|The Sinner's Guide||
When I was a kid my Dad sponsored several children in Africa. Every once and a while I would gather stickers together to send to them. (I wanted to send something fun and it had to be flat) Then when I was older I participated in some of those campaigns where you fill a box with coins and then some organization uses the money to feed the hungry. I guess in some ways these qualified as a corporal work of mercy but to be honest I don't think I learned anything about mercy from feeding the hungry by proxy. Then when I was in high school I went on a date and the girl I was with didn't finish her food. She had a box with half her meal in it and we went on our way home. On the way we stopped at a light and on the corner was a mom with two children who were begging for money. They looked so hungry. They looked so hungry that I didn't have time to worry about why they were poor or if they really were poor. I grabbed the box of food roles down the window and gave it to them and they literally ran to the car. They opened the box and ate the food immediately. It was like I felt the relief as much they did. I learned so much about charity that day. You can give thousands of dollars to organization that feed the hungry. (And we should) But to look a person in the eye who needs something from you is a humbling experience and an encounter with Mercy. I became almost obsessed with it. In high school I absolutely loved giving food to the hungry face to face. There was one particular man who I saw everyday on the way to school. Each time I spoke with him and brought him food I learned what it meant to be truly hungry and I thought of all those things that I was malnourished from spiritually. I learned Mercy from him and I am grateful. My suggestion for this year of mercy is that you bring some food to a place where you know you will encounter the poor and be merciful. You will learn so much about mercy practicing it face to face.
I had a professor in college who had a policy that a student could write on his test paper the phrase, “God’s greatest attribute is His Mercy.” No matter how poorly one might have done on the test as long as you remembered that phrase the professor would pass you. He felt it was such an important piece of knowledge that if you learned that you had learned a lot. I was a terrible student so this was a comforting practice for me. It also got me thinking about God’s Mercy more often.
The Magnitude of God’s mercy just cannot be understood by our human finite minds. It is far too great to understand. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to contemplate it. In fact the opposite is true. We should meditate on God’s mercy often.
It seems that the only things in this world that can do justice as illustrations of God’s Mercy are His creations. Mother Angelica tells a story (If I remember correctly) about a time when she was walking on the beach and the Lord told her to pick up a pebble and throw it in the water. Then the Lord told her to find it. She says, “Lord how can I find it in this whole ocean of water?” and the Lord told her that is how our sin is when we bring it His mercy. God’s Mercy is like an ocean, a waterfall, a canyon, a mountain, a galaxy and, yes, a universe. We do not have the ability to spend it. We do not have the ability to use it up. It is endless and that is why there is hope for the most hardened of sinners. That is why there is hope for you and that it why there is hope for me. Lets spend sometime thinking about the ocean, or the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls and meditate on the fact that those vast measurements are but a drop or a tiny space compared with the incredible Mercy God has for us.
I am in need of an ocean of Mercy and I am in luck because my God has one. May God have mercy on us and upon our whole world.
The Pope has just opened the year of Mercy. An entire year to contemplate, cooperate with and enter into God's boundless mercy. A year might seem like a long time to contemplate God's mercy but in all actuality one could spend a thousand lifetimes contemplating the great mercy of God. I could write 10,000 pages on God's mercy for me alone. I am the product of the mercy of God. This is why I am so excited for the year of Mercy. Over the next month I will write several posts to help you get the most out of the year of Mercy. In the meantime find the closest Mercy Door and jump into the ocean that is God's incredible mercy.
Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, but not into the hands of mortals; for equal to his majesty is his mercy, and equal to his name are his works.
I recently read an article about a reporter going to visit Fr. Gabriel Amorth the most experienced exorcist in the world. Fr. Amorth invited the reporter to witness an exorcism during which the demon revealed itself with the name Asmodeus. After reading the article I wanted to see the responses so I took a look at the comments and, as always, it was filled with vitriol from the atheists and Satanists.
