Although Hollywood and horror-mongers exploit demonic occurrences for thrill-seekers, Father Paolo Carlin’s new book, An Exorcist Explains How to Heal the Possessed and Help Souls Suffering Spiritual Crises, is for God-seekers. Penned by one of the world’s leading exorcists, this book was written to help people recognize genuine cases of possession and demonic attacks and how family and friends should handle it.
In the book, Father Carlin begins his with advice: “We must find the balance between attributing every evil to Satan, seeing him everywhere, and denying his existence.” The former exaggerates the devil’s power, and the latter is “his best trick” so that people do not worry about sin.
Father Carlin introduces us to our opponent, writing of Lucifer and one-third of all the angels, who lost heaven through pride, (Revelation 12:4), with examples in Scripture of possessions and exorcisms. He explains the demons’ endgame is our spiritual destruction, and their modus operandi is temptation and mind games. The devil wants to destroy us, according to Father Carlin, through sin and convincing us that evil is good. “Evil is presented under the appearance of good, so God’s commandment appears as a limitation of man’s free choice,” Father Carlin told the Register. It is a ploy that worked in the Garden of Eden and still works today.
Sin is always a step away from God, but with most people, it does not lead to overt demonic attacks. There are several types, such as infestation of a place, physical and mental disturbances and full possession, which Father Carlin describes in his book as “a temporary displacement of the person during which a brutal and violent spirit takes over.” He notes there are two components to possession: the presence of the demon in the body and the exercise of his power. “The devil dominates the body of the person in order to annul his faculties of self-determination and self-control,” Father Carlin told the Register in an interview.
What gets complicated, he explained, is that sometimes mentally unbalanced personalities can have the diabolical superimposed on psychological symptoms. Thus relief requires careful examination and discernment involving the exorcist and a mental-health professional in union with the prayers of the Church. As part of the discernment, Father Carlin said that the exorcist will pray with the victim, at which time negative reactions to silent prayer may become a clue that the efforts are making some headway.
What Is the Payoff?
The devil’s goal through overt attacks is to persuade people that God has abandoned them or that they are powerless, hoping to drive them away from God and the sacraments. If he can keep them away from God and kill their souls, without benefit of repentance, he knows they are destined for hell.
But why does God allow the devil such freedom? In some cases, Father Carlin told the Register, saints suffered through extreme demonic attacks and offered their suffering for the salvation of souls. “Vexation and possession are not per se a moral evil,” Father Carlin explained. “Rather, they are physical evils that God also permits for the good of the person.” He said that theologians have pointed out five reasons for this divine permission: 1) for an increase in God’s glory; 2) to manifest a truth of the Catholic religion, which is endowed with a special divine power; 3) for the spiritual profit of the upright; 4) as beneficial teachings for man; 5) and as proof for the conversion of sinners.
Weapons of Defense
The devil can harm our bodies but has no ability to touch our souls, Father Carlin said. Therefore, we should all live in the state of grace as protection against the devil. “The arms of combat and defense that Jesus has left us consist of: the word of God, prayer, fasting and the sacraments,” Father Carlin explained. However, he pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (211) warns against a superstitious attitude of treating religious practices like magic to dispel demons. Instead, we need to seek a true relationship with God.
“On the basis of biblical testimony, the devil is expelled solely by faith and total trust in Jesus,” he said. “Our Lady and all the saints show us how communion with God makes the human being, a creature inferior to Satan, stronger than Satan himself. … If prayer springs forth from a soul in communion with God, it is immediately effective against the attacks of the enemy.” Father Carlin also stressed the key sacraments for spiritual protection: baptism, confession and the Eucharist.
Get the Right Kind of Help
Father Carlin strongly warns against directly talking to the devil or turning to self-styled laypeople or priests who are carrying on their own ministry without the permission of Church authorities. “Whoever prays a prayer of exorcism, other than a priest authorized by the bishop of the diocese, risks the extraordinary direct action of the devil on himself,” he said. If prayer, Scripture and the sacraments do not protect us or rid us from evil, Father Carlin said, we need to see a priest who will pray and discern if the situation should be forwarded to the bishop, who gives permission to the exorcist to discern what is necessary.
Ultimately, the friend we need the most is Jesus, according to Father Carlin, and the instruments he gave to combat temptations and liberate us from the extraordinary action of evil are Scripture, prayer and the sacraments.
“Jesus came to be our guide and our teacher and to show us that rejecting the devil drives him away,” Father Carlin said. In addition, he said to call on our Blessed Mother as our powerful protector and example of humility and fidelity to God, as well as to St. Michael the Archangel and our guardian angels, for a life of peace and goodness in union with God. In the back of the book, Father Carlin also included prayers for victims of attacks and for the priest who accompanies the victim.
Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.