PASS CHRISTIAN — Father Vincent Lampert, exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, gave a fascinating look into his ministry during a recent talk here at Holy Family Church.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1991 and appointed exorcist in 2005, Father Lampert gave his audience a glimpse into the minis-try of exorcism with the hope they would leave his presentation “not focusing on what the devil is trying to do in your life but, even more importantly, on what God wants to do in your life.”
“Imagine, if you will — it’s Sunday morning in every major city and small town in the United States, and the sound that you hear is the ringing of church bells, which are meant to remind us that we are called to wake up with God and be about the things of the Church,” he said.
“It is a sad reality that far too many people today seem to be spiritually asleep. Many people who have been baptized have abandoned their faith. They no longer go to church and identify as being an atheist. As religion and belief in God are becoming less relevant in people’s lives, there’s great risk for falling into the world of the demonic.”
Father Lampert noted that St. Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that Satan trans-forms himself into an angel of light and he deceives many people, “and it is my experience that many people today are being deceived by the devil.
“As people have been turning a deaf ear to God, there has been an increase in fascination with the devil and the tricks that he uses to lure people into his world of darkness,” he further noted. “What all of us need to realize is that our ultimate identity comes from our relationship with God and not apart from him.
“With God we have everything and without God we have nothing.”
At the time of his appointment as exorcist, Father Lampert became one of 12 exorcists in the United States. Today, 18 years later, there are more than 175.
“After my bishop appointed me, there was no opportunity to mentor under an exorcist here in the United States; so, my bishop sent me to Rome where I was able to connect with a Franciscan priest, Carmine De Filippis,” Father Lampert said. “During the three months that I was in Rome, I was able to participate in 40 exorcisms and then to learn firsthand the Church’s ministry concerning those who were up against the forces of evil, and who were seeking the help of the Church.”
Father Lampert is also a member of the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 750 priests and
their helpers from throughout the world who gather in Rome every other year as an opportunity for ongoing training, formation and fraternity.
“Basically, it’s a way to connect with people who are involved in this ministry, literally, all over the world,” he said.
“When my bishop appointed me, he told me that I could go public as a way to educate people and evangelize people on what the Church actually teaches and believes about the reality of evil.”
Father Lampert receives more than 3,500 phone calls and emails annually from people all over the world seeking the help of the Church.
“As an exorcist, my primary goal is to lead people out of Satan’s darkness and to bring them into the light of Christ,” he said.
Father Lampert displayed a copy of the Rite of Exorcism, which he said isn’t available on Amazon or in any bookstore.
“It’s only available to bishops through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
“This Rite of Exorcism came out by Pope John Paul II in 1989. It was the very last liturgical rite to be updated after the Second Vatican Council. It was tweaked again in 2004 and again in 2005; the English translation came out in 2016. The new Rite of Exorcism replaced the old rite, which dated back to 1614; so, from 1614 until 1999, the rite remained virtually unchanged.
“What’s new about the rite is that it includes sup-plication prayers, prayers that are directed to God asking to bring relief into the life of a person who is dealing with a demonic.”
You always remember your first exorcism.
Recounting the very first exorcism he witnessed, Father Lampert said, “You always remember your first exorcism” during which he was sitting in a room in Rome with an elderly Italian woman and her husband.
“I’m thinking there’s not much to this. She must not be possessed. She’s just coming to talk to Father Carmine,” he recalled. “Father Carmine walks into the room.
He puts a roll of paper towels on the table. He walks back out. He comes back in again. He ties a plastic grocery bag onto the wall radiator. He walks back out again. I continue to talk to this lady and her husband, and I’m watching Father Carmine out of the corner of my eye.
“He comes back into the room. He has on his brown Franciscan robe. He has a purple stole over his shoulders. He has the Rite of Exorcism in one hand, holy water in the other. He begins the rite by making the Sign of the Cross, and then blessing this lady with holy water.”
