“After the bishop gave me the special permit, for three nights in a row I woke up all of a sudden and with my eyes wide open at 3 am. The enemy had appeared before me. I prayed the rosary and it was all over.” Fr Paolo Carlin recalls with a smile the day when the bishop of Ravenna asked him to become an exorcist: “When I arrived at the diocese I had no pastoral assignment and thus I introduced myself and said I was available for any form of service if needed. A few days later, during a lunch to celebrate the feast of Padre Pio, the bishop asked me: ‘What do you know about the devil?’ I promptly replied that I was aware of his existence and that I believe in Christ. He then entrusted me the mission.” Moral theologian and friar Minor Capuchin, Fr. Carlin serves as exorcist in the dioceses of Ravenna and Faenza. He is the spokesperson of the International Exorcist Association and its national delegate for Italy. He was a panel speaker at the course on “Exorcism and prayer of liberation” held a few days ago in Rome.
Is there a shortage of specific formation in seminars?
There is no form of dedicated formation.
The course on angels and demons was no longer activated after the Second Vatican Council.
There is also a shortage of knowledge on the spiritual and personal beings: when a priest faces a diabolic appearance he risks falling in a situation of deep discomfort.
Why do so many people question the existence of the devil?
The devil is not known. We are the victims of a culture imbued with the greatest lie that Satan has ever devised, which consists in the denial of his existence. This is also due to ignorance and to the more-or-less-conscious adhesion to New Age or to new, eastern-oriented philosophies. But the devil does exist, and he’s not the bearer of light that his adorers would have us believe. Unfortunately many priests, who are not knowledgeable of the subject, don’t talk enough about it. Not to mention those who resort to fictitious liberation capacities, thereby deceiving themselves and others with them. Certain gifts, unless you are a saint, don’t come from God…
Could you describe the typical day of an exorcist?
The exorcist is not a super-priest. He is an ordinary man.
Sometimes, when I am asked for “special blessings”, I remain speechless. We are not superhumans. We lead the life of priests, consisting in personal and community prayer, whereby the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confession have a central role, because the devil uses our sins against us.
I wake up every morning at 5:30 am. and go to sleep at 11.pm. During the morning I carry out other activities linked to my priestly ministry, while in the afternoons I meet people with spiritual and non-spiritual related issues.
We have grown used to seeing movies where exorcists carry out a hand-to-hand combat with the devil… The battle is not between the exorcist and the devil, but between the Church and the devil.
Moreover, all an exorcist can do is to lay his hands over the victim’s head.
This is an important aspect. Collective imagination is influenced by motion-pictures , but those rites are fabricated by movie directors. Problems arise when the same rites are imparted by priests.
Were you ever afraid?
Sometimes the devil can makes us nervous because he takes us by surprise. But he has never frightened me. He is unpredictable and boring at the same time. We should not be afraid. Those who believe in Jesus are not afraid. Nonetheless
The devil must not be underestimated, for he is a great deceiver.
He is stronger than any man, because he is a fallen angel. But before God he is powerless, and he is not almighty.
Is the outcome of the battle always victorious?
Jesus won for us. But in order to win you have to side with the winner. We are the ones to decide, with our choices. Evil cannot be defeated by another evil.
Is there a case that you were particularly impressed by? Undoubtedly those cases I have been following for many years. In particular, I remember a 14-year-old boy that suffered from the devil’s work operated by a relative. He displayed all the symptoms the Church identifies as signs of demonic possession. After the rites of exorcism he was finally serene. Those who are on Jesus’ side keep the enemies at bay. I also remember the unfortunate case of a girl in great need but her parents preferred not to opt for a path of prayer…
What are the exorcist’s weapons against the devil?
They are the same weapons of all Christians: spiritual weapons, which are veritable arms. The helmet is the Gospel that protects the head from delusions and from the temptations of evil. The sword is prayer, that helps us avoid pitfalls, while the sacraments, the action of God in human life, is our armour.
Confession is more powerful that an act of exorcism. The more we confess, the more the devil is distant from us;
The Eucharist is the spiritual force of our soul. Finally, faith is the shield. For those who have faith in God, Satan is powerless.