When The Exorcism of Emily Rose came out in 2005 most people were not aware that the movie was based on a true story of a young German woman named Anneliese Michel who was possessed for many years and died in 1976 at the age of 23 probably of the possession itself. Her heart-wrenching story is instructive, not so much about the nature of evil, but about how good can be brought out of so much evil, especially when offered for the spiritual benefit of others. I believe that Anneliese Michel's faithful endurance of such demonic sufferings would qualify as truly heroic.
The pious young woman came from a Catholic family in the southern region of Germany and would have been the last person that anyone would have expected to be the victim of a full-fledged possession. Anneliese was the innocent target of a witch's curse when she was a child, and that was what caused her demonic problems. She lived a so-called "normal" life until her sixteenth birthday when, without warning, she began to experience the oppression of her senses through hearing voices and seeing grotesque faces. From that point on she suffered a series of deepening internal problems which grew worse as the years went on. By her twentieth birthday she was almost fully taken over by the demonic spirits which threw her into catatonic states and caused extremely violent aversions to religious objects as well as other occult phenomena such as speaking in esoteric languages. During the series of exorcisms performed on her over the period of nearly a year, it was discovered that she was possessed by six very powerful demons, one of whom was named Hitler and the strongest of which was named Judas.
Anneliese's heroism throughout this whole ordeal is truly hard to believe. She not only attempted to complete all her school assignments until she was utterly unable to do so, but she was completely accepting of her trials because she knew that there was a deeper meaning in them. In the midst of her sufferings she had visions of Jesus and Mary and learned that the Lord wanted her to offer her intense agony at the hands of demons for two primary intentions: the Catholic Church in Germany and, in particular, the German clergy. In the post-Vatican II era, Germany was rife with clerical dissent and loss of faith: this suffering child of God was praying in a most profound way that no soul would be lost to the true Faith.
Needless to say, a real possession is a destructive and desolate experience for the possessed individual, and in the end, Anneliese succumbed to the power of the demons and died just after her 23rd birthday. Some speculate that a combination of misdiagnosed medications and her inability to eat anything during most of her ordeal led to her demise, but ultimately she died, according to her spiritual director, as a victim soul out of love for her people. He called her experience an "expiatory possession," that is, a suffering for the sins of others. It is evident that God permitted her death in this dramatic way, just as He permitted the death of His only-begotten Son, for the eternal benefit of others and as a witness to the reality of evil in a faithless age.
If we look only at her death at a young age or the tragic circumstances of her possession we will not see the meaning of her life or the heroism of her suffering. We have to look beyond the particulars to the fruit of her agony which needs the eyes of faith to see: that is, less than two years after Anneliese died as a victim for the German Church and clergy, a young priest by the name of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was named Archbishop of Munich, the very region where Anneliese lived, suffered and died.
And well, you know the rest of the story.
Did Emily Rose see the Virgin Mary?
St Michael Prayer Card
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Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,President, Human Life International
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