It was an experience I will remember to my dying day. It occurred
on the last day of a weeklong retreat for young men. I wanted our
final gathering to be an occasion for each of us to rid himself
of a sin.
Earlier that day, we had been hiking in the mountains, and I
had said to them: Everybody pick up a stone. It will represent
what separates us from Jesus, a symbol of something that stands
between us and a full understanding of Him. Tonight, during our
final prayers, we will set them down in the chapel. Perhaps this
way we will leave at least one of our sins behind.
It was now late evening on the eve of the Epiphany. I was praying
with the boys in front of the Holy Sacrament. There were twenty
of them, mostly high school students in their senior year. Wondering
what future lay ahead of them, I prayed for them in silence: Jesus,
watch over them. Holy Spirit, guide them, provide them with your
gifts of wisdom, counsel, fortitude, as well as skills... Suddenly,
a piercing scream broke the silence of our meditation. I heard
the sound of a stone hitting the wall behind the altar, followed
by the words: “Missed again, I always miss Him!”
I turned and saw Arthur bent over by the wall, his body writhing
in terrible convulsions, a horrible grimace on his face. I went
up to him. As I bent down, he hissed at me: “Get away or
I’ll kill you”. He ran to the window. I thought he
was going to jump out, and became alarmed because the chapel was
on the fourth floor. I am not an exorcist, but I immediately knew
what had taken control of Arthur’s body.
“Let’s pray, let’s pray together”. It
was the first thought that came to mind. “Pray!” I
shouted to the boys. But it had already crossed their minds too.
Instinctively, they joined hands and started praying, with one
voice, almost shouting: “Our Father who are in Heaven...”
I grabbed Arthur and pushed him down hard on the floor. He was
squirming in every direction. Soon realizing that he was too strong
for me to handle, I asked the boys for help. As Jack came up,
we heard the following menacing words, which were clearly meant
deter him: I know you, I know your sins, I know your past, and
you’ll be ashamed. I can’t let this happen, I thought,
and stopped Arthur’s mouth with my hand. Moments later,
on removing my hand, I heard the most appalling oaths and blasphemies
imaginable being shouted at God the Father, Jesus, Our Lady, and
the Pope. The horrible utterances stood in stark relief to the
other boys’ collective prayer. We were all bunched in a
group. Only Peter stood some distance away. Arthur turned toward
him and looked into his eyes. The look sent Peter flying a good
few yards. Terrified, he tried to leave the chapel, but one of
the boys stopped him. After that, we formed a circle and prayed
on. Taking the relics of St. Faustina, St. Francis of Assisi and
Honoratus Kozminski from the altar, I placed them close to the
stricken boy’s face.
We heard a roar, more curses, laughter and then a question dripping
with demonic sarcasm: “Is that all you can think of? Can’t
you find a better way of exorcism?”
Arthur’s body began to shake more and more. “Give
me half an hour and you will see how many of them will stay with
you,” he said to me. “Who are you? What is your name?”
I asked. “I won’t tell you.” “I order
you to leave Arthur’s body.” “All right, but
I’ll only enter somebody else’s.” “What
is your name?” I repeated. “Beelzebub,” came
the answer. “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you,
Beelzebub, to leave Arthur’s body.” “There are
many of us,” he answered. I recalled all I knew about Arthur,
all the problems he had been facing, then started naming these
problems aloud, one by one, treating them as evil spirits. I ordered
them to depart from Arthur’s body, all the while making
signs of the cross with the Holy Sacrament in the monstrance.
When Arthur became a little calmer, I asked him to repeat after
me. “Jesus is my Lord. Say it, Arthur! Jesus is my Lord...”
His body squirmed. He trembled visibly, but one could see that
the evil powers were losing strength. Finally, he whispered in
a very low voice. “Jesus is my Lord.” He repeated
once more: “Jesus is my Lord.” The other boys sang
out, “Christ triumphs...” I felt a surge of enormous
joy. But Arthur whispered to me: “Father, there’s
still another one...” The struggle began anew. Suddenly
Arthur’s gaze became fixed on one point. “Our Lady’s
here” – he said. I shouted to the boys, “Quick,
pray to Our Lady,” and we began reciting the Hail Mary.
