The Tempter’s Party Tricks
Published on March 3-4, 2012 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
The blind man walks on the boiling waters of the swimming pool as he taunts the praying priest. At that very moment, a nun and a doctor are on their knees in prayer at the abortion clinic after two pregnant women on hospital beds began manifesting signs of a disturbance that can only be described as demonic. The enemy has revealed his power and he is not skimping on the panic-inducing pyrotechnics. The three people of faith are visibly distressed, given that the only weapons at their disposal are a string of Hail Marys, a priest’s stole, and a crucifix.
This frightening scene from the fourth episode of the 2008 BBC series Apparitions gives us a glimpse of the otherworldly warfare between good and evil. It also accurately depicts how people of faith are often overwhelmed by the assaults of the enemy. They are struck suddenly by a sensory overload, by sights, smells, and sounds that are nowhere near normal. But, these things, however disturbing, are merely the devil’s devices to distract the faithful from turning to the power of prayer. As Fr. Vincent Lampert, the exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, puts it, they are the devil’s “party tricks.”
It is quite obvious that the evil one is a show-off. Whenever he manifests himself—in a house that is haunted or in a person who is possessed—it is always over the top. Yet, his tricks are reminiscent of the tantrums of a spoiled brat begging for attention: there is a big spectacle but there is not much there that needs to be taken seriously.
The scene from Apparitions described above was certainly scary, even spectacular; but, in the end, it was still just the devil making a scene. It took only three people of faith reciting common prayers to dial down his despicable display. Once the exorcist Fr. Jacob invoked the intercession of Saint Gianna, the patron of the unborn, the demon’s doom was sealed. The fiend failed to terrorize those who put their trust in God; his pyrotechnics sputtered and died in the face of the fervent and persistent prayer of the faithful.
Unfortunately, some viewers are captivated more by the devil’s outrageous demonstration than they are by the quiet power of prayer. They forget that, although the devil goes to great lengths to shock people, it does not take much to take him down. An exorcist need not carry an extra bag of tricks and we Christians need not chant any strange devotions. We ought only to invoke the Lord’s name, the same Lord who saw no need to outperform the spectacle of the unclean spirits. All that He did was tell them to shut up and go away (cf. Mk. 1:34). And that was enough.
The devil surely is out there, still attempting to assert his dominion. That, perhaps, is the saddest part about his fate: he still is trying to prove something even when he knows that without God he has nothing.