As I talked about in Vulnerability with the Lord, we all have wounds. Some can have more intense wounds than others. But at the end of the day we are all wounded by the presence of sin within the world. Demons use these wounds that are caused either by our own sins or sins committed against us as a means to try to gain a foothold within our lives. However a demon may end up being able to afflict us and how extensively is ultimately determined by God. As many exorcists will echo "demons are on a short leash". On certain accounts of possession cases while in the process of demonic expulsion exorcists have recounted that demons have shared that Christ had limited them (the demon) only to a specific part of the person's body, and that the demon cannot go beyond what the Lord had willed for their attacks on this person. Even as His enemies the fallen angels are still slaves to the parameters set by the Divine Will.
This is why spiritual warfare, if undergone properly, can lead us further towards our sanctification. The overcoming of the battles is the richest soil for virtue. This is why we must not give in to the temptations of despair while we are being engaged by the enemy.
Demons are like a besieging army outside of the walls. They taunt from the ramparts and they surround you looking for a suitable part of your battlements to assail. They test your fortifications. If they find a weaker area of your walls they will focus their siege on that weak point, namely your vices. This is why perseverance in prayer and frequenting the sacraments available to us is crucial. We must keep the walls manned and the arrows sharp.
Not every attack of the enemy is due to a fault of the person afflicted. So spiritual warfare isn’t something that should be a cause for scrupulosity while on the defense. And on the flip side should not be a cause for despair in the sense that if an attack should come on and we have confidence that we have defended ourselves in an orderly and orthodox way (avoiding superstitions) we don’t still accuse ourselves as the reason for the attacks. Of course we should still be prudent with protection of ourselves and our families through use of sacraments and sacramentals, blessings within the bounds of our authority, binding and deliverance prayers, and staying consistent in the spiritual life and avoiding doorways for evil to enter. However, the point I wish to make is that any activity that demons engage in is always limited by the permissive will of God and if they are interacting with you God has a deliverance plan in place with your betterment as the focal point. Hopefully this is a fact that can grant you confidence in your battles, insofar that you can be aware that the trials and tribulations are truly under the ultimate authority of Divine parameters, and again, can lead us down the road of acquiring virtue and furthering our sanctification.
I came to see the true fruitfulness of these realities within my own healing journey. For clarification I am not fully healed of all wounds. No one receives full healing this side of eternity. However, the Lord has brought me along the healing journey a few steps in the past year.
In the last article in this series I spoke about the initial attacks that my household underwent during the conversion process back to the Church and how it ultimately increased our longing for Catholicism. The attacks abruptly ended once my wife and I had our marriage validated and elevated in the sacrament of marriage within the Church since we were fallen away for 5 years. The household was brought back to order, our son was baptized, and the graces of the sacraments seeped into our lives. We indeed were within a honeymoon phase within the Church. However, just as no past goes unrevealed when entering into a marriage (for all wounds stemming from the past come into the light in some shape or form within the sacramental union of marriage) so can the past not remain hidden when trying to progress through the spiritual life.
Within the past year and a half wounds and traumas have come to the forefront of our lives. In one regard agents of the Enemy will use whatever they can in order to derail us, but on the flip side of that same coin when becoming intimate with the Lord all wounds end up becoming exposed for the sake of our own healing in Him.
As a defense our minds will disassociate and distance itself from the wound or trauma and we will in some ways hide our wounds so to not be vulnerable. It’s a self defense mechanism. However, these wounds, though ”hidden”, still affect our sub-conscious reactions to the world and others around us when left unattended and unhealed. The Lord, by His mercy, asks of us our whole hearts so to heal us. And as we have covered before, the enemies of our souls can be a permitted tool for that healing.
For 8 months I was suffering from demonic obsession over a particular trauma which had surfaced in which I was deeply affected by the trespass of another person. It was a gradual encroachment on my being but at the height of it it led to emotional and mental exhaustion along with the return of dark temptations towards despair and suicide.
Exorcist Fr. Francesco Barmonte explains demonic obsession as such:
Demonic obsessions are cases of the devil’s aggression in which, although he does not block the intellectual faculty and the free will of the person during a crisis, he is able to communicate obsessive thoughts or images that are at times rationally absurd to the victim’s mind (i.e. the imagination and the memory) but which they are not able to ward off. In these cases the person feels tormented by a fixed idea or an image that seems to really be his own. The obsessions can be of different forms and of different graces and intensities and reach a point at which they completely dominate a person’s mind.
During this time I would only feel peace for a short while after receiving the Eucharist or Reconciliation, or during extensive periods of time of prayer/meditation. The rest of the time it was almost quite impossible to keep custody of my mind. I was overly triggered and could in an instant sink into a depressed mood. I could not maintain peace.
From the time the trauma became known to me I had prayed almost every day for the person whose trespasses had hurt me so deeply. By direction of the priest who was helping me I would offer up penance and pray the divine mercy chaplet for them. It was so bad for me that when I would express my intentions for the prayers or the penance to Our Lord I would be as vague as possible in who I was offering it for. I was so easily triggered and would so easily “lose control“ that a simple mention of the name of this person would cause me deep distress and anxiety and so I shied away from mentioning them specifically, even in the safety of prayer.
