Heretics have plagued the Church since the very beginning. But how many of them could support their false teaching by flying? That ability was demonstrated in the 1st century by Simon Magus, known in the early Church as the “Father of Heresies.”
We first hear about Simon Magus in the New Testament book of Acts, where we learn he was an occult magician living in Samaria, using the demonic forces to perform amazing feats and win adoration from his town.
But then Philip, one the first deacons, brought the Gospel to his area. By the grace of God, many people believed and were baptized, including Simon. Soon after, Peter and John visited the area to strengthen the new believers with the Sacrament of Confirmation. The power of the sacrament impressed Simon so much that he asked the Apostles to give him the power to confer it, offering them money.
Of course, the Apostles refused to commit such a sacrilege, and today the sin of selling Church offices or sacred things is called Simony, after Simon Magus.
But his story doesn’t stop there. Though Scripture doesn’t record his life after this point, the rest of his amazing life is recorded by the early Church fathers and other sources.
In one version, Simon, rebuffed by the Apostles, abandoned the Catholic Church and turned to Gnosticism, an early Christian heresy that rejected the authority of the Apostles in favor of secret knowledge that individual Christians claimed to receive directly from God. He may have also claimed to be either Christ himself or some sort of divinity. And he returned to his demonic magic.
Simon started following around Peter, directly challenging his teaching, and quickly became Peter’s most important opponent. Their conflict came to a head in Rome. Puffed up with pride, Simon Magus challenged Peter publicly in front of the Emperor Nero and a crowd, saying that he would fly as proof of his doctrines. And amazingly, he did fly!
Of course, it was not by the power of God but of Satan, which Peter quickly proved. Peter knelt down and prayed that God would stop Simon, which God did – right in mid-air. From high above the crowd, Simon suddenly lost his power of flight and fell to the ground, breaking his legs, and died soon after.
Pray for the conversion of heretics!
[See also: The Unfortunate Ending of Arius the Heretic]