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Exorcist: Possession is real

Tess Civantos | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Demonic possession is “still very real,” Fr. Jeffrey Grob said in a lecture on campus Wednesday night.

Grob, one of the official exorcists of the Archdiocese of Chicago, delivered a lecture titled “Evil and the Healing Ministry of Exorcism” at the Hesburgh Library Auditorium.

He said he did not choose to become an exorcist but was appointed by Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago. He joked about his profession to the full auditorium.

“Anyone who wants to go into this line of work is out of their mind,” Grob said. “I’m still trying to figure out what I did to the Cardinal.”

Grob described three causes of demonic possession: through a habit of sin, through direct involvement with the occult and through trauma or abuse.

In cases of trauma, it’s not the event itself that opens the door to possession, but rather the victim’s ability to move forward in the healing process and let go of negative emotions, Grob said.

“I have never seen a case of genuine demonic possession where there was not cooperation on some level,” Grob said. “Remember we have free will.”

Grob has been an exorcist since 2006 and said he has developed “on some level a sixth sense” for identifying demonic possession.

He listed the criteria that he uses to identify demonic possession.

“I’m sure if you’ve seen the movies you’re familiar with them,” he said.

He said one sign is the ability to converse in languages a person did not otherwise know.

Possessed individuals are also “able to reveal secrets about other people that no one else could know,” Grob said.

He said demonic possession can also cause extraordinary strength. Grob said he once exorcised a “skeletal elderly woman who five strong men could not hold down.”

People who are possessed also cannot tolerate sacred images or places, he said.

“All of these things are parlor tricks of the devil,” Grob said. “The devil is not on a level with God. He’s a creation and must use what’s there. Demons are very good at manipulating reality.”

Grob offered advice for preventing and avoiding possession.

“Demonic possession is rare,” he said. “For all the other stuff, what’s needed is prayer and the sacraments. Our Lord gave us these sacraments for a reason.”

Grob said fear and isolation can contribute to possession and he recommended the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation as a means of resisting the devil.

“If we are cooperating with the life of grace, we are pretty repulsive to the devil,” he said. “One good sacramental confession is more powerful than any number of exorcisms. … In confession, the creature stands before the creator and says, ‘I love you. I need you.’ And the devil can’t touch that.”

Grob said that a possessed person still has a chance to be saved.

“As long as there is life in the body,” he said, “there’s a chance for grace.”

Students at the lecture said they enjoyed Grob’s delivery style and message.

“I really liked [Grob],” senior Samuel Kaulbach said after the lecture. “He was really down-to-earth. I liked how he was skeptical and didn’t just spew fear. It was very comforting.”

Senior Brittani Russell said she liked hearing about the Catholic Church’s means of combating possession.

“I think it’s really scary to acknowledge that evil exists, but I think it’s important for us to know and to realize that the Church does have avenues to help us with this.”