INTERVIEW WITH AN EXORCIST: I Saw A Possessed Person Who Caught Fire Out Of Nowhere And Started Speaking Ancient Hebrew
We know demons and evil spirits from books and movies. However, according to the priest and former exorcist, they also exist in reality.
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"Evil has never fascinated me. After a while, I perceived it as cheap marketing. The devil has no imagination and creativity, he works with the same formulas," revealed the priest, adding that, according to him, the dimension of creativity and dynamism is on God's side.
Leopold Jaroslav Jablonský is a Franciscan, a military chaplain who dedicated his life to God. For him, the spiritual world is a reality that he experienced firsthand. Since he also served as an exorcist in the past, he felt the power of the spiritual world from the reverse, dark side.
In addition to how exorcism works in reality and what he experienced in the two hundred cases of possession he solved, Leopold explained to us what role a military chaplain plays in the army and why he decided to join it.
What does exorcism look like in practice?
It is performed according to a special liturgical book called the Roman Ritual. The book that is currently in use was also approved by Pope John Paul II. and is used as a kind of manual.
When a priest says the Holy Mass, he says it according to a liturgical book called a missal - so every priest says it the same way everywhere in the world. The same applies to this book, which is a liturgical - external form of prayer - reading from the Bible during an exorcism.
Next, there are intercessory prayers for a person who is affected by this spiritual problem. At the end, an imperative prayer is performed, which directly expels the demon or evil spirit from the affected person.
There were some attempts to physically attack me, but they never worked. Not because I'm fighting back, but because the demon doesn't have the spiritual competence to attack me physically.
Why is a person possessed by a devil or a demon?
In my experience, these were mostly people who were actively involved in some occult matters, whether it was related to black magic, spiritualism or satanic societies. These were not just some games, but serious attempts to establish contact with the spiritual world of the 'dark' side.
I also met with victims who were involved in the occult or black magic, but they got into it in a more passive way. Either because their partner dragged them into it, or they were influenced by other people.
Of course, it must be distinguished. For example, I always used the services of psychologists or clinical psychiatrists, who first checked my clients with a diagnostic interview. When they assessed that they could treat them, they kept them as patients to help them.
However, sometimes they told me that it was beyond their competence, that they could not diagnose it and that it was something strange. It was under such circumstances that I started exorcism. After all, we will not treat a person who is mentally ill and needs professional help by using exorcism.
Can exorcisms be as dangerous as the movies make them out to be, or are they completely out of touch with reality?
The spiritual world is the reality for me. I don't take it as something unexplored or imaginary. During the exorcism, various manifestations occur, perhaps very similar to those described in the movies. The difference is that they are never concentrated in just one single person, as scriptwriters tend to think. That's really a bit of an exaggeration.
In other words, before the exorcism, the client is always diagnosed in order to evaluate his mental health.
Of course. In the book of the Roman Ritual there are conditions and notes to instruct the exorcist. One of the conditions is that mental health experts must exclude the natural cause of the phenomenon before the exorcism. In this case, by natural cause, we mean a psychological problem.
How does one know that it is a possession?
People usually feel that their life is not in order. When we look at the worst case of evil influence - obsession - it doesn't work like that person is out of reality 24/7.
He functions normally, goes to work and has a family, but several times a week he suffers from certain attacks. During those he shuts down completely for an hour or two and behaves completely out of character for his personality. Most of the time, his family also wants to deal with it, because they start to fear him.
When a possessed person recovers from an attack, he remembers nothing until he starts to fear himself. That's why usually the whole family comes to the exorcist and wants to solve it, because it scares them all.
The person in question does not only behave strangely, as if his personality has changed - even psychiatrists could diagnose this, but it also manifests itself in unnatural and supernatural phenomena.
He begins to speak aloud in a language he has never learned in his life, such as ancient Hebrew, Latin, or other ancient biblical languages. I also dealt with a case of exorcism, when the possessed person's clothes spontaneously ignited.
Out of nowhere, his pullover caught fire, sometimes even a curtain or a towel in his apartment. The entire space he occupied was affected in this way, and therefore it terrified the whole family. They noticed that these phenomena concerned his person.
Who can people turn to if they feel they need the services of an exorcist?
