“Our ordinary world, the one in which we work and fall in love and watch TV—it’s thinner than paper, and the demons pour through it in hordes.”

According to the Talmud, the demons are more numerous than we are. “They stand over us like mounds of earth surrounding a pit.” Rav Huna teaches that “each and every one of us has a thousand demons to his left and ten thousand to his right.” Abba Binyamin tells us that “if the eye had the power to see, no creature would be able to withstand the demons.” Fourteen centuries before Lovecraft, the Talmudists knew that what we see is only the tiniest portion of what’s really there, and the rest is monsters. Our ordinary world, the one in which we work and fall in love and watch TV—it’s thinner than paper, and the demons pour through it in hordes. This planet isn’t our home; it’s a hive. And though seeing the demons is fatal, the rabbis tell you how it may be done. Scatter a circle of fine black ashes around your bed at night, and in the morning, you will see their footprints, their claws like a rooster’s, their terrible number. What they don’t tell you is how you will ever sleep comfortably again.



At First Things this is the first paragraph of a review of an English translation of Dostoevsky’s Demons: A Novel in Three Parts.

I post this link not because I am entirely satisfied with the Jewish angelology, but because of something I wrote yesterday.

Yesterday I mused about the number of priests and bishops who truly believe in the spiritual battle being waged around us at every moment, who truly believe in the difference between the sacred and the profane.  Their actions and inactions, the manifest choices of many of the brethren, lead me to suspect that they don’t.   There is a strong current of Modernism even among the well-meaning and even devout, well-meaning, hard-working clerics.  They can hardly be blamed, given their formation and the domination of the world we live in.  They’ve been taught to set aside the supernatural in favor of the natural.

Anyway, I posted that paragraph because – I’ll admit – I want to scare you a little.

If I am not entirely on side with Jewish angelology, that snippet conveys something of the attitude we should have about demons.  Putting aside that disturbing imagery of their claw marks in the dust around your bed… yeah… they are around, alright.  They are all around.

It has been surmised that for every moving thing in the cosmos, there is an angel.  It is thought that a third of the angels fell and apostatized.   I’ve seen one estimate that there are 1080 atoms in the universe and atoms are not the smallest moving particles. The angelic realm is far vaster than our imaginings. I sometimes wonder if God didn’t make the material cosmos so big so as to give us little humans some inkling of eternity.

Demons are relentless.  They see everything.  They never forget.  They watch and learn about us from our outward actions and, like supernatural FBI profilers, know our ways and weaknesses.

Happily, demons are restrained by God.  They are weaklings compared to the Holy Angels who guard us.  They can be commanded to depart by priests.

The Devil, the Enemy, wants us to be prostrate with fear.  But joy is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t manifest joy, it may be that we should examine our consciences and get to confession soon. Yes, it is possible to get to confession for most people. Otherwise, try to make a perfect Act of Contrition.

Si vis pacem para bellum!

I think that bishops should exorcise their dioceses using the Rituale Romanum with Title XI Chapter III, the long St. Michael Prayer.  Lay people should not use this prayer.  Ever.

Bishops should give permission to all their priests to use the Rituale Romanum with Title XI Chapter III even publicly.  (They can use it now privately, but it helps to have the bishop’s explicit authority.  It must be done in Latin.  I have some help for that. HERE  For priests only.)

Priests should go around all the buildings of their parish grounds and bless them and the grounds.  They should go through every room of their rectories and every nook and cranny of their churches.  Say the exorcism (in Latin) and bless with Holy Water (properly blessed in Latin with the Rituale Romanum).  Even use incense if you won’t set off the alarms.

This should be done in Latin.  The Rituale Romanum states that the blessings and exorcisms must be done in Latin.

This is REAL, brothers.  And you priests and bishops are in this war whether you want to be or not.  To paraphrase, you might not be interested in demons, but demons are interested in you.   Get into the fray.

How do you, as the point at the top makes, ever sleep comfortably again?


Use sacramentals well.

Ask for the priest’s blessing.

Receive the Blessed Sacrament in the state of grace.

Say your prayers and perform good works.

Be confident in the Church and in Christ’s promises.

That’ll do it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Be The Maquis, GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, Si vis pacem para bellum! and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thank you Fr. Z, for this reminder and call to action.

    (This is the proper use of that term …. )

    I am on board.

