Enduring Insights from Exorcist Fr. Amorth

Despite being a popular horror movie trope, the vocation of the Catholic exorcist remains a mystery to most people. Catholic exorcists have other priestly duties and also have to protect the privacy of the spiritually afflicted. So, few talk to the media, and even fewer extensively write about their work. 

Fr. Gabriele Amorth served as an exorcist in Rome from 1986 until his death in 2016. Unlike other exorcists, though, Fr. Amorth had a media background and was already a published author. So it was that he wrote dozens of books and numerous articles, as well as gave several interviews on his life as an exorcist. He wanted to promote and encourage the exorcism ministry but he also gave insights into the work of a modern exorcist. 

In his recently translated book, Get Behind Me Satan, Fr. Amorth gives readers a rare look into the life and work of Rome’s chief exorcist. Writing in his usual straightforward manner, this book explores the theological understanding of evil while Fr. Amorth shares some of his stories.  Let’s look at some of Fr. Amorth’s insights in this new book.

The Devil is Monotonous

One thing that is hard to imagine is how exorcisms are just one part of priestly ministry. In many ways, the job of an exorcist looks a lot like other Catholic ministries. There is paperwork, consulting bishops, meeting with doctors, and meeting with patients who need spiritual deliverance. 

Even more intriguing is that Fr. Amorth found the devil monotonous in his evil work. According to the exorcist, the devil’s work consists “in pure and simple temptation, to which we are all subject.” The temptations and ways of attack are almost always identical and it can feel like going through the motions. Fr. Amorth even asked about this in an exorcism:

“We do well to remember that the devil is tremendously monotonous in his temptations and when I asked him about this, he confirmed this trait of his monotony, but also added that despite this, we men always fall into his traps.”

While demonic possession is the most salient characteristic of Satan’s attacks, the majority of his malevolent work is tempting people. “The efforts of the devil are aimed at making all creation rebel against its Creator,” as Fr. Amorth notes. 

Possession is Rare, Even for Exorcists

Part of the daily task of an exorcist is “diagnosing” if somebody is possessed or needs another kind of help. This is why exorcists consult with medical professionals to rule out physical and mental illness. In previous books, Fr. Amorth estimated that less than one percent of people he meets need a major exorcism. 

So, aside from the quotidian rhythms of his priestly ministry, what is the most common call for an exorcist? According to Fr. Amorth, most issues he encountered were what he called demonic infestation. Infestation is when demons haunt and possess objects or houses. “The most common case that all exorcists encounter,” according to Fr. Amorth, “is to be called by someone who hears strange noises, strange phenomena that are not able to be humanly explained.”

Three Causes of Demonic Attack

Fr. Amorth lists three causes of demonic attack, which are someone making a pact with Satan, God giving His divine permission, or malevolence. In some saintly cases, such as Padre Pio or the Cure d’Ars, God may permit the devil to tempt and attack them so that they will grow in holiness. It’s rare and only happens in God’s Providence, but Fr. Amorth finds it inspiring that the devil accidentally brings people closer to God. 

Malevolence is the most common cause of demonic attack, and Fr. Amorth defines this as “any harm done to a person by means of the devil.” This malevolence is often rooted in occult and magical rituals that seek to curse somebody. Thankfully, as Fr. Amorth notes, the surest protection from such attacks is found in prayer and participating in the sacraments. “Above all, as a priest, the exorcist entices and encourages people to pray.”

Demons Fear Mary and the Saints

The life of an exorcist is a life of prayer. Being a priest, Fr. Amorth prayed regularly and encouraged a life of prayer in everyone he met. In his work as an exorcist, he especially turned in prayer to three intercessors. “Among all the possible intercessors,” says Fr. Amorth, “there are three whom we can define as necessary: the Holy Spirit, the Name of Jesus, and Holy Mary.”

Even before he became an exorcist, Fr. Amorth had a profound love of Mary and her Immaculate Heart. He led the effort to have Italy consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and even wrote a book about his love of Mary. In his work as an exorcist, Fr. Amorth called upon Mary to protect him and help him. Demons even noted that Fr. Amorth was “too protected” by Mary. 

“Not by chance have painters and sculptors portrayed the Immaculate Conception as the crushing of the serpent’s head,” says Fr. Amorth, “How much more, then, is she a powerful intercessor.” Mary intercedes for us, and this is especially true when we are facing evil.

Along with Mary, Fr. Amorth had his own litany of saints he called upon, including Padre Pio. However, many of the saints can be of assistance. Fr. Amorth tells us that “every exorcist invokes those to whom he is personally most devoted, or to whom the person he is assisting is most devoted.” 

The saints are a powerful force against evil. St. Joseph is called “the terror of demons” and is often used in exorcisms. Of course, St. Michael is a powerful intercessor against the demonic. However, Fr. Amorth sees that all the saints have efficacy against demons. If you are devoted to certain saints, these are the ones you can turn to when facing evil. 

Be Not Afraid

Fr. Amorth puts this best: “The fundamental aspect we must underline is that the Bible never tells us to fear the devil, because it assures us that we can and must resist him, strong in our faith.”

Fr. Gabriele Amorth was an exorcist for decades but reports that he never felt real fear in the face of evil. He was confident in Christ’s protection and the prayers of Mary, and this made it so that devils were afraid of him. “I always say,” Fr. Amorth declared, “it is the devil who is afraid of me.” 

Real evil can be powerful and alluring, but it is ultimately powerless against the Lord who created all things. So, as Fr. Amorth encourages, we do not need to give in to fear when faced with the demonic. Like him, we can be confident in Our Lord’s protection and the prayers of Mary. 

Get Behind Me Satan has many more insights and even prayers from Fr. Amorth. If you would like to read more about him, I also recommend the books My Battle Against Satan and The Devil is Afraid of Me

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

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Michael J. Lichens is the former editor of Catholic Exchange, whose writing has appeared in both Catholic and mainstream sources. With an M.A. from the University of Chicago of Divinity School, Michael spends much of his days editing, writing, and researching great works in Catholic literature and also shares a passion for the overlooked moments in faith. You can track his love of ossuaries and saints at mlichens.com or here on CE.

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