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That is to say, does the Catholic Church regard as legitimate any recorded instances of Satan himself making direct contact with one or more people, other than those in the bible such as the serpent in the garden, Job (even though Job was not himself contacted) etc? Incarnation, possession, visions etc would all qualify.

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  • Could you clarify what you mean by "visions"?
    – user54757
    Aug 15, 2022 at 0:43
  • For the purposes of this question, a dream or vision (hallucination even) that either is or includes communication directly from Satan. Basically I'm not looking for a specific type of communication, just anything where the being contacted has been acknowledged to be Satan himself Aug 15, 2022 at 0:57
  • There is an account in the 1960s in a book that I have, which I could quote from, but there is no Catholic connection or response to this event. It happened to a woman who was not a Christian (at the time, though she converted later, but not to Catholicism.) If you could scope your question to allow for that, I could answer, otherwise, I cannot.
    – Anne
    Aug 15, 2022 at 11:19

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According to the Catholic Church, has Satan ever appeared on earth since biblical times?

It is rather hard to get a clear and unambiguous yes answer to this question, but it is permitted for the faithful to believe that Satan has manifested his presence in person at different times through the history of the Church.

One of the greatest problems in answering this question is that historically any such apparitions are generally naming Satan as the Devil, which is a general nomenclature for Demons.

Satan, also known as the Devil, and sometimes also called Lucifer in Christianity, is an evil entity in the Abrahamic religions of both Judaism and Christianity.

The Devil is generally identified with Satan, the accuser in the Book of Job. Only rarely are Satan and the devil depicted as separate entities, thus making a unique apparition of Satan or Lucifer difficult to pin down. The Church has no doubt that this has happened. Proving it is more difficult yet.

Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this notion:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) here makes clear that Satan, aka the Devil, cannot be reduced to a mere symbol of evil. He is a personal being, a fallen angel, who is at the same time not an evil god, but a creature who is neither infinite nor omniscient.

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”268

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.”270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.271

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”272

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”275

Just because the name of Satan or Lucifer is employed in a manuscript, that does not mean the author is not writing about anyone else but the Leader of all the other Devils or Demons.

Most traditional Catholics will know who St. John Marie Baptist Vianney is. Known as the famous Curé of Ars, he fought daily with the Devil and his Demons! One day Satan, admitted his uselessness to stop the Curé of Ars in saving sinners. He spent many hours each day hearing the confessions of sinners, sometimes up to 18 hours a day.

Before we close with our little exposition, we must provide a brief explanation of his harassment by the devil. Satan prefers to be forgotten so that he can do his work all the more proficiently. If this tactic does not work, he has recourse to all sorts of manifestations to unsettle a soul. With the Curè none of his tactics were successful. Thus, the devil assumed a bodily form to terrify the priest, which he managed to do for a time. Imagine yourself being dragged out of bed by the ankles, as he was, on many occasions, or hearing hideous screams or Satan himself singing in the night. This what happened to the Curè D'Ars from 1824-1858, hundreds of times a year. After a while he stopped being terrified; all that Satan could effect was a loss of sleep, which was at most only 2 to 3 hours anyway. One night the bed was set aflame, still to no avail. The devil was heard to say, "If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined." - St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests

It is only to obvious that the Devil in the above quote is Satan without any doubt whatsoever. His biography Le Curé d’Ars : Saint Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney (1786-1859) by Mgr Francis Trochu

Another such case, of Satan’s manifesting himself to individuals takes in the the same country of the Cure d’Ars. It involves the person of St. Mary of the Crucified Jesus would at the Devil’s request from God was permitted to possess the body of Sr. Mary of the Crucified Jesus in order to make her fall into temptation. It did not work. In fact, in her biography, the Devil asked to end the possession two days early of 40 days, fearing he would not conquer his prey. Forty days he asked for, forty days it will be!

She offered all the suffering that awaited her for the Church, the Holy Father and priests, for the conversion of sinners and souls suffering in purgatory. On the day before the possession, Sister Mary had a vision of Jesus. He put on her shoulder a huge cross which caused her severe pain.

For what purpose did God allow this terrible suffering of demonic possession? Mystical theology and great mystics call this state a passive purification. To prepare man for even closer unity with himself and provide a special share in the salvation of sinners, God thoroughly purifies by allowing Satan to harass, torment with obsessions and even possess. The Lord Jesus allowed evil spirits to control Sister Mary’s body for forty days.

The evil spirits failed to make Sister Mary utter a single word of complaint, although there were days when 100 demons tormented her terribly. After every attack by the forces of evil, Sister Mary repeated: “I unite with Jesus on Calvary by offering myself together with him for the conversion of sinners. My God, be blessed!”

