In the gospel reading today, Jesus was preaching in the synagogue while a man with an unclean spirit was listening. The unclean spirit inside the man recognized that Jesus was the son of God, and cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” This man may have for all appearances sake, seemed as normal as you and I, but underneath his external appearances, a demon lay hidden inside of him.
If you speak with any official exorcist in the Catholic church, they will tell you that demons do not usually take possession of a person without their permission. Involuntary demonic possessions can occur, but most of the time a person has done something to encourage the evil spirits.
No one should ever play with Ouija board games, because this is a well-known way that demons are invited into the world. Ask an exorcist about this. It isn’t just a game. Tarot cards, mediums, fortune tellers, voodoo, Wicca, witchcraft, the occult, or any other fascination with the spirit world, or the dead, can attract and encourage evil spirits.
Even if a person did these things out of fun when they were a child or a teenager many years ago, a demon can lie hidden inside a person, undetected for a long time. This is probably what happened with the man who had the unclean spirit in the synagogue, that Jesus cured in today’s gospel.
Demons can not stand the name of Jesus, let alone be in his presence. In fact, the name of Jesus is an effective way to cope with the presence of demons. But, the best way to cope with demonic attacks or harassment, is to grow in holiness yourself.
The best protection against demons and evil spirits is to attend mass regularly, go to confession and have a regular, consistent prayer life. We receive grace from Jesus, through the sacraments and prayer, and by genuinely living by God’s commandments.
It can happen though, that the closer a person grows to Jesus, the more the demons or evil spirits will harass them. This is ordinarily in the form of temptations. The demons will size you up and look for your weakest area and then go for the jugular, so to speak. Bait, distraction and division are also some of the main tactics they use to draw you away from the Lord. If you ever experience a genuine demonic attack, or feel like you are being harassed by an evil spirit, the best way to cope with it is to go to confession, attend some extra masses, and then spend a little more time than usual praying before a tabernacle or at adoration.
Jesus is always stronger than the demons, or even Satan himself. They can’t stand his presence, but they are attracted to him, and to holy things and holy places, but they keep at a distance, like in the synagogue in today’s gospel. The church building itself is not a barrier to the demons, but the Eucharist, holy water, and confession is – they can’t touch them or come near.
Holy water and blessed salt can be used in a home, especially in doorways and windows. People often wear a Saint Benedict medal that has been blessed too, for extra protection from the evil spirits. Praying the rosary often helps, because if you remember, our Lady crushed the head of Satan beneath her feet. And of course, the Saint Michael prayer is very well-known too.
There are many people who believe that demonic influences are simply a form of mental illness though. Sometimes a person does have a mental illness. Sometimes they are being genuinely harassed or possessed by a demon. And, sometimes it’s both. It’s not an either or situation. Genuine demonic harassment can put so much stress on a person that they develop mental problems. Who wouldn’t have some emotional or mental issues if a real demon was harassing you?
If you, a family member or a friend ever experience a demonic attack that you can’t handle, don’t be shy about talking to the exorcist in your diocese. The priests who serve as an exorcist can help in many ways, and that is what they are there for. Actually, many protestants and non-believers contact Catholic exorcists too. There are many people in our modern society that quit believing the devil is real, and therefore, not many members of the clergy have been trained to be exorcists. However, there is usually at least one official exorcist in every diocese.
The Catholic church has also been actively increasing the number of trained exorcists, because Satan’s influence on our world has increased in recent decades, especially because of the increase in satanism and involvement in the occult, especially among our young. Satan worship is a formally recognized religion in many countries of the world now. In the US, it is a legally protected religion.
We shouldn’t be too concerned about the demons and evil spirits though. They can’t do anything without Christ’s permission, which is very evident in today’s gospel.