Living with the Angels
Our exorcism ministry can be viewed as a work of the angels. The archangel Michael and legions of angels cast Lucifer and his reprobate angels out of Heaven. We continue their work on this earth. We are fortunate to be allowed to share in this angelic work. Thus, we should be “breathing the air” of the angels.
We exorcists are ministering among the angels and are surrounded by them. A mystic told me that at every exorcism there is at least one angel from the rank of powers present and helping. At more difficult exorcisms, we have had as many as eight in the room with us.
To “breathe the air” of angels, we need to detach a bit more from worldly values and live more intentionally in their spiritual realm. Eventually, as our life is more consciously lived in the company of angels, they become our companions and friends. We are living in good company and it is a joy!
St. Michael and the Angelic Powers
The Catholic Church takes the words of the book of Revelation quite literally regarding the battle between St. Michael and the angels and Lucifer and his demons:
“Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail. . . . The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.”—Rev. 12:7–9
Jesus’ death and Resurrection has definitively defeated and destroyed Satan’s kingdom. But the spiritual battle for souls continues to rage on this earth, and St. Michael and the angels continue to wage war with Satan on our behalf. The angels are especially present during an exorcism, which is a clear moment of spiritual warfare.
Of the nine choirs of angels, it is thought that the rank of powers is particularly present in exorcisms. These angelic powers are of a higher rank than that of the guardian angels and thus have greater power in assisting in the casting out of demons.
St. Michael, as protector of the people and the leader of the angelic host that cast out Lucifer, continues to lead the angelic host in repelling Satan’s attacks, especially in an exorcism. In religious iconography, St. Michael is usually depicted with sword in hand and Satan under his foot. Exorcists, naturally, have a close affinity to St. Michael and often invoke his help.
The team and I spend a lot of time dealing with lower-ranking demons. Most people who are possessed have such lesser demons. Thank God. If we get their names during the exorcism, they are not commonly known.
Occasionally we run into a higher-ranking demon, and then it gets rougher. These are the more well-known princes of Hell, such as Beelzebul, Baal, Leviathan, Gressil, and Asmodeus. There are moments when Lucifer himself shows up. These are rare. Some demons who inhabit the possessed claim to be Satan or Lucifer but are usually lower-ranking demons perhaps under their direct command. When Lucifer shows up, he is typically surrounded by Hell’s princes and many, many others. This is ugly.
During a recent session, I was interrogating the demons and commanded them to tell me who was the leader of the possessing demons. The demonic spokesman answered with an arrogant sneer, “The King of Hell himself is our leader.” He added, “You’re way out of your league.” Later they confirmed that it was Lucifer himself. Ugh.
We had been exorcising this person for a year and a half, and after all the lower demons had been cast out in Jesus’ name, including Hell’s princes, Lucifer himself finally came to the fore. His personality was unique and unmistakable. He came forward with a hiss that sounded like a snake. He was not like the lower demons, who were often superficially boastful, adolescent, and shallow. Despite their innate intelligence, they acted quite stupidly.
Lucifer, whose name is often translated as “Light Bearer” or “Morning Star” (Isa. 14:12), was brilliant, cunning, measured, and deadly. Lower demons cower in the presence of a priest, but Lucifer did not. Later, I consulted an older exorcist, who said, “They are trying to intimidate you to see if there is any lack of confidence in you, which they will pursue.” He added, “Don’t take the bait.”
It would be a tough spiritual battle, but the team and I had to trust. Lucifer had a very strong army. He marshaled all of his considerable resources, including the princes of Hell and hundreds of demons. But we had the power of Heaven: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints and angels, and, of course, Jesus Himself. We couldn’t lose.
I invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary and prayed the Church’s official Rite of Exorcism, with our lay team praying the litanies. The “King of Hell” screamed and writhed like all the rest. As the ancient Rite of Exorcism itself says, “Cede igitur, cede non mihi, sed ministro Christi,” that is, “Yield, therefore, yield, not to myself but to the minister of Christ.” Eventually, as with all the others, the power of Christ cast him out.
The Highest Angel Fell
The following passage from Isaiah is often applied to Lucifer, “How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the earth, you who conquered nations!” (14:12). The Vulgate translates “Morning Star” as “Lucifer,” which a number of Church Fathers identified as Satan.
Lucifer’s sin, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, was seeking to be as God, by his own nature rather than by God’s grace. Thus, Lucifer sinned through pride. Others identify the sin of Lucifer as one of envy.
There are also conflicting opinions as to whether Lucifer was the highest angel before the Fall. St. Thomas agrees with Pope St. Gregory the Great that Lucifer (or Satan) was indeed the highest angel. I would add that the difference between the lower angels and the higher angels is not simply one of a modest degree but an exponential step up in power and intelligence. As the highest angel, Lucifer must have been surpassingly brilliant! Sadly, he must have been blinded by his own brilliance.
Lucifer has great disdain for human beings. By nature, he is so much greater than we puny humans are. What Jesus, the God-Man, is by nature, however, we humans can become by grace. What we can become through grace far surpasses even the angels. By sharing in the divine nature of Jesus, we are raised up, by grace, to participate in God’s very being (Heb. 1:5).
This is astounding. In the beginning, the angels knew of the eventual Incarnation of the Son of God. He was to become human — not an angel. It is believed that Satan rejected this divine act of humility and God’s love for humans.
Satan wars against all humans to spite God the Father and to spite the Son. Similarly, we humans conquer Satan, despite his innate superiority, precisely through our participation in Jesus. In Jesus, we share in the divine nature and we cast out Satan in His name.
This article is adapted from Msgr Rosetti’s new book, Diary of an American Exorcist: Demons, Possession, and the Modern-Day Battle Against Ancient Evil. It is available as a hardback or ebook from your favorite bookseller or online through Sophia Institute Press.
Check out our previous excerpt from Msgr. Rosetti in the article “Theological Insights From a Day in the Life of an American Exorcist.” We also recommend Divine Intimacy Radio’s interview with Monsignor, which you can stream below or on your favorite podcast app.