Gabriele Amorth and Marcello Stanzione, The Devil Is Afraid of Me: The Life and Work of the World’s Most Famous Exorcist. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019. 146 pages.
The Catechism says that “prayer is a battle” and that “[t]he ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” (CCC 2725) This statement becomes particularly real when we think of the many times that Jesus cast out demons in the Gospel. The apostles are told that they are unable to cast out demons because some demons only respond to prayer and fasting.
The power of prayer has been clear from the first days of the Church, and has been reaffirmed each century. In recent history, however, it seems as though the Devil is working overtime–finding different and new ways of attacking the Church and individual souls. But the Lord has promised that we will overcome the Devil because He has already won: “. . . the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) “The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you.” (Deut. 28:7) “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
On the front line of this battle are exorcists in the Church, those priests specifically deputized by their bishops to perform exorcisms. And one exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth (d. 2016) was, for many years, the preeminent Vatican exorcist. A new book, published in 2019, details Fr. Amorth’s work in a wide-ranging book explaining his work over the last several decades both in interview format and through chapters by the journalist, Marcello Stanzione. The book, The Devil Is Afraid of Me, is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Despite being a cradle Catholic, and even spending many years in formation for the priesthood, I admit that I had not encountered many of the things discussed in the book. One thing I did know, however, is that people do not think or speak enough about the devil: “Today, as never before, there are many who either believe in Satan or who believe that he does not exist. Thus, he can operate in total liberty, tempting and tormenting men in a thousand ways, without having them think that these evils come from him.” (51-52) As C.S. Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letters, the devil’s best move is often to convince us that he does not exist. Fr. Amorth believed that “[a]ll priests should speak of [the devil] continually.” (52)
Only by recognizing the presence and action of the devil in the world can we combat him. And there are many ways to do this. As Fr. Amorth explains, “anyone” can say certain deliverance prayers, “above all for themselves and for their family members.” (54) Such prayers “have the same goal and the same efficacy as the exorcism, with the difference that they can be recited by anyone, and I repeat, in particular, by priests and nuns.” (54)
Fr. Amorth cautions that those who are not exorcists should be careful not to try to act like an exorcist: “They need only avoid the phrase: ‘I exorcise you.’ Rather, they [must] say continually: ‘In the name of Christ, go away, I cast you out, unclean spirit!'”
One consistent theme throughout the book is Fr. Amorth’s devotion to Our Lady. Noting that he has a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. Amorth says that he re-consecrates himself daily to Mary, and encourages everyone to pray the rosary each day. Mary, he says, exemplifies the virtues we should have–obedience to God’s Word, faith that God’s Word will be fulfilled and bear fruit, and gratitude for the tremendous gift of salvation.
It is Mary, Fr. Amorth says, who “is always the one who obtains the liberation of the demon.” (98) She is, therefore, the constant companion of exorcists and should be our companion as well. As he notes, repeating the words of St. Padre Pio, “Mary is all the reason for my hope.”
The Devil Is Afraid of Me is an insightful book that many need to read. We are too complacent, and we fail to recognize the many ways in which we fall into temptation and sin that could be avoided by following Fr. Amorth’s advice. We can overcome the devil because Christ has already won the battle. We need only to live a life of prayer and wrap ourselves in Our Lady’s mantle of protection.
This review is based on my own thoughts and impressions of the book. I was provided a complimentary review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review of the book.