So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).


PAGE UPDATED: May 25, 2017

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.—St. Matthew 13:40-49.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.—St. Matthew 18:10.

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One."

They were both alarmed; and they fell upon their faces, for they were afraid. But he said to them, “Do not be afraid; you will be safe. But praise God for ever. For I did not come as a favor on my part, but by the will of our God. Therefore praise him for ever."—Tobit 12:15-18.

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”—Jude 1:97.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”—Revelation 12:7-12.

From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.— CCC336.

Mary Queen of Angels
And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.—St. Mark 1:21-28.

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”—St. Luke 10:17-20.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.—Ephesians 6:12.

Click on image to Enlarge
Hierarchy of the Nine Choirs of Angels [source]


Can. 1172 §1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary.


Who can conduct an exorcism? Cathy Caridi, JCL



Description of the Intensive Theoretical and Practical course on the Ministry of Exorcism

The course is meant as a help to deepen in the reality of the ministry of exorcism in its theoretical and practical implications, and as a help for bishops in the preparation of priests who may be called to this ministry.

What Does the Church Teach About the Devil?

St. Michael vanquishes Satan, as depicted by Italian artist Guido Reni’s altarpiece in Santa Maria della Concezione Church in Rome/Wikipedia

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last spring, Father Michael Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard University, read a text message from a student, who reported that a Satanic “black mass” would be held on the Cambridge campus in early May.

The chaplain and his flock quickly launched a campaign to stop the event that gained national attention and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the black mass at Harvard, while a Holy Hour scheduled for the same evening drew thousands.

“We wanted to promote an understanding of the power of evil in the world, but we also wanted to promote the Eucharist and explain how this is so central to who we are,” Father Drea told the Register.

The controversy that erupted over the black mass at Harvard pitted two millennia of Church teaching that repudiates the devil as the “Father of Lies” against an Ivy League culture that nurtures skepticism regarding the existence of God and thus often dismisses the danger posed by “Satan ... and all his evil works.”

While some Catholics know little about what the Church has to say about Satan, they have seen popular movies like William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, which vividly portrays Satan as a powerful intelligence that is utterly opposed to the Church and the good of human persons.

Yet there is much more to the Church’s teaching on Satan than the spectacle of demonic possession.

Indeed, after a Satanic group successfully sponsored its own black mass — without a consecrated Host — at Oklahoma City’s Civic Center, Church experts say it is more important than ever for Catholics and other people of goodwill to understand what the Church teaches about the devil and why Catholic leaders strongly oppose any rituals that invoke the power of Satan.

The Satanic Mass in Oklahoma City took place on Sept. 21, and The Oklahoman newspaper reported that the 40 to 50 attendees at the ritual were far outnumbered by the 1,200 Catholics who joined Archbishop Paul Coakley at St. Francis of Assisi Church for a Holy Hour prayer service, with hundreds more following the service in adjacent buildings. The archbishop also led a Eucharistic procession to the Civic Center, where opponents of the black mass came together to denounce the ritual.

In his homily, the archbishop acknowledged that “dark forces” had been evoked by the ritual. But he also reminded his flock, “Christ conquered Satan. The war has been won; Christ has conquered, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”

Catechism Teaching

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Satan “acts in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and … his action causes grave injuries” (395).

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., told the Register that Church teaching identifies Satan as “a fallen angel, ‘a seductive voice opposed to God.’”

Bishop Conley warned, “Because Satan would like to destroy our relationship with God and ensnare us with lies, we must be on vigilant guard against his temptations. If we don’t believe in Satan, we won’t recognize his efforts to confuse us, to bind us and to tempt us away from God’s will.”

Strikingly, the recent headlines about black masses in the U.S. drew concern as Pope Francis has repeatedly addressed the reality of the devil and his battle to undermine the dignity of the human person.

“We are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life, is a struggle. … That’s because the prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness; he doesn’t want us to follow Christ,” said Pope Francis during an April 2014 homily.

“Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century.’ But look out, because the devil is present! The devil is here … even in the 21st century. And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Destruction of the Domestic Church

A few months later, in June, before a Catholic Charismatic Renewal gathering that attracted tens of thousands of people, the Pope said the devil sought to undermine the family to destroy the domestic church.

“Let us pray to the Lord and ask him to protect the family in the crisis with which the devil wants to destroy it,” he said.

Ralph Martin, the president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization, applauded the Pope’s willingness to speak plainly about Satan.

“Pope Francis, after perhaps too many years of a disproportionate silence about the devil, seems to be restoring the balance in his frequent comments on the reality of the devil, without a sensationalist preoccupation,” Martin told the Register.

“The practical wisdom about safeguarding ourselves against the ‘fiery darts’ of the devil — which fly at us every day in the disordered desires of our own flesh, in the lies of the culture, undoubtedly some of which are demonically inspired, and the personal temptation we are subjected to, which we find in Ephesians 6 — is really essential,” said Martin. 

But Martin also noted that such teaching must strike a careful balance.

“The Church has always been careful not to foster a prurient interest in the devil or Satanic possession,” he said.

“In talking about the devil, we should try to attain the balance with which we find Jesus and the apostles and the Catechism of the Catholic Church” addressing this subject. They present the devil as “real, relevant, important, but not the central focus,” said Martin.

Yet it is not easy to strike such a balance in a modern world that is skeptical of the claims of Catholicism and increasingly demands that human freedom be unrestrained by inconvenient truths anchored in sacred Scripture. In this cultural context, demonic possession may serve as a form of entertainment without stirring fears of spiritual danger.

Satan’s Malice Derives From His Pride

“The essence of Satan's malice derives from his pride. He knows that he can never be God, though that is ultimately what his great revolt was about,” said Michael O’Brien, the author of Father Elijah: An Apocalypse — a bestselling novel that traces the rise of the Antichrist.

Satan strikes at God by “corrupting his most beloved creature, made in his image and likeness,” explained O’Brien. And as a Catholic novelist, he seeks to “tell stories which … shed light on how the adversary deceives us and prompts us to deceive ourselves.”

In a distracted world, O’Brien suggested, it is easy to ignore the “unseen warfare that afflicts all of mankind. Above all, we should ‘stay awake and watch,’ with calm and trusting vigilance, with confidence in the coming victory of Christ over all evil.”

However, an increasing number of Americans, including some Catholics, no longer see the risks of experimenting with the occult or even Satanism. How else to explain the scheduling of two public black masses over the past six months, along with a reported rise in demonic possession?

These disturbing developments have prompted many more dioceses to appoint exorcists and launch “deliverance ministries” that help identify and heal destructive spiritual attachments.

Ministry of Exorcism

“In the past year, the Pope has given encouragement to the ministry of exorcism. It is proper that we recover an important part of our spiritual tradition, which was significantly lost, especially here in America, in the past 40 years,” Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in the Archdiocese of Washington, told the Register.

“Demons are real and should be taken seriously. And when it can be determined that demons are a source of suffering, the Church can and should use her given powers to deliver and free souls who are in the grip of the demons, either by obsession or possession.” 

Father Gary Thomas, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga, Calif., and the mandated exorcist in the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., has witnessed the rise in demonic attachments firsthand, and he believes that ignorance of the devil’s powers, even among Catholics, has fostered this development.

“People [think they] can reconcile praying to Satan, dabbling in paganism and going to Mass at the same time. It is largely from a lack of catechesis,” he said, noting that such contradictory practices have become more common in Mexico, and some immigrants i his state also reveal a confused understanding of the devil.

When people struggle with demonic attachments, Father Thomas noted, “The first step is to deal with the symptoms. And then, in the course of time, catechesis is done. We need to affirm the fact that the death and resurrection of Christ defeated Satan.

“But I also make clear that the invocation of evil forces and powers that are antithetical to faith, God and Christ cannot stand.”

Accordingly, Father Thomas said that black masses must be strongly opposed. Any attempt to “invoke personified evil in the public square will unleash unimaginable and incalculable dangers to the country and will establish a dangerous precedent,” said the priest.

That grim assessment is shared by many Church leaders and faithful Catholics who have reacted strongly to the two recent attempts to hold black masses in Oklahoma City and at Harvard.

Archbishop Coakley’s Lawsuit

On Aug. 20, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City filed a lawsuit against the organizers of the black mass.

In papers filed with the court, the archbishop demanded the return of the consecrated Host, which was to be used during the service, and charged that it had been obtained unlawfully.

Within 24 hours, the consecrated Host was returned. But while a petition campaign initiated by opponents of the ritual — even without the host — garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures, city officials said they could not block the event.

“We wanted to come up with a formula that would be beneficial in the future. It seemed to have worked,” said Dominican Father Joseph Fox, the canon lawyer who worked with lawyers Michael Caspino and Tim Busch to develop a legal strategy for retrieving the consecrated Host.

Father Fox acknowledged that interest in Satanism is rising. But he also referenced C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and suggested there is nothing unique about the latest surge of interest in such matters.

“It is something that has to be dealt with in every age,” he told the Register.

Back in Cambridge, Father Drea, the Harvard chaplain, hopes to bring that message home, as he schedules time for his flock to ponder the events that led to the cancellation of the black mass last May.

Father Drea said that many students are well-educated Catholics who understand why the black mass had to be opposed, but some among his flock lack such understanding.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that evil exists in the world and the presence of the devil is a reality. We should not wait for a black mass before we speak about such matters,” he said.

And now, he added, even as his parishioners feel a deepened sense of unity, following their successful campaign to stop the black mass, “We can’t say, ‘We slew Satan, and he is gone.’ No, he isn’t gone. But we have to recognize the power of Christ, the power of the cross to protect us against the evil one. Throughout the [fight to stop the] black mass, I didn’t focus on the power of the devil, but the power of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist,” Father Drea recalled.

“And, by the end, our community of believers was strengthened and showered with grace.”

Read more:

Demonic Possession Should Be Handled by Trained Exorcist, Not Confessor, Says Bishop

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2008 / 03:33 pm (CNA).- The regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, said this week that when a person believes he is dealing with a case of diabolical possession, it should be handled by an exorcist instead of a confessor.

During a seminar the bishop said that in cases of visions, “diabolical, mystic and supposedly supernatural phenomenon,” the “confessor should be particularly prudent and experienced.” However, he recommended “the intervention of an exorcist” as these are “complex and delicate cases.”

Demonic phenomena include “possession, obsession and vexation,” and he said in cases of “mysticism, hysteria and other syndromes,” experts should be consulted.

Likewise, Bishop Girotti spoke of the crisis of the sacrament of reconciliation and noted that according to recent statistics, 30% of the faithful in Italy do not see the need for confession and 20% find talking about their sins with others difficult.

Some Basic Facts and Clarifications about the Angels 
By: Msgr. Charles Pope

Jesus affirms the truth that we have guardian angels: See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father (Mat 18:10). On the Feast of the Guardian Angels, we consider the beautiful truth that God assigns each of us an angel to have special care for us; it is a sign of His very specific love for each of us as an individual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has much to say on angels. Here are just a few verses: 
The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels … In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God … From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God (CCC #s 334-336 selectae).
All this said, it is important to recall that to some extent we have sentimentalized the role of the angels in current times, and have drifted from the biblical testimony regarding them. I would like to propose a few corrective ideas to balance the sentimental notions we may have. I do not say that sentiment is wrong, just that it needs to be balanced by the deep respect we ought to have for the angels. 

1. Angels have no bodies - They are not human and never have been human. Human beings never become angels or “earn wings.” Angels are persons, but persons of pure spirit. Hence they have no designation as either male or female. Since we have to envision them somehow, though, it is not wrong that we portray them with masculine or feminine qualities. But it is important to remember that they transcend any such distinction.