Most people seek help from their local priest. They expect him to help them himself. However, since this is not within his competence, he will refer them to the exorcist in the given diocese.
If I were to compare them (demons) to humans, they are beings like us. Each of them has its own nature, character, originality and individuality, with the one key difference, that they do not have a physical body.
Was it difficult for you to work as an exorcist? Did you feel endangered while doing so?
It was challenging, but I didn't feel like I am in danger at all. From my own experience of exorcism ceremonies - of which I have performed approximately two hundred in four years, I can say that a priest is not in a position to cast out a demon by any power of his own.
The prayers found in the Roman Ritual, like all prayers, address Jesus Christ as the one who alone has power over these arts. They are applied towards the affected person in his name and in the name of his authority.
In this case, there is no scenario that it will not succeed. Exorcising the demon is always possible because there is still only one ruler of the universe who has absolute power and sooner or later evil will submit to him. It is not a match between two equal partners, we always know who will win.
Does a demon defend himself during an exorcism? Has he ever tried to physically attack you?
There were some attempts to physically attack me, but they never worked. Not because I'm fighting back, but because the demon doesn't have the spiritual competence to attack me physically. Therefore, I always felt protected in a certain way.
However, it was more about verbal abuse and threats. They were usually addressed to me in some foreign language that the demon knew I could understand. For example, in Latin. Bystanders, the family of the affected had no idea what he was saying, but I knew he was addressing me.
In such a case, a change in voice is also present. The possessed does not speak in his own voice. For example, a woman speaks in a deep male voice. When the attack is over, the person remembers absolutely nothing.
Are there multiple demons? In the case of possession, can you determine which specific demon it is and what kind of exorcism needs to be performed?
You are right. There are more of them. According to the teachings of the Bible, the Catholic Church says that there are countless spiritual beings that we call angels. In the Revelation of the apostle John, it is written that billions of billions serve the Lord, while there is a numerical tariff that determines that one third of them rebelled against God. We call the rebels demons. We don't know whether they are images or just something symbolic.
An important fact, confirmed by the experiences of exorcists, is that there are more demons. If I were to compare them to humans, they are beings like us. Each of them has its own nature, character, originality and individuality, with the difference that they do not have a physical body.
The exorcist has the competence to ask the name of the demon and address it directly during the prayer of liberation. The prayer does not change, it is still the same. The only thing that changes is, that it is addressed to a specific demon.
Can a demon also attack the physical health of a possessed person?
Not automatically. However, I learned in retrospect that this sometimes happened. Some possessed people suffered from more serious health problems, which mysteriously disappeared after the exorcism. It was very likely then that they were associated with possession.
Especially when the doctors also wondered how it was possible that the health problem of their patients, which they had observed for a long time, "evaporated" i.e. it suddenly disappeared. So yes, there were also such cases. However, this does not mean that when a person has health problems, it must be connected to an evil spirit.
Did you go to the possessed, or did they come to a place designated for performing exorcisms?
It depended on whether it was only the people themselves who had the problem, or whether it was also connected to the space in which they lived - for example, the house. Contaminated places were especially those where spiritualism ceremonies were performed.
That's why if people had a problem and it was only related to them, they came to see me, but if it was also related to the place, I went to see them. Also last week I was in a house where crazy things were happening.
Although I no longer performed exorcisms, because I am no longer an exorcist, the Catholic Church also offers so-called prayers for deliverance that any priest can perform. They are enough for most cases, except for the mentioned obsession, when only the exorcist ritual is involved.
Two hundred cases sounds like a lot.
I performed exorcisms ten years ago. This high number was also due to the fact that when I finished, we were only three exorcists in Slovakia. Two were located in the eastern part of the country – Prešov and Košice. Since I served in Hlohovec, I was in charge of the entire western and central Slovakia. I think that it is no longer the case today, but every diocese in Slovakia has its own exorcist.
Evil has never fascinated me. After a while, I perceived it as cheap marketing. The devil has no imagination and creativity, he works on the same formulas.
Out of so many cases, some must have resonated with you...
One of them was very interesting, there is even a short film made about it by Jakub Barinský. It was people who dealt with divination, spiritism and a certain form of occult healing. They had really difficult personal relationships with each other, while they threatened to end their lives by suicide. They took possession very hard.
