The National Catholic Review
The Satanic Temple’s template for a statue of Baphomet is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters June 27, 2014. REUTERS/The Satanic Temple/Handout

One of the most frightening books I’ve ever read was Possessed, the real-life account of an exorcism in 1949, in St. Louis, Mo. It served as the basis of the popular novel and film “The Exorcist.” Performed by some no-nonsense Jesuits, the exorcism, unlike the film, reached its conclusion when the possessed boy (not girl, as in the book and film) was wheeled in a gurney past a statue of St. Michael the Archangel in a local hospital, and a disembodied voice shouted out, “Leave him!” I don’t have the book on hand, and this is not an exact quote, but that’s not the sort of thing that you forget. A few years later on an A&E special, William Halloran, S.J., a Jesuit priest who as a young Jesuit scholastic assisted in the exorcism, broke his silence and spoke openly about what had happened. In 2013, St. Louis University held an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the movie.

When I was reading that book, I heard from a few other Jesuits some hair-raising stories related to exorcisms, including one Jesuit who told me this. He was reading up on exorcisms during his theology studies,  felt a bit queasy, left his room for some fresh air, forgot something and returned to his room only to find…the papers on his desk on fire. By the way, I should point out that this particular Jesuit was the most rational, least gullible, person I could imagine.

So when I read this morning that a Satanic group had erected in Detroit a statue of “Baphomet,” a goat-headed god that has become a kind of stand-in for Satan, I thought of all of what I had read and heard about exorcisms. And I thought: They are playing with fire.

The group claims that they are simply exercising their right to “religious freedom,” and placing the statue there is a counterpoint to those who have erected, or wish to erect, representations of the Ten Commandments and other similar Christian symbols. It’s also clearly a poke in the eye at Christian groups, as was the “Black Mass” that was scheduled, and then cancelled, and then held, at Harvard University last year. It’s hard to discern which motivation is stronger for the group: the desire to push back on religious groups who, they apparently feel, have a monopoly on “religious freedom” in the public square, or the desire simply to troll and stir up trouble. One of my Jesuit friends said that these people are like a “Comment Box come to life,” that is, the worst of snotty comments on religion that pervade the web enacted in real life.

These people have no clue what kind of forces they are dealing with. In my life as a Jesuit priest, and especially as a spiritual director, I have seen people struggling with real-life evil. In the Spiritual Exercises, his classic manual on prayer, St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, calls this force either the “evil spirit” or “the enemy of human nature.” Sophisticated readers may smile at this, but this is a real force, as real as the force that draws one to God. Moreover, there is a certain identifiable sameness about the way that the “enemy” works in people’s lives. I have seen this. And, after all, Ignatius’s comments reflect not only his own experience in prayer, but also his experience in helping others in the spiritual life. He was even able to describe some of the ways that the evil spirit works, and this also jibes with my experience: like a spoiled child (wanting to get his way); like a “false lover” (wanting us not to reveal our selfish motivations and plans); and like an “army commander” (attacking us at our weakest point). Pope Francis has also spoken frequently about the presence of evil in the world and of Satan. Again, some may laugh or roll their eyes, but the pope is, again, speaking about something that is not only part of Christian belief, but quite well known among spiritual directors.

In other words, I’m describing not only my belief, but my experience. Evil is real. How Satan fits into this, I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that a personified force is somehow behind this. There is a certain “intelligence,” if you will, and a sameness, as St. Ignatius identified. As C.S. Lewis said about Satan, “I’m not particular about the horns and hooves, but yes I believe.” Me too.

So while the Satanic Temple may smile at their victory, and the mainstream media might chuckle at the “Gotcha” moment vis-à-vis other religious groups (If the Ten Commandments, then why not Satan?) my fear is directed in another place. I recall all those stories I read and heard about Satan, and I think: You have no idea what you’re dealing with.

You are playing with fire.


Tim O'Leary | 8/31/2015 - 12:15am

Very important topic. It is amazing to me how people can think they are Catholic or Christian believers and deny the existence of the devil (in the comments below) or the hell that was made for the devil and his angels (Mt 25). They have to deny the words of Christ, the Creeds, the Councils and the Catechism. He is mentioned over 60 times in the New Testament, in all 4 Gospels, Acts, Revelations and most Epistles. In modern times, there is also Fatima, VC II and all the recent Popes, including especially Pope Paul VI ( and Pope Francis. One wonders what yardstick they use to judge the faith?

