Exorcisms, Possessions and Deliverance
Unfortunately, today, the world does not believe in the existence of Satan as an evil spirit or in any other evil spirit, nor does it believe in the other dark forces that plague God's creation. But Jesus warned us that in our days, through his prophetic messages of the TLIG messages that the latest trick of Satan is to make people believe he does not exist nor that hell is a real place. Because many Christians today are unaware of Satan’s presence and the presence of the evil spirits that may produce physical illnesses, psychological and spiritual disorders, the effect of these evil spirits is powerful. For by ignoiring the reality of evil in the word today, we are giving Satan and his fallen angels their freedom to move and go about without being detected and without hindering them.
Many Christians are not aware that they might be carriers of one demon or more. They can never imagine that whatever physical or psychological illness they suffer could be caused by evil spirits that made their home in them. Many emotional disorders, neurosis, fears, anxieties, headaches, asthma, tumors, allergies and other psychosomatic diseases often are caused by a demon that has established his nest in the soul and infested their bodily faculties. It is unfortunate that some Christian churches have discontinued the custom of casting out demons from people and places, and even consider exorcisms outdated and distasteful!
And yet we read in the First Letter of John 3:8: “Christ came to (earth to) destroy the devil’s work.” Let us recall that Satan tempted Eve and Adam, Original Sin infected the human race and mankind was robbed of the beauty of Paradise. The “preternatural” gifts that Adam and Eve possessed in the Garden of Eden were lost, which included “immaculacy” (immunity from concupiscence), “infused knowledge” of God and of material order around him, and “immortality” . On account of Original Sin, thistles grew, beasts became wild, planets became burnt-out cinders floating in the immensity of space, ice ages, floods, natural disasters, diseases, suffering and death now govern this great cosmos of ours that was once unblemished. This is the present state of affairs.
That original sin is transmitted to us by our first parents is part of the Church’s early tradition. In his letter to the Romans St. Paul plainly states: “Death passed to all men inasmuch as all sinned” (Rom. 5.12). Though we are all conceived with Original Sin we do not bear the guilt of Adam and Eve. We are not punished for original sin but purified, which occurs in Baptism. Yet the Council of Trent acknowledges that after Baptism, the inclination of sin remains in the Baptized. So despite Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection that purchased for us the Sacrament of Baptism, we Christians are still subject to the influence of Satan in the intellect and memory (with only conditionings of the will). It is for this very reason that in Matthew’s Gospel 10:7-8, Jesus tells his disciples, “Cast out demons.” In Mark 16:17 Jesus adds, “And these signs shall accompany them that believe, in My Name they shall cast out demons…”.
In Sacred Scripture over 1000 references are made to the devil. Of these 1000 references, 568 come from the N.T.! If therefore in Scripture so much attention is given to the activity of Satan in the world, how come today such little attention is given to casting him out? Part of the answer may be found in the Church’s historical decline in demonology. Let us briefly review the Church’s history, and see how this change came about.
The 7 Historical Periods of the Church
At the time of Christ and the Apostles, casting out demons was an integral part of the apostolic mission. The Apostles interpreted the Lord’s command literally: “In My name you shall cast out demons.” The Apostles cast out demons in the Name of Jesus with a direct and solemn command.
Why a solemn command?
The answer is found in te Book of Acts 10.38 where St. Peter tells Cornelius that the very purpose for which Jesus came to earth was “to set us free from our slavery to Satan,” (remember original sin enslaved us to Satan), for Satan “prowls the earth like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pt. 5.8-9).
Like Peter, St. John’s Gospel affirms that “Christ came to earth in order to undo the devil’s work,” (1 Jn 3.8), and Luke’s Gospel reports Jesus having came to earth “to destroy the kingdom of Satan and inaugurate the kingdom of God” (Lk. 11,20).
After the life of Christ and the Apostles, there followed the 2nd period of the Church: the period of the early Church Fathers. Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, Ciprian, as well as the early writers Origen and Tertullian relate that exorcists were found in every village and city. St. Justin wrote to his early Christian community in Rome: “Throughout the world, and indeed in your own city of Rome there are numerous exorcists…”
From the 3rd to the 6th century, the great personages of Ss. Anthony of the desert, Pacomius and Illary all withdrew to the desert to a life of prayer and fasting for the very purpose of defeating Satan and, through their combat, liberating humanity free from Satan’s grip. Other notable exorcists were Ss. Marcellinus and Peter. Ss. Martin of Tours and Benedict are more recent exorcists that established desert communities, not to flee Satan, but to combat Satan directly in his preferred dwelling, in the desert. (So efficacious were Benedict’s prayers against Satan that Pope Honorius III made Benedict the Patron of Exorcists. And to this day the Benedictier medal is diffused as a powerful sacramental against the forces of evil.) Like Jesus these monks went out to meet Satan one-on-one in the desert where they were tempted, and overcoming temptation, help set humanity free from Satan’s grip. Few people realize that it was for the very purpose of combating Satan that monastic life was established!
