You may have come across some stories this past weekend about the U.S. Bishops hosting a conference on exorcism. In particular, the conference was organized by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, IL…yes, my brother. How he ended up coordinating that event, I don’t know, other than maybe the bishops figured that growing up in a family of 9 children, he and his siblings had a little “devil” in us! 🙂
Seriously, though, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the matter of exorcism. Obviously, the media loves stories like this and the general public eats it up. In general, however, the sensationalism comes from popular portrayals such as the movies The Exorcist and the Exorcism of Emily Rose, which, by the way, are both very good movies that have pretty good portrayals of Catholic priests. The Church, for the most part, is very low key about the issue and the conference was basically a pastoral response, preparing more priests to be able to do the thorough discernment that is needed when an individual requests an exorcism.
While some see the conference as part of a larger attempt to “turn back the clock,” others see it as an out and out embarrassment to the Church. The truth is, however, we must all pause and remind ourselves that exorcism is an integral part of our celebration of Baptism. The Rite of Baptism for Children includes a Prayer of Exorcism (Rite of Baptism for One Child, 86) and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults includes Minor Exorcisms as part of the Rites belonging to the Period of the Catechumenate (RCIA 90-94) as well as a Rite of Exorcism (RCIA 144, 154, 168, and 175) as part of the Scrutinies that are celebrated on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent for catechumens. Bottom line is, if you’re Catholic, you’ve been exorcised.
An exorcism is basically a prayer of deliverance from evil, something that we pray for every time we conclude the Lord’s Prayer, “but deliver us from evil” and something that the priest prays for at each Mass we celebrate, “deliver us Lord from every evil.” In other words, we Catholics believe that evil is very real and that we must be vigilant and pray fervently to be delivered from it. May the power of Christ compel us!