Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Exorcism has been something which has come up on blogs from time to time.

In all of my time as priest I have known only one person I felt needed Exorcism and would have submitted to it willingly. It tends to be non-Catholics who request Exorcism more often than Catholics, often because they tend to be more superstitious than those who believe in Christ. In  Brighton, as presumably everywhere else the New Age and the occult can be very attractive but they both open up doors to the imagination which take people far from Christ. Hollywood and today's fad for horror doesn't help.

Catholics tend to need Confession and thus to receive Holy Communion in state of Grace and maybe have someone to do penance for them, and to pray of course.

The post-conciliar of the Rites for Christian Initiation of Adults has a series of optional Exorcisms for those preparing for baptism, performed by a priest or in some instances by a catechist. The ministry of Exorcist was before their abolition one the minor orders, and in ancient times was seen as an integral part of the process towards conversion and baptism. The biblical accounts of Exorcism seem to indicate the Lord using it as as a means of awakening faith. In the cases that were documented by Fr Joseph Crehan SJ, the polymath Westminster Exorcist up to the 1980s, Exorcism so often seems to be part of the process of conversion leading to baptism or reconciliation to the Church. It is worth reminding ourselves that the threefold renunciation of Satan as part of the renewal of baptismal promises is a minor Exorcism.

Every diocese should have an exorcist. One I know seems to be a charismatic who sees the devil at every turn and will Exorcise anyone at the drop of a hat, another simply says the whole thing is nonsense, and although he is deeply holy, at least in my opinion, he has never actually performed an Exorcism in the 20 years he has had the title. He would tend to describe people as "obsessed" by the the devil or evil rather than "possessed", which in most cases I am sure is true. In most cases, but not all.

The Rituale Romanum has a Rite of Exorcism, a major one, which is reserved to a Bishop, who may delegate its use to a particular priest, the diocesan Exorcist. Its very presence is an indication that if a diocese is thinking with the Church and believes in the principle of lex credendi lex orandi, Exorcism and the office of Exorcist should be taken seriously.

Perhaps their absence in so many dioceses is an indication of the lack of formation in classical spirituality and mystical theology today. Perhaps too their absence indicates a certain theological and liturgical rupture with the past, a deep tradition going back to the Lord.


Lady.Rosary said...

I only came to know exorcism from movies and books. I have yet to really know someone who can attest to it. It's still a puzzling phenomenon but I think the more we have faith in Him, the less we should worry.

JARay said...

Quite a few years ago I belonged to a Charismatic group. One evening we had an evening in the Cathedral here which was well publicised as a prayer meeting in which people were invited to come along and be prayed over for some reason or another. I was in one such small group who were praying over those who came along. Amongst those who came along was a woman who clearly was in some state of turmoil.
The group began to pray over her and I felt that she had some sort of posession.
Now.....long ago...I did receive the minor order of exorcist.
As we prayed, she became more and more excited. She began cursing and calling out.
I was fully aware that I had not been authorised to exercise my charism of exorcist. But what was I to do????

I called on Jesus to cleanse this woman of the spirit which had hold of her. I called on this spirit to come out of her, in the name of Jesus.

She calmed down.
She left us with a peaceful demeanour.

I believe that such spirits are still in control of some people and need exorcists.

Pablo the Mexican said...

The Priest that performed the Exorcism in Earling, Iowa was on his way to visit the young lady that had been Exorcised; a Priest known to him went along to meet her.

When asked about the Devil's involvement with people, the Padre commanded the devils present to turn the heads of the people they walked past, and stick out their tongues to demonstrate how many people have the devil in their souls, and are unaware of this.

Every person they walked past turned their heads and stuck out their tongues.

This happened in Times Square, in New York City.

Many of our Sheppards have fallen asleep.

It is difficult to determine possession, but we should always be on our guard against the evil one.

The modern prayers of Exorcism have been diluted, as well the authority of Holy Water; it is now blessed water.

Using Holy Water and sacramentals to protect our homes and families is the Catholic thing to do.

A Priest has made an observation I find interesting.

He has noted many Faithful have religious pictures and statues in their homes.

Absent are crucifixes.

Two sticks abound everywhere.

Christ crucified is absent.

The five Exorcisms in the New Testament had Christ present.

Should it please God someone fall into possession, it perhaps is God wishing Christ be present among those Faithful surrounding those possessed.

Pray for Priests that they have no fear of Satan, that their fear be of God's justice should they flee the Evil One, thus abandoning their sheep.


gemoftheocean said...

