All persecution comes from the Devil himself – said Pope Francis in his homily at a Mass he celebrated this summer. He mentioned that the persecution of Christians can be traced back to the original and sole goal of Satan, which is to destroy humanity because humans are made in the image and likeness of God, whom the Devil hates.
The persecution of Christians has a deep spiritual root. The killing, torturing and kidnapping of those who adore Jesus Christ is not just a social, religious or psychological phenomenon; it is deeply rooted in the spiritual warfare the Devil wages against his arch-enemy, Jesus Christ. If we wish to understand why Christians are persecuted, we must explore the spiritual factors that lie behind it.
Fr. Gabriel is a priest experienced in the realm of spiritual warfare given that he is an exorcist. Fr. Gabriel is a fantasy name. The policies of his diocese do not allow to expose his real identity: he can only give interviews on exorcism anonymously. S4C’s Balázs Puskás interviewed him in an effort to explore the points raised by the Holy Father concerning the motivations behind the persecution of Christians and some other topics.
How did you become an exorcist?
I was a member of a religious community for 22 years but, because of their internal problems and a structural dysfunction, it became clear to me that the community was not a place where I could give glory to God in my life. As a result, I left and became a diocesan priest and have worked full-time as an exorcist for the last nine years.
My initial experience in a religious community revealed to me how the evil one can take advantage of seemingly good things for his own purposes. Thomas Aquinas tells us that evil cannot completely obliterate the good but always resides in the good, but as a defect. A common refrain one hears when defending situations such as the one I am referring to is: “but look at the fruits.” Now whatever is within the Church may produce some good fruits, but those fruits find their goodness in their ultimate end, not necessarily in the agents that carry them out or even within the context they happen in. In other words,
we can have an institution that is corrupt and yet some of its fruits can be positive. The positive fruits do not make the context or the agent right,
but rather allude to those means of sanctification and salvation that pre-existed that institution such as the sacraments, prayer, virtue, and the traditional means of ascesis that the Church has always recommended for us. If anyone has recourse to those means, then we ought to expect fruits.
The devil does not necessarily obliterate all of those means, but he can impair or spoil them when they are used for purposes other than the divine intent. When the devil inserts himself in a community, a society, a culture, our vision of those legitimate things can sometimes become skewed. If you have a glass of pure water but only insert a small portion of poison, the damage is done.
You mentioned that the religious community you used to belong to was corrupt. Was that from the top down? I mean did the corruption come from the leaders? Maybe you had some diabolical experiences as well?
Keep in mind the principle of redundancy to understand this situation. The principal begins in the Blessed Trinity, and its goodness resounds throughout its work. But remember that God chose to work through the Church, the Sacrament of salvation. As a result, the degree of holiness of God’s representatives – or their lives of sin – impact the souls entrusted to them. A holy pope means more blessings for the entire Church. A holy bishop means more blessings for an entire diocese. A holy parish priest means more blessings for his parish.
Conversely, a sinful founder – a morally depraved and corrupt individual frustrates the conduit of grace for the men and women entrusted to his care.
Of course, the sins of a priest are by nature worse than the same material sins committed by a lay person since the priest is configured with Christ. Every sin of a priest is a sacrilege. The devil does not give as much importance to the sins of some people as he does to others. If he can leverage that person’s sin to affect more people, he will do it.
If he, a consecrated person sins, the devil is delighted and will make the most out of that for his purposes.
We find something similar in the Church on a larger scale. Cardinals and bishops who do not reject the entirety of Catholic teaching and yet, try to accommodate Church teaching to the spirit of the world, promoting the idea of offering Holy Communion to couples who live in sinful situations; entertaining the idea of blessing homosexual unions; admitting the use of birth control; and so many other things that go against the natural law and Catholic dogma. Here we are not speaking of evil as a mere defect, but rather a promotion of moral evil.
Such heretical teaching is far more disturbing than the phenomenon of diabolical possession.
My work over these last nine years has been in the area of the ministry of exorcism. If the possessed person that comes to me seeking help is not willing to relinquish every aspect of evil in his life, and live the life of grace, prayer, virtue, ascesis, then neither one exorcism nor a thousand exorcisms will do any good for that person.
Priests normally don’t dream about casting out demons; exorcism is not on their bucket list. You are now in charge of not only performing exorcisms but you give courses and form other priests so they can become exorcists. What made you choose this path?
I don’t think I can say that I chose this path. In fact, I have very clear recollections from my youth of never desiring to be an exorcist.
Rather, this is a vocation within a vocation, a divine call and only made possible through the mandate of my bishop. If my bishop has me doing this job full-time it’s because there is a great need. It was no light decision on his part to take a priest out of a parish and dedicate him full-time to assist those who are afflicted.
No doubt, he has received some blowback from priests who do not understand his choice. But this is a bishop who has lots of compassion for the afflicted and wants there to be somebody for them who can give them all the time that they need to reach deliverance.
