("The Return of the Prodigal Son," Bernardino Licinio, 1535)
More than a few people, including priests and religious, suffer from demonic mental obsessions. Satan mercilessly pummels their minds, often with their past sins.
The Evil One thrusts into their minds, again and again, images and thoughts of their past sins and failings, confessed or not.
What makes these recognizable as demonic, and not just a psychological obsessiveness, is the ferocity, often rapid onset, and unrelenting torment. It is as if there was a pack of demons mercilessly pounding on the person's head. In fact, this is exactly what is happening. So, in the midst of an exorcism, I will lay my hands on the person's head and command the demons to leave.
Such a mental pounding is designed to wear people down, fill them with fear/anxiety, and lead them to despair. These mental thoughts are not from the Lord; it is not a true exercise in repentance. In the grace of true repentance, the individual recognizes his/her past sins and feels a graced compunction, sometimes with tears. This leads to a sense of reconciliation with God and inner peace.
In our last online deliverance session*, several individuals reported such a graced experience of peace. One person wrote: "I felt contrition for my sins by crying." Another shared: "I just started crying and couldn't stop. During and afterwards I felt a sense of peace that hasn't left me, and all those little irritations that would easily cause my impatience or anger to flare up now just melt away." God gives inner peace; Satan foments torment and despair.
Priests are special targets for Satan. It is sad to see how many, usually unaware of the demonic source, suffer these mental torments. Since these men tend to rely heavily on their intellects, the Evil One attacks their minds, attempting to cripple them and their ministries.
Given their extensive theological training, one would expect priests to be aware of God's infinite mercy. Indeed, they do realize in their heads that God is all-forgiving, but they don't feel it. As one priest said, "It feels like God's mercy is for everyone else but me." Another priest said, "I intellectually know that God forgives me, but I feel completely overwhelmed and tormented by my past sins."
Oftentimes, in those who suffer demonic obsessions, there may be an opening to the demonic such as a specific sin or a deep inner wound. Satan attempts to exploit such a weakness. For example, someone with a past habit of pornography, even after having confessed and overcome this sinful habit, may be pummeled with intense, unrelenting sexual thoughts.
The antidote begins with an inner healing of these wounds, deliverance prayers to release one from the demonic, and fostering a deep trust in Jesus. At one point in the midst of such a session, I say to them: "Relax, breathe, and repeat after me, 'Jesus I trust in you. Jesus I trust in you.'"
*The next online deliverance session is Tuesday, April 26th at 7-8pm Eastern USA time. Register now at: www.catholicexorcism.org