From Fr . John Mary
7 Simple Pieces of Advice
With surprising frequency, I am approached by someone who has good reason to believe that he or she is being harassed by the devil. I want to offer here some modest advice that has often seemed helpful.
First, I want to clarify that I’m not an exorcist nor an expert in this area. The book An Exorcist Tells His Story by the renowned exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, and his follow-up book, are good places to get more information. Here, to paraphrase those disclaimers on the bottles of nutritional supplements and vitamins, “this is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease... and may not do you any good whatsoever."
And I not speaking here of the most serious cases that do need an official exorcism, but of more common cases.
This is meant to be just some short, simple advice offered in this Jubilee Year of Mercy in the hope that it might be an instrument of God’s Mercy for those suffering in this way.
1. YOU’RE NOT CRAZY
I find that people are often reluctant to speak about these difficulties for fear that they will be dismissed as crazy. Of course, as in any case, it is important to discern for signs of mental illness. But in the cases I’m speaking of, mental illness does not seem to be a factor.
Certainly, there are many examples in the Gospels and in the lives of the saints that speak clearly of the evil one’s harassment. Let’s look for a moment at one saint, St. John Mary Vianney, the Cure of Ars.
“The devil took good note of the Curé’s good work, and set to work of his own to impede it. Darkness brought dark noises. Mice gnawing at the bed-curtains. Blows crashing against the bedroom door. Voices shouting in panic. Carts rumbling. Rats squealing. Rocks smashing. Bull. Bear. Dog. The devil was come to Ars in all his guises and with all his arts. The attacks were beyond description or belief, though witnessed by many. But the Curé remained unmoved. Then came the shaking of the house. Then came
the tossing of the priest from his bed. Then came the fire, the stench, the obscenity, racking that body already so wasted from suffering for his flock.”
“One gets used to everything,” he would say, grinning. “Le grappin [ French for “pitchfork”; his nickname for Satan] and I are almost comrades.”
In one story, his sister was spending the night at his home attached to his parish church when she was awakened by a strange rapping sound on her wall and table. Afraid, she went to John, who was hearing confessions late at night. He explained:
“Oh, my child, you should not have been frightened: It is the Grappin. He cannot hurt you. As for me, he torments me in sundry ways. At times he seizes me by the feet and drags me about the room. It is because I convert souls to the good God.”
In another instance, Vianney was in his parish church hearing confessions when someone reported to him that Vianney’s bedroom had caught on fire. His response?
“The Grappin is very angry. He couldn’t catch the bird so he has burned the cage. It is a good sign. We will have many sinners this day.”
It can already be a great relief for people to know that no, they are not crazy, nor are they just imagining all this.
2. CLARIFYING THE PROBLEM
Are the problems human or diabolical? Sometimes they are both. The evil spirits are taking advantage of human causes, such as a psychological vulnerability or family issues. So the case may call for both human remedies and spiritual help.
Some simple questions can shed some light. Does it only happen in a specific room or building? And to more than one person? Or is this something that happens only to a certain person, and in different locations. Is the problem linked to a specific object? This can help determine if the problem is a place, or object, or specifically directed at a certain person.
When did it start? Was there anything that comes to mind as a possible cause?
These questions may seem obvious. But I’ve often found that they are helpful for the persons involved.
3. LOVES DRAMA
The devil loves drama. Spookiness and horror. His harassment can be like a horror movie that he is directing. But with God's help, you can eliminate some of the drama.
Think of those “haunted houses” that local organizations put on as fundraisers. They can seem spooky and mysterious when all the lights are out. But as soon as you turn on the lights, and you see “behind the scenes,” the spookiness disappears. It’s a show.
If you are able to realize that the devil wants to put on a spooky theater to trouble you by weird noises, shadowy figures at night, and things moving, you can, by the light of the Holy Spirit, “turn on the lights” and diminish the effect it has on you.
4. SIMPLE RESPONSE
Sometimes people think that they need to find the magic formula to get rid of him. That is part of his game of luring us into his maze. What do we see in the Gospel? It is not some magic, but the power and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord, by His very Presence which liberates. This is my main point and best advice.
So what is helpful? Simply everything that intensifies the presence of Jesus: conversion, faith, hope, love. The Sacraments, in particular the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. Prayer, such as the Holy Rosary. Or simply, “Jesus, I trust in You.” The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
Other simple helps that anyone can use is the presence of blessed images, like Divine Mercy, and Crucifixes. And also sacramentals, such as exorcised and blessed salt, water, oil and candles. In fact, I think that every home should have sacramentals in them; and they should be put to regular use!
“God makes all things work to the good of those who love Him.” [ Ro 8: 28].
I’ve seen a number of cases where the evil one’s harassment, though it caused a lot of trouble, actually was turned to the good. Often these experiences awaken people to the existence of the devil. And to the awareness that he hurts people. And this causes many to turn to God with a new intensity.
6. SPIRITUAL “JUDO”
In the martial art of Judo, which means “gentle way," you learn to turn the enemy's attack back against him. There is something similar here. When the evil one begins to harass you or tries to frighten you, you can respond by praying. In this way you are using his attacks as a reminder to pray and draw closer to the Lord.
The devil's harassment can cause much suffering. Even Jesus was harassed by him. But if you offer your suffering in union with Jesus, you are converting the devil's attacks into victories for the Lord and the liberation of souls from his power. This must cause him great frustration.
7. “BECAUSE SHE MAKES ME”
Finally, we must not overlook the power of the Blessed Mother against the evil one. St. Louis de Montfort says that the devil fears Mary even more than he fears the Lord Himself, because to be defeated by a humble creature is even more crushing to his ego.
I remember a priest recounting a very difficult exorcism that he took part in. At the end, as the spirit was leaving the person who has been possessed, it growled, “I’m leaving, because His Mother makes me." He didn’t even want to say Her name. But he had to leave.
In the difficult battles of our time, let us call on the Mother of Jesus, who is also our tender Mother, and powerful Queen. It is She who crushed the head of the serpent. And She is the Mother who defends Her children.
+ ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL + DEFEND US IN BATTLE.
BE OUR PROTECTION AGAINST THE MALICE AND SNARES OF THE DEVIL. MAY GOD REBUKE HIM, WE HUMBLY PRAY.
AND DO THOU, O PRINCE OF THE HEAVENLY HOST,
BY THE DIVINE POWER, CAST INTO HELL SATAN,
AND ALL THE EVIL SPIRITS WHO ROAM THROUGH THE WORLD SEEKING THE RUIN OF SOULS. AMEN.