Going Against the Current

THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for Thursday after Ash Wednesday, February 19th, 2015

Liturgical texts here

against the tide_Fotor

 

IT is pretty clear, even by a mere cursory glance at the news headlines, that much of the first world is in a free-fall into unbridled hedonism while the rest of the world is increasingly threatened and scourged by regional violence. As I wrote a few years ago, the time of warning has virtually expired. [1] If one cannot perceive the “signs of the times” by now, then the only word left is the “word” of suffering. [2]

Yesterday, I wrote about the joy that awaits us in the penitential practices of Lent. But there is a bigger context that I cannot help but continually point to. And it is that the Church herself is preparing for her own Passion as her persecutors continue to hem her in—both those intent upon silencing her through a “dictatorship of relativism”, and those who would silence her by the sword—literally. But it is precisely in this context that the path of joy is opening up for us:

For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross. (Heb 12:2)

Never before has the opportunity to become a saint been greater. For as St. Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” [3] Something has changed in my heart—as though the Storm [4] that is upon us is the last anger of a long winter helplessly pushing against the inevitable new springtime. An “era of peace” is coming, [5] and the adversary is helpless to stop it.

They will imprison very many persons, and will be guilty of more massacres. They will attempt to kill all priests and all the religious. But this shall not last long. People will imagine that all is lost; but the good God shall save all. It will be like a sign of the last judgment… Religion shall flourish again better than ever before. —St. John Vianney, The Christian Trumpet 

We must not treat this Lent as we often have in the past—paying little attention to our souls (“Oh well, there’s always next year!”). The words of today’s first reading resound like a trumpet:

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.

Another way to say it today is:

No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. —Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family

We cannot be the Christians who stand in line for Fifty Shades of Grey or secretly read the book. We cannot be the Christians who stand in line for Communion, but ignore the gnawing hunger of the spiritually and materially poor. We cannot be the Christians who tolerate everything yet stand for nothing. Such a Christian is not a grain of wheat but an empty husk who will “disappear” through the purification that is here and coming. As one commentator said, “Those who choose to be married to the spirit of the world in this age, will be divorced in the next.” 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Today’s Gospel)

The secret to the joy that Jesus gives is this: to deny oneself
and take up one’s cross daily and follow Him—which today, is directly against the powerful current of the spirit of antichrist. Hence, the words of today’s Psalm carry a certain urgency and warning against compromise:

Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the LORD…

If there ever was a Lent to turn off pagan television, avoid trashy websites, and meditate on God’s Word, it is this one. For in His Word, we will find the path of joy…

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)

 

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Christian Prayer, or Mental Illness?

 

It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct, hearing voices… —Joyce Behar, The View; foxnews.com

 

THAT was television host Joyce Behar’s conclusion to the assertion by a former White House staffer that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claims that “Jesus tells him to say things.”  Behar, who was raised Catholic, continued:

My question is, can he talk to Mary Magdalene when his wife isn’t in the room?rawstory.com, Feb. 13th, 2018

Co-host Sunny Hostin quipped:

Look, I’m Catholic, I’m a faithful person, but I don’t know that I want my vice president talking in tongues. —Ibid.

The problem today is not that some people are hearing the voice of God, but that most people aren’t.

Jesus said:

You do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:26-27)

And again,

Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God. (John 8:47)

Jesus says that people do not “hear” His voice because they “do not believe” and therefore “do not belong to God.” This is why the Pharisees, even though “raised” in the faith and well versed in the Scriptures, could not “hear” nor understand the Lord. Their hearts were hardened through pride.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice, ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert…’ (Heb 3:7-8)

The pre-condition to hearing God’s voice in one’s heart is faith, a child-like faith. “Unless you turn and become like children,” Jesus said, “you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [1] That is, the graces, blessings, and benefits of the kingdom will never reach your heart…

Because he is found by those who do not test him, and manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. (Wisdom of Solomon 1:2)

The reason we are on the verge of a Third World War, that suicide rates are exploding, that school shootings and terrorist attacks are on the rise, that earthquakes and natural disasters are increasing and that the entire moral order is being up-ended… is because even God’s people have become mesmerized by “all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life.” [2] The inordinate appetites of the flesh drown out the voice of the Lord. That, and we are now living in a post-Christian era. As Dr. Ralph Martin points out:

…the supportive culture of “Christendom” has virtually disappeared… Christian life today has to be lived deeply, or else it may not be possible to live it at all.The Fulfillment of All Desire, p. 3

Indeed, St. John Paul II warned that we are “Christians at risk” today without a deep and authentic Christ-centered spirituality, one that is lived…

…in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2558

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly “falls in love”… it would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millenio Inuente, n. 33-34

In fact, “ordinary” Christians will not survive these times.

