In Spiritual Warfare, First Step Can Be Self-Examination
It only makes sense: that before we can successfully battle evil, before we can deliver relatives or friends, before we can fully engage against the enemy, and declare total victory, we need to deliver ourselves.
It’s when we’re clean inside — interiorly — that we are most protected and able to fight the devil and his myriad of obnoxious spirits.
In a collection of prayers against evil called Deliverance Prayers: For Use By the Laity, a major exorcist, Father Chad Ripperger, thus couples self-examination — highly detailed examinations of conscience — alongside a bevy of deep and unusually powerful prayers.
Did you realize that exorcists consider “unclean spirits” to include ones inspiring us to nosiness, being busybodies, violating secrets, and rumor-spreading (right alongside perverted thoughts)? Do we often stop to think — as Father Ripperger leads us to do — that greed and avarice and hoarding and possessiveness are in the same boat as theft? That pretension, unreality, drama, showmanship, acting, and cunning are the names of entities used by exorcists to cast out “lying spirits”?
It’s a lie to live in a dream world, to be self-focused, to put the material before the spiritual.
The list — in a number of categories (“False religions,” “Abandonment of religious practices,” Physical ailments,” “Spirits against matrimonial sacramental unity,” “Sexual spirits,” “Self,” “Pride,” “Superstition,” etcetera — is exhaustive.
With diligence, an examination of conscience — especially before a holy season, as we are now in — can be a breakthrough for those who otherwise find themselves butting their heads against a spiritual wall. It can be the “advent” of a new birth for us.
When we still harbor darkness spirits can hook into it. (Yet too: make sure to prepare through prayer before using powerful prayers. Fasting can make it all the more powerful, as can Adoration.)
The priest guides one through such an examination via long lists of various practices, many of which we don’t commonly think of as faults or sins, but each categorized by the priest under one of the Commandments. Do we often consider, for example, that having a Hollywood or sports idol, or reading astrology, may violate that First Commandment? That excessive eating or drinking or disdaining others can contravene the Fifth Commandment? That sexual fantasy and immodest clothes fall under the Sixth Commandment? And that forcing up prices, evading taxes, dishonesty in politics, or not paying debts can violate that Seventh Commandment, in the same way as does outright larceny?
Do we stop to think how boasting, bragging, hypocrisy, sarcasm, and rash judgment can violate the Eighth?
The path toward sanctification: simply renouncing and denouncing such faults. That’s what puts us on the right path. That starts the healing process.
Oh, the list!
And yet, one feels clean and whole afterwards — liberated. That’s because the truth, especially about ourselves, sets us free, and that freedom is from the evil forces that so predominate and deceive in this intemperate era.