2. Angels are vast in number - The prophet Daniel was granted a vision of Heaven and said of God, gloriously enthroned, A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him (Dan 7:10). A hundred million angels! Of course these were only the angels Daniel could see, and it is really just another way of saying that their number is vast, beyond counting.

3. Angels are ranked hierarchically - The term “choir” of angels denotes not a musical group, but rather a rank. Tradition gleans, from both Scripture and custom, nine ranks (or choirs) of angels in three groups of three ranks each: Seraphim, cherubim, and thrones remain closest to God and serve primarily in Heaven itself (and among them the seraphim are closest to God’s throne (Is 6:1-7)). Dominions, virtues, and powers exert various governing powers; they organize the angels and the cosmos (to include nature) and they hold the power of the evil one in check. And finally principalities, archangels, and angels are those most directly involved with humanity; they also act as intermediaries between us, God, and Heaven.

4. Biblically, angels are not the rather fluffy, charming creatures that modern portraits often depict - In the Bible, angels are depicted as awesome and powerful agents of God. Many times the appearance of an angel struck fear in the one who saw him (cf Judg 6:22; Lk 1:11; Lk 1:29; Lk 2:9; Acts 10:3; Rev. 22:8).
Angels are often described in the Bible in warlike terms: they are called a host (the biblical word for army), they wage war on behalf of God and His people (e.g. Ex 14:19; Ex 33:2; Nm 22:23; Ps 35:5; Is 37:36; Rev 12:7).
While they are said to have wings (e.g. Ex 25:20; 1 Kings 6:24; inter al), recall that they do not have physical bodies so the wings are an image or symbol of their swiftness.

They are also mentioned at times as being like fire (Ex. 3:2; Rev 10:1).
And what about those cute little “cherubs” we have in our art, those cute, baby-faced angels with wings and no body? Well, read about the real cherubim in Ezekiel 10. They are fearsome, awesome creatures, powerful and swift servants of God and more than capable of putting God’s enemies to flight.

And this is my main point: angels are not the sentimental, syrupy, cute creatures we have often recast them to be. They are awesome, wonderful, powerful servants of God. They are His messengers and they manifest His glory. They bear forth the power and majesty of God and are to be respected immensely. They are surely also our helpers and, by God’s command, act on our behalf.
5. What then is our proper reaction to the great gift of the angels and in particular to our guardian angel? Sentimental thought may have its place, but what God especially commands of us toward our angel is obedience. Read what God said in the Book of Exodus:
Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him (Ex 23:21).
So our fundamental task is to hear and heed the voice of our angel. How, you might ask do we hear the voice of our guardian angel? I would suggest to you that we most clearly hear the voice of our angel in our conscience. Deep down, we hear God’s voice; we know what is true and what is false. In terms of basic right and wrong, we know what we are doing. I am convinced that our conscience interacts with our guardian angel. Now be careful: we like to try to rationalize what we do, to explain away our bad behavior, to make excuses. But in the end, deep down inside, we know whether what we are doing is right or wrong. I am sure it is our angel who testifies to the truth and informs our conscience.

God’s command is clear: listen to and heed this voice. Respect this angel whom God has given to you, not so much with sentimental odes, but with sober obedience.
6. Finally, and perhaps controversially, as I have noted on this blog before, though we often think of angels in “choirs” singing, there is no scriptural verse that I have ever read that actually describes them as singing. Even in the classic Christmas scene in which we depict angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest,” the text actually says that they SAY it, not that they sing it (cf Luke 2:14, in which the verb used is λεγόντων (legouton) = saying). If you can find a Scripture text that describes the angels as singing, please share it. But I’ve looked for years and can’t find a single one. It’s not a big point, and I am aware that some get almost annoyed by my mentioning this, since it seems almost instinctive to us that angels DO sing! My point here is simply to report the silence (not denial) of Scripture on this common notion. Perhaps singing is a special gift given only to the human person.

Demons According to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross

by Fr. Antonio Moreno, O.P.

It is not popular in these times to write about demons. As Lucien-Mary of St. Joseph says, "It is doubtless the masterpiece of this master of illusions to pass himself off as nonexistent in a world where he so easily gets souls to go the way he wants, without needing to show himself: He has every interest in not doing so" (95). Her observation is similar to Baudelaire's well-known quote to the effect that the devil's cleverest wile is persuading us that he does not exist. 

Richard Woods wrote that theological thought has tended to relegate Satan from the center of speculation and preaching. "Perhaps the most strenuous objection to the devil comes not from atheists and psychologists, as might be expected, but from the clergy" (93). Paul VI, however, in That Evil Which is Called the Devil, says that one of the greatest needs of the church today is to defend against this personalized evil and that it is contrary to the teaching of the bible and the church to refuse to recognize the existence of such a reality. 

Joseph de Tonquedec, S.J., theologian and official exorcist of the diocese of Paris, observes in "Some Aspects of Satan's Activity in this World" that, 
It is true to say that while cases of genuine possession are extremely rare, the patients of whom I speak are innumerable. It would not be legitimate to treat them as possessed, for all the evidence goes to show that they are not. On the other hand, they are not invariably or necessarily mental cases, who would have some chance of a cure through psychology. (40) 
The problem of demons is still relevant and the writings of Teresa and John of the Cross on this subject are illuminating. Both are extraordinary saints and Doctors of the Church who speak of having had innumerable encounters with demons. Both were well-known, especially John, for their powers in exorcising demons. As Teresa asserts, "John of the Cross has a special gift to cast demons . . . In Avila he cast many from a person, and he commanded them in the name of God to tell him their names, and they obeyed immediately" (Letter 48.2). 

Demons and Teresa and John of the Cross 

According to Teresa, the devil takes more pains to bring about the downfall of a soul receiving graces from God in prayer than in less-favored souls. This is also the opinion of John of the Cross who says that the devil accomplishes more through a little harm caused to an advanced soul than great damage to many others. 

Like a good captain, a holy soul leads many others to heaven and does the devil much harm. Such a holy soul's special love of God is sufficient to make the devil do his utmost to bring about perdition. The conflict, then, is sterner for such a soul than for one who is less holy. 

As soon as the devil began to notice Teresa, she endured the terrible and subtle temptations of despair, false humility, false presumption, and false fears as well as the temptation to abandon mental prayer. These temptations put her soul's peace and love of God at risk. 

Apparitions of Demons 

John of the Cross never refers in his writings to personal external demonic apparitions. Teresa, however, describes in her Life how the devil appeared to her, sometimes having: "An abominable form; his mouth was horrible. Out of his body there seemed to be coming a great flame, which cast no shadow" (288). On another occasion, she saw a most hideous little devil, snarling as if in despair at having lost what he was trying to gain. She also saw with the eyes of the soul two devils of hideous aspect who seemed to have their horns around a priest's throat while he celebrated Mass. In her Life, Teresa describes how in 1550 she had a vision which carried her spirit to a place in hell. 

Teresa discovered that holy water, better than anything else, had the power to expel these external and visible apparitions, noting that theologians agreed with her experience. For example, in our era Tonquedec says that holy water is expressly blessed to keep away from the places and persons on which it is sprinkled "all the power of the enemy and the enemy himself with his apostate angels" (50). 

These external bodily visions were unusual, even for Teresa, who observes that she could not see anything in the majority of her apparitions of angels and demons. So, her visions of demons were chiefly intellectual visions: "I have seldom seen him in bodily shape, but I have often seen him without any form, as in the kind of vision I have described, in which no form is seen but the object is known to be there" (292). 

Importance of Demonic Temptations 

Both Teresa and John of the Cross emphasize the importance of demonic temptations. Teresa warns that the crafts and wiles the devil uses to prevent souls from walking the way of perfection are terrible. For John of the Cross, the devil is the mightiest and most astute enemy, his wiles more baffling than those of the world and the flesh. He is "the hardest to understand," causes the ruin of a great multitude of religious who set out on the life of perfection, and no human power can be compared with him (Spiritual Canticle, 431). 

The devil deceives, blinds, corrupts, and seduces. Diabolical temptations are the ordinary experience of humanity. For Tonquedec, he is the tempter, the seducer, the inspirer of evil actions. Homicide, hatred, lying, are his "works." He is the "father" of murderers and generally of all sins. Woods believes that contemporary and historic experience reaffirms the importance of the role of the demonic in humanity's spiritual evolution. He adds: "Apparently, well-organized Satanic sects do exist throughout America, and some, at least are vicious and even homicidal" (100). 

But the devil is not the only cause of our sins, as Aquinas observes in the Summa and Teresa in her book, The Foundations. For Teresa, our own perverse inclinations and bad humors especially if we suffer from melancholy — also cause us much harm (ch.4, n. 2). "Melancholy" was the term formerly used to describe neurosis. It is fair to say, however, that the devil is indirectly the cause of all faults arising out of our nature in the sense that as a consequence of original sin the devil introduced disorder and concupiscence to human nature. 

The Devil and the Weaknesses of Human Nature 

We must realize that demons are pure intellectual beings, not rational beings like us. They possess a superior knowledge of our weaknesses and dispositions which they use to tempt us. Teresa is aware that, "The devil knows very well to take advantage of our nature and little understanding" (Letter to Isabel de S. Jeronimo and Maria de Jesus in Obras Completas, 980). In Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross also suggests that demons use the world and flesh to enhance the power of their work: "The temptation of the devils . . . is stronger than those of the world and the flesh, because the devils reinforce themselves with these other two enemies, the world and the flesh, in order to wage a rugged war" (431). 

The devil knows how to exploit our instincts and passions, the weakness of our flesh and our pride. Victor White, in God and the Unconscious, remarks that misfortune, sickness, or mental anxiety are not sins, but they may induce us to rebellion and despair. And Satan may take advantage of all of them to tempt us to sin. 

For Aquinas, the devil can only act on the human mind through natural, physical, and psychological causes; conversely, all natural, physical, and psychological causes can be instruments of diabolic purposes. This view blurs the distinction between mental disorder which comes from internal causes and mental disorder which comes from diabolic agency, posing a difficult problem of discernment. For White, there is no such thing as a purely mental diabolic disorder. 

Ways of Demonic Temptations 

The demonic temptation generally affects the psychosomatic powers; viz., the imagination, memory, and sensory appetite, which are important for using and controlling our emotions. By tempting these powers, demons disturb the sensory appetite and indirectly affect the intellect and will. The experiences of Teresa and John of the Cross verify this doctrine which is commonly accepted in spiritual theology. John says that the greatest demonic deception is through the memory, and that it can last a long time, especially in souls that are engrossed in the dark night of the senses at the threshold of the night of the spirit. 

In addition to ordinary temptations of imagination and memory, souls in advanced states of perfection are the object of another kind of temptation. The devil knows that a temptation causing the downfall of an advanced soul cannot usually be an open temptation, which is easily rejected, but a deception (viz., evil) under the appearance of good. Thus Teresa writes:
But the devil comes with his artful wiles, and, under the color of doing good, sets about undermining it in trivial ways, and working it in practices which, so he gives it to understand, are not wrong; little by little he darkens its understanding and weakens its will, and causes its self love to increase in one way or another he begins to withdraw it from the love of God and persuade to indulge its own wishes. (Interior Castle 120)
John of the Cross also writes of these experiences, observing that the devil causes the greatest harm and makes the soul lose abundant riches by alluring it with a little bait out of the simple waters of the spirit. Teresa had similar experiences, finding that this sort of temptation usually occurs with contemplative souls who find themselves in the "fifth mansion;" the mansion characterized by the contemplative prayer of union with God. 

