"You aim at a devout life, dear Philothea, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty," says St. Francis de Sales in his book "Introduction to the Devout Life".
And we can all be Philotheas, as St. Francis notes: "I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God."
Interview with an Exorcist: Forward Boldly Radio Show
Fr. Vincent Lampert, official exorcist of the Archdiocese of
Indianapolis, was the guest on the Fidelis Radio show “Forward Boldly” last
Saturday, with host Christine Niles. You can listen to the recording of the
From the intro to the show at the link, we learn that Fr.
Vincent Lampert is the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
He was interviewed and quoted in Matt Baglio's book "The Rite: The Making
of a Modern Exorcist ," on which the popular 2011 film starring Anthony
Hopkins was based. In addition to his duties as pastor of Sts. Francis and
Clare Catholic Church, Fr. Lampert has spent the past seven years helping souls
overcome the demonic through his unique ministry as exorcist.
In the interview, Fr. Lampert said that he has been a priest
for 21 years, and was appointed to be the exorcist of his diocese in 2005. He
trained with Fr. Gary Thomas and Fr. Carmine DeFilippis in Rome, sitting in on
about 40 exorcisms. He is a full time
pastor of a parish, and spends about 60% of his time dealing with requests for
exorcisms. In the last year, he has had the help of an associate pastor,
though, which alleviates some of the pressures of his work.
Host Christine Niles asked Fr. Lampert about the process a
person goes through who seeks the help of an exorcist. Fr. Lampert said he
meets with the person as soon as possible, and outlines the steps that must be
taken; those steps include a mental evaluation. Often, he said, people are
inclined to see this requirement as indicating that the priest doesn’t believe
that they are experiencing a battle with evil. However, this is not the case;
Fr. Lampert says he points out that a person who is doing battle with evil will
need to be strong mentally – so it’s not just a matter of the priest “not
believing” the person’s story.
Signs that a person is actually experiencing a diabolical
attack include an aversion to signs of the sacred, such as the Crucifix, holy
water, and/or the Bible; an ability to speak a language the person should not
be able to speak; the knowledge of future events; and a physical strength
beyond what would normally be expected. Fr. Lampert also indicated that when a
mental evaluation has been obtained, he also asks if the mental health
professional has noted anything beyond his or her scope of explanation.
Fr. Lampert also outlined five ways that the demonic
typically enters a person’s life. These are: 1) involvement in the occult; 2)
being dedicated to a demon; 3) having a curse placed upon one; 4) a life of
hardened sin; 5) broken family relationships.
Christine asked for further explanation on each of these
points. She noted that many people don’t take occult practices seriously –
especially seemingly innocuous things like playing with a Ouija board. Fr.
Lampert explained that the occult can be invited in either directly or
indirectly; a direct invitation occurs when we know what we are doing and we
choose to do it anyway. Playing with a Ouija board or consulting a psychic in a
half-serious way would probably be an indirect invitation, and usually people
see it as an entertainment and don’t take it seriously; nevertheless these are
transgressions against the First Commandment, because essentially, these
activities say that one trusts the occult more than God. In the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus
these practices are specifically condemned, and those who do so are called “disgusting
in the eyes of God”. So it’s not just that the Church is saying these things
are wrong, said Fr. Lampert; God Himself is saying so in his Word.
As an example of “being dedicated to a demon”, Fr. Lampert related
the story of a young woman whose mother had tried to abort her. The abortion
was not successful, and when the girl was born, the mother was so angry at God
that she dedicated her baby to Satan in order to “get even” with God. In her
teen years, the girl contacted Fr. Carmine, who worked with her to break the
connection with evil that the girl had suffered under from birth; eventually
she was freed from the evil influence.
Fr. Lampert’s explanation of curses was interesting as well.
He said that usually people who make curses are those involved in the occult
who claim to be witches or warlocks. A curse, he noted, is the opposite of a
blessing; when we bless something, it’s dedicated to God, while something
cursed is dedicated to Satan. Curses are effective when a person’s faith life
is weak. In order to protect ourselves we need to develop a strong prayer life,
and a strong sense of God as our Protector and Shield.
“One has to know that the power of God is greater than any
power of evil, and I think curses are only effective when people have that lack
of faith. Faith is such a key ingredient in being able to go up against the
forces of evil and to realize they don’t have an impact on your life.”
He told of some business owners who thought a former
employee, who was an avowed witch, had put a curse on them in their business.
Fr. Lampert explained that he could come and pray against the curse, but then
the “witch” could curse again. “When does the cycle stop?” he asked them. “It
stops when you begin to know because of your faith that whatever she’s doing is
not effective because you have the power of the presence of Christ in your
Broken family relationships are the most frequent point of
entry for evil that Fr. Lampert has observed. He mentioned a Biblical basis for
this as well – the demoniac in Mark 5, who was possessed by Legion. After Jesus
casts out the demons into the swine, the man wants to follow him, but Jesus
tells him to go home to his family, trying to restore him to a proper
relationship with his family. In the world of exorcism, it’s thought that
perhaps the broken relationships were the entry point for the evil in his
life. Exorcism is only one component in
the healing process when evil is involved; restoring right relationships is
essential, too – first with God, then with family members, the church
In preparing for an exorcism, Fr. Lampert said he prays, celebrates
Mass, and receives the sacrament of confession. He also uses various sacramental,
including a St. Benedict crucifix blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, holy water and
blessed salt, relics, and his priestly stole (which of course indicates his
office). Christine noted that famous exorcist Fr. Amorth has said that “one
worthy confession is equal to a strong exorcism”; Fr. Lampert agreed, saying
that the sacraments are always more powerful than sacramental. He also
suggested that often people “let guilt get the best of them”. He added, “The
devil thrives on guilt. By going to confession, we place our sins in the hands
of God, and then the devil can’t use them against us.”
