Demonic possession is intriguing and I would argue starts subtly. Something sounds like a good idea and over time this something grows to displace my common sense, morality, relationships, career, etc. to the point I no longer care about any of these things.
My mind, body and spirit are overtaken by the demon and I have become powerless over it.
Last week, I suggested that prayer will banish my demons. But what should I do when its my loved one who is possessed by one or more demons? Here’s an example from today’s Gospel reading. Jesus has just stepped off a boat in the land of Gerasenes when:
a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
“Unclean spirit” is the biblical term for what modern medicine would call mental illness. Although the Church holds (through scripture) that there are cases of actual demonic possession, it urges that it should not be misdiagnosed as a mental illness. In other words, people in biblical times that were described as possessed were likely suffering from one or more mental illnesses.
The National Institute of Mental Health “found that an astonishing 46 percent (of Americans) met criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association for having had at least one mental illness” at some time in their lives.
Rather than argue about the ever-expanding of the APA definition of mental illness (300% increase in the number of described mental illnesses over the past 50 years), I would like to echo the assertion by Dr. Carl Hammerschlag in his incredible book called Theft of the Spirit. Based on of 35 years of healing experience, he believes that spiritual illness manifests itself in mental illness. He learned that to eliminate mental illness requires healing of the spirit.
So, it could be that the APA slowly hones in on diagnosing the varied manifestations of spiritual suffering. Certainly the description of the Gerasene Demoniac sounds like someone in a bad way, spiritually. Jesus responds to this man’s suffering:
”Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
Since we do not have the power of Jesus to drive out unclean spirits, what can we do to drive out unclean spirits from our loved ones?
When a loved one’s spirit is damaged, it may be difficult to have patience and compassion. It may be hard to see the world through the eyes of the loved one. It may be easier to blame them, rather than love them. It may be easier to chastise the spiritually-damaged person, urging them to ‘shape up or ship out’. It may be too hard to support them and encourage them to identify resources that will lead to spiritual healing.
Is it possible that through prayers of healing, that the loved one will heal? More importantly, is it possible that through prayers of healing, the caregiver(s) will change their hearts? Is it possible to accept or change the circumstances that led to the spiritual illness? Is it possible that spiritual damage happens all of the time and we do not even notice it?
If your loved ones suffer from a spiritual disease, perhaps consider asking for the intercession of Saint Dymphna – the patron saint of mental illness.
You might also like these related posts from cinhosa:
Today we remember Saint Hyacintha of Mariscotti
“My Name is Legion” The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac (litpress.org)
- “Tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)