The Devil Counterfeits God 

To deceive contemplative souls, the devil also counterfeits God. Obvious temptations are disguised as false apparitions of saints, or in beautiful or apparently holy words. John says:
The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights . . . And to the sense of smell, fragrant odors; and he puts sweetness in one's mouth, and delight in the sense of touch. He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils. (Ascent, 133)
Teresa experienced such temptations on several occasions when the devil attempted to present himself to her as the Lord by making a false likeness of Him. But she noticed that the soul becomes troubled, despondent, restless, and is unable to pray. The same is true concerning interior locutions, also difficult for the soul to judge. In these cases, John of the Cross advises that accurate discernment depends on the holiness of the spiritual director: "A person, in consequence, will have to be very spiritual to recognize this" (Ascent 207).

Different Kinds of Temptations

In the Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross explains three different kinds of diabolic temptations which affect advanced spiritual souls: First, those that vehemently incite the imagination; second, when the first way proves futile, bodily torments and noises that distract the soul; and third, still worse, the sometimes frightful torment of the devil struggling against the soul with spiritual terrors and horrors (476). The Spanish saint gives little detail of the second category of temptations, although as we read in biographies of his life, he was affected by them (P. Crisogono de Jesus Sacramentado 111). 

In the case of spiritual horrors, "the devil can do this easily, for since the soul at this time enters into great nakedness of spirit for the sake of this spiritual exercise, the devil can easily show himself to her, because he is also spirit" (Spiritual Canticle 476). His mysterious presence poses intriguing psychological and spiritual problems. 

It is accepted theological doctrine that ordinarily the diabolic influence is through the senses, especially internal senses of memory and imagination. But both John of the Cross and Teresa suggest that some temptations and horrors may transcend the senses and affect the spiritual powers of the soul. This seems to occur only in advanced contemplatives who have already reached the spiritual betrothal with God in the sixth mansion and are near the threshold of the seventh one, the spiritual marriage. Let us consider John of the Cross' description of the horror that the devil causes through the senses: 
When the spiritual communication is not bestowed exclusively on the spirit, but on the senses too, the devil more easily disturbs and agitates the spirit with these horrors by means of the senses. The torment and pain he then causes is immense, and sometimes it is ineffable. For since it proceeds nakedly from spirit to spirit the horror the evil spirit causes within the good spirit, if he reaches the spiritual part, is unbearable. (Dark Night, 383) 
Later, in Dark Night, John of the Cross suggests the possibility of a purely spiritual contact: "This horrendous communication proceeds from spirit to spirit manifestly and somewhat incorporeally, in a way that transcends all sensory pain" (385). 

Near the spiritual marriage, the fight for salvation and the struggle of good and evil are dramatically enacted. The angels assist the soul and the demons try for their last chance. When the spiritual communications are from the angels, the devil may detect some of these favors granted to the soul. "God ordinarily permits the adversary to recognize favors granted through the good angels so that he may do what he can, in accord with the measure of justice, to hinder them" (384). Then the devil cannot complain that he is not given the opportunity to conquer the soul. According to John, he could do this if God does not allow for a certain parity between the two in the struggle for the soul. 

The angels produce spiritual communications; the demons, spiritual horrors. But in the end, victory belongs to the good angels. These horrors which purify the soul are followed by a spiritual favor, in accord with the dark and horrible purgation it suffered. The soul "will enjoy a wondrous and delightful spiritual communication, at times ineffably sublime. The preceding horror of the evil spirit refined the soul so that it could receive this good" (385). John remarks, however, that these spiritual visions belong more to the next life than to this. 

Teresa experienced similar encounters and observed that the devils produce nothing but aridity and disquiet. 
This disquiet is such that I know not whence it comes: only the soul seems to resist, is troubled and distressed, without knowing why; for the words of Satan are good, and not evil. I ask myself whether this may be so because one spirit is conscious of the presence of another. (Life 237) 
For Marcel Lepee, this is one of those astonishing phrases that her genius let fall lightly from her pen, for she is able to distinguish that which comes from ourselves from that which is added; from all that comes from another. "Her spirit tended to God, and another spirit would turn her away from Him . . . so it shuddered through and through at this hideous contact" (99). 

These spiritual encounters occur only in persons so advanced in perfection and so purified by sufferings and trials that they acquire a little of the knowledge which corresponds to spiritual beings, which penetrates all beings, as Paul says and John of the Cross explains: "The soul with universality and great facility perceives and penetrates everything earthly or heavenly presented to it. Hence the Apostle says that the spiritual man penetrates all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10)" (Dark Night 345). This is the characteristic of the spirit purged and annihilated of all particular knowledge and affection, which is the spirit of contemplation in its higher states. 

Humility and Demons 

For John of the Cross, a soul which expects to overcome the devil's "strength" will be unable to do so without prayer. Yet to understand his "deceits," the soul needs humility — for the devil is the sworn enemy of humility. The Spanish mystic notes that the devil's bait is pride — especially the pride that arises from spiritual presumption. 

Holy souls must be cautious about any kind of revelations, for the devil usually meddles in them and "joins together so many apparent and appropriate facts, and implants them so firmly in the imagination, that it seems that every event will undoubtedly occur" (345). If the soul has no humility, it will not be torn from its opinion and believe the contrary. Teresa says that demons even use the image of Christ or his saints to foster false devotion. But the visions of the devil do no harm if there is humility: 
For my own part, I believe that His Majesty will not allow him, or give him the power, to deceive anyone with such appearances unless the person himself be to blame . . . I mean that for humble souls no deception is possible. (Foundations, 41) 
Faith and Demons 

The foundation of the Christian religion is faith. Errors and lies will be spread by demons to try to undermine this foundation. For Teresa, the devil — altogether a liar — can play many tricks, but "God will not permit him to deceive a soul which has no trust whatever in itself, and is strengthened in faith" (238). 

John of the Cross is even more emphatic and advises that, for the devil, the light of faith is worse than darkness.

When the soul is clothed in faith the devil is ignorant of how to hinder it, neither is he successful in his efforts, for faith gives the soul strong protection against the devil, who is the mightiest and most astute enemy. As a result, St. Peter found no greater safeguard than faith in freeing herself from the devil, when he advised "Cui resistite fortes in fidei"(1 Pt 5:9). (Dark Night 376)

To foster the obscurity of pure faith, the spiritual director must be careful not to foster visions, locutions, prophecies, or other kinds of extraordinary phenomena. Although these phenomena are sometimes from God, they are more often from the devil. For John of the Cross this danger was real. He understood that the devil can present to the memory many false ideas under the guise of truth, making these ideas seem so certain that the soul thinks they cannot be false, but that what it feels is in accord with truth (Ascent 227).

The Devil and the State of Perfect Union With God

After spiritually purified souls reach the state of perfect union with God through love in the "seventh mansion," the diabolic temptations are over, and demons are afraid of them. "Nor did Aminadab appear," John says in the end of the Spiritual Canticle. Aminadab symbolizes the devil, and in this state the soul is so favored, so strong and victorious that the devil knows he has lost the battle. At this stage, the devil flees in immense fear and does not venture to reappear. Teresa, also victorious, perceived that the devil was terrified of her, but not she of the devil: "[Devils] seem to be afraid of me. I have acquired an authority over them, bestowed upon me by the Lord of all, so that they are no more trouble to me; now they fly" (Life 242).

In this state, souls are transformed in God. They are divine by participation and possess Christ-like qualities. In them the Redeemer has defeated Satan and his kingdom of darkness. Teresa and John of the Cross struggled with demons, but in the end their victory — and God's — was complete.

Some Theological Reflections on Demons and the Mystics

Any valid doctrine concerning demons presupposes faith, which presents to us the object of our belief — in this case, demons. Just as we do not see God, we do not see demons. Any speculation on demons must be founded on sacred scripture, spiritual theology, and the experiences of saints.

1. Teresa and John of the Cross believe, through faith, in the existence of demons. They could not doubt their existence. In addition, they experienced visions, locutions, apparitions, horrors, physical damage, temptations, and other manifestations of tile demonic. Some saints are subjected to these unusual demonic interventions, as was the case of Ignatius of Loyola, and in modern times, the Cure d'Ars.

2. Demons are our adversaries, trying their utmost to hinder the journey of souls towards God. But demonic actions assume a special intensity, and are more subtle and stronger, when directed against advanced contemplative souls. These souls attract demons who desire to stop or at least slow down their progress towards God. The soul of a saint is the battleground between good and evil, between God and demons. After the soul of a saint reaches the seventh mansion, however, diabolic activity comes to an end, and the demons are afraid of them.

3. Teresa and John of the Cross did not enjoy the benefit of our knowledge of psychology. But they were endowed with unusual discernment, and they knew that apparent demonic manifestations were often merely the result of mental illness or "melancholy." They also knew that demons use human weakness and adverse mental states as instruments for their temptations. Hence, it is not easy to discern when an apparent demonic temptation is merely psychological, and when it is both psychological and demonic.

Because the Spanish mystics were aware of the difficulty often involved in detecting the demonic, they recommended prayer to overcome the devil's "strength" as well as humility and recourse to God's light to discern the devil's "deceits." And modern discernment of spirits cannot afford to ignore modern psychology, but an exclusively psychological approach to those who appear to be affected by demonic influence is incomplete, and should be complemented by prudent theological discernment. St. Ignatius' rules for the discernment of spirits, for example, are a model of wisdom and experience. For advanced contemplative souls, the writings of Teresa and John of the Cross are very useful. In the Mountain, especially in book two, John of the Cross scrutinizes in detail the rules for the discernment of that which comes from God and that which comes from our own imagination or from the devil. In some of the chapters of her Life and the Interior Castle, Teresa complements John of the Cross' analysis with her own acute observations (Mansion 6, ch. 7 and 8; cf. Mansion 4, ch. 2 and 3).

4. Some confessors were certain that Teresa was possessed and should be exorcised. They were, as Teresa called them, "half-learned men," who did her much harm. Theologians, like Pedro Ibanez, Domingo Banez, Alvarez de Toledo, and saints, like Peter of Alcantara and Francis of Borja, never deceived her.

Pedro Ibanez, a famous theologian, who commanded Teresa to write her Life, applied the rules of discernment of spirits to Teresa, and she passed the test in each of his eleven strict rules. Allison Peers had the good sense to include these rules, and how Ibanez applied them to Teresa in the third volume of his Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus (312-333). These rules are valid rules even in our times, for an authentic discernment of spirits presupposed the inspiration of the Spirit, as well as the help of a sound spiritual theology and a healthy psychology.

Naturally, any psychologist or theologian who a priori discards the existence of demons is not qualified to enlighten us on this problem, no matter how outstanding a scholar he or she may be. On the other hand, we must reject the work and writings of any modern theologian who ignores the benefits of psychology or finds demons in every neurosis.

As this article has attempted to demonstrate, a careful reading of Teresa and John of the Cross on demons may be profitable, particularly for Christians interested in contemplation and concerned with the discernment of spirits.

Works Cited

Crisogono del Jesus Sacramentado, OCD. Vida y Obras de San Juan de la Crus. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1974.

John of the Cross. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Trans. by Kieren Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD. Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979.

Ibanez, Pedro, OP. The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Jesus. Trans. by E. Allison Peers. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1946.

Lepee, Marcel. "St. Teresa of Jesus and the Devil." In Satan. Ed. by Bruno de Jesus-Marie, OCD. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972.

Lucien-Marie de Saint Joseph, OCD. "The Devil in the Writings of St. John of the Cross." In Satan. Ed. by Bruno de Jesus-Marie, OCD. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972.

Teresa of Jesus
  • Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. Trans. by E. Allison Peers. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1961. 
  • Complete Works of Teresa of Jesus. Trans. by E. Allison Peers. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1946.
  • Interior Castle. Trans. by E. Allison Peers. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1961. 
  • Obras Completas de Sancta Teresa. Madrid: BAC, 1974.
Tonquedec Joseph de. SJ. "Some Aspects of Satan's Activity in this World." In Satan. Ed. by Bruno de Jesus-Marie, OCD. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972.