This tumultuous time had ravaging effects on my marriage and on my friendships. I became very anti-social and sought to isolate pretty frequently, and I entertained bitterness.
By the grace of God I kept consistent in my spiritual life by random spurts of hope. There came a time, however, where I no longer felt consolations through pious interactions with the Lord. It was as I assume a mini Dark Night of the Soul might be like. Not the actual Dark Night, but a minuscule taste of its essence. This torment went on for months and months. Constantly praying for healing. Barely able to keep composed. Barely sleeping. Barely able to make it a day without becoming triggered and losing control of my mind and going through a rollercoaster of plaguing thoughts which left me exhausted and drained. It felt as if I could never breathe.
Despite my absolute loneliness that I felt internally I kept seeking out the sacraments and prayer and asking for comfort from Our Lord and Our Lady all by the grace of God. On my own merits I could never have persevered like that. Upon refection I was dragged through it by the Holy Family.
A week leading up to the end of this period of my life I cultivated despair on three occasions; sinking into an abyss of negative emotions. But I kept feeling the call to penance, prayer, and Reconciliation.
The night before I was delivered was the third and final time I felt a deep and sorrowful sadness and feelings of loneliness and rejection. I barely slept that night and woke up that Wednesday absolutely exhausted.
A few days prior my wife had brought it to my attention that our parish Our Lady of Perpetual Help would be hosting the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the week. I at first was quite disinterested and brushed it off. I felt no compulsion towards interest in its arrival or visit to our diocese.
However, during the night that I had my last fall into sorrow I prayed for peace. The next morning, out of desperation, I felt a deep and sudden compulsion to start researching the Pilgrim Statue.
What I learned filled me with extreme hope (read more on it here). All the miracles associated with it seemed plentiful and I all of a sudden felt an overwhelming longing to spend time before Our Lady that evening, so I took off of work so to not have any schedule complications.
I prayed prayers of protection against retaliation for I feared things would pop up which would keep me from this evening of prayer before the Pilgrim Statue. The day went blissfully well and nothing affected my going. I drove to OLPH praying out of hope and desperation the whole way. I went in and made my way to the confession line because I wanted to be as clean as possible before approaching Our Mother. It ended up being one of the most healing experiences in a confessional that I have ever had. It left me vulnerable, but in a good way. I felt spiritually and emotionally open. I came out of confession and beheld the statue. I noticed that no one was kneeling before her, so I went and took my place.
Right as I knelt and began to notice the detail in her I became captivated. I was transfixed on her beauty. I couldn't help but be brought to tears through the vulnerability that I had from Reconciliation. I felt naked and without a fig leaf while before her, but in a good way. I took out my rosary and began to pray to Our Mother. I don't think I have ever prayed a rosary so slowly. I spent two straight hours kneeling there and staring at her and praying ever so tenderly. I couldn't look away. I was so fixated on her beauty that the words came out at their own pace. I wanted to be nowhere else in the world.
In that time before her I experienced a miracle that has been reported an innumerable amount of times while within the presence of her. I saw her expression change into a glowing smile, and her complexion became radiant and rosy, and her eyes expressed warm motherly love. I at first didn't believe my own eyes, but in earnest asked for her to repeat this expression so that I knew that I could trust my senses. She did it again, and I was astonished. I felt an impeccable joy and peace rush over me.
I experienced a miraculous deliverance that night. The obsession which had been plaguing my whole being for eight months was lifted. I actually felt the heavy weight come off of my body during prayer. My body felt as if it was being held up as I continued to stare. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy, the likes of which I couldn't remember ever feeling. I felt immense comfort and tranquility. And what made the healing abundantly clear was that I could pray for the man who caused me this trauma by name. I could reflect on him without pain. I could smile as I prayed for his salvation. I could offer up my intentions for him at the mass that evening. And I couldn't stop smiling.
This experience with Our Mother led me into an intimate love for her. Before this night I saw the rosary as only a devotion among many within the traditions of the Church. But that night I made it my own. I felt dedicated to her and closer to her than I ever have before. I always knew she was the Mother, but now she was my Mother.
In the end, the mission of the enemy failed. Whereas they tried to lead me to despair and drive me almost insane with barrages of cruel thoughts, the desperation that I felt through their attacks brought me to Our Mother and into a deep love of the rosary. I was gifted feelings of joy and peace after months of sorrow and turmoil. Whereas they wanted me to feel bitterness at my sufferings, I was led by Our Mother to come to be thankful for what I went through in that path towards learning of forgiveness, love, mercy, and hope.
The last major sign of this healing came in the form of a dream. In this dream I drove to see this particular man. When I arrived he had no expression of surprise from seeing me. I approached him with no anxiety or worries and I remember saying to him in the dream "I have no weapons and I have no anger" and I opened my arms and gave him a hug and said "God loves you" and he wept as I held him. Though it was only a dream, I felt the effects of the mental interaction within my imagination.
The demons did what they could, but Our Lord and Our Lady outdid them. Their attacks led me deeper into my faith, into the arms of the Virgin who crushes their heads with her heel, and into forgiveness of the man they wanted me to hate. The demons, in the end, help solidify my faith. To God all the glory.