The Existence of Satan

Dear Grace,
I love my religion and go to church and pray every day. My question is this: Who is Satan? How powerful is he? How and when was he ousted from heaven? Every time something goes wrong in my life, I always blame it on him. Am I right to believe this?

The name Satan, according to the New American Bible, is a Hebrew word that signifies “accuser.” This corresponds with the Greek diabolos, which means one who “throws himself across God’s plan” (CCC 2851). The term, over time, gradually became the proper name of the fallen angel Lucifer, which means “light bearer.” He was one of the most beautiful and one of the highest of the angels that God had created.

All of the angels were created in a state of innocence and grace (CCC 391). However, before they could enter the heaven of the Blessed Trinity and see the fullness of God’s glory in the Beatific Vision, it is believed that they had to undergo a trial, or test. When they were first created, they had full knowledge of God but could not yet see Him. While we may not know exactly what this test was, we do know that Lucifer, exercising the free will given to him by God, protested and thus chose himself over God. We know from Scripture that a large number of angels fell with him. They immediately turned into horrible devils and were cast out of heaven and condemned to hell for all eternity.

The reason that their sin was unforgivable is because they, unlike us, had full knowledge of God and knew exactly what they were doing. Their natures and intelligence were superior to that of any human being. Therefore, once they chose themselves over God, their sin was irrevocable (CCC 393). Now, they rage against God and all humanity. Being angels, they retained their great natures, intellect and wills. Their love and sanctity was transformed, however, by their own sin into malice and hate, although they do still possess tremendous power and strength.

The Catholic Church has always taught the existence of Satan. Scripture tells us to “be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Pt 5: 8-9). The problem today is that many no longer believe in the devil and that is precisely how he is able to tempt that person into sin. He never gives up, though, because his aim is to bring us totally down with him and away from God.

As far as blaming him for everything that goes wrong in your life, remember that while he is at the root of all evil, we do still have free choice. He is unbelievably strong and cunning, but God is always stronger. In fact, without God’s grace to assist us, we would never be able to resist Satan. The only reason that he has any power on this earth is because God allows it, and that is a great mystery, which will one day be revealed to us.

© Copyright 2004 Grace D. MacKinnon

For permission to reprint this article, or to have Grace speak at your event, contact Grace MacKinnon at

Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: You may also visit her online at

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