White, Victor. God and the Unconscious. Cleveland: Meridian Books: 1965.

Woods, Richard OP. "Satanism Today." In Soundings in Satanism. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972.

A native of Spain, Fr. Antonio Moreno OP, is a professor of philosophy, psychology and spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. He has written a book on C.G. Jung entitled Jung, Gods and Modern Man and many articles in the United States, Spain, Italy and Canada.

© Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great

by Stefano Carusi
Translated by Fr. Charles W. Johnson.

5. (OHS 1956): Suppression of the prayers concerning the meaning and the benefits of sacramentals and the power that these have against the demon. (29)

Commentary: The reason for this--explains a note from the archives--is that these prayers are "replete ... with all the showy display of erudition typical of the Carolingian era." (30) The reformers agreed on the antiquity of the texts but did not find them to their taste because "the direct relation between the ceremony and daily Christian life was very weak, or rather [between the ceremony and] the pastoral-liturgical significance of the procession as homage to Christ the King." (31) It is apparent to no one how there is lacking a connection to the "daily life" of the faithful or to the homage to Christ the King in its full "pastoral-liturgical significance." Clearly, the plan was one of a kind of rhetoric that today appears dated, but at the time had a certain cachet. Though desiring a "conscious participation in the procession, with relevance to concrete, daily Christian life," (32) they relied on arguments that were neither theological nor liturgical.

The "concrete, daily Christian life" of the faithful is then indirectly disdained a few lines later: "These pious customs [of the blessed palms], although theologically justified, can degenerate (as in fact they have degenerated) into superstition." (33) Apart from the poorly concealed tone of rationalism, one should note that the ancient prayers are deliberately replaced with new compositions, which, according to their authors' own words, are "substantially a new creation." (34) The ancient prayers were not pleasing because they express too clearly the efficacy of sacramentals, and it was decided to come up with new prayers.

(MR 1952): The ancient prayers recall the role of sacramentals, which have an effective power against the demon ("ex opere operantis Ecclesiae" [“by the action of the Church as acting”). (35)

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November 5, AD 2015

Everywhere one looks today, it seems like our society wants to go over a cliff at a thousand miles an hour. It seems that the government wants to stick our collective fingers in God’s eye over and over again, with their enactment of laws and judicial fiats which promote the cultural acceptance of abortion, fornication, pornography, sex and violent movies, so-called “homosexual marriage,” artificial birth control, the occult, recreational marijuana, doctor assisted suicide, etc. Talking heads on the “news” programs (in reality they are more like liberal propaganda shows) belittle Christians who oppose these things, and glorify the worldly people who celebrate these horrors. The purpose of this article is to help those who wish to inoculate themselves against becoming accepting of these anti-God practices, and to fight back against the wiles of Satan, who loves these abominations.

The Bible on Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians chapter 6 is the best example of spiritual warfare in the Bible:
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Ephesians 6:10- 17:]
So how does one do all of the above? To begin with, daily Holy Communion is the best way to put on the armor of God, because Holy Communion is Christ Himself. The devil gets seven days a week to work on your soul; why not give God seven days a week to counteract all of that? And of course the reason that Jesus came into the world was to “destroy the works of the devil.” The Eucharist is Christ, of course, and when we ingest Him into our temple (our body), Jesus cleanses our temple of bad things, just like He once did in the Temple in Jerusalem. Frequent Holy Communion allows Jesus to fight this spiritual battle within us, which means we don’t have to fight Satan all by ourselves.

St. Peter also talks about resisting the devil, because Lucifer goes about as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It seems like the devil looks upon us as cattle being fattened for the slaughter (instead of cattle’s corn, hay, and molasses, our fattening food is sin!). Anyone who has ever driven by a cattle feedlot immediately notices the stench. Sin in our lives is a lot like that, because it really stinks to be close to the enemy and to be far from God. The devil loves the scent of fire and brimstone, after all. St. Joseph Cupertino could actually smell the sin on his penitents in the confessional.

Rather than let a roaring lion devour us, Jesus, the Lion of Judah, instead becomes our food in the Eucharist, so that when we obey His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have His actual precious blood flowing through our veins, and His sacred flesh in us. And this in-turn makes us very distasteful to Satan’s palate!

James 4:7 is another great piece of advice from scripture:
“So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
When we submit ourselves to God, it means that we not only repent of our past sins, but we firmly resolve not to commit them anymore. It means that we totally trust in God to take good care of us, even when things are horrible in our lives. It means that we tell God, as often as possible, that we love Him. It means that we ask God to take our will and crush it, and for God to give us His holy will to take its place. It means that we ask God to melt our heart into His Sacred Heart, so that we become humble, chaste, loving, and courageous, like Him. It means that we pray to become more and more like Jesus every day, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that we humbly ask for the holy intercessions of the saints in heaven and the poor souls in purgatory for the well being of our family, friends, enemies, and in-laws. It means that we start praying for the holy souls in purgatory, for the poor sinners here on earth, and for the sick and the dying. It means that we start doing the corporal works of mercy God told us about in Matthew 25: 31-46. It means that we develop a strong devotion to His mother, just like Jesus has. It means that we find the time to bend the knee in front of the Tabernacle more often. It means that we start reading and studying scripture every day. It means that we start witnessing to others about Jesus. All of the above are things that Satan does not want us to do, and we are therefore “resisting the devil.”

Additional Armor

If going to daily Mass is out of the question, then one can recite the Spiritual Communion prayer as often as possible. The daily recitation of the Holy Rosary is a fantastic way to hold faith up as a shield against Satan, because no other human has more faith in Christ than Mary has, she being the very first Christian and evangelist. St. Luke says that her soul magnifies Jesus, and that is a very great thing! By saying the Holy Rosary, you are invoking the human arch-enemy of Satan (Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12:13-17) to fight this battle for you.Consecrating yourself to Jesus through Mary is a great way to add armor onto ourselves (When tempted, just repeat the “Hail Mary” prayer over and over, until the feeling passes.). Our brains don’t stand a chance against the superior intellect of the devil, but since he doesn’t have a heart, Mary beats him every time with her Immaculate Heart. Meditating on Christ’s Passion while praying just about any prayer is also a great way to protect yourself from Satan’s wicked deceit. In other words, we don’t fight this battle by ourselves; we plead for and receive heavenly help!

Sacramentals like a blessed St. Benedict medal, the scapular, or the Miraculous Medal worn around the neck are another great way to put on the armor of God. These are not good luck charms, but rather, they carry the blessing of the Church of Jesus Christ. Blessings are real power, and they do create fear in demons. Frequent use of holy water on our person as well as sprinkled in our homes and cars also shoo the evil spirits away. St. Theresa of Avila testified to this. Blessed salt and oil are great sacramentals, as well.

Spiritual warriors know that a lot of the battle against evil involves avoiding the near occasions of sin. That means that if we have acquaintances who tell bad jokes, or who are earthy, or who love money more than God, etc., then we should avoid those people. Why? Because, as the saying goes, “Rotten apples make the good ones go bad,” and we who are striving for holiness don’t want our efforts to be stymied by negative influences. We also should not watch bad movies or look at magazines which negatively excite our imagination. We should not go to places where we know that temptation abounds. For some of us, these places might include bars (drunkenness and eye candy) and all-you-can-eat buffets (gluttony). Joining a church group with like-minded Christians is the solution to these problems.

Frequent Confession is another great way to embellish our defense against satan as well. He hates it when we confess our sins and are forgiven by Christ in the confessional. Our unforgiven sins are his toehold on our souls, and when those are flushed away in this great sacrament of reconciliation, he has to start all over again with us. Try to think of the confessional box as the tomb Jesus was placed in after He died. Just like His body rose from the dead in that tomb, our dead souls (if we have committed a mortal sin) rise from the dead in the confessional every time we receive the priest’s absolution!

Do’s and Dont’s

There are demonic gateways that can open the door to demons into our lives. Someone could place a curse on us, for example (FYI, both curses and blessings are real and powerful things). Other ways include dabbling in the occult, frequent use of pornography, fornication, adultery, using illegal drugs (formerly known as “potions”), taking the Lord’s name in vain, having an abortion, and any other mortal sins. The demonic usually takes one of three forms – nudity, violence, or multiple personalities (like the demoniac in scripture), or sometimes all three.

The laity is not empowered to perform exorcisms, but we are empowered to pray deliverance prayers, like the “Our Father” and others. The end of the “Our Father” in Latin is “sed libera nos a MALO,” or “deliver us from the evil ONE.” An exorcism is only allowed to be performed by a Catholic priest, and then only with the permission of the local bishop.

Under no circumstances are we to initiate contact with demons, or to converse with them. This includes the Ouija board, which the Church forbids. Some teens play “games” like “Bloody Mary” which conjures up a demon, all done in the name of “fun,” but again, this is strictly forbidden by the Church. A demon is like satanic velcro, and he will not leave easily once conjured. What this means is that a person’s life will be very negatively influenced until these practices are renounced, through confession, penance, and atonement. It’s not enough to just stop doing the occult; one must confess it and push back hard against it with true repentance.

Levels of Demonic Activity

For the record, there are other, lesser degrees of demonic interference that are possible in our lives besides full blown possession, like temptation, oppression, obsession, and infestation. To learn about these, click here.

Spiritual Warfare Prayers

To St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

To the Blessed Virgin Mary

August Queen of Heaven, sovereign Mistress of the Angels, who didst receive from the beginning the mission and the power to crush the serpent’s head, we beseech thee to send forth thy holy angels, that under thy command and by thy power, they may pursue the evil spirits, encounter them on every side, resist their bold attacks, and drive them hence into the abyss of woe.Most Holy Mother, send thy angels to defend us and to drive the cruel enemy from us.All ye holy angels and archangels, help and defend us. Amen.

Begone Satan!

How can you tell if someone is demon-possessed?

Rome, Italy, Mar 17, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).

Recognizing the difference between a person who's possessed and a person struggling with a mental illness or other infirmity is a vital part of the ministry of exorcism, according to a long-time exorcist and priest.

Father Cipriano de Meo, who has been an exorcist since 1952, told CNA's Italian agency ACI Stampa that typically, a person is not possessed but is struggling with some other illness.

The key to telling the difference, he said, is through discernment in prayer on the part of the exorcist and the possessed – and in the potentially possessed person's reaction to the exorcist himself and the prayers being said.

The exorcist will typically say “(a) prolonged prayer to the point where if the Adversary is present, there's a reaction,” he said.

“A possessed person has various general attitudes towards an exorcist, who is seen by the Adversary as an enemy ready to fight him.”

Fr. de Meo described the unsettling reaction that a possessed person usually has, detailing a common response to the exorcist's prayer.

“There's no lack of frightening facial expressions, threatening words or gestures and other things,” he said, “but especially blasphemies against God and Our Lady."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between demonic activity and mental illness. From paragraph 1673: “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”

In April of last year, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and the Sacerdos Institute hosted a seminar at Rome's Regina Apostolorum University, specifically aimed at training priests and lay people in spotting the differences between psychological problems and demonic possession.

The conference included interventions from a wide range of experts in the field of exorcism, including practicing exorcists, medical professionals, psychologists, lawyers, and theologians.

Fr. de Meo also emphasized that not all cases of possession are going to look the same, which is why it is so important for exorcists to go through rigorous training.

“It's up to the priest serving in this ministry to know how to deal with the case, by the will of God, with love and humility,” he said.

“For this reason, with my bishop's authorization, for 13 years, I've led a school for exorcists. I've tried to especially prepare those who are beginning this ministry,” he said.

However, even though cases of demonic possession are not as common as cases of psychological illness, most people are too unaware and unfamiliar with spiritual realities, he said.