Bruce Snowden | 8/27/2015 - 3:11pm

Hi Bill, please explain to this "Dummy" what does the Flip Wilson referencing mean. Thanks!

Bill Mazzella | 8/27/2015 - 9:03am

Where is Flip Wilson when we need him?

Bruce Snowden | 8/26/2015 - 5:35pm

A brief addendum to my 7/29/15 post (#8.) Today (8/26/15) news tells of an Honduran pregnant teenager foaming at the mouth and thought to be possessed by Satan, was exorcised by a priest, declared dead, buried in a tomb. One day later noise from that tomb including the voice of the buried girl calling for help, caused the tomb to be smashed open. The buried girl was alive her fingertips bleeding from scratching, was rushed to the hospital, but died there fro lack of oxygen. A terrible true story!

In this case, the only demon at work was the hasty belief that she was possessed, causing proper medical attention to stop, followed by the hasty belief that she was possessed with a priest too hastily administering unnecessary exorcism, all a waste of valuable time in treating her illness. The "Father of Lies" gloated no doubt! If everyone including exorcists would realize that what is possible supernaturally may also happen naturally - what may look like diabolic possession may very well be the consequences of serious physical illness, then truth would prevail and cause for ridicule by enemies of the Church, or religion, would not happen! May the poor girl and her unborn Baby now rest in peace.

norman ravitch | 8/2/2015 - 1:18pm

Exorcism is indeed a weird practice. It does seem to be part of the occult. It could only have arisen among the superstitious and the credulous egged on by ambitious clergy and perhaps even by political authority. The reintroduction of Exorcism is another sign that integrist Catholics (whom I usually call Catholic Fascists) are upset enough to try to turn the clock back before John XXIII if not even earlier in time, perhaps to Innocent III. Jesus may have practised it because his credulous audiences expected it. Or as a primitive semite in his humanity he may have believed in what he did. No reason we should.

Mary Keane | 8/2/2015 - 9:18am

I don't for a moment disagree with the idea that we do well not to flirt with evil in any form and, most particularly, to assume that we have powers over evil, whether in arcane rituals of exorcism of in our daily lives, fighting ordinary temptations to be grandiose, to give insult, to demean ourselves or others. Like it or not, we need grace.

What is most striking to me about exorcism -- concerning which I am no expert -- is the ritual's apparent resemblance to the occult. For this reason alone not only is possession, but also its remedy, frightening. It won't do to issue more cautionary tales about avoiding dark mysticism, as these have been widely ignored throughout history, to no good end. Of course, the 'modern' faithful risk yet more ridicule (as if there were not enough already) in suggesting that avoiding evil involves more than a step-on-a-crack, break-your-grandmother's-back superstition. But I suspect that if coaxed out of hiding, many individuals would attest to the virtue of turning away from the seductions of the occult.

The "religious freedom" the statue represents is just one more tactic in an unyielding campaign to distort the establishment/free exercise clauses into mandates forbidding the practice of any religion at all. In permitting such measures, it is as if we have lost all sense of discernment whatsoever. In the quest for egalitarianism, every idea must be considered equal to every other idea, the result being intellectual flatlining, but no one dares say a word, lest charges of one ism or the other ensue. Do we need to wait much longer to assess how that is working for us?

PJ Johnston | 8/1/2015 - 6:11pm

For those interested in pursuing the sensitive interreligious dialogue which Nostra Aetate calls Catholics to engage in rather than denouncing other religious traditions without sufficient investigation, the BBC bothered to inquire what the statue symbolized and what the group actually believes in, rather than simply freaking out at the word "Satan." It seems as if they have real trouble with some conservative articulations of Christianity, but intend nothing like literal invocation of Satan or the acceptance of evil/diabolical beliefs.

A controversial statue unveiled by the Satanic Temple at a secret ceremony in Detroit has attracted protests. But who is the goat-headed figure? And what do the elements of the statue symbolise?

The bronze statue is nearly 9ft tall and depicts a winged hermaphrodite known as Baphomet, flanked by two smiling children. It cost $100,000 (£64,000) to make and hundreds of Satanists turned out to see it unveiled.

Long term, the Satanic Temple wants to move the piece 900 miles (1,450km) south-west and erect it opposite a Ten Commandments monument outside Oklahoma City's Capitol Building.

The Baphomet will "complement and contrast" the Christian commandments which include "unconstitutional prohibitions against free speech and free exercise of religion," according to the organisation.

"Our statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures," says Lucien Greaves, the group's co-founder.

He hopes people of all ages will "sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation... It's a nice little tourist attraction. People would travel a great distance to see it."
The name Baphomet

The name dates back to the Inquisition and torture of the Knights Templar about 1100 who, according to French chroniclers of the Crusades, confessed to worshipping a heathen idol called Baphometh.

Some scholars believe "Baphometh" was simply a corruption of "Mahomet" - the Prophet Muhammad.

But over the years as the mystery and speculation around the Templars has grown, so too have the interpretations of the word and its meaning.

One elaborate interpretation even drove the plot in Dan Brown's historical thriller Da Vinci Code, where the word Baphomet is decoded and translated to mean "Sophia" or wisdom.
Levi's Baphomet

The best-known modern image of Baphomet was drawn in 1856 by the French occultist Eliphas Levi, in his book Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual.

He envisaged a winged hermaphrodite with a torch between his horns and a pentagram on his forehead.

Its arms bore the Latin words SOLVE (separate) and COAGULA (join together) - the powers of "binding and loosing" usurped from God.

Levi's drawing was the inspiration for the Satanic Temple's new monument.

"It contains all these binary opposites - above and below, part animal, part human. Male and female," says Greaves.

"It embodies opposites and celebrates contrasts."
Two-finger salute

Two fingers on the right hand point up and two on the left hand point down, meaning "as above, so below".

These words and the accompanying gesture are familiar to occultists. They are drawn from the ancient works of Hermes Trismegistus, whose writings became popular during the Renaissance and Reformation.

The phrase is also used in relation to science, the universe and God, but Levi wrote that, by making the gesture, his Baphomet "expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice".
Two young children

"We hope children will see this as a beautiful work of art - there is nothing to be afraid of. That's what the children symbolise," says Greaves.

"The goat's face has a neutral expression. It's not demonic, ferocious or monstrous - as people make it out to be - if you look at without the cultural baggage."

But do children really have nothing to be afraid of from Satan?

"I don't think children approaching the monument without being primed by propaganda will find anything horrific about it," says Greaves.

"But we're about not indoctrinating children. For the most part children are forced into religion. That's something we definitely don't care to do."
The Caduceus

On the Baphomet's stomach is an old Greek symbol of two serpents entwined around a staff - the staff which was carried by Hermes and heralds in general.

The caduceus symbolises trade, negotiation and reciprocity and was co-opted into the Baphomet by Levi.

"For us it symbolises reconciliation of the opposites - such as having a Satanic monument opposite a Christian one," says Greaves.

"We think that's a powerful message when it's sitting opposite the Ten Commandments - you can have these dualities, differences without conflict."

Levi's Baphomet was a hermaphrodite, with breasts, "but we took the breasts off," says Greaves. The Temple did not want to get embroiled in a debate about gender which might distract from what it believes are the more important messages of the Baphomet.

Instead, he says, the boy and girl reflect that "male-female dualism" seen in Levi's Baphomet.

Seen both on the forehead of the Baphomet and on the throne behind him, the pentagram is a widely recognised Satanic symbol - and often appears inverted.

Saint Peter's cross is often inverted too - as it was during the Satanic Temple's unveiling ceremony.

"This inversion is Satan's perception. It asks people to reconsider their cultural grounding, look at the evidence and reconsider their values," says Greaves.

"You have this one-sided vision with institutionalised religion as the arbiters of moral correctness.

"It prevents them considering whether they could be incorrect today on issues such as gay marriage and reproductive rights.

"It's true you don't have to identify with Satan to take on those causes. But the image of Satan resonates for us."
Torch between horns

"The torch of knowledge is the middle horn - it glorifies the pursuit of knowledge. We put a high value on that - it's really central to our beliefs in general," says Greaves.

As Levi wrote: "The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it."

These have yet to be added but the Satanic Temple gave details of their plans in a statement last year.

On the front of the statue, above the inverted pentagram, will be one of the Satanic Temple's seven fundamental tenets: "The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word."

The back of the stone slab will display a passage from Lord Byron's dramatic work, Cain that reads: "Then who was the Demon? He who would not let ye live, or he who would have made ye live forever, in the joy and power of knowledge?"
What is the Satanic Temple?

The group describes itself as "Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty".

"We understand the Satanic figure as a symbol of man's inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.

"We actively provide outreach and participate in public affairs where the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights."

norman ravitch | 8/1/2015 - 12:38pm

There is only God. No devils, no spirits. God created the world and will one day judge it. That is really all the whole biblical tradition teaches. The rest is invention and fabrication. All you need to believe is that God created everything and will judge it. Jesus believed that. The rest was added on.

Mike Pekarek | 7/30/2015 - 8:44am

You do realize this group is not actually religious? It's a group of atheists with the sole intent of trolling Christians into saying silly things and acting inappropriately. Like bashing a group of atheists, or protesting a prank. The entire group and every one of its actions are satire. Even the choice of a pagan God that has horns and not any recent depiction of the Christian Satan is a calculated choice: the Christians can't even tell their gods apart. And their status as atheist trolls is well known. You have to be a Christian first in order to worship satan; belief in satan requires a belief in Jesus. Not even Jews have this sort of satan concept. Yes, this is very much aimed at the young people on the fence, who watch Christians overreact and are hopefully turned away from religion.

Their serious point behind the sophomoric tactics is that religion takes itself way too seriously, affecting laws and society well beyond those who actually believe that religion. Their desired goal is to show Christians acting badly, and so discrediting themselves. This article is an example.

FTR, I'm a former catholic, baptized and confirmed but gone by age 25. Too many silly things going on.

Robert Lewis | 7/29/2015 - 8:03am

Alright, in the spirit of St . Teresa of Avila, who said she wasn't so much bothered by the devil, can we apply just a little bit of logic to these strange accounts--as well as using some orthodox Catholic theology on them as well? The boy who was supposedly "possessed" was only thirteen years old, right? Well, everyone here believes in FREE WILL, right? Can a thirteen-year-old boy agree to let the devil "possess" him? Not denying the existence of radical evil as a force in human nature, but presuming it has to be a free choice for it to become fully operative in snaring a soul, I seriously doubt the boy was ever in danger of losing his. So ,if the boy in question never could have been finally caught and eternally damned, for whom do you suppose this "Devils' play" was intended? I submit it was intended as a snare for the PRIESTS-- to divert them from their real task, which is to preach the Gospel and make the Gospel's message dynamic in the real world. Teresa of Avila was right: the priests and their obsessive superstitions are the problem, and if they had ignored the "snare" the "devil" set for them, the "devil" most likely would have lost interest in the boy and left him alone; the "devil" was there for the superstitious priests--to divert them from their ministry--not for the boy, and Teresa of Avila would have seen right through the "devil's" tricks!

Bruce Snowden | 7/29/2015 - 9:47am

Great job Fr. Martin! Respectfully, here’s how I see it.

Belief in Satan becomes an impenetrable wall between the Father of Lies and the believer. “Infestation” not “Possession” is how Satan tries to gain access to the believer, by way of temptations and visible manifestation, the latter seen for example in the life of St. John Vianney. Satan became a frequent annoyance to the Saint, nothing more than that. Sometimes the Evil One would set John’s bed on fire, infesting his daily life with his unwanted presence, with noises and rockings. Fr. Martin spoke of the Jesuit scholastic who reading about exorcisms returned to his room to find papers on his desk on fire! A typical manifestation of that dammable Goat!

On the other hand Satan has easy access within the person who does not believe in the personification of evil called the “ Devil,” that deficit of belief part of the conglomerate of lies on which Satan feasts and exactly what the Evil One wants. There are a number of ways Satan takes possession of a person – one way through denial that he exists, and in eating the fruit of that lie, the person may not even know that he is the possession of the Evil One. But by their fruits shall you know them.

A long time ago I read the book, “Begone Satan” don’t remember the author’s name except that he was a priest and unfortunately I remember little that I read. I would like to review it again if it can be found. Maybe from that book or some other place, I remember the case of a possessed person who had the ability to crawl up a wall like a snake, very rebellious in behavior but quieted when the priest placed his Stole on him which weighted him to the floor. Remarkable stuff, really.

