Looking into the faces of teenagers these days, Father Patrick worries. Father Patrick is not his real name, but to keep his work as a parish priest manageable, his work in exorcism and deliverance is hidden to the general public. He has been a designated diocesan exorcist for 6 years. The bishop refers cases to Father Patrick if they are deemed legitimate. Although full-fledged possessions are rare, he said the numbers are increasing with more and more, people — especially young people — dabbling in the occult. “They often open a door they cannot close on their own,” he said.
For this article, I asked Father Patrick to explain a comment he made in an earlier interview about a change he has seen in young people in just the last few years.
“There is less depth,” he said. “Kids go to the Internet for answers and end up in places that derail their morality and their discernment between good and evil.” They have lost the ability to figure out what is holy and good.” With God removed from the schools, Father Patrick explained that God no longer has a significant place in their logic and reasoning. “Aristotle and other formidable philosophers would not consider that good,” he said.
Father Patrick pointed out that kids think they can go to the Internet to get all the answers in just a few seconds. “They also think they be can be engaged in many events all at once — listening to music, having conversations, and doing their homework at the same time,” he said. “They don't realize that they are not able to integrate and analyze information with any real depth.” As a result, according to him, kids are susceptible to being open to whatever agenda they come across, especially from TV personalities and other public figures even if it contradicts how they were raised in the faith.
As an exorcist, Father Patrick is sensitive to influences that are brushed off as harmless. For instance, he noted that the occult is frequently promoted in the mainstream media. “Even in Disney shows, how many spells are being cast?” he asked. “Every real witch will tell you, spells are cast to manipulate and control people, and you have to call upon the power of a demon. He mentioned TV shows about vampires like My Babysitter’s a Vampire. “There’s no such thing as a good characterization of a vampire,” Father Patrick explained, “Yet, TV and movies are portraying them as good. Vampires represent a covenant relationship with eternal damnation so they will never be with God.”
Even though vampires are fictional, they represent evil, Father Patrick explained, it’s wrong to portray them as okay. “It shows a loss of the ability to discern between good and evil,” he said. “Evil cannot co-exist with good.” The lack of discernment dumbs down an awareness of the things that take them away from God and those things that move them closer to God, according to Father Patrick.
An example is the 1996 movie Michael, where John Travolta played an angel named Michael who was somehow connected to the Earth and did not want to leave. Father Patrick said he knew many people that thought it was a good movie. “When I pointed out that Michael committed almost every capital sin—slothful, drunk, and seduced women in bars — -they responded: ‘Oh, you’re right.’ So while it was entertaining, Hollywood gave a deceptive image of an angel. Michael was not a holy angel and could in no way battle evil.”
Although Father Patrick said some might interpret his concerns as paranoid, he said we should realize that this kind of influence in entertainment creates an atmosphere where breaking the Commandments is acceptable.
Youth Groups a Harder Sell
Although Father Patrick said that the kids coming to youth group in his parish are open to their faith, it’s harder these days to get people to join. “Fewer kids are involved in youth ministry,” he said. “In the last 5-7 years, the youth ministers in our diocese are finding that young people have gotten very busy and are less interested in youth groups. It’s also likely that the rise of influences such as the Internet are pulling them away from the truth and awareness of God.”
Getting kids to Mass is especially important to keep them engaged in their faith, Father Patrick explained: “Recently, a Mom who had been struggling to address an issue with her son, shared with me that even though he did not even seem to be listening during the homily, after Mass he told her, ‘I heard what Father said and it all made sense, and it’s all that you’ve been saying.’ Getting them to Mass, allows the Holy Spirit to work in them.”
Advice to Parents
Father Patrick does not necessarily think parents should ban all books and movies such as Twilight and Harry Potter, but instead, he said they should explain what is wrong and what is against the Ten Commandments. “For instance, Harry Potter is supposedly good, but many of his actions are against the first two Commandments and he’s lacking a relationship with God.” Father Patrick said. “He’s not drawing on the power of Holy Spirit but uses other spirits which are the forces of evil.” He points to such influences desensitizing many kids to the dangers of witchcraft.
Father Patrick recently spoke with a high school girl who is in involved with white witchcraft. “I told her whether it’s white or black, witchcraft is about control, and casting spells, and drawing up contractual relationships with demons,” he said. The girl didn’t want to hear this and doesn’t talk with him anymore. Father Patrick said he has had kids brush off his warnings before. Later, after they realized they were in spiritual danger, they have called to tell him he was right and ask for help.
“Parents should not be afraid sit down with their kids and talk about evil,” he said. “Let them know that casting spells actually calls on demons who ultimately want to control and destroy you. They may start out being friendly but they don’t want to be your friends.”
The ultimate witness to our Catholic faith is our actions, Father Patrick said. “Witness is not enough, however. It’s important for parents to share and explain what their own faith means to them in order to counter the culture’s effect of deforming youth away from religion. “But there is hope,” he said. “Not all young people are falling into this deception.”
Parents should teach their kids that it’s not just about if something is good or bad, Father Patrick said. “They should also teach them to discern how it’s affecting their relationship with God by asking if something brings them closer to God or further away.”