During an exorcism, Fr. Lampert says he usually enlists the
aids of different people, some of whom pray in a separate place from where the
exorcism takes place; others are present in the same location. He doesn’t have
a “team” per se, and the participants will vary for each exorcism. The exorcism
always takes place in a sacred place, such as a church or chapel.
In terms of saintly helpers, Fr. Lampert noted that the
Blessed Virgin Mary is a powerful ally, a great life-line, who, as noted in
Genesis 3:15, will crush the head of Satan. Fr. Lampert confirmed what
Christine had heard from other sources: demons will have the audacity to curse
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they will not curse Mary.
St. Michael, of course, is another important ally in
Fr. Lampert also mentioned Blessed
Bartolo Longo as a resource. Bartolo Longo was raised as a devout Catholic
in the late 19th century; when he went to the university, he became
involved in the occult and eventually became a satanic high priest. His family
was able to extricate him from the occult through their prayers, and he
recommitted himself to Christ. Subsequently, he dedicated his life to working with
youth at the university, helping them to stay strong in their faith.
“It just shows that no one is ever completely lost to God,” observed
Fr. Lampert. “Blessed Barolo Longo was once a satanic high priest, and now he’s
on his way to sainthood.”
Fr. Lampert also discussed degrees of diabolical activity.
At the lowest level, there is temptation, which everyone experiences; this is “ordinary”
diabolical activity. “Extraordinary” diabolical activity includes: infestation,
which may involve a location or an object; oppression, which isa physical attack on the person; obsession,
which is a mental attack on the person; and possession, in which the devil
takes possession of the body.
Possession is rare, says Fr. Lampert, and he has only dealt
with 3 authentic cases of possession in the thousands of exorcisms he has
performed. He offered an explanation for why a demon want to take possession of
a body: “The greatest gift of God is the Incarnation. The devil tries to mimic
that by taking possession of a physical body. You might say that possession is
the devil’s attempt at his own incarnation.”
A listener asked for Fr. Lampert’s opinion on the old rite
of exorcism vs. the new rite. Fr. Lampert acknowledged that there is a bit of
debate on that subject, but said that he has both rites, and that both carry
the authority of the Church.
“The new rite is meant to place the pastoral care of those
dealing with evil into the hands of every priest,” he said. “Only true cases of
possession should be reserved for the exorcist. But every priest should be able
to help those who believe they are up against other forces of evil.”
He explained further that there are two kinds of exorcism
prayers: imperative and supplicating. The imperative prayers command the demon
to leave, while the supplicating prayers ask God to bring deliverance to the
afflicted person. The new rite relies
more on supplicating prayers, while the old rite is more imperative in nature. We
can all pray, so we may all pray the supplicating prayers.
It is important to
stick to the words of the rite, though. Fr.
Lampert told of how a demon responded when another exorcist started adlibbing
prayers, rather than sticking to the precise words of the Ritual: “I listen to
the authority of the Church…not to you.” In other words, it is not the authority of the
priest that is important in an exorcism – it’s the Church. (Gives a whole new
meaning to “say the black, do the red”, doesn’t it?!)
Is it possible and permitted to perform exorcisms for
non-Catholics? Yes, says Fr. Lampert, who says that about half of those who
contact him regarding exorcism are not Catholic; many are of a “Christian faith
community”, but there are also some who are not Christian at all. The advice he
gives after exorcism is that the Christian maintain and strengthen his faith and his
connection with his church community; for non-Christians, Fr. Lampert says that
it is of course important to lead them to a relationship with Christ.
As far as Hollywood movies about exorcism, Fr. Lampert felt
that the classic film – “The Exorcist” – contained a lot of realistic elements,
such as changes in facial expressions, vomiting, levitation, foaming at the
mouth. He himself has witnessed each of these in his own ministry. However,
these dramatic effects are “parlor tricks” of the devil, he said, and are
intended to shock and terrify the on-lookers.
The movie “The Rite” is “pretty good”, he said, though
presents some theological issues he is not in full agreement with. “The
Exorcism of Emily Rose” was also “pretty true to what the Church believes”
about possession and exorcism, he said.
The interview is very
interesting and engaging – I highly recommend listening to it. I agree with
Christine’s assessment of Fr. Lampert: he has a humble demeanor and quiet confidence
in the power of God. In spite of all the intense encounters, and the horrible
things he has seen and heard, it’s clear that Fr. Lampert has complete trust in
the power of God. Just hearing him talk about it instills confidence in the
There’s another article
about Fr. Vincent Lampert here,
and if you google his name you will find other information as well.