Here’s a bit of devilish humor involving St. Bernard of Clairveau and the Devil. One day on the latrine Bernard was reading Scripture and Satan appear mocking him for reading Scripture “on the bowl” so to speak. The Saint endured Satan’s taunting for awhile, but getting “as mad as hell I guess,, Bernard closed Scripture and looking at the Devil straight in the face said pointing to the Bible, “What I do there I do for God!” Then pointing to his rear, said to Satan, “What I do there I do on you!” Chagrinned the “Lord of Filth” departed. Can’t vouch for the validity of the story, but it does carry a message, SH.. on the Devil and he’ll flush himself away! Treat him nicely and he’ll hang around!

Molly Roach | 7/28/2015 - 11:06am

The power of the evil one is to take away from what is good. So evil does not exist as a separate reality but rather is a destructive engagement with what is good. Our own complicity with this can be anywhere from naive to unbelieving--because I think it starts as simple but then, permitted to go on long enough, gets out of hand and it is indeed playing with something that is not completely us, but which has somehow ensnared us. Horned demons are only one culture's imagined image. I believe that the atrocities of ISIS and the continued massed shootings in our own country are a more apt image of the work of the evil one.

Benjamin Holmes | 7/28/2015 - 5:49am

Indeed, Father, you will find yourself rather lonesome in the progressive circles of Christianity. Progressives are becoming ever more secular.

I enjoyed the read, thoroughly. I just can imagine that you are rather an island unto yourself in disbelieving progressive water. Evil is utterly real, and it terrifies me.

Rick Fueyo | 7/27/2015 - 11:09pm

Well said Father. Thank you. I hate even looking at that photo

ed gleason | 7/27/2015 - 10:07pm

It was put to me years ago 'How do losers like Hitler, David Koresh, Charles Manson get their 'power. Was it a deal they made with the evil one?
Germany lost about 2.5 million in WWI How come Hitler could not rise above corporal. No leadership no charm? He ended up bossing around Prussian Generals and Aristicrats.
How did Koresh. a dyslexicic HS drop out, command highly educated followers or Manson command a group more highly educated and successful than he. I met a friend who resided in a Haight Ashbury crash pad with Manson living in the basement and all felt sorry for the tiny creep, giving him food etc.. A year or so later he emerged with his evil plan and followers.. Of course in San Franciscoco we had Jim Jones .[Jonestown] who had the ENTIRE political Establishment in his hands..[and we have a so called elite establishment at least they think so]
They couldn't get enough of him..
The evil one can dispense power. or maybe the doubters will tell us that these losers learned on line!!

PJ Johnston | 7/27/2015 - 9:04pm

I responded too critically (and with too little attempt to understand) when I originally responded to this article in the other venue in which it was posted, James Martin's feed on Facebook.

Maybe it would be helpful if we all engaged in a meditation exercise. Imagine that the statue was called "Fred" and didn't look like Baphomet, but more like Pan, and the group called themselves Freddists. Or imagine that the group in question was an organized group of Wiccans with a statue of the Lord and Lady. Now imagine that the groups' politics and professed religious values were (other than the name involved) exactly the same as the Satanic Temple. I believe that if that were the case, laudable Jesuits with a commitment to religious dialogue such as Fr. Martin and Frank Clooney (who wrote about the Harvard Black Mass last year) probably would make effort to understand the beliefs and practices of the groups in question, foster dialogue and understanding, and build common ground on the basis of the positive features inherent in the religion as Nostra Aetate suggests. In fact, liberal-tending Jesuits and the Satanic temple have some of the same social and political enemies (evangelical/fundamentalist Christians with right-wing politics), so were it not for the name, it's possible to imagine that there would be an effort to make common cause. I know that intellectually-speaking, educated Jesuits are familiar with the theology of inclusivism, so it seems as there must be some special animus driving the refusal to adopt this strategy vis-a-vis the Satanists, and I suspect the issue is the name. In this regard, C.S. Lewis (who in his _Last Battle_ declared that an honorable follower of the Narnian devil Tash was necessarily really a devotee of Aslan, because the real Tash can only accept evil and the real Aslan can only accept honorable deeds) was more far-seeing than the contemporary Jesuit critics of the Satanic Temple, who appear to be getting hung up on the label rather than the thing indicated. (I am sure many of the Satanists are as well, in that the "God" many have learned to reject is nothing like the actual God of love Christianity teaches. It might be helpful to consider how this misunderstanding on the Satanists' part is reinforced by public misunderstanding and attack by Christians).

