Skip to comments.The Healing Power of Exorcism
Posted on 10/31/2009 6:04:49 AM PDT by GonzoII
Oct 30th 2009
An Interview with Father Gary Thomas
by Paul Ciarcia
The day before I spoke with Father Gary Thomas was probably a typical weekday for most priests. For Father Thomas it was a typical weekday as well, except it involved a two hour-long, emotionally and physically draining battle with a horde of demons seeking to claim another persons soul.
(The demons) operate in packs, said Father Thomas. The more powerful ones are over the less powerful ones.
These demons have put up big fights, Father Thomas said, recollecting the episode. I think now we are into the more powerful demons. The last few sessions have been very tough.
Father Thomas is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, Calif. His ministry as a priest has taken him on a path few fully understand and fewer dare to follow. It began with a journey to Rome for training in one of the most mysterious rites in Roman Catholicism: exorcism.
Father Thomas was blessed with a strong Catholic upbringing. Entering the seminary in 1979 at age 25, he is a native San Franciscan just marking his 25th year in the priesthood.
How can a seemingly mild mannered priest contend with the devil himself? And what does it take to become an exorcist?
Obviously, exorcism is not for the faint of heart, which Father Thomas definitely is not: he is also a licensed embalmer, with experience working in the funeral business before he became a priest. Learning to stare death in the eye would be only a prologue to his duties as an exorcist, where he could be called upon to come face to face with a demonic presence. Performing the rite of exorcism requires a steely constitution, faith in Christ and a commitment to healing virtues that go hand in hand with the true mission of the priesthood.
But it also requires something more: fearlessness.
You cant be afraid of Satan, said Father Thomas.
That doesnt mean you are cocky and dont give due respect to the demonic, but you cannot be afraid of Satan, he explained. You have to have faith. You have to believe in the reality of Satan.
He also stressed that the exorcist must be able to hold his ground when the unsettling manifestations of possession appear in the individual, the movements and physical signs of diabolical presence.
These manifestations can run the gamut. As he noted, no exorcism is the same as another.
People could appear to have a fit or seizure, rolling their eyes, drooling or taking on a snake-like or reptilian appearance. You cannot be afraid of that, Father Thomas warned. Or you wont be effective.
His bishop appointed Father Thomas to become the official exorcist of the Diocese of San Jose in 2005 after another priest opted out of the assignment.
Learning the art of the exorcist did not come easy. Father Thomas took courses on exorcism in Rome, a story chronicled in the recently released book The Rite: The Making of A Modern Exorcist, by journalist Matt Baglio, who attended Father Thomas exorcism classes.
While in Rome, Father Thomas felt he needed more hands-on experience to master the method of performing exorcisms. He became the understudy of a Roman exorcist, Father Carmine De Filippis, provincial for the Capuchin Order in Rome.
For three days a week, three hours at a time, for three and half months, Father Thomas plied away at his craft, learning to wage spiritual warfare from a seasoned Roman hand.
Father Thomas is aware of the need to protect himself and always remain on guard during the often intense exorcism sessions.
You can get attacked. Demons attack you at your weakest places, he said, adding that before each exorcism he prays a prayer for protection. In addition, Father Thomas usually fasts lightly before each exorcism and spends time before the Blessed Sacrament.
Over the past five years, Father Thomas has performed the rite of exorcism over five people, and he continues to work on two of those cases. He said his most recent case has been particularly difficult, having lasted over a year and that in long term cases like this, some demons are intent on not leaving.
Fortunately, his latest subject is not under full possession a very rare condition, Father Thomas noted, when the demon has full, physical control over the body of the afflicted individual.
It has been incredibly exhausting, he said, adding that the difficulty of the exorcism depends on the power of the demon, with demons higher in the hierarchy being the most difficult to remove. Overall, it is an ordeal to maintain ones presence during the exorcism and pray with meaning.
An exorcism unfolds as follows:
The priest will say a prayer of protection, then one of authority. The solemn rite itself begins with the Litany of Saints. That is followed by the Lords Prayer, a Scripture reading and words of reflection.
The priest also says a prayer asking for forgiveness of his own sins. Then he will command the demons to announce who they are, and specific prayers of exorcism are said. Father Thomas concludes the rite with a general prayer of thanksgiving.
Priests do not receive a report of possession and rush to the scene to perform an exorcism straight away. Exorcism is a deliberative, rigorous and scientific process, whereby the priest, in conjunction with a team of experts, must first determine that the cause of affliction is not psychological.
You are trying to pinpoint whether the core reason is supernatural or psychological, Father Thomas said. His own team includes a physician, a clinician and a psychiatrist, all practicing Catholics, and all who believe in the possibility of Satans existence.