In 2014, the International Association of Exorcists (AIE) called the rise of occult activity a “pastoral emergency.”

“It usually starts out of ignorance, superficiality, stupidity or proselytizing, actively participating or just watching,” AIE spokesperson Dr. Valter Cascioli told CNA at the time.

“The consequences are always disastrous.”

Father de Meo said that people often turn to “the chatter of magicians and Illusionists” for answers, rather than “the weapons the Lord has put at our disposal.”

While people often seek radical answers or signs, the best defense against demonic possession is a simple and sacramental life of prayer, the priest said.

“It's absolutely fundamental to get rid of sin and live in the grace of God,” he said.

“The Church in fact, wants a life of prayer, Not just on the part of the priest but also the (member of) the faithful asking for the intervention of the exorcist, who benefits from the help of family members as well,” the exorcist explained.

The Catechism offers further guidance on how to avoid demonic activity: anything that involves recourse to Satan or demons, or that attempts to conjure the dead or reveal future events, is to be rejected.

From CCC paragraph 2116: “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

As for the exorcists themselves, it is important to remain humble and to remember that their power comes from Christ, Father de Meo added.

“Regarding spiritual preparation, humility and the conviction that we exorcists aren't the ones who are going to cast out the demon that's fighting Christ. We're called to fight on behalf of Christ.”


Fred Wolff tells his story. Article source:

I was born into a Conservative Jewish home. My parents, while not overly “religious,” did their best to follow the Jewish customs and traditions. My mom kept a kosher home quite well. When I was of age, they sent me to Hebrew school where I learned to read, write, and speak Hebrew and studied about the Jewish faith. Of course, the Old Testament was a huge part of my studies. At thirteen, I made my Bar Mitzvah and was now a member of the club, so to speak, a full-fledged Jew.

When I was 16, we attended the services at the Temple for Rosh Hashanah. Since there is no temple in Jerusalem, the Jews don’t pay a tithe but pay dues to the synagogue and buy tickets for the High Holidays. Across the street from our little synagogue was an old age home. I would always see many of the men and women from there at the synagogue, either on the Sabbath or for the holidays. This particular time, an older lady came in and there were no chairs so I elected to give her mine. Holy mackerel, you can’t believe what happened; one of the ushers came over and told me I couldn’t do that since she didn’t have a ticket and had no right to a seat. I laughed at him and started to walk away. I never again went into a synagogue.

When I was seventeen, I was introduced to the occult through a high school friend of mine. His cousin owned an occult shop in my town and he brought me there to meet this cousin. The cousin was a nice guy and was very friendly. The shop owner then introduced me to two pleasant people, Janice and Rich. They were into Witchcraft (Wicca). Since I expressed a desire to learn, I went into what they referred to as a “pagan circle,” where I learned all about pagan beliefs and the deities they worshiped (i.e. the god and goddess, the lord and the lady, etc.). We referred to ourselves as “white Wiccans.” We had no intention of harming anyone through our rituals. Little did I know that the ones we were harming were ourselves. Eventually, I was brought into the “craft.”

After I joined the Air Force I kept in touch with Rich and Janice and they connected me with with different Wiccan groups in different parts of the country. It’s very widespread.

When I was stationed in California, I learned that there were others out there who practiced different aspects of the occult. A gentleman carrying a red leather briefcase with an inverted pentagram (ours were not inverted ) approached me in a mall. He told me he was a member of the First Church of Satan, based in San Francisco. I had no desire to (knowingly) serve Satan, but he piqued my interest. He invited me a ceremony that he thought I would like. I decided to go. He was wrong, though, about me liking the ceremony. I was never so terrified in my life. I’m not the bravest guy in the world but I’m no coward.

As it turns out, I was invited to a Black Mass. I found out, much later, that the Satanic Black Mass is a parody of the Holy Eucharist celebrated by the Catholic Church. I was told (not asked) to remain in my seat and observe. I found out after the “mass” that the guy officiating was a former Catholic priest.

Instead of blessing the wafers and the wine, they began to do disgusting and vile things to them that took me so much by surprise I was spellbound and unable to move. I really wanted to run out but I couldn’t. It was as if I was glued to my chair.

After my discharge from the Air Force, I still was involved with the occult practices, but confined them mostly to white Wicca. I became the High Priest of a local coven. Many covens practiced naked, or skyclad; our coven did not practice that way. We were a robed coven.

One day, my old “mentor,” Rich, reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to conjure a demon with him. He said he was studying the rites and rituals and he knew he could do it. You would have thought I learned my lesson but I was young and stupid. After this episode, I was still young, but no longer stupid.

We went through rather elaborate rituals gleaned from two of the most powerful occult ritual books in the world of ceremonial magick. (Note the “k” which distinguishes it from stage magic.) The experiences I had that night changed my life. I experienced things that night I never thought I’d see. Rich told me that as long as we were in the circle the inscribed on the ground, we were safe. Oh yeah…real safe. If God didn’t have His Hand on me that night, I’d be dead.

An incredibly beautiful woman appeared outside the circle, and tried to entice me to come out. Once again, I was too scared to move. She eventually turned into her real shape and I thought my heart would stop. She turned into the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen. When she disappeared, the real show began. It was as if one of the walls in Rich’s house melted away, and we were greeted with a glimpse of hell. The smell was atrocious—rotten eggs, sulfur—I can’t begin to describe it. Then came the demon that Rich conjured up and I thought my life was over. They can take shapes, even though they are spirit beings. He assumed the most hideous shape you could imagine. If he was trying to scare us, he succeeded. He laughed and said to Rich, “Do you really think that circle can stop me?” At that point, Rich was picked up off the ground and slammed into a wall fifteen feet away. That was it for me. I ran into the back of his house, locked myself in the bathroom, and stayed there for I don’t know how long.

I went out to check on Rich; I thought he was dead. He would have been better off if he was. He was foaming at the mouth and babbling incoherently. I called 911, managed to convince them that I came to the house to hang out with Rich and, oh look at what I found. I don’t think the police believed me but they never pressed the issue; there was no sign of drug use or physical harm. For 20 years, Rich was at a psychiatric institute on Long Island; he had apparently lost his mind. He died eventually of self-inflicted harm.

The next day, I met with the people who were in charge of a number of covens, mine included. I told them I was done and was leaving the scene. It got ugly; we pushed, we shoved, we exchanged punches, I left. This was in the dead of winter in February 1982. As I sat in my car, waiting for that clunker to warm up, two of the guys came outside and were looking at me. I could see their mouths moving and assumed they were chanting some kind of incantation. I was right. Within seconds, the driver’s and front passenger’s windows blew out. Out, not in. They looked shocked and went back inside. I almost had heart failure. I threw my car in drive and took off. The next morning, at the glass place, the guy commended me on doing such a great job cleaning up the glass. I told I did no such thing and he laughed at me. I believe God had His angels around my car and they prevented the glass from touching me.

During this time, I was working with a gentleman, Ray, who was a new Christian. He “sensed” I was into something and began to witness to me. I tried to be respectful and told him I wasn’t interested. After the night we conjured the demon, I quickly became interested. After I got to work, I ran over to Ray’s workstation and begged him to take me to church. That night, we met the pastor of his Southern Baptist church. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was delivered from years of occult oppression. Having basically served the devil for many years, I knew his power; I knew what of he was capable. The night I accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior, I finally knew the power of God and I knew that the devil no longer had power over me. The creator of the universe defeated him because of His love for me…ME! What a humbling experience.

I knew my parents would be terribly upset when they found out I became Christian, especially since I essentially did it out of fear. I didn’t tell them for some time. I was afraid of what their reaction would be. The name Jesus was anathema to most Jews and my parents were no different.

I stayed with that church for a while, learning as much as I could of the Bible and building a relationship with God and His Son. In 1984, I was married in an evangelical Lutheran church that my wife attended. She was not keen on the Baptist way of worship so, naturally, she rarely went to church with me. After a time, I began to get very uncomfortable there. At least once each Sunday, either the pastor or someone in the congregation would comment about the Catholics who went to church down the road from our church; all I heard was how “those Catholics” were marching straight to hell.

After a time, my wife and I began to attend her church, albeit infrequently. Eventually, we stopped going altogether. We moved out of that area and never attended any church until our son was born in 1997. All of sudden she was preoccupied with getting him baptized so we took him to the local Episcopal church to have him baptized.

All through my marriage I rarely attended church and, on those rare occasions when I (or we) did, I always felt something was missing. We divorced and I became depressed. A work friend of mine, a Pentecostal, invited me to his church. I wasn’t thrilled with being around too many people but I gave it a try anyway. They had great music! It was a fairly mixed congregation age-wise and the people were very nice. Their worship, though, was strange to me — speaking in tongues was something I’d never experienced. At the time I knew little about that but I was never comfortable with it. The pastor always told people to speak in tongues on command. I found out later that was not biblical.

I eventually ended up in a ministry position there; I became their soundman. I used to work a soundboard for my friends’ band so I was a natural. I stayed in that church for almost four years; all that time, I heard about how Catholics were “religious” and a dead religion. It seemed that any church I attended always had something negative to say about the Catholic Church. I needed to find out why. If the Catholic Church had nothing to offer, why were all these fundamentalist and Protestant churches so preoccupied with them?

In 2009, I decided I needed to find out what the deal was with the Catholic Church. I began to read as much as I could about the Church, from the Protestant side and the Catholic side. Having been raised Jewish, I still had some deep seated obstacles regarding Christianity in general, but the more I learned about the Catholic Church, the fewer obstacles I had. I read Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid, and others. The more I read the more I realized that the Catholic Church was, indeed, the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

In 2010, I enrolled in the RCIA program and at Easter Vigil in 2011 I was brought into full communion with Mother Church. Since I was never baptized, at the other churches I had attended, I received the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil Mass. I knew in my heart and my spirit that Jesus truly was the Messiah and my Redeemer.

A Brief Introduction to the Angels


Like all ancient liturgical rites of the Church, the traditional Roman rite of Mass—especially if one includes the Asperges me and the Leonine prayer to St. Michael—is full of references and allusions to the holy angels, and more than that, prayers directly addressed to them. To cite all these wonderful texts, let alone comment on them, would make a lengthy article in itself. Since my purpose here is not to analyze the text of the Mass but to present an accessible introduction to the angels, I will pass up this tempting alternative. Still, in keeping with the ancient truth legem credendi statuit lex orandi (or more pithily, lex credendi, lex orandi),[1]the best way to begin is to call to mind some of these liturgical expressions of our faith.

The prayer after the Asperges me asks the Lord to “vouchsafe to send Thy holy angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit and defend all that are assembled in this place.” The Confiteor invokes St. Michael the Archangel twice, and at a High Mass the priest blesses the incense at the Offertory: “Through the intercession of Blessed Michael the Archangel, standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all His elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless + this incense and to receive it in the odor of sweetness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (It bears remarking that since the Confiteor is said a total of three times—twice at the start of Mass, and once before communion—and either the incensation takes place at High Mass or the Leonine prayer is recited after Low Mass, St. Michael will be invoked a total of seven times.) The Munda cor meum is based on Isaiah 6:6, where a seraph is the one that brings down the burning coal.[2] The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, rather like the creation account in the Book of Genesis, makes a brief but poignant mention of the world of created spirits: Credo in … factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium, “I believe in … the Maker of heaven and earth, all things visible and invisible.” Read aloud or sung in every celebration of the Mass, the best-known liturgical reference to the angels is the Preface’s culminating line, which varies in its wording depending on the Preface used but always acclaims the angels as the chief chanters of the Sanctus. Thus we hear in the Preface of the Holy Trinity: “So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored, which [Godhead] the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim do praise, who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying: Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts…”[3] There is a mysterious prayer shortly after the consecration: “Most humbly we implore Thee, Almighty God, bid these offerings to be brought by the hands of Thy Holy Angel to Thine altar on high, before the face of Thy Divine Majesty.” The medieval liturgical exegetes never fully agreed as to who this angel was, some arguing it is an angel properly speaking, even St. Michael, others that it is a symbolic reference to Christ Himself, “the angel of the great counsel” as He is titled in a verse of Isaiah according to the Greek Septuagint, carried into our liturgy in the Introit of the third Mass of Christmas, Puer natus est.[4] (St. Thomas Aquinas decides to offer both interpretations and leaves it at that![5]) In addition to the foregoing, there are oblique and generic references, and, of course, the prayers and readings expressly commemorating the angels on certain feastdays.[6]

Angels in the Old Testament
As is clear from the etymology of the word (Greek aggelos, Latin angelus, “messenger”), the angels derive their collective name from the missions on which God sends them in the course of salvation history; but Scripture also speaks of spirits or spiritual beings ministering before the throne of God (cf. Is. 6:1-2, Ezek. 10, Rev. 4:5). “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Ps. 148:2).