They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. —Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family

Make this Lent an opportunity, then, to learn to hear the voice of God. I don’t mean audibly (and I doubt Mr. Pence meant that either). It is said that the language of God is silence. He speaks in the stillness of the heart in communications that we cannot hear, but which the child-like heart can perceive: silent “words” that give life and direction, strength and wisdom. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is waiting to speak to you… waiting for you to enter into your room, shut the door, and listen.

And you will learn to hear His voice.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:11)

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I want to invite all my readers to take my Forty Day retreat on Prayer. It’s absolutely free. It includes both the written text and a podcast so you can listen on the go and learn why and how you should pray. Just click Prayer Retreat to begin.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

 

 

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Consider It All Joy

 

WE do not see because we have eyes. We see because there is light. Where there is no light, the eyes sees nothing, even when fully open.

The eyes of the world are fully open today, so to speak. We are piercing the mysteries of the cosmos, the secret of the atom, and the keys to creation. The cumulative knowledge of human history can be accessed by the mere click of a mouse, or a virtual world erected in the blink of an eye.

And yet, never have we been so blind. Modern man no longer understands why he lives, why he exists, and where he is going. Taught to believe that he is no more than a randomly evolved particle and product of chance, his only hope lies in what he achieves, mainly, through science and technology. Whatever instrument he can devise to take away pain, extend life, and now, end it, is the ultimate goal. There is no reason to exist other than manipulating the present moment to whatever maximizes the most feelings of satisfaction or pleasure.

It has taken humanity nearly 400 years to arrive at this hour, which began in the 16th century with the birth of the “Enlightenment” period. In reality, it was the “Darkening” era. For God, faith, and religion would slowly be eclipsed by a false hope of redemption through science, reason, and the material.

In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”… We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man…  [that] inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, n.21, 23

But we are far more than molecules.

Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, n. 25

The “forces that lie outside it” are, for one, the truth of our inherent dignity—that every man, woman, and child is created in the image of God, though fallen in nature. Other forces include the natural law from which moral absolutes spring, and which in themselves, point to a greater Source beyond ourselves—namely, Jesus Christ, who took our flesh and became man, revealing himself as the mender of our fallen human nature and brokenness.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9)

It is this Light which man so desperately needs… and which Satan, working patiently through the centuries, has almost completely eclipsed in most parts of the world. He has done so by fomenting a “new and abstract religion”, says Pope Benedict[1] — a world in which “God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness.”[2]

 

UNIVERAL UNHAPPINESS

And yet, the human condition is one where we know that we are fundamentally unhappy on some level (whether we admit it or not), even when we buy all the material comfort, medicine, and ease that we can afford. Something in the heart remains tortured and uncertain. There is a universal longing for liberation—freedom from the guilt, sadness, depression, torment, and restlessness that we feel. Yes, even as the high priests of this new abstract religion tell us that such feelings are merely social conditioning or religious intolerance; and that those who impose notions of “right” and “wrong” are simply trying to control us; and that we are actually free to determine are own reality… we know better. All the clothes, lack of clothes, wigs, makeup, tattoos, drugs, porn, alcohol, wealth and fame cannot change that.

…an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52

In reality, it is enslaving and draining hope from this generation: suicide rates in the West are skyrocketing. [3]

 

SELF-KNOWLEDGE

But like a bolt of lightning into this present darkness, St. Paul says in today’s first Mass reading (see liturgical texts here):

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.(James 1:1)

This is antithetical to everything the world is seeking today, namely comfort and the eradication of all suffering. But in two sentences, Paul has revealed the key to becoming whole: self-knowledge.