She united her sufferings with those of Jesus at all the stages of his passion and death, from the treason of Judas until the death on the cross. In the course of that great suffering, she was supported by the presence of Jesus, Our Lady and the saints. Mary offered her suffering for “the blind who do not know the Church” and for all those who fight it and hate it, for hardened sinners who reject God’s mercy and follow the road to hell.

One day, the Lord Jesus appeared to Mary and said: “It was not I who chose hell for you people. You make this choice yourselves. There is no such soul that convicts itself before I first have spoken to its heart a thousand times. I came to earth; I took on your nature and became a small child – obedient, poor and humble. I suffered all this for you. It is not I who damn you, it is you who damn yourselves when you choose sin and reject my mercy.”

In the final hours of the possession of Sister Mary, Lucifer himself came. Her body first turned all red and after a while it changed to black. Smoke started rising from it, and it gave off a strong odour of tar. There were all the signs of agony. The noon of the fortieth day of possession approached. Suddenly, everything changed. Sister Mary of Crucified Jesus hovered in levitation over her bed. Her face and entire body were transfigured and radiated supernatural beauty. All those present were kneeling and, experiencing the joy of heaven, wept with happiness. The resurrected Christ entirely transfigured the tormented body of Sister Mary. - “The little Arab” — St Mary of Crucified Jesus

Her biography in French clearly states that during the second to last exorcism, the Devil announced that their leader would come the next day to face his opponents. So the naming of Lucifer in the above statements is referring to Satan himself.

Mariam Baouardy or Mary of Jesus Crucified, 5 January 1846 – 26 August 1878), was a Discalced Carmelite nun of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Born to Palestinian Greek Catholic parents from the town of Hurfiesh in the upper Galilee, later moved to I’billin, she was known for her service to the poor. In addition, she became a Christian mystic who suffered the stigmata, and has been canonized by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis canonized her on 17 May 2015 at the Vatican. She is invoked for peace in the Holy Lands.

After her demonic possession, she stated that since Satan was permitted to torment me for 40 days while on earth, when I am gone [dead] I will be able torment him even more!

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  • Are the two stories (interactions between Cure of Ars and Mary, and Lucifer) acknowledged by the Church itself to be legitimate? If so then this is exactly what I was looking for, +1 regardless Dec 8, 2022 at 18:13
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    @IsaacMiddlemiss I would think so as Mgr Francis Trucho was the Procurator of his Cause for beatification and canonization. Mary of Jesus Crucified is definitely recognized. If there was a doubt, Rome would have halted their canonizations.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 8, 2022 at 18:57
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Q: According to the Catholic Church, has Satan ever appeared on earth since biblical times?

A: Yes, but official acknowledgement usually does not extend to specific cases.

Incarnation If you mean Satan appearing "in the flesh" with his own body then no such occasion has happened. Satan is a fallen angel, and angels are pure spirit with no material body. But, St. Thomas says angels could assume bodies e.g. in the case of Lot, Abraham, and Tobias. It seems to me like we wouldn't be able to be certain whether this has happened in the case of Satan or any demon since biblical times, as I think we wouldn't be able to tell a mere apparition or phantasm from a real material body.

Possession The Church acknowledges that Satan and the demons do possess material things from time to time, including human bodies. She regulates the ministry of exorcism, a ministry in which bishops, including the bishop of Rome, participate ex officio (whereas priests may only do so with delegation from a bishop).

Visions According to Lucien Roure, "the Devil has always shown himself to men in a sensible form". He notes several accounts from hagiographies. When not in a biography of a saint, any documentation is "classified" or has details censored to protect the privacy of the energumen. A hallucination wouldn't really fall under this category, as it's a figment of the imagination and not really the action of a demon.

These are all extraordinary demonic activity. But the Church teaches that Satan and the demons also tempt us in ordinary activity. St. Thomas gives the example of the lying spirit sent to King Ahab

And the Lord said: Who shall deceive Achab king of Israel, that he may go up, and fall at Ramoth Galaad? And one spoke words of this manner, and another otherwise. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said: I will deceive him. And the Lord said to him: By what means? And he said: I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said: Thou shalt deceive him, and shalt prevail: a go forth, and do so.

Direct communication, however, as you seem to be understanding it, is not really included here.

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    I am looking for specific examples, namely of Satan himself being involved as opposed to any demon Aug 15, 2022 at 2:25
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    The emphasis of the question is on the presence of Satan, not the particular form/method of his presence Aug 15, 2022 at 2:27
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    To maintain the privacy of the energumen (demoniac) and to prevent scandal and fascination, details of specific cases are not usually publicized and if they are discussed they are anonymized. Would it not suffice to show how the Church acknowledges that this has happened/can happen in a general sense? Or do you want at least one case where the Church says "At such-and-such time in so-and-so place Satan appeared/possessed someone/was seen in a vision by someone"? And do you need a magisterial document or would the work of private authors suffice?
    – user54757
    Aug 15, 2022 at 14:22

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