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Anneliese Michel, a possessed saint?

Andrzej Trojanowski

On a morning of 1 July 1976 a beautiful blackhaired girl is found dead in her bed.Her buchered body, wounded face and knocked out teeth are showing the terrible suffering.The excited massmedia, public trial and verdict: the priest ( the exorcist ) is guilty….How extraordinary this German student from Klingenberg was from whom´d been casted out devil during her life and many considered her as a saint after her death? Anneliese Michel, a possessed saint?
On a morning of 1 July 1976 a beautiful blackhaired girl is found dead in her bed.Her buchered body, wounded face and knocked out teeth are showing the terrible suffering.The excited massmedia, public trial and verdict: the priest ( the exorcist ) is guilty….How extraordinary this German student from Klingenberg was from whom´d been casted out devil during her life and many considered her as a saint after her death?
 
A film that aroused interest
 
Anneliese Michel – this was the right name of a girl whose dramatic story´s described in the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.The literal translation would read “The exorcism of Emily Rose” but in the Czech Republic the film was shown and distributed being entitled Under the devil´s sway.This film was shot in 2005 and aroused a considerable interest.If you put its title in English into the search engine google.com, you´ll find about a million pages where it´s written about it – including strings of trailers f. e. on the youtube.com server.The screenplay was inspired by the real shocking story of a possessed girl, and was provided expert documentary evidence in the book The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel by the professor Felicitas D.Goodman, cultural anthropologist and religionist.
 
The actual subject of the possession and Satan´s existence arouse no small interest and emotions.Why did this innocent girl die? Was she mentally ill or possessed? Are there really demons here who can kill and enslave? And what´s the contemporary science saying to it? Does the psychiatry exclude Satan´s existence? Who´s right? Those who carried out exorcism over the girl or a counsel for the prosecution who accuses the priest of the middle-age obscurantism? These topics are brought up by this film when it speaks out what a lot of spectators hide, that is:does the other unvisible world exist or not?The counsel for the prosecution  claims that he knows there are no evil spirits here.Although he considers himself to be a practicing Christian, during the trial he commands the observers not to “believe” all that the priest says about the Satan´s cruelty.The counsel for the defence – although she claims to be an agnostic, approaches these dramatic events without prejudice.As she submerges more and more into the matters, she begins to perceive their supernatural character and in addition to that, she gets clear signs concerning the existence of the invisible reality.
 
During the trial the defence counsel declares her openness to the possibility of the existence of the spiritual world and considers this to be an important part of the defendant´s pleading.It´s not difficult for the priest himself to believe in the evil spirit´s activity since he faced him in the dramatic spiritual fight for the girl´s liberation.The end of the film and its pronounced sentence are rather conflicting: the priest is found guilty of the girl´s death but he doesn´t have to go to the jail according to the court´s verdict….The film´s bringing an especially important message that was highlighted most in the last scene:”Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.( Phil.2,12 ).
The facts – or the real story
 
Let´s get down from the film to the authentic events.Anneliese was one of Mr. and Mrs.Michel´s four daughters. They were very kind and pious people who´d been living in German Klingenberg.Although Anneliese was petite and prone to the illnesses when she was a child, “she was quite normal” her schoolmates remembered : she knew how to be cheerful and to skylark and banter with others.Something abnormal started happening shortly before her sixteenth birthday, it was autumn 1968.According to one Anneliese schoolmate´s testimony she couldn´t move after a horrifying night.She felt as if tightened by a huge power that´d prevented her from breathing.It was no good crying for help, a drenched bed, fear…..
Almost a year later the situation happens again.The medical check-up and detailed neurological examination didn´t show any defects.Yet the girl was sent to the hospital and then her friends noticed her blue eyes go black, her hands changed and had strange spasms.Although she missed a school year, this gifted and hard-working girl passed her school-leaving exam and she was going to study at the college of education. As a young student she complains to her mum:”Something´s making a noise in my room.”Her mother sent her to see an ear specialist but he didn´t find out anything..
 
“The weird things”´re beginning to happen
 
There was a real problem when the others, who were living in the same house, began to hear tapping somewhere under the floor, in the wardrobe or in the ceiling.They were scared and so they went to pray before the little statue of Virgin Mary.Anneliese´s face twisted in different ways and they could sense a hatred coming out of their black eyes.The family prayer, frequent receiving of Eucharist and the evening rosary gave smaller and smaller comfort to this girl who´d been feeling worse physically and mentally every day and´d been complaining about disturbing phenomenons.
 
