Tantilizing Tidbits About Exorcism
I am not one of those people who generally goes looking for the scary story. I hate horror movies. (You can read my review of The Rite both the book and the movie here)
At any rate, I do have that curious streak in me that can enjoy the shows about haunted houses or ghost stories and I am fascinated by the show about the kids with psychic sensitivities. Although, I can only take so much before my imagination and my mind gets the best of me at 3am.
Experiences of a spiritual nature follows this same vein. While ghosts/spirits, haunted houses, and the like seem impressive and interesting to a degree, there is the polarizing nature of the spiritual which is also fascinating yet with which I take rather more caution in approaching. I’m speaking about when the subject runs up against the demonic. I think, however, what fascinates me the most is the power that the holy has over evil.
For instance, a little while back I referenced a story regarding the effect the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel had on a demonic presence that had been called up through a Ouija board. “I smell GOD!” Is something I’ll never forget as long as I live. There are so many sacramentals which can be used by the everyday layperson in order to ward away the demonic. Anything blessed by a priest is a sacramental, but very strong ones are always very easy to obtain such as Holy Water and a Rosary. A medal of St. Benedict is extremely effective as well I am told. Personally, I’ve experienced “things”, some of which has happened in my current home and which I do not like to talk about even now, but for which I found the Chaplet of St. Michael to also be helpful and consoling as well. Not only is it helpful but in drawing closer to St. Michael and the angels, even your own guardian angel, but this Chaplet is especially soothing for a troubled heart. There’s a great store online to get this (or many different types) of Chaplets and Rosary’s at a spectacularly low price. (Link here)
First, I believe one needs to be clear, as a Roman Catholic, on how the Church defines and deals with the Rite of Exorcism. Unlike other sects of Christianity, our Rite is very clear about the “who, what, when, where, and how” of the matter because, for the most part, we don’t know what we’re dealing with spiritually or how to deal with it properly if needs be. Therefore, only priests trained to be exorcist can properly perform the Rite. Not laity nor just any priest either.
For instance, say your spouse is sick. Really sick. It turns out, after examination, that they need to have an operation to be cured. Do you really think you’re qualified to perform that operation yourself? While I agree that there is power in the name of Jesus Christ and that we can rebuke Satan and his angels, there is something far greater and more mysterious at work there with which most people are not well or even remotely prepared to deal with. I fully believe that if the majority of people, even those from other sects of Christianity who claim to perform “exorcisms” were to attempt to deal with the true nature of what is categorized as Demonic Possession, they would defecate themselves. Many times, under the advice of their pastors, Protestants turn, in fact, to the Catholic Church in order to exorcise a possessed individual.
The Catholic News Agency recently had an article on Fr. Gabriele Amorth and some tidbits on what exorcism involves and what some of the spiritual entities do. According to their article, “Fr. Amorth is the chief exorcist of Rome and in twenty-six years performed around 70,000 exorcisms. According to Fr. Amorth. ‘The devil and demons are many and they have two powers, the ordinary and the extraordinary. The so-called ordinary power is that of tempting man to distance himself from God and take him to Hell. This action is exercised against all men and women of all places and religions.'”
It goes on to quote his explanation of the other type of action they take saying, “In the extraordinary form there are four different categories: diabolical possession; diabolical vexation like in the case of Padre Pio, who was beaten by the Devil; obsessions which are able to lead a person to desperation and infestation, and when the Devil occupies a space, an animal or even an object.” (Personally, and without an example, I find that third instance to be a bit suspect.)
The most fascinating part of this article, and what fascinates me in general regarding demonic behavior to holiness is when he describes invoking Bl. John Paul II and Mary in the Rite and the demons reactions. Fr. Amorth states in the article, “I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting. One, ‘because he disrupted my plans.’ And, I think that he is referring to the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. The collapse of communism. Another response that he gave me, ‘because he pulled so many young people from my hands.’” Regarding the invocation of Mary he is quoted as saying, “And, once I also asked Satan, ‘but why are you more scared when I invoke Our Lady than when I invoke Jesus Christ?’ He answered me, ‘Because I am more humiliated to be defeated by a human creature than being defeated by him.'” (Rome’s exorcist finding Bl. John Paul II effective against Satan by David Kerr)
I think, in general, people are interested to catch a glimpse into the spiritual plane and how it reacts to us and what we do. Our actions affecting that plane and visa versa. Most Catholics can tell you there’s been anything from feeling a sense of consolation, renewal, and any number of adjectives to praying the Rosary, all the way up and to miracles they have personally experienced. However, there is inherently something much more spectacular in being shown or told about the direct results of our laboring in prayer by ourselves and through our sacramental devotions.