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The Order of ExorcistThe Exorcistate -- the 3rd of the Minor Orders
by A. Biskupek, S.V.D
Mission Press, 1954
Imprimi Potest May 4, 1942 Charles Michel, S.V.D. Provincial
Imprimatur May 4, 1942 + Samuel A. Stritch, D.D.
Archbishop of ChicagoTo exorcise means to deliver a person from the presence or influence of evil spirits. That the devil, within the limits allowed by God, has retained a certain power over men even after the coming of Christ is clearly testified by Holy Scripture and the history of the Church. Jesus drove out devils from the possessed and He bestowed this power upon His apostles and disciples. In the early times of the Christian era many lay persons possessed this power as a charism.
It is in harmony with reason and faith to assume that the devil has greater power over the unbaptized in consequence of original sin. For this reason, at a very early date, exorcisms were performed repeatedly over the catechumens in preparation for baptism. To perform these exorcisms and, in general, to exorcise persons possessed by or under the influence of evil spirits exorcists were ordained.
The rite speaks of exorcists as spiritual physicians endowed with the power of healing. This may also refer to bodily afflictions caused by the devil; once the influence of the devil is broken by the exorcism, the affliction ceases.
The other duties of the exorcist stood in close relation to this principal function of the order. According to the usual interpretation of the instruction read to the ordinands, he was to direct persons under exorcism, and for that reason barred from Holy Communion, when to withdraw. Furthermore, it was his duty at sacred functions to administer the water for the washing of hands to the officiating priest. The latter ceremony symbolizes purification from sin, hence a banishing of the influence of the evil spirits; it was fitting, therefore, to assign this duty to the exorcist.
In our days all baptismal exorcisms are embodied in the solemn rite of baptism, and are performed by the priest or deacon who baptizes. To exorcise a person possessed by the devil an explicit permission of the diocesan bishop is required, and it can be given only to a priest.
If the exorcistate is conferred during Mass, this is done:
The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:
The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop addresses them as follows:
Accordingly, as you cast out devils from others, seek to remove from your own minds and bodies all uncleanness and iniquity, lest you be overcome by those evil spirits whom, in virtue of your office, you cast out of others. Through the exercise of your office learn to rule over evil habits, lest the enemy discover in your lives anything which he might claim as his own. For then you will consistently command the evil spirits in others when you first overcome their manifold wickedness in yourselves. May the Lord through His Holy Spirit grant that you may accomplish this.
The Bestowal of the Office. The candidates now come up to the bishop, and each touches the book which he presents to them, saying:
Let us bend our knees. R. Arise.