A Diabolical Possession
When St. Dominic was preaching the Rosary near Carcassone (1) an Albigensian was brought to him who was possessed by the devil. St. Dominic exorcised him in the presence of a great crowd of people; it appears that more than 12,000 had come to hear him preach. The devils who were in possession of this wretched man were forced to answer St. Dominic’s questions in spite of themselves.
They said that:
1. There were 15,000 of them in the body of this poor man, because he had attacked the 15 mysteries of the rosary;
2. They went on to testify that by preaching the Rosary he (Dominic) put fear and horror into the very depths of hell and that he was the man they hated most throughout the whole world, because of the souls which he snatched from them through devotion to the Holy Rosary;
3. They then revealed several other things.
St. Dominic put his rosary around the Albigensian’s neck and asked the devils to tell him who, of all the saints in heaven, was the one they feared the most, and who should therefore be the most loved and revered by men. At this they let out such unearthly screams that most of the people fell to the ground, faint from fear. Then, using all their cunning, so as not to answer, the devils wept and wailed in such a pitiful way that many of the people wept also, out of purely natural pity. The devils spoke through the mouth of the Albigensian, pleading in a heartrending voice:
Dominic, Dominic, have mercy on us—we promise you that we will never hurt you. You have always had compassion for sinners and those in distress; have pity on us, for we are in grievous straits. We are suffering so very much already, so why do you delight in heightening our pains? Can’t you be satisfied with our suffering without adding to it? Have pity on us! Have pity on us!
St. Dominic was not one whit moved by the pathos of these wretched spirits and told them that he would not let them alone until they had answered his question. Then they said they would whisper the answer in such a way that only St. Dominic would be able to hear. The latter firmly insisted upon their answering clearly and out loud. Then the devils kept quiet and refused to say another word, completely disregarding St. Dominic’s orders—so he knelt down and prayed thus to Our Lady: “Oh, all powerful and wonderful Virgin Mary, I implore you by the power of the Most Holy Rosary, order these enemies of the human race to answer me (9).
No sooner had he made this prayer than a glowing flame leaped out of the ears, nostrils and mouth of the Albigensian. Everyone shook with fear, but the fire did not hurt anyone. Then the devils cried:
Dominic, we beseech you, by the passion of Jesus Christ and by the merits of His Holy Mother and of all the saints, let us leave the body of this man without speaking further—for the angels will answer your question whenever you wish. After all, are we not liars? So why should you want to believe us? Please don’t torture us any more; have pity on us.
“Woe unto you wretched spirits, who do not deserve to be heard,” St. Dominic said, and kneeling down he prayed to Our Lady:
Oh most worthy Mother of Wisdom, I am praying for the people assembled here who have already learned how to say the Angelic Salutation properly. Please, I beg of you, force your enemies to proclaim the whole truth and nothing but the truth about this, here and now, before the multitude.
St. Dominic had hardly finished this prayer when he saw the Blessed Virgin near at hand, surrounded by a multitude of angels. She struck the possessed man with a golden rod that she held and said: “Answer my servant Dominic at once.” (Remember, the people neither saw nor heard Our Lady, but only St. Dominic.) Then the devils started screaming:
Oh you who are our enemy, our downfall and our destruction, why have you come from heaven just to torture us so grievously? O Advocate of sinners, you who snatch them from the very jaws of hell, you who are the very sure path to heaven, must we, in spite of ourselves, tell the whole truth and confess before everyone who it is who is the cause of our shame and our ruin? Oh woe unto us, princes of darkness:
Then listen well, you Christians: the Mother of Jesus Christ is all-powerful and she can save her servants from falling into hell. She is the Sun which destroys the darkness of our wiles and subtlety. It is she who uncovers our hidden plots, breaks our snares and makes our temptations useless and ineffectual.
We have to say, however reluctantly, that not a single soul who has really persevered in her service has ever been damned with us: one single sigh that she offers to the Blessed Trinity is worth far more than all the prayers, desires and aspirations of all the saints.
We fear her more than all the other saints in heaven together and we have no success with her faithful servants. Many Christians who call upon her when they are at the hour of death and who really ought to be damned according to our ordinary standards are saved by her intercession.
