I punish myself at times by attending our parish’s monthly presentation of Theology on Tap. I call it a presentation because that is mostly what it is; a slick, though often unsatisfying presentation, done in computer graphics by PowerPoint or some other presentation software. I offer it up as a penance for my many sins though at times I feel that I am placing myself in an occasion of sin by simply attending. For I already know that I will have disagreements with either the presentation itself, of what might be additionally said and by what will conveniently be omitted.
This past month the subject was: Spiritual Warfare.
The presentation began with an enticement for many dramatic demonic movies etc. that perhaps many people have seen. He did acknowledge that The Exorcist and the more recent Exorcism of Emily Rose were based on true events and he took great delight in telling us that he had visited the room where the final expulsion of the demons of the Exorcist were driven out of the victim. I found this to be strange opening as he seemed to be looking to hook people into idle curiosity of the diabolic; an opening itself to possible diabolic activity in those who are so inclined to dramatize the diabolic and/or to love inciting fear within themselves or in those they converse with. Maybe he was trying to drum up some business for our diocesan exorcist; who knows?
He did cover some of the 7 ways that the diabolic acts upon us but conveniently leaving out others. The ways that Fr. Gabriele Amorth describes are as follows:
Under ordinary activities he simply calls this activity temptation. Under the extraordinary workings Fr. Amorth lists . . .
1. External Physical Pain Caused by Satan:
As its name suggestions, demonic activity can manifest as physical pain. Fr. Amorth points to Saint John of the Cross, the Cure of Ars, and Padre Pio as historical examples of those who suffered physical beatings and torment by demons. However, since this “external form of persecution does not affect the soul,” it is understood that “there has never been the need for an exorcism, only for prayers.”
2. Diabolical Oppression:
“There is no possession, loss of consciousness, or involuntary action and word,” just severe to mild events that plague the individual. Fr. Amorth points to Job’s severe afflictions and St. Paul’s thorn in his flesh (II Cor 12:7). Whereas “possession is rare,” Fr. Amorth reveals that he and his fellow exorcists “run into a great number of people who have been struck by the devil in their health, jobs, or relationships.”
3. Diabolic Obsession: Harrowing of Hell
“Symptoms include sudden attacks, at times ongoing, of obsessive thoughts, sometimes even rationally absurd, but of such nature that the victim is unable to free himself.” Moreover, “the obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, desperation, and attempts at suicide. Almost always obsession influences dreams.”
4. Demonic Possession:
“This occurs when Satan takes full possession of the body (not the soul); he speaks and acts without the knowledge or consent of the victim, who therefore is morally blameless.” In reference to the question, is there a stereotypical possession or referential model, Fr. Amorth advises the following, “to fix a set ‘model’ for demonic possession would be a serious mistake; the affliction runs the gamut of symptoms and severity.”
5. Diabolic Infestation:
“Infestations affect houses, things, or animals.”
6. Diabolical Subjugation, or Dependence:
Fr. Amorth explains, “people fall into this form of evil when they voluntarily submit to Satan. The two most common forms of dependence are the blood pact with the devil and the consecration to Satan.”
As expected most of the interest was placed in possession, oppression and infestation with a smattering of obsession although none of these adequately explained and examined in a way that would be helpful in recognizing if indeed the diabolic is operating in our lives and how we are to recognize it and seek help. His only defense it seems is saying the rosary: which even for religious who are undergoing trials by God in their prayer life cannot bring themselves to pray the rosary or other ordinary prayers . . . being drawn to deeper contemplative prayers that were perhaps a result of their former attachment to the traditional prayers. No mention of the need of a good Spiritual Director (one who has gone through the dark nights) to aid in our understanding of whether we are under attack or not. No mention of confession as a primary way to aid in this battle etc.
There was no mention that God “allows” these attacks on our faith and that the subjugation is a freewill choice of the afflicted.
So this month the deacon (a carbon copy of our priest) is going to talk about the rosary. I am not of a mind to attend this class for it is their way of following up on the last bit of theatrics on extraordinary diabolic activities.
I do hope that nobody was enticed by curiosity in the devil and his evil spirits and that they already pray the rosary. But in general, it certainly won’t hurt them, if they are not saying the rosary to begin with by doing so. I doubt we have many spiritual adepts attending these banal classes . . . so it probably won’t be a lost cause for them in any event depending, of course, with what is presented and what is omitted.
But to return to the last class to close, I wish that there had been a bit of talk about spiritual direction and confession as part of the pastor’s ‘talk’ especially since father had just finished getting a certificate in spiritual direction from the diocese (another certificate to hang on the wall, I’m supposing). It does make it seem that the Church is now giving cookie cutter classes and certificates for such things as this whereas in the past it was only gained by deep prayer and holiness of life and the Holy Spirit Himself taught them the way to help themselves and others as well.
Yikes! The times they are a changin’.