In our first session, we try to determine if the person is possessed or just oppressed or nothing spiritual. It is primarily a discernment. Part of the discernment is to pray over the person and see if there is a reaction to the prayers.
The demons can’t stand the prayers of the Church and eventually react violently if they are present. The best analogy I can think of: imagine pouring boiling, flammable oil over the demons and then lighting it. That’s how God’s grace and holy objects feel to them- they scream in agony. Since they are not mortal, they can’t die. But they are very strong and so they sit there and scream while they are being burnt alive, and still not leave immediately.
In a recent discernment, we prayed over a young woman who we thought might be possessed. As we began to pray, she thrashed and screamed. She reacted violently to holy water and a crucifix, as well as Benedictine medallions. The pure hatred in her eyes and especially hatred of us priests is very diagnostic. This is one strong sign of a demonic presence and one that human beings cannot imitate — the pure hatred and rage in their eyes. It is unnerving.
The client was psychologically normal with no real signs of psychological deficits. Her father engaged in some occult behavior when she was young and appeared to have involved her in some way, although he was sheepish about it and reticent to admit such things to their pastor.
Sadly, she is possessed. But her possession is somewhat “weaker.” The demons moved from arrogance and defiance in the beginning of the session to whining and crying fairly quickly. Moreover, they were obedient and when I commanded them to do something, they responded. Also, at the end of the session, I asked her what she remembered and she said, “everything.” So, this is a weaker possession.
When the possession is strong, the client goes “out” quickly, often during the initial Litany of the Saints. The eyes roll back and the person goes “out” of consciousness. Then the demons are arrogant, diss the priests, and don’t do anything I tell them. They tend not to show any strong reaction to the sacramentals or prayers, at least in the beginning sessions.
But in a weaker possession, as in this case, the demons start to whine and cry fairly quickly. The person remains aware of what happens during the session, although their consciousness is still in the background. It is the demons’ personality which is in the forefront when they manifest in the session. And the demons are obedient and forced to do what I ask, such as kissing the cross and keeping their arms down and not hitting others. Plus, they react strongly to blessed holy objects.
So, this possession is weaker, perhaps because she herself did not do anything wrong to warrant possession. It was likely something her father did. Moreover, she has been living a good Christian life and engaging in a strong sacramental life. This means the demons grip will be lighter and take less time to eject.
As we have continued to pray over her, she is making wonderful progress. She is quickly getting her life back. This is a joy to see. This ministry has been very encouraging and rewarding for me.
Image: Carl Bloch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons