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Spiritual Warfare: Insights from Exorcists

Spiritual Warfare:
Insights from Exorcists


DevilDragonEvilDemonSatanPalazzoSchifanoiaSaloneDeiMesi04AprileFDelCossaToro03_2cropFace-to-face encounters with the devil are all in a day’s work for an exorcist; followed by dinner, prayers, and a good night’s sleep. They walk amid evil on angels' wings with unwavering confidence in the power of God.

A few years ago, I was invited to the movie junket for The Rite, a story about the training of an exorcist.  I considered backing out after watching the movie trailer. Films that include post-traumatic stress are not my cup of tea.  But after interviewing several exorcists to do a preliminary article, my fears were calmed.  I still don’t like exorcism movies, but I’m no longer afraid to walk into my basement afterwards. Since that junket, I have occasionally done articles on exorcism and deliverance. Through talking with exorcists, their secret for faith-filled living has eclipsed my previous fear of evil.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Exorcists:

HealingOfTheDemonPossessed for post on Insights from Exorcists

  • When I walk into a room to do an exorcism, the devil doesn't see me, he sees Jesus Christ.
  • I am not an exorcist; I am a priest who does exorcisms. My major power is in my priesthood.
  • Confession is more powerful than an exorcism.  One is a sacrament and the other is a blessing. One confession is worth 100 exorcisms.
  • The devil wants to destroy the soul, and the soul is healed by confession. If people want to decrease the work of Satan, they should increase the use of confession.
  • Once the confessional line gets thin, the activity of Satan increases. To decrease the work of Satan, increase the use of confession.
  • 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.”
  • It is better to protect yourself from evil than to try and rid yourself from it. Stay away from the occult, pray, and frequent the sacraments.
  • confession2bernardinecathedralinlvivchurchofsaintandrewartistvodnikjanuary2007ccasa30unportedIt’s really the Lord's fight. I was going against a satanic ritual abuse and a mentor told me to just look to the Father. “Trust the Father and you don’t have to do anything,” he said.
  • Sometimes deliverance [from evil] can happen instantaneously or it can take awhile. It is a deliberate decision to develop healthy relationships, come to reconciliation, and grow with the Lord.
  • We are called to help people help themselves. 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.
  • Renounce the occult or the evil. I can pray over someone but if she is still in tune with the occult, it’s still going to influence her. She has to break that relationship by her own choice.
  • Fearlessness is a grace. If I let fear bother me, I can’t do this.
  • A woman came to me worried about her son and the influence of evil in her home. I told her that she and her husband could take authority over their home. In situations like this declare your authority in prayer–you are in charge of your home. She did that and the problems went away.
  • There was a spirit visiting someone’s son. Kids see these as angels or lost souls. You can often get into trouble if you explore this. Don’t offer to help or ask who they are. Let the Lord take care of it and just pray for them.
  • Stay away from the psychic world. Don’t try to communicate with ghosts or try to help them.
  • Retaliation is good because it means you are doing the right thing. Take away the drama. It’s not the worst thing in your life. Evil spirits don’t like being kicked out but the Lord has something to say about it. It’s not drama but a response to God’s love.
  • It’s not our battle; it’s the Lord’s battle.
  • Jesus Christ is ultimately the one who will give freedom to people.
  • I will help people of other faiths, but if someone has no connection to religion, I will not help them. There would be no purpose to do an exorcism if the people aren't acceptable to growing in faith. Their situation could become even worse. It says in Matthew 12:45, “Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
  • Possessions are rare. I’ve only seen two in over forty years, but between possession and temptation, the devil can also oppress and obsess. Those are situations where the devil is able to harass people.
  • A Ouija board is associated with occult activities, and this can be a way that people open up a doorway to evil. People should stay away from anything occult. They might think they can control it but they can’t. We need not fear it, but we should make a point to stay away from it.Saint James the Greater Prayer
  • If someone does not have a prayer life and a relationship with God, then exorcising him or her could be like a revolving door. A person’s behavior is what allows a demon to enter. It’s easy for demons to enter people who open themselves up through the occult.
  • We are living in a very dark world, but we need not fear because prayer drives out evil and protects us. Prayer and a relationship with God protect us from evil.
  • People forget that it is not a fight between two equal powers. God is the Creator and he created the devil. God will be the victor. Jesus is God, and through the power of Jesus, the devil is vanquished.