When someone comes to me and says, I need an exorcism, my answer is, We are yet to determine that, Father Thomas said. The last thing an exorcist does is an exorcism with good reason. If you do them haphazardly you can harm the person emotionally or psychologically.
He estimated that at least 75 percent of the time, the root cause of the persons affliction is psychological, and that medical care is the proper solution.
Most people are not at risk of satanic possession, Father Thomas added, and possessions are usually not random occurrences. Somewhere along the line, the demonic element has been invited in to a persons life either directly or through a third party.
Involvement with the occult, a doorway to the satanic, might lead to an encounter with a demon, Father Thomas said. Another instance might occur if parents engaged in satanic worship, and their child grows up and starts showing signs.
So through no fault of their own, they have been exposed to things of the satanic nature, he said.
Father Thomas does not mince words when it come to the reality of evil and what he sees as a growing reticence within the Church to realize or accept that Satan exists.
There are priests and bishops who dont believe that, he said. They think it is a superstitious, outdated modality that no longer exists, which is quite honestly a denial of the inspiration of the scriptures and the teachings of the church.
Father Thomas expressed frustration over those in denial or ignorant of Satans presence.
I have a lot of Catholics who say to me, Oh, you still do that, as if we went through the Satanic era and its over now, he said. Satan is present both in and out of season. Always has, always will be until the end of time.
Why did Christ come? He came to defeat Satan, Father Thomas said. He did not only come to say, By the way, I love you, he came to defeat Satan. That was the expression of his love for us.
Father Thomas believes the need for exorcism in the modern era is as great as ever and that theres a relationship between the chaos of the world and Satans prominence in the everyday life of people.
Father Thomas shared statistics he learned during his formal training in Rome: Twenty-five percent of Italys population practices some form of the occult, and only three percent of Italians in the Catholic country go to church on a regular basis.
It isnt a matter of people saying, I want to be a pagan, Father Thomas explained, but when people put everything ahead of God and have obsessions about those certain things about pleasures or work, its idolatry.
He said that Satans influence can be found not only in the occult but in the mundane.
When parents go off for entire weekends and do nothing but soccer tournaments and forsake the Eucharist, that is idolatry, he said. The seduction is that they dont know.
When I bring these things up with parishioners, they sometimes get offended as if, how dare I, Father Thomas said. People have allowed their lives to be overtaken by the frenzy of activity, searching for things that will bring them the sorts of meaning to sustain them, but meanwhile, none of this stuff does.
Is there hope?
The occult is all about power whether it is the power or knowledge that gives people what they want in this life rather than the next life, he explained. People cant continue the life they have been living if they wish to be delivered. They have to develop a prayer life. They have to start receiving the sacraments of the Church.
With the recent publication of Baglios The Rite, renewed attention has been gained for exorcism. Father Thomas hopes the book will help inform people about the reality of evil and shed some of the mystery surrounding the rite of exorcism, in which Father Thomas finds great meaning despite the hardships.
Its a ministry of healing, he said. It really is. It is bringing consolation to people.
Exorcism is (1) the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice; (2) the means employed for this purpose, especially the solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demon, in the name of God, or any of the higher power in which he is subject.
The word, which is not itself biblical, is derived from exorkizo, which is used in the Septuagint (Genesis 24:3 = cause to swear; III(I) Kings 22:16 = adjure), and in Matthew 26:63, by the high priest to Christ, "I adjure thee by the living God. . ." The non-intensive horkizo and the noun exorkistes (exorcist) occur in Acts 19:13, where the latter (in the plural) is applied to certain strolling Jews who professed to be able to cast out demons. Expulsion by adjuration is, therefore, the primary meaning of exorcism, and when, as in Christian usage, this adjuration is in the name of God or of Christ, exorcism is a strictly religious act or rite. But in ethnic religions, and even among the Jews from the time when there is evidence of its being vogue, exorcism as an act of religion is largely replaced by the use of mere magical and superstitious means, to which non-Catholic writers at the present day sometimes quite unfairly assimilate Christian exorcism. Superstition ought not to be confounded with religion, however much their history may be interwoven, nor magic, however white it may be, with a legitimate religious rite.
In ethnic religions
The use of protective means against the real, or supposed, molestations of evil spirits naturally follows from the belief in their existence, and is, and has been always, a feature of ethnic religions, savage and civilized. In this connection only two of the religions of antiquity, the Egyptian and Babylonian, call for notice; but it is no easy task, even in the case of these two, to isolate what bears strictly on our subject, from the mass of mere magic in which it is embedded. The Egyptians ascribed certain diseases and various other evils to demons, and believed in the efficacy of magical charms and incantations for banishing or dispelling them. The dead more particularly needed to be well fortified with magic in order to be able to accomplish in safely their perilous journey to the underworld (see Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1899). But of exorcism, in the strict sense, there is hardly any trace in the Egyptian records.
