Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
The exorcists I consult occasionally for articles have personally seen a lot of the devil’s theatrics: levitation, room temperature suddenly and drastically dropping, people knowing foreign languages they never studied, foul odors, objects flying and other antics intended to intimidate the exorcist. Yet, we are told not to fear evil. The exorcists do, however, strongly warn us to stay away from it and use the protection God gives us.
I put together advice on how to guard against evil taken from two recent interviews with Msgr. John Esseff, a priest in the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania for 64 years and an exorcist for over 40 years, and also Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.
(1) Hate sin.
“The usual work of the devil is sin. Sin leads to the death of souls,” –Msgr. Esseff.
(2) Understand that spiritual warfare is not a fight between equals.
“The real power is God who created all things. God the Father is the first person of the Trinity; his son is Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who came into the world by the overpowering of the Holy Spirit. This is our God, who loves us so much that he came from heaven to dwell in us. He is in each baptized person and explodes in us through the Holy Eucharist. There is no God except him,” –Msgr. Esseff.
(3) Never talk directly to the devil.
“In a major exorcism, the priest speaks to the demon but it requires permission from the local bishop so he has the entire authority of the Church doing spiritual battle. A lay person should address only God since they can get into trouble talking to the devil.” -Bishop Paprocki.
(4) Recognize the devil.
“Possession is the extraordinary work of the devil and is very rare. [Although obsession, oppression, infestation are more frequent]. His ordinary work is temptation and we deal with temptation every day,” —Bishop Paprocki.
“The power of Satan increases when people don’t believe he is real. God is ‘I am, who am,’ but the devil wants to be ‘I am who is not.’” —Msgr. Esseff
(5) Go to Confession.
“Once the confessional line gets thin, the activity of Satan increases. To decrease the work of Satan, increase the use of confession. Confession is more powerful than an exorcism. One is a sacrament and the other is a blessing.” —Msgr. Esseff
(6) Live a sacramental life.
“The best way to protect ourselves from evil is through the sacraments because they were instituted by Jesus Christ and fill us with the grace to protect us and bring us closer to God,” —Bishop Paprocki said.
(7) Use sacramentals, such as holy water, rosaries, scapulars, and other religious articles.
“They were given to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When we bless ourselves with holy water it helps protect us against evil. Crucifixes, the rosary, and prayer… are sacramentals too. They are ways to help us to be holy,” —Bishop Paprocki.
(8) Help yourself.
“I will pray over people and tell them: now you have to say and do things differently than your nature says. It is human nature to fall back into old habits. People need to turn to God and pray for grace. Then they need to be ready to accept those graces and strive to make good choices,” —Msgr. Esseff.
(9) Stay away from evil.
“It is better to protect yourself from evil than to try and rid yourself from it. Once you open a door to it, you cannot always close it on your own,” —Msgr. Esseff.
(10) Take authority in your home.
“God gives parents authority in their home and over their children. Declare your authority in prayer,” —Msgr. Esseff.
(11) See the world for what it is.
“In the end, Christ has conquered, but during our lifetime on Earth, we need to be aware of evil influences all around us. Since we live in a secular culture, the evil one is a strong influence. That is why it is so important to stay close with Jesus Christ. If we are not doing that, we have no protection and that is very dangerous,” —Bishop Paprocki.
(12) Use prayers of protection.
“It is good to say prayers to reject the devil and reinforce faith in God such as the ‘Our Father,’ and the ‘Apostle’s’ and ‘Nicene Creed,’” —Bishop Paprocki.
(13) Have your house blessed.
“We can have a priest bless our house and use prayers of minor exorcisms. A minor exorcism does not need permission from the bishop to perform,” –Bishop Paprocki.
(14) Consult a priest if feel you need help.
“When a priest prays and gives his blessing, he is acting in the person of Jesus Christ, which is powerful…. When I walk into a room, the devil sees Jesus Christ,” —Msgr. Esseff
(15) Read the Bible and good Catholic books.
(16) Focus on God, the Blessed Mother, and all the angels and saints.
Don’t give the devil undue attention.
(17) Make a holy hour and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
(18) Forgive others and seek humility.
This closes the door closed to the devil and opens it to God.
(19) Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.