INTERVIEW – Born in Sligo, Ireland, Fr. Michael McDonagh has dedicated himself to serve the Holy Land and its people since his arrival to Jerusalem in 1999. For the last two years, Fr. McDonagh has been serving in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for five years as Ad Nutum of the Secretariat before he was appointed one year ago as Exorcist for Palestine and Israel by Archbishop Pizzaballa. Fr. McDonagh, on a regular basis, visits and blesses people who are victimized by demons and curses, frequently traveling hours to reach them. He uses the Church’s Rite of Exorcism, Holy Water and Blessed Salt and recites prayers that bring healing and liberation to them.
To talk more about his ministry as an exorcist, The Media Office interviewed Fr. McDonagh to speak about demonic activity and interference in people’s lives, in order for the faithful to lead a full Christian life, away from what one hears or encounters in one’s surroundings. This article should be read with an open mind and heart, believing in the power of Jesus Christ, that He is Our Father and Savior.
When we speak of something as diabolical, we mean that which concerns or characterizes the devil; the satanic. Diabolical influence is appropriate to a devil/demon, especially in the degree of wickedness or cruelty. It is a power affecting a person, place, thing, or event. The Church teaches that there are two categories of demonic activity; ordinary and extraordinary diabolical activity. Ordinary diabolical activity generally pertains to temptation and is a lifelong battle. The temptation is deadly serious when it leads to mortal sin and as such it should not be treated lightly. Every person can be a victim of ordinary diabolical activity. Yet, Jesus accepted to undergo the trial of temptation. The temptation to lie in order to protect one’s reputation is a common ordinary temptation.
The great majority of instances of extraordinary diabolical activity first began as an ordinary diabolical activity. Extraordinary diabolical activity receives its title not merely because it is sensational (it often is) but more accurately because it is “out of the ordinary”. Extraordinary diabolical activity is far less common than ordinary diabolical activity and thanks be to God for that fact! In the extraordinary diabolical activity, Satan can take full possession of a person’s body though not the soul. Satan speaks and acts without the knowledge or consent of the victim, who is therefore morally blameless.
Many times, people have asked, why are there demons roaming the world “seeking someone to devour”, causing havoc. If the condemned are consigned to Hell for all eternity, why is Satan allowed to wander about outside of Hell? The common understanding is that he is suffering in Hell along with his minions and the other condemned. On the contrary, it doesn’t seem that he is suffering at all, but rather seems to be “having a good time” wreaking havoc on the earth. It would be too easy to say that demons and Satan do not suffer at all. Like us, they experience both victories and defeats; there are results that ‘thrill’ them and those that disappoint and anger them. Of course, they suffer in a way we do not understand. They dwell in a state of hatred and rage.
Some texts of Sacred Scripture speak of demons as “bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 1:6); “putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). Other texts speak of demons “as being cast down to the earth”: “But the dragon was not strong enough, and no longer was any place found in heaven for him and his angels… He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev 12:8-9).
According to the Church, the best protection against the devil and demons is: Prayer; the sacraments (Confession and the Eucharist) – nothing destroys demonic influence more powerfully than the worthy reception of the Body of Christ; Good works; Living a spiritual life.
People performing any work or facing a specific danger relating to the demonic field can use the invocation of St. Michael the Archangel, which is highly effective. You can also ask your guardian angel or ask God directly for protection.
Protecting one’s house should be a priority. First, you should have the home thoroughly blessed, and the homeowner or renter should be diligent in sprinkling blessed Holy Water (made so by the prayer of exorcism and blessing of salt and water, taken from the old Roman Ritual, or water blessed on the Feast of the Epiphany), also have blessed crucifixes, statues of the Blessed Mother, etc.
The Sacrament of Penance is especially powerful in repelling demons precisely because, through it, recipients of the sacrament are actually forgiven their sins. Additionally, recipients receive sanctifying grace that can be helpful for avoiding sin in the future. A person who receives the sacrament frequently is going to be better fortified against demonic attacks. Those who do not use the sacrament or use it sparingly and half-heartedly are going to be more susceptible to demonic activity.
