In the past 50 years or so, the Rite of Major Exorcism and even the use of Minor Exorcism (Deliverance Ministry) has fallen into disuse by many priests in the Catholic Church. Sadly, the ones who were given the most authority and great mandate by Jesus Christ Himself to cast out, have neglected this ministry of mercy and compassion. Too many of us priests after Vatican II in the west anyway, have become businessmen, men of finances, balancing budgets and signing checks, but is this who we are? So many priests have lost their priestly identity, which must come from Christ’s identity as the High Priest. So many of us have become community builders and organizers without a second thought to the state of our people’s souls or concern whether or not our people are really in full communion with Jesus Christ and His Church.
So many people are so lost in the world and have strayed so badly from Jesus Christ. Lukewarm Catholicism, cafeteria Catholicism, Theological Modernism, liberal American Catholicism, rationalism, freemasonry and relativism have all had their hand in damaging people’s faith levels in the West. Dissent from Humane Vitae as well, has caused great sin in and invited much evil into people’s lives, including many bishops and priests. What have us priests done about it? Are we afraid to teach about sin and repentance anymore? Have priests become afraid to preach prophetically wary of lay or brother priest rebuke? I say all of the above has and is happening in the West. We have lost the sense of sin and people are dabbling in the occult at alarming rates. Right now some 40+ television shows deal with the occult and New Age, including the Disney Channel.
In over 25 passages from Sacred Scripture Jesus commands his priests directly or indirectly, by word and example, that delivering people from evil must be part of everyday priestly ministry. While it is true that only some are called to be an official exorcist in a diocese, all have the authority by the name of Jesus Christ to bind, rebuke and cast out evil spirits in Jesus’s Holy Name. Mark 3:15, Matthew 10:7-15, Matthew 8:25-34 are just a few example of commands from God Himself to us priests to minister to His people bound up and suffering. Because of the alarming rise in possessions and oppressions in the West, the number of exorcists is on the rise and some 60/192 dioceses in the USA have exorcists or those in training. But, what if you are not called to be an official “exorcist?” What does that mean for us other priests?
Jesus has gifted us priests with the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve His flock as priest, prophet and king. “King” means with authority. Authority not to bully brother priests, our assistants or those who disagree with us theologically or liturgically or the laity to be nasty or rude but use the gifts and graces He gave us for others, to heal and cast out. How can we truly say we love Jesus and our people, if we are not willing to protect His flock and build them back up? Building up His Kingdom doesn’t just mean building a bigger recreation center or having a larger collection to feed the poor with food. Building the Kingdom of God does not simply mean practically putting more people in the pews; this is a worldly centered understanding of “building up.” We must build up the Presence of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, interiorly within them. This means the interior Temple of the Holy Spirit must constantly be swept clean of evil and kept that way.
It is indeed a form of love and compassion, which means the willingness to suffer with and for another. To enter into the “passion” with them for their sake, to deliver them from the Evil One, this is our priestly and fatherly gift of self St John Paul II talks about. After all what is love? St. John Paul II teaches us in Theology of the Body that love is willing the good of the other for the sake of the other. Why? Because of their inherent dignity, value, goodness and worth as a child of God. We cannot neglect them and this important ministry to them, and still call ourselves a real priest of Jesus Christ. Disobedience to Christ and His Church is not a form of humility and is rooted in the diabolical mantra of Satan, “non serviam”- I will not serve. We are called to live in true freedom to choose the good. We cannot do that if we are bound up in our wounds and sins from those wounds, which Evil Spirits exploit daily. All of us priests need to learn how and why people are wounded, how and why we sin from those wounds and how Evil Spirits exploit our woundedness and sinfulness. We need to learn to work with Catholic therapists and psychologists to bring God’s children the help they need.
The catechesis of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teaches good, correct Catholic anthropology and is indispensible to learn who we truly are, who God is, and His great love for us. We are created in love, by love, and for love. When we choose anything less, we are losing our freedom and gradually get bounded up in the flesh, the world and evil. My brother priests, we have been give the sacrament, the charism, grace and authority by Almighty God to be HIS instrument to free and deliver people, not by our grace, but by the strength and power of His Name. May we priests be delivered from fear and over activism to make time to learn this most important of ministries, a gift from the Hand of God Himself. Almighty Lord Jesus Christ, through our human weakness, may Your Divine Power be made manifest to deliver us and Your good children from evil. Amen.
Fr. Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first ever full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.