An American exorcist has said the film The Exorcist led people to believe wrongly that the devil could “come and zap them” when in fact the devil is afraid of the power of Jesus inside them.
Mgr John Esseff, retired exorcist of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, told an audience of 400 students at Bowling Green State University, Ohio that the power of Jesus within them was “enormous”.
He said: “The devil is afraid of you - if you would just awaken to who you are.”
In describing one of his exorcisms, he said: “As she came in, she saw me and she shrieked - and the language and the growls - and then she slithered across the floor and was going up the wall. Well, there was obviously a force here, a presence. And I just simply silenced her in the name of Jesus.”
Mgr Esseff said that each baptised person was united to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. He read passages from the Gospels in which Jesus exorcised demons and then sent his disciples to do the same.
He said that Jesus ultimately defeated Satan through his death and Resurrection and then sent the power of the Holy Spirit to his Apostles at Pentecost.
“When God looks down, he sees Jesus in you,” Mgr Esseff said. “You have that power as baptised, confirmed Christians. And so when he [Satan] sees you, he hates what you would discover about that power that is within you.”
He suggested that each audience member had been tempted that day because temptation was the ordinary activity of the devil.
“Your soul is a battlefield because there is also someone who hates you,” he said. “That one is the devil. The devil knows who you are and what you have. God passed him by. God did not choose to become one of the angels. God chose to be one like us.”
But just as each person was tempted, Mgr Esseff said, another spirit also was at work.
“In your life today, this very day, has been the Holy Spirit,” he said. “God is in you. God the Holy Spirit is operative in you. God the Holy Spirit wants to bring into your heart love. God wants to bring you peace.”
Mgr Esseff also told students of the power of angels and encouraged them to renew their devotions to their guardian angels.
“His [the angel’s] job is to protect you all through this world. And when you close your eyes, he wants to deliver you to God,” Mgr Esseff said.
Earlier in the evening Mgr Esseff invited students to invoke angels to fill the area and make a perimeter around the talk for protection.
The event was hosted by St Thomas More University parish and Veritas, the Catholic student organisation at Bowling Green State University.
JonMarc Grodi, president of Veritas, said: “One of the ways I sold it [the event] on campus was that, regardless of what people believe about good and evil, the devil, etc, this is a guy that has been around the world and experienced some of the lightest and darkest moments of the human experience, and so his is a perspective that everyone should hear out.”
In addition to serving as the official exorcist of the Scranton diocese Mgr Esseff has travelled extensively around the world, working in Latin America and Lebanon and accompanying Blessed Mother Teresa for a period of time.
It was Mother Teresa, he said, who directed him to his current work, which focuses on the formation of priests.
After the talk Megan Dowell-Howko, a first-year student, said she now had a better understanding of how she experienced temptation, and that she would remember she could say no to the devil.
She said: “I guess I’m taking away a renewed confidence that the devil only has as much power over me as I give to him,” she said.
Before the event Mgr Esseff said he saw three indications of Satan’s presence in the world: money, lies and war.
“I think one of the greatest things he has done is have people forget he exists. People deny he exists,” he said
Be not afraid of the devil
Because he is more afraid of you
But don’t be cocky in battle
Lest the devil overcome you
Have always the Name of Jesus on your mind
And on your lips and on your heart
For at the utterance of the Holy Name
Satan must bow in submission and adoration
to He who defeated evil on the Cross