Participating in the Sacrament of Penance is also a participation in the battle against evil, in the sense that receiving this sacrament on a regular basis, a person is showing a commitment to live with and for Christ. Such a person is therefore strengthened by Christ Himself, and therefore much more capable of warding off the demonic.
I like this question! Can any Christian cast out demons? The simple answer is YES, but sadly very few are prepared to do so, and so should not attempt to. Obviously, for the official rite of exorcism, it takes a calling from God and a commission from the Bishop to carry it out. Many Christians are not mature enough in the Lord Jesus and in the movement of the Holy Spirit. Few are well-equipped with a knowledge of Scripture. Some Christians may have demons of their own that could interfere. However, in the Catholic Church, the reality of Church-delegated authority, as well as personal spiritual authority, determines who can exorcise demons, as distinct from the prayer of deliverance or liberation. This approach greatly avoids some of the ‘hazards’ that are involved in casting out spirits. Knowing what is demonic and what is not requires discernment. In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a noteworthy account relative to those who, perhaps well-intentioned but ill-qualified, attempt to cast out demons. There were some religious charlatans in Ephesus who pretended to have special, miracle-working powers. Sceva, who is identified as “a Jewish chief priest” (Acts 19:14), had seven sons “who went around driving out evil spirits” (verse 13). Seeing the success that Paul had in exorcising demons, the seven sons of Sceva began using a new formula invoking the name of Jesus. They would say to the demon, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out” (verse 13).
This ploy of Sceva’s seven sons backfired one day. A demon they were trying to cast out refused, saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). The demon then turned on them viciously. The demon-possessed man “jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (verse 16). The seven sons of Sceva were no match for the demonic power they were toying with (see Mark 5:1–4).
Regarding the pursuit of help from a Sheikh or Shaman or Sorcerer is simply this – the ‘seeker’ places his or her self in a kingdom contrary to the kingdom of Christ. St. John the Evangelist says: “Who denies that Jesus is the Christ is the anti-Christ.” Sheiks, Shamans, Sorcerers get their power from the spirit world and are empowered by them with precise knowledge and abilities. The danger is one exposes oneself to the kingdom of darkness in submitting to such persons.
The problem with watching various TV series and films about the supernatural and demonic interference is that regular viewing of these genres has a way of deadening conscience. It takes a lot more to shock our consciences nowadays. As a result, there is increasing desensitization to hard-core evil. A person can expose him or herself to a fascination and curiosity with evil. It robs the human spirit and soul of zeal for the things of God.
Prayers and references
Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings
of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
“Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commander of the powers on high!”
Commanders of God’s armies and ministers of the divine glory,
princes of the bodiless angels and guides of mankind,
ask for what is good for us, and for great mercy,
supreme commanders of the Bodiless Hosts.
sovereign queen of Angels,
you who at the beginning
received from God
the power and the mission to crush the head of Satan,
we beseech you humbly,
send your holy legions so that,
on your orders and by your power,
they will track down demons,
fight them everywhere,
curb their audacity and plunge them into the abyss.
Who can be compared to God?
O good and tender Mother,
you will always be our love and our hope.
O divine Mother,
send the Holy Angels and Archangels to defend me
and to keep the cruel enemy far from me.
Holy Angels and Archangels defend us,
protect us. Amen
The Rite of Exorcism, the Roman Ritual: Rules Procedures & Prayers by Michael Freze
Deliverance Prayers for Use by the Laity, Fr. Chad A. Ripperger
They Shall Expel Demons: What you Need to Know about Demons – Your invisible Enemies, by Derek Prince.
An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and his Army of Fallen Angels, by Fr Gabriele Amorth
The Miracle Ship: Conversations with John Gillespie, by Brian O’Hare