One of the comments in particular expressed one of the major fallacies about the powers of darkness.
The Comment read:
“I’m not saying that I believe any of this, but I did a little research into the demon ‘Asmodeus’, and the articles I’ve read state that he is the ‘king of demons’. If that were the case, why would a so-called ‘king’ not put up more of a fight?"
Ill be honest at one time in my life I may have had the same opinion. That was until the first time I witnessed an exorcism. There is no doubt that the demons are powerful and will put up a terrible fight but the demons power compared to the Priest is just pomp and show. Its common to think that a Priest should be afraid of demons. It is actually quite the opposite. Demons are terrified of Priests. I mean absolutely terrified. The first priest I assisted with an exorcism was small in stature. Nothing to be intimidated by but the second he walked into the room the demons began to howl in fear. There was not a second that the demons were on the offensive. In fact it was quite the opposite. Father confidently and resolutely attacked the Demons until they were literally begging for some relief.
A demon, even the king of demons is afraid of Priests. All Priests. Not because of the man. Not because of his courage or strength. Not even because of his holiness (although this certainly helps). A demon is afraid of the Priest because the Priest stands not in his own power but in the power of Christ. The Priest is powerful in so much as he understands the power comes from the Church when he stands In Persona Christi. This is a very important point in the theology of exorcism. Holiness, humility and courage protect the Priest and assist in the effectiveness of the exorcism but the true power of exorcism is the power of the Cross flowing from the Church and punishing the demons. This is why an eighty three year old priest can handily take on the “prince of demons”. It is the demons who should be afraid because the Catholic Church is on the offensive. The Power of even the most powerful demons is nothing against the almighty and terrible power of the one who laid down his life for us.
Since being involved in the ministry of exorcism I have not looked at Priests the same way. I have learned about the power of vocation and the power of liturgy. Priests have the power to bring me to the Cross. Priests have the power to give me the food of eternal life.
Let God Arise. His enemies will scatter.
I'll be honest I did not have a really good idea of what an average Catholic parish was like until I started working at one three years ago. I grew up Catholic but was never all that involved with any parish community. Now after spending three years working within a parish community I'd like to share some important points that I think would help many average Catholics in the pew.
No matter what you've been taught the Catholic Church is not so much about rules and regulations but about a passionate loving relationship between Creator and creature. To be honest it seems like too many Catholics have become comfortable with the "rules and regulations" story. It easier to trade heavenly reward for following rules than to enter in to an authentic , passionate relationship with the creator.
All sin matters and Confession is not just something you need to do once a year. We are giving ourselves too much of a break on sin. Sin is real and it has consequences for this life and the next. It affects our intimacy with God. We are all sinners so lets face the facts and work on those things hurting our neighbors and keeping us from greater intimacy with God. Once we recognize this fact we fall in love with confession. I am so thankful my God has set up such a beautiful sacrament for me, a great sinner, to go to for mercy.
The way we receive Communion says a lot about the state of our soul. I wish we could take a video of what communion looks like at an average parish and show it to them. Greeting people, talking, checking phones, hands swinging and the like have become the norm. Many people receive communion like they are taking candy. If we teach our children one thing it should be how to "Communicate" correctly. Contemplate the gravity of what we are doing on the way up to communion and let our outward actions show the disposition of our soul.
Learn the Gospel. Most Catholics do not know the basic Gospel story. You just can't know Jesus without entering deeply into the Gospel story. If you are really moving you can read a Gospel in an hour. Commit your self to reading a Gospel a week.
A relationship involves communication, you need to start praying. Our relationship with Jesus does not end with sunday mass. Catholics must have a personal daily relationship with Jesus. It doesn't need to be strenuous or profound but it does need to happen.
Despite what every "CCD" book tells you Baptism does not make you an "Intentional Disciple." Being a disciple means forming your entire life around your relationship with God. It means asking God what he wants from every moment of our lives. Discipleship is a radical life of relationship and change.
