There is a growing fascination with demonic possession, and exorcism in the world. Movies and books continue to fuel this fascination. Alongside of it, there is a growing fascination with the occult; particularly fueled by the greater availability of materials and literature in the digital age. In one form or another, this all boils down to an infatuation with evil. But more correctly, it’s an infatuation with the manifestation of evil, and an obsession with the idea of having some power over it or the ability of man to collaborate, or engage with it.
In the Church faithful Catholics are ever more aware of the presence, activity, and reality of the demonic. Some take it a little too far but most have a healthy, acute awareness of mankind’s ancient enemy; present and very active in the world today. That’s a very wise disposition.
Outside of the Church is where the real problem is. The secular world is fascinated by the demonic, only as a demonstration of the supernatural—or really the preternatural—and they have a particular fascination with what they see as power demonstrated by demonic phenomena.
But they’re focussing on the wrong thing. Sometimes, Catholics are, too. If you think of the most extreme, most theatrical representation of demonic possession, such as what we see in the movie The Exorcist we can very easily be blown away. We’re frightened and chilled by it. We’re fascinated by it. We may even draw some hope or inspiration from the fact that “the power of Christ” compels even the strongest and most hostile of the demonic. And that power is exercised by Our Lord’s representative on Earth, the Catholic Priest acting as exorcist.
“…possession pales in comparison to the manifest evil I see in the world.”
But I find when I look at these depictions of demonic possession, no matter how authentic, how accurate, or how sensational, they all pales in comparison to the manifest evil I see in the world, that has nothing at all to do with possession or exorcism, but everything to do with the same Devil.
Show me a girl whose head spins 360 degrees, who speaks with a guttural voice, and uses vile language, and I’ll best you with headlines of parents killing their children. I don’t just mean in abortions, I mean outside the womb. Mothers strangling their children, fathers leaving their children in hot cars in order to purposefully kill them. Show me someone levitating, and I’ll best you with any ISIS headline of your choosing. Show me someone walking like a spider, shouting profanities against God, and I’ll introduce you to a Supreme Court who just legalized same sex marriage, a Court in Oklahoma who ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments monument, and an ACLU whose sole purpose seems to be to take God to court.
This is the Truth, my friends: While demonic possession is serious, and yes perhaps even fascinating to understand, it is the rarest form of evil in the world. And arguably the least destructive, the least ugly, and the least terrible. Demonic possession such as we’ve seen in movies is highly rare, and it’s even more rare that it results in the loss of life. A demon never ultimately claims the life of the person they possess. But we kill thousands in the womb every day, and dignify it by calling it a human right.
There is a particular maliciousness and malignancy at play in demonic possession. There is a far greater malignancy at play every day that ISIS is permitted to remain in existence; enslaving peoples, killing the innocent, beheading or crucifying children.
…a humanity that rejects God is a culture that has become the devil’s puppets
The demonic are bound by rules. They are permitted very little freedoms by God; a very short leash you might say. But man gives them greater freedom—not literally, but in a sense. Because we give the demonic our wills. We invite them in through our intellects, which are tuned by our pride, and selfish desires, and through our intellects and wayward imaginations, we give the demonic our wills. Because what we conceive in our minds is what we put into action through our wills. So a humanity that rejects God is a culture that has become the devil’s puppets. As a result mankind commits far worse evils than a demon ever could by himself. The demonic are behind it to some degree, but we are the ones who choose to put it into practice. We choose, and we do what the demonic themselves cannot.
The common manifestations of evil, carried out by man, may not seem as sensational, but they’re far uglier, and far more destructive, and far more terrible in the eyes of God than demonic possession. And at the end of the day, we do have power over it. That power is called Truth. It’s manifested in Goodness, actualized by Holiness, which itself is nourished by God through the sacraments. How I wish we as a people were as obsessed with confession as we are with exorcism. How I wish we ran to mass to receive communion with the same desire and urgency with which we ask “How can someone avoid becoming possessed?” How I wish the secular world were as curious about the sacraments, the sacred liturgy, and the mysticism of the faith as they are with what is, by comparison, trivial.
That’s not to say we should in any way diminish the reality of things like demonic possession, demonic assault, exorcism, etc. In fact I wish some in the Hierarchy had a more healthy interest in these things; I think they get downplayed too much by some priests. Some diocese don’t even have a trained exorcist.
But what I hope to inspire here is a heightened awareness not just of the presence of evil in the world, but the great gravity of it, wherever we find it. Also I hope to inspire a progressively deeper appreciation of its antithesis; holiness. Goodness. The sacraments. The sacred mysteries. The things I believe we all take for granted in our daily Catholic lives. We should all have a healthy awareness of evil. In all of its forms. But evil, in any form, should not command our obsession. Holiness should be our obsession. Defeating evil through prayer, through fasting, through acts of goodness, and by bringing Truth into the world that has been made deaf, dumb, and blind by their obsession with evil, and their obsessive hostility toward God.