Church and non Church: exorcism
The answers to the questions are prepared by the theologian Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno, Central Assistant of the Apostolic Movement.
Q. What is the exorcism that is done in the rite of baptism?
A. In the rite of baptism the exorcism that is done is very simple. We ask the Lord to free that man who was born in the original sin, because man is born in the original sin; that is how we are conceived. Through the power of the Holy Spirit that man is moved from the kingdom of sin to the kingdom of grace of Jesus Christ. It is not an exorcism in the sense that it is a real liberation from the devil, for the child is not in possession of the devil; however, he is in possession of the consequences of sin and he needs to be freed. Immediately after he is anointed with the oil of catechumens which is oil of fortitude for fighting, because he must become a soldier, a fighter, one who has to fight the kingdom of darkness in order to spread the kingdom of light. In the end you are soldiers. We say that phrase on the Apostolic Movement: “You are the soldiers of Christ that reigns”, you are soldiers who have to fight the evil kingdom so that the kingdom of good spreads. We have to spread the kingdom of Christ on our earth. At the beginning it was said: “Christ reigns in the Apostolic Movement”; that is, Christ reigns if we become Apostolic Movement, if we live what we are called to live, this spreading of the word through which the kingdom of darkness is defeated. Only the gospel can conquer the kingdom of darkness. In baptism this wonderful transition takes place, we take a child from the kingdom of darkness and transfer it into the realm of light, we snatch it out of satan and deliver it to Christ, so that it is his forever. Never has the Virgin Mary belonged to Satan, because she was conceived without stain of original sin, so she was always full of grace.
Q. Why does Satan want to turn man away from the will of God? Why does Satan obey when Jesus Christ intervenes?
A. The book of wisdom reveals us that Satan is superb and is envious. Envy is a capital vice and leads us to not want the good of the other person. Satan lost paradise, lost the blessed eternity and he also wants you to lose it. He tries to make you lose eternal life with falsehood and unhooking you from your truth. Man is from God by creation and by the eternal will of God today, tomorrow and always. If I do not remain in the truth, I become false. Satan tempts you so that you come into this falsehood of your truth. Satan said to Eve that she would have become like God and would have abolished her condition as a creature dependent on God. Today, modern society is based on this abolition of dependence on God: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, divorce, de facto couples, and many other issues, share one principle: you want to be like God. You are the one that establishes what is good and what is bad, you are your God: “I will not have other gods before me.” This is the temptation of Satan, take your eternal truth away from you because you are always from God, there is not a time when you can say I am not from God. God must guide all your acts, all of your decisions, all your feelings, all your desires. Christ is Lord of Satan, he is his God, and Satan must obey God, he cannot do whatever he wants. Satan does not have an absolute power, he has a limited power, he has power under the rule of the Lord. This truth is found in the book of Job, when Satan puts God to the test on the loyalty of Job. The Lord allows Satan to take everything away from Job, and Job lost everything in one day. Then the Lord allowed that Job were still tried but said to Satan to spare his life. Then, after he passed the test, Job recovered. The devil does not have absolute power and owes always obedience to God, to his Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord of Satan, being he God, having the power of God; and Satan cannot do what he wants. If Christ tells him to go out he has to go out. In the Gospel, there is not one time that the devil does not obey Christ.
Q. Mary Magdalene was of those who followed Jesus and from whom Jesus removed seven demons. Now, is the number a quantitative thing or does it mean anything else? As well as also when in the gospel there is a reference to the condition of one who is in sin and then he is healed and falls again, and seven demons take possession of him another time. Is the number also symbolic here or does it mean anything else?
A. Seven in the scripture is a symbolic number, it indicates the very fullness, there is nothing missing, it is total. Mary Magdalene was under the total domination of Satan. But Christ heals. Another healing of Christ takes place when he went into the country of the Gadarenes. Here there was that man who had a legion of devils in his body, and there were two thousand pigs grazing. When Jesus asked the devils: “How many are you?” They replied, “We are a legion.” So they asked him to go into the pigs. Having gone out of the man they entered the pigs, and immediately the two thousand pigs drowned in the water. This is to say that the power of Satan is a power that man alone cannot abolish, abrogate. Only Jesus Christ can rule this power. None of us can overcome Satan. First of all because he is smart, because he is a spirit, because he knows our weaknesses, our flaws and he knows the battle ground. He knows where your weak spot is and always starts from your weak point. For satan to be overcome you need the grace of Christ, for only the grace manages to defeat him, manages to beat and overcome him. That is why Jesus says in the Gospel: “Pray not to fall into temptation”, because the temptation always comes when you are exposed to something. When was Jesus tempted in the desert? When he was hungry. You have a necessity, you have a need and immediately Satan presents himself in the form of a thought, a suggestion. He can also come through a boy friend, a girl friend, and makes you a proposal. If you do not have the grace of God, you do not have the power of the Holy Spirit on you, you cannot make it. You risk of falling and, many times, we fall because we are without the power of God in us. Mary Magdalene was totally under the power of Satan, and Christ frees her fully. But she, after, does not fall any more, because she clings to Christ, she loves him and she lets herself be led by the word of Jesus. This is the importance of the prayer and the importance of the grace. Why must we pray? And why is it also right to participate in the weekday H. Mass, other than the one on Sunday? Because do we need this grace to be able to overcome temptation, which always comes in the form of a greater good. When there is a weak point in our humanity, the tempter that always wants to kidnap our soul, comes.