When I was an undergraduate, Christian consciousness about Wicca wasn't very far along, and Jesuits and liberal Christians often wrote op-ed pieces similar in tone to this one about Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. Now almost no one would. (Frank Clooney has rightly written positive pieces about interreligious dialogue with Wiccans). I think that Christian awareness is likely to evolve on the Satanic Temple as well, and you're likely to find yourself in 20 years wishing that you'd taken more care to understand these groups and engage in dialogue, rather than wasting moral capital and compromising the credibility of the Jesuit project of interreligious dialogue.

Joe Waters | 7/27/2015 - 5:45pm

Oh my goodness. I don't know where to begin with this article.

First, Father James, I love your writing but I'm sorely disappointed with this post. Backward, frightening, Medieval - should I go on? I just discovered that this bright, lovable and intelligent priest is living in the 5th century with unicorns, sea monsters and fixed stars.

You think this statue is dangerous? You know what is REALLY dangerous? Talk of Satan, Falls from Heaven, imps, hooves, tails and talk of scary goat-headed gods. Yes, evil is REAL! Does it take the shape of some statue or "personified force"? No more than that the earth is 6000 years old, that Elijah went to heaven in a chariot of fire and we were thrown out of some perfect garden because of a woman, a snake and a weak man.

Despite the comments in this post, this is just the type of talk that turns people off to Christianity. Inflexible, threatening, outdated and - if the current generation of Gen Y & Z have any say in it - extinct. You warn this group that they are "playing with fire." At least they have one. Yours is almost out. Maybe that's why you are so frightened.

When are we really going to think and live like real men and women and not be ruled by superstitions and scary bedtime stories? Evil is real. So is God's love and power. That statue is just a piece of rock. That rock in your heart is the only evil you need to worry about. Start with the evil within and the devil without will exist no more.

Alfred Lansing | 7/28/2015 - 1:30am

If I were Satan, this is the response to Fr. Martin's piece I would encourage. It's perfectly rational, acknowledges some amorphous concept of "evil," and claims to be worried about young people turning off Christianity. Also, it counsels a priest (a priest!) to cure his own heart and stop worrying about the devil. But in the end it denies what Christ Himself taught us. There is an evil one who desires our damnation. Well done! A+ demonic concern trolling.

Rex Pericolo | 8/6/2015 - 7:35am

Did you really just pull "but that's what Satan would say" card? Oh man. Well done A+ irrational dismissal demonstrating his point.

alan macdonald | 7/27/2015 - 5:44pm

William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist and a graduate of Georgetown U has sued the Vatican that Georgetown is not Catholic or Jesuit anymore. Alleged infractions include pro-abortion speakers and a loss of identity. Discussion is ongoing between the two parties, the Vatican and Mr Blatty.

Gary Miller | 7/27/2015 - 3:13pm

From my 4th Chapter, Angels and Demons - Tribulation by G.R. Miller:

It was December 18, 2009 and my son had gone to his mom’s house for Christmas. After the 3rd event, I had spent three days in Atlanta, Georgia, learning how to set up a franchise to sell flooring products, while my son stayed with a sitter. I’d decided that I wanted to be my own boss, rather than a slave to the energy sector.

With the events that had been occurring for the previous seven months, I felt something very dramatic had happened to me. Something good. Something righteous. Something cleansing. The Christmas tree had been up for a couple of weeks. I believe in simplicity when it came to Christmas. Most of the decorations were from Target. There were a few special ornaments: Some with a picture of each of my kids, and an ornament with a picture of my parents. As far as the inexpensive ball ornaments went, they were red and green, yet I was a bigger fan of green ornaments.

I was a parent experiencing some quiet time, so it was a good opportunity to read the Bible and I decided to read Revelation—not for the first time, but still early in my study of the New Testament.

When putting up the Christmas tree, I had tried to ensure that the ornaments were far enough back on the limb, toward the trunk, that they would not fall. I was reading in my study when I heard something hit the floor in the family room. I quickly went there and discovered two ornaments on the floor. One was the photo of my parents [who tragically died in a murder-suicide]. “It” was trying to tell me that they had fallen from grace and were in hell together. The other was a green ball ornament, which indicated “it” was going to attempt to destroy the earth.

