St. Catherine of Siena Exorcizing a Possessed Woman by Girolamo di Benvenuto, c. 1505
We were in the midst of a particularly difficult exorcism. It seemed like we weren’t getting anywhere and the demons were deeply entrenched. We already had two, sometimes three priests, working on it. We needed more help.
So, I called a specially gifted woman. I only called her when we really needed help, since such sessions were so spiritually painful for her. When she showed up, the demons were enraged and, I think, terrified. They constantly threatened, tormented and attacked her. All the while the demons themselves were screaming and tortured at a level we had not achieved without her. Some departed that very session.
There is a long history of specially gifted women with a charism of casting out demons. For example, St. Hildegard of Bingen, doctor of the church, was asked by the abbot of Brauweiler to exorcize a noblewoman from Cologne who had been possessed for seven years. The priests had been unsuccessful and the demons claimed that only the saint could personally cast them out... which she did.*
St. Catherine of Siena, also a doctor of the church, is likewise famous for her role as an exorcist. She detested doing exorcisms saying, "Alas! Every day I am tormented by evil spirits: do you think I want anybody else's?" Satan himself called her, "The greatest enemy I have in the whole world."** It was said that if the priests could not exorcize the demons, they would bring the possessed to St. Catherine who did.
Of course, the female exorcist par excellence is the Blessed Virgin Mary. As I have said elsewhere, when she shows up, the demons cannot get out of the room fast enough.
The Church appoints priests as exorcists. They are often older men, and specifically trained for this ministry. But the Church has long recognized a charism for casting out demons among the laity, including some gifted, blessed women. When exorcists need help, it is just such a woman we call. We were fortunate to have one.
*Honey Meconi, Hildegard of Bingen, University of Illinois Press, 2018, pp. 59-60.
**Blessed Raymond of Capua, The Life of St. Catherine of Siena, Tan Books, 2003, pp. 218, 222.