Exorcist Discusses the Healing Power of his Ministry
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STEUBENVILLE, OH (April 20, 2012) - The ministry of exorcism is about healing," said Father Gary Thomas, a diocesan exorcist. "This isn't about spinning heads and green pea soup."
Father Thomas spoke at Franciscan University of Steubenville to shed light on the Catholic ministry of exorcism. At his April 10 talk, "Exorcism: Myths, Facts, and Mystery," Father Thomas addressed a standing-room-only crowd in the Tony and Nina Gentile Gallery.
In 2005, he was selected to be the exorcist for his San Jose, California, diocese and received exorcism training at the Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-affiliated university in Rome. It was his "belief in the personification of evil" that allowed him to lead the ministry for his diocese.
"At the time I thought, 'I could be the exorcist.' I don't have any personal fears because I know God's in charge, and I also know we're not talking about two equal adversaries; we're talking about the Divine and the supernatural," said Father Thomas. "We have God and we must recognize that Satan has already been defeated. If we have Christ as our advocate, we have nothing to fear."
Father Thomas is now a Vatican-certified exorcist whose experience was the basis of journalist Matt Baglio's book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. Father Thomas was the on-set consultant for the screenplay adaptation of Baglio's book, a 2011 film starring Anthony Hopkins, titled The Rite.
In the seven years Father Thomas has been an exorcist, he has ministered to 125 people, but only had to exorcise nine. Before performing an exorcism, Father Thomas secures medical and psychiatric exams for the person so he can demonstrate to his bishop that an exorcism is, in fact, necessary.
Once he receives permission, his "team"--a medical doctor, two clinical psychologists, a psychiatrist, and a prayer team--assembles. Father Thomas never performs exorcisms alone, and "we always do them in a church so we have access to the Blessed Sacrament." After thoroughly preparing his teammates with prayer and blessings, Father Thomas delivers the Solemn Rite of Exorcism.
Father Thomas calls exorcism "a ministry of suffering and healing." He believes The Rite gives an accurate representation of his ministry, and credits it with "doing a good job of portraying the faith and exorcism," unlike movies that exaggerate the drama and horror.
Following his talk, Father Thomas answered questions from the audience for an additional hour. The most-anticipated answer of the night dealt with how people become possessed. According to Father Thomas, involvement with occult practices--like a Ouija board or Wicca--have the ability to "open a doorway or two." He also advised people to avoid psychics, mediums, and New Age practices, saying, "Any of that stuff is an open invitation; if people are invoking, they're experiencing a spirit's response." A devoted faith life, prayer life, spiritual life, and sacramental life make a strong arsenal of defenses.
"Not everybody who comes to me has demonic issues, but they are all in terrible suffering," said Father Thomas. "That's why the cross should be placed prominently in our homes--it's a reminder of the war that has already been won, that Satan has already lost."
Father Thomas gave another talk the following day to students and faculty titled "Roman Catholic Ministry of Exorcism in the 21st Century." The Departments of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work, and Theology sponsored both presentations.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
http://www.franciscan.edu OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations,
exorcism, exorcist, the occult, The Rite
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