As the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Chicago, it's the Rev. Jeffrey Grob's job to expel demons from those cursed by the devil. But when it comes to demonic possession, Grob is the first to admit he's a skeptic.
When he receives the call - "Father, I am possessed by the devil" - he doesn't drop everything, grab a black bag and run to the victim to say some prayers.
"If only it was that easy," said the 49-year-old Wisconsin native, who spoke Friday to a crowd of more than 100 people at a Catholic Citizens of Illinois forum titled "The Consummate Deceiver: The Devil in the Modern World."
Instead, he approaches with caution. According to the Roman Catholic Church, exorcism is a rite performed only by a select number of priests to drive out evil spirits that, on rare occasions, can infiltrate human beings.
"The church is very slow in the process for the integrity of the rite," said Grob, who has been the archdiocese's exorcist since 2006 and serves as pastor of St. Celestine Church in Elmwood Park. (For six years, he also served as associate pastor of Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka.) "The Church is trying to avoid the sensational approach to things. What's the proof? Is this genuine?"
First and foremost, when a person claims to be possessed, Grob said he presumes there is a "natural, organic explanation." More often than not, those requesting his service do not actually need an exorcist.
"I am far more busy than I should be in the sense that I talk to far more people than I need to," Grob said. "The vast majority, they need to see their parish priest, they need to see a spiritual director or they need to go to confession.
"One good sacramental confession is more powerful than 100 exorcisms."
In fact, Grob's identity is typically kept hidden from the general public simply because he does not feasibly have the time to respond to every question or inquiry - and he gets many. Even at the forum, when he was finished with his speech, Grob fielded dozens of questions from a crowd of curious people and listened attentively to those who had stories to share - including a woman who claimed a witch lived on her street.
But in the end, even though demonic possession is rare, Grob said it does exist, as he performs exorcisms two or three times a year. Though no heads spin, he has witnessed objects levitate in the presence of the "darkness." The devil - "the evil one" - is very real, he said.
"The evil one plays to human weakness masterfully," Grob said. "He comes to us one person at a time because that's one less soul that will be able to walk into the paradise that he could not have."