Since I have time to study and have lots of experience in this field I have been asked to train exorcists. I remember when I was learning about this ministry alongside some of Rome’s full-time exorcists,
Satan lamented during one of the sessions: “I weep because he’s starting a school. There goes my sweet life in America.” I wouldn’t say that the Devil’s sweet life in America is over yet, but it certainly helped me to see the transcendence of the work of training exorcists.
Every priest who is equipped to undo what the devil has done, one soul at a time, marks a triumph for Christ’s Kingdom.
I had other experiences early on, often from the mouth of possessing demons, that helped confirm my vocation as an exorcist.
I do exorcisms on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays. On Sundays, I help in parishes as needed and bless and exorcise houses. My Thursdays are dedicated to confessions and spiritual direction for my team members as well as members of the community of prayer and penance that I founded. Monday is my day off. I tried to sleep a little longer, pray, offer Mass, take my dog for a long walk, play my cello, and read.
You said you had other experiences early on, often from the mouth of possessing demons, that helped confirm your vocation as an exorcist. Could you mention some of them?
I’d rather not. The things they told me early on – with some pressure by the Blessed Virgin Mary – confirmed my call. I’ve never been afraid in this ministry. I do fear letting down my divine Spouse, though. So, I need to keep the pressure on myself to keep up my prayer life, my life of penance, and work hard so as not to hear those words: “You were neither hot nor cold, so I spit you from my mouth.”
Earlier this year the Holy See organised training for exorcists after they found a considerable ’rise in possessions’ During these weeks (October 2018) you also participated in some training organised by the Assoziazione Internazionale di Esorcisti (International Association of Exorcists) in Rome. Why is it so important to hold conferences and training sessions?
My experience of these conferences with AIE is that we are offered an excellent opportunity to network, spend time speaking with friends who do the same work, who understand each other and their own battles. The ongoing intellectual formation is important, but
I think that is best done by reading the old Latin manuals that exorcists produced 500 or 600 years ago.
Some of the talks might be helpful, and I think they can point the listener in the direction of good books to read on the subject, but except for a novice exorcist, they are no substitute for reading these old manuals. On the other hand, no amount of reading or conferences prepare a priest for this ministry as well as shadowing an exorcist does. This is where the real learning begins. It is important that one sees the broadest possible array of cases, their manifestations and causes, to prepare for everything one will face in this ministry. Although there are commonalities in every case, no two cases are exactly alike, and one needs to be very observant, inquisitive, prayerful, and alert to the smallest details in order to pick up clues pertinent to the particularities of any given case.
For me, the conferences in Rome gives me an opportunity to spend a week with my brothers in arms, comrades in the fight; lots of prayers, fraternity, laughter, and pasta…
Do you need special skills and knowledge for performing exorcisms? Is this a dangerous job?
The skills an exorcist needs mean nothing unless he has a pure heart, lives poverty of spirit, humility, obedience to his bishop and superiors, is dedicated to a life of prayer and penance, and the charity of Christ for the afflicted. Without these qualities, no amount of learning or skills will help.
This is a lifelong pursuit and by engaging in this ministry, the priest grows in his identification with Christ. But not only the priest; the possessed person, and his family, the team members of the exorcist, everyone, as long as they do what they’re supposed to do, grow in configuration with the heart of Christ.
And this is a disaster for Satan. He is forced to watch the spiritual growth of everybody involved as his grip weakens on the person he possesses.
A bishop should prayerfully consider the priest he is going to name exorcist. Although all priests who preach the truth, hear lots of confessions, are dismantling the kingdom of darkness and, therefore, are engaged in some aspects of this ministry, not every priest ought to be an exorcist – just like not every priest can run a parish, or work effectively as an administrator. Once the bishop has chosen the priest for this ministry, both the bishop and the priest ought to look for means of formation. One such means is the Pope Leo the XIII Institute.
Like in the movie The Rite, where the priest initially goes on a course in Rome?
It’s funny that you mention The Rite since I am referred to in the book. When Fr Gary Thomas arrived in Rome for the course he knew no Italian and there were no systems in place for non-Italian speakers. I did what I could to make the course intelligible for him, although the book puts my efforts in a negative light. Ha!
As usual, when Hollywood gets its hands on something they make a mess of it. The book is quite good; the movie is a ludicrous exercise in insanity.
For some reason, the writers of the movie script thought it was a good idea to cast this exorcist in training as a seminarian with a faith crisis, rather than a solid priest. Ridiculous! The entire movie was laughable and sometimes I watch it just for a chuckle.
Hollywood has taken the phenomenon of diabolical possession and represents the ministry of exorcism as if it were a circus sideshow.
If they wanted to do something that was cutting edge, produce something that required deep courage, they would make movies that depict those things that lead to possession: witchcraft, Reiki, all false religions, homosexuality and all sorts of sexual perversions, abortion etc., in a negative light.