With Halloween right around the corner, we might ask ourselves if demons and evil spirits are real? The Church gives us an authoritative answer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CC 414) which says, “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.”
If you ever wondered if demons are just an old-fashioned notion that intelligent modern people don’t believe in nowadays, or just a literary convention, you might be interested in reading a couple of somewhat hair-raising books called Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance by Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea and also An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth. These books are very revealing live encounters with demons today by credible sources (i.e. priests who are exorcists) and give a lot of information on how to protect ourselves from evil spirits and what demons can and cannot do.
Since we are in spiritual warfare while here on earth, it makes sense to know more about our spiritual enemies so that we can be better prepared to battle them (without really focusing on them, or being obsessed, or overly-frightened of them or blaming everything on evil spirits.)
For example, did you know that angels and demons cannot read our thoughts unless we direct our attention to them with the idea of communicating with them? Did you know that there are people who are possessed today and what it takes to gain deliverance from evil spirits, curses, etc.? Did you know that there are other forms of demonic oppression besides just possession?
Some dangerous things to avoid include spells, charms, curses, witchcraft, ouija boards, seances and anything having to do with the occult. These kinds of things, some of them innocently done at children’s parties, are not only strictly forbidden by the Catholic faith, but dangerous, in that they open us up to evil spirits, which are real and not just imaginary. Please don’t ever let your children/teens attend parties (especially popular at slumber parties) where there are seances and ouija boards and/or playing with spells and witchcraft. Ask beforehand what will be done at before allowing your children to attend parties. Witchcraft and spells are becoming more popular due to books and movies and somehow we need protect our children from these dangers of without getting them fascinated with them or making them seem interesting to them.
More from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on “Divination and Magic”
2115: God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116: All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117: All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.”
What is the attraction?
Why do people get attracted to using witchcraft and/or the occult practices? The answer is usually that they are seeking some sort of power, control, or some kind of hidden knowledge of the other world or the future… in other words to have some of the power that generally belongs to God. This is a temptation. The serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve and said, “…you will be like gods…” (Genesis 3:5); however, when doing what the devil said she didn’t become like God, but rather lost all God’s blessings. Reality is that we are creatures and whereas God did give us some power, it is limited and we are dependent on God for all we are and have.
Good angels also truly exist like our guardian angels. St. Michael, the Archangel, and the other good angels battle with Satan and the evil spirits. The name “Michael” means “who is like God” (implying that no one is like God in contrary to Satan’s temptation.) Our guardian angel helps protect us from spiritual and natural dangers.
If you are interested in scary movies and ghosts and goblins and want the real story about demons etc. you might be interested to read first hand accounts and conclusions by the two Catholic priests-exorcists mentioned earlier, as sometimes the truth is even stranger and more scary than fiction.
However if we keep ourselves in God’s grace we really have nothing to fear as the devil cannot coerce us to sin. God does limit the power the devil has over us, and we are not allowed to be tempted more than God gives us the grace to resist. The devil can only do what God allows or we allow him to do. Let’s refuse to cooperate voluntarily with the devil and refuse to open ourselves up to evil spirits by occult practices. There really is a hell and evil spirits, and we don’t want to spend eternity there, so let’s not have anything to do with the occult while here on earth.
If we have been involved in something occult-related, we should go to confession, and if necessary, learn more about how to be delivered from any lingering effects through prayers of deliverance. In the rare instance that possession is suspected, exorcism should only be attempted by someone who is authorized by the Church. (Regular people should not attempt something like this on their own.) Wearing blessed medals, scapulars, holy water, and other sacramentals are also helpful when used with faith in God and not as a superstition.
Halloween in our secular culture is associated with witches, ghosts, evil spirits, demons, etc. but is it really the feast of All Saints Day and this is where the name derives (i.e. All Hallows Eve). Whereas it is good to know the devil exists and evil spirits so we can stay away from them, for the most part we should really keep our focus mainly on God and good things like the Bible tells us to do.
Kathryn is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites and runs a web site with a familiar name – Catholic Spiritual Direction