This three-part series deals with different ways in which faithful Catholics can protect themselves from demons. Thus far, we have seen the importance of intecessors and protectors, such as Mary and Guardian angels. But we ourselves also have a role to play in our defense against the demonic. Our thoughts and actions can play a huge role in our spiritual war against the demonic.
Exorcists consulted for this series of articles state that one important things we can do to protect ourselves against the influence of the demonic is to avoid actions and objects that open a person to demonic attacks. This can include things such that are seemingly harmless, such as Ouija boards and Reiki, to things that are more widely recognized as evil, such as witch doctors and satanic rituals. In addressing this issue, one exorcist warned that that even a remote or one-time encounter with such things can have very detrimental effects.
In addition to avoiding certain cultic practices and objects, the exorcists consulted for this series unanimously spoke of the importance of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance (also called Reconciliation or Confession), in warding off demonic activity. In fact, one exorcist opined that those under demonic possession, obsession, or oppression, are greatly aided by exorcisms, but that for true healing to persist a life of grace is necessary. One characteristic of this life of grace is frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance. In fact, Fr. Gabriele Amorth (formerly the chief exorcist in Rome) publicly stated that confession is more powerful than exorcism.
The Sacrament of Penance is particularly powerful for warding off demons precisely because through it, the recipient of the sacrament is actually forgiven of his sins. In addition the recipient receives grace that can be helpful for avoiding sin in the future. A person who receives the sacrament frequently, it stands to reason, is going to be better fortified against demonic attacks. Those who do not use the sacrament, or use it sparingly and half-heartedly are going to be more susceptible to demonic activity.
Participation in the sacrament of Penance is also a participation in the battle against evil. That is to say, by approaching a priest to receive this sacrament on a regular basis, a person is signaling a commitment to live with and for Christ. While such a person may sin, by making use of the sacrament, the person is making a conscious effort not only to eradicate the destructive power of that sin, but to be reunited to Christ and receive the forgiveness He freely offers through the sacrament. Such a person, is therefore strengthened by Christ Himself, and therefore much more capable of warding off the demonic.
On the other hand, the sinner who refuses to approach the sacrament, for whatever reason (and there are many), is in a compromising position. They are the equivalent of a person who has purchased a home security system, but never activated it. The possibility always remains for such a person to activate the system, but until the system is activated, the person remains susceptible.
It is also important to note that a person who uses the Sacrament of Penance is best served by being as intentional as possible about receiving this sacrament. This necessitates proper preparation. Just as a soldier needs proper preparation and training before going in to battle, so too do we need proper preparation when entering into spiritual warfare. Therefore, before receiving the sacrament, it is important to perform a thorough examination of conscience so as to be able to identify and properly name sins. While a penitent is obligated to confess every mortal (grave or serious) sin, it is also highly recommended that he confess venial (smaller) sins as well. This not done to make the sinner feel worse, but to help the sinner purge the sin(s). In addition, the sinner must have true contrition (sorrow) for his sins, as well as a firm purpose of amendment (a true desire to change his life). With this disposition, the sinner is now ready to approach the sacrament so as to receive the maximum benefit.
It is also important to note that if a person is experiencing demonic oppression, frequent use of the sacrament becomes even more important. Some exorcists report that once a sin is forgiven through sacramental confession, the demons are not able to use it as a weapon to oppress their victims. But even those who are not under direct demonic oppression are still advised to use the sacrament of penance in the fight against the demonic. After all, it removes any sins to which a demon may wish to cling, and it helps the recipient to foster a greater relationship with Christ through a life of virtue and holiness.