Q. In relation to terrible historical events, as the extermination of the Jews, Hannah Arendt speaks of the “banality of evil”: an almost normal condition for these men who behaved in a monstrous way, but who claimed to “follow orders.” Can you talk about demonic possession of historical figures such as Hitler? And if it is so how can we become aware of them?
A. If you read the scripture you realize that evil is never trivial because its fruit is not trivial, it is destruction, it is death. I think that Eve after the experience of the first temptation no longer committed any sin anymore. However, that first evil act she did, that first sin, affects my life today, and it also affected the life of God. God was affected in his life by the sin of Satan. God to overcome that sin, operated by Satan in man with participated will of the woman, paid with the death on the cross of Christ. You cannot say that sin is trivial if God himself was touched in his flesh. Only the incarnation could redeem this sin and abolish it. The demonic possession is when Satan takes possession of your thoughts and he guides them for you. This is the true demonic possession. You no longer have control of your will, your feelings and your heart. You walk from error to error. Every one of us has the obligation of not letting himself be guided by the evil of the other. I have a duty to stop your demonic possession, because I must not enter into your same possession. One alone is not capable of disasters. Disasters begin when there is the cohesion of evil. The death of Christ was not only the work of Judas. Judas cooperated, however, the ultimate cause was not his, nor the first cause of the death of Christ. There was a coalition of evil for which the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees and people found themselves in a synergy of evil where no one had the strength of contrasting the evil of the other. In the extermination of the Jews there is not only one responsibility, there is a chain of responsibilities and collaboration. What is our obligation? Making sure that when temptation comes to you, you must be disposed to say, “I am not game, I give up, I am going away, and if it is necessary I even offer my blood.” Here is the Christian martyrdom. Satan must not triumph through me. This is what is lacking in us. This strong decision to stop the flow of evil, this powerful decision to obstruct Satan who wants to take possession of my thoughts. He wants me to follow his thoughts of evil, of darkness, which then operate the mass destruction. But one alone cannot do anything, or can only do not so much. It is when there is the communion in evil, a synergy, a collaboration of many that Satan becomes a power. We all have this responsibility of stopping the flow of evil. However, be aware that even a single thought of evil can ruin a history. Sometimes just a bad, not good decision, ruins your existence. One wrong decision and our history changes totally, it is no longer the same history.
Q. Despite the fact that everything depends on our will, can we say that there are some individuals who are more predisposed to demonic possession?
A. There is no predisposition, there is omission. The power of Satan is overcome with the synergy of the work. We need the Church, in her ministers who must proclaim the truth and must give the grace of Christ. If I do not cultivate you, you grow badly. If I abandon you, you no longer distinguish good from evil. My task is to teach you the ways of goodness. But it is also that of giving you the tools of grace so that you may grow in goodness. If I neglect this you are exposed to danger. We find in chapter IV of the prophet Hosea, that the Lord denounces a political, social and economic disaster that is frightening. There is misery, there is poverty and there is immorality among the people. Well, the Lord says: “Let no one accuse, let no one condemn. The responsibility lies with the priest and the prophet because they do not carry out their mission of light, and have become darkness. The people is no longer illuminated by the word of the Lord because they have become darkness.” If we live in this mystery of communion we bring salvation if we do not live it we bring destruction. Evil is always the destruction of the person, of society, of the Church and of the family. The priest must have that absolute and sacred truth that must indicate you what is good and what is bad, what can be done and what cannot be done. If you read the prophet Malachi, what does the Lord complain of? Of the priest, because this was partial and does not announce the truth in its fullness. He says it to those he want, as he wants, he says the truth he wants, and this cannot be done. Who must he still help? The friend with whom you live, those who know you. A good word, a holy word can save you. Seeing the other that makes a mistake you tell him: “Why are you doing this? Do not do it because it is your downfall.” What does it cost that among you, you help and support each other, you give one another a hand to remain in the truth and grace. This is our good and holy principle, this cooperation in the good, because every one of us can cooperate to the good of the other. We are of the spirituality of the Apostolic Movement. What is the Apostolic Movement founded on? On this overwhelming force of light that I must give to the brothers, “You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.” What does being light of the world and salt of the earth mean? It means that I, the moment I see you in darkness, I give you a word of salvation. You accept it and you save yourself. Sometimes this immediate decision-making to tell the truth, to shed some light is lacking. We must be of those that shed light on others. Then you have the parents who have the very high task of shedding light on their children. But we all have this responsibility towards the other. When Cain was asked by the Lord: “Where is your brother?”. Cain replied, “I do not know him, I am not interested in my brother.” Instead you must get interested, because you are the salvation of your brother. Christ was our salvation because he was interested in us, because he is our brother. Every brother must be a salvation for the other brother. Either we are brothers of salvation or of perdition for the others. That is why the one stays alone is always exposed to temptation. Once you pass into the other realm, in the realm of darkness, it is not easy to get out. In that realm one is naturally weak, and he is not able to get out, unless God intervenes with so powerful a grace that he grabs you and brings you out.
