AS A NEW VIDEO POINTS OUT, THE DEVIL OPERATES IN VARIED WAYS AS A SPIRIT, NOT A SPECIFIC IMAGE
Did you know that originally the biblical translation of the Lord’s Prayer ended with the words, “deliver us from the malignant one” (instead of “deliver us from evil,” which is more generic, and less powerful)? An exorcist points that out on a new DVD about casting out demons, Defeating the Devil: Exorcists Tell Their Stories.
It’s an excellent, fascinating resource, this video, composed mainly of interviews with priests in Spain and Rome who cover a number of interesting areas, about which we’ll discuss a few tidbits.
His looks? The devil’s appearance?
“Naturally, I haven’t seen him, because he can’t be seen directly,” comments Father Pedro Suñer Puig, of Barcelona, explaining, as did other priests, that the devil is a spiritual being who can take various forms and appears nothing like all those images that are nearly a parody of him: the cartoon-like imp with a pitchfork or the horned goat or the weird-looking crown prince or jester that (as these exorcists say) seem nearly to mock the very notion of his existence (right in keeping with his desire to remain disbelieved in and thus hidden!).
He is a master of “many ambiguous disguises,” in the intriguing words of Father José Antonio Sayés.
Does Satan physically attack priests during exorcisms? The consensus: rarely. Their protection: the stole and sacramentals such as the Benedict Crucifix. Are there hopeless cases, whereby the devil can’t be cast out? “God never abandons a person to the hand of the evil spirit,” replied Father Puig. “If God is sought, He will rescue — but the person must cooperate.”
Right now, the evil spirit is running rampant, perceived less directly if at all by many in our societies because he is operating in “structural sin” with the “astuteness of a traitor” (as one Pope memorably phrased it).
The devil was cited eighteen times during Vatican Two (until his smoke poured forth through a crack in the Church and obscured the very notion of him).
Yet, we can have no doubt that he exists. His presence is all around us.
As the Blessed Mother recently intoned, “Now, as never before, Satan wants to suffocate man and his soul by his contagious wind of hatred and unrest” (January 25, 1015).
How are exorcists sure an evil spirit is at work in a person (as opposed to mental illness)? Father Puig notes a little test whereby envelopes are brought before a possessed person, one containing holy pictures such as of the Virgin Mary or Jesus, the other just a plain piece of paper. The possessed person will become restless and agitated if the sealed envelope with a holy figure is chosen for him or her.
As Father Manuel Gomez points out, many exorcisms are caused due to involvement with an organization or practice that involves satanism, Luciferianism, or witchcraft. (Masonry they place under “Luciferianism”; Father Gomez says the 29th and 30th-degree Masons throw a Cross and spit on it in their rituals).
It’s pointed out (by Father Gabriele Amorth of Rome) that perhaps as many as ninety percent of exorcisms involve women — for reasons he finds mysterious; perhaps (but only perhaps, he concedes) because women will turn to a priest more readily than a man will (there is that macho factor); females tend to become more involved with such things as fortunetelling, tarot, witchcraft, astrology; the devil may be trying to get to men through the female (see Adam and Eve); or perhaps out of simple revenge against that great woman we call the Blessed Mother. “There is no doubt,” says Father Amorth, who uses a Saint Benedict Crucifix during exorcisms, “that the great enemy of the devil is Saint Mary.”
Father Amorth shows objects — a small chain, nails, keys, a can opener — that have come out of the mouths of those delivered, objects he says were used through “evil channels” in the original curse against a person’s being and aren’t actually in the person (would not show up on an x-ray) but materialize on the lips before they are expelled.
And demons, they say, can possess not only people but animals, places, and things.
Yet, “united with Christ,” we have power over the devil. With regular participation in the sacraments, adds Father Amorth, curses boomerang back to whoever uttered or thought them (“Deliver us from the malignant one.”) When we recognize and name an evil — without becoming obsessed with it — we have power over that evil, in the Name of Jesus.