Blog Template Theology of the Body: Review: The Dark Sacrament

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Review: The Dark Sacrament

I know, I know. Demonology is strange, dangerous, and can too often become the interested believer's tabloids- frivolous triumphalism, fluff, the stuff of sensationalism. Still...

I purchased this book- The Dark Sacrament: Exorcism in Ireland, 2006- last week in the bookstore at Trinity College, Dublin, because the youngish cashier behind the counter at the Book of Kells Exhibit was reading it- also because one of my favorite new professors is both Irish and a practiced exorcist when he is not attending to simple good works and the daily task of evangelism. I have to admit, I gobbled it up. The authors are believing lay people whose intentions are golden: to inform people about the real dangers of demonic influence and to pass on the Church's teachings on point. They canvass roughly a dozen stories of demonic oppression and the ensuing exorcisms by practiced clergy, all in Ireland, all in the past five years. At the back of the book they include the RC rubrics on formal exorcism and the prayers of St. Patrick, St. Michael, and also a Greek Rite that I have decided to memorize.

What struck me about these accounts was their uniformity: a lapsed Christian-young, old, male or female, married or single- delves just once into a oujia board, a seance, or a horoscope. In one account, all it took, apparently, was one night of blacking out from binge drinking, and in another, the refusal to pray for a departed relative who had died unprepared. A very strong and uncontrollable presence enters the person's life following a definite decision on the part of the person to engage the spiritual realm contrary to the church's teachings, and gradually gains, over time, the total annhilation of the person that it seeks- loss of sleep, disrupted relationships, insanity. Holy objects and holy water are no deterrent. The most effective exorcist is the modest, plain-spoken cleric or religious who fasts a lot, and who deals with the spirital invader with an on-site Mass or prayer service in the most matter of fact way. And in every case, the prayer of St. Michael really worked.

I dont know whether I actually recommend this book. Certainly it does not (nor was it intended) to offer anything more substantive in the Christian life than serious, symptomatic warnings, dressed up and narrated in a rather glossy way. But the whole thing is sobering. Apparently we Christians cannot be too careful.

Saint Michael, Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And you, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and the other evil spirits who prowl the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.