remarks: "Truly this is the reason for which Mary binds Her servants."5 She has affiliated us to Herself by the bonds of a dual, Scapular contract, and why?—that the powers of Hell may be rendered impotent before us.
It must not be believed, however, that one will never sin if he does nothing more than simply wear the Scapular. As Father Lejeune points out, wearing the Scapular is the wearing of Mary only in the degree to which we wear the Scapular piously.6 Ordinary state of investiture, the passive wearing of the Scapular, is a pious act in which perserverance will be ultimately rewarded with victory.
From Chapter 11