Q. How does the Virgin Mary protect us from the snares of evil?
A. The Virgin Mary is the one who crushed the serpent’s head. But she did not crush it yesterday, she crushes it even today. If you deliver yourself to her, you entrust yourself on her, invoke her, pray to her, she helps you, assisting you, she protects you, she acts as a shield for you, she acts as your shoes, she acts as a helmet for you, and you cannot be conquered by Satan. Devotion to the Virgin Mary is a powerful bulwark to overcome the temptation. When we say the Hail Mary with faith, we make a very special, unique prayer. In the first part, after having hailed her in her beauty of grace, truth, holiness, divine motherhood, we ask her to pray for us sinners, to get herself in prayer for us. We have the example of prayer of the Virgin Mary in the Gospel at the Cana wedding. She went to Christ and asked for the wine for the wedded couple, she asked that the joy continued, she asked that grace abounded in that wedding. Christ said yes to her and made the first miracle through her intercession. And also the Saints if they want a miracle they must resort to her, because all the grace passes through Her. She is holy, she is Immaculate, she is the Mother of Christ, and when Christ sees his Mother that asks him for a grace, he bows down. Christ loves the Virgin Mary because she is his mother and he loves her with a great love. When the Virgin Mary prays for you, how an Christ say no to his Mother. When I was studying ascetics, my professor told that one day a man had to ask for a grace to a person remarkable. He wrote the request, but did not give it to the person, but to his mother, because he thought that if the one to ask was his mother, the son would have certainly granted, produced the grace. And in fact, the mother gave it to her son who produced the grace. When we say a Hail Mary heaven trembles because history must change, and with the Virgin Mary history changes. In Cana, history changed with only one request: “They have no more wine.” We must have this strong faith. Heaven trembles when the Virgin Mary prays, because she knows that history gets interrupted, is about to change, is transformed, something wonderful is about to happen. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary with a strong faith, and history gets transformed, because she is the one who prays for us, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the time of our death. Amen.”
Q. What does the mandate of the bishop toward exorcism consist in, does it start from a particular teaching or from a simple exigency? Why is every bishop an exorcist? And is it also the pope, so? And why cannot a lay person be an exorcist? Is the possession the result of a voluntary choice? What is the relationship with the personal freedom of the individual?
A. The Exorcist is one that must be authorized by the bishop to carry out this ministry. All the bishops are exorcists. The pope is an exorcist. But many times they do not exert in a direct way, they give the right to a person capable of being able to do this. A not special person is needed, but one with a special gift. Satan does not obey man, he obeys God. Who goes to tell Satan to leave must have a strong faith, a robust faith, and he must know how to pray in the name of the Lord. In the Acts of the Apostles there was that person who wanted to imitate Paul that cast out devils. The devils said to him, “We know Paul and we know Christ, but who is it that knows you?” And they sprang at that exorcist a little sorcerer, and they were about to suffocate him. You must have a power of faith in Jesus’ name, but also a power of charity and hope, because otherwise Satan will not submit to you. He thinks that he is a creature more powerful than you, and he will never obey you. Never might Satan obey any other creature. If he did not obey God, think if he can obey you. If he said to God: I will not serve you, I will not obey; certainly, he will not obey a man. But if this man is full of God’s strength, and most firmly believe that with the power of God, you can cast him away, then Satan obeys you. In the Gospel we have the example of Satan who refuses to obey. When Jesus came down from the mountain, after the transfiguration, he saw that around his disciples there was a little commotion A father had brought his son to the disciples and these had not cast the evil spirit away. Yet the disciples had received the power to cast the spirit away. So why did not they cast him away? Because they did not pray and they did not believe in the power of Christ that operated in them. We need a strong power of faith in the Holy Spirit, because Satan obeys only Jesus Christ. You must go in the name of Jesus Christ. But if you do not have a strong and a powerful faith in Jesus Christ, you cannot remove it. That is the reason why only delegated, but capable people can make it. This does not mean that a lay person cannot do that, but he must be capable, he must have this power of the Holy Spirit, of faith, of charity and of love, because otherwise Satan does not obey.
