The following events are true. The names have been changed for confidentiality’s sake.
Well, I couldn’t deny it anymore. There was an actual evil presence attached to me.
I was also indignant: how did I end up with demons? Some guys get poison oak; some guys get crabs. Not me, though. Nope. I got demons.
The answer lay in that list of all my occult-related activities, fastidiously compiled by Father Cornelius and me. It was still just a single piece of paper, but now it was completely covered back and front with Father C.’s rather unattractive scrawl. Ominous phrases twisted around the margins and coiled in the corners.
I was exhausted, in a way that was different than normal fatigue; a spiritual exhaustion. I had trudged a long, painful way in revealing to Father C. all the junk that made up the items on that list. I saved the worst for last…in fact, I honestly didn’t remember the worst until later in the interview process.
I won’t curl your hair with the details, but I do want to stress one thing, in particular: none of the activities were conscious, purposeful appeals to evil spirits. And guess what? They don’t have to be! Boing! “I was just playing around” didn’t get me off the hook. Evil actions produce evil consequences regardless of how I feel about it. Isn’t it insidious how relativism has sunk into our modern brains so deeply that we don’t even realize it? I just unconsciously figured that evil actions were only evil if I assigned an evil value to them. As long as I didn’t don a black hooded robe and pin a dead housepet to a pentagram at the stroke of midnight then everything else was pretty much up for grabs.
For instance: why not acquiesce to my hip, pseudo intellectual girlfriend’s pagan ritual dabblings involving human blood? I’m so into new experiences, and there’s just heaps of exotic, viscerally appealing elements to a pagan blood ritual. Consequences? Shmonsequences! After all, I am not really participating—not like that. What am I, some druid who seriously wants to invoke the power of spiritual entities? Hah! And if a guy like me does not accept that there will be those kinds of consequences then there won’t be any, right? Right?
My God, my God, how many idiots like me have tripped through life in this twisted age of ours thinking this way, unwittingly inviting every stinking shade from the bottom-most drawers of Hell to come put their clawed feet up on the couches of their souls and make themselves at home? I had come back to the Church, thank God, but all of those loathsome spirits for which I had thrown open my doors had just as much a legal right to be where they were as they had before my conversion. (And please don’t be put off by my use of the word ‘legal’ here—it is quite applicable. Giving consent to a thing is binding on the spiritual plane as well as the terrestrial plane.) My actions had spiritual consequences, and those consequences were not just going to politely leave. They had to be dealt with.
It explained so much. My wife was well acquainted with the demonic attacks I had been enduring for as long as she had known me. Sleepless nights; waking up swiping at shadowy spiders and bats, seeing dark figures in the room with me; uncontrollable rages.
It should have been an immense relief knowing the cause of all of this weirdness—and there was some. But there was also a huge weight of demoralization. It felt as if everything I’ve been trying to do with my life for the past decade—getting back on track, going to Mass, developing virtue, embracing fatherhood—it all seemed like a big sham now. I was a failure.
Truth to tell, it was peeling back the cover of a psycho-spiritual disease which I had been carrying around a long time, which I shall now dub the Epic Loser Syndrome.
Let me explain. There is a reason that the Devil is sometimes called “the Accuser.” It is kind of like his self-appointed job to stand over you and insistently shout (and, for some reason, I see Satan played by Will Ferrell when I picture this): “Heaven? You want to go to Heaven?!? Who do you think you are? You’re a Sinner! Your sins are HUGE…GIGANTIC…you’re the worst, most unworthy screw-up since Judas! I got news for you, chief: you can hang up your gloves now ‘cuz this fight is OVER…” And so on.
And, without fully realizing it, I had embraced this accusation. I had become convinced a long time before that my sins and I were completely synonymous, and that I was unlovable as a result. I believed that God was indeed the merciful God of the Gospels—I just didn’t really accept that his mercy applied to me. It is as if I was a murderer on death row who was being offered a full pardon by the President, a pardon which I refused to accept. I got my children to Mass, I was raising them to love Jesus and Mary, I faithfully served my wife and my family…I owed them that, you see, and I owed Jesus that, and it was the right, noble thing for a man to do. But inside I would always remain an unworthy heap of excrement, a man-shaped pile of sins.
Thank God for Father Cornelius. He somehow picked up on my self-loathing and he gently chided me for it all.
“You are not your sin,” he said, to which I responded by staring down at the ground.
“Look at me, Dan. You are not your sin. You are a child of God, made in His Image!”
Father kept drilling that into my head: I am, in essence, good. As a baptized Christian I am an adopted Son of God. It is an essential reality which no amount of filth and lousy behavior can change, and therefore a destiny, if I may use that term. It was time for me to stand up and take hold of that destiny. It was mine, after all—God gave it to me, and all of Hell couldn’t take it away. Accepting this fact was the psychological antidote to the Epic Loser Syndrome.
But this wasn’t therapy. As I noted before, the evil spirits had a valid legal spiritual claim on me. I had invited them. The only way to kick them out was to call upon the One Person who had the power to shred all such claims and pay the fees out of His own immeasurable pocket. That meant carrying this dispute into an ancient spiritual coliseum for a Throw Down of major proportions—not major because there was any concern about who, between Jesus and the Devil, was the stronger, but because I was still not sure about me. It was going to get worse before it would get better, after all, plus Father Cornelius could not really be sure how powerful or how deeply embedded my satanic stowaways were until we got into the thick of things. Would I have the guts to see it through?
End Part 2. Join me next time for the final installment of this—what shall we call it? A “Trilopost”—tentatively entitled “A Throw Down Of Major Proportions”!!