Oh if only that Mary (it is thus in their fury that they called her) had not pitted her strength against ours and had not upset our plans, we should have conquered the Church and should have destroyed it long before this; and we would have seen to it that all the Orders in the Church fell into error and disorder.
Now that we are forced to speak we must also tell you this: nobody who perseveres in saying the Rosary will be damned, because she obtains for her servants the grace of true contrition for their sins and by means of this they obtain God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Then St. Dominic had them all say the Rosary very slowly and with great devotion, and a wonderful thing happened: at each Hail Mary that he and the people said together a large group of devils issued forth from the wretched man’s body under the guise of red-hot coals.
When the devils had all been expelled and the heretic was at last entirely free of them, Our Lady (who was still invisible) gave her blessing to the assembled company, and they were filled with joy because of this.
A large number of heretics were converted because of this miracle and joined the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
Simon de Montfort, Alan de Lanvallay and Othere
It is almost impossible to do real credit to the victories that Count Simon de Montfort Won against the Albigensians under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. These victories are so famous that the world has never seen anything to match them. One day he defeated 10,000 heretics with a force of 500 men and on another occasion he overcame 3,000 with only 30 men. Finally, with 800 horsemen and 1,000 infantrymen he completely put to rout the army of the King of Aragon which was 100,000 strong, and this with the loss on his side of only one horseman and eight soldiers!
Our Lady also protected Alan de Lanvallay, a Breton Knight, from great perils. He too was fighting for the Faith against the Albigensians. One day when he found himself surrounded by enemies on all sides Our Lady let fall 150 rocks upon his enemies and he was delivered from their hands. Another day when his ship foundered and was about to sink, the Blessed Mother caused 150 small hills to appear miraculously above the water and by means of them they reached Brittany in safety.
He built a monastery at Dinan for the religious of St. Dominic, in thanksgiving to Our Lady for all the miracles that she had worked on his behalf in answer to his daily Rosary. Having become a religious himself he died a holy death at Orleans.
Othere was also a Breton soldier, from Vaucouleurs, and he often put whole companies of heretics or robbers to flight unaided, wearing his Rosary on his arm or carrying it on the hilt of his sword. Once when he had beaten them his enemies admitted that they had seen his sword gleam and that another time they had noticed a shield on his arm which had pictures of Our Lord and Our Lady and the saints upon it. This shield made him invisible and gave him the strength to attack well.
Another time he defeated 20,000 heretics with only 10 companies and without losing a single man. This so impressed the general of the heretics’ army that he came to see Othere afterwards, abjured his heresy and declared publicly that he had seen him surrounded by flaming swords during the battle.
Bl. Alan de la Roche says that a certain Cardinal Pierre, whose titular Church was that of St. Mary-beyond-the-Tiber, was a great friend of St. Dominic’s and had learned from him a deep devotion to the Most Holy Rosary. This resulted in his loving it so much that he never ceased singing its praises and encouraging everyone he met to embrace it.
Eventually he was sent as Legate to the Holy Land to the Christians who were fighting the Saracens. So successfully did he convince the Christian army of the power of the Rosary that they started saying it one and all to storm heaven for help in a battle in which they knew they would be pitifully outnumbered. This resulted in victory for them, and 3,000 Christians triumphed over an enemy of 100,000.
As we have seen, the devils have an overwhelming fear of the Rosary. St. Bernard says that the Angelic Salutation puts them to flight and makes all hell tremble.
Bl. Alan says that he has seen several people delivered from Satan’s bondage after taking up the Holy Rosary, even though they had previously sold themselves to him in body and soul by renouncing their Baptismal Vows and their allegiance to Our Lord Jesus Christ
Freed from Satan
In 1578 a woman in Anvers had given herself to the devil and had signed the contract with her own blood. Shortly afterwards she was stricken with sincere remorse and had an intense desire to make amends for this terrible deed. So she sought out a kind and wise confessor who advised her to go to Father Henry, one of the Fathers of the Dominican Friary, who was Director of the Rosary Confraternity in that town, to ask him to enroll her in it and hear her confession.
Accordingly she went to ask for him but met, not Father Henry, but the devil disguised as a Dominican Father. The latter scolded her pitilessly and said that she could never hope to receive Almighty God’s grace again as long as she lived, and that there was in which she could regain possession of her contract. This grieved her greatly but she did not quite lose hope of God’s mercy and sought out Father Henry once more, only to find the devil a second time, and to meet with a second rebuff.
She came back for the third time and then at last, by Divine Providence, she found Father Henry, in person—the priest whom she had been looking for—and he treated her with very great kindness, urging her to throw herself upon the mercy of Almighty God and to make a good confession. He then received her into the Confraternity and told her to say the Rosary frequently.
One day while Father Henry was saying mass for her Our Lady forced the devil to give back the contract which she had signed. In this way she was delivered from the devil by the authority of Mary and by her devotion to the Most Holy Rosary.
A Monastery Reformed
A nobleman who had several daughters entered one of them in a lax monastery were the nuns were very proud and thought of nothing else but worldly pleasures. The nuns’ confessor, on the other hand, was a zealous priest and had a great love for the Holy Rosary. Wishing to guide this nun into a better way of life he ordered her to say the Rosary every day in honor of the Blessed Virgin while meditating on the life, Passion and glory of Jesus Christ.
She joyously undertook to say the Rosary and little by little she grew to have a repugnance for the wayward habits of her sisters in religion. She developed a love for silence and prayer and this in spite of the fact that the others despised and ridiculed her and called her a fanatic.
It was at this time that a holy priest, who was making the visitation of the convent, had a strange vision while he was making his meditation: he saw a nun in her room, rapt in prayer, kneeling in front of a Lady of breathless beauty who was surrounded by angels. The latter had flaming spears with which they repelled a crowd of devils who wanted to come in. These evil spirits then fled to the other nuns’ rooms under the guise of vile animals.
By this vision the priest became aware of the lamentable state the monastery was in and he was so upset that he thought he might almost die of grief. He immediately sent for the young religious and exhorted her to persevere.
As he pondered on the value of the Rosary, he decided to try to reform the sisters by means of it. He bought a supply of beautiful rosaries and gave one to each nun, imploring them to say the Rosary every day, even going so far as to promise them that, if they would only say it faithfully, he would not try to force them to alter their lives. Wonderful and strange as it may seem the nuns agreed to this pact and were glad to be given the rosaries and promised to say them.
Little by little they began to give up their empty and worldly pursuits, letting silence and recollection come into their lives. In less than a year they all asked that the monastery be reformed.
So the Holy Rosary worked more changes in their hearts than the priest could have worked by exhorting and commanding them.
A Bishop’s Devotion
A Spanish countess, who had been taught the Holy Rosary by St. Dominic, used to say it faithfully every day with the result that she was making wonderful strides in her spiritual life. Since her one and only thought was how she might attain to perfection she asked a Bishop who was a renowned preacher for some practices that would help her become perfect
The Bishop told her that, before he could give her any counsels, she would have to let him know the state of her soul and also what her religious exercises were. She answered that her most important exercise was the Holy Rosary which she said every day meditating on the Joyous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, and that her soul was greatly helped by so doing.
The Bishop was overjoyed to hear her explain what priceless lessons the mysteries contain. “I have been a doctor of theology for 20 years,” he exclaimed “and I have read many excellent books on various devotional practices. But never before have I come across one better than this—for it is of the essence of Christianity and is a devotion which cannot but bear fruit I shall follow your example, and from now on I shall preach the Rosary.”
The Bishop’s preaching met with great success, for in almost no time his diocese changed for the better. There was a notable decline in immorality and worldliness of all kinds as well as in gambling. There were several striking instances of people being brought back to the Faith, or sinners making restitution for their crimes and of others sincerely resolving to give up lives of vice. Religious fervor and Christian charity began to flourish. These changes were all the more remarkable because this Bishop had been striving to reform his diocese for some time but with hardly any results.
To better inculcate devotion of the Rosary, the Bishop also wore a beautiful rosary at his side and always showed it to the congregation when he preached. He used to say:
“My dear brethren in Jesus Christ, I am a doctor of theology and a doctor of canon as well as civil law, but I say to you, as your Bishop, that I take more pride in wearing Our Lady’s Rosary than in any of my episcopal regalia or academic robes.”
