Pastor offers a lesson on Satan, and his greatest trick

Pastor offers a lesson on Satan, and his greatest trick
A large crowd turned out to hear Father Joseph Szolack, pastor of Infant Jesus Parish in Woodbury Heights, discuss the devil and exorcism at  the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture, Haddon Heights, on Feb. 13. Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

A large crowd turned out to hear Father Joseph Szolack, pastor of Infant Jesus Parish in Woodbury Heights, discuss the devil and exorcism at the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture, Haddon Heights, on Feb. 13.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

On a Friday earlier this month, Friday the 13th, to be exact, people packed the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture in Haddon Heights to learn more about an evil that is scarier than black cats or broken mirrors: Satan.

Father Joseph Szolack, pastor of Infant Jesus Parish in Woodbury Heights, spoke to an audience of 100 about the origins of Satan, demonic possession and exorcism.

Satan was first Lucifer (“bearer of light”), one of God’s chosen angels. Eventually, however, he turned against his creator, and now, “with unbelievable intelligence, he wants to kill our relationship with God,” Father Szolack said.

Satan, as he is now called, or Beelzebub, Ruler of This World, Wicked One, Evil One, or Tempter, “hates us because we know the truth about love and, thus, we know God.”

Satan can block the truth from people’s hearts, “and attempts many things, to make us accept the glamour of evil,” even bringing up regret-filled moments of our past.

“His greatest trick, however, is making us feel like we’re unworthy of the love of God,” he said.

In the Bible, Father Szolack noted, there are numerous instances of Jesus driving out demons from someone possessed, and still today, the threat is real.

“When someone is possessed (by Satan, or one of his demonic minions), some signs to look for are tremors and palsy, stomach pains, inexplicable superhuman abilities, knowledge of archaic languages, and aversion to Christian iconography,” he said.

Psychological and physical tests are also necessary to determine whether someone is truly possessed, he said. If it is shown that a person is indeed under demonic possession, a local bishop “has the sole authority to order an exorcism.”

It is usual for each Catholic diocese to have one exorcist, not publicly named, who can assist, and is known to be “prayerful; incorrigible; physically, and psychologically strong” to resist demons and expel them.

To better avoid possession, and the entrance of a demon, Father Szolack said that one should constantly receive the Eucharist; have a fervent devotion to the Blessed Mother; make a commitment to love Jesus more; and avoid objects and situations associated with the occult, such as Ouija boards, tarot cards and horoscopes.

Even certain types of entertainment media, such as movies and music, “can open our hearts” to possession, he said.

“Above all, remember that the only one who should dictate your life, is Jesus,” he said.

The priest’s warning echoed comments made by Pope Francis last year.

“Maybe some of you might say: ‘But, Father, you’re so old-fashioned speaking of the devil in the 21st century!’” the pope said at morning Mass on April 11, 2014. “But, look, the devil exists. The devil exists even in the 21st century. And we shouldn’t be naive, should we?”

In fact, the pope has often spoken of the devil.

Preaching Oct. 10, 2014, during Mass in his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope referred to the devil as “the jealous one, the king of envy, that sower of weeds.”

He said Christians should not be shocked that the devil continues to assail them; even after Jesus defeated Satan in the desert, the devil continued to try to tempt him, including when he was dying on the cross.

Christians need to guard and protect their hearts, “just as you protect your home — with a lock,” the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

“How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?” he asked. “Who opened the door? How did those things get in?”

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