Beliefnet has an interview with Father Gary Thomas, a Vatican-certified exorcist that is very interesting, though I’m not sure what I think of it. After the jump, I give his “six classic signs of demonic possessions,” as well as what he says about how to protect yourself from demons.
Two of the signs are “aversion to the sacred” and “the rolling of the eyes.” I knew it! Teenagers who don’t want to go to church and give you that eye-rolling look are possessed by the devil!
But, really, being in thrall to Satan is surely less dramatic than what is described here, a matter of being in bondage to sin and unbelief. Just as protecting yourself from Satan is also undramatic–go to church, pray, have faith in Christ, etc.–which Father Thomas says, though in terms of Roman Catholic theology.
And yet, I’m not denying that these extreme cases exist. What do you think? What is the distinctly Roman Catholic theology in what Father Thomas says?
“What are some signs of demonic passion or infestation?”
“The six classic signs of demonic possession are the following.
An aversion to the sacred is the biggest sign. Now, in the Catholic tradition be we have sacraments, and those can cause intense reactions. There would be an aversion to receiving the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, or it would be an aversion to walking into a church of any kind, for that matter, not just a Catholic church. It could be an aversion to holy water, crucifixes, symbols, etc. It could be an aversion to even being near a minister, whether it be a priest or someone else. It somehow causes a reaction, like there’s fear for no apparent reason, or illness or upset stomach for no apparent reason, just out of the blue all of a sudden. The person could be foaming at the mouth and coughing in an abnormal way—they’re coughing sputum—that’s what foaming at the mouth looks like. It’s not shaving cream foam. It’s the casting out of a spirit—that’s what’s causing the foaming at the mouth. This can also be a reaction to the power of prayer, as well.
Another would be speaking in a language you have no competence in.
The rolling of the eyes can be another sign—usually a reaction to the sacred.There can also be an inordinate display of extreme strength and violence, picking up large objects which they normally wouldn’t be able to do.
The demon can speak through the vessel in the voice of the person, saying things that no one might know, using this information to undermine others. Including the priest.
There can be a reaction of the limbs and face—huge physical contortions of the arms, the legs, and the face.”
“Can we defend ourselves against demonic attack?”
Fr. Thomas described four means of protection, four things that Christians should immerse themselves in.
“A faith life, a prayer life, a moral life, and, for Catholics, a sacramental life.
A prayer life would be the rhythm we establish in the way we commune with God. It could be prayers that are formal, based on the authority of a church, or it could be spontaneous or informal prayer that we simply utter when we commune with God. Prayer is communing with God. Prayer is our conversation with God. It can also be quietly waiting for a response from God.
While faith life is about our relationship with God, the prayer life is about taking that relationship to a deeper level. It’s one thing to believe in the existence of God, but do you have a personal relationship with God? Now, people can come to all kinds of different designs of a personal relationship with God, but it’s basically ‘do I know God,’ and ‘do I spend time with God, in or out of a church?’ You can have a relationship with God outside of a church.
For an atheist or nonbeliever, to have a moral life is huge. Are atheists at higher risk? Possibly. But Satan is always looking for people with no relationships or broken relationships, so one can be a Catholic and be baptized, and still have a demonic problem because of doors that have been opened, or that have been opened for them. Evangelicals and fundamentalists, at least some, would say that baptism guarantees a kind of eternal protection. Well, in my experience, that’s not true.
Baptism does give us a kind of protection, but that doesn’t mean that God does not also permit our free will. Most of the people I see are Catholics—not all, but most—who’ve had all kinds of demonic issues because of bad decisions they’ve made, or sometimes decisions they didn’t have anything to do with that have been made for them.”
[Keep reading. . .]