A Danish priest used to love to tell how the very same improvement that the Spanish Bishop noticed in his diocese had occurred in his own parish. He always told his story with great rejoicing of soul because it gave such glory to Almighty God. He said:
I had preached as compellingly as I could, touching on many aspects of our Holy Faith, and using every argument I could possibly think of to get the people to amend their way of life. But in spite of all my efforts they went unconcernedly about their way as before; and it was then that I decided to preach the Holy Rosary.
I told my congregations how precious it is and I taught them how to say it. I kept on preaching the Holy Rosary and the devotion took root in the parish. Six months later I was overjoyed to see that people had really changed for the better. How true it is that this God-given prayer has divine power— the power to touch our hearts and to fill them with horror of sin and the love of virtue!
One day Our Lady said to Bl. Alan:
Just as Almighty God chose the Angelic Salutation to bring about the Incarnation of His Word and the Redemption of mankind, in the same way those who want to bring about moral reforms and who want people reborn in Jesus Christ must honor me and greet me with the same salutation. I am the channel by which God came to men, and so, next to my Son Jesus Christ, it is through me that men must obtain grace and virtue.
I, who write this, have learned from my own experience that the Rosary has the power to convert even the most hardened hearts. I have known people who have gone to missions and who have heard sermons on the most terrifying subjects without being in the least moved; and yet, after they had, on my advice, started to say the Rosary every day they eventually became converted and gave themselves completely to God. When I have gone back again to visit parishes where I have given missions I have seen a tremendous difference in them; in those parishes where people had given up the Rosary they had generally fallen back into their sinful ways again, whereas in places where the Rosary was said faithfully I found the people were persevering hi the grace of God and were advancing each day in virtue.
Bl. Alan de la Roche, Father Jean Dumont, Father Thomas, the chronicles of St. Dominic and other writers who have seen these things with their own eyes speak of the marvelous conversions that are brought about by the Holy Rosary. Great sinners—both men and women—have been converted after 20, 30 or even 40 years of sin and unspeakable vice, because they persevered in saying the Holy Rosary. And these have been people who, beforehand, had been deaf to all pleading! I shall not tell you about those wonderful conversions here because I do not want to make this book too long. And I am not even going to refer to those which I have seen with my very own eyes: there are several reasons why I would rather not talk about them (2).
Dear reader, I promise you that if you practice this devotion and help to spread it you will learn more from the Rosary than from any spiritual book. And what is more, you will have the happiness of being rewarded by Our Lady in accordance with the promises that she made to St. Dominic, to Bl. Alan de la Roche and to all those Who practice and encourage this devotion which is so dear to her. For the Holy Rosary teaches people about the virtues of Jesus and Mary, and leads them to mental prayer and to imitate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It teaches them to approach the Sacraments often, to genuinely strive after Christian virtues and to do all kinds of good works, as well as interesting them in the many wonderful indulgences which can be gained through the Rosary.
People ore often quite unaware of how rich the Rosary is in indulgences. This is because many priests, when preaching on the Rosary, hardly ever mention indulgences and give rather a flowery and popular sermon which excites admiration but scarcely teaches anything.
Be that as it may I shall say no more than to assure you, in the words of Bl. Alan de la Roche, that the Holy Rosary is the root and the storehouse of countless blessings. For through the Holy Rosary:
1. Sinners are forgiven;
2. Souls that thirst are refreshed;
3. Those who are fettered have their bonds broken;
4. Those who weep find happiness;
5. Those who are tempted find peace;
6. The poor find help;
7. Religious are reformed;
8. Those who are ignorant are instructed;
9. The living learn to overcome pride;
10. The dead (the Holy Souls) have their pains eased by suffrages.
One day Our Lady said to Bl. Alan:
I want people who have a devotion to my Rosary to have my Son’s grace and blessing during their lifetime and at their death, and after their death I want them to be freed from all slavery so that they will be like kings wearing crowns and with scepters in their hands and enjoying eternal glory.
Amen. So be it.
This article was excerpted from The Secret of the Rosary, Montfort Publications, 1999.
(1) This incident is referred to by St. Louis in his “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary” when he explains that those who love Our Lady are not lost Cf. paragraph 42. M.B.
(2) This an example of St. Louis’ humility! It is more than probable that he himself had extraordinary favors and most likely witnessed miracles—but these he seems reluctant to discuss, MB.