In the famous case where a demon was expelled from the daughter of the Prince of Bekhten, human ministry was unavailing, and the god Khonsu himself had to be sent the whole way from Thebes for the purpose. The demon gracefully retired when confronted with the god, and was allowed by the latter to be treated at a grand banquet before departing "to his own place" (op. cit. p. 206 sq.).
Babylonian magic was largely bound up with medicine, certain diseases being attributed to some kind of demoniacal possession, and exorcism being considered easiest, if not the only, way of curing them (Sayce, Hibbert Lect. 1887, 310). For this purpose certain formulæ of adjuration were employed, in which some god or goddess, or some group of deities, was invoked to conjure away the evil one and repair the mischief he had caused. The following example (from Sayce, op. cit., 441 seq.) may be quoted: "The (possessing) demon which seizes a man, the demon (ekimmu) which seizes a man; The (seizing) demon which works mischief, the evil demon, Conjure, O spirit of heaven; conjure, O spirit of earth." For further examples see King, Babylonian Magic and Sorcery (London, 1896).
Among the Jews
There is no instance in the Old Testament of demons being expelled by men. In Tobias 8:3, is the angel who "took the devil and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt"; and the instruction previously given to young Tobias (6:18-19), to roast the fish's heart in the bridal chamber, would seem to have been merely part of the angel's plan for concealing his own identity. But in extra-canonical Jewish literature there are incantations for exorcising demons, examples of which may be seen in Talmud (Schabbath, xiv, 3; Aboda Zara, xii, 2; Sanhedrin, x, 1). These were sometimes inscribed on the interior surface of earthen bowls, a collection of which (estimated to be from the seventh century A.D) is preserved in the Royal Museum in Berlin; and inscriptions from the collection have been published, translated by Wohlstein in the "Zeitschrift für Assyriologie" (December, 1893; April, 1894).
The chief characteristics of these Jewish exorcisms is their naming of names believed to be efficacious, i.e., names of good angels, which are used either alone or in combination with El (=God); indeed reliance on mere names had long before become a superstition with the Jews, and it was considered most important that the appropriate names, which varied for different times and occasions, should be used. It was this superstitious belief, no doubt, that prompted the sons of Sceva, who had witnessed St. Paul's successful exorcisms in the name of Jesus, to try on their own account the formula, "I conjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth", with results disastrous to their credit (Acts 19:13). It was a popular Jewish belief, accepted even by a learned cosmopolitan like Josephus, that Solomon had received the power of expelling demons, and that he had composed and transmitted certain formulæ that were efficacious for that purpose. The Jewish historian records how a certain Eleazar, in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian and his officers, succeeded, by means of a magical ring applied to the nose of a possessed person, in drawing out the demon through the nostrils the virtue of the ring being due to the fact that it enclosed a certain rare root indicated in the formulaæ of Solomon, and which it was exceedingly difficult to obtain (Ant. Jud, VIII, ii, 5; cf. Bell. Jud. VII, vi, 3).
But superstition and magic apart, it is implied in Christ's answers to the Pharisees, who accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, that some Jews in His time successfully exorcised demons in God's name: "and if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?" (Matthew 12:27). It does not seem reasonable to understand this reply as mere irony, or as a mere argumentum ad hominem implying no admission of the fact; all the more so, as elsewhere (Mark 9:37-38) we have an account of a person who was not a disciple casting out demons in Christ's name, and whose action Christ refused to reprehend or forbid.
Exorcism in the New Testament
Assuming the reality of demoniac possession, for which the authority of Christ is pledged, it is to be observed that Jesus appealed to His power over demons as one of the recognised signs of Messiahship (Matthew 12:23, 28; Luke 11:20). He cast out demons, He declared, by the finger or spirit of God, not, as His adversaries alleged, by collusion with the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 19); and that He exercised no mere delegated power, but a personal authority that was properly His own, is clear from the direct and imperative way in which He commands the demon to depart (Mark 9:24; cf. 1:25 etc.): "He cast out the spirits with his word, and he healed all that were sick" (Matthew 8:16). Sometimes, as with the daughter of the Canaanean woman, the exorcism took place from a distance (Matthew 15:22 sqq.; Mark 7:25). Sometimes again the spirits expelled were allowed to express their recognition of Jesus as "the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24) and to complain that He had come to torment them "before the time", i.e the time of their punishment (Matthew 8:29 sqq; Luke 8:28 sqq.). If demoniac possession was generally accompanied by some disease, yet the two were not confounded by Christ, or the Evangelists. In Luke 13:32, for example, the Master Himself expressly distinguishes between the expulsion of evil spirits and the curing of disease.
