This page is reproduced and adapted from Ordinations: A Translation and Explanation of the Rite of Ordination by A. Biskupek, S.V.D. Mission Press, 1954
The Exorcistate — the 3rd of the Minor Orders
To exorcise means to deliver a person from the presence or influence of evil spirits. That the devil, within the limits allowed by God, has retained a certain power over men even after the coming of Christ is clearly testified by Holy Scripture and the history of the Church. Jesus drove out devils from the possessed and He bestowed this power upon His apostles and disciples. In the early times of the Christian era many lay persons possessed this power as a charism.
It is in harmony with reason and faith to assume that the devil has greater power over the unbaptized in consequence of original sin. For this reason, at a very early date, exorcisms were performed repeatedly over the catechumens in preparation for baptism. To perform these exorcisms and, in general, to exorcise persons possessed by or under the influence of evil spirits exorcists were ordained.
The rite speaks of exorcists as spiritual physicians endowed with the power of healing. This may also refer to bodily afflictions caused by the devil; once the influence of the devil is broken by the exorcism, the affliction ceases.
The other duties of the exorcist stood in close relation to this principal function of the order. According to the usual interpretation of the instruction read to the ordinands, he was to direct persons under exorcism, and for that reason barred from Holy Communion, when to withdraw. Furthermore, it was his duty at sacred functions to administer the water for the washing of hands to the officiating priest. The latter ceremony symbolizes purification from sin, hence a banishing of the influence of the evil spirits; it was fitting, therefore, to assign this duty to the exorcist.
In our days all baptismal exorcisms are embodied in the solemn rite of baptism, and are performed by the priest or deacon who baptizes. To exorcise a person possessed by the devil an explicit permission of the diocesan bishop is required, and it can be given only to a priest.
If the exorcistate is conferred during Mass, this is done:
Saturday before Passion Sunday: after the Kyrie.
Holy Saturday: after the Gloria.
Saturdays of Ember weeks: after the third lesson.
On other days, if the Mass has Gloria: after the Gloria; if the Mass has no Gloria, after the Kyrie.
The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:
Let those come forward who are to be ordained to the office of exorcist: N. N., etc.
Each one answers adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand.
The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop addresses them as follows:
Dearly beloved sons, as you are about to be ordained to the office of exorcist, you must understand the office which you receive. The duty of the exorcist is to cast out devils, to direct the people that he who is barred from Communion should withdraw, and to administer water at the sacred functions. You receive, therefore, the power to lay your hands upon the possessed; and by the imposition of your hands, the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the words of the exorcism, the unclean spirits shall be cast out from the bodies of the possessed.
Accordingly, as you cast out devils from others, seek to remove from your own minds and bodies all uncleanness and iniquity, lest you be overcome by those evil spirits whom, in virtue of your office, you cast out of others. Through the exercise of your office learn to rule over evil habits, lest the enemy discover in your lives anything which he might claim as his own. For then you will consistently command the evil spirits in others when you first overcome their manifold wickedness in yourselves. May the Lord through His Holy Spirit grant that you may accomplish this.
Here the candles are laid aside.
The Bestowal of the Office. The candidates now come up to the bishop, and each touches the book which he presents to them, saying:
Receive, and commit to memory, and have the power to lay your hands upon the possessed, be they baptized or catechumens.
Prayer. The bishop rises and prays for the candidates kneeling before him:
Let us, dearly beloved brethren, humbly beseech God, the Father Almighty, that He may graciously + bless these His servants for the office of exorcist. May they be spiritual commanders, to cast out of the bodies of the possessed the evil spirits with all their manifold wickedness. Through His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.
The bishop, with his miter off, turns to the altar and says:
Let Us Pray
Let us bend our knees. R. Arise.
Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays:
Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, vouchsafe to bless these Thy servants for the office of exorcist. May they have power and authority, by the imposition of their hands and the word of prayer, to restrain the unclean spirits and be the approved physicians of Thy Church, endowed with the power of healing and with heavenly strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.