Over the last few days there has been a stir in the media about an incident in Rome. I am speaking up because I am a Catholic and I think it necessary to point out that there was no exorcism. Pope Francis laid his hands on the man for the purpose of saying a prayer, and anything extraordinary that happened was the work of the Holy Spirit.
Exorcists do not cast out devils under their own steam, but they pray and they invoke the name of Jesus Christ and they order the devils out in the name of the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ. This is in fact very Biblical and one only has to read the Gospel stories to understand at least some of what I am attempting to say here.
There has been only one occasion where I went to a healing Mass that was held by a priest who has an extraordinary power of healing. At first there was nothing special about the event, but I did smell a perfume that did not come from the flowers that were on the stage (first of all I was too far back and secondly I have a very poor sniffer), so yes I did smell something that was quite sweet. The night ended in a bit of a rush, and the priest prayed over all of us who did not manage to get in line for individual prayer. Beside me I saw a girl slump into a bit of a faint. Around me, and closer to the stage there were other people who had passed out. What is remarkable that at this stage as I moved past some of these people I could smell sulphur. It is something that is associated with Satan, so yes on that night Satan was cast out of at least one person. However, this was not an exorcism as outlined in an exorcist manual.
The Gospels speak of the Apostles and the 40 disciples who were sent out to announce the good news. They were also casting out devils in the name of Jesus. I do not have the specific verses in front of me, but it really is there within the Gospels. It is done in the name of Jesus Christ.
On top of that, in the Acts of the Apostles there are descriptions of similar miracles where people were healed through their belief and just touching the garments of St. Peter, and I am probably wrong, but that might have included St. Paul as well. Such miracles are never the work of those individuals but they are the work of the Holy Spirit. It is always the Holy Spirit who performs the miracles, but it is the person who invokes the Holy Spirit and asks for the healing of the sick person.
This is indeed the context of what took place in Rome. It is a reminder that Pope Francis is in fact doing God’s work, and when he placed his hands over the man in question, it was God, or the Holy Spirit who responded within the man. There was no rite of exorcism taking place at that moment.
I am aware that there are Christians who belong to other sects amongst my readers. I am also aware that in some churches there is a strong belief in healing through the Holy Spirit. Well Catholics also believe that Jesus heals and that is why we pray for others in our own special way, invoking those saints who are in heaven and have the special ear of God, pleading for our cause. I cannot explain the concept in any other way than this one, since this is a bone of contention about what we believe and do. What I want to point out is that it always God who listens and answers our prayers.