Art for this post on insights from exorcists: Detail of Palazzo Schifanoia, Salone dei messi, 04 aprile (f.del cossa) toro 03 2, Sailko, 30 September 2013 own work (photography), CC-SA; Healing of the Demon-Possessed, artist unknown, Medieval Age, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less; Parental Joy, Karl (Kirill) Lemoh (1841-1910), undated, PD-US; Saint James the Greater, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1661, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less; all Wikimedia Commons.

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About Patti Maguire Armstrong

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press's Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Patti's Blog Facebook. Twitter.

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  • John

    Thank you for these wonderful insights. A question I’ve always wanted to ask a “priest who is an exorcist” … and your article reminded me of this: “why don’t we use the sacrament of the anointing of the sick” for exorcisms? It is my understanding that an exorcism is a “sacramental”. And as you mention above the “priesthood” (vocational sacrament) and “confession” (sacramental healing) are indeed the greater weapons in spiritual warfare. It is also my understanding that the anointing of the sick is for body, mind and “spiritual” healing, in fact it is primarily for spiritual healing. It being a sacrament, it would seem this would be and should be administered as well for the grace it could impart. I also believe the sacrament of the anointing of the sick underwent as part of the Second Vatican Council reforms greater use for “serious illness” and not just on the brink of death. Any insights you might provide would be interesting… even better … ask your exorcist friends!

    • Christopher Feeney

      Commonly misunderstood. It is in fact fir any illness “unto death”, so … it would be an abuse of the Sacrament. Upcoming surgery, cancer, etc. Those are “sicknesses” or “dangers” “unto death” and it is right to receive the Sacrament. But to go around anointing people Willy nilly is not what the Council called for. In fact … the Council never mentions that.

      • John

        Dear Christopher… I was not proposing “willy nilly” … I am referring to “demonic possession”… as concluded by Mother Church (the bishop, after following the thorough process eliminating other ordinary causes). Also, clearly in NT, Apostolic and Early Church times “sickness” and “demonic possession” were murky areas (as it still remains this way today … MUCH is still not understood regarding “body, mind and spirit). So, that is the essence of my question. Sacrament vs. sacramental. The sacraments of healing are confession and anointing. I feel you may have been too “quick” to reply to my … thinking I need to be “corrected” from some distorted view of the sacrament or the Council or the issue of the Church attending to such an awful situation. What could be greater concern than “possession” in relation to salvation or (eternal) “death”?

        • BlueMit11

          He’s just relaying the requirements of the Church as spelled out in canon law and the ritual itself. It’s pretty simple. In order to be anointed, one needs to be gravely ill. If there is a grave illness that accompanies a demonic possession, then they can be anointed for that. If not, they can’t. The anointing is to strengthen them physically and spiritually against the illness. It simply has a different function than an exorcism rite. Sometimes when you’re working on a project at home you need a hammer, sometimes you need a wrench, sometimes you need both. The Church gives us different instruments for different purposes, and it’s up to the priest or bishop administering them to use them appropriately. For more informaron, see here: God Bless!

          • John

            Dear Bluemit11, after reading the EWTN link and your reply suggesting if there are physical issues anointing of the sick might indeed apply … this seems to support my inquiry and that this is not as simple as you think. if there are physical and mental manifestations with demonic possession and my understanding these are often very extreme manifestations doing grave bodily harm. One would think the anointing of the sick would certainly be appropriate and the fact it is a sacrament vs. Sacramental such as holy water and an exorcism blessings it would be used. Sacrament is not just another weapon it is THE weapon. Just as having a priest and having sacrament of confession

          • BlueMit11

            Okay, but the priest wouldn’t actually be anointing the person for the possession. He would be anointing the person for the illness. Of course sacraments are more powerful than sacramentals. A jackhammer is more powerful than a socket wrench. But a jackhammer doesn’t serve the same purpose as a socket wrench. Similarly, the sacrament of anointing of the sick doesn’t serve the same purpose as an exorcism.

