America is a modern-day spiritual battlefield in which the influence of Satanism grows with each passing day. Satanic objects are readily available from retailers who once would have avoided selling them. Satanists have hosted gatherings at places as diverse as Harvard University and Oklahoma City.
In 2014, secularists attempted to have a forty-foot-high World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, removed because it is in the shape of a cross. Now, Satanists are trying to claim it as their own. Many participants did not correspond to the archetypical image of figures in black. Satanism is, unfortunately, becoming “mainstream.”
In light of these developments, the Church must urgently use Her ancient tool to fight the demons, exorcism. For those who seek an introduction to the practice, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti’s new book, Diary of an American Exorcist: Demons, Possession, and the Modern-Day Battle Against Ancient Evil, is a fine place to start.
Msgr. Rossetti is the President of the Saint Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal and an associate professor at the Catholic University of America. In addition to being an exorcist, he is a licensed psychologist.
His long experience and academic background might lead readers to expect a relatively dry tome. However, this is not the case. It is a very readable book full of insights and wisdom.
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Indeed, demons do exist, and there are many of them. The author notes that “The Italian priest and mystic Padre Pio (1887-1968) said, ‘There are so many [demons] that if they were capable of assuming a form as tiny as a grain of sand, they would block out the sun.’”
Characteristics of Demons
Demons despise all humans, even those who dedicate themselves to Satan’s service. “Demons are not your friends. They are vicious sadists and enjoy making people suffer.” The demons also hate each other. “In Hell, no one thinks of another’s good…. Satan would sacrifice even demons under him in Hell just for his own pleasure.”
What characterizes demons is their overwhelming pride. The same pride that caused Lucifer to utter the momentous phrase “Non serviam” exists in his underlings. Sharing angelic nature, they possess knowledge beyond human intelligence. This superior position unleashes in them boundless vanity and narcissism when dealing with human affairs.
While superior in nature, they do not possess wisdom because they cannot receive Divine Grace. Thus, the experienced exorcist – always relying on the Power of God – can often manipulate them into leaving or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. Msgr. Rossetti provides many examples of this ability.
No “White Magic” or “Good Witches”
Most so-called New Age spiritual practices, like yoga and Reiki, find their source in Satanic activity. They may appear comforting, life-affirming or cleansing. They are sometimes presented as routes to “self-discovery.” Such appearances are deceitful and dangerous. “The answer is simple: if you are not calling on the one true God and Jesus, His Son (or the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, or Saint Michael and the good angels), then there is only one other spiritual option, and that is Satan.”
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Msgr. Rossetti relates the story of one of his spiritual directees who was ill. She admitted that a friend had given her “healing crystals” to aid her recovery. Instead, she grew steadily sicker. Msgr. Rossetti told her to bring him the crystals, which he blessed and then disposed of appropriately. The woman immediately began to recover. “Using crystals to ward off demons, cast spells, or invoke occult healing clearly falls under this prohibition [of CCC 2116-2117]. This is sinful, occult behavior that creates an opening for demons.”
Any form of spirituality not firmly rooted in Catholicism gives Satan an invitation to enter into a person’s life. A conscious decision to sin also serves as an invitation to the devil. “If given an opening, either through human sin or human invitation, the demons are able to possess people and places.”
Sin as an Invitation to Satan
Demonic influence is not an excuse for sin. Any sin gives Satan a degree of control over the sinner’s life. However, the devil can never force persons to sin against their will. Individuals are always responsible for their actions. “Our guardian angel inspires us to do good; demons tempt us to do evil. But both the angels and the demons have no control over human will and freedom. In the end, we alone are responsible for the choices that we make.”
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Even relatively minor sins can limit one’s effectiveness against the devil. Msgr. Rossetti tells of an unexpectedly strong physical attack he received from a possessed person. The sudden attack caused him to lose his temper. From that point on, the demons no longer responded to Msgr. Rossetti’s prayers. He then recognized his error. “I stopped the session, went into the other room with one of the priests, and confessed the sin of losing my temper. The other priest absolved me, and we went back into the session. Once again, the demons started to react to the prayers.”
Strengths and Weaknesses
The book’s great strength is that it explains its content simply and clearly. He avoids the technical terms that would puzzle the average reader. The author aims to inform, not convince the reader, that he is especially wise or learned.
Unfortunately, the book lacks the “flow” that a more organized text would offer. A particular theme may run through two or three of these brief chapters, which seldom exceed two pages. The lack of an index amplifies this weakness.
While such considerations do not decrease the overall readability of Diary of an American Exorcist, they limit its usefulness should one wish to refer to or share some point later.
However, the book’s overall readability more than compensates for these faults. Msgr. Rossetti does an excellent service for those who want to know more about the nature of the spiritual warfare that all serious Catholics face during these trying times.