Our trials, says Paul, should be considered “all joy” because they reveal a truth about ourselves: the reality that I am weak, tepid, and sinful, despite the mask I wear and the false image I project. Trials reveal my limitations and expose my self-love. There is, in fact, a liberating joy to look into the mirror or into the eyes of another and say, “It is true, I am fallen. I am not the man (or woman) I should be.” The truth will set you free, and the first truth is who I am, and who I’m not.

But this is just the beginning. Self-knowledge only reveals who I am, not necessarily who I can become. So-called New Age masters, self-help gurus, and spiritual guides have tried to solve the latter question with many false answers:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)

The key of self-knowledge is only useful if inserted into the Divine Door, who is Jesus Christ. He is the only One who can lead you to the freedom you were created for. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He said:[4]

I am the way, that is, the way of love. You were made for communion with your God and with one another.

I am the truth, that is, the light that reveals your sinful nature and who you are meant to become. 

I am the life, that is, the One who can heal this broken communion and restore this wounded image. 

Thus, says today’s Psalm:

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes. (119:71)

Whenever a trial, temptation, or affliction comes your way, it is permitted to teach you to surrender to the Father through Jesus Christ. Embrace these limitations, bringing them into the light (in the Sacrament of Confession), and in humility, ask forgiveness from those whom you have wounded. Jesus didn’t come to pat you on the back and encourage your dysfunction, but to reveal both your true condition and your true potential. Suffering does this… the Cross is the only path to a resurrection of your true self.

So, the next time you feel the burning humiliation of your weakness and need for God, consider it all joy. It means you are loved. It means that you can see. 

“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges”… At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. (Heb 12:5-11)

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light… Christ… fully reveals man to man himself and brings to light his most high calling… By suffering for us, He not only gave us an example so that we might follow in His footsteps, but he also opened up a way. If we follow this path, life and death are made holy and acquire a new meaning. —SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Gaudium et spes, n. 22

In the cross lies Love’s victory… In it, finally, lies the full truth about man, man’s true stature, his wretchedness and his grandeur, his worth and the price paid for him. —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (ST. JOHN PAUL II) from Sign of Contradiction, 1979

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Stay, and Be Light…

 

This week, I want to share my testimony with readers, beginning with my calling into ministry…

 

THE homilies were dry. The music was dreadful. And the congregation was distant and disconnected. Whenever I left Mass from my parish some 25 years ago, I often felt more isolated and cold than when I came in. Moreover, in my early twenties then, I saw that my generation was completely gone. My wife and I were one of the few couples that still went to Mass.

THE TEMPTATION

That’s when we were invited to a Baptist service by a friend of ours who had left the Catholic Church. She was pretty excited about her new community. So to appease her insistent invitations, we went to Mass on Saturday and took in the Baptist Sunday morning service.

When we arrived, we were immediately struck by all the young couples. Unlike my parish where we seemed invisible, many of them approached and warmly welcomed us. We entered the modern sanctuary and took our seats. A band began to lead the congregation in worship. The music was beautiful and polished. And the sermon the pastor gave was anointed, relevant, and deeply rooted in God’s Word.

After the service, we were approached again by all these young people our age. “We want to invite you to our Bible study tomorrow night… on Tuesday, we have couples night… on Wednesday, we’re having a family basketball game in the attached gym… On Thursday is our praise and worship evening… On Friday is our….” As I listened, I realized that this truly was a Christian community, not just in name. Not just for one hour on Sunday.

We returned to our car where I sat in stunned silence. “We need this,” I said to my wife. You see, the first thing the early Church did was form community, almost instinctually. But my parish was anything but. “Yes, we have the Eucharist,” I said to my wife, “but we are not just spiritual but also social beings. We need the Body of Christ in community as well. After all, didn’t Jesus say, ‘This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’? [1] Maybe we should come here… and go to Mass on another day.”

I was only half-kidding. We drove home confused, sad, and even a bit angry.

THE CALLING

That night as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, barely awake and sifting through the earlier events of the day, I suddenly heard a distinct voice within my heart:

Stay, and be light to your brothers…

I stopped, stared, and listened. The voice repeated:

Stay, and be light to your brothers…

I was stunned. Walking downstairs somewhat dumbfounded, I found my wife. “Honey, I think God wants us to stay in the Catholic Church.” I told her what happened, and like perfect harmony over the melody in my heart, she agreed.