          • Indigo Girl

            Dear John, I am in a deliverance apostolate in my archdiocese. We anoint the person’s forehead to protect the mind, then we anoint all the senses. We do this before we begin the prayers. So you are right in that sense. It is just a different anointing! Good question!

          • GYT

            You should read “Interview with an Exorcist” by Father Fortea, exorcist.

            A demon cannot kill anyone. God never permits this.

            Possession is only physical, control over the physical body. If the person is in a state of grace, he or she will not go to Hell if he or she should die while in a state of possession.

            Father Amorth states that most possessions are caused by curses from other people (jealous coworkers or family going to a witchdoctor), even moreso than playing with the occult (which would be a sin and could be cleared up in confession).

            A demon can tempt a person with suicide so if a person has a history of suicidal behavior, deliverance of a possessed person or someone who has a demonic attachment must be done as soon as possible.

            If you’re looking for further reading, a book by Father Amorth was released right before his death, “An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels,” although “Interview” is extremely good, too and will answer many of your questions.

            It actually is as straightforward and simple as everyone says, I think your idea is interesting but everyone’s replies so far are correct, you cannot apply the anointing of the sick to a possessed person unless that person has a physical sickness unto death. Possession is not a sickness unto death.

            (Maybe if the priest determines extreme suicidal behavior, because depression does have many physical roots and obviously suicide leads to death, but it would have to be on a case by case basis, I would think, and even then, I’m not sure if the anointing of the sick would help. Like others have said, a priest can anoint and bless without it being the anointing of the sick and it is very effective. In Interview, Fortea says that if a person frequents the sacraments and prays the Rosary daily, his or her ability to become possessed are almost null, so in this case, it would probably be cleared up through a return to the sacraments and recitation of the Rosary, besides the exorcism.)

          • LizEst

            And, apropos your first statement, we have many posts from Father Fortea’s book here: Scroll down; he is the second author listed.

  • Patricia

    This is good information to post. There are adult “practicing Catholics” who are struggling with issues that they had some involvement with in their younger days and have the sense that these issues are somehow still having power over their life or have teenage or young adult children who are influenced by the culture around them. If one thinks that “smart” people aren’t fooled by these activities, one only has to look at the so-called trend of “spirit cooking” which came out on video right before the election, involving high level political people. It was perhaps fake news, but the very ideas presented in this video themselves really are cause to pause and say, ” How could anyone be involved in these things?”
    The points in this posting give some thoughts and starting points for dealing with the real slimey actions of sat*n in today’s society. He’s there bothering someone you somehow know, so know some strategies for combat and remember, Christ has already won the victory!

  • Lenette R. Carter

    A good read indeed. It also gives me motivation to go to Confession more often. As a believer, I had experienced doing my own version of exorcism when I visited my brother at a hospital in San Leandro, California. While praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet with my hands lightly touching my brother’s head and feet, I noticed that he started to shiver. At that moment, I prayed aloud and told him to get back to sleep. This happened several times until I finished both prayers. In addition, whenever he feels an excruciating pain, he would utter bad words. I would tell him not to call the devil, but to utter the name of Jesus and to say, “Jesus, help me.” My brother remained silent then and went back to sleep. Please do pray for him, even if you do not know him. I believe in prayers so much, especially in the power of praying for one another. As the article stated, prayers are our greatest weapon to drive the devil away. To Jesus through Mary!

    • Eskimo man

      Just remember that non Priests cannot do exorcisms, and Priests need permission and the flow of grace from a Bishop.

      • Ann

        This statement may not be true.

        • LizEst

          What statement are you referring to Ann? You didn’t say.

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  • Michelle

    In addition to the sacraments, sometimes we need extra help through deliverance ministry. Neil Lozano’s, Heart of the Father, which was recommended to me by a trustworthy priest, helped me tremendously with some old stuff that was keeping me stuck. His book Unbound was life changing.

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