Christ also empowered the Apostles and Disciples to cast out demons in His name while He Himself was still on earth (Matthew 10:1 and 8; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1; 10:17), and to believers generally He promised the same power (Mark 16:17). But the efficacy of this delegated power was conditional, as we see from the fact that the Apostles themselves were not always successful in their exorcisms: certain kinds of spirits, as Christ explained, could only be cast out by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:15, 20; Mark 9:27-28; Luke 9:40). In other words the success of exorcism by Christians, in Christ's name, is subject to the same general conditions on which both the efficacy of prayer and the use of charismatic power depend. Yet conspicuous success was promised (Mark 16:17). St. Paul (Acts 16:18; 19:12), and, no doubt, the other Apostles and Disciples, made use of regularly, as occasion arose, of their exorcising power, and the Church has continued to do so uninterruptedly to the present day.
Besides exorcism in the strictest sense i.e. for driving out demons from the possessed Catholic ritual, following early traditions, has retained various other exorcisms, and these also call for notice here.
Exorcism of the possessed
We have it on the authority of all early writers who refer to the subject at all that in the first centuries not only the clergy, but lay Christians also were able by the power of Christ to deliver demoniacs or energumens, and their success was appealed to by the early Apologists as a strong argument for the Divinity of the Christian religion (Justin Martyr, First Apology 6; Dialogue with Trypho 30 and 85; Minutius Felix, Octavius 27; Origen, Against Celsus I.25; VII.4; VII.67; Tertullian, Apology 22, 23; etc.). As is clear from testimonies referred to, no magical or superstitious means were employed, but in those early centuries, as in later times, a simple and authoritative adjuration addressed to the demon in the name of God, and more especially in the name of Christ crucified, was the usual form of exorcism.
But sometimes in addition to words some symbolic action was employed, such as breathing (insufflatio), or laying of hands on the subject, or making the sign of cross. St. Justin speaks of demons flying from "the touch and breathing of Christians" (Second Apology 6) as from a flame that burns them, adds St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 20.3). Origen mentions the laying of hands, and St. Ambrose (Paulinus, Vit. Ambr., n. 28, 43, P.L, XIV, 36, 42), St. Ephraem Syrus (Gregory of Nyssa, De Vit. Ephr., P.G., XLVI, 848) and others used this ceremony in exorcising. The sign of the cross, that briefest and simplest way of expressing one's faith in the Crucified and invoking His Divine power, is extolled by many Fathers for its efficacy against all kinds of demoniac molestation (Lactantius, Divine Institutes IV.27; Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word 47; Basil, In Isai., XI, 249, P.G., XXX, 557, Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 13.3; Gregory Nazianzen, Carm. Adv. iram, v, 415 sq.; P.G., XXXVII, 842). The Fathers further recommend that the adjuration and accompanying prayers should be couched in the words of Holy Writ (Cyril of Jerusalem, Procatechesis 9; Athanasius, Ad Marcell., n. 33, P.G., XXVII, 45). The present rite of exorcism as given in the Roman Ritual fully agrees with patristic teaching and is a proof of the continuity of Catholic tradition in this matter.
At an early age the practice was introduced into the Church of exorcising catechumens as a preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism. This did not imply that they were considered to be obsessed, like demoniacs, but merely that they were, in consequence of original sin (and of personal sins in case of adults), subject more or less to the power of the devil, whose "works" or "pomps" they were called upon to renounce, and from whose dominion the grace of baptism was about to deliver them.
Exorcism in this connection is a symbolical anticipation of one of the chief effects of the sacrament of regeneration; and since it was used in the case of children who had no personal sins, St. Augustine could appeal to it against the Pelagians as implying clearly the doctrine of original sin (Ep. cxciv, n. 46. P.L., XXXIII, 890; C. Jul. III, 8; P.L., XXXIV, 705, and elsewhere). St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Procatechesis 14) gives a detailed description of baptismal exorcism, from which it appears that anointing with exorcised oil formed a part of this exorcism in the East. The only early Western witness which treats unction as part of the baptismal exorcism is that of the Arabic Canons of Hippolytus (n. 19, 29). The Exsufflatio, or out-breathing of the demon by the candidate, which was sometimes part of the ceremony, symbolized the renunciation of his works and pomps, while the Insufflatio, or in-breathing of the Holy Ghost, by ministers and assistants, symbolised the infusion of sanctifying grace by the sacrament. Most of these ancient ceremonies have been retained by the Church to this day in her rite for solemn baptism.
