With today’s increase in pagan practices such as astrology, mediums, psychic readings, cleansings, New Age religion, Reiki, magic, angel touch, witchcraft, tarot cards, séances, Ouija boards, ghost hunters, Satanic music or worship, etc., people who have participated in any of these occult practices, including Christians, may feel demonically oppressed.
When combating evil spirits there are three main categories of demonic activity: infestation, oppression, and possession. This article is about demonic oppression and NOT demonic possession which requires a major/solemn exorcism, and can only be performed, after a psychological evaluation, by a priest with the permission of the bishop. The term infestation is typically used when there are noises or hauntings in a home or with an object.
Traditionally and from personal experience, the best way to cast off demonic oppression is simply by living our Catholic faith ie: attending frequent or daily mass, daily rosary, frequent confession, adoration, meditating on the Word of God, the use of sacramentals (holy water, blessed salt, blessed candles, blessed St. Benedict crucifix, blessed incense, etc.), and receiving spiritual advice/direction from the clergy (deacon, priest, bishop) when feeling attacked. Father Gabriel Amorth (Vatican’s Exorcist) and many other exorcists have repeatedly said that the best and most powerful exorcism is a confession, daily prayer and frequent reception of Holy Communion, daily if possible.
Likewise, the U.S. Bishops advised in the new FAQ on exorcism,
“When it is learned through such avenues as pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, or the Sacrament of Penance that a member of the faithful is experiencing assaults by the devil, the prayers and invocations found in Appendix II may be recommended.”
The U.S. Bishops have put together a book of prayers taken from the Appendix II, called Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness. (Order here) This book is “for the private use of the faithful,” (FAQ) taken from the Appendix II (Supplications Which May Be Used by the Faithful Privately in Their Struggle Against the Powers of Darkness) of the new rite of exorcism called De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam (Exorcisms and Related Supplications).
The minor exorcisms or deliverance prayers (the terms are synonymous) found in this book are simply prayers asking God to deliver us from the Evil One as we ask in the Our Father prayer “deliver us from evil” which, itself, is a deliverance prayer, or as the U.S. Bishops state in the FAQ, “The deprecative formulas are exorcistic prayers, addressed to God, which request the liberation of the afflicted person.”
If all the spiritual options mentioned above have been exhausted then oppression, sometimes also referred to as obsession, may be remedied with minor exorcism prayers when a person feels spiritually afflicted, tempted, harassed or tormented, or as the U.S. Bishop have indicated in using the prayers from Appendix II which, “are intended for the general use of the clergy and of the lay faithful in combatting the temptations of sin or spiritual attacks by the devil.”
The U.S. Bishops define “Minor exorcisms are prayers used to break the influence of evil and sin in a person’s life, whether as a catechumen preparing for Baptism or AS ONE OF THE BAPTIZED FAITHFUL STRIVING TO OVERCOME THE INFLUENCE OF EVIL IN HIS OR HER LIFE.” This second part in “capital letters” is important as a person may be attacked without having taken part in any pagan practices as was the case Mother Teresa of Calcutta and many saints who have requested deliverance prayers.
Yes, all of us at baptism received a minor exorcism via a priest or deacon; however, it does not mean that we were possessed by the devil as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarifies, “The celebration of the baptism of infants also retains, whatever may be said of an exorcism. This in no way means that the Church considers these infants as being possessed, but she does believe that they too need all the effects of Christ’s redemption. In fact, before Baptism everyone, child or adult, carries the sign of sin and of the influence of Satan.” (Christian Faith and Demonology)
The U.S. Bishops FAQ explains that “The minister of a minor exorcism is the designated authorized minister of the sacrament (RCIA or Baptism for Children) or blessing being celebrated. Thus, the prayers …may be offered by ANY member of the clergy or BY THE LAY FAITHFUL.” The lay faithful have exorcistic faculties to pray minor exorcism prayers for themselves by virtue of their baptism.
When a deacon or priest prays the minor exorcism prayers for a layperson, the prayers have a greater spiritual efficacy in delivering the afflicted person because of the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and most especially if they offer a blessing. The cleric should teach the person how to fish (live holy lives and pray the minor exorcism prayers for themselves) and not make them spiritually codependent, plus he should act prudently by using an appropriate and discrete place (small chapel, parish office, but not their home) and as much as possible avoid working by yourself as the FAQ recommends.
Finally, the FAQ merges perfectly with the “Letter to Ordinaries Regarding Norms on Exorcisms” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger stating that bishops,“should in no way distance the faithful from praying that, as Jesus taught us, they may be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:13).”