In a book about exorcism Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans the author writes in the introduction chapter "A Brief Handbook of Exorcism" (emphasis mine):

The exorcist is the centerpiece of every exorcism. On him depends everything. He has nothing personal to gain. But in each exorcism he risks literally everything that he values. Michael Strong’s was an extreme example of the fate awaiting the exorcist. But every exorcist must engage in a one-to-one confrontation, personal and bitter, with pure evil. Once engaged, the exorcism cannot be called off. There will and must always be a victor and a vanquished. And no matter what the outcome, the contact is in part fatal for the exorcist. He must consent to a dreadful and irreparable pillage of his deepest self. Something dies in him. Some part of his humanness will wither from such close contact with the opposite of all humanness—the essence of evil; and it is rarely if ever revitalized. No return will be made to him for his loss.

My question is why the Holy Angels (such as the possessed's guardian angel) are not actively participating as soldiers in battle to prevent the exorcist from bearing the full brunt of the demonic attack, especially since we are fighting angels turned demons?

In the 5 detailed cases, the Brief Handbook of Exorcism chapter, the Manual of Possession section, and the Roman Ritual of Exorcism appendix, good angels were not asked to come and help, but at most were asked only to pray, as in the Litany of Saints or in the Prayer to St. Michael.

  • What makes you why think an exorcist does not enlist angelic help so he doesn't bear the full brunt of the demonic attack, especially since we are fighting angels turned demons? In my perspective, the book entitled Hostage to the Devil is one of the worst explications about exorcisms. It sensationalized things that are dubious. It simply fuels the curiosity of many.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 23:22
  • @KenGraham The book is documentary style based on real cases reported from tape recording + interviews + notes of the posessed, the exorcist, and the assistants. The very words the exorcist said as well as the rite itself don't elicit help from good angels at all. Yes, the reporting is graphic and gripping, but the description of possession and exorcism method seem similar to books by Gabriele Amorth. I tried to find critical articles showing the flaws of the book, but I haven't found any, so I wonder what's dubious about it. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 0:08
  • 1
    ”Hostage to the Devil is a controversial nonfiction bestseller, a chilling and true account of possession and exorcism in modern America, hailed by NBC Radio as ‘one of the most stirring books on the contemporary scene.’ “ It was published in 1976, yet he left the Jesuit Order in 1965 and was never incarnated into a diocese. Thus without being under the authority of any bishop, how is it that he performed those exorcisms or received permission to publish the book, if he was not the exorcist involved!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 1:55
  • In 1965, he left the Jesuits and moved to New York, which was to become his home. He worked at various jobs - washing dishes, driving a cab - which formed a sharp contrast with his previous life, but he soon established himself as an author. (Source)
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 2:22

1 Answer 1


In Catholic exorcisms, why are the Holy Angels (such as the possessed's guardian angel) are not enlisted to assist?

I do not know where you got that idea from, but I assure you the opposite is the truth.

First of all (Fr.) Malachi Martin has a very dubious past. He may have written the book entitled Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. However he likes the sensational and was often at odds with the Church. Personally, I do not trust his fact findings and I am not about to dive into this can of beans here.

Does the following sound like a first class Churchman:

Disillusioned by Vatican II, he asked to be released from certain aspects of his Jesuit vows in 1964 and moved to New York City, where he later became an American citizen.

His 17 novels and non-fiction books were frequently critical of the Vatican hierarchy, whom he believed had failed to act on the Third Prophecy revealed by the Virgin Mary at Fátima. Among his most significant works were The Scribal Character of The Dead Sea Scrolls (1958) and Hostage To The Devil (1976) which dealt with Satanism, demonic possession, and exorcism. The Final Conclave (1978) was a warning against Soviet espionage in the Holy See via Soviet spies in the Vatican.

Martin claimed that Popes John XXIII and Paul VI were Freemasons during a certain period and that photographs and other detailed documents proving this were in the possession of the Vatican State Secretariat. He allegorically mentioned these supposed facts in his 1986 novel Vatican: A Novel, where he related the Masonic adherence of Popes Giovanni Angelica and Giovanni De Brescia. He claimed Archbishop Annibale Bugnini C.M. was a Freemason and that Agostino Casaroli, long-time Cardinal Secretary of State, was an atheist.

He spoke and wrote often about the Three Secrets of Fátima and was an ardent supporter of Fr. Nicholas Gruner: "Father Gruner is fulfilling a desperately needed function in the ongoing perception of Mary's role in the salvation of our imperiled world. Father Gruner is absolutely correct that the consecration of Russia as - Our Lady desired, has not been executed". - Malachi Martin (Wikipedia)

Personally I put no stock in Malachi Martin’s work. Many think he even had affairs with married women. He staunchly supported Fr. Nicholas Gruner who was suspended by his own bishop! Fr. Nicholas Nightingale Gruner personally appealed to Rome about the suspension of his priestly duties, but was unsuccessful.

Now let us take up the crux of your question. In Catholic exorcisms, why are Holy angels (such as the possessed's guardian angel) are not enlisted to assist?

Fr. Gabriele Amorth makes note in his books that the praying to the Holy Angels and Guardian Angels in particular for help during exorcisms is beneficial. Both Malachi Martin and Fr. Amorth recommend reciting the rosary during exorcisms.

Please remember that more often than not, official exorcisms take hours to get through. Priests, in these times often employ other prayers not mentioned in the Rituale Romanum.

The Litany of the Saints is prayed as part of the Ritus Exorcizandi Obsessos a Dæmonio. It is a very common practice to add Patron Saints or Saints of special devotion to a location or person at times of priestly ordination or solemn profession of a religious. There no reason prohibiting the inclusion of patron saints or the Guardian Angels to be included in the Litany of the Saints during an exorcism.

More to the point is that Pope Leo XIII’s prayer Exorcismus in Satanam et Angelos Apostaticos is in fact a Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

In nómine Patris, et Fílii, et Spíritus Sancti. Amen

Ad S. Michaelem Archangelum Precatio

Princeps gloriosíssime cæléstis milítiæ, sancte Michaël Archángele, defénde nos in prǽlio advérsus príncipes et potestátes, advérsus mundi rectóres tenebrárum harum, contra spirituália nequítiæ, in cæléstibus. Veni in auxílium hóminum; quos ad imáginem similitúdinis suæ fecit, et a tyránnide diáboli emit prétio magno. Te custódem et patrónem sancta venerátur Ecclésia; tibi trádidit Dóminus ánimas redemptórum in supérna felicitáte locándas. Deprecáre Deum pacis, ut cónterat sátanam sub pédibus nostris, ne ultra valeat cáptivos tenere hómines, et Ecclésiae nocére. Offer nostras preces in conspéctu Altíssimi, ut cito antícipent nos misericórdiæ Dómini, et apprehéndas dracónem, serpéntem antíquum, qui est diábolus et sátanas, et ligátum mittas in abýssum, ut non sedúcat ámplius gentes.


In Nomine Jesu Christi Dei et Dómini nostri, intercédente immaculáta Vírgine Dei Genetríce María, beáto Michaéle Archángelo, beátis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo et ómnibus Sanctis, et sacra ministérii auctoritáte confísi, ad infestatiónes diabólicæ fraudis repelléndas secúri aggrédimur.

Psalmus 67

EXSURGAT Deus, et dissipéntur inimíci ejus, et fúgiant qui odérunt eum, a fácie

The act of exorcism within ritual is only part of the equation and takes about 20 minutes to recite, but the act of exorcism itself goes on for much longer. There is lots of time for additional prayers for the exorcist to invoke the Guardian Angels of all involved. This is the practice of Fr. Gabriele Amorth himself!

More than not, many exorcisms are needed to liberate a soul from the Demon. All involved would most naturally pray to Our Lord, His Mother, their Guardian Angels and their patron saints for assistance. The exorcists that I know actually encourage this.

Only the exorcist is permitted to recite the ritual and interrogate the Demon(s) involved the exorcisms. The exorcist must instruct all involved in what to do and not to do. This would also encompass what additional prayers one could silently recite during an exorcism.

  • I'm a bit confused about what's added by the inclusion of not only the whole prayer to St Michael, but the following exorcism and the beginning of the psalm as well. Surely it would have been more to the point to include only the first few sentences of the prayer, without the rest - is the rest necessary? And should there not be an English translation added for those who have no Latin? Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 10:34
  • You haven't quite answered the key question yet, so I edited the question to clarify. What I'm wondering is why in the hours/days of the action against the demon, the good angels don't seem to be enlisted like a soldier in battle, but seems to remain in the sideline as protector and only enlisted to pray as do the exorcist's assistants, shown in all the prayers you mention: Litany of the Saints, and Prayer to Saint Michael as well as the Ritual itself. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 16:46
  • @GratefulDisciple At the very commencement of the official exorcisms, the Litany of Saints is recited. Does not the fact that the invocation All ye holy angels and archangels, pray for us include our Guardian Angels?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 6:29
  • It seems the OP is asking something like "why don't we say to the angels/the guardian angel, 'Fight for the soul of this person', rather than 'Pray to God for this person'"? I'm not sure this answer directly addresses that. (NB in addition - I was planning to put an English translation in, but decided it would make your answer too long. Is the entire prayer really necessary?) Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 20:39
  • @MattGutting The link has an English equivalent. I prefer the Latin here as it deals with the most common text used by exorcists. As I mentioned before a direct invocation may by applied in the Litany of Saints (It is a common practice). Besides exorcists employ a number of other prayers while the exorcism is being performed. Besides, having read Fr. Malachi’s book myself, I can see that lots of his work is untrue and appeals to the sensational! He even slightly alters the Rituale Romanum in regards to the exorcisms. Fr. Amorth prayed the prayer to the Guardian Angels during his exorcisms.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 20:50

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