Lady Rosary - in the 90s I came to know Fr. Walter Halloran, who was stationed at our parish in San Diego for a short time. He was the young Jesuit Scholastic who personally witnessed the possession and exorcism of a young man in 1949. This exorcism was the basis of the book and movie 'the Exorcist.' Fr. Halloran was a very modest man, for all his moderate celebrity. [For instance I didn't know he'd been awarded two Bronze stars for his service with the paratroopers in Vietnam until after he was dead.] There was something about his demeanor when mentioning the case that kept one from pumping him for questions. I did ask him though, how it was that he happened to get involved -- and he said simply that Fr. Bowdern, the official exorcist, couldn't drive, and he, Fr. Halloran, was selected as his driver. It was only AFTER the first session with 'Robby' that Fr. Halloran turned to Fr. Bowdern and said 'uh, huh, so that's an exorcism....' or something to that effect!
Anyway, I'm a believer that there is such a thing as possession, but one must rule everything else out. I would caution ANYONE with a Ouija board though, or occult things...to THROW THEM AWAY. Do not tempt the devil. These things started happening to Robby after an aunt of Robby's, who was a 'spiritualist' had introduced Robby to the Ouija board and how to use it. She died in early Jan 49, and the strange phenomenon started happening to him shortly after that when he began using the board to try and contact her.
By chance today, on a facebook group I keep track of (something NOTHING to do with occult matters) a member mentioned that he thought when he was a boy his house was haunted, or invaded, at least temporarily by poltergeist type forces. He and his brother had been playing with a Ouija board in their 3rd floor bedroom, when all of a sudden they heard loud noises of chains rattling, etc. coming from their sister's bedroom across the hall -- they knew said sisters were downstairs. THey ran out of their room, practically killing themselves to get away from the place, and downstairs was the rest of the family, including said sisters. He said that regards the Ouija board 'I never touched that evil thing again.'
Don't tempt the devil, people.

JB said...

St. Bruno, whose feast is on the 6th, is the Patron of Exorcists and of the Possessed.

A fun fact to know and share :c).

Oh, GOTO, you might be interested in Blessed Bartolo Longo, OP Tert, whose feast is on the 5th. He is described as a convert Priest of Satan. He practiced spiritualism and knew of its evils. Someone else to look out for is another of my favourites; Bd. John of Vallombrosa (AD 1380) - a Benedictine of the Vallombrosan branch. “He was a clever man and spent hours of the day and night pouring over books. In the course of his studies he got onto necromancy and began to practice the black arts in secret.” According to the entry in Butler’s, he “became thoroughly vicious and depraved.” He was eventually denounced to the Abbot, who summoned him before a commission of monks and denounced him, whereupon he denied the charges. When he could not get away from the incontrovertible evidence against him, he admitted the charges and was condemned to jail where he lost his health and was reduced to a skeleton. When he was finally liberated he could scarcely walk but was truly penitent. Although the Abbot and community would gladly have him restored to community life, he declined saying “I have learned in this dark and long imprisonment that there is nothing better, nothing more holy, than solitude: in solitude I intend to go on learning Divine things and to try to rise higher… The “hermit of the cells”, as he became to be called, lived to extreme old age and enjoyed the friendship and esteem of St. Catherine of Siena.

JB said...

Another interesting story which may be of interest is that of Pierre le Gouvello de Keriolet who led a life of unimaginable depravity and sin. He was converted when, during the public exorcisms of the possessed nuns of Loudun, one of the devils addressed him, and, as well as revealing his sins to him, and telling him that after being shot after coming out of the window of an adulterous woman: "I would have carried you off if it hadn't been for the Virgin Mary and the Cherubim, your Guardian Angel", the devil was also forced to tell Pierre that "the Virgin has plunged Her arms down to the elbows to pull him out of his filth. Your measure was full, but you kept a little devotion for Her".

Pablo the Mexican said...

We have been fighting in the Exorcism process since 1982.

The Devil has much help.

Witches, warlocks, all manner of diabolical including secret society occult ministers have been fighting us.

One thing I have learned is from this quote:

"...before setting to work for God and to fight against the devil, first calculate your forces; and if you consider yourself well enough equipped to begin, you are a fool, because the tower to be built costs an outrageous price, and the enemy coming out to meet you is an angel, before whom you are of no account.

Get to know yourself so well that you cannot contemplate yourself without flinching.

