There has been a lot of talk in news circles lately about the astonishing rise in the number of exorcism requests around the globe. In Italy alone last year, there were 500,000 such requests. While the pleas for help cross all belief systems, it is, of course, the Catholic Church that is in the forefront of the melee. After all, when you think exorcist, you think Catholic priest, not Presbyterian minister. Thankfully, more priests are being appointed to this special ministry, in large part to Pope John Paul II’s 2003 exhortation to bishops to make it so. In the United States, the number of official Church-approved exorcists has risen from 12 to 50 in the last 20 years.
Father Gary Thomas of the Diocese of San Jose, and Father Vincent Lambert of the Diocese of Indianapolis, are two such priests who have answered the call of their bishops. Many exorcists like to stay anonymous even within their own parishes, but Fathers Thomas and Lambert are known for their accessibility and their willingness to talk about what many people don’t want to hear: that personified evil is a real thing. Satan and his demons are active in our world and they’re making many people’s lives miserable. Full-blown possession still remains a fairly rare occurrence, but the incidence of demonic attachment, infestation, and oppression is staggering.
Why the uptick? Father Lambert believes that the increase in demonic activity is not merely because the Devil has “upped his game,” but also because more people are willing to play his game today through activities that are opening up doorways to evil in their lives. These activities include things like drugs and pornography, falling away from traditional faiths, and persisting in a life of sin.
And then there is the occult. Whether it’s labeled New Age studies, metaphysics, or the dark arts, interest and participation in these activities is booming. When asked in an interview if the occult is satanic, Fr. Thomas answered:
“Not in and of itself, but it’s opening a doorway. It’s tampering in the spirit world, and you do not know who’s going to show up. So when someone gets into Wicca, black magic or white magic, psychics, séances, Tarot cards, spells, or all that other idolatrous stuff, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re tapping into a realm they know nothing about, most of the time.”In the light of all these warnings, statistics, and stories of evil spirits running amok, you might wonder how safe you are from satanic influences. Fr. Thomas leaves us with this hopeful message: “If you have a strong faith life, a strong prayer life, and a strong sacramental life, then you have nothing to worry about.”
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