An exorcist describes his ministry

Fr. Jeffrey Grob, priest and one of the official exorcists in the Archdiocese of Chicago spoke on “Evil and the Healing Ministry of Exorcism” February 23 at Carey Auditorium.  Sponsored by Morrissey Hall and Campus Ministry, Fr. Grob addressed the Catholic Church’s teaching on exorcism and the work of the exorcist.

Fr. Jeffrey Grob, exorcist in the Archdiocese of Chicago, introduced the healing ministry of exorcism by reminding his audience that evil is “not something new.”  The ministry of exorcism has existed since the time of Christ.  The Church consistently has taught the truth of the personal realities of angelic and demonic beings.

“One of the key problems that our society faces… [and] as part of our Catholic identity, [is that] we have lost the sense of that personal evil, that personal influence,” Fr. Grob said.  Citing a series of Wednesday Audiences by Pope Paul VI on the Lord’s Prayer, he asserted that  “evil is…an active force,” which can play a deeply negative role in one’s life.  In order to combat this lack of attentiveness to the forces of evil, Fr. Grob insisted on a firm knowledge of the teachings of the Church and engagement in an active spiritual life.

A part of the “ecclesiastical branch of waste management,” the exorcist “is trained as a skeptic” and first presumes natural explanations for what is happening.  Most exorcists work with a team of people from various disciplines.  Since exorcism is a healing ministry, the exorcist concerns himself with the victim’s whole self, administering to that person to help them discern what is going on in his life.  He said, “My primary concern is to get that person help, whatever that help looks like.”

At the root of demonic possession is the destruction of one’s relationship with God.  Fr. Grob stated, “The ideal is to grow in a life of grace and love in God, ultimately going home to God and experience fullness in God in paradise.”

Fr. Grob outlined three ways, or “doorways” in which begins a relationship with the darkness, which can lead to varying degrees of demonic possession.  First, there is the habit or pattern of sin that leads one away from God.  Second is direct engagement with the occult.  Fr. Grob said that “the things we put in place of God to give us answers, direction, guidance, rather than trusting in God’s providence, God’s plan for each of us” open a doorway to a relationship with the darkness.

Lastly, the source of the greatest kind of demonic activity is trauma or abuse, which strikes the core of the person.  If   there is inadequate support for the person to move towards healing, the person can get stuck “in an arena of dark emotions.”  This can allow the person to create a relationship with the darkness itself by participating in it.

Genuine cases of demonic possession, however, “are rare and have always been rare. There are documented cases and they are real” but there are few.   In genuine demonic possession, Fr. Grob explained, the rite of exorcism heals only a part of the person.  Through the prayers of the Church, the darkness is removed but healing needs to continue.

Additionally, Fr. Grob pointed out the common misconception to think that everything that the devil causes everything that is evil.  One can also experience temptations of the flesh and the world as a result of simple temptation rooted in original sin.  To overcome this temptation, one should seek God’s grace and the sacraments of the Church, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, in which the penitent directly faces God and acknowledges his need of God.

Possession cannot occur without some exercise of free will that allows one to cooperate with the devil.  As a result, Fr. Grob insisted that “we must always look at our practices and where we are forging out relationships on a spiritual level.  We need to look at what is going on in our lives.”  It is also unlikely for one to become demonically possessed if one is living a sacramental life. One must examine his patterns and habits and try to cooperate with God’s grace.

Sandra Laguerta is a sophomore theology major who enjoys consuming peppermints on an almost hourly basis. If you have any peppermints to share, contact her at