“Such a terrible fear…”she confesses to her spiritual father and the future exorcist P.Arnold Renzovi.”It´s such a fright you think you´re in the hell itself, you feel so lonely like nobody in the world….Then I imagine Jesus went through similar things at the mount of Olives, father Arnold.But he felt much worse because He took the sins of all the world upon him.” She started seeing various doctors but her exhaustion and fatigue multiplied.At her parents and father Arnold´s request, the experts in the spiritual domain, specialists in the possession come to their home as well.One of them said  the following words:”Anneliese was a nice girl and came from a profoundly religious house.She was complaining:I feel I don´t have my own ego.Then she said she saw the devilish faces from time to time that she was unable to describe further…
At certain intervals she threw away holy objects violently.from her.In the rooms around her there was a stench of dung and burn.”
 
At the same time she was successfully studying.A fellow student recalls: “Her happiness was striking, she didn´t shun friendship and she behaved in the way as a young girl in love did”. At that time she´d been going steady with Peter she knew about he took a fancy to her.Although she didn´t leave him, she thought that she shouldn´t be involved in a deeper relationship with him.But Peter was unyielding.He comforted her and himself too that at last there was going to be a doctor who would reveal the real origin of her odd troubles.He hadn´t left her until the end of her life.He was undaunted, even when she looked at him with a glance full of hatred and shrieked animal..As the months passed, Anneliese´s demeanour was more and more monstruous: she jumped upon the walls, drank her urine from the floor, put her head into the toilet bowl, scratched and bit the walls and got her teeth knocked out, rolled around naked in the gravel or dipped her body in the water.She had uncredible physical force:when her sister wanted to catch her, she threw her down to the ground as if she were a toy.She didn´t sleep at all and when she went to bed she looked like dead.Because of the tension of cervical muscles, this girl was unable to drink nor to eat. Suddenly she went quiet and balanced, she was praying for a few hours, learning and playing the piano. …
 
Exorcisms
 
In their helplessness Mr. and Mrs.Michel wrote a letter to the bishop asking for their daughter´s exorcism.The priests, who attended their house, didn´t have any doubts about the fact that it was the case of possession.They were also given a piece of advice by P.Adolf Rodewyk SJ, who´d been carrying out exorcism of a nurse in the hospital during the World War II. He analysed hundreds of cases of the possessed persons.He was convinced that Anneliese´s case was the worst kind of possession when he visited her in her house.
 
The Wurzburg bishop Josef Stangl charged P.Arnold Rence with carrying out exorcisms.He was helped by P.Ernest Alt .P.Arnold Renze´s jottings from the first exorcism give a certain idea of the fight that´s started: “The demons or Anneliese react to the holy water most fiercely.( The possessed )´s beginning to howl and toss and turn.She is being held by three men: Mr.Hein, Petr and her father.Anneliese´s trying to bite both left and right, kick her legs in the direction of me.From time to time she howls, especially when the holy water is used.She sometimes howls like a dog. She´s repeating: Finish this shit! You fucking priest, you dirty asshole! There are much more curses and swearwords but it´s better not to repeat them…”
 
The diocese bishop appoints an exorcist.This is a cultivated and at the same time impeccable priest who leads an exemplary priestly life.This impeccability is a must because nothing deters devil from trying every possible means to defend himself.When he´s got nothing, he only swears and uses foul languages.
Exorcism is a festive prayer during which the church by its authority commands publicly
the evil spirits to come out of a possessed person in the name of Jesus Christ.With the Anneliese ´s explicit permission P.Arnold recorded the process of exorcisms that were a few dozens in all.The professor Felicitas D.Goodman copied a part of this material into her book about Anneliese Michel.When the priest accompanied by Anneliese´s closest relatives had forced demons to leave the body of the vexed girl, he commanded them quoting words from so-called Rituale romanum or words from the Sciptures and invoking the holy names, there were indescribable shrieks,growl and screams all around them.Although enraged terribly, they answered the priests´questions.
 
P.Arnols wants to burst into a Marian song out of the blue.But he can´t because Anneliese burst out an awful and hitherto unheard shouts.The devil chokes as if he had to throw up his entrails at once and screams:”She´s coming! She´s coming! The Great Lady!” The professor Goodman was shocked when she heard this passage from the tape.She made a note of it in her book:”What you can hear is so nightmarish and powerful that I had to switch off the tape recorder to recover my composure and overcome the faintness that was hardly controllable.”/ The editor´s note:A part of these recordings from the course of exorcism is a component of the documentaries made by the Polish television and Helge Cramer Filmproduction that could also be watched in the original at the period of publishing this issue on www.youtube.com – it´s sufficient to put here the key word Anneliese Michel. /
 
It was only death that set her free
 
The exorcism from 30 December 1975 started in the same way as many others before.But at once the demon´s shouts resounded:”We won´t go away because He doesn´t allow it!” What´s God´s purpose of these occurrences? It was only death that set her free.” A day before her death remembers P.Arnold, all of a sudden she said during exorcism:I´m asking for the absolution! That was her last word she´d told me. At midnight the priest ordered demons to go quiet and allow the girl to fall asleep.Anneliese lay down to sleep and fell asleep peacefully, and she never woke up again.She died of exhaustion.
 
