God gave Paul a mission to be a fisher of souls. For decades, he tirelessly preached throughout Italy, converting sinners and drawling countless souls to God. The devil, angered by the loss of so many of his subjects seemed to declare open war upon Paul. On many occasions throughout Paul's life he was fiercely assaulted by the devils. God allowed this, it seems, for two reasons: firstly, to test and purify Paul, thereby increasing his union with God, and secondly for all those who were edified and drawn into a deeper holiness by witnessing Paul's triumph over the demons, always through the grace of God.
As a young man, Paul was given remarkable visions and through them he was called in an extraordinary way to form a congregation that would be devoted to the passion of Jesus and to preaching missions for the conversion of souls. As the day approached for him to be vested in the habit of the new congregation, he was strongly discouraged by the devil. Concerning these years he later wrote: "I experienced interior desolation, depression and doubts. It seemed to me that I would never be able to persevere in my vocation. The devil suggested to me that I was deceived, but I could serve God in some other way, but this was no kind of life for me, etc, and other such things, but I pass over in silence. To crown my misfortune, all devotion had vanished. I felt dry, and was tried in every way. Even the sound of church bells disturbed me. Everyone seemed happy except me. I can never hope to explain these fierce assaults, and I was more strongly attacked by them. When I was about to be vested in the habit and to leave my poor home. "
On many occasions in the morning, his companions would find him red and bruised all over his body as if he had been beaten from head to foot. At other times, the demons sought to disrupt his prayer life by making strange noises in his room in an effort to disrupt his prayers or his sleeping. He stated that off and the demons would appear to him under dreadful forms and knock the furniture about in his room in which screech like cats and grunt like pigs in an infernal concert aimed at distracting and discouraging him.
In the year 1770, he came down with a strange illness. The physicians were unable to discover its source. Remedies were prescribed, but the prescriptions only made him worse. Concerning this strange illness, Paul said: “mine is not a medical case, for my illness is caused by the devils.” During another illness when he was confined to his bed, a devil came into his room and dragged him out of the bed and after having beat him dreadfully, said: “There now, you have come to disrupt me, and you have robbed me of many souls; take that for your labors!” and then disappeared for a time.
During his last illness, seven devils came into his room, appearing as physicians. They examined him in a professional manner, and then gave unanimous opinion stating that he would not live more than a few more days. They also added that his brother, Father John Baptist, had appeared to a holy soul the night before and had stated the same thing. (His holy brother had died many years before –editor). They thought, it seems, that the announcement of his approaching death would cause him to despair, and they had chosen this precise moment because it was a moment in which his spirit was in the darkest state of desolation- a desolation willed by God to purify his soul. Realizing the attempted deceit of the enemy, Paul calmly replied that his own physician might have told him the same, and that he did not see the necessity of such a quorum of gentlemen coming there uninvited. This answer confounded the demons and they disappeared instantly.
Once, when the Saint was returning to his monastery at Monte Argentario, a whole squad of devils met him and tormented and beat him almost to death. On several occasions when people who were thought to be possessed were brought to him, he would take his rosary, and place it around their neck saying that the devil would flee from the rosary of the Blessed Virgin.
Jesus once said to St Paul of the Cross: “I desire that you be walked on by the devils” and on another occasion he was told "I desire for you to be another Job". While on the surface this sounds like God was angry at Paul, it is in fact just the opposite, foe "Gods ways are not our ways, as the Holy Scripture tells us. The purpose of God's actions here is to use the devil to purify Paul, and draw him ever closer to Himself. At times, not only does God draw us closer to Himself through trials and sufferings, but we see in the lives of the Saints that God uses even the Devil to fulfill His purposes.
"Our affairs are still as much embroiled as ever ; we are summoned to appear in court, but we shall not defend ourselves, because the poor cannot afford to go to law. The devil is always on the watch to discover some loophole by which
to enter and ruin the work. Recommend us and all the congregation to God, for our wants are extreme, and my necessities urgent. I am, however, secure of this, that the congregation will flourish when I shall be no more." -St Paul of the Cross