For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12
Three articles on my news feed yesterday caught my attention.
Britain’s Metropolitan Police have reported an increase in the number of child abuse cases that involve allegations of witchcraft and exorcism.
Police said Sunday a specialist unit received 46 such cases in 2014, more than twice as many as the year before.
The “Project Violet” unit says 60 incidents have been reported so far this year, continuing the upward trend.
Just before midnight, a squadron of technicians suited up with body-mounted sprayers surrounded the crowd and, on cue, soaked the writhing masses with synthetic blood. No leather corset or bare tattooed back was spared as the ravers seethed with fanged glee beneath the crimson rain. For a few hours, it was truly weird and wonderful to see a sea of giddy daywalkers living out fantasy bloodlust.
With his “good manners,” Francis said, the devil makes the man fall into moral relativism, calming his conscience.
We start saying things like “This happens everywhere” and “We are all sinners,” Francis said. Yet “When we say everybody, we mean nobody,” he said. “And so we live this worldliness that is the child of the evil spirit.”
“Calming the conscience, numbing the conscience, this is a great evil,” he said.
“When the devil manages to numb your conscience he has won a real victory,” Francis said, because “he has become the master of your conscience.”
Ever since I was a young boy I’ve been keenly aware that there are forces at work in our world. Long before I was a Catholic I had this sense. It was not due to any sort of Bible-based indoctrination…my family was nominally Protestant and though I did attend a week-long Bible Camp for a few summers in South Dakota and Sunday School into middle school, it was hardly a strict or fundamentalist upbringing. Snacks, crafts, and bible stories on felt boards from what I remember.
But as for the spiritual battle I just knew. And when you are aware of this ongoing battle you pay attention to things that others miss. You learn that what is mere coincidence to some is far from it in reality. Items in the news (missing children here, mutilated bodies there) are noticed despite your best efforts to take a break from the onslaught of internet information. It’s as if you’re being taunted. “See what I’m doing? Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. I can’t be stopped.”
Then I became a Catholic and joined the battle full on. One cannot ignore it then as begin to connect the dots and find that it’s all around you.
There is a reason why the Church (ALL Christians) comprised of the living on earth is referred to as the Church Militant. From Father Z’s blog:
The Church Militant is made up of the living, we who are still on pilgrimage through this vale of tears, as the Salve Regina describes our earthly life. The whole Church can be described as having three main kinds of membership, namely, those who are still alive here on Earth, those who are in an earthly sense dead but who live in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those who have died but who are, during their time of purification in Purgatory, awaiting their entrance into Heaven (the Church Suffering or Penitent). These three are united, in one Holy Church, in a common “communion of saints”, even though we of the Church Militant often aren’t very saintly.
So that’s what the Church Militant is. But what does it mean for those of us who are its members? Fr. Z again:
As a Catholic who is militans, “militant”, that means that we dedicate ourselves with obedience and zeal to the role we are given in life through our calling and through our talents and good inclinations, our vocations in life. It means that we are also prepared to fight the enemy wherever and whenever threats to the salvation of our own souls and our neighbor’s souls present themselves. It means working together as units and not as individuals merely. It means good conditioning and through drills in knowing well our Catholic Faith and practicing virtues and discipline in the use of the Sacraments. It means submission to the Church’s teaching authority and her duly ordaining pastors. It means fidelity, loyalty and even a willingness to die.
In the Breitbart article I linked to above regarding Pope Francis, he went on to say that the key to combatting the devil is discernment and vigilance.
We need to be able to discern situations, he (Pope Francis) said, to see what comes from God and what comes from the devil who “always tries to deceive” and to “make us choose the wrong path.”
The Christian cannot just accept anything, but must “discern and look well to see where things come from, and what their root is,” he said.
I learned the importance and relevance of spiritual discernment from St. Ignatius while attending retreats based upon his spiritual exercises. A nightly examination of conscience is a key part of Compline (or Night Prayer) as prayed before bed each night. And while I admit that I lag in my use of the Sacrament of Confession I always strive to attend more often and can attest to its graces and benefits. Today more than ever before I wield these devices as weapons in the intensifying war around us and urge you to consider doing the same.