After a few minutes of this, Arthur became quieter. Still, there
was something about him that told me to be careful. I thought
of other ways of setting him free. As if reading my mind, he told
me he did not want to be delivered of the last evil spirit, because
this one was responsible for all his knowledge. But I was not
prepared to give up. I pushed the monstrance hard into his face
and ordered the spirit to depart from Arthur’s body. “Say,
The Virgin Mary is my Queen’,” I told Arthur. I cannot
remember how many times I repeated these words. I thought that
an act of devotion to Our Lady would deliver him from the possession.
After finally uttering these words, he calmed down altogether.
“It’s all over” – he said like one utterly
exhausted. We picked him up and started praying together. Once
again we placed our trust in Jesus and Our Lady. The boys prayed
with great devotion. Some of them cried. Clearly, the whole experience
had moved them deeply. Yet despite the calm and silence, I could
not concentrate on the prayer. I was worried about the boys. “Where
has the evil spirit gone?” I wondered. I suddenly felt moved
by the Holy Spirit to have the boys touch the monstrance. They
did so, all of them. It was then that a sense of indescribable
joy and relief washed over us all. We hugged each other and cried
for joy. God’s love seemed to fill us to overflowing. At
that point, the paramedics, whom we had called earlier, arrived
on the scene. They were shocked to see us – a priest and
twenty boys crying, hugging and laughing by turns.
On leaving the chapel, I once again asked Arthur if he knew where
the evil spirit had gone. He pointed to the stones. That same
night we dumped the stones in trash cans near the graveyard. Despite
his terrible exhaustion and pain, Arthur was the first to make
his confession that night. The next morning, smiling joyfully,
he greeted us with a cheerful Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!
I could not help wondering why the demon had possessed Arthur.
As I accompanied him to his home, I asked him directly: “How
did it happen?” He told me his story. For a long time he
had lived believing that God had abandoned him, that He no longer
loved him. One day, when he was alone in his room, he became conscious
of a presence around him. In fact, he had sensed this presence
for quite some time. It was then that Arthur made his ill-fated
decision. He removed the crucifix from around his neck and surrendered
himself to the evil spirit, which then became his guide through
life, his one master. I had not given it much thought before,
but I now realize that as more people alienate themselves from
God, demonic possession becomes more and more common. By rejecting
God’s love, people open themselves up to the power of evil
spirits. An exorcist recently told me: “I come across so
many cases of possession that I couldn’t deal with them
even if I worked 24 hours a day the year round.”
I had known Arthur for some time. He was, as they say, “the
life and soul of the party”. His friends looked up to him
because of his uncanny intuition and prodigious memory. He could
talk for hours, give people advice and solve difficult problems.
How could he do all this? I know now that this power came from
the evil spirit. If Arthur had not been cured of possession, he
might very well have become a clairvoyant or a New Age therapist.
After returning home from the retreat, Arthur consulted a psychologist
and psychiatrist. They found no evidence of anomalies and referred
him to an exorcist. During the exorcism sessions, the evil spirit
talked to the priest in Latin and Hebrew. Arthur still has a couple
of sessions left, but he will soon be a free man. The night the
whole thing happened, Arthur told me he was not going to sleep
in his room because there was a pentagram painted on the wall.
I now know that Satan takes possession of places and objects
that have been used to commit a sin. When we commit a sin in a
certain place, or with a certain object, we put these things under
Satan’s control, just as consecrating a place or object
puts them under God’s control. We ought frequently to dedicate
the places we inhabit to God. There is much wisdom in the Church’s
teaching that we bless our houses at least once a year. I could
never understand why my aunt used to trace a cross over the door
frame with a candle on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
I know now why we mark our door frames with holy chalk and why
we hang crucifixes over the door. We ought to remember that crosses
and holy pictures are there to protect us against evil spirits.
The absence of holy water fonts and relics in our “domestic
churches” is something to be regretted.
When we accept these sacraments as gifts intended for our protection,
we underscore the depth of God’s humiliation of Satan. Satan
is forced to obey all those who act in the name of Jesus.