PAGE UPDATED: March 24, 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.
Catholic Catechism: Heaven and Earth
Fr. John J. Hardon
Opus Sanctorum Angelorum
Opus Sanctorum Angelorum: Catechesis on Angels
Christian Faith & Demonology Vatican
Exorcism - Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult Fr. Jose Francisco C. Syquia
Manual for Spiritual Warfare by Paul Thigpen (TAN) video preview
- exorcismus.org (use Firefox browser)
- International Association of Exorcists (WP article), Rome Not to be confused with any other international group.
- Fr. Francesco Bamonte, President
- Vatican Insider article: Vatican Recognizes IAE
- Possession & Exorcism (Fortea): http://www.fortea.us/english/index.htm
- José Antonio Fortea Spain
- Fr. Vincenzo Taraborelli Rome
- Fr. Gary Thomas USA
- Fr. Randall Weber USA
- Fr. Chad Ripperger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEL-BzbFbJY Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- Fr. Vince Lampert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBOkqr9r1qQ
- Father Vincent Lampert, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
- Fr. James Lebar (EWTN interview): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt7ke--cEZ0
- Fr. Carlos Martins, CC Exorcism Discussion
- Anthropological Aspects
- Fenomenological Aspects
- Social Aspects
- Biblical Aspects
- Theological Aspects
- Pastoral and Spiritual Aspects
- Liturgical Aspects
- Canonical Aspects
- Legal Aspects: Prosecution
- Legal Aspects: Defence
- Criminological Aspects
- Medical Aspects
- Psychological Aspects
- Social and Spiritual Aspects
- The Ministry of the Exorcist
What Does the Church Teach About the Devil?
by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND 09/22/2014
Demonic Possession Should Be Handled by Trained Exorcist, Not Confessor, Says Bishop
Some Basic Facts and Clarifications about the Angels
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).
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.
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.
Demons According to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross
by Fr. Antonio Moreno, O.P.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
- 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.
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 submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
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.”
- Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies)/Baal—http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02388c.htm
- Satan/the Devil—http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04764a.htm
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
BY PETER KWASNIEWSKI ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2016
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),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. 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…” 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. (St. Thomas Aquinas decides to offer both interpretations and leaves it at that!) 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.
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. 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. 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), 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). 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.
 “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.
 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.
 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.)
 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.
 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.
 I will return to the question of the angels’ feasts at the end of this article.
 See Ex. 23:20, Ps. 34:7, Ps. 91:11-12, Job 33:23-26, Bar. 6:6-7, Zech. 1:8-11.
 See 1 Pet. 3:22, 2 Pet. 2:11, Jude 9.
 See Jude 9, Dan. 10:12-13, 20-21, Jos. 5:13-15.
 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
R. JARED STAUDT [Source]
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.