According to Catholic belief demons or fallen angels retain their natural power, as intelligent beings, of acting on the material universe, and using material objects and directing material forces for their own wicked ends; and this power, which is in itself limited, and is subject, of course, to the control of Divine providence, is believed to have been allowed a wider scope for its activity in the consequence of the sin of mankind. Hence places and things as well as persons are naturally liable to diabolical infestation, within limits permitted by God, and exorcism in regard to them is nothing more that a prayer to God, in the name of His Church, to restrain this diabolical power supernaturally, and a profession of faith in His willingness to do so on behalf of His servants on earth.
The chief things formally exorcised in blessing are water, salt, oil, and these in turn are used in personal exorcisms, and in blessing or consecrating places (e.g. churches) and objects (e.g. altars, sacred vessels, church bells) connected with public worship, or intended for private devotion. Holy water, the sacramental with which the ordinary faithful are most familiar, is a mixture of exorcised water and exorcised salt; and in the prayer of blessing, God is besought to endow these material elements with a supernatural power of protecting those who use them with faith against all the attacks of the devil. This kind of indirect exorcism by means of exorcised objects is an extension of the original idea; but it introduces no new principle, and it has been used in the Church from the earliest ages. (See also EXORCIST.)
Source: Catholic Encyclopedia
That could apply to the abortion policies of the current administration as well.
Weirdly enough, I just woke up dreaming about Anita Dunn and her statement regarding Mao and Blessed Mother Teresa.
How this woman could compare a saint who saved the least of all lives and campioned the infant-in-utero to a mass murderer whose policies still live on in China with the State sanctioned infanticide is nothing short of demonic.
There was an interesting show on the History channel yesterday about exorcism.
Yup. And a myraid of other things. The way I see it, anyone who willfully, blatantly and wholly embraces something diametrically opposed to the teachings and will of God, has at least some demonic influence.
I was just going to mention that. I only watched the first 10 minutes or so. Got busy with other stuff.
Seeing a hooker in Vegas has about the same healing powers as getting an exorcism.
1. The priest will say a prayer of protection,
2. then one of authority.
3. The solemn rite itself begins with the Litany of Saints.
4. followed by the Lords Prayer,
5. a Scripture reading
6. words of reflection.
7. The priest also says a prayer asking for forgiveness of his own sins.
8. Then he will command the demons to announce who they are,
9. specific prayers of exorcism are said.
10. concludes the rite with a general prayer of thanksgiving.
Yeah, thats what Jesus did ... I remember reading it in ... what was that ... Matthew? ... no ... Ephesians? ... no ... oh yeah ... Fabrications chapter 3.
She made the statement about Mao in a building of a denomination that started with murdering monks and stealing monasteries.
Seeing a hooker in Vegas has about the same healing powers as getting an exorcism.Have you ever been involved in an exorcism? Or with a hooker in Vegas? Do you speak with any authority or is this just another random attack on my faith?
You must be a non-Trinitarian then since the Trinity isn’t mentioned either.
So, you think diseases are caused by “demons?”
Just a wee bit of a stretch isn’t it? lol ...
Demons don’t need to possess people in America. We have television
The situation in the Roman Catholic church is complicated by an official willingness to play footsie with a number of numinous supernatural entities other than God ... most prominently, one who masquerades as the BVM.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is not a supernatural entity but a creature and the greatest Saint that ever was or ever will be who is now in heaven:
Rv:12:1,2,5: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne."
"footsie with a number of numinous supernatural entities"
The Devil and his cronies are not supernatural entities either strictly speaking, but creatures, God alone is a supernatural being; "super" i.e. above, His creation, that is to say above nature.
As to your apparent belief that the Catholic Church has no business casting out demons I would refer you to scripture:
Mt:10:1: "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. "
Mt:7:22: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?"
Mt:17:16-21: "And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19: Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
If God gives the Church a power, that means He desires it to be used, I'm sure those who have been exorcised of demons are thankful for that power.
Have a nice day.
I don't know, I do know the devil tempts people to actions that will get them diseases.
You know for sure people get flu or cancer because they are tempted by the devil?
I know people who are tempted against purity and give in, may be subjecting themselves to diseases, witness STDS.
The Bible teaches (incorrectly) that diseases are caused by demons. It makes no mention of STDs.
What evidence do you have that our temptations are caused by "demons" and not by our biology, ignorance, rebelliousness and immaturity, which are much more demonstrable?
We better call it quits for today.
Quit? So, are you now saying that "demons" do cause diseases? Something's gotta give here...