‘Exorcism’: Powerful, well-reasoned read on why we should choose good over evil
Book Review l Nancy Piccione
When I mentioned to my editor that I was considering reviewing a book on exorcism, she said it would be timely because there’s a new film out that’s related. It’s called “The Pope’s Exorcist,” and the movie is (very) loosely based on the life of exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist of Rome for many years before his death in 2016.
I say loosely because after watching the preview online (a mistake, but I’ll get to that later), I immediately thought about a line from Father Vincent Lampert’s recent book “Exorcism: The Battle Against Satan and His Demons”: “(Exorcisms) are never performed in an abandoned house, on a dead-end street, at midnight, during a thunderstorm. That might make for a good movie, but it is not reality.”
After watching the preview, it’s clear that “The Pope’s Exorcist” doesn’t line up with reality. And since I’m not a fan of horror films, that movie is a hard pass from me.
But why would I be interested in, or want to review, a book about exorcism? Two reasons:
First, I heard a podcast interview recently with Father Lampert, the author of “Exorcism,” and I found him sensible, restrained, and well-spoken, infused with a good sense of humor. That last quality is a surprisingly helpful and good quality in an exorcist, especially one who has written a book about his experiences.
Second, because of the classic C.S. Lewis quote from the preface to “The Screwtape Letters,” his book imagining letters between demons on how to tempt humans: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
“Exorcism: The Battle Against Satan and His Demons” tells the story of how Father Lampert became an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, how he was trained, and all about exorcisms, the presence of evil and how to avoid it.
FAITH IS THE KEY
If you’re wondering, yes, Father Lampert does share some of the chilling and appalling encounters he has experienced during exorcisms. But the book’s strengths lie in educating readers — ultimately — how to have a healthy, well-integrated spirituality that neither ignores the reality of evil, nor over-emphasizes it.
“The key ingredient in defeating the devil is faith,” Father Lampert writes.
One of the most intriguing chapters was “Practical Insights from the Gospel of Mark,” in which Father Lampert details four exorcisms in Mark’s Gospel, and the spiritual insights we can glean from them.
Other chapters of the book explain the rite of exorcism, the different ways the devil inserts himself into our world, but throughout Father Lampert explains how God desires what’s best for us, and the devil wants us to be as miserable as he is.
“God wants a sense of cohesion and unity in his creation. The devil just wants a bunch of broken pieces,” says the author.
For those interested in modern spiritual reading that is both informative and thoughtful, Father Lampert’s book is an absorbing and reassuring read.
NANCY PICCIONE edited The Catholic Post’s Book Page for eight years and is now part of its book review team. A member of St. Jude Parish in Peoria, she blogs at ReadingCatholic.com.