Then there will be room for hope.

In the sure knowledge that you are obliged to do the impossible in Him who strengthens you, then you are ready for a task which can be performed only through the Cross."

If you are not in the fight, stay out.

Pray for those Priests and lay people that have to deal with it.

Do not get fascinated by Satan's stench:

The problem with the actual study of demons is that, for our intents, the information is full of theological errors.

In other words, you will be up against heathen legend vs. Christian theology.

It would be very difficult to sort it all out on your own. St. Albert the Great has some advice for you:

"It is taught by the demons, it teaches about the demons, and it leads to the demons."

Men should hostage themselves to the Devil in any fight against him.

Those poor souls possessed or disoriented need relief, and it pleases God when men step up to the plate.

Support Exorcists Priests with your Holy Rosary prayers.

Support all the others, as well.

Ave Maria, Purissima!


nickbris said...

I'm always being told off for being superstitious,not walking under ladders and avoiding the No. 13 for example.

It did come as a surprise to me that there was no No.13 lifeboat on the big liners and that the 13th floor on a skyscraper was missing.

When we cross ourselves at stressful times that is self exorcism and when coupled up with a Hail Mary that does the trick.

Gigi said...

Living in Brighton, I've come across my fair share of New Age peeps; some of them seem to be genuinely "spiritual" and have been happy to discuss God, Christ, and God's love. I would say a lot of people are "lost" rather than "taken". I agree with Father Ray that many are obsessed rather than possessed, and that certain films and books can grip the minds of those who may not have faith in themselves or in God.
I intensely dislike ouija boards and the idea of seances. Personally, I believe that angels and the souls of loved ones comfort and shield us as a part of God's love, and that those who are spiritual may be blessed with signs and knowledge; but I do not believe we should invoke or invite. Dirt sometimes comes in the door on the feet of friends.
St Michael Come to Our Defence: what a good point you make there! I've often noted that I have lovely crosses to wear or hang in my home: aside from my rosary beads, only a couple are crucifixes. The sign becomes "jewellery" without Christ.

Laura said...

Do we have a Diocesan Exorcist in A&B Father?

Anonymous said...

An excellent post Fr. I've pinged back from my blog!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Laura, Yes we do.

Edward P. Walton said...

In my experience, the only two people who seem authentic in writing about this subject are Malachi Martin and Dr. M Scott Peck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for having this entry. At least people are willing to talk about the devil, who has been ignored, at our peril, for too long. However, I do think and agree with a very discerning priest in the FSSP who stated that we should steer clear of charismatic exorcists. Many, if not most, are not in the hierarchy of the Church, not under authority and doing their own thing. I do not trust those exorcists. God bless you, Father, in Brighton.

lizard said...

Thank you for this post, father. My personal experience seem to show that most priests and lay people think the whole thing is nonsense. I agree this is heavily affected by the current rise of occultism in the whole western culture. It seems most people would imagine exorcism as an extraordinary evil, something horrendous with unambiguously supernatural and spiritual nature. If something can be traced to the level of “psychological,” such as a mental health issue, a “medical condition” or (even more) physiology, the whole thing ceases to exist. The post-conciliar exorcism instructions seem to go quite far in this direction.

But humans are not totally spiritual beasts, we are to a significant degree psychological, physiological, biological and bio-social. Therefore, evil daemons do not necessarily have to do anything extraordinary and wholly supernatural. They may indeed use natural psychological and biological mechanisms and processes to catch one to a possession. Why cannot evil spirits indirectly or directly affect hypothalamus, amygdala, frontal lobe, basal ganglia, or dopamine or serotonin metabolism or whatever else brain physiology? In such cases we will see normal psychiatric symptoms at the surface. These symptoms could even be (temporary or permanently) cured by using normal medical technology. The whole thing would not exist for a non-believer. Moreover, it is likely to be a ground for a ridicule.

Evangelical exorcisms are very informative here. “...a spirit takes control of him, and he suddenly screams, goes into convulsions, and foams at the mouth....” (Lk 9.39, also Mk 9.18, Mk 9.20). These are clear symptoms of epilepsy, a disorder where no exorcism is apparently needed. Perhaps the father of that boy should just ask a local doctor for anticonvulsant drug or ask for a brain surgery. I am sure these medical treatments would indeed help to minimise the symptoms in this particular case. But would it be enough yo avoid possession?

