An endlessly fascinating book is “Possessed by Satan” by Fr. Adolf Rodewyk, S.J. In it, he recounts the details of several exorcisms. During one such ritual, the demon, which possessed a 19th Century German woman, launched into a tirade focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through the mouth of the possessed, the demon said: “The rosary is the most outstanding of prayers. Even a single Ave Maria reaches this epitome of purity, this epitome of torment; if a person says, ‘Hail Mary, Full of Grace,’ she is pleased, this great woman, and we [devils] are filled with fear.” As someone who suffered for many years from the effects of diabolical temptation, I can testify that this is completely true. When I newly returned to the Church, I was inexplicably drawn to the Rosary; I had no idea why. Yet, after a childhood spent in “Catholic” education, I didn’t know anything about it. Growing up, seeing Madonna (the singer) having one swinging between her bosoms, was about the extent of my knowledge. I thought it was simply a charm or talisman; a religious piece of jewelry. In that vein, one day, while I was moping around the house, lonely and somewhat missing the old days, I wore one around my neck as a form of protection when I stupidly agreed to attend a Castro Street party. To my bemusement, although I had forgotten it was there, it didn’t work. Later, I figured out that the Rosary was a form of prayer. After I bought a little book on “How to Pray the Rosary,” I completely fumbled through it. Once I got the basics down, it started to mean something to me; especially the Joyful Mysteries which featured my favorite Saint: St. Joseph.
In Fr. Rodewyk’s book, concerning the same exorcism, the demon continued: “We also suggest to them [the afflicted:] ‘The Rosary is useless, it has become a habit, said by rote, it is the mumblings of old women; it is not essential and should be replaced with another prayer.’ Yet, the rosary is much feared in hell…” Strangely, those were almost the same words I once heard from a young and well-intentioned priest that would occasionally step-in during my childhood “Catechism” classes. He said that “old women” who dutifully sit in the church all day and pray their Rosary are not the best Catholics; he concluded: those that question Catholicism are far superior. For myself, this set an image in my mind: that Catholicism had little to do with Christ, or His teachings, but relied on our perceptions; on our own life experience and how that molded who we are and what we choose to believe. For, the Church, and God, was something out there, nebulous in space, while I was very much separate: wrestling with my own doubts. This was dangerous: as Christ never felt as solid and tangible like those little beads in my hand; He was completely philosophical; I thought I could crush Him with one thought of skepticism. Later, reading Scripture, prayers, and the Rosary, made Christ tangible. He was someone real. As I further combated demonic influences upon my life, this was an essential step. Because, as the attacks from the demons were quite real, now, I knew that Our Lord was just as existent. When I went to Confession, I felt His presence, when I received Holy Communion, He became fleshy, and when I called out to Him in fear: He was present. The demons disappeared; with the help and intercession of a kindly and brave priest; the Lord Saved me. But, I first had to call on Him, and Believe.