Just in time for Halloween, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced the publication of “Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness,” drawn from the Church’s manual on exorcism.
Although the full book on the rite of exorcism is not sold directly to the public, but offered only to bishops, these prayers of deliverance from evil have been selected for use for all the faithful from the appendix of the first official English-language translation of the exorcism ritual.
The new collection “will assist the Christian faithful in their struggle against the infernal enemy,” the website declares. “It is a powerful treasury of prayers of praise and supplication to Almighty God and prayers invoking the intercession of the saints.”
Each of the texts in the new prayer book “affirms the reality of evil in the world,” the bishops state, but above all, “affirms the sovereignty of Jesus to overcome any and all evil on a personal level and in the world.”
It seems no coincidence that the new book of prayers for protection from the devil should be released just days before Halloween. Although the origins of Halloween are Christian, celebrated as the vigil for the feast of All Saints since the early eighth century, in recent years it has taken on more sinister undertones.
In his 1969 Satanic Bible, Satanist Anton Szandor LaVey wrote that “after one’s own birthday, the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht and Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve).” Wiccan high priestess Doreen Valiente, author of The Witches’ Rune, has declared that Halloween “is one of the four Great Sabbats of the witches that everyone has heard about. To witches, Halloween is a serious occasion, however merrily celebrated.”
Christianity has always taken the existence of Satan, or the devil, very seriously.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the devil is a “fallen angel” also known as Satan, who turned against God. “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.’”
Pope Francis has made numerous references to Satan during his pontificate, insisting that he is a real person and not a myth or the mere personification of evil, and therefore he must be fought. The devil wages a “dirty war” against Christians, Francis said, because he hates us and “seeks to destroy us.”
The Vatican itself offers a yearly course on exorcism—or casting out demons—to teach priests and laypeople how to recognize and fight demonic possession.
The course aims at giving priests, doctors, psychologists, teachers, and pastoral workers essential tools on the subject of exorcism, learning how to handle cases of demonic possession and distinguish them from disturbances of a psychological or medical nature.
The new English edition of the ritual on exorcism is meant as an aid for those directly engaged in spiritual combat with the devil who feel more comfortable using the English language than the traditional Latin.
If anyone other than a bishop needs the entire exorcism text—such as exorcists, clergy, scholars and seminary professors—they will need to obtain a copy through their bishop, states a press release by the USCCB.
Under the Church’s canon law, only priests who receive permission from their bishops can perform an exorcism, after they are trained for this mission. Bishops automatically have the right to perform an exorcism and can share that authority with other priests.
But all are encouraged to pray to God for strength to resist the wiles of the devil, who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
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