Although the book of Genesis does not explicitly mention the creation of angels, some Fathers of the Church see a reference to angels in the creation of light on the first day (Gen. 1:3). Regardless of how the opening of Genesis be interpreted, the existence of both good and evil angels is beyond doubt, their interventions in history becoming evident from the first book of the Bible onwards. When Adam is cast out of paradise, God sends cherubim to prevent his return to Eden (Gen. 3:24); an angel comes twice to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-9, 21:17-18), three angels appear to Abraham (Gen. 18:2,16), two angels visit Lot (Gen. 19:1,12,13), an angel prevents Abraham from sacrificing Isaac (Gen. 22:9-12), angels appear to Jacob at different times (cf. Gen. 31:11,13; 32:1-2, 23-28; in a dream he beholds the angels ascending to and descending from heaven, Gen. 28:12). The Lord promises that an angel will accompany His people on their journey: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared” (Ex. 23:20). An angel brings food to Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kg. 19:4-8). In the vision of Ezechiel we read: “This is the living creature, which I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chobar: and I understood that they were cherubim” (Ezek. 10:5), and in the vision of Isaiah: above the Lord’s throne “stood the seraphim. . .and one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Is. 6:1-3). In both Eastern and Western liturgies, this threefold song of the seraphim—the Sanctus or Thrice-Holy Hymn—is repeated at some point before the Eucharistic prayer commences. The Old Testament as a whole shows the angels as messengers, warriors, and guardians sent by a merciful God to His chosen people or to privileged individuals. We also see that Satan, the prince of the fallen angels, is at work trying to deceive souls and lead them to perdition (cf. Is. 14:12-15, Job 2:1-2).

Angels in the New Testament
The New Testament reveals the angels to have a still more intimate role in God’s work of salvation. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). The angel Gabriel appears first to Zachary, foretelling the birth of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:11-19), and afterwards to the Virgin Mary with tidings of the wonder to be accomplished in her (Lk. 1:26-35). Angels announce the birth of Christ (Lk. 2:8-14) and tell Joseph to take Mary as his wife, to flee into Egypt, and to return to Israel after Herod’s death (Mt. 1:20, 2:13, 2:19-20). The devil tempts Jesus in the desert, and angels minister to Him after the devil’s departure (Mt. 4:11). In the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel comforts Christ in his agony (Lk. 22:41-43), and when the temple guards come to arrest him, Jesus remonstrates with Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt. 26:52-53, a Roman legion contained between 4000 and 6000 troops; cf. Apoc. 5:11, which speaks of “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” of angels). Angels appear at the tomb of the risen Christ announcing his resurrection to the women (Jn. 20:11-13).

During his public ministry Jesus speaks many times of the angels. The angels who are given charge over children always remain in the immediate presence of God: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 18:10). Christian tradition interprets this and other texts as indicating that God provides human beings with guardian angels.[7] At the final judgment, the angels will accompany Christ: “For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father” (Mt. 16:27), a teaching reiterated by St. Paul: “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Th. 1:7-8). Angels are aware of human affairs—one sinner who repents causes joy among the angels before the Father (Lk. 15:10)—and they share the glory of heaven with the elect: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23). Jesus compares himself to the ladder beheld by Jacob: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (Jn. 1:51). The Son and Word of God is He through whom and for whom all creatures, including the angels, are made (cf. Cos. 1:16-18; Jn. 1:3), and through Christ, God reconciles all things to himself, “whether on earth or in heaven” (Cos. 1:19-20). The angels adore Christ (Heb. 1:6), who by taking on human nature “lowered himself beneath the angels” only to be exalted above all creation as the Lord of all (Heb. 2).

In his letters, Paul repeatedly testifies to the work of good and evil angels, as do Peter and Jude.[8] Angels intervene in the history of the early Church, liberating the apostles and, later, Peter, from prison (Acts 5:18-23, 12:6-11), telling Philip to go into Gaza (Acts 8:26) and Cornelius to seek out Peter (Acts 10:3-5), striking Herod, or Agrippa I, dead for blasphemy (Acts 12:21-23; this Herod was grandson of the Herod who had commanded the massacre of the Innocents), comforting Paul in his preaching (Acts 27:22-24). The angels offer our prayers to God (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4, Tb. 12:12-15). The archangel Michael is revealed to John as the chief adversary of Satan (Rev. 12:7-8),[9] which explains the Catholic custom of praying to St. Michael for defense against demons.
The metaphysics of pure spirits

Angels are pure spirits, intellectual beings without physical matter, yet capable, when God wills, of arranging matter into a temporary human-like body in order either to communicate with men or to intervene “humanly” in a situation without being noticed for what they are. Metaphysical reasoning can demonstrate the necessary existence of one supreme spiritual being, God, who is the efficient, exemplar, and final cause of all beings, their creator and sovereign Lord; but, given that man must reason from things apparent to the senses to their necessary causes, metaphysics can only demonstrate the possibility of purely spiritual beings inferior to God, a possibility grasped by anyone who appreciates that the human intellect as such is immaterial and consequently incorruptible. The perfection of the universe as a whole suggests the fittingness of God creating beings at all levels, from non-living material things (elements and minerals), to living material things (plants and animals), to living material things with a spiritual or intellectual soul (man), to living but wholly immaterial beings (pure intellects or angels).

Although the Church has never pronounced definitively on the exact metaphysical “identity” of the angels, the most probable opinion, defended by St. Thomas Aquinas, is that each angel is a distinct species or kind, since quantified matter is a principle of individuation for physical things (it is only because of the availability of distinct portions of matter that there can be many individuals belonging to the same species). At the same time, Christian theologians from the earliest times have interpreted various passages of Scripture as pointing to the existence of nine hierarchies or groupings of angels, which are, from lowest or least among spiritual beings to highest or nearest to God: angels (Rom. 8:38-39, 1 Pet. 3:22), archangels (1 Th. 4:15, Jude 9), principalities, powers, virtues, dominations, thrones (Eph. 1:21 and 3:10, Rom. 8:38-39, 1 Pet. 3:22, Cos. 1:16), cherubim (Gen. 3:24, Ps. 17:10-11, Ezek. 10), and seraphim (Is. 6:2). These titles are given either from their missions in the world (thus the lowest hierarchy receives the common name of “angel” or messenger) or from some special characteristic (the seraphim are burning with the most ardent love, the cherubim are most perfectly illuminated by divine light).

An indication that the existence of angels is within sight of natural reason is the striking fact that many of the pagan Greek philosophers, foremost among them Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, accepted or argued to the existence of immaterial intellectual beings. (Famously, Socrates told people that he was restrained from consenting to falsehood or injustice by the prompting of his “daemon,” a term that refers to some kind of familiar spirit—not a “demon” in our sense of the word, in spite of the similarity of spelling.) Moreover, there is scarcely any religion in the history of mankind that has not recognized the existence of spiritual beings subordinate to God; and since non-Christian religions do hold something of the truth in spite of their admixture of error, this nearly universal testimony carries weight. Cardinal Newman, in his magnificent work Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, observes that Jewish and Christian beliefs about the angels were certainly shaped by Babylonian views of angelic ministers, and that we should not be anxious about such a pedigree. Indeed, as C. S. Lewis says, one of the most compelling proofs of the truth of the Christian religion is that it contains, while it far surpasses, the truths dimly foreshadowed in pagan religions of different ages and peoples.

Those, on the other hand, who maintain that angels are merely a “mythological” way of depicting the transcendent God’s interaction with creation are unable to give any reasonable account of the insistent and explicit testimony of Scripture, which speaks of the angels as creatures of God appointed to serve and worship him, presents them as personal beings (even names are revealed: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel), and attributes to them a certain independence in action (otherwise none of the angels could have rebelled against God, nor could the good angels minister for the salvation of men). The New Testament unfolds a vast cosmology in which the angels have their exalted place in the providential guidance of human affairs, in the first and second comings of Christ, and in the everlasting blessedness of heaven. Jesus speaks openly of the angels, while the inspired authors record their presence in the life of the Savior and the infant Church in the manner of simple historical fact. Disbelief in the existence of angels among some sectors of modern liberal Christianity can be traced to a more fundamental rejection of the very idea of supernatural revelation. Denying the truth of the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ as readily as they do that of the angels, such objectors first have to be convinced of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Having accepted the truth of the Bible and the authority of the Church as its rightful interpreter, it is impossible not to accept the existence and ministry of angels.

Fellow worshipers in the liturgy of Heaven
Profound veneration or honor—a virtue St. Thomas names dulia—is the only appropriate response to make to such resplendent creatures. Throughout the Bible we are given to see how the apparition of an angel provokes reverential fear and homage. When the prince of the heavenly host appeared to him, Joshua “fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, ‘What does my lord bid his servant?’” (Jos. 5:13-14). Gideon feared he would perish for having seen the angel of the Lord face to face, so great is its majesty and power; but the Lord comforted him: “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die” (Jd. 6:22-23). When Raphael disclosed his identity, Tobit and Tobias “were both alarmed, and they fell upon their faces, for they were afraid. But he said to them: ‘Do not be afraid; you will be safe’” (Tb. 12:16-18). The same fear overcame Zechariah, and the same “Do not be afraid” is spoken, when an angel appeared to him in the temple to announce the birth of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:11–13). The women who went to the tomb of the risen Christ “were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground” when they beheld two “men” in dazzling apparel (Lk. 24:4–5). Of course, an angel is never to be worshiped with the adoration that belongs to God alone (latria). The angel by whose ministry St. John received the apocalyptic visions tells him to worship God alone, for “I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book” (Rev. 22:8-9).

Angels are our fellow worshipers before the throne of the Lamb—both in heaven, where the saints behold the face of Christ, and on earth, where they silently and invisibly join in our adoration of the Eucharistic Lord. It is good, indeed it is consoling and strengthening, to know their nearness, and to profit from it by invoking their intercession and by entrusting ourselves, under God, to their powerful protection. Beyond the friendship of charity that every member of the Mystical Body of Christ enjoys with the hosts of heaven, the lives of the saints show us in vivid and sometimes surprising ways how willing the angels are to enter into a (so to speak) personal friendship with us that becomes more real the more we turn to them in faith, trust, and affection. To encourage this devotion and make this friendship accessible, God gives each and every one of us at the moment of our conception a guardian angel who walks beside us during our whole life—we, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly Jerusalem; our angel, beholding the face of God and well able to guide us thither. This angel is exceedingly perceptive of who and what we are, and exceedingly delicate and gentle in his dealings with us, for us, and around us. He will not force himself upon us; we must turn to him and invite his help, which he will gladly give. While I have never had what some would call a “mystical” experience of my guardian angel (the kind of direct experience St. Gemma Galgani had of hers), I have not failed to notice signs of his presence and action in my life. He has indeed been beside me countless times “to light and to guard, to rule and to guide.” What a tremendous gift of God’s loving providence! If only I could be still more mindful of and reliant upon this person of an entirely different species and order of being, who is far more intelligent, far more powerful, and far more loving and fervent than I!

