By Gordon Nary
Gordon: You have written an extraordinary number of books including several books on the stigmata including They Bore the Stigmata (18th-20th Century), They Bore the Stigmata Medieval Stigmatists (12th-17th Centuries), The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata: My Interviews with PADRE PIO'S Spiritual Advisors: His life, miracles, gifts, battles with the devil, the invisible stigmata, and the visible stigmata, The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata (Volume 2): My Personal Interview With A Close Friend Of Therese Neumann... Her life, miracles, gifts, Passion ecstasies, and the sacred stigmata', and Miracles of the Saints! Signs, Gifts, and Wonders from God: The Gift of bodily Phenomena! Incorruptibles, the odor of sanctity, the stigmata, resurrections of the body, bilocation, levitations.
What initially interested you in the stigmata and what role does the stigmata have on our faith?
Mike: My interest in the sacred stigmata started when I began my formation into the Secular Franciscan Order (Order of Franciscans Secular) in my mid-twenties. Of course, I studied the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 A.D.-1226 A.D.), whom the Catholic Church claims as the first person to have born the wounds of Christ in his body (1224 A.D.). From there, I began to study other reported stigmatists (stigmatics) in the Church: Saints Catherine of Siena, Rose of Lima, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Padre Pio, to name a few.
Because these stigmatists lived their lives as victim souls in union with the suffering Christ for the expiation of sins in the world, I feel that they are great examples and supreme models for the universal Church as those who “take up their cross and follow Jesus.” As the Gospels teach, we are all called to take up our crosses and endure our earthly sufferings as a supreme act of love and faith for God and humanity. Of course, the ultimate sacrifice is to die for one’s faith and the Church honors it’s martyrs for this very reason.
Obviously, these are extreme examples of suffering, but we all suffer to some degree in our earthly journey towards salvation. Thus, it brings me great comfort and inspiration looking to these role models knowing that even as mere mortal human beings, we too can imitate Christ according to our dispositions and in accordance with God’s will. Yes, the stigmata proves there are other Christ’s in our midst to encourage us to remain true to our faith. Although these stigmatics are not Christs, they imitate the life of heroic virtue, love, compassion, and identity with Jesus that we are all called to do according to the Gospels.
Gordon: We seldom hear homilies on the stigmata, and those who have received them. In your opinion, could a discussion of the stigmata and those to whom they have been given be an effective evangelization resource ?
Mike: Yes, I believe homilies on the lives (and heroic acts) of the stigmatists would greatly benefit the faithful. Since the Church only confirms an alleged stigmatist after they are proclaimed saints, they become credible examples of those in our midst who endure all suffering to the end in order to achieve the crown of eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ. Remember, as declared saints, these servants of God not only exhibit supreme examples of suffering for humanity: they also have passed the test of all requirements during the lengthy procedures in the Cause of Canonization. They live lives of heroic virtue, were humble in their mission, they wrote from the inspiration of God, they were given many supernatural gifts beyond just the stigmata, and they have interceded in heaven for many here on earth. These victim souls took up their cross, followed Christ and his teachings, lived lives like Jesus had lived, and became the message of the Gospel come to life for all to see and experience. In fact, I have a published book on what goes on during a Cause of Canonization: “The Cause of Canonization: How Saints Become Saints!”
This book was a result of several trips and various interviews in Vatican City, Rome, Italy. It was reviewed and approved by Monsignor Robert Sarno of the Causes for the Canonization of Saints. It is updated and included all revisions to the norms and procedures for all Causes for these servants of God.
It never ceases to amaze me how we hear many homilies at Mass about the lives of the saints (their teachings or acts of faith) yet rarely anything about those who are stigmatists. Yet these are among the most favored and gifted of all the saints! They certainly lived the life of the Gospel and are examples of other Christs among us. We need more of that: to bring the ancient Gospel message to the faithful in real, living terms: something that can be be seen and experienced rather than looking at our faith lives as an abstraction of theological teachings from the ancient texts. In other words, the stigmatists prove the Gospel is alive: it is a living, breathing Gospel, not an artifact of antiquity. And that is what the Church is all about. Living our faith according to God’s will for each of us.
Gordon: You have a powerful interest demonology and exorcism and have written twelve books books on this topic: Introduction to Demonology: A Study of the Devil and Demons for example. The other books can be found on Amazon.
Is demonology more prevalent in contemporary society and how do demons manifest themselves?