The 4th period of the Church spans from the 6th to the 12th centuries, where exorcists flourished everywhere. Official texts were printed, and adequate preparations were made for solemn exorcisms. Young seminarians were introduced to exorcisms in classes, ordained and sent out to perform them. Up until now, from the time of Christ to the XII century, exorcisms in the Church were progressively on the rise.
We now come to the 5th period of the Church: From the 12th to the 15th century, when the Church loses its footing in its combat against Satan. It is the period in which Europe is plagued with wars and disease. There was the 100 years’ war, and woman who were found to be a bit crazy were labeled “witches.” This was especially prevalent in Protestant circles. The very woman that needed, more than anyone else to be exorcised, were instead persecuted and burned to the stake. St. Joan of Arc is a prime example. Although Joan would later be declared a saint, she was – during the inquisition and for political reasons – accused of being a witch. She was never exorcised to prove her innocence or guilt, but dealt the common practice of the inquisition: She was burnt to the stake. Soon after the poor attempt to replace exorcisms with inquisitions and witch burnings, disaster strikes Europe. In 1340 the black plague rocked Europe, an epidemic that killed over 40% of Europe’s population, followed by civil disturbances and schisms.
We come to the 6th period of the Church, from the 16th to the 18th century, where the absence of exorcisms give way to series of persecutions. So far history has taught us that where the devil is not combated and cast out through exorcisms, persons become demonized and are killed. Such would be the case for the centuries to follow through Dacau, the Gulag, genocide and ethnic cleansing. Just as the persecutions and the burning of witches had an irrational beginning, equally irrational was their cessation.
In the 7th period of the Church, from the 18th century to the present, the excessive and unconventional methods for dealing with evil in the middle ages came to a halt with the admission of another excess: Disinterest in the demonic. Thus we go from the one extreme of inquisitions and stake burnings as a poor substitute for exorcisms, to apathy in the face of evil. The motives for this change are numerous; but let me limit myself to their consequences, as they brought a disinterest in the exorcisms the Apostles performed, and a regression in demonology. The devil was reduced to a symbol, an impersonal force, or even a figment of the imagination. And this disinterest in Satan has not kept the laity from chasing after superstition, occultism and rationalism and materialism. Unfortunately, those that have neither seen nor participated in an exorcism will doubt its efficacy, and deny the presence of Satan.
Yet the Church’s saints testify to Satan’s personal presence. Of the many saints that directly combated Satan, worthy of mention are Ss. Catherine of Sienna, John Vianney, Don Bosco, Padre Pio, and Luisa Piccarreta. One notable figure that emerges at the turn of the 19th century is Pope Pius VII who was imprisoned by Napoleon. Pope Pius VII was a great exorcist. During his trips to and from France he would often repeat, “the starting point of pastoral life are exorcisms.”
The official Roman Ritual for Major Exorcisms is the fruit of 12 centuries of prayers. It was edited in 1614 under Pope Paul V, and underwent modifications over the centuries. The most recent edition is from 1954 and is available in Latin from the Poliglotta Vaticana Press.
Canon law requires that the priest that exorcises a person tormented by the devil must be vested with special authority from the local bishop. Unfortunately not all dioceses have an exorcist… but this is gradually changing. In Italy, for example, in the last seven years alone over 350 exorcists were appointed by bishops, even in dioceses that had never seen an exorcist. The devil sees this and is enraged. Why? Because exorcisms are on the part of the Church the only “direct” expulsion of evil from those that estranged themselves from the Church.. This direct means of expelling Satan was conferred to the Church by Jesus Christ in Scripture when he told his apostles to “cast out demons.” While the Sacrament of Confession is a direct exorcism that expels demons from us and disposes us to receive Jesus in Communion worthily, very few Christians frequent the Sacrament of Confession anymore. Because the effects of the Sacrament of Confession has no effect on those who do not receive this Sacrament, many Christians remain bound by Satan physically through illness, psychologically through neuroses or spiritually through sin. Because fewer and fewer Christians frequent Confession and Communion, the ritual of exorcisms serve especially to bring such souls back to these Sacraments.