A flight of angels—and their return
This article began with the observation that the ancient Roman rite teaches us (and reminds us lest we forget) that the angels are present everywhere, but especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as our fellow worshipers and as intercessors on our behalf. It seems obvious that one key reason why belief in the angels, or even an awareness of their existence, has become so crippled, faulty, and rare, is simply that the angels have largely disappeared from the texts employed in the public worship of the Latin or Western Church. They are there, to be sure, but somewhat marginalized, and easy to overlook; their role seems more decorative than dogmatic, a “demotion in rank” confirmed all the more by the general shift, liturgical and paraliturgical, away from explicit and repeated invocation of the saints (whether human or angelic). Arbitrary and banal translations of Latin texts have contributed even more to the overall phenomenon of marginalization, since the English missal employed in the Novus Ordo Missae has roughly the same depth, accuracy, and poetic flair as the New American Bible has—namely, none, or so little that it falls beneath the threshold of observation. Perhaps most tragic, however, was the brutal reduction of angels’ feastdays in the liturgical calendar. On the traditional calendar one could number five: St. Gabriel the Archangel (March 24), the Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel (May 8), Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29, “Michaelmas Day”), the Holy Guardian Angels (October 2), and St. Raphael the Archangel (October 24). Only two survive on the new calendar: The Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (September 29—a highly surprising scrunch given that these three angels are the only angels about whom Scripture speaks at length, making possible proper readings for each one); the Holy Guardian Angels (October 2).

Then there are more subtle losses, such as the fact that the Introit used for the Third Sunday after Epiphany—an Introit then repeated for as many more Sundays as there are until Septuagesima (meaning that there can be up to four Sundays with the same propers)—joyfully declares: Adorate Deum, omnes Angeli ejus: audivit et laetata est Sion: et exsultaverunt filiae Judae, “Adore God, all you His angels: Sion heard, and was glad: and the daughters of Judah rejoiced” (Ps. 96:7-8). In my experience of the sacred liturgy, the Introit, especially when chanted by a schola, is one of the most important moments for a rightly-understood participatio actuosa of the congregation. The priest has donned the chasuble, perhaps a bell is rung, and the nestled neums come to life in stately song. The Mass is really getting under way now, it’s time for us to pay close attention, to immerse ourselves again in the treasures the Lord has prepared for His disciples today. In that way, the Introit becomes emblematic and expressive of the entire banquet of prayer served up by the ministers of the Church to those who are hungry for the Word. Sadly, as we know, the Introit itself barely exists in the world any more. And so this noble antiphon—whose words dare to tell the angels to be busy about the very thing they are already doing far better than we will ever do in this life—is, for most Catholics, buried in the silence of books rarely opened.

In light of our situation, a neglected but important part of both the “reform of the reform” and of the movement to restore the traditional rite must be more and better catechesis on the Holy Angels of God, always accompanied by a lively devotion to them. On pilgrimage they are our guardians and our guides; in the blessed destiny that awaits us they will be our companions. As Jesus says concerning the elect: “In the resurrection they … are like angels in heaven” (Mt. 22:30, Mk. 12:25), “equal to angels and sons of God, sons of the resurrection” (Lk. 20:36).[10] To the sharing of His resurrection may the Risen Lord bring us, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For further reading:

Daniélou, Jean. The Angels and Their Mission According to the Fathers of the Church. Trans. David Heimann Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1957; repr. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, n.d.

Huber, Georges. My Angel Will Go Before You. With an introduction by Charles Cardinal Journet. Trans. Michael Adams. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1983; repr. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, Book II, Chapters 46–55 and 91–101; Book III, Chapters 78–80; Summa theologiae, Prima Pars (Ia), Questions 50–64 and 106–114.


[1] “The law of praying establishes the law of believing”: how we worship shows what we believe; worship embodies and expresses doctrine. Pius XII reminds us of the companion truth: Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi, “let the law of believing establish the law of supplicating”: the true faith is itself the measure and regulator of all true worship. Hence the presence of angels in the Church’s worship has shaped her doctrinal awareness, but conversely, the Church’s doctrine on the angels has been the occasion of instituting special feasts or other devotions in their honor.

[2] The prayer before the Gospel reads: “Cleanse my heart and my lips, O Almighty God, Who cleansed the lips of the Prophet Isaias with a burning coal.” This refers back to an entire exchange in Isaiah 6, verses 5-8: “I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Note first that the Lord purifies the prophet’s lips so that he may proclaim the word of the Lord, and second that the prophet is the figure or foreshadowing of the great Prophet promised by Moses (Deut. 18:15), Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is sent from the Father as the very Word of God in flesh, to cleanse our lips and our hearts.

[3] It is worth noting that we are told about this angelic hymn just a few lines before the burning coal incident mentioned just above. Isaiah chapter 6, verses 1–4: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” (Continue with the verses quoted in note 2.)

[4] The Introit: Puer natus est nobis, et Filius datus est nobis: cujus imperium super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, magni consilii Angelus. Since “angel” originally means “messenger,” this phrase says that Christ is the one who brings the message of mighty counsel for mankind, the Good News.

[5] In his mini-treatise on the rite of Mass (Summa theologiae III, q. 83), St. Thomas at one point raises the objection: “Just as Christ’s body does not begin to be in this sacrament by change of place, as stated above, so likewise neither does it cease to be there. Hence it is improper for the priest to ask: ‘Bid these things be borne by the hands of thy holy angel unto Thine altar on high’” (obj. 9 of art. 4). His reply is very interesting: “The priest does not pray that the sacramental species may be borne up to heaven; nor that Christ’s true body may be borne thither, for it does not [ever]cease to be there; but he offers this prayer for Christ’smystical body, which is signified in this sacrament, that the angel standing by at the divine mysteries may present to God the prayers of both priest and people, according to Apocalypse 8:4: ‘And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, from the hand of the angel.’ But God’s ‘altar on high’ means either the Church triumphant, unto which we pray to be translated, or else God Himself, in Whom we ask to share; because it is said of this altar in Exodus 20:26: ‘Thou shalt not go up by steps unto My altar’ (that is, thou shalt make no steps towards the Trinity). Or else by the angel we are to understand Christ Himself, Who is the ‘Angel of great counsel’ (Is. 9:6 [according to the Septuagint]), Who unites His mystical body with God the Father and the Church triumphant.”

For a similar case, namely when St. Augustine suggests why Christ is the “angel” that stirred the pool of Bethsaida or Bethzatha (cf. Jn. 5:2), see St. Thomas’s Commentary on John 5, lec. 1, n. 708.

[6] I will return to the question of the angels’ feasts at the end of this article.

[7] See Ex. 23:20, Ps. 34:7, Ps. 91:11-12, Job 33:23-26, Bar. 6:6-7, Zech. 1:8-11.

[8] See 1 Pet. 3:22, 2 Pet. 2:11, Jude 9.

[9] See Jude 9, Dan. 10:12-13, 20-21, Jos. 5:13-15.

[10] Note that “equal” here means equal proportionately, that is, all in heaven will be adopted sons of God, sons of the resurrection, and blessed forever, but each will be rewarded in proportion to his merits, which, St. Thomas says, means in proportion to the extent of his charity. Certainly there is no question of equality of rank or status. By her supreme charity and inseparable bond to her Son as His Mother, the Virgin Mary is Queen of All Saints, including the holy angels, who bow and submit to her, although in nature she is less than the least of them.

A Call to Restore Prayers of Exorcism

In 1886, Pope Leo XIII added the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to the prayers he had already ordered to be said after the Low Mass in 1884. The origin of the prayer is subject to much speculation, particularly about whether or not Leo received a locution with the voices of Jesus and the devil. Regardless of the exact details of this alleged event, which some deny for being unsubstantiated, there are some historical testimonies to the fact that a mystical experience moved the Pope to compose the prayer and to have it said daily throughout the world.

On June 29, 1972, Pope Bl. Paul VI, who stopped the recitation of the prayer, seemed to confirm an element’s of Leo’s prophecy, stating in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” This built upon Leo’s sense that the devil would have extraordinary influence in the twentieth century, including within the Church. Paul continued his reflection on the influence of the devil on November 15 of that same year in a general audience entitled “Deliver Us from Evil,” arguing that “one of the major needs [of the Church] is defense from that evil we call the Devil.” Pope Paul, referencing Ephesians 6:11-12, argued that we need to withstand the evil one with the armor of God.

Was a large part of the smoke of Satan entering the Church our denial of his influence and a laying down of our spiritual arms to confront him? For too long we have denied or overlooked the influence of the devil on our lives and the Church. Therefore, we have grown lax in seeking the Lord’s power to overcome his opposition. Praying for this deliverance is central to Christian prayer, as we see even at the end of the Our Father, which has been translated, “deliver us from the evil one.” After being tempted, Christ commanded the devil, “away with you Satan!” and cast out many demons in his ministry. Our Lord took spiritual warfare seriously and recognized our need for deliverance, as he brought “freedom to captives.” He also gave power and authority to his disciples to exorcise: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons” (Mk 16:17; see Luke 9:1). This power has been overlooked of late, as belief in the influence of the evil one now appears superstitious to many.

Take the example of exorcism prayer in the Rite of Baptism as part of the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council, promulgated in 1969 by Paul VI. It is fascinating that the Associated Press quoted Bl. Paul as questioning the revised prayer in the audience I referenced above (though these lines have been removed from the official text). The AP article reads: “In his speech. Pope Paul appeared to regret that in the new rite of baptism, which he approved three years ago, less emphasis is given to exorcism. This is the part in which the priest orders Satan to get out of the new Christian. ‘I don’t know whether this is realistic,’ he said of the revised exorcism.” In the audience, Paul recognized both the increased influence on the devil and that the Church had softened her response.

In my opinion, the “Prayer of Exorcism” found in the revised rite, is not an exorcism at all. Here is the text:
Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The first sentence is simply a declarative statement on what Christ accomplished. It then asks that the child be set free from original sin and given grace, but says nothing about praying for the child to be delivered from the influence of the enemy, let alone commanding the enemy to depart.

In paragraph 1673, the Catechism describes exorcism and its relation to Baptism: “When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism.” What is so striking about the exorcism prayer in the new Rite of Baptism is that is does not ask that the one being baptized “be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion.”

Contrast this with the exorcism from the traditional rite of Baptism:
I cast you out, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Depart and stay far away from this servant of God, N. For it is the Lord Himself who commands you, accursed and doomed spirit, He who walked on the sea and reached out His hand to Peter as he was sinking. So then, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from this servant of God, N, for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called him (her) to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism.
The lack of exorcism in the new rite, was lauded by some, such as Vincent Ryan, OSB:
The catechetical value of some of its rites and formulas was doubtful…. How could one justify the strongly-worded exorcisms when applied, not to converts from paganism, but to newly-born infants? …
In the old baptismal service the exorcisms loomed very large. They have now been reduced to one moderately-worded formula. No longer is the Evil One addressed directly (‘I adjure thee, Satan, …’). Instead, we have a prayer addressed to God, acknowledging what he has done for his people.
Fr. Ryan questioned the need for exorcism prayers for infants, but suggested that it may be helpful for converts. What then do we see happening in the case of someone converting as an adult from another religion? The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), promulgated in 1971, contains a series of exorcisms that occur periodically from the Rite of Acceptance to the Scrutinies of Lent. Analyzing the prayers shows mixed results. Some meet the definition of an exorcism given by the Catechism, but a majority follow Fr. Ryan’s concern for catechetical instruction over actual spiritual warfare.