Epilepsy, Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, other tic disorders, coprolalia and other may have specific physiological bases and may appear for a range of final causes, not excluding the diabolical action.

I do not believe these “nonsense things” are so extremely rare these days. We see many basically good people who seem to be possessed by being obsessed with evil. On the other hand, there are examples of extraordinary conversions caused by realising something as diabolical actions: If there is Devil, then God does also exist. If I were a devil I would not allow the possessed human realise he/she is under the diabolical possession. The best way is to mimic or really use some psychiatric and physiological conditions. On the contrary, in such a case I would do my best to make this poor soul totally happy with this obsession.

The problem is that the whole matter is very delicate (especally these days). It is too easy to discredit the church. Exorcism must be under a very strict control by the bishops. Oh, we need really prudent and saint bishops!

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio...

Pablo the Mexican said...

"... These symptoms could even be (temporary or permanently) cured by using normal medical technology..."

In medical science, psychology, or psychiatry, there is no such thing as a 'cure'.

Only the degree of severity is diminished in any given illness.

The only one that cures completely is God.

My friend would work for Doctors in exchange for drug prescriptions and booze. She also would have sex with the Doctors.

Eventually she had blackouts and developed the Delirium tremens. She was only 25 years old.

One weekend, she awoke, stripped naked on her living room carpet, not knowing how she got there or where she had been the day before.

She begged God to take her suffering from her.

He told her "No".

The next weekend, same thing.

She asked again, this time, the answer was "Yes".

I told her God said no the first time because she asked only because it was a discomfort to her.

The second time she asked, in her heart and in her tears was the weeping of a woman truly repentant for having offended God.

God hears and responds quickly to the weeping of Holy Mother Church and women.

God allows physicians to 'heal' us by His goodness and His grace.

Sirach says:

“Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him.

There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that he grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.”

I spoke with the Police representative where I live regarding his role in Exorcism.

Many times, emphasis on many times, the Police encounter people with superhuman strength levels and speaking in tongues causing disturbances.

When Police believe it is diabolical, he is called out to invoke the Holy Name, thereby allowing the person to be subdued.

I asked how he could tell someone was possessed, his reply was, "You just know"

When a Holy Priest encounters someone with a demon, the demon will let him know he is there.

And he will continue to come around and harm souls until that Priest cast him out.

Saint John Vianney stopped Mass once and commanded a man sitting in the front pew to leave, lest he expose him.

Saint John had to take the Holy Water and sprinkle it on the man, revealing he was actually the Devil.

Everyone in the Ars Church became ill from the stench of Satan's presence.

Performing scientific evaluations to determine possession is not the purpose for which God created Science.

The determination of possession lies in the Priesthood.

Priests have tools available to them to make this determination.

Once they determine, they are required to seek their Bishop’s permission to perform an Exorcism.

Lay people do not need a Bishop’s permission to fight evil.

We have been given, by God, Holy Water and the prayers of Exorcism promulgated by Pope Leo XIII that we are allowed to say.

The Devil does not wait for us to get a Priest involved, we are left to fight.

God loves a fighter.

Maybe that is why little David became the Apple of His Eye after David whacked that demon named Goliath.

Stand up and fight, for our help is in the Lord.


Anonymous said...

I like how you said "Catholics need..."someone to do penance for them" because it made me think,"that can't be right! We need to do our own penance." if you had simply said that we need to do penance I would've glossed over it.

Fr Ray Blake said...

But the Lord implies that those who excorcise need to penance.
When the disciples ask why they can't drive out a devil, he says, "This kind is only deiven out by prayer fasting"

Miles-S-Mariae said...

Dear Fr. Ray, As a devout Catholic residing in East Kent, I have in the past read your blogs on the Ramsgate Benedictine community with great interest and consternation. I thank you for writing them. Today I write to you because I wondered if you can guide me toward the exorcist for the Diocese of Southwark (none listed on Website or Directory) or nearest alternative. I have been dealing with a troubling situation in my immediate circles without assistance for 20 months now. I do not feel comfortable approaching my parish priest or personal friends in the priesthood. In Christ through Mary

Fr Ray Blake said...

The names are not normally published, the only way to make contact is through a priest, or better your bishop.

One Who Loves God said...

Dear Fr. Ray Blake,

Thank you for a wonderful insightful post.

May God Bless, Protect & Guide You,
Keeping You Safe in His Sacred Heart Always & May Our Blessed Mother Keep You Safe in her Immaculate Heart,
Thomas Anthony

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