In Rome, I received special authority to perform exorcisms with the chief exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, whom Pope John Paul II called to Rome from Modena, Italy. Fr. Amorth obtained his licentiate in jurisprudence and confessed regularly to St. Padre Pio.
One day Fr. Amorth asked Padre Pio: “Dear father, I have a big favor to ask you.”
P. Pio leaned his head toward Fr. Amorth and with a big smile invited him to speak.
Fr. Amorth, who had many spiritual children to care for, said: “Padre Pio, I would like for all of my spiritual children to be also become your spiritual children. If you take them under your care as your own children, I will be most relieved.”
P. Pio’s smile grew wider, and he said to Fr. Amorth: “Sì, filgiolo, va bene.”
To this Fr. Amorth said: “Now all of my children will no longer call you Padre Pio, but Grandpa Pio.” Padre Pio smiled.
Fr. Amorth was trained in exorcisms by Fr. Candido Amantini, a Passionist priest. Fr. Candido was criticized by his superiors as a being a credulous chaser of demons tha did not exist. Fr. Amorth asked P. Pio if this was true. Padre Pio told Fr. Amorth that Fr. Candido is “Un sacerdote secondo il cuore di Dio.” Fr. Candido died on the eve of P. Pio’s death.
I had the privilege of assisting Fr. Amorth; together we performed several exorcisms each morning in the sacristy of St. Paul Outside the Wall Basilica in Rome. From these experiences, I wish to share with you how exorcisms are performed in the Latin rite. Exorcisms are basically comprised of three parts:
Major Exorcism Preparations: Inquiring
If possible, the exorcist reviews the physical and mental history of the allegedly possessed to determine a possible cause for the malady, i.e., He asks such questions as:
If necessary, the doctor’s health report is submitted to the exorcist. If the illness of the allegedly possessed does not appear to be purely psychological or physical, but appears to be substantially evil, we proceed with the exorcism. Some criteria for determining a true diabolic possession are a combination of some of the following traits:
We begin a Major Exorcism with:
The crucifix Blessed oil Blessed salt Holy water The St. Benedict medal The Bible Relics of Saints A violet stole
The Major Exorcism begins by invoking the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Michael and the angels. We also invoke those saints that exercise a formidable influence over Satan in their lives.
The litany follows. The exorcist often has associates that participate in the exorcism and that maintain the secrecy of the exorcism. The associates are carefully chosen for their gifts. Fr. Amorth is often assisted by two women with charismatic gifts and a man with prophetic gifts. The charismatic help him identify the evil spirits and heal the possessed, while the prophet exhorts through the Word of God. The exorcist “alone” communicates directly with the person stricken by the demonic, and discerns the movements of the spirit in the possessed. The exorcist never lets his associates guide him nor does he let them speak directly with the possessed. Rather the exorcist speaks to his associates and they respond to him.
The exorcist anoints the possessed with sacred oil, holy water with blessed salt and blesses him with the crucifix. Often the violet stole is placed on the possessed shoulders to restore to him his 3-fold priestly powers received at Baptism (let us recall that Satan robbed us of these powers with original sin, and Baptism restores them only in part, for the inclination to sin remains in the baptized).
It is noteworthy that the exorcist’s power comes not from himself, but from Jesus, whose name the exorcist invokes.
There follows the Profession of Baptismal Promises. The Lord’s Prayer. The “Command” against the evil spirits. The Prayer of Thanksgiving.
And Counsel to the person that has been freed (In this period of convalescing, Satan may return to torment the person stricken by demons, so we encourage them to recite daily prayers, and frequent the Sacraments (bi-monthly Confession and daily Communion)
Other counsels include 6 long-term goals that we encourage them to implement (Remember, people that are afflicted by Satan are capable of cooperating with the exorcist):
The Prayer of Repentance and Deliverance
This "Exorcism Prayer" was given to Vassula on November 13, 2006
Vassula writes: Jesus Christ dictated to me this prayer which is a prayer of repentance, healing and deliverance. He said that this "excorcism prayer" is needed for our times so evil.
People do not know how to totally repudiate Satan in their prayers, who is controlling them, blinding them and giving them a lot of suffering, either through illness or by making them captives. Jesus also says that a lot of people worship false gods (idols).
This prayer will be very effective if prayed with the heart and sincerity.
The Lord said: "Let them repent before Me with these words:"