THE HEALING

But God had to fix my heart which, by then, was pretty disillusioned. The Church seemed on life support, youth were leaving in droves, the truth was simply not being taught, and the clergy seemed oblivious.

A few weeks later, we visited my parents. My mother plopped me down in a chair and said, “You’ve got to watch this video.” It was the testimony of an ex-Episcopalian preacher who despised the Catholic Church. He set out to utterly debunk Catholicism as a “Christian” religion that he alleged was merely inventing “truth” and deceiving millions. But as Dr. Scott Hahn dove into the teachings of the Church, he found that he was able to trace them as being consistently taught, through 20 centuries, back to the Scriptures. The truth, as it turned out, was indeed protected by the Holy Spirit, despite the obvious flaws and corruption of some individuals within the Church, including popes.

By the end of the video, tears were streaming down my face. I realized that I was already home. That day, a love for the Catholic Church filled my heart that transcended all the weakness, sinfulness, and poverty of her members. With that, the Lord put a hunger in my heart for knowledge. I spent the next two to three years learning what I had never heard from the pulpit on everything from purgatory to Mary, the Communion of Saints to papal infallibility, from contraception to the Eucharist.

It was at that time that I heard that Voice speak again in my heart: “Music is a doorway to evangelize.” 

To be continued…

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Last week, I announced our appeal to my readership, which now numbers in the tens of thousands worldwide. The appeal is to support this ministry which, as I’ll continue to share this week, has evolved into mostly an outreach to where people are: online. Indeed, the internet has become The New Streets of CalcuttaYou can donate to this mission by clicking the button below.

So far, about 185 readers have responded. Thank you so much, not only to those who have donated, but also to those of you who can only pray. We know these are hard times for a lot of folks—Lea and I do not want to add hardship to anyone. Rather, our appeal is to those who can support this full-time ministry financially to cover our staff, expenses, etc.  Thank you, and may the Lord return your love, prayers, and support a hundred-fold.

It seems fitting to share with you this praise song which I wrote many years ago, especially as I share my journey with you this week…

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/254363756?color=ffffff

 

“Your writing has saved me, made me follow the Lord, and has affected hundreds of other souls.” —E.L.

“I’ve been following you the past few years and as a result I now truly believe you are ‘God’s voice crying in the wilderness’! You’re ‘Now Word’ pierces the overwhelming darkness and confusion that confronts us each day. Your ‘Word’ sheds light on  the ‘truths’ of our Catholic faith and the ‘times we are in’ so that we can make right choices. I believe you are ‘a prophet for our times’! I thank you for your faithfulness to you’re apostolate and your consistent endurance of the attacks of the evil one who’s desperately trying to take you out!! May we all take up our cross and your ‘Now Word’ and run with them!!” —R.J.

 

Thank you from both Lea and I. 

 

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Questions on Deliverance

 

DO you want to be free? Do you want to breathe the air of joy, peace, and that rest that Christ promised? Sometimes, part of the reason we are robbed of these graces is because we have not engaged a spiritual battle that is being waged around our souls by what the Scriptures call “unclean spirits.” Are these spirits real beings? Do we have authority over them? How do we address them so as to be free of them? Practical answers to your questions from Our Lady of the Storm

 

REAL EVIL, REAL ANGELS

Let us be absolutely clear: when we speak of evil spirits we are talking about fallen angels—real spiritual beings. They are not “symbols” or “metaphors” for evil or badness, as some misguided theologians have suggested.

Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God… The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 414, 319

I had to chuckle at a recent article that only somewhat veiled its bemusement at Pope Francis’ frequent mention of the devil. Affirming the constant teaching of the Church on the personhood of Satan, Francis said:

He is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. I’m convinced that one must never converse with Satan—if you do that, you’ll be lost. —POPE FRANCIS, television interview; December 13th, 2017; telegraph.co.uk

This was chalked up as a kind of “Jesuit” thing. It’s not. It’s not even a Christian thing per se. It’s the reality of the entire human race that we are all at the center of a cosmic battle against evil principalities and powers who seek to eternally separate humans from their Creator—whether we know it or not.

 

REAL AUTHORITY

As Christians, we have real authority, given to us by Christ, to repel these evil spirits who are intelligent, cunning, and relentless.[1]

Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:19-20)

However, to what degree do each of us have authority?