The demonic possession comes when there is a voluntary surrender to evil. Satan always starts little by little, slowly. It does not invade all at once, it always start with the little. What is the first thing that Satan does? He tries to get you away from the means of grace and truth: “What use is a priest to you? What use is the Church to you? What use is the confession to you? What us is the mass to you? What use is the Eucharist to you? What use is the prayers to you? What us is the rosary to you?” Following his advice, you skip the rosary today; tomorrow, you skip the prayer and then you skip the mass. Other temptations of Satan: “What use is the gospel to you every day? It is enough once a week. What use is the gospel to you once a week? It is enough once a month. What use is the gospel to you once a month? It is enough once a year. But what use is this gospel to you? Take it away.” And little by little you fell into his possession. What did he do with Judas? He first created in him the desire to have a penny. He then passed to two; and then, he gradually passed to thirty pieces of silver. Satan always starts with little, because he is smart, he knows how to conquer. Satan has time, he is not in a hurry to take the soul, he works slowly. Every day, he inflicts a wound. Every day he deals a blow. First, he takes your eye off, then he takes you off two, then he takes your nose off, then he takes your mouth off, then he takes your heart off, then the feelings, then he empties your brain and then you are all his. But he does not begin at once. This is his cunning. That is why they all fall. He knows our weakness, he knows our weariness, our fragility; and then, he tempts us on that particular side to make us fall. Only if you cling to the Virgin Mary you do not fall. Satan takes possession of our thoughts gradually. Every day, he conquers a position, and he is in no hurry because his are long-term programs. However, he always overcomes us, if we separate ourselves from the ways of grace and truth. Let us take the Apostolic Movement. If you detach yourselves from the priest you will have no success. You are finished. The priest is the stronghold, he is the giver of the grace and truth. This communion is fundamental. If you detach yourself from the priest you no longer have redemption, you no longer have salvation. What is Satan doing today? He is creating the rumor against the Church because he must detach a little from the Church. He knows that: “Extra ecclesia nulla salus”, without the Church there are no means for salvation, there is no grace and there is no truth, and it is difficult for you to be able to save yourself.
Q. When we are faced with a person how do we know if this person is possessed by the evil one, or however it is a person who has lost his mental balance. The exorcism in baptism is the means by which the priest snatches the child out of the evil’s hands. But for the exorcism to be able to have efficacy is not there need of the will of who is being exorcised to be snatched out of the evil’s hands?
A. This applies to adults. The child does not have this will. In the book of baptism, we find that the before celebrating baptism, we make the voluntary renunciation to Satan. Voluntary renunciation which is of the whole community present. It is as if every baptism one renewed his personal baptism, because he renounces to Satan, his empty promises and his seductions. We, then, embrace the faith of the Church, her word, her truth and deny the lie of Satan. We do it all voluntarily, because there is no salvation without the will of the person. In the book of baptism this step takes place. After the prayer the priest makes in the Church’s faith the child or the adult no longer belongs to Satan, he belongs to the kingdom of God. He must now walk as a child of light. This seal takes place when water is poured and this birth from heaven takes place, one becomes a child of God, partakers of His divine nature. He becomes the body of Christ, he becomes the living temple of the Spirit, he becomes the Lord’s Church. This is the great mystery that takes place when the priest pours water on the head of the child or on the one who has himself be baptized. This great miracle takes place, the new birth of man takes place. Until this moment, even if you had been snatched out of the kingdom of Satan and introduced into the kingdom of Christ, you always remained a human “natural” creature, you were not yet the son of God, and you did not share in his divine nature. Not only does Baptism complete this act of exorcism, but it works a miracle so great that for you it is a new creation. You are recreated, reformed, reshaped, rebuilt, remade in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. You are born mystically even from the Virgin Mary, so that is why she is your real mother, Mother of the Redemption, the mother of your redemption. You are redeemed, because you are born from her. Even Christ is a man because he was born from her. Baptism is a great mystery, it is a holy mystery, it is an unimaginable mystery, which we should be aware of.
Directions for the preparation of the meeting given by Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno:
– Catechism of the C. C. – Sacramentals – from no. 1667 to no. 1679
– Cong. Doctrine of Faith: Letter to the Bishops on the rules on exorcism 24/09/1985 (PDF attached).
– Cong. Doctrine of faith: education about prayers for healing from God (PDF attached)
– Definition of exorcist (PDF attached)
– Exorcism of Leo XIII (PDF attached)