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Why do exorcists ask demons to reveal their names?

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In this interview with an exorcist from Switzerland, we're told the devil isn't everywhere—but don't go looking for him either, just in case.

How do people who are truly possessed live?

Actually, they live normal lives. The devil doesn’t act through them all the time. Allow me to use a paradoxical comparison to try to explain it: If a person buys a car, that car is at that person’s disposition to use whenever he or she wants to. They may use it to go to the office, and then have to park it. The same thing happens with a possessed person. There are moments when the demon acts: he gets in the car and drives as he likes; at other times, he doesn’t. The car has an owner, but the owner doesn’t always use it.

When is it necessary to go to an exorcist?

When what happens to you goes beyond what is normal. There was a woman I met in Rome who was an atheist: a Catholic who had only been baptized, who didn’t believe in anything. She ended up possessed, although I don’t remember the circumstances. She began to hear voices constantly, which tried to convince her to kill her husband and her son and commit suicide.

She thought she was mentally ill, and went to a psychiatrist, but the doctor found her to be a very intelligent and coherent person with very clear ideas. The psychiatrist couldn’t cure her. One day, moths ate all the woman’s clothes, without touching her husband’s things — which were in the same closet — nor those of her son. And there were no moths in the house. It was inexplicable.

One of her friends recommended that she go to Fr. Amorth, and he discovered that she was possessed. And yet, she didn’t believe in angels or in demons. Now, she has become a practicing Christian. Why does God allow things like this? For the person’s own good.

Have you been able to ask any of them what they felt during the exorcism?

I asked that French gentleman that we’ve been talking about what he felt during the exorcism, and he explained to me that he had felt as if there were a battleground inside him. On one hand, he felt the demons running around desperately and talking among themselves; on the other, when the priest prayed, he felt that God’s light cast them out, only for them to come back.

What story has impressed you the most?

The experience of a mute demon. Jesus talks about that in the Gospel, and says that they are the most difficult to cast out, and that they only leave with prayer and fasting. A mute demon is very rare. In 12 years of exorcisms, I’ve only come across it once.

Are you ever afraid?

I was at first, but then you get used to certain manifestations and it doesn’t surprise you anymore to hear someone’s voice change: a woman starts to talk with a weak voice, which then changes to a cavernous tone. You have to be attentive not to become obsessed with the evil one. An exorcist knows that the devil exists, but he’s not everywhere.

Above all, I’ve come to understand that exorcism is a ministry of mercy: an act of love for a person who is suffering. That is all.

[Translated from Aleteia Spanish by Matthew Green]

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