The story of how he found his calling by chance is told in a recently published official biography.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth (1925-2016) was 17 years old when he asked the Lord for the first time, “What do you want from me?” We know him as an exorcist now, but he only took on this assignment when he was already a mature priest.
Fr. Amorth’s vocation first took shape when he was a young man fascinated by the Passionists and the charism of Fr. James Alberione, founder of the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, and the other communities in the Pauline family. A trip to Rome changed his life. This is told in the book Don Amorth — La biografia ufficiale (Fr. Amorth — The Official Biography) by Domenico Agasso.
The first meeting with the Passionists
In the summer of 1942, in the middle of World War II, before starting his last year of high school, Amorth went to Rome with his parish priest to get to know the order of the Passionists (“I liked the Passionists,” he explained).
For some time he had already had the idea of entering a congregation, but without any clear preference, as he did not yet have any direct knowledge of them.
“I felt inclined for community life, for life in some religious order,” he told journalist Paolo Rodari.
Meeting Fr. Alberione by chance
That trip to Rome changed the course of his life through a decisive encounter. It happened that the Passionists had no place to offer hospitality to Amorth and his parish priest, who were looking for a bed for the night. They advised them to knock on the doors of another congregation, Fr. Alberione’s Paulines.
There were no rooms available there either, but they let them sleep on the two beds in the infirmary. Thus, Gabriele Amorth met Fr. Giacomo Alberione, a diminutive Piedmontese priest who founded the Society of St. Paul and entrusted it with the task of announcing the Gospel using modern means of communication. It was this encounter that decided the future of the young candidate for the priesthood.
“I’ll finish my third year of high school and then I’ll join”
Amorth told Fr. Alberione about his desire to become a priest. This is how he recounted his encounter with the apostle of the press to Elisabetta Fezzi in her book La mia battaglia con Dio contro Satana (My Battle with God Against Satan):
When I was seventeen, in my second year of high school, I met Fr. James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, who gave me the final push. I asked him: “What does the Lord want from me?” I wanted God to tell me what to do, but thanks to him I understood that I had to decide. But God intervened and one day Fr. Alberione told me: “I will celebrate Mass for you tomorrow morning.” And after Mass he told me: “Join the Paulines!” “All right,” I replied. But I was in the second year of high school and so I proposed: “I’ll finish my third year of high school and then I’ll join.”
“I asked him to pray for me”
He adds other details about Fr. Alberione in Saverio Gaeta’s book L’eredità segreta di don Amorth (The Secret Inheritance of Fr. Amorth):
I heard of him then for the first time, with comments that gave me confidence that I was dealing with a man of God. Thinking that he could help me solve my case, I asked him to pray for me and to ask the Lord what I should do. He simply promised me that the following morning he would celebrate Holy Mass for me. I was there to serve Mass for him (at 4:30 in the morning!) because I thought that, seeing me present, he would remember me. After Mass I went to speak to him and he limited himself to one statement. He told me: “Join the Paulines.” There and then I was satisfied and I truly accepted that answer as coming from the Lord.”
Fr. Alberione was beatified on April 27, 2003 by Pope John Paul II, and members of the various communities that make up the Pauline Family continue to spread the Good News in countries around the world. Fr. Gabriele Amorth, through his ministry as an exorcist (and his sometimes controversial statements), brought to the limelight the reality of the devil and demonic influence in the world.