7.31.2009

An Exorcist Tells His Story

Thanks to a Barnes & Noble gift card, Zach and I got yet another book to add to our super-duper library earlier this week. We were debating between various titles in the Christian section (besides Jane Austen and Dostoevsky, what else is there worth reading?) when we found Fr. Gabriele Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story. I've been really intrigued by the subject since we listened to a talk by Fr. Euteneuer earlier this year. It's a topic that Christians hear about so little within the religious community. The secular world seems much more willing to enter into the conversation, if only to use exorcisms as material for cheesy movies or as a subject to be denounced as an anachronism rendered moot by the development of modern psychology and the introduction of Prozac and Zoloft. Besides educating his readers on the mechanics of exorcisms, bringing the subject back to the table is one of Fr. Amorth's main goals in the book. He fears for the souls of those suffering from demonic possession who find it nearly impossible to locate a modern exorcist, and he fears for the souls of those bishops who fail to recognize the expulsion of demons as a necessary and crucial task given by Jesus Christ to the Church Militant. It is the job of Bishops to appoint exorcists to parishes and diocese, yet Fr. Amorth tells how he (the chief exorcist of Rome) performed exorcisms on victims from around the world, all unable to find an exorcist when they or a concerned family member approached their local bishops.

Whatever the reason for the dearth of modern exorcists (and the author has many damning things to say about certain religious leaders and theologians and their lack of backbone and proper catechesis), Fr. Amorth insists that the need for exorcisms grows stronger with each passing decade as faith is falling by the wayside and new age "spirituality" is on the rise. In the age of Harry Potter, no one seems to find it odd or disturbing that the Wiccan section of Barnes & Noble appears to have doubled in size every time you look. Fr. Amorth, in reinvigorating the discussion of demonic possession, asserts the Catholic truths that religious leaders (often) at best present as abstract, and at worst completely ignore: that there is a very real battle for the surrender of our souls. Fr. Amorth emphasizes the teaching that Satan and the legions of demons are real creatures and that they desire nothing more than to win possession of our immortal selves. If one internalizes this Catholic teaching, than the very real need for exorcisms logically follows.

Lest potential readers of An Exorcist Tells His Story think that the book is a depressing lamentation on the state of modern souls and the Church's unwillingness to provide a cure, I want to say that it is one of the most uplifting and heartening religious works I have read in a long time. First, Fr. Amorth reminds readers that the final battle has already ultimately been won, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the soul of every man, woman, and child. Demonic possession, although very real, is nothing more than a last-ditch effort by a group of defeated creatures whose last chapter is already written! Additionally, there are many nuances to possession which Fr. Amorth outlines eloquently and by analogy and example, but the point to take away is that a demon can only enter or oppress a soul which has invited the demon's presence, which includes living life in a state of sin. Frequent reception of the sacraments and the living of a Christian life are like immunizations against evil (as one victim in the book puts it). Fr. Amorth calls confession "more painful to a demonic creature than the act of exorcism," presumably because it dilates the soul and increases receptivity to grace while closing oneself off from the hollow whispers of Satan.

Finally, I'll end with a quote from a victim's story in the book. Posting the following words is really the reason I wanted to write this entry in the first place, but I thought they would be best received on the foundation of an explanation of what I had been reading.

"Satan's true goal is not to make you suffer or to harm you. He does not seek our pain but something more. He wants our defeated soul to say, 'Enough. I am defeated; I am a piece of clay in the hands of evil. God cannot liberate me. God forgets his children if he allows such suffering. God does not love me; evil is greater than he is.' This is the true victory of evil. We must rebuke it even if we no longer have faith because our pain dulls it. 'We must want faith.' The devil cannot touch our will. Our will does not belong to God or to the devil; it is ours alone because God gave it to us when he created us. We must always say 'No' to those who want to destroy it. We must believe, like St. Paul, that 'in the name of Jesus Christ every knee must bend in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth.' This is our salvation."


Read this book and Psalm 27 and you'll sleep soundly at night.

The Lord is my light and my salvation/whom shall I fear?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great post