Still not convinced about spiritual warfare? Fair enough. Below I’m going to paste the first paragraphs of the updated Preface to Malachi Martin’s book Hostage to the Devil. For years I’d read about this book that was originally published in the 1970s and re-issued in the 1990s. I came across it the other day in a bookstore, bought it, and haven’t been able to put it down since. I own a copy of the book An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabrielle Amorth but it’s still near the bottom of my stack of books to read. But as I’ve practiced more discernment and looked “well to see where things come from and what their root is” my interest in this type of warfare has increased. At Christmas last year I picked up the then-new book Manual For Spiritual Warfare and found it to be so good that I’ve bought copies to give as gifts to friends.
As I sat here for a few minutes deliberating on whether to hit the PUBLISH button or not the familiar thoughts came to mind:
“Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. Once you hit that button you will be dismissed as a nutter and people will no longer read your blog or take you seriously.”
And then I thought about how we live in a culture that celebrates death. Our government has worked to enshrine abortion and euthanasia as unholy sacraments of a sort. Porn is rampant and we feed it unfettered to our children through benign devices such as smartphones, tablets and television. ABC Family celebrates “a new kind of family” and has done its best to promote anything except the traditional one…and our children watch because what parent denies their child a harmless network named after the family? We celebrate zombies, the undead, vampires, witchcraft and death…and not the cartoonish kind, but with as real of special effects and CGI as possible so we shock our systems with the viscera…and thereby desensitize ourselves to it. We do all this, and then are shocked when someone who has immersed themselves in our culture shoots up children in a school or slaughters their family before destroying themselves. We blame guns and mental illness, because they are easy to target and impersonal, but never ourselves for fostering such an environment. That would be too personal and we long ago did away with the concepts of personal responsibility or shame. The devil has no need to unleash hell on earth. We opened the door with an open invitation.
In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis wrote:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
I do not count myself to be in either camp. I do not disbelieve in their existence as to do so would deny Sacred Scripture. I do not have an excessive or unhealthy interest in them. I’m merely aware of their presence and the need to be prepared for combat. On at least two occasions in my lifetime I have come face to face with the presence of evil and experienced how suffocating it is. I have also encountered the holy and divine too many times to count.
I am a happy warrior, but not an ignorant one. That is my calling as a member of the Church Militant. It is yours as well. But before you can engage in the battle you must recognize, acknowledge and know your enemy. Open your eyes.
Preface to the New Edition: Possession and Exorcism in America in the 1990s
In the blink of God’s eye since Hostage to the Devil was first published in 1976, nothing has changed on the one hand. And everything has changed on the other.
Nothing has changed in the process by which an individual is Possessed by personal and intelligent evil. Nothing has changed, either, in the requirements for successful Exorcism of a Possessed individual. All of that remains as described and summarized in the chapters and cases that follow.
What have changed are the conditions of the society in which we all now live. To a far greater degree than most of us could have imagined fifteen or so years ago, a favorable climate for the occurrence of demonic Possession has developed as the normal condition of our lives.
In 1976 Satanism was presented, and was probably regarded by most Americans, as a box office and a bookstore draw. In fact, Hostage to the Devil was intended as a clear warning that Possession is not — nor was it ever — some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real; and real prices are paid.
Now, in America of the 1990s, there is little question of demonic Possession as an entertainment. Among families everywhere and at every level of society, there is instead a justifiable fear. Most of all, this fear is for children. And in point of fact, there are few families not already affected in some way by Satanism. Even by ritualistic Satanism—formal ceremonies and rites organized and performed by individuals and groups in professed worship of Satan.
For obvious reasons, we don’t know everything about organized Satanist groups, or covens as they are called, in the United States. But the ample knowledge we do have justifies the fear among average families for their children and their way of life in the future.
We know, for example, that throughout all fifty states of the Union, there are now something over 8,000 Satanist covens. We know that in any major American city or large town, a Black Mass — almost always organized by covens — is available on a weekly basis at least, and at several locations. We know that the average membership of Satanist covens is drawn from all the professions as well as from among politicians, clergy, and religious.