Possesion or sickness?
 
 A couple of years later Dr.Theo Wber-Arma studied the medical reports and discovered the facts that were hushed up in the main trial with exorcists.This Swiss expert revealed that Anneliese Michel´d been submitted to EEG examination three times.The epilepsy was ruled out every time but she was administered apart from other things zentropil and tegretol for many years.These antiepileptic medicines have side efects that destroy the organism.The doctor doesn´t have any doubts as to the fact that the high concentration of these medicines and their many years´ use must have brought Anneliese´s organism to death and exhaustion.In his opinion, the concrete doctors were responsible for the wrong diagnose and treatment but they were never called to account.
 
 
 Possesion as a repentance
 
Why was Anneliese Michel possessed with evil spirits? The possession concerns a person who opens to the Satan´s impact through satanic pacts, practicising magic, spiritism, bioergotherapy or other forms of occultism.You couldn´t find a trace of such an activity in Anneliese´s life. P.Arnold came to the following conclusion after the mysterious resistance of the evil spirits and considering that a series of prayers over the girl were prolonging.”It seems to me well-founded that this is precisely the case of the possession as a substitution repentance”.In various dialogues I´d had with her at that time, she made me understand she´d expect hard times again.She was terribly afraid of it and was very sad.But she thought it had to happen.In this case, the exorcist´s role is very demanding because it´s often not easy at all to take in the sense of the repentance. The only comfort you can have here is that plenty of souls are being saved through this horrible suffering.
 
The files are speaking clearly
 
Wasn´t the interpretation of this kind only a mark of the priest´s helplessness? Why did he think Anneliese suffered this devilish agony not because of her sins but because of other sins?These doubts would be well-founded if the girl hadn´t left personal jottings and records of what she´d told to her spiritual leader.
 
Yes, it appears strange and uncomprehensible to the today´s person educated in the individualistic spirit.However, is it possible to do spiritual battle with Satan for another and for his good? From the very beginning – from the struggle and Jesus´s victory on the cross – the Christianity answers affirmatively.Together with one Saviour and thanks to His only triumph over Satan we´re waging spiritual fight with the invisible world of fallen angels: personal beings, intelligent, completely evil and hostile to the God and human.Regardless of the protests of people with allegedly “the best of intensions”, this truth´s fully belonged to the dogmatics and preaching of Catholic church since the first apostels´ times.Unfortunately, it´s true that in the time of Anneliese Michel´s life even some Catholic theologians spread openly different views than the Church´s teaching.The fact that some theologians whittled down the demoniac possession to clearly natural mental disorders, contributed to turning down the exorcist´s practice.In Germany, there hadn´t been officially appointed priests – exorcists for many years.On the other hand, the interest in the occultism in various forms including Satanism was on the rise there.
 
What was the purpose of it all?
 
This is a good question.Why should Anneliese´s appalling agony help others to be saved? Well, because this girl who nobody understood and who was considered to be mentally ill, took part in the sufferings of Jesus himself.(compare Col 1,24).Exclusively for this unification with the Crucified her suffering was of the salvation-bringing character:not only salvation-bringing for herself, but also for other people.Moreover: Christ himself suffered inside her – it was the explanation for the stigmata which a number of people´d noticed.Thanks to the deep relationship with Jesus, several demons were curbed in her body which gains salvation-bringing dimension:it is about the victorious struggle over the devil in the Church  that is Christ´s mystical body.And when in one member of the Church the enemies of salvation are defeated, the other members profit by it.The same´s true about the live organism.This especially difficult vocation also goes with the exceptional graces that Anneliese received from Saviour.She got some advice from Him – so that she might discern better her satanic ideas - .which she informed her spiritual leader about.On 24 October 1975 she wrote down the following Jesus´s words:”Your suffering, your sadness, and a lack of comfort are served for saving souls.”
 
P.Erns Alt, one of the two priests who cast out demons of Anneliese points out to two facts that showed themselves very visibly before the witnesses of these dramatic events and that the director wanted to express as well:”First of all, it´s the dimension of the abyss which opens when the creature wants to be like God. Satan wanted it and keeps on wanting it.All of us want it in every sin to a smaller or larger extent.The second fact is the dimension of the God´s work of salvation in Jesus, the Son of God who became a man, the reality that lives in the Catholic church in all the sacraments and activities of the Chuch.
 
P.Andrzej Trojanowski Tchr
/ editing /
 
The source:
Felicitas D.Goodman: “Anneliese Michel´s Exorcisms”, Gdansk-Radom 2005
Borrowed with kind permission www.milujte.se
 
  
 

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