Just as the Church has a hierarchy—the Pope, bishops, priests, and then laity—so too, the angels have a hierarchy: Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels, etc. Likewise, this hierarchy was maintained among the fallen angels: Satan, then “principalities… powers… world rulers of this present darkness… evil spirits in the heavens”, “dominions”, and so forth.[2] The experience of the Church shows that, depending on the type of spiritual affliction (oppression, obsession, possession), the authority over those evil spirits can vary. As well, authority can vary according to territory.[3] For instance, an exorcist I know said that his bishop would not permit him to say the Rite of Exorcism in another diocese unless he had the permission of the bishop there. Why? Because Satan is legalistic and will play that card whenever he can.

For example, a woman shared with me how they were part of a deliverance team with a priest in Mexico. While praying over an afflicted individual, he commanded an evil spirit to “depart in the name of Jesus.” But the demon replied, “Which Jesus is that?” You see, Jesus is a common name in that country. So the exorcist, without arguing with the spirit, responded, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I command you to depart.” And the spirit did.

So what authority do you have over demonic spirits?

 

YOUR AUTHORITY

As I said in Our Lady of the Storm, Christians have been given the authority to bind and rebuke spirits in essentially four categories: our personal lives; as fathers, over our homes and children; as priests, over our parishes and parishioners; and as bishops, over their dioceses and when the enemy has taken possession of a soul.

The reason is that exorcists warn that, while we have authority to cast out spirits in our personal lives, rebuking the evil one in others is another matter—unless we have that authority.

Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

There are varying schools of thought on this, mind you. But it is pretty much unanimous in the Church’s experience that when it comes to the rare cases where a person is “possessed” by evil spirits (not just oppressed by, but inhabited by), only a bishop has the authority to either cast out or delegate that authority to an “exorcist.” This authority comes directly from Christ himself who first gave it to the Twelve Apostles, who then pass on this authority according to Christ’s Word through apostolic succession:

And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons… Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mark 3:14-15; Matthew 18:18)

The hierarchy of authority is essentially based on priestly authority. The Catechism teaches that every believer shares in the “priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.”[4] Since you are the “temple of the Holy Spirit”, every believer, sharing in the priesthood of Christ over their bodies, has authority to bind and rebuke evil spirits who are oppressing them.

Second, is the authority of the father in the “domestic church”, the family, of which he is the head.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Eph 5:21-23)

Fathers, you have authority to cast out demons from your home, property and family members. I have experienced this authority myself several times over the years. Using holy water, blessed by a priest, I have “felt” the presence of evil depart when sprinkled around the home. Other times, I have been awoken in the middle of the night by a child who is suddenly writhing in stomach pain or a head ache. Of course, one assumes it may be a virus or something they ate, but other times, the Holy Spirit has imparted a word of knowledge that it’s a spiritual attack. After praying over the child, I’ve seen these sometimes violent symptoms just suddenly vanish.

Next, is the parish priest. His authority comes directly from the bishop who through the laying on of hands has conferred the sacramental priesthood upon him. The parish priest has general authority over all his parishioners within his parish territory. Through the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, the blessing of homes, and prayers of deliverance, the parish priest is a powerful instrument of binding and dispelling the presence of evil. (Again, in some cases, of demonic possession or an obstinate presence in a home through the occult or a past violent act, an exorcist may be required who may use the Rite of Exorcism.)

And last is the bishop, who has spiritual authority over his diocese. In the case of the Bishop of Rome, who is also the Vicar of Christ, the Pope enjoys supreme authority over the entire universal Church.

It must be said that God is not limited by the hierarchical structure He himself has ordained. The Lord can cast out spirits when and however He pleases. For instance, some Evangelical Christians have active ministries of deliverance that seem to fall outside the above guidelines (though in cases of possession, ironically, they often seek out a Catholic priest). But then, that’s the point: these are guidelines given to guide so as to not only maintain order, but to protect the faithful. We would do well to humbly remain beneath the protective mantle of the Church’s 2000 year old wisdom and experience.

 

HOW TO PRAY FOR DELIVERANCE

The experience of the Church through her various apostolates of deliverance ministry would essentially agree on three basic elements necessary for the deliverance from evil spirits to remain effective.

 

I. REPENTANCE

Sin is what gives Satan a certain “legal” access to the Christian. The Cross is what dissolves that legal claim:

[Jesus] brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross; despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it. (Col 2:13-15)

Yes, the Cross! I remember the story a Lutheran woman once told me. They were praying for a woman in their parish community who was afflicted by an evil spirit. Suddenly, the woman growled and leapt up  toward the woman praying for her deliverance. Shocked and afraid, all she could think to do in that moment was make the “sign of the cross” in the air—something she once saw a Catholic do. When she did, the possessed woman flew backwards. The Cross is the symbol of Satan’s defeat.

But if we willfully choose not only to sin, but to adore the idols of our appetites, no matter how small, we are handing ourselves over in degrees, so to speak, to the influence of the devil (oppression). In the case of grave sin, unforgiveness, loss of faith, or involvement in the occult, a person may be  permitting the evil one a stronghold (obsession). Depending upon the nature of the sin and the soul’s disposition or other serious factors, this can result in evil spirits actually inhabiting the person (possession).

What the soul must do, through a thorough examination of conscience, is sincerely repent of all participation in the works of darkness. This dissolves the legal claim Satan has on the soul—and why one exorcist said to me that “One good confession is more powerful than 100 exorcisms.”

 

II. RENOUNCE

True repentance also means renouncing our former deeds and way of life.

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world… (Titus 2:11-12)

When you recognize sins or patterns in your life that are contrary to the Gospel, it is good practice to say aloud, for example: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I renounce having used Tarot cards and seeking out fortune tellers”, or “I renounce lust,” or “I renounce anger”, or “I renounce the abuse of alcohol”, or “I renounce watching horror films in my home and playing violent video games”, or “I renounce heavy death metal music,” etc. This declaration puts the spirits behind these activities on notice. And then…

 

III. REBUKE

If this is a sin in your personal life, then you have the authority to bind and rebuke (cast out) the demon behind that temptation. You can simply say:

In the name of Jesus Christ, I bind the spirit of _________ and command you to depart.

Here, you can name the spirit: “spirit of the Occult”, “Lust” , “Anger”, “Alcoholism”, “Curiosity”, “Violence”, or what have you. Another prayer that I use is similar:

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I bind the spirit of _________ with the chain of Mary to the foot of the Cross. I command you to depart and forbid you to return.

And then Jesus tells us this:

When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. (Matt 12:43-45)

That is to say, if we do not repent; if we return to old patterns, habits, and temptations, then the evil one will simply and legally reclaim what it has temporarily lost to the degree that we leave the door open.

One priest in deliverance ministry taught me that, after rebuking evil spirits, one can pray: “Lord, come now and fill the empty places in my heart with your Spirit and presence. Come Lord Jesus with your angels and close the gaps in my life.”

The above prayers while intended for individual use can be adapted by those who have authority over others, while the Rite of Exorcism is reserved to bishops and those whom he grants authority to use it.

 

BE NOT AFRAID!

Pope Francis is right: don’t argue with Satan. Jesus never argued with evil spirits or debated with Satan. Rather, He simply rebuked them or quoted the Scriptures—which is the Word of God. And God’s Word is power itself, because Jesus is “the Word made flesh.” [5]

You don’t need to jump up and down and scream at the devil, no more than a judge, when passing a sentence over a criminal, stands up and shouts while flailing his arms. Rather, the judge simply stands on his authority and calmly delivers the sentence. So too, stand on your authority as a baptized son or daughter of God, and deliver the sentence.

Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, cry out for joy on their couches, with the praise of God in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands… to bind their kings in shackles, their nobles in chains of iron, to execute the judgments decreed for them—such is the glory of all God’s faithful. Hallelujah! (Psalm 149:5-9)

There is more that could be said here, such as the power of praise, which fills demons with disgust and terror; the necessity of prayer and fasting when spirits have deep strongholds; and as I wrote in Our Lady of the Stormthe powerful effect of the Blessed Mother through her presence and her Rosary, when she is invited into the believer’s midst.

The bottom line is that you, Christian, are victorious through faith in Jesus and His Holy Name. For freedom, Christ set you free.[6] So take it back. Take back your freedom, purchased for you in Blood.

For whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith… Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (1 John 5:4; Luke 10:20)

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/253887686?color=ffffff

 

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