Mike: No, I don’t believe demonology is more prevalent in contemporary societies. Maybe it’s better-known and more well-documented now because of universal communications like the Internet, movies, more book publishing companies, etc. But it has always been prevalent inside the Church and with non-Christian sects. I have written a lengthy book on the background to all of this: “Demonology: The Devil and the Spirits of Darkness. History of Demons (A Catholic View)
Demons can manifest themselves in many ways. There are usually different stages where they influence or take over the life of a vulnerable person: infestation, obsession, partial possession, and complete possession (a rare but real experience throughout the history of the Church). Normally, one has to invite a demon into one’s life for the evil spirit to intrude: dabbling with the occult, astrology, seances, the ouija board, getting involved with witchcraft or spells, etc. Sometimes, one does not even do these things.
Other factors may contribute to the demonic involvement: a grave illness, a spiritual or faith crisis, an atheistic attitude towards God, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, etc. Ironically, the most holy and gifted of God’s people can also be the subjects of violent attacks from the devil. He does not want others to turn towards God or to lead others to God! Sometimes, the devil or his spirits are most effective when they work undisclosed. As Saint Paul once said, the devil often appears as an angel of light in order to deceive the faithful. Jesus also warned us to beware of wolves that appear in sheep’s clothing and to “test” the spirits to discern what is good and what is not. Thus, the evil spirit has many ways of entering our lives, directly or indirectly, hidden or fully exposed.
Once a demonic influence or takeover is strong, the hidden nature of the evil pretenses become known. He cannot and will not hide forever. That is why a holy and experienced priest is required to assist those with advanced stages of demonic influence, oppression, or possession. It is dangerous to combat an evil entity without God’s special grace to do so. That is not to say we all have the right to perform “simple” or informal exorcisms: simple prayers to God or throughout one’s home, for example. Or to place a crucifix in one’s home or around one’s neck.
But to speak to the evil spirit or provoke him with sprinkling of holy water around the house or to ask him questions is really a dangerous thing! The evil spirit is infinity more knowledgeable and powerful than we are: he has been around a long, long time! And he knows our deepest more hidden secrets, our sins, everything. He also mixes truth with fact in order to confuse us. He is the Liar, the Great Deceiver.
Gordon: According the National Catholic Reporter, there has been an increase in incidents of demonology in the United States. Do you concur, and if so, what are some of contributory factors?
Mike: Yes, in many ways the demonic presence does seem to be increasing in the modern era. Again, it may be just that we are exposed to more publicity and reports about it these days with the way our world-wide communication is. But certainly a rise in many areas we often consider sinful or against the norms of social behavior and the teachings of the Gospel: increases in drug abuse, murders, wars, alcoholism, rape, child molestation, homosexuality, bestiality, more songs with Satanic lyrics, more non-fiction books on the occult, more movies on the occult and possession, more adultery, more youth defiance at authority, etc.
Contributing factors are many: mental illness, dysfunctional family environments, less Church involvement, a “fast society” that only thinks of personal gain, an “everything goes” mentality of a fast-paced world, nuclear escalations around the globe, racism and bigotry on the rise, abortions on the rise, etc. When all of these things occur, it leaves a dangerous vacuum in everyone’s soul: there are fewer moral examples and teachings to follow like in the past. Therefore, we get spiritual leaders like Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Warren Jeffs, David Koresh, and other mentally deranged spiritual leaders and gurus to prey on naive and gullible members of society. Everyone needs a role model or a hero. Instead of humble and righteous ones, many turn to whatever is available. Thus, the devil steps in and influences all of this. He loves to get into the act! So far, he has been very successful and continues to be so.
Gordon: There was a recent translation of exorcist prayers into English What were some of the factors leading to need for this translation?
Mike: For one thing, the Roman Rite of Exorcism (Rituale Romanum) with its norms and procedures has been fixed since the 17th century. Like Vatican I which led to Vatican II, there was a need to update the understanding and procedures for a new Roman Ritual. The original Ritual was all in Latin: clearly of no use to modern-day priests and exorcists who may not be thoroughly trained in the Latin language. Likewise, with the prayers in the formal Ritual and the simple prayers used by the faithful to protect them from evil spirits, a commonly used language with words the average person can understand and relate to was needed. How many Catholics around the world can make any sense of the medieval world of Latin? Not many.
That’s one problem with those who cling to the old-fashioned and traditional Latin Mass (or those who only want a Bible written in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin). If you don’t know and understand that language thoroughly, what good is it to you? What are you really learning or comprehending? No wonder people say, “That’s Greek to me!” (Ha-ha). That’s also why the Church has re-translated and revised the Bible in the contemporary era: The New American Bible, The Jerusalem Bible, The Revised Standard Version, etc. Not to mention the fact that the earlier Latin Bibles did not have the benefit of the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi Library to more accurately reflect the meaning of hundreds of passages from Scripture for today’s reader.
Gordon: What is the difference between a major exorcism and a minor exorcism?
Mike: A major exorcism (also called a formal or solemn exorcism) is conducted through and with the proper authorities in the Church who have the administrative and spiritual powers and privileges to do so. A Bishop authorizes a formal exorcism in his diocese where the possession has occurred. The Bishop then has an appointed exorcist (priest) plus associates to conduct the formal exorcism. A lay person cannot perform the exorcism although some lay people may assist (psychologists, medical doctors, close family members, etc.). And then only with the approval of the Bishop and/or the exorcist himself.
A minor exorcism (also called a simple exorcism) can be performed by either a priest or a lay person: such as blessing a house, saying a simple prayer of exorcism, placing a crucifix, holy water, or a blessed object in the home. The intent with a simple exorcism is to deter the evil spirit from transgressing into the home or to influence the people who live there. The prayers are not from the formal Roman Ritual but rather shorter and much simpler in nature. In a minor exorcism, confronting the evil spirit directly ( such as demanding his name or engaging in detailed conversation) is not allowed. By the way, the Sacrament of Baptism is a minor exorcism within itself. Many people do not realize this.
Gordon: You have also written several books on the saints, Here is just one of them: Miracles of the Saints! Signs and Wonders from God: Miraculous Bodily Phenomena! Please comment on the importance of devotion to saints in our daily lives.
Mike: I have touched on the importance of saints as role models for the faithful in one of your previous questions. Let me add that these Servants of God have been recognized for their lives or simplicity, heroic virtue, and total commitment to living the message of the Gospel. We in turn are called to imitate their characteristics the best we can under our circumstances, callings, and according to God’s will. We must remember that devotion to the saints does not mean “adoration” of the saints! This is reserved for God and God alone. We must not adore Mary either although she above all saints is the best example of any saint we have. Mary was the Mother of Jesus: need I say more?
Here is a list of links to my 4-volume series on patron saints. There are literally hundreds of profiles for the faithful to follow. The four volumes involve these categories: the Blessed Virgin Mary, countries and nations, occupations and vocations, and special needs and conditions. Here is the series
PATRON SAINTS! Our Lady As Patron Saint: THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Devotions to Our Lady, Mary as Mediatrix, Her Appearances, Messages, Intercessions Volume 1; PATRON SAINTS! Countries and Nations: PROTECTION AND INTERCESSION! Our Lady, The Apostles, Martyrs, & The Heavenly Angels as Patrons. VOLUME 2; PATRON SAINTS! Occupations and Vocations: ARTS, CRAFTS, TRADES, & LABOR! Our Lady, The Apostles, Martyrs, & The Heavenly Angels as Patrons. VOLUME 3; and PATRON SAINTS! Special Needs and Conditions: Disease, Illness, Spiritual Needs, Social Issues, Family, and Friends VOLUME 4
Lust to repeat my previous recommendation, here is my book on the Cause of Canonization It says a great deal about the importance of devotion to the saints in our lives:
Gordon: Are you planning or working on a new book? If so, what are the topics?
Mike: Thanks for asking me, Gordon! Yes, I have a number of new books I am currently working on or will be working on the remainder of this year and the following year. I have a series planned on questions and answers about the norms, rules, and teachings of the current Code of Canon Law. These 40-50 page books will deal with various issues: marriage, divorce, the priesthood, bishops, the family, funerals, the Mass, Church liturgy, etc. Many do not really know why the Church does what it does or its teachings about everyday Catholic life.
I am also considering a series on Catholic prayers and reflections for the faithful. Short inspirational books of my own prayers and reflections with a passage or two from Scripture for each prayer or reflection that will show Bible references one can refer to. There are many topics to write about: death and grievance, faith crisis, addictions, prayer, humility and simplicity, the family, and so on. Perhaps these will be in a question-response format or just a series of prayers and meditations with Scripture references according to many different categories and sub-categories.
Gordon: I am looking forward to featuring reviews of some of your books in upcoming issues of Profiles in Catholicism and suggest that our readers check our your profile on LinkedIn.