This is from Spirit Daily originally appearing on May 30, 2007, and is used by permission.
A secular book about exorcism says that one thing rankles demons.
"The devil doesn't like Latin," writes Tracy Wilkinson in The Vatican's Exorcists. "That is one of the first things I learned from Father Gabriele Amorth, long known as Rome's chief exorcist, even though that has never been his formal title.
"Now past the age of eighty, Father Amorth has dedicated the last decades of his life to regaining a measure of respectability for exorcism. Despite his advancing age, he continues to perform the rite several times a week at his office in Rome.
"Scores of people seek him out. He prefers to use Latin when he conducts exorcisms, he says, because it is most effective in challenging the devil."
That tidbit comes to us at a time when Benedict XVI is ready to loosen restrictions on Latin Mass. It's in the new book -- a secular and sometimes skeptical but fascinating glimpse into the world of Italian priests who see their job as casting out demons.
While the numbers dwindle in countries like the Canada, France, and the U.S., exorcists are on the rise on the Vatican's home turf -- thanks largely to priests such as Father Amorth.
In Italy the number of exorcists has grown tenfold in the past decade, according to the priest (who is himself author of two bestsellers, An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories). Credit is also due to the legacy of John Paul II -- who made the notion of exorcism, which was founded by Jesus Himself, respectable again.
Father Amorth was born in Modena in northern Italy and has been a priest since 1954. In 1986 he began performing exorcisms under the tutelage of the vicar for Rome.
According to Wilkinson, Father Amorth accepted the task "after praying to the Virgin Mary for her steadfast guidance and protection."
"On the walls of Amorth's exorcism chamber, eight Crucifixes and pictures of the Madonna are hanging, plus a picture of Saint Michael the Archangel," says the book. "A two-foot-high statue of the Virgin Mary, the Madonna of Fatima, sits on a corner table.
"There are also pictures of the late Pope John Paul II; the popular saint Padre Pio; Amorth's mentor, Father Candido; and Father Giacomo Alberione, the founder of the Society of Saint Paul Congregation."
Father Amorth them "my protectors," adding that "the more recent addition of John Paul's has been especially effective and helpful."
"The demons become very agitated at his presence," Father Amorth says of the late Pope -- who himself performed several exorcisms during his pontificate and warned of the rise of dark forces both in 1977 and then in 2005 just days before he lapsed in his final bout with illness.
How is exorcism done? There is the Crucifix. There is the Holy Water. There are the ritual prayers. Many times, those afflicted have to come back on a regular basis -- the process a gradual one.
In Father Amorth's appointment book, women outnumber men by three to one. That is perhaps because they are more in tune with the spiritual, says the exorcist, or because they are special targets as the descendants of Eve.
The very word "hysteria" -- so often seen in the possessed -- comes from the Greek word hyster for womb. Greeks believed it was caused by abnormalities in the uterus.
"I maintain that in part, the reason is because women are the ones who do the most praying," says the priest. "Another reason is women are more inclined to approach a priest than are men, in case of need."
In some cases, say other exorcists, the devil attempts to mask possession as insanity. This sets up conflict with the far newer practice of psychology -- which looks down on exorcism as the psychiatrist's couch has replaced the confessional.
"An exorcism is the residue of a medieval practice completely devoid of any foundation in reason," the book quotes Sergio Moravia, a philosopher at the University of Florence, as saying. "I don't think it's crazy. It's worse."
Exorcists counter that psychological diagnoses such as "multiple personality" and "schizophrenia" are clinical covers for an infestation.
That opinion is shared by the many who have sought the services of Father Amorth -- finding relief when the devil was cast away after years of frustration at the hands of psychiatrists who saw their problems so differently.
Blessed salt and Holy Water are often used not just by the exorcists themselves, but by those who have been exorcised -- to stave off further disturbances.
Extraordinary strength, preternatural knowledge, speaking in foreign tongues unknown to the victim, vomiting of strange objects, and violent aversion to holy objects make pure psychological explanations suspect in strong cases.
Prayer, of course, also chases the devil and his manifestations away -- apparently, Latin in particular.
Bishop Andrea Gemma of Isernia -- who himself performs exorcisms -- ascribes the Church's move from Latin as part of a global plot to undermine Christianity.
"The devil is happy with the near-disappearance of Latin," said the bishop.
Does exorcism mask psychological illness with the supernatural, or is psychology itself a ruse, at least in certain instances, to prevent deliverance?
We have only to study the ministry of Jesus to know the answer.
[resources: The Vatican's Exorcists, An Exorcist Tells His Story, and An Exorcist: More Stories]
You can purchase my book, Pray it in Latin at PrayinLatin.com or at the Byzantine Dominican Store