Because of my previous involvement in the occult practices, along with my ancestor’s involvement with Freemasonry, I am frequently asked for advice about exorcisms. Most people who share their stories with me are certain they need to head straight to the exorcist who is geographically closest to them, but my response is always cautious and intentional. When handling grave matters related to supernatural activity, it’s always best to spend adequate time in prayer and reflection before making impulsive conclusions.
It’s important to establish a baseline for the general laity to understand the difference between ordinary and extraordinary activity of the devil, and then to further define examples of extraordinary activity. All of us are tempted to sin, which is the easiest way to explain the ordinary activity of Satan. He tends to influence our thoughts with subtle messages we may dismiss as harmless, and then these can be entertained through our emotions and, if we do not rebuke them swiftly, can lead to sin.
Extraordinary diabolical activity, however, is what causes confusion for most people. These include infestation, oppression, obsession, physical attacks from the devil, diabolic dependence, and demonic possession.
Infestation is when a house, inanimate object, or animal is influenced by inexplicable paranormal phenomena. For example, if a lamp turns off and on without anyone activating a switch and without an electrical malfunction, it might be due to an infestation. These occur at times when a person practicing some form of witchcraft uses a particular object to create a spell, hex, or curse. It could also be due to the influence of a deceased soul who is trying to get someone’s attention so that they may obtain prayers to be released from Purgatory.
Oppression can take on the form of an illness, alter a person’s relationships in the form of peculiar and divisive or toxic patterns, or invade other areas of one’s life, such as jobs or finances. There is no manifestation of a demon in the form of the spirit taking over a person’s body or changing his/her voice, involuntary behaviors, or extraordinary strength. Rather, spiritual oppression influences part of a person’s life in perhaps strange patterns of misfortune, unexplained diseases, or repeated severed relationships.
Obsession is a more direct form of diabolic attack, but still it is not possession. When a person is being spiritually harassed through obsessions, it is almost always in the form of unwanted, irrational, obsessive thoughts that often lead the person to despondency or even despair through attempted suicide. The devil tends to torment someone through nightmares, as well.
For many years, I suffered from diabolic nightmares. In these dreams, I would witness disturbing satanic rituals or sick, twisted acts of sexual sin. When I would wake up, I always felt incredibly troubled by these nightmares, because I’d never been exposed to anything that would have led me to fall prey to these images – no satanic relationships, books or movies, etc. It horrified me that this was happening.
When I explained this to the Catholic lay women who share a deliverance ministry, they discerned through prayer and fasting that there was a specific satanic curse placed upon me and anyone in my family who would be Catholic. Apparently my ancestor, who was a 33rd degree Freemason, had cursed my family in this way, and this was the manner in which I was affected. So this is an example of diabolic obsession, from which I was liberated through the renunciation of such evil.
Physical attacks are pretty obvious and need little elaboration. Many saints were attacked by invisible demons, including St. Padre Pio and St. Jean Vianney. This is in no way suggestive of occult or satanic involvement but rather can be (but are not always) due to one’s sanctity.
Diabolic dependence and demonic possession are the most extreme and dangerous forms of extraordinary activity and include a pact with the devil and when Satan takes over a person’s body (not soul) and acts without the knowledge or consent of the victim, respectively. In the latter case, the individual is not morally culpable for what the demons say or do through his body, but in the former case, the person has willingly entered into a covenant with the devil and is, therefore, accountable for that choice.
Most demonic interference can be handled by a Catholic lay deliverance ministry, such as Unbound. Only extreme cases should be dealt with via the Rite of Exorcism, and as a last resort at that. In other words, once all other options are explored and determined to not be the cause of a person’s ills (e.g., psychological diagnosis, biological disease), exorcism should be sought. Most exorcists have a team of trusted people who act as consultants on various fields of expertise, including medical and psychological interventions. There is always a thorough evaluation for a person who is suspected of demonic possession, and when it is determined that there is no natural cause of the affliction, an exorcism is performed. (Note: Do not seek an “exorcism” from anyone other than a priest!)
In all cases in which a person speculates that his or her troubles are supernatural in origin, it is best to seek out advice from someone who is trained in Catholic deliverance. Of course, it is often difficult to obtain such information, as dioceses are somewhat wary of freely distributing this information, but begin with prayer combined with fasting and Eucharistic Adoration. Ask the Lord to bring a person into your life who is a solid Catholic and will not lead you astray, someone who can provide proper spiritual deliverance.
Don’t be timid in asking for someone’s credentials when they tell you they can assist you in deliverance. Of course, there are some prayers you can do alone, as well. The book that my friends used for my situation was Deliverance Prayers: For Use by the Laity by Fr. Chad A. Ripperger. The book has an incredibly thorough compilation of powerful prayers against diabolical activity in one’s life.
I do recommend, however, that you do not attempt deliverance alone, at least not at first. Your specific case could be very involved and may need more discernment if there are deeper spiritual attachments, as was in my case. Once you become more familiar at recognizing how Satan attacks your particular areas of weakness (which almost always begin in the thoughts and emotions), you should obviously rebuke these attacks in Jesus’s name – immediately and with confidence in God’s saving power!
Here are some other books I highly recommend so that you can become more acquainted with the Church’s interpretation and management of extraordinary diabolical activity:
- An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriel Amorth (chief exorcist of Rome who only recently died)
- An Exorcist: More Stories by Fr. Amorth
- An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels by Fr. Amorth
- Manual for Spiritual Warfare by Paul Thigpen
- Demons, Deliverance, and Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World by Fr. Mike Driscoll
- Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance by Neal Lozano
- Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance by Neal Lozano