Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), “The Temptation of St. Anthony the Abbot”
“Divine love is infinite love. Satanic hatred is limited.”
“Which is worse, sin or Satan?” Msgr. John Esseff asked. “Sin is far worse,” he answered without waiting for a response.
I had called for his perspective on what is happening in our culture. As a priest for 65 years, an exorcist for over 40, and a former spiritual director to St. Teresa of Calcutta, his spiritual perspectives are ever-ready.
“The destruction of the divine life is what sin does,” Msgr. Esseff said. Divine life begins at baptism when God the Father seals us as temples of the Holy Spirit and we become one with his Son, he explained. “Sin is the desecration of that temple,” he said. “That is far worse than Satan.”
At 91 years old, Msgr. Esseff still has work to do. On this day, he was packing for South Dakota to present a retreat to seminarians. He is the a founder and past president and ex-officio on the board of directors of the Pope Leo XIII Institute, which trains exorcists and is dedicated to healing through Christ. He also contributed to a chapter on spiritual warfare in the new book Holy Hacks.
Msgr. Esseff wants people to know two things:
- There is nothing worse than sin because it rejects God’s love and destroys souls. “The devil is in hell because he rejected God through disobedience,” he said. “The suffering in hell is the eternal resistance of God’s love.”
- Through baptism, we become the children of God and thus are part of the body of Christ and can love as Christ does.
According to Msgr. Esseff, the failure of families to teach these two important truths is what has deeply wounded our culture and seeped into the Church. “I try to teach what Mother Teresa taught me,” he said. “She told me, ‘There are far worse places in the world than Calcutta.’ She asked me to go with her to two places: West Africa and Haiti. There, millions were dying, and babies were contracting AIDS from their parents.” Through this eyewitness, Msgr. Esseff said it was a personification of the spiritual infection of sin that is often passed on by parents.
“Fathers and mothers must teach that to be a baptized person means they become a part of the body of Christ in which we are Christ to others,” he said. The malformation of society, according to him, has spread to schools and parishes because they do not really teach children what their identity is when they are in grace and what they lose to sin. “I’m not surprised that we have gone to the depth of darkness that we have,” Msgr. Esseff said, “because the truth about our identity has not been taught.”
The greatest brokenness in families, he explained, is the father wound and after that is the mother wound and then the brothers and sisters. He also pointed to men and women rejecting even the potential for fatherhood and motherhood, and pornography as death blows to families.
Hope for Transformation
The way to healing is through teaching the truth, Msgr. Esseff explained. “It is the hope that we will awaken and become newly formed in Christ,” he said. “Not just the cardinals and bishops who have been malformed, but everyone one of us — the fathers, the mothers, the teenagers… everyone. The brokenness in the family is the brokenness in the family of Jesus. There is no other holiness except Jesus Christ.”
Renewal starts with the sacrament of Confession, where the Father pours his Spirit into us to resurrects souls and breathe life into the Church, Msgr. Esseff explained. “That Spirit is much more powerful than any evil spirit. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the same one that comes to us today.”
Given that sin is the worst thing in the world, he encourages us to put our energies into ridding ourselves of sin. “Open up the confessional, and the brokenness and malformations can begin to heal and be renewed in the Church,” Msgr. Esseff said. “Divine love is infinite love. Satanic hatred is limited.”
We should also put our trust in the Blessed Mother, according to Msgr. Esseff. She can bring about much healing through her son, Jesus. “Because when it came time, after eons of mankind, the Father came to her and said, ‘Mary, I want you to be the mother of my Son.’
“She was the first one to know that God had a Son and he wanted him to be Mary’s Son. She said, ‘I can’t do that, I’m a virgin.’ God told her, ‘My spirit will come upon you and the Spirit is the one who will be your spouse.’ Mary has always played a major part in our salvation so we should turn to her.”