Evangelization is the common duty of all the baptized. If you are a Catholic then necessarily you must evangelize. There is no question about it. You will not keep your faith without sharing it.
If you want to get the most out of the Faith you are gonna need to learn some basic theology. People need to learn the basics of the seven sacraments. You need to know what it means to be a Priest, what it means to be baptized and confirmed, what the Mass really is. This will change the way you live.
If you disagree with a teaching of the Church you have a duty to learn why the Church teaches it. So many catholics out there disagree with the church on something but they don't ever look into the "why" behind the rule. You can't just assume you are right about everything. You have to give your best effort to understand the teaching you disagree with.
They'll know we are Christians by our love. We must build communities of love in our parish. We are called to community. This is a hefty call because community requires sacrifice for others. We must continually encounter each other in love.
I have wasted plenty of Lenten journeys in the past. I've always taken them seriously. (At least as an adult) I've always tried to make them rigorous but still I've wasted them. I focused on Quantity and not quality. I saw lent like a scoreboard. The more austere the higher my score. All the while I was after the score more than the real goal. Lent should be a time when we take up the Church's call to grow closer to Christ and not a scoreboard of austerities and works. How do we keep the focus? Here are a few tips.
1. Start with Prayer: Choose wisely what you will focus on this Lent but make sure prayer is one of those things. If our main goal is to improve or start our prayer life we can't help but get closer to the Lord over the next 40 days.
2. When giving up focus on sin: What is the biggest thing keeping you from the Lord? Give up something that will help you conquer that sin. Do not make the mistake of giving something up just because it is hard. Christian empty only with the thought that its a temporary emptiness. We get rid of more in order to have more of Christ.
3. In works of Charity start at home: Try not to step over the leper in your own home to help the leper outside. There is nothing wrong with going out and doing works of charity but if we are being uncharitable to those we live and work with we get nowhere.
These 40 days can change you.
These 40 days can make you a saint.
Have you been feeling distant from the Lord? Can you think of a reason? Remember it is always possible that God is giving you this feeling for a purpose.
In my divine love story I have felt a whole range of emotions: bliss, peace, anger, desire, confusion, hope and the list goes on and on and on. One feeling I have never experienced is that of being comfortable, at least not for very long. I do not think there is any place in the spiritual life for "comfort". Of course there have been times when I have experienced the comfort of the Lord but I have never really been comfortable with the status of our relationship. If I get near the feeling of being comfortable it is almost a sure sign that I am on the wrong path and that once again I have let Pride grow deep within my heart.
Why is this? Ive pondered this during many a prayer time and my best guess is a very simple principle: God wants to pursue us... and ...God wants to be pursued. When I start to get comfortable with my relationship I stay there. Its kind of like a truce. The Lord doesn't want a truce. He wants a total and complete surrender.
It seems every time I feel close to Him my heart gets comfortable and because the Lord wants to pursue and be pursued He puts that sweet wound deep within my heart again and I feel that distance. Once I feel that distance I can do nothing but cry out for Him to come get me and run freely toward Him.
There are many reasons we sometimes feel distant from the Lord but that distance should always remind us of the need to pursue and to be pursued. Run to Him. He is running to you!
Oh my soul, take nothing as your own. For you there is God and God alone...
I have spoken with several experts in the field of exorcism and liturgy and I have come to the conclusion that the laity should indeed not be praying the "Leonine Exorcism" found under the title "Deliverance" in the section "Prayers for the Spiritual Battle."
For many years the Leonine exorcism has circulated with a heading that says lay people may pray the prayers for personal use. One of the leading authorities on both exorcism and liturgy in America asked the Vatican commission who said while that is true they ask lay people to refrain from praying it for fear of the blowback they may receive from evil spirits.
