Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(Latin adjurare , to swear; to affirm by oath ).

An urgent demand made upon another to do something, or to desist from doing something, which demand is rendered more solemn and more irresistible by coupling with it the name of God or of some sacred person or thing. Such, too, was the primitive use of the word. In its theological acceptation, however, adjuration never carries with it the idea of an oath, or the calling upon God to witness to the truth of what is asserted. Adjuration is rather an earnest appeal, or a most stringent command requiring another to act, or not to act, under pain of divine visitation or the rupture of the sacred ties of reverence and love. Thus, when Christ was silent in the house of Caiphas, answering nothing to the things that were witnessed against Him, the High Priest would force Him to speak and so said to Him: "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us if Thou be the Christ the Son of God." ( Matthew 26:63 ) Adjuration may be either deprecatory or imprecatory. The one implies deference, affection, reverence, or prayer ; the other, authority, command, or menace. The one may be addressed to any rational creature except the demon ; the other can be addressed only to inferiors and the demon. In Mark (v, 7) the man with the unclean spirit cast himself at the feet of Jesus saying: "What have we to do with Thee Jesus the Son of the Most High God ? I adjure Thee that Thou torment me not." The wretched man recognized that Christ was his superior, and his attitude was that of humility and petition. Caiphas, on the contrary, fancied himself vastly superior to the Prisoner before him. He stood and commanded Christ to declare Himself under pain of incurring the wrath of Heave. It is hardly necessary to insist that one mode of adjuration is to be employed when addressing the Deity and quite another when dealing with the powers of darkness. Helpless man, calling upon Heaven to assist him, adds weight to his naked words by joining with them the persuasive names of those whose deeds and virtues are written in the Book of Life. No necessity is thereby laid upon the Almighty, and no constraint save that of benevolence and love. But when the spirit of darkness is to be adjured, it is never allowable to address him in the language of peace and friendship. Satan must ever be approached as man's eternal enemy. He must be spoken to in the language of hostility and command. Nor is there aught of presumption in such treatment of the evil one. It were indeed egregious temerity for man to cope single-handed with the devil and his ministers, but the name of God, reverently invoked, carries with it an efficacy which demons are unable to withstand. Nor should it be supposed that adjuration implies disrespect for the Almighty. If it is allowable to invoke the adorable name of God in order to induce others to build more securely upon our world, it must be equally permissible to make use of the made means in order to impel others to action. Indeed, when used under due conditions, that is "in truth, in justice, and in judgment", adjuration is a positive act of religion, for it presupposes on the part of the speaker faith in God and his superintending xxyyyk.htm">Providence, as well as an acknowledgment that He is to be reckoned with in the manifold affairs of life. What more beautiful form of prayer that that of the litany, wherein we beg immunity from evil through the Advent, the Birth, the Fasting, the Cross, the Death and Burial, the Holy Resurrection, and the wonderful Ascension of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity ? Christ Himself recommends this form of invocation: "Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be Glorified in the Son" ( John 14:13 ). Acting upon this promise, the Church sends all her more solemn prayers with the adjuration: Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum (Through Our Lord Jesus Christ ). St. Thomas declares that the words of Christ, "in My name that shall cast out devils " ( Mark 16:17 ) give all believing Christians warrant to adjure the spirit of evil. This, however, must not be done out of mere curiosity, for vainglory, or for any other unworthy motive. According to Acts (xix, 12) St. Paul was successful in casting out wicked spirits, whereas the Jewish exorcists, using magic arts purporting to come from Solomon, "attempted to invoke over them that had evil spirits, the name of the Lord Jesus, saying: 'I conjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches,'" were leaped upon and overcome by those possessed, in such sort that they found it convenient "to flee out of that house, naked and wounded." In adjuring the demon one may bid him depart in the name of the Lord, or in such other language as faith and piety may suggest; or he may drive him forth by the formal and fixed prayers of the Church. The first manner, which is free to all Christians, is called private adjuration. The second, which is reserved to the ministers of the Church alone, is called solemn. Solemn adjuration, or adjuration properly so called, corresponds to the Greek exorkismos . It properly means an expelling of the evil one. In the Roman Ritual there are many forms of solemn adjuration. These are to be found, notably, in the ceremony of baptism. One is pronounced over the water, another over the salt, while many are pronounced over the child. Manifold and solemn as are the adjurations pronounced over the catechumen in baptism, those uttered over the possessed are more numerous and, if possible, more solemn. This ceremony, with its rubrics, takes up thirty pages of the Roman Ritual. It is, however, but rarely used, and never without the express permission of the bishop, for there is room for no end of deception and hallucination when it is question of dealing with the unseen powers. (See BAPTISM; DEVIL ; EXORCISM.)


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter