“Le Grand Saint Michel” or “Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan” was painted in 1518 by famed Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520). (Public Domain/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

First in a Series

We walk surrounded by angels. We are not alone, as we journey through life; these spirits, created by God, surround us at all times, even though we cannot see them because they are pure spirits without a body.

Yes, we walk surrounded by angels: but some of them are fallen. Our Guardian Angels are sent by God to light and protect us on our way; but others are sent by Satan to tempt and test us, trying to lead us astray. That means that our life on earth is one of constant spiritual warfare. Saint Peter exhorts us (1 Pt 5:8-9), “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.”

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese’s 1.1 million Catholics.

Know your opponent

Demons are fallen angels that rebelled against God. Refusing to serve their Creator, they hate all His creation, especially human beings like you and me. So, they are constantly intent on deceiving us, leading us away from God and making us their slaves through their temptations and our own sinfulness.

Some mistakenly think that Satan and the fallen angels don’t exist at all; that they are mythical figures created by fearful, non-enlightened minds; but that is not the case. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (391): “Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil.’ The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’

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The Catechism goes on to say: “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning,’ who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from His Father. ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.’ In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God” (394).

You and I are engaged in a spiritual battle, which will continue as long as we live on earth. But we need not be fearful of these demons nor tempted to despair, for the victory over Satan and all evil spirits has already been won on the Cross. In the Crucified and Risen Christ, we have available to us the decisive triumph over the kingdom of darkness. By God’s providential design, however, the Lord respects our human dignity and thus gives us the freedom to make a choice to reject evil and choose what is good. And He assists us through His Body, the Church, and her ministry of exorcism and deliverance.

Exorcism and Deliverance through Baptism

This statue of St. Michael in battle with Satan was sculpted by German sculptor August Vogel (1859-1932) in 1908. It is located outside St. Michael Church in Hamburg. (Public Domain/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Church’s ministry of exorcism begins with the preaching of the word of God and is guided by the Holy Spirit. It takes on special force at the time of preparation for Baptism. During this period, on the day of Reception into the Order of Catechumens, the Church provides the following prayer of exorcism for those preparing to be baptized: “By the breath of your mouth, O Lord, drive away the spirits of evil. Command them to depart, for Your kingdom has come among us.”

Throughout the whole time of the catechumenate, the Church provides other helps for spiritual warfare, such as minor exorcisms in the form of petitions directly addressed to God on behalf of the catechumens. For example, the priest prays orations to God the Father such as the following: “In the name of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask You to remove from these Your servants all unbelief and hesitation in faith, the worship of false gods and magic, witchcraft and dealings with the dead, the love of money and lawless passions, enmity and quarreling, and every manner of evil.”

At the Easter Vigil, just before the catechumens (now called the elect) are to be baptized, they renounce Satan and all his works and false promises. At the same time, all those already baptized renew their baptismal promises in which they also renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin.

There is much more that could be said about the Church’s mission in the Name of Jesus to overthrow Satan and his kingdom of darkness. When we were baptized and exorcised from original sin, the Church became our channel to directly channel the grace of Christ that frees us from evil and eternal death, bringing about the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. In the next issue of The Catholic Sun, we shall look further at this spiritual battle between good and evil.