  2. PCali says:

    From what I remember, the Angelus Press personal missal has the full St. Michael Prayer in the back, and includes instructions on how to say it as a lay person (Words substituted, signs of the Cross omitted, etc.), including an encouragement to do so which is supposed to be the instruction of the holy father of the time.
    If what you say is true-that lay people should NOT pray the longer prayer-then shouldn’t the SSPX know this, or have that pointed out? I seem to recall that the instruction not to use the longer prayer was at the hands of then Card. Ratzinger, which doesn’t seem like something the Society would knowingly ignore if they are concerned for the good of souls.

    My missal is from over five years ago, so perhaps they’ve changed the instructions at this point-if anyone else has a newer printing, I would be grateful for the check.

    [That is taken from an OLD edition of an old hand missal. That longer St. Michael Prayer should NOT be used by laymen. Just. Don’t. I don’t care what that page says.]

  3. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    Today, hours ago, I was part of a conversation with two women at work. Each had teenage daughters who were “into” astrology, and one of the daughters had a ouija board. Because my workplace is secular, I tried to warn them in a manner that wouldn’t put them off that nothing good comes of such practices. Then one of the women mentioned, half laughingly, that some people consider that ouija boards can lead to demonic possesion. To my astonishment she said that her daughter had decided that she was an atheist, but was investigating Satanism as a religion. To my greater astonisment, her friend said that it was okay, and that Satanist daughter was just exploring and being rebellious.

    I warned them as well as the situation would allow, for mercy’s sake. But if the Enemy is able to make mothers laugh off and even defend their childrens’ turning to Satanism, we are in dire times indeed. We are under attack. We may always have been under attack, but whatever or whoever it was in our society that restrained the ferocity of the attack seems of late to be yielding or fading away.

    Angels and Ministers of Grace Defend Us.

  4. TonyO says:

    Fr. Z, can you explain for us why, specifically, Latin is more powerful in dealing with demons than other languages?

    Please note: I have no difficulty with urging Catholics of the Latin Rite (and, especially priests) to have a special reverence for the liturgy of the Mass in Latin: this is our heritage, and it well behooves us to know and LIVE our rites. So that we can be formed by them.

    But just thinking in general: presumably, the original bishops, the Apostles, didn’t pray and exorcize in Latin. They would almost certainly have used mostly their own native language(s), which was primarily Aramaic, with some Hebrew and some Greek. Surely, as the Church spread out in what had been the (former) Greek Empire, it encountered populations that spoke Greek, and many of the bishops mainly spoke Greek, and wrote in Greek, so presumably during the 100’s a great many of the prayers were primarily in Greek. It is also true that the Church arrived at Rome early, and Latin would have been used widely, but even so Greek was often used by the Church in Italy. (E.G. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.) As missionaries spread out further, other languages were used as well, though none MORE than Greek and Latin.

    What I am asking for is the reason why Latin, specifically, is more powerful than the comparable approved prayers said in, say, Aramaic, or Greek, or (only if they were approved for the vernacular) in English, said by the same bishop, with the same ritual and the same holy intentions? I would love to understand this better.

  5. The Church’s office language is Latin. Demons are legalistic. Latin has specific juridical language.

    Besides… the Church’s language is Latin.
    Besides… according to exorcists… the Devil hates Latin.

    It was good at Gadarene
    It was good for Gabriele Amorth
    It was good at the Pantheon blessing
    And it’s good enough for me.

  6. Kerry says:

    Tony O. Please read Christine Mohrmann’s “Liturgical Latin, Its Origins & Character, Three Lectures “, found here: https://archive.org/details/LiturgicalLatin.
    Easy reading. Fr. Hunwicke, of Liturgical Notes expresses high praise for her scholarship, asking in a post of his, “Did early Christian ever worship in the vernacular?”
    And I will fumble Fr. Rippberger’s words, on a video he said that Hebrew, Greek and Latin, being the only languages “touching…”, “contacting…”??? the Cross, were thereby sacralized. (Sorry I can’t point to a link for that one.)
    Godspeed! Hold fast! Kerry

  7. TonyO says:

    To Fr. Z and Kerry: Thank you both for responding.

  8. Credoh says:

    Thank you, Father.
    A question: a well-known exorcist was saying that given the increasing difficulty in shifting demons in these times, that Easter water and particularly Gregorian water can be necessary. Do you know if bishops may make Gregorian water if there isn’t an altar to be installed, and whether its routine use would be prudent/possible for publicly performed exorcisms?

  9. TRW says:

    My two cents: It is through the Church that Our Lord visibly exercises His dominion over the temporal order. Latin is the official language of the Church. As Father mentioned, demons are extremely legalistic. The Bishop exercises locally the juridical authority of the entire Church(within limits). An exorcist cannot operate within a diocese without being authorized by the local Ordinary. I have heard mention (in an interview) that in some instances the demons have been aware that a particular priest had not yet been authorized by the Bishop and the demons have made that fact known to the priest (via the possessed individual). The Church has authority over the whole world of course, but in a very specific way the Church has authority over geographical locales by virtue of the juridical power exercised by bishops in individual dioceses. Demons know this. Exorcists command the demons. They do this not as individuals, rather, they are acting as representatives of the Church and are commanding the demons on behalf of the Church. Because it is the Church’s official language, Latin itself is an expression and manifestation of the Church’s juridical authority. Demons hate this. It’s a reminder; they’ve already lost.

  10. Semper Gumby says:


  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you for an interesting post and comments.

    Two more excerpts from the First Things review by Sam Kriss of “Demons” (some will recall this book as titled “The Possessed”):

    “For a while, “Demons” was shunted into the second rank of Dostoevsky’s novels. A big swamp of a book, too long by far, it has heaps of gaudy melodrama, schemes that never go anywhere, a duel that doesn’t result in anything, too much satire that is incomprehensible to anyone reading today, too much hysterical dialogue in which people turn blue or purple or deathly white while saying things like “Wha-a-at? Ah, the devil take him! A slander, madam! Damn it all!” It’s a mess- a glorious mess, but a mess.”

    Kriss has a point. Dostoevsky wrote some fine scenes and dialogue, though, prepare for much melodrama along the way. The second excerpt:

    “”Demons” isn’t the nightmare of vicious ideologues taking over the world. It depicts a far subtler horror: an ideology that is everywhere, but that nobody really believes.

    “You don’t need to look hard to see the same thing happening today. A few years ago, large sectors of the American left coalesced around the slogan “abolish ICE.” As it happens, I think abolishing ICE is a pretty good idea. I’ve seen how the U.S. border works. [Obviously, Kriss should take a closer look.]

    “…every time I fly to America I get hauled into the sad little room at the airport where the undesirables wait. Lino floors and buzzing computers, children trying not to cry as they’re processed for deportation, old men gasping on oxygen tubes, and everywhere the smirk of petty authorities. (I always get out fine, of course—I’m from Europe.)” [The “smirk of petty authorities” says much about Kriss’ perspective on the world. Perhaps Kriss at the airport also imagines himself as Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”: “the horror, the horror.” A suggestion presents itself: perhaps Kriss for his next flight could equip himself with some soothing Mozart and a refreshing bottle of Fizzy-Bubbly.]

    “The reason I’ve used an example from the left is simply that I’m on the left myself, and this demon is my own.”


  12. Semper Gumby says:

    “Heart of Darkness” is a novel, a novella of about 90 pages or so, written in 1899 by Joseph Conrad. The novella opens onboard a boat, a cruising yawl, anchored at the mouth of the Thames awaiting the wind and tide. As a group of men patiently wait on deck, Marlow tells them a story of how he was once a captain of a river steamboat in the Belgian Congo.

    When Marlow arrived in the Congo to take command of his riverboat he heard talk of a man named Kurtz (“a man who will go far, very far”) in charge of a trading station far upriver. An excerpt from near the end of the novella, Marlow on deck speaking to his companions:

    All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his- let us say- nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which- as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times- were offered up to him- do you understand?- to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing.

    ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,’ etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence- of words- of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’ The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postscriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of ‘my pamphlet’ (he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career.

    Heart of Darkness is sometimes said to be the first novel of the 20th century.

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    “One of the dire effects of Modernism that pervades every level of the Church right now, involves a need constantly to try to reduce the supernatural to the natural, to discount the sacred and bring it into the profane or secular.”

    – Ask Father: Is Mass valid if it is offered in a desecrated place? 12 May 2021

    “While previous yearbooks listed the title “Vicar of Christ” and the name of the reigning Pope under that title, this year’s [2020] annual directory simply lists the name “Jorge Mario Bergoglio.”

    “Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called the change “theological barbarism.””

    – Lifesite, Maike Hickson, 2 Apr 2020

    Last year with the cooperation of Jorge Bergoglio SJ and the Vatican, director Evgeny Afineevsky produced a documentary titled simply “Francesco.” A two-minute trailer was released on 20 Oct 2020. In this trailer note what is emphasized, what is de-emphasized, facial expressions, and lines such as: “This is a man who cries with humanity, who laughs with humanity”, “I am their voice”, “I think God made him experience what people experienced.”


    That trailer differs from the trailer now available at francescofilm dot com.

    Joshua 24:15 “But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorrhites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

    Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

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