Fighting the 'demons of the air,' in a helicopter
In the news recently were stories about what was dubbed an "aerial exorcism": a priest in Italy who conducted prayers of deliverance while hovering in a helicopter over a problem-plagued town called Castellammare di Stabia.
The problem: a series of thefts and acts of vandalism targeting churches in what should be an idyllic spot on the sea: desecrated graves, crosses turned upside down, and statues of the Blessed Mother tossed over cliffs.
"If Satan exists, he has taken control of Castellammare di Stabia," a local prayer group said in a statement. "There was nothing left but to try the exorcist."
This followed an even more publicized event in Mexico last spring, when Catholics gathered for a nationwide exorcism that was carried out discretely by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, the Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara, in the cathedral of San Luis Potosi.
Both Castellammare di Stabia and Mexico have histories of organized crime -- the Mafia in the former, drug cartels in the latter -- and now are plagued by other manifestations (crime, abortion) of darkness. The same is occurring around the world. An exorcist priest in the Philippines says that his nation needs similar prayer, and bishops in the United States would do well to take notice.
Does it work, an "Exorcismo Magno"? Are there actually demonic strongholds over entire areas?
Such notions have long been discussed in non-Catholic Christian circles, particularly among Pentecostals and Evangelicals. "The Book of Daniel best reveals this understanding," noted R. Arthur Mathews in Territorial Spirits, a book of essays on the topic by eighteen reputed Christian experts in this specialized area of spiritual warfare. It's Daniel (10:13) that described a battle between an angel and "the "prince of Persia" (a battle that went on for weeks and ended only when the Archangel Michael intervened); there is also mention in that same book of the "prince of Greece" (apparently another demonic entity).
These, many believe, are "principalities" (some say "hosts," "powers," or "rulers"). There were principalities and powers and dominions and thrones and we know -- from Ephesians -- that the struggle is not so much with fleshly foes as "spiritual hosts in high places" (in the immortal words of Saint Paul, Chapter 6 of that book).
"In my view," said Matthews, "these powers coincide with the pagan gods and goddesses worshipped by the Greeks and Romans, territorial deities or 'princes' who sought the worship of men. Others became connected with the worship of certain planets and astral bodies (Zeus, Mars, Hermes). Thus, these forces became part of the domain of darkness, manipulated by Satan, the mastermind of deceit."
Adds the author, "In any given city, region, or group, intelligent spiritual beings work to influence and control the attitudes and behavior of the people. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is also present in every place, orchestrating the work of the faithful angels intent on revealing truth to men and women whose hearts hunger to know the living God."
"Over some cities are spirits of avarice and greed," writes another contributor, Larry Lea of the Church of the Rock in Rockwall, Texas. "Over others are spirits of violence. Over still others are spirits of addiction. So the only thing that will change what is going on in our cities is an army of intercessors who will stand and raise their hands in prayer and praise to poke holes in the darkness."
One ministry in Evanston, Illinois, bore no fruit, it is reported, until it confronted a grotesque "demon of witchcraft" who in the words of another contributor to the book, David Lawson, a staff writer for Charisma Magazine, had "dominion over the geographical area.
"Concerned that the San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland area sits alone as the only major metropolis in the United States never to experience a major revival, they began to pray," says Lawson. "Quickly the principality of 'self' was identified as dominant."
In Annapolis, Maryland, he says, a "spirit of bondage" could be traced back to the slave trade while in Nashville, Tennessee, the "spirit of religiosity" found roots in inactive churches while Orlando had what Our Lady of LaSalette might call the "spirit of the amusements" (and Asmodeus). Dawson says that points of entry associate with dominant features of a city or region. A point of entry can be a historic event -- and here we think of the "hauntings" rife around places like Gettysburg.
Prayers to break such strongholds have led, in the case of Orlando, Florida -- it's claimed -- to the closure of seven pornography shops within two months. Several churches had banded together to denounce the spirits that theoretically control the "adult entertainment" industry. This is something that Catholic dioceses could do. (The bishop is automatically the region's chief exorcist.)
That certain nations have beguiling problems -- mired in poverty and corruption, and stricken by disasters, as we see in places like Haiti -- is a testimony to strongholds. Many regions in Africa bear similar burdens due to occult religions (in Haiti it's voodoo, in Africa witchcraft and animism; in Mexico is a folk "saint" revered by drug dealers and known as Santa Muerte -- which translates as "St. Death").
The editor of the book, C. Peter Wagner (who to his discredit is anti-Catholic, though not in this book), names actual entities worshipped by witches in various vicinities. Superstition -- or is stuff, spiritual stuff, transmitted from hovering demonic realms?
It seems logical that the sins of a nation magnify
territorial demonism or draw it in the first place. Looking at Mexico -- which
as mentioned is specifically plagued not
only by drugs, but by abortion -- the Aztecs were known for blood sacrifices
innocents on their stepped pyramids (one of which is located outside of
Mexico City, not far from the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who,
bearing a Child, came to step on this serpent). The Aztec Nahuatl word of
coatlaxopeuh -- pronounced "quatlasupe" and sounding remarkably like the
Spanish word "Guadalupe,"was a
reference to the battle with evil. "Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as 'the,' while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So Our Lady must have called herself the one 'who crushes the serpent,'" asserts one Guadalupe website, referencing others who have posited the same interpretation.
A shame it is that Catholics and Protestants can't join forces -- at a time when unity is so critical.
Unfortunate, yes; but then we forget that Satan, among his other titles, is the prince of division.
[resources: Territorial Spirits]