All the Answers To Your Questions About Demons
Demons are back in the Catholic news. Really, they never left, as there seems to be a fascination with demons and demonic forces such that parish talks about them draw hundreds of people who normally would not attend. The topic seems to one of the few aspects of Catholicism that draws the attention of Hollywood as every couple years some big budget movie comes about a person suffering from demonic possession. But what brings demons back into the news now is the recent death of William Peter Blatty, the author of both the book and screenplay of The Exorcist. The attention this movie received, and continues to receives simply highlights our interest in this ongoing battle with demonic forces.
Before delving into this topic, it is important to note that this is an ongoing battle. There are forces of good and evil that battle, sometimes in the world, for the possession of souls. But just because we know that this battle is going on does not need to mean that we should be afraid. For this battle is different from other battles in one key area- we know the final result. Jesus Christ, through his Cross and Resurrection, has defeated death and the demons once and for all. Thus, our most powerful weapons against demons are the sacraments, which draw their power from the cross. The celebration of Mass and worthy reception of the Eucharist is torture to a demon that may be interested in a person’s soul. And, it has been said by more than one official exorcist that confession is more powerful than any exorcism. So, by ensuring that we are staying faithful to our celebration of the sacraments and ardent in our prayer lives, demons are not something we should ever really have to fear; however our interest in them remains.
Are there levels of demons?
Remember that demons began as angels, and when Satan fell they fell as well. Thus, as there are nine levels of angel there are nine levels of demon. Some of the levels are more powerful than the others. Thus, when an exorcist begins his work it is imperative that he discover what type of demon he is dealing with. He does this by simply asking the demon. As the demon has already lost the battle to Christ he must answer when asked in Christ’s name.
What are the types of demonic activity?
There are generally three levels of demonic activity in the world. These are possession, oppression, and infestation. I will describe these in the opposite order, essentially moving from the lowest level to the highest level. Infestation is when a demon or demons are present in a physical location. Often going by the term “haunted” this place may begin to exhibit strange sensations that are not typical. Lights turning off and on by themselves, strange noises, and other noticeable things may occur. The next level is a demonic oppression. This is when a demon is attached to a person at some level and is oppressing them, but has not possessed the person. Affecting the person’s will and often causing the person to suffer torment and sometimes physical pain at the presence of the holy the demon is attempting to drive the person as far from Christ as possible. The final, and most serious level, is demonic possession. In this case the demon is not merely oppressing the person but has rather taken possession of the person. These cases are what Hollywood typically focuses in on as they are the most extreme and dramatic.
How do people become affected by demons?
There are generally two ways that exorcists describe as typical pathways to demonic activity in a persons life. These are when a person opens themselves up to the demonic spirit, either wittingly or unwittingly and through traumatic abuse. Opening oneself up to the demonic spirit can occur through explicitly Satanic rituals or through attempts to commune with spirits (such as the use of Ouija board). Even if one does not mean to summon a demonic spirit, by simply opening themselves up to a spirit that is not explicitly the Holy Spirit one can be open to an attack. The second way that many exorcists have found that demons begin to have influence in people’s lives is through experiences of traumatic abuse. This can be emotional abuse, or physical or sexual abuse. But there is something about this experience that often serves as a doorway for demonic activity.
How can I tell if somebody is affected by demons?
You probably can’t. You may have suspicions, but do not try to diagnose this yourself. There are professionals who work with exorcists who are trained to do this. The problem is many times demonic influences look very similar to some symptoms of mental illnesses and it is very important to determine between the two for treatment. Thus, if you suspect that demonic forces may be influencing somebody you know, contact a priest and allow the Church to proceed from there.
Have any saints ever been influenced by demonic forces?
There are famous stories of demons physically attacking saints such as St. John Vianney and St. Anthony of the Desert. St. Anthony is actually often depicted as engaging in physical battle with demons. But these saints can provide us with hope, for although they battled they knew that the battle was already won. There is a story of St. John Vianney waking in the middle of the night and seeing Satan himself at the foot of his bed preparing to attack the saint and St. John Vianney simply said “Oh, it’s you.” He had no fear for his complete and total trust was in the victory of the cross of Christ.
Hopefully these questions will help temper some of the fears we may have about demons and demonic influences. The most important thing to remember is that yes, they may be fearful and scary; but the cross of Christ has defeated them once and for all and if we remain close to the Cross through the sacraments we have nothing to fear, instead the demons tremble in fear of us.