It was very encouraging for me when they started to live a new life after the exorcism and built a new relationship with God. Although they had experience with the spirit world before, it was from the other side. With a world of pure evil. But when God entered them, it was a new powerful experience for them.
Have you ever dealt with a case where a demon afflicted an unbelieving person who only believed in God after an exorcism?
It happened to me, although not exactly in this version. In my experience, most possessed people were interested in spirituality, but just the flip side. God was not interesting enough for them. They became interested in him only when they discovered that their opposite side leads to self-destruction and they are headed for personal collapse.
Then, during the exorcism - prayer of liberation, God entered their lives for the first time and they also experienced that other spirituality. It was a huge discovery and a great experience for them.
Of course, people have many prejudices against the church, perhaps especially against the Roman Catholic Church, since it is the oldest institution in the world, still active for two thousand years. It had and still has its shortcomings, which they criticised, but what is important, they discovered that there is really a living God in it, who still intervenes in people's lives today.
So they 'turned to faith' during the exorcism?
Yes. Many people have told me that it was during an exorcism that they experienced their turning point when they began to believe. It convinced them that God was suddenly interested in them and was solving their problem, which they did not know how to deal with. He suddenly looked at each of them as a single person in a vast world, just to get them out of trouble.
Back then, it was no longer about ideas or the church, which are secondary to faith and discouraged them from it, but about the experience of meeting the living God, who touched their lives and did something real.
The spiritual world is a reality for me, because I experienced it, and not only from the bad side. For this type of world, I would not have become a priest, renounced my family, and lived celibately, but for the complex spiritual world and its hierarchy, at the head of which is God, I would. It makes sense to invest your whole life in it.
Evil has never fascinated me. After a while, I perceived it as cheap marketing. The devil has no imagination and creativity, he works on the same formulas and patterns. After all, even human evil has the same patterns, even an infantile character. As the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote, the worse the evil, the more infantile it is. The patterns of banality are those that apply to the devil, the dimension of creativity and dynamism is on the divine side.
You served in the local parish as an exorcist and now you work as a military chaplain. What did you like better?
I did not choose exorcism, I was delegated to this service by the bishop. My choice was that I want to be a priest and that is my mission in life. In whatever form I perform the service of a priest.
I see the service of an exorcist as a powerful experience, because now, when I read the Gospel to people, where it is often mentioned how Jesus healed the sick and cast out spirits from them, for me it is not just a fable from the past that I may or may not believe. Someone else will say it was meant figuratively. However, I actually experienced it in practice and for me it is a reality that I touched.
As for being a military chaplain, it's not so much that I'm a chaplain to soldiers. I am rather pleased that I am much closer to people than when I served in a civil parish.
Why did you decide to join the army?
I had two main reasons for this. Since I had been thinking about this work for a long time, I was interested in a broader offer that Bishop Rábek sent to several priests.
I confess, I have always been relatively close to the army. One of my favourite toys that I got as a boy was a balaclava. My father was a tank driver instructor and he brought me the balaclava as a souvenir. Since I was fascinated by the military as a child, I assumed I could understand it.
After six years in the army, I can say that I was not wrong. Since I arrived in this environment, it was natural for me and I had no problem acclimatizing to it. So the offer weighed in my decision, but also the fact that I was in a way inclined towards the army. I even considered going to military school in the past.
Due to the work of a military chaplain, you also had to undergo some training?
Yes. I had to complete basic training in Martin. Subsequently, I had a six-month officer's course, because in allied armies, such as NATO, a military chaplain must have an officer's rank.
I completed this course at the Armed Forces Academy of General Milan Rastislav Štefánik in Liptovský Mikuláš. I finished it with the rank of lieutenant, which is the first officer rank. After the course, I already started my position as a military chaplain.
After the war broke out in Ukraine, did the soldiers begin to conduct confidential conversations with you more actively?
I do not think so. In the army, these things are accepted in the "military" way. A problem simply came up and some tasks related to it were being solved. The soldiers jumped in and dealt with them without dramatic debates about it.
However, I would like to mention that, of course, people also come to me who are not religious at all, but are interested in talking. They have confidence in me, since I am a chaplain and their problems are protected by the confessional secret. Therefore, soldiers also open up to me about their family or other difficulties.
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