Msgr. Charles Pope recently blogged about pastoral considerations for people who might be battling demons. Some time back I wrote a post detailing an exorcism that was started here in Washington and concluded in St. Louis back in the 1940′s. Here are some recent comments sent to me about the issue of Exorcism, along with my responses:
Kylie – Father Joe, are there really people now-a-days that come in contact with the devil? Do people still have exorcisms preformed upon them? I am very interested in this kind of stuff and would really like to learn more information about it. Nowhere online does it really help me with my research on this. Is it only in the movies? Please contact me.
FATHER JOE: Kylie, I would suggest that before studying evil, we should be well-versed in goodness. It is only in first knowing God and having a saving relationship with our Lord that one might research such matters with a degree of safety. It is not a subject for casual interest. Movies are often inaccurate and are geared to exaggerate so as to arouse fear. I would start with the Gospels. There you will find the full gamut of Christ’s ministry: teaching, healing, forgiving, exorcizing the demonic and raising the dead. Pick up the Bible.
Martin – I am 15 and want to be an exorcist because it interests me. I hope you reply. I could use the advice of someone with experience. I am lost in this world. I feel like this can help me find my reason to still live in this world.
FATHER JOE: Martin, You cannot begin to help others when you cannot help yourself. A person who is lost cannot help a person find his or her way out from the grasp of the demonic. Every exorcist in the Catholic Church is a priest. Priests have the power to forgive sins. Never in the history of the world had God given such power to men. However, you must love God and feel that he has called you to a single-hearted love for him and his people. Our purpose in this world is to know God, to love God and to serve God. We will continue to give glory to God in the world to come. Can you give your life to Christ? Say your prayers, go to Mass and study the faith. If you feel at some point that God has given you a calling, see your local Catholic priest.
Edward – To read of the actual experience brings the educational level of one who watches the movie to a height that far dwarfs the power of fear that would otherwise take one further away from faith in God.
FATHER JOE: Yes, the power of Christ is truly awesome!
Josh – Hi Father Joe, I would just like to ask what role guardian angels play in assisting the exorcism of the person they are charged with, or the protection of the exorcist to whom they are charged?
FATHER JOE: Joshua, the guardian angels are always about praying for their charges. Of course, the good angels, like their counterparts the demons, are still only spiritual creatures. Their actions are limited by human freedom and the mysterious providence of God. The good angels are messengers of God’s grace, strength and will. Demons still have certain angelic powers but nothing of supernatural grace. That means that any confrontation is spiritually stacked against them. Not all angels or demons are the same, but the real power is always on the side of Christ.
Christian – Hi Father Joe, I believe that exorcisms should be allowed. What other way can they get help? I have never really seen one but I want to experience it. I want to be a help to these people God. Bless Father.
FATHER JOE: Christian, while there is a need for exorcism to be practiced, you do NOT want to experience it. Such a desire, in itself, would invalidate you. We want to help people. But, in no way is an exorcism a worthwhile experience. Would you like to change the bedpans of patients in a hospital? Could you, hour upon hour, spend your day exclusively changing diapers for the elderly in a nursing home? Is that an experience you want? Exorcisms are far worse. The demons are spiritual excrement. They are vile and they will seek to contaminate you. You mean well but you really do not know what you are saying.
Colleen – Father, my daughter has been suffering from illusions such as people trying to kill her, etc. I have taken her back and forth to hospitals. She has been taken also to prayer warriors. Last night she argued with her boyfriend. Every time she argues, she gets these attacks. Last night was worse as it was dark and raining. She held a knife and wanted to stab anyone who came near her. She was speaking with sounds that I could not understand. The knife she was holding was shaking and her eyes were so red. I have never seen such during her attacks. Please help.
FATHER JOE: What was the diagnosis given by the doctors? I am no expert on these matters and there is much in particular about this case I do not know. Has medicine been prescribed? If you feel the problem is a spiritual one then I would suggest going to see your local priest. He can pray over her for healing and spiritual deliverance. If this matter is more serious then he can take it to the appropriate diocesan authorities. I am not sure what you mean by “prayer warriors,” as we are all called to be such intercessors for one another. I would avoid anything that smacks of witchcraft or superstition. Such might seem to bring momentary relief but ultimately makes matters far worse. If she is a danger to herself and others then you must take serious steps and notify the authorities. I will keep you all in my prayers.
Charles – Several posters refer to The Rite and Fr. Gary Thomas. Father Gary is in a nearby parish. I attended a prayer breakfast with him and a Catholic group just after The Rite came out. The book ends with two exorcisms, one recurring and routine of an obsessed software engineer, the other of a Venezuelan girl who lived in the (adjacent) Diocese of Oakland (Alameda). The Bishop of Oakland asked for Fr. Gary’s intervention. The Venezuelan girl was totally possessed, he said. She’d been involved in jungle magic in Venezuela, and continued in black magic in the SF Bay area. When he sprinkled holy water on her in the rectory and began to pray, she “manifested.” Her face immediately changed to that of a monkey, she lunged for his collar, was held down on the carpet by her parents, where she writhed like a snake and screamed. Then she passed out. A few minutes later she woke up and had no memory of it. He called her in the following weeks for a full exorcism and she denied anything was wrong with her. He did not hear from her again.
FATHER JOE: I have neither read the book nor seen the movie.
Edward M – You’re all a bunch a fakes! / You have no files of documentation! / You have no reports or films on camera! / You have no proof whatsoever! / What a bunch of fakers! / God rocks E.
FATHER JOE: Some authorities do have documentation. I have shared parts of a journal here. But you are entitled to your opinion, even if it includes rudeness.