Father Vincent P. Lampert is an exorcist based out of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Lampert is one of just 175 priests in the US ordained to perform exorcisms.
Here, he shares what he's seen while battling demonic forces.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Father Vincent P. Lampert, a Catholic priest and the designated exorcist of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I'm a priest for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and I was ordained back in 1991. Fourteen years in to being a priest, my bishop appointed me to be the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
At the time I was appointed, I was one of only 12 stably appointed Catholic exorcist priests in the US. Today, that number has grown to 175. The church says the best way to learn the ministry is through the apprenticeship model, but because there were so few in the US back in 2005, my Bishop sent me to Rome, and I was able to train under a Franciscan priest, who allowed me to sit in on 40 exorcisms that he performed over the three months I was there.
It's one thing to read all the book knowledge and to understand what the church believes and teaches about evil. It's another thing to see the practical application and to actually experience the demonic itself.
There's no such thing as a typical exorcism
There's a very strict protocol that I follow. A person needs to have a psychiatric evaluation and a medical examination by a doctor. I'm basically asking them, is there something about this person's condition that you cannot explain?
I then sit down and do an intake questionnaire trying to determine if this is demonic. The church works with anyone who believes that they're up against the forces of evil. My main goal is to determine if that is really the case, because I'm trained to be a skeptic.
I average 3,500 people a year who reach out to me for help, and they come from all over the US, other parts of the world, all kinds of faith backgrounds, you name it.
So there's not a day, seven days a week, I don't deal with some form of exorcism ministry. Now, though cases of demonic possession are real, they're rare — maybe one out of every 5,000 cases, is demonic possession. There are three other types of extraordinary demonic activity. Infestation, the presence of evil in a location, or associated with an object, like a voodoo doll, for example. There's demonic vexation, which are physical attacks, and then demonic obsession, which are mental attacks.
Infestation, vexation, obsession, I do thousands of those a year. I don't even keep track anymore. The real cases of demonic possession itself, I see maybe one or two or three a year on average.
There are no typical exorcisms. Each case is different.
I still remember, in one of these exorcisms in Rome, the body began to float in front of me.
The levitation began, and the body was about a foot out of the chair, and I'm looking at this in disbelief, like, what in the world is going on here? How is it possible? And then the priest who's training me, he just takes his hand and puts it on the head of the body and pushes the person back into the chair, and continues to pray.
He never paused for a moment. He just kind of glanced over, looked at it, and then just took his hand and put it on the head of the person and pushed them down and just continued to pray.
Almost like business as usual.
Demons can do certain things that we would just find to be completely not possible. I've seen when demons manifest, eyes roll in the back of the head, there's growling and snarling, foaming at the mouth and whatnot.
The voice becomes deeper and more authoritative; strong, horrible odors, stenches that are coming from the person that's possessed. I've witnessed levitation, where demons cause the body to float.
I've seen when demons manifest, the person's body will drop to the floor and slither like a snake. I've seen when manifestations begin, the face becomes contorted, and even sometimes, the tongue has come out like a snake.
I've seen all of these things, so yeah, I do think movies get it right.
The more I've been involved in this — I'm now in my 18th year — none of this really phases me in the least.
During a recent exorcism, when the demon finally manifested, the person's eyes in front of me turned green, and their pupils became slanted like a serpent.
And this voice comes out of the mouth — a very deep voice — and says, "You can't get rid of us. We've been here too long and you're not strong enough." And then began to howl and growl and hysterical laughter and whatnot.
Casting the devil out is the easy part
There is a growing trend, I think, to see the exorcist as a magician, that somehow I have a bag of tricks that I can make people's problems go away. But again, it's not about just casting the devil out. It's also about inviting God in. I would even say that casting the devil out is the easy part.
The harder part is to convince somebody that they need God in their life.
For some people, though, it is a mental health issue. There was a man who reached out to me who was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
He had a psychiatrist and a caseworker. He believed that it was demonic. I agreed to talk to him with the psychiatrist and caseworker.
And so we're all four of us are together. And I said, "In my opinion, you are not possessed."
And the psychiatrist says to the man, "Father says you're not possessed. What is your response?"
He said, "I'm disappointed." And then he looked at the psychiatrist and said, "You can label me a schizophrenic, but you can't tell me why. If it's the devil, at least I would have my why."
And then he got up and walked out.
You would think if I told somebody you're not possessed, they would be relieved. But I've actually had people that have gotten angry at me for saying that.
But I don't want to tell people what they want to hear. In fact, I would say the church would do greater harm if it labels someone as possessed and that label prevents them from getting the true help that they need.
But unfortunately, we live in a world today where if you think you're possessed, trust, there's somebody out there that's going to validate that and take advantage of you. But certainly, that would not be the approach of the church.
My focus is not on the theatrics of the demonic. It's on the power of God. And really, that's what exorcism is all about.
Humans have a deep longing for God because God gives human life ultimate meaning, purpose, and direction. I think the devil is kind of the opposite of that. The devil wants to bring about division, confusion, the lack of meaning, purpose, and direction.
So really, it's not just about focusing on what the devil is doing, but it's also about helping people come to realize what God wants to do in their life.
So in exorcism, the real focus is not on the devil. The real focus is on God.
It's really about helping people to know that the greatest thing in life that we can know are not the sins that we do, but it's God's love and mercy.
God is always ready to forgive if we simply give God that opportunity.
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