Editor’s note: When Fr. Gabriele Amorth died in 2016, he was the most famous exorcist of our time. The following excerpts are from his final interview, collected in Father Amorth: My Battle Against Satan. You can also read other selections by Fr. Amorth here on CE.
What are the differences between vexations
Father Amorth: To understand the difference between a severe vexation and a possession is easy: Padre Pio was never possessed, and neither was the Curé d’Ars. Possession occurs when the Devil takes possession of the body — never of the soul. There is a loss of consciousness, and there are other symptoms, such as speaking in unknown languages, knowledge of things that the possessed person would not otherwise know, superior strength, levitation, etc. Once I had a case of a person who would levitate even though she was held down by four robust men!
But if there are disturbances, even very strong disturbances, without possession of the body, then it is not possession. We think of the Curé d’Ars thrown from his bed so many times or Padre Pio savagely beaten, and his head banged on the floor. They were always present to themselves, always aware: therefore, it was not possession.
It is difficult to imagine how a person can talk with a demon. How do you communicate, and what do you say?
Well, I received some great teaching. Yes, I did. Those whom I value the most love Our Lady. An exorcist friend who was older than I and who died some time ago once asked the Devil: “Tell me, what are the qualities of the Most Holy Mother Mary that make you so angry and cause you so much pain?” He answered: “She is the purest of everyone, and I am the filthiest; she is the humblest, and I am the most rebellious; she is the most obedient, and I never obey!”
Once, during an exorcism, I asked: “One of your colleagues gave this response regarding Our Lady to one of my colleagues. Now, tell me: what is the fourth quality of Our Lady that makes you angry?”
He responded: “She always wins because she has never been touched by the slightest shadow of sin.”
What words! Effectively, just a glance from Our Lady will send off the demon. There is also that episode at Lourdes, when, at a certain point, some voices cried out to Bernadette: “Run away, run away!” They were cries from the demon; it was enough that Our Lady glanced in that direction, and immediately they disappeared!
Then Hell is for those persons who deliberately refuse each chance God gives them?
Hell is reserved for those who refuse the mercy of God up to the last instant, because God offers the possibility of conversion up to the last instant.
Let us consider Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and her mission. There was a criminal, an Italian who was condemned to death by the guillotine; and she said to the Lord: “I ask You this: make this man, Pranzini, demonstrate a sign of repentance, as I now, at the moment of his death, offer and dedicate my prayers, my sacrifices, and my renunciations for him. If You grant this favor, You will make me understand that this ‘way’ is pleasing to You.”
Pranzini remained hardened until the very end, even refusing the sacraments. Then, at the last moment, he turned toward the priest, tore the crucifix from his hands, kissed it with great fervor, and gave it back to him. Then, thump, his head was cut off. Saint Thérèse saw the sign that she had asked for: her sacrifices and sufferings, which no one saw, were useful.
The story of Saint Thérèse is interesting, because no one in her convent believed that she was a saint, least of all her blood sisters. Céline, her favorite sister, took all Thérèse’s letters and burned them! An immense patrimony was lost! When they took Thérèse to the cemetery, there were five people! Five people in all! Years after, when they returned to the cemetery, there were more than twenty thousand people!
But let us return to what interests us, that even up to the last moment, God pursued this Pranzini. He followed him until the last moment of his life, and He saved him! But if one refuses His mercy and continues to refuse it . . . then so be it!
Is it true that wizards still do much damage?
Yes, yes, there are many wizards; they have offices filled with clients. But wizards that are truly tied to Satan are rare. The majority, fortunately, are charlatans.
Those tied to Satan are the most effective. They obtain the most; they truly do damage. If someone has an enemy he hates and wishes to harm, he goes to one of these wizards and procures many evils aimed at that poor person, things that could not be imagined.
For the victim to be released, he must submit to exorcisms, and here I am!
These wizards act
in Satan’s name, and they are his slaves.
If a person has been attacked by black magic, can an exorcist obtain a lasting effect?
The effect of an exorcisms is always unpredictable. I wish to emphasize that, even though the Lord never wishes evil, He respects human liberty. Besides, God can use one person’s bad action to carry out His good plans for another.
We see it with extreme clarity in the Passion and death of Christ: the Devil influenced Judas to betray Jesus. He influenced Caiaphas, Anna, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers; but everything was carried out in such a way that each of these persons maintained his own complete responsibility.
Once I was asked: “Was Judas’s betrayal necessary to obtain the Crucifixion and death of Jesus?” No, no, it was not at all necessary. In the Gospel, it is evident that they wished to kill Jesus, but not during the festival days of Passover because they were afraid of the crowd. But having been handed the betrayal of Judas, they changed their plans, and they arrested Him during the Passover feast. If Judas had not betrayed Him, they would have arrested Him after the feast!
Each person is responsible for his actions, but God arranges things in a manner that all collaborate with His plans.
I also wish to point out that, when viewed from a broader perspective, what at first seems negative can lose its negativity, because nothing happens without the supervision and limits that God imposes. For example, they can pay a killer to kill me and make him do it at a moment in which his conscience permits it. The Lord then receives me, and I go straight to Paradise: martyrs go directly to Paradise.