We know further that within those covens, a certain amount of “specialization” has come about. One can choose either a heterosexual or a homosexual coven, for example. In at least three major cities, members of the clergy have at their disposal at least one pedophiliac coven peopled and maintained exclusively by and for the clergy. Women religious can find a lesbian coven maintained in a similar way.
We know, too, that in many public schools in any major city, it is a virtual surety that there is at least one group of teenagers engaged in ritualist Satanism. And though we know very little — again for obvious reasons — about human sacrifice as an element in ritualist Satanism, we do know that in certain covens in which confidentiality is an absolute, life-or-death condition, the penalty for attempting to quit the coven is ritual death by knife, with one stab wound inflicted for every year of the offending member’s life.
Hard admissible evidence concerning human sacrifice as an element in Satanist rituals is limited by the fact that disposal of human remains has been developed into one of the dark art forms within Satanist circles through use of portable incinerators and cremetoria; and because there are no birth or baptismal records — no records of existence — of intended Victim infants.
Nevertheless, we have enormous amounts of anecdotal evidence indicating that some thousands of infants and children are intentionally conceived and born to serve as Victims in Satanist sacrificial rites. In the world of Satanist worship, boys are preferred as gender-replicas of the Christ Child. But girls are by no means excluded.
In this regard, the emergence of child abuse as a characteristic of our time must claim particular attention. Not all — perhaps not even most — child abuse originates in ritualist Satanism per se. Each case must be weighed on the evidence. But the extent of child abuse in America today and the concrete evidence of Satanism as a factor in many such cases, begins to give some idea of the degree to which the inverted standards that are the prime hallmark of Satanist activity in any form — and of ritualist Satanism above all — have infiltrated and influenced all levels of our society.
As horrifying as even that much information is — though it is not all of the information we have, by any means — still more shocking is the realization of the fact that in this, the America of the 1990s, one is never far from a center where such activity is carried out on a routine basis. No one lives far from some geographical area where some form of ritualistic Satanism is practiced. Ritualistic Satanism and its inevitable consequence, demonic Possession, are now part and parcel of the atmosphere of life in America.
That a more favorable climate exists now than ever before for the occurrence of demonic Possession among the general population is so clear, that it is attested to daily by competent social and psychological experts, who for the most part, appear to have no “religious bias.”
Our cultural desolation — a kind of agony of aimlessness coupled with a dominant self-interest — is documented for us in the disintegration of our families. In the breakup of our educational system. In the disappearance of publicly accepted norms of decency in language, dress and behavior. In the lives of our youth, everywhere deformed by stunning violence and sudden death; by teenage pregnancy; by drug and alcohol addiction; by disease; by suicide; by fear. America is arguably now the most violent of the so-called developed nations of the world.
Parents do have every reason to be concerned, then. For above all, the greatest changes in the conditions in which we have come to live over the past twenty years or so have meant that young people are left as the most defenseless against the possibility of Possession. Raised more and more in an atmosphere where moral criticism is not merely out of fashion, but prohibited, they swim with little help in a veritable sea of pornography. Not merely sexual pornography, but the pornography of unmitigated self-interest. Whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the younger generations among us is, What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?
The difficulty is that as individuals and as a society, we are no longer willing— many of us are no longer able — to give an answer to that question that will satisfy anyone for long.
Such pervasive cultural desolation is the most fertile ground one could possible imagine for the causes of Possession to take root and flourish in almost unimpeded freedom. It is in this context that Satanism — including ritualized Satanism — is causing such justified fear among so many parents for their children. For, it is in that context that at least some may best be sought out by that Ancient Enemy of our race who, in the words St. Peter used in one of his letters, “prowls around like a lion seeking whom he can devour.”
Hostage to the devil : the possession and exorcism of five Americans / Malachi Martin. — HarperSanFrancisco ed. p. cm.
Originally published: New York: Reader’s Digest, 1976.
FIRST PERENNIAL LIBRARY EDITION PUBLISHED IN I987;
HARPERSANFRANCISCO EDITION PUBLISHED IN 1992.