The “Introduction” to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) describes the exorcisms that occur within the Catechumenate in the following ways: They are “addressed directly to God,” and “draw the attention … to the real nature of Christian life…” (90). Further, during Lent the elect “are freed from the effects of sin and from the influence of the devil. They receive new strength in the midst of their spiritual journey and they open their hearts to receive the gifts of the Saviour” (131).

The strongest of the many exorcism prayers within RCIA is contained within the “optional rites” section of the Rite of Acceptance, and therefore would not necessarily be used for every catechumen. The prayer states: “By the breath of your mouth, O Lord, drive away the spirits of evil. Command them to depart, for your kingdom has come among us.” This prayer, though stronger than the exorcism of Baptism, serves as a petition, not a command to the demons to depart.

The next set of exorcism prayers are the minor exorcisms found within the Catechumenate proper. Out of the 11 options, the following prayer provides a good example of their character:
God of power, who promised us the Holy Spirit through Jesus your Son, we pray to you for these catechumens, who present themselves before you. Protect them from the spirit of evil and guard them against error and sin, so that they may become the temple of your Holy Spirit. Confirm what we profess in faith, so that our words may not be empty, but full of the grace and power by which your Son has freed the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen (§94, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).
Although this is a good and even beautiful prayer, I wonder (like Bl. Paul VI) whether it would suffice to break someone away from the domination of sin, false worship, and demonic influence? There are also two options for exorcism prayers for each of the three Scrutinies of Lent. These prayers are a bit stronger at points—“defend them from the power of Satan”—but generally maintain a catechetical and petitionary character. As in the revised rite of Baptism, we do not see in these prayers the full exercise of the authority given to the Church by Christ over unclean spirits.

As we see the influence of the evil one increasing in our culture every day, we cannot stand by idly. We must take up our spiritual arms again. Returning to the scriptural passage quoted by Bl. Paul above, Ephesians 6: 11-12, we can see how St. Paul taught us to withstand the attacks of the enemy:

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

How should we put on this armor? We must surround ourselves with prayer, remaining in the presence of the Lord and strong in our faith. Beyond that, without giving in to undo fear or obsession, we should regularly pray for deliverance from any influence that the enemy may have over us. We should pray regularly the prayer to the great defender of the Church, St. Michael, as Pope St. John Paul II advised us: “Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, I invite everyone not to forget it, but to recite it to get to be helped in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

There are also many other effective prayers of deliverance. The one copied below is an example of taking up the authority that Christ gave us, through the power of his Holy Name, to withstand evil spirits.

Prayer Against Every Evil

Spirit of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Most Holy Trinity, Immaculate Virgin Mary, angels, archangels, and saints of heaven, descend upon me. Please purify me, Lord, mold me, fill me with yourself, use me.
Banish all the forces of evil from me, destroy them, vanish them, so that I can be healthy and do good deeds.
Banish from me all spells, witchcraft, black magic, malefice, ties, maledictions, and the evil eye; diabolic infestations, oppressions, possessions; all that is evil and sinful, jealousy, perfidy, envy; physical, psychological, moral, spiritual, diabolical aliments.
Burn all these evils in hell, that they may never again touch me or any other creature in the entire world.
I command and bid all the power who molest me—by the power of God all powerful, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary—to leave me forever, and to be consigned into the everlasting hell, where they will be bound by Saint Michael the archangel, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael, our guardian angels, and where they will be crushed under the heel of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

The following article retrieved from a second site contains several warnings. The dangers to one's soul are immense should one ignore the counsel of trained exorcists who repeatedly warn others that to flirt with demons carries the serious risk of the loss of one's soul. Be advised, then, that to dismiss the warnings provided by the author of this next article is not only unwise but a serious risk to one's well being. The following article, like all the resources here provided, are intended to instruct the faithful and priests in the reality of the demonic threat, and are not to be taken lightly or as cause for mere fascination. Do not flirt with the subject matter and/or realities herein represented.

Warning: Do Not Attempt This Exorcism at Home
Fr. Carlos Martins, Treasures of the Church:

WARNING: Per Vatican teaching and instruction, never, ever ask demons any questions. Leave that job to trained priests. Priests are protected in this activity by their office. Laypeople are not. Laypeople may command demons to depart (i.e., they may engage in simple deliverance), but they are never to ask them questions or otherwise converse with demons. You have been duly warned.
A good priest friend of mine–let’s call him Fr. George–is an exorcist. When he performs an exorcism on someone for the first time, Fr. George demands that the demon reveals who his nemesis in heaven is. In other words, he asks him to reveal which saint is his “archenemy.”

The demons never want to reveal this. They never want to reveal any knowledge that might be used against them. But an exorcist will keep hammering away at this, because if he gets a valid answer, it will serve as a weapon and give him a tremendous edge.

In one case of exorcism, Fr. George posed the question to the demon who manifested himself in a certain woman (let’s call her Rachel). But the demon would not answer. But when Fr. George hammered that question over and over again, always commanding in the name of Christ that he reveal the truth, the demon finally–though reluctantly–said, “Thomas.”

Father George asked, “Which Thomas … St. Thomas the Apostle, or St. Thomas Aquinas?” The demon wouldn’t say. So, again, Fr. George hammered that question over and over again, demanding that the demon reveal the answer, “in the name of Christ.”

Finally, the demon said, “Beckett, you f*cking priest.” In other words, this particular demon’s nemesis was the martyr St. Thomas à Beckett, otherwise known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, who’s feast day is December 29th.

Later on in the session, after much praying and adjuration was done on by Fr. George, the demon revealed his own name. He identified himself as “Murder.”
Later that day Fr. George called me. It had been a while since we had spoken, and he wanted to catch up. He related the incident that happened with the demon during the exorcism earlier in the day. I replied to him, “Father George, you know that I have a piece of the alb St. Thomas à Beckett was wearing when he was murdered in his Cathedral. Let me overnight it to you and you can use it against the demons in your next session.”

I couriered the relic overnight and Fr. George had it for his next exorcism session with Rachel. Halfway through the session, he pulled out the relic and applied it against Rachel’s body.

The effect was as if all hell broke loose. The demon screamed horribly, as if he was being tortured. In fact, the reaction was so much, that it took Fr. George aback. Under that torture, the demon subsequently revealed that he was the demon who had possessed the king’s men that had murdered Thomas à Beckett.

Beckett’s virtue defeated the demon the first time when he was murdered in the year 1170. Over 800 years later, his relic defeated the same demon a second time.

As you can imagine, the experience was enlightening for all of us, in more ways than one, and about as surreal as they get.

St. Thomas à Beckett, pray for us!

I know that I am going to get asked this question 100s of times, so I am preempting it by providing its answer right now: The best protection and defence against demons is the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Eucharist received in a state of sinlessness. Go to Confession and get reconciled with God, else by definition you belong to the enemy. By DEFINITION the sinner belongs to him. Then receive the Eucharist, as Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament aids you in avoiding sin and in enabling the Holy Spirit to grow in you.
REPEATED WARNING: Per Vatican teaching and instruction, never, ever ask demons any questions. Leave that job to trained priests. Priests are protected in this activity by their office. Laypeople are not. Laypeople may command demons to depart (i.e., they may engage in simple deliverance), but they are never to ask them questions or otherwise converse with demons. You have been duly warned.

19 Points of Advice for Fighting the Devil

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil...

Patti Armstrong

The exorcists I consult occasionally for articles have personally seen a lot of the devil’s theatrics: levitation, room temperature suddenly and drastically dropping, people knowing foreign languages they never studied, foul odors, objects flying and other antics intended to intimidate the exorcist. Yet, we are told not to fear evil. The exorcists do, however, strongly warn us to stay away from it and use the protection God gives us.

I put together advice on how to guard against evil taken from two recent interviews with Msgr. John Esseff, a priest in the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania for 64 years and an exorcist for over 40 years, and also Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

  1. Hate sin. “The usual work of the devil is sin. Sin leads to the death of souls,”–Msgr. Esseff.
  2. Understand that spiritual warfare is not a fight between equals. “The real power is God who created all things. God the Father is the first person of the Trinity; his son is Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who came into the world by the overpowering of the Holy Spirit. This is our God, who loves us so much that he came from heaven to dwell in us. He is in each baptized person and explodes in us through the Holy Eucharist. There is no God except him,”–Msgr. Esseff.
  3. Never talk directly to the devil. “In a major exorcism, the priest speaks to the demon but it requires permission from the local bishop so he has the entire authority of the Church doing spiritual battle.  A lay person should address only God since they can get into trouble talking to the devil.”-Bishop Paprocki.
  4. Recognize the devil. “Possession is the extraordinary work of the devil and is very rare. [Although obsession, oppression, infestation are more frequent]. His ordinary work is temptation and we deal with temptation every day,”—Bishop Paprocki. “The power of Satan increases when people don’t believe he is real. God is ‘I am, who am,’ but the devil wants to be ‘I am who is not.’”—Msgr. Esseff
  5. Go to Confession. “Once the confessional line gets thin, the activity of Satan increases. To decrease the work of Satan, increase the use of confession. Confession is more powerful than an exorcism. One is a sacrament and the other is a blessing.”—Msgr. Esseff
  6. Live a sacramental life. “The best way to protect ourselves from evil is through the sacraments because they were instituted by Jesus Christ and fill us with the grace to protect us and bring us closer to God,”—Bishop Paprocki said.
  7. Use sacramentals, such as holy water, rosaries, scapulars, and other religious articles. “They were given to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When we bless ourselves with holy water it helps protect us against evil. Crucifixes, the rosary, and prayer… are sacramentals too. They are ways to help us to be holy,” —Bishop Paprocki.
  8. Help yourself. “I will pray over people and tell them: now you have to say and do things differently than your nature says. It is human nature to fall back into old habits. People need to turn to God and pray for grace. Then they need to be ready to accept those graces and strive to make good choices,”—Msgr. Esseff.
  9. Stay away from evil. “It is better to protect yourself from evil than to try and rid yourself from it. Once you open a door to it, you cannot always close it on your own,”—Msgr. Esseff.
  10. Take authority in your home. “God gives parents authority in their home and over their children. Declare your authority in prayer,”—Msgr. Esseff.
  11. See the world for what it is. “In the end, Christ has conquered, but during our lifetime on Earth, we need to be aware of evil influences all around us. Since we live in a secular culture, the evil one is a strong influence. That is why it is so important to stay close with Jesus Christ.  If we are not doing that, we have no protection and that is very dangerous,”—Bishop Paprocki.
  12. Use prayers of protection. “It is good to say prayers to reject the devil and reinforce faith in God such as the ‘Our Father,’ and the ‘Apostle’s’ and ‘Nicene Creed,’”—Bishop Paprocki. Msgr. Esseff also recommends the St. Patrick Breastplate Prayer and  the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel.
  13. Have your house blessed. “We can have a priest bless our house and use prayers of minor exorcisms. A minor exorcism does not need permission form the bishop to perform,”–Bishop Paprocki.
  14. Consult a priest if feel you need help. “When a priest prays and gives his blessing, he is acting in the person of Jesus Christ, which is powerful…. When I walk into a room, the devil sees Jesus Christ,”—Msgr. Esseff 

Additional advice:

  1. (15) Read the Bible and good Catholic book. Also recommended are: Manual for Spiritual Warfare by Paul Thigpen, and Deliverance Prayers by Father Chad Ripperger.
  2. (16) Focus on God, the Blessed Mother, and all the angels and saints. Don’t give the devil undue attention.
  3. (17) Make a holy hour and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
  4. (18) Forgive others and seek humility. This closes the door closed to the devil and opens it to God.
  5. (19) Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. 
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