After The Dark Ordeal Of Exorcism Was The Splendor Of The Heavenly Presence
By Michael H. Brown
How do people become "possessed"? According to a priest who exorcised demons for 26 years and jotted down notes for a rare little chronicle, there are three main ways that an evil spirit takes over those who are severely afflicted. "Some of these had caused their own unfortunate condition," he wrote. "Others came under the influence of Satan through no fault of their own, but because of curses pronounced against them. Still others of the possessed were, I found, specially select souls whom God had called to, and prepared for, a high state of perfection."
The exorcist, who lived in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- and whose identity was closely guarded by the rector of Bamberg Cathedral -- noted that a possessed person "is no longer himself," loses the "voluntariness to act freely," and speaks according to the whims of the spirit possessing him. "For example, should the possessed like to say a prayer, the devil immediately causes him to utter blasphemies instead."
The priest relates as an example a possessed woman who came to see him and wanted to speak becomingly of the priest but instead insulted and reprimanded him -- while continuing to carry on in an otherwise normal manner! Usually, he said, such manifestations of the demonic only reveal themselves during a formal exorcism.
A sure sign of possession -- as opposed to lesser degrees of demonic assault, and as we would expect -- is when a person begins to act exactly opposite of the way that person usually acts.
In the confessional, noted the priest in a pamphlet called "Mary Crushes the Serpent" (which we are now able to make available), he witnessed the reaction of demons to prayers that were said when an afflicted woman did not know what he was doing -- proving the supernatural nature of the encounter. "After giving her absolution in Confession I said a few words in Latin against the demon," he wrote. "Suddenly the girl became unconscious and the demon betrayed himself. Upon my request he answered that there were three demons in her: Bel, Beelzebub, and Cherberus."
There is the aversion to prayer. There is the aversion to holy things. The sight of a devout picture annoys the demon, as we all know. It is when the exorcist forces the possessed to do what he or she now hates to do that the demon is tortured and betrays itself. "While talking with a possessed person I purposely turned the conversation to matters of no consequence," he said. "The possessed remained quiet. Then I purposely spoke about God and the soul. The demon made himself known at once."
During a possession, the soul of the possessed retreats and the evil spirits takes control of bodily senses and organs. "You can shout into the ears of the possessed, you can open his eyes by force and place an article before him to see, you can pinch him, prick him with needles, but the possessed is not conscious of anything you do," he related. The demon, on the other hand, responds with great force -- contortions, screams, the literal gnashing of teeth -- to the Name of Jesus.
Whenever a demon fails to give its name, the exorcist can force it out of him. Such spirits enjoy taking the names of those who have successfully injured the Church. This is why we often hear them identify themselves as Hitler or Judas or Lucifer. "There is a demon by the name of Judas, a demon by the name of Elizabeth of England, a demon by the name of Voltaire," the exorcist said in the pamphlet, which was approved by Rome's Holy Office. "Very likely they are the demons who succeeded in harming the Church through these historical characters."
There were times the spirits proved their supernatural nature by correctly telling the priest something that was occurring miles away. When angels were invoked, he says demons acted as if their hands were bound -- in a fit of acute consternation. The German priest, in a work edited by rector Theodore Geiger of Bamberg, said he saw proof that many psychiatric illnesses are actually spiritual cases. "I have applied the rite of exorcism to six persons whom doctors had declared hysterical and of the neurotic type," he asserted. "Medical science did not bring about a cure. Doctors had abandoned the cases as hopeless. The exorcism, however, delivered them from demons, and with all the demons all sickly appearances disappeared."
One demon named "Luxuria" imitated femininity and boasted that it has more servants than the Blessed Mother. Another that called itself "Caesar" was leading the demonic forces to stir up government against the Church. Among his forces were the secret societies. "They admit," he noted of the evil spirits, "that they have won over a large number of souls whom they keep as their slaves and whom they regard as their permanent possessions."
The forces of hell tries to corrupt priests, he warned. Such is often orchestrated by the spirit parading about as "Judas." But such spirits also know that they will never prevail. They are simply trying to persecute the Church as much as possible until their time is up.
When that time comes for someone possessed, the person is often consoled by the Virgin Mary's presence. Upon deliverance the worst imaginable darkness turns into the greatest brightness. In some cases, the possessed person is actually granted visions. Describing one case, the exorcist noted that "on April 29, 1878, an unexpected change took place in the presence of the witnesses. At precisely the moment when the demons drew back, the face of the possessed, fiercely distorted up to that time, suddenly assumed a radiant appearance of peace and happiness."
[Bookstore resources: Mary Crushes the Serpent]
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