The sacramental of exorcism is conducted according to the recommendations of the Roman Ritual. Exorcisms take place in a place of solitude, e.g. a chapel or a suitable room, usually with a visible image of the Crucified Christ, Holy Virgin Mary, angels. Apart from the priest, other priests and lay faithful, whose task is praying for the tormented person and helping if necessary, can participate in the exorcism. They cannot say any of the exorcism’s formulas.
The first task of the exorcist is recognizing, whether he is dealing with a real influence of the evil spirit and excluding (e.g. based on a doctor’s diagnose) psychiatric disorders. If there is a suspicion of demonic action, a recognition of possible causes and symptoms is conducted. The exorcist priest evaluates the scale of the evil’s rooting and the way in which Satan influences the person (e.g. through demonic obsessions, tormenting, oppressions, possession. Secondly, a prayer for delivery is conducted, which – apart from a spiritual effect – allows the exorcist to ensure, whether the given person is indeed under the influence of an evil spirit. If during the prayer additional symptoms appear, giving evidence of the influence of evil powers, the exorcist proceeds to the solemn exorcism.
Full exorcisms include long initial prayers, followed by three different proper exorcisms (according to the Ritual of 2000) First, the exorcist blesses the person with blessed water to commemorate the purification received during Baptism. Prayer follows: a litany, reading of psalms and the Gospel. The exorcist priest lays his hands on the tormented person, begging the Holy Spirit for the departure of the evil spirit. During the prayer he breathes into the face of the tormented
(“whom will destroy with the breath of his mouth, rendering him powerless by the manifestation of his coming” 2 Thess 2:8).
Next, the confession of faith is recited or the baptismal promise is renewed. The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) follows, after which the exorcist blesses the tormented person with a crucifix. He utters a supplicatory formula to God and an imperative formula expelling the devil in the name of Jesus Christ. The exorcisms end with a thanksgiving song, a prayer and a blessing.
Usually, the prayer proceeds in a peaceful manner. During the exorcisms manifestations of the evil spirit can appear over the possessed. The person undergoing the sacramental can feel anxious, tired, weakened, sometimes pains appear in the stomach, head, throat or back. In infrequent cases of possession additional phenomena can appear in the possessed person, e.g. speaking foreign languages (which the person has never studied), weakening or strength out of proportion with the person’s body build, knowledge of hidden things, appearance of symbols connected with satan on the body, spitting with various objects. In this way the demon tries to interrupt the exorcist and expresses his anger. However, rage is rather rare.
If the evil spirit reveals himself, the exorcist priest can ask questions about the number and names of demons, the reason and time of their residing in the victim. Sometimes the evil spirit tries to keep up the appearance of indifference and remains silent, or – trying to divert the priest’s attention – becomes very talkative and fakes remorse (especially during blessing or touching with the stole). Often, evil spirits have to be urged on to answer with an order in the name of Jesus, or by blessing the person with blessed water and crucifix. The presence of the sacred elicits reactions, e.g. anger, hatred towards what is holy. Fallen angels do not speak of God and the Virgin Mary directly – they use “He”, “your Leader”, “She”, “your Lady”. If a sacred name is uttered, it is often in blasphemy.
Results of an exorcism
Exorcisms can last from a minutes to several hours. The symptoms during and after the exorcism can vary: if they are getting weaker, they might be a sign of the beginning of healing; if they are gaining strength, the freeing is continued. It is, however, possible that even in the absence of initial signs, the exorcised person does experience beneficent effects of the sacramental in the course of time. In some cases the exorcised persons will not remember the course of the exorcism, or remember it only faintly. Exorcisms are usually conducted several times, to the point of freeing of the given person.