What quickly became obvious was that “it” was the “lawless one” or one of his minions. “It” had been in the house during the previous incident with my son on December 15, and “it” was still in the house.

I pulled out my cross from under my shirt. I put the ornaments back on the tree. I laughed at “it” and asked “it” if that was the best “it” could do. I went back to reading my Bible.

Bruce Snowden | 7/30/2015 - 10:17am

Hi Gary - I just read your post and don't think that "It" had anything to do with your parents picture falling off the Christmas Tree to the floor. It was probably induced by natural tremors which true, could be used by "It" to tell another of his lies. Or by the great "I Am" assuring you that through Redemption, which the Christmas Tree celebrates, your Mom and Dad were safely in the Land of the Living sending you from heaven a "Merry Christmas!" greeting. (P.S.) I may have misread in thinking you were writing about your own Mom and Dad. Sorry about that.

Mark Ungemach | 7/27/2015 - 3:01pm

Whenever I find myself wishing to react to comments, regardless of their place on the spectrum, I try hard to live by the Prayer of St. Francis. Everyone, to some extent, can relate to the very positive practice of sharing and spreading light.

bonard molina | 7/27/2015 - 2:03pm

The idea of "sameness" in evil makes sense to me. Given a common human nature, it seems to follow that spiritual failings would follow common patterns. But to posit an "intelligence" behind it seems an entirely different thing. People smarter and holier than me share this view, so I try very hard to understand it. Why is it insufficient to note that human beings tend to be evil in similar ways? What is the basis for inferring a single (personal) will behind it all?

Carol Quella | 7/27/2015 - 2:47pm

Because in the Bible Jesus speaks of the devil. The devil is mentioned many times in the Bible. We also know Lucifer rebelled against God and was driven out of heaven by St. Michael and the angels that chose to serve God. Lucifer became satan.

Brenda Becker | 7/27/2015 - 1:17pm

THANK you. This is particularly vital information for young people, raised in a bath of gruesome, violent, and pornographic imagery and narrative that has desensitized them to authentic evil. Thank you for speaking truth, as always, to the cool kids' lunch table. You're the only one of us, at the moment, who gets to sit there, and between this and your willingness to gaze unflinchingly at the issues around Planned Parenthood, you are courageously risking a chunk of goodwill from the Progressive Intelligentsia. I salute you.

Valerie Sheehy | 7/27/2015 - 12:54pm

I would not mess with these forces. I am as modern, rational, and intelligent as anyone I know, but just as I have felt the presence of God, I don't doubt the presence of Satan. And there's nothing clever about this whole situation.

norman ravitch | 7/27/2015 - 12:23pm

Come now! Any sane person, even a Catholic cleric, should know there is no devil, no Satan, no Lucifer; no demons from hell, only demons from the disordered minds corrupted by sinful and evil behavior and perhaps also by fire and brimstone as preached by demented Christian clergy.

Carol Quella | 7/27/2015 - 2:48pm

Two points:
What you say is not Biblical.
What you say is exactly what satan wants you to believe.
You have been deceived. Pray and read your Bible.

norman ravitch | 7/31/2015 - 8:48pm

Don't tell me to read the bible. Over time the bible has caused much misery and the medieval church was wise to prevent its being read by people without direction. Just because the gospel writers have Jesus talk about the devil, whether he did or not, and he probably did, given his culture, this doesn't mean there is a devil. The bible is the product of a very primitive culture expressing faith in God in very primitive ways. The Jews got the devil while in Babylon from the Persian dualistic religion. The bible is not the direct word of God, only the very indirect word of God. Now that Catholics have come to bible study and all the other Protestant things to do they are in grave danger of becoming fundamentalists and literalists. St. Augustine was put off by the bible until he learned to interpret it allegorically in Milan under Ambrose.

Recently by James Martin, S.J.

Hate.Net (October 19, 2016)
Not Yet a Saint (October 13, 2016)
Martyrs of Charity (September 8, 2016)
Saint of the Darkness—The Full Interview (September 1, 2016)
Georgetown Confronts Slavery in Its History (September 1, 2016)