BY ROSE MCEACHERN
Tuesday evening the Gallery in the J.C. William’s Center was packed in anticipation for the night’s speaker. The talk was scheduled to begin at 7, but at ten after people were still coming in. Students and visitors filled the floor and the balconies overhead.
First a book, then a film was written based on the life of this man. Unassuming in appearance, a black suit with a white priest’s collar and a receding hairline, he has a very careful and gentle demeanor. One would not expect that this was Fr. Gary Thomas, The Exorcist.
Trained in Rome, Father Thomas has been an exorcist for 6 years. In his talk, he emphasized the truth of his ministry, informing the audience that “it’s not about spinning heads and green pea soup,” in reference to the Hollywood classic “The Exorcist”. He stressed that his ministry is one of healing. He shared that not everyone who came to see him was under demonic influence, but that all were dealing with issues of suffering. In fact, out of the 125 souls who have come to see Fr. Thomas in the last 6 years, he has only performed formal exorcisms on 9 of them.
There is also a long process to even determine what a person is suffering from…”More often than not it’s mental illness.” Father employs a team to help him: an M.D., a psychologist, a prayer team, and a particular discerner from Iowa. “An exorcist has to be the ultimate skeptic” he explained, because performing a formal exorcism when one isn’t needed is very dangerous.
Fr. Thomas also emphasized that there was no reason to fear the devil, as he had already been defeated. “As soon as Christ died on the cross, the war was won,” he declared. Having a prayer, faith, sacramental, and moral life are sure ways of protecting oneself further.
Father concluded his talk with questions from the audience ranging from the distinctions between demonic obsession vs. possession, asking Father’s opinion on “Harry Potter” (he advised strong caution), to questions about demonic manifestations.