I’ve had the angelic bit between my teeth for the past three weeks. Remember what I wrote about the bad angels, demons, devils: they are tireless, see everything, never forget and hate us with a malice no human can plumb. They cannot touch our wills, but they can trick and trip us. If we give consent to their evil influence, they can oppress or even possess. Possession requires exorcism by a priest who has the bishop’s permission.

This is not the place to detail the rite of exorcism of people. Suffice to say that it is sobering and can be lengthy. Exorcism is always preceded by meticulous consultation with doctors and psychologists. Exorcists regularly comment that the older, traditional rite of exorcism – in Latin – is more effective. The Devil hates Latin.

Holy Church has exorcisms for things and places, not just people. The material world is still under the domination of the “Prince”, as the Lord called the Devil.

By exorcisms and blessings, especially of important sacramentals such as salt and holy water, we rip them away from demonic control. Demons can dominate places and objects because of sins that were committed. Because of those sins, they claim the right to attach. During exorcisms, their “rights” must be busted, sometimes in many stages.

Speaking of sobering, never play down, discount or pooh-pooh exorcisms. We have exorcisms, for example, in the Roman Rite’s traditional liturgy of baptism, with the Rituale Romanum. Before baptism, the priest breathes three times on the child, tracing a cross with his breath. He says: “Depart from him unclean spirit and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Consoler.”

He places his hand on the child, saying: “Free him from the snares of Satan which until now have held him.” Salt is exorcised and placed in the child’s mouth to be “a health-giving Sacrament to put the enemy to flight”. The priest continues: “I exorcise you, unclean spirit … Come forth, depart from this servant of God, for He commands you, accursed and damned spirit … Therefore accursed devil, acknowledge your condemnation and pay homage to the true and living God … depart from this servant of God.”

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