This prayer was very helpful to me so I regret taking it out of future copies but we must always be obedient to the Church. If you have purchased the book with the prayer in it please refrain from praying it and you should never ever use for prayer over another.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
In the past few months I have received several emails from people asking different questions about the topic of deliverance prayer. It seems there is beginning to be a great need in this country for deliverance from the attacks of evil spirits. There is a substantial amount of bad information out there. The following are some helpful rules for deliverance prayer that are particularly important for the laity.
Keep this ministry in perspective. Deliverance is not thrilling, exciting, or "cool". It is not like the movies. It is something to be taken very seriously and only performed by the spiritually mature. (experienced prayer life, no unconfessed sin, progress against besetting sins, humility, regular sacramental participation, psychologically sound, calm, and discerning and most importantly called by God)
To stay safe just pray...no need to command. The question of laity or non exorcist priests commanding demons has been discussed extensively and you will get as many different opinions as the people you ask. I have a hard time with the statement that laity should never address a demon. That being said the safest route is definitely for laity and inexperienced clergy to direct their prayers to God alone. One of the most experienced exorcists in the world told me, "the rule is laity should never address a demon ever." Ask God to bind, cast out and reveal the demon. If you are familiar with the "Unbound" model this can be a safe practice as well.
Know when the problem should be forwarded on and have the humility to do so. I recently received an email from a member of a prayer group telling me of a deliverance situation where each time they pray the person goes into a trance and loses control of the body. This had been happening for 6 months. If a person you are praying with goes into a trance the problem needs to be forwarded on to diocesan level ministry. If there is even a possibility of possession or the progression in to possession it needs to be addressed by an experienced diocesan team that can discern whether its real and stop the progression. If you have an attachment to the case and you feel any semblance of a need to keep the case or be involved then you should not be in the ministry in the first place. For many years lay people have had to respond to the call to help the demonized but this is not so anymore. Diocese' are responding to the call to help those afflicted and lay people must put their gifts at the service and under the discretion of the diocese.
Understand that extraordinary demonic attacks are a complicated psychological issue as well as a spiritual issue. We cannot over simplify the battle. In Obsession and possession a severe psychological attack is taking place. When we pray for liberation we must remember the process can take a serious toll psychologically. Most deliverance teams are not equipped to deal with this issue.
Deliverance is more than just prayer. In the vast majority of cases we must evangelize, catechize, and love the person. We must look at the case pastorally. Liberation can be tricky without these things. Often times the victim will be "punished" for the prayers we say and if they don't understand the larger battle then they can feel helpless and turn away from true help.
Deliverance has preliminary requirements. In most cases all the prayers in the world will not liberate if the person is still holding on to the things that got them in this position in the first place. It could be relationships, unforgiveness, esoteric practices etc. It doesn't matter. After repeated warnings if the person doesn't separate themselves from these things it is not a good idea to continue the prayers. Its tough but you should just continue to pray for them from a distance.
"There are no emergencies with the Devil." This is an important point I learned from an experienced and theologically astute exorcist at a conference. Extraordinary diabolical activity is allowed by God. Every action the demons take is controlled by God. He is allowing this to happen. We see the horror of it and tend to think every situation is an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately. This is a mistake. Proceed prayerfully and calmly.
Every Christian is called to pray for deliverance in their own life but not everyone has a special calling to the ministry of deliverance prayer. Discerning this call should be done continually in great humility and prudence. The special Charism of deliverance accompanies great holiness of life and spiritual maturity. Let the Lord call you into this ministry instead of jumping in and then discerning if you are to be involved. The most important thing to remember is that the most effective way to fight and weaken the kingdom of evil is to root sin from your life.
Please take a moment and pray for all those who are being extraordinarily attacked by evil spirits...
Oh Mary, Queen of Angels , humble Virgin, liberate us from evil. Hail Mary...
And those Exorcist Priests...
St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host protect those Priests called to this ministry. Hail Mary...
And those lay people who assist them in discernment and prayer...
Rushing Wind, Holy Spirit of God fill them to overflowing that there be no room for anything but you. Hail Mary...
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic Speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization at