In the Book of Acts, we read that some Jewish scribes, when attempting to exorcise a powerful demon in the name of Jesus, found that their attempts to use the name of Christ were futile, because they themselves had not embraced the Gospel and were not part of the Church. The Bible states: “And certain of the Jewish exorcists also, who went about, took in hand to call upon those who had wicked spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches. And there were certain [men], seven sons of Sceva, Jewish high priest, who were doing this. But the wicked spirit answering said to them, Jesus I know, and Paul I am acquainted with; but you, who are ye?” And the man in whom the wicked spirit was leaped upon them, and having mastered both, prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 9:13-17). It is not enough to confess the Name of Jesus; one has to be incorporated into Christ, and to the Church, which is His Mystical Body.
In more recent times, this truth has been exemplified in the marvelous case of Nicola Aubrey, a possessed girl in Vervins, Picardy in France. The events narrated below took place on the eighth of November, 1565, and lasted until the eighth of February, 1566 and were witnessed by thousands. After Nicola’s initial possession in Fall of 1565, she was taken to see Father de Motta, a pious priest of Vervins. Father de Motta successfully exorcised the demon by applying the Blessed Sacrament to Nicola’s lips while she was in a state of lethargy. The evil spirit instantly departed and her face became angelic. Thereafter she attended Mass with devotion, but unfortunately, due to the mysterious Providence of God, the evil spirit was allowed to return and Nicola was possessed again. As we shall see, God had a greater purpose in mind when He allowed this repossession.
Word of Nicola’s case got around, and the local contingent of Calvinists decried the popish superstition of using things like sacramentals, relics and the Eucharist in exorcisms. They asked and were given permission by Nicola’s parents to try exorcizing the devil according to Protestant rites. When they entered the room, the devil mocked them and stated that it was at his behest that they had come. When one of the ministers tried putting a Calvinist prayerbook upon the head of Nicola, the devil allegedly said, “Ho! Ho! My good friend; do you intend to expel me with your prayers and hymns? Do you think that they will cause me any pain? Don’t you know that they are mine? I helped to compose them!”
“I will expel thee in the name of God,” said the preacher, solemnly.
“You!” said the devil mockingly. “You will not expel me either in the name of God, or in the name of the devil. Did you ever hear of one devil driving out another?”
“I am not a devil,” said the preacher, angrily, “I am a servant of Christ.”
“A servant of Christ, indeed!” said Satan, with a sneer. “What! I tell you, you are worse than I am. I believe, and you do not want to believe. Do you suppose that you can expel me from the body of this miserable wretch? Ha! Go first and expel all the devils that are in your own heart!” The devil then declared that he was the master and the Calvinist his disciple! Needless to say, the preacher went away quite discomfited.
At this point Father de Motta was again summoned. Many Protestants stayed on to watch, wondering if the “popish cheat” would have any better luck. They were astonished when the devil writhed in agony and howled as the Blessed Sacrament was brought near. The devil fled, and Nicola fell into a trance. The Protestants tried to restore her to consciousness, but could not even get her eyelids open. Nicola only regained consciousness when the Blessed Sacrament was applied to her lips. Father de Motta then turned to the astonished preachers, and said: “Go now, ye preachers of the new Gospel; go and relate everywhere what you have seen and heard. Do not deny any longer that Our Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Go now, and let not human respect hinder you from confessing the truth.”
The devil did not depart altogether. Subsequent exorcisms revealed that Nicola was possessed by twenty-nine demons, including three particularly powerful ones who called themselves Cerberus, Astaroth, and Legio. Nicola’s case became famous, and on January 3rd, 1566 the Bishop of Vervins, in an act that would never be done today, carried out a public exorcism of Nicola in the cathedral before thousands of spectators. Again, the application of the Blessed Sacrament drove the devils from her, but the devils left her with some physical deformities which seemed permanent until Father de Motta again exorcised her, this time at the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Liesse. Again, thousands of witnesses were present, and again the Blessed Sacrament was the weapon of choice.
He took the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, and, showing it to the demon, he said: “I command thee, in the name of the living God, the great Emmanuel Whom thou seest here present, and in Whom thou believest.”
“Ah, yes!” shrieked the demon, “I believe in Him.” And the devil howled again as he made this confession, for it was wrung from him by the power of Almighty God.
“I command thee, then, in His Name,” said the priest, “to quit this body instantly.”
Nicola suffered the most frightful contortions; sometimes her limbs appeared stretched, sometimes she curled up in a ball; now her face was elongated unnaturally, then it was excessively widened. Father de Motta again commanded the demon to leave, Finally, there was a cracking sound and a foul odor came forth from her mouth. The demon said that twenty-six of the twenty-nine had gone out; the three most powerful remained and refused to come out unless expelled personally by the Bishop of Laon.
When Nicola was brought before the bishop, the bishop asked how the other demons had been expelled.
“Ha!” cried the devil, gnashing his teeth, “it was He whom you hold in your hand, there on the paten.” The devil meant our dear Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The bishop then held the Blessed Sacrament near the face of Nicola. The demon writhed and howled in agony. “Ah, yes! I will go, I will go!” he shrieked, “but I shall return.” This went on several times, the demon promising to leave, apparently departing, then repossessing Nicola. During the process, Nicola’s arm was paralyzed and she fell into a stiff unconsciousness. Nothing any doctor did could revive her; she appeared even insensible to fire or pokes with pins. Some of the Protestants tried to touch a piece of bread dipped in wine to her mouth (what they referred to as their “Lord’s Supper”) but to no effect. She was finally revived when the priest touched the Blessed Sacrament to her lips.
The miracle was so clear, so palpable, that one of the doctors, who was a bigoted Calvinist, immediately renounced his errors, and became a Catholic. Several times, also, the Protestants touched Nicola’s face with a host which was not consecrated, and which, consequently, was only bread, but Satan was not the least tormented by this. He only ridiculed their efforts.
In the last weeks of January and first week of February, 1566, the bishop began the final exorcism of Nicola, the one aimed at driving out the three remaining demons. The exorcism was preceded by prayers and a procession in the Cathedral. During the exorcism which took place on the first of February, the bishop said, “O accursed spirit! Since neither prayer, nor the holy gospels, neither the exorcisms of the Church, nor the holy relics, can compel thee to depart, I will now show thee thy Lord and Master, and by His power I command thee.”
During the exorcism, which took place after Mass, the bishop held the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, and said: “O accursed spirit, arch-enemy of the ever-blessed God! I command thee, by the precious blood of Jesus Christ here present, to depart from this poor woman! Depart accursed, into the everlasting flames of hell!”
At these words, and especially at the sight of the Blessed Sacrament, the demon was so fearfully tormented, and the appearance of Nicola was so hideous and revolting, that the people turned away their eyes in horror. At last a heavy sigh was heard, and a cloud of black smoke issued from the mouth of Nicola. Cerberus was expelled. Again Nicola fell into a death-like swoon, and again she was brought to consciousness only by means of the Blessed Sacrament.
On the exorcism that took place on the first of February, the demon made a stunning revelation as to so fearful a possession had been permitted by God in such a virtuous Catholic woman. Apparently, God had allowed the whole series of frightful events to take place in order to expose the lack of real spiritual authority in the Protestant sects. The bishop asked Satan, “Tell me. Why hast thou taken possession of this honest and virtuous Catholic woman?”
The devil replied, “I have done so by permission of God. I have taken possession of her on account of the sins of the people. I have done it to show my Calvinists that there are devils who can take possession of man whenever God permits it. I know they do not want to believe this, but I will show them that I am the devil. I have taken possession of this creature in order to convert them, or to harden them in their sins; and, by the Sacred Blood, I will perform my task.”
This answer filled all who heard it with horror. “Yes,” answered the bishop, solemnly, “God desires to unite all men in the only holy faith. As there is but one God, so there can be but one true religion. A religion like that which the Protestants have invented, is but a hollow mockery. It must fall. The religion established by Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only true one; it alone shall last forever. It is destined to unite all men within its sacred embrace, so that there shall be but one sheepfold and one shepherd. This divine Shepherd is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the invisible head of the holy Roman Catholic Church, whose visible head is our holy Father the Pope, successor of St. Peter.”
The devil later revealed that the exorcism was meant to be a testimony to the truth of the Catholic Faith, and requested more witnesses before he would finally depart. In the afternoon of the same day the devil began to cry: “Ah! Ha! You think that you can expel me in this way. You have not the proper attendance of a bishop. Where are the dean and the archdean? Where are the royal judges? Where is the chief magistrate, who was frightened out of his wits that night, in the prison? Where is the procurator of the king? Where are his attorneys and counselors? Where is the clerk of the court?” (The devil mentioned each of these by name.) “I will not depart until all are assembled. Were I to depart now, what proof could you give to the king of all that has happened? Do you think that people will believe you so easily? No! No! There are many who would make objections. The testimony of these common country-people here will have but little weight. It is a torment to me that I must tell you what you have to do. I am forced to do it. Ha! Cursed be the hour in which I first took possession of this vile wretch.”
The bishop, however, said that there were already witnesses enough and ordered the devil to depart immediately.
“Yes, I shall depart, but not today. I know full well that I must depart. My sentence is passed; I am compelled to leave.”
“I care not for thy jabbering,” said the bishop, “I shall expel thee by the power of God: by the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Yes, I must yield to you,” shrieked the demon wildly. “It tortures me that I must give you this honor.”
The bishop now took the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, and held it close to the face of the possessed woman. At last, Satan was compelled to flee once more. The next morning, after the procession was ended, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered up as usual. During the consecration, the possessed woman was twice raised over six feet into the air, and then fell back heavily upon the platform. As the bishop, just before the Pater Noster, took the Sacred Host once more in his hand, and raised it with the chalice, the possessed woman was again whisked into the air, carrying with her the keepers, fifteen in number, at least six feet above the platform; and, after a while, she fell heavily back on the ground.
At this sight, all present were filled with amazement and terror. A German Protestant named Voske fell on his knees; he burst into tears; he was converted. “Ah!” cried he, “I now believe firmly that the devil really possesses this poor creature. I believe that it is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ which expels him. I believe firmly. I will no longer remain a Protestant.”
After Mass, the exorcism began as usual.
The Bishop held the Blessed Sacrament to Nicola and the demon shrieked in torment. He confessed repeatedly that the sacrament truly was the Body and Blood of Christ, which was why its proximity to him caused such anguish. The bishop forcefully commanded him to depart; Nicola is distorted and levitates into the air. The thousands present began to cry, “Jesus, have mercy!” The bishop persevered, however. He pursued the demon, holding the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, till at length the demon, overcome by the power of Our Lord’s sacred body, went forth amidst smoke, and lightning, and thunder. Thus was the demon at length expelled forever, on Friday afternoon, at three o’clock, the same day and hour on which Our Lord died on the cross.
Nicola was now completely cured; she could move her left arm with the greatest ease. She fell on her knees and thanked God, as well as the good bishop, for all he had done for her. The people wept for joy, and sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving in honor of our dear Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. On all sides were heard the exclamations: “Oh, what a great miracle! Oh, thank God that I witnessed it! Who is there now that can doubt of the real presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar!” Many Protestants present also confessed the truth of the Catholic Faith and the Real Presence and renounced the errors of Calvinism.
A solemn Te Deum was intoned; the organ pealed forth and the bells rung forth a merry chime. The whole city was filled with joy.
This great triumph of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament over Satan occurred in the presence of more than 150,000 people, in the presence of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of the city, of Protestants and Catholics alike.
The entire story is taken from Chapter 5 of the book The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Fr. Michael Muller, C.Ss.R. (Imprimatur: Archbishop McClosky, New York – 1884); published by TAN Books. Click here to purchase Fr. Muller’s excellent little work!
Phillip Campbell, “The Eucharistic Exorcism of Nicola Aubrey,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, June 5, 2013. Available online at http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/the-eucharistic-exorcism-of-nicola-aubrey