As G.K. Chesterton had it: “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem.”
As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said:
This is how things often happen with those who are harassed by the devil. They don’t quite realize it until they are already in such depths of despair that they think that they cannot be helped. Quite the trick of the devil.
Another trick of the devil is to make exorcism seem inaccessible, inhuman. The lives of those harassed seem to them to have been made into a joke from hell. They don’t realize that the joke is on Satan, and they don’t know that any exorcist worth his title knows that any such joke is to be at the expense of hell, not the person who is suffering in anguish.
Any decent exorcist wants, on the one hand, to be entirely understanding of the suffering that the person is undergoing, even while, on the other hand, he will also want to be lighthearted at every opportunity, that is, balanced, a normal human being. This is most helpful to those who suffer. It breaks the suffering up a bit. Light hearted joking is not at the expense of the one who suffers, but helps them immensely.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen had great advice for visiting patients in the hospital, which, in this case, is much like speaking with exorcism candidates. He said that a major aim of the visit is to get the person to laugh, for that breaks the human tendency to notice altogether too much the suffering of the present, and then remember all the suffering of the past and drag that into the present, and then project all that into the future, and then drag that back into the present. When one laughs, all this is broken up.
I’ve been a patient myself, always smiling, always trying to joke. My worst penance was not, for instance, to have my heel drilled right through with what looked to be a construction site drill (which ground to a halt I don’t know how many times)… no, my worst penance was to have some visitors, from layman to Cardinal, who were just way, way too glum, as if that would make me think that they cared. Not.
The same dour, cheerless, morose attitude is very unfortunately to be found with various and sundry new-agers and occultists and spiritists and charlatans of all sorts. “A Catholic priest-exorcist must always be melodramatically serious!” is the cry that goes up. How I have battled against the damage such as these have caused! It is this sort of thing which makes those who are suffering think that exorcists are, in fact, inhuman, humorless, all-too-serious, taking themselves too seriously, so much so that they would never but ever have the time to look at the joke that Satan has made out of their lives. Too bad, that. Really.
Humor is not directed at the candidate for exorcism, but one can hopefully bring the candidate for exorcism to such a point that one will be able to laugh with such a person.
What?! Laugh at the all too sick joke of Satan?! Why, yes! How’s that?
By, again, helping the person come to realize that the joke is on Satan.
The purpose of exorcism is not merely to free one from Satan (as was noted in the previous post of this series), but to introduce someone more to our Lord’s goodness and kindness and irony! How’s that?
Again, after original sin, after mankind’s fall from grace in which obedience was rendered unto Satan, the purpose of our lives here on this earth, in view now of our redemption in Christ Jesus, is to wake up and realize the evil situation that we’ve gotten ourselves into, that the fires of hell are much hotter than we might think… … much as – in the story above – it would behoove the frog to get to know that the fires of the stove are hotter than it might think. One of the consequences of having been obedient to Satan is that, in justice, God will permit Satan to harass us. And this speeds up the process of our getting to know how much trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into. The Lord can draw good from evil, which is the only reason why He permits this. What’s the good? That we can know how to thank the Lord for having come into this world to take on the worst that Satan had to give out, and this so as to have the right in justice to have mercy on us, He being innocent and having the right to suffer vicariously for us, taking on what we deserve and having the right to forgive us. And with exorcism, the Lord does manifest His powerful mercy, He having conquered Satan’s worst.
And this is where humor comes full force into the situation. It is here that the all too sick joke has been turned on Satan, so that the joke is on his expense. It is here that one can exult in the irony of our Lord, who uses Satan for the work of the Lord. Hah! “Lord, wow, this is how far you had to reach to get us, right into hell, and you paid the price for that, for us… you love us so much!” This is the Lord’s humor. This is what Chesterton, way up top of this post, thought about Christianity and humor, having it that the humorless person can’t be Christian. They can’t see that the problem is that they have no humor at all. The Christian not only sees the solution, but also the problem. One cannot but rejoice. Being humorous is all about knowing the Lord already has the victory in hand. You remember that hand, the one with the spike piercing it? The Lord is just that good and that kind… and that humorous, the joke being on Satan. Hah!