Father Lampert said that as soon as the drops of water hit the woman’s head, the demon manifested. “Her eyes rolled in the back of her head. She began to growl and snarl, and her eyes focused again with the most hideous, evil look you can imagine staring right at me. I’m looking at this demon staring at me and I’m thinking, ‘What in the world has my bishop gotten me into?’”
Father Lampert said that many people today “live with a distorted view of freedom which echoes the fall of humanity.”
“The guiding principles of this distorted view of freedom are that you may do whatever you wish, no one has the right to command you and you are the god of yourself,” he said. “This viewpoint leaves no room for God, and the end result is a greater presence of evil, both in the world and in the lives of individuals.”
Father Lampert noted that it was John Paul II who said “freedom in the true sense of the word means to live the way God created us to live.” “In other words, when we are obedient to God and we fulfill God’s commandments, that’s what it truly means to be free in the true sense of the word. When we start to believe freedom means we can do whatever we want, we end up becoming slaves to our own passions and desires.
“Pope Benedict put it this way — ‘When the existence of God is denied, freedom is not enhanced, but is deprived of its basis and, thus, becomes distorted.’ The devil’s purpose is to destroy religion and dismantle civilization. He wants to pull us away from God, and he desires our ruin.”
Father Lampert’s favorite definition of the Church is that “She is ‘the guardian to the Tree of Life’ because it is the vehicle that Christ gave us to enter paradise and be in the presence of God the Father.
“The devil believes that, if he can destroy the Church, then humanity will be permanently trapped in sin, as are he and the other fallen angels.” Don’t believe everything you see in the movies
Many people have some idea of what the word “exorcism” means based on their own research or a definition shaped by modern culture, Father Lampert contends.
“If you’ve seen the movies, The Exorcist, Nefarious or The Pope’s Exorcist, or perhaps you watch programs about paranormal activity or ghost hunting, you read books about magic and casting spells and the use of the Internet — all of these things can be problematic as their main focus is usually on the devil rather than God and God’s goodness,” he said.
“The word ‘exorcism’ comes from the Greek word exorkismós, and it is a term that signifies an insistent request manifested before God or directed against demons. Literally, it means to bind with an oath. At its very core, an exorcism is a prayer that brings healing and relief in the eyes of those who are suffering by the evil one, allowing that person to be reconciled to God.”
Father Lampert further explained that when God is requested to expel a demon, it is known as a supplicating or minor exorcism prayer, a prayer directed to God and the Church saying that anyone may pray a supplicating exorcism prayer on behalf of someone else.
“Catholic belief, however, says that an imperative exorcism, which is a command given to a demon, is reserved to the bishop or the priest who has been designated to do this ministry in the bishop’s name,” Father Lampert continued. “Every Catholic bishop, as a successor to the original apostles, is the exorcist in his diocese. He has that authority based on the words of scripture in Chapter 9 of Luke’s Gospel, verse one, where Jesus sends the 12 out and gives them authority over all unclean spirits.”
He reiterated that a bishop may appoint one or more priests to serve as an exorcist on his behalf. “Some are publicly known, while some choose to remain anonymous.”
Father Lampert has performed exorcisms outside of his diocese but cannot do so without permission. Furthermore, one cannot just call up a local diocese and get same-day service when requesting an exorcism.
“Possession is real. It does happen, but it may not be as frequent as people think,” he said. “It’s my experience that maybe one out of 5,000 people that contact me [about performing an exorcism] is a true case of demonic possession.”
In undertaking an exorcism, the Church first looks at a person from three different perspectives — the spiritual, the psychological and the physical. A candidate for an exorcism would first have to have some type of psychological evaluation, a physical examination by their family doctor, and then the priest would meet with them.
“It should be the priest, doctor and psychologist working together to bring relief into the life of the per-son who is suffering,” Father Lampert said. “Again, it’s my experience that maybe one out of every 5,000 people is actually possessed. Because I’m publicly known, I think I encounter more people who are possessed because they seek me out.”
To see Father Lampert’s talk, visit Holy Family Parish’s YouTube page or click on the QR Code.