Lactance, Father Gabriel (d. 1634) was a Franciscan priest who was a principal EXORCIST in the Loudun Possessions in France from 1630 to 1634. Father Gabriel Lactance earned the nickname of “Father Dicas” because he kept shouting, “Dicas, Dicas!” at Urbain Grandier, the priest accused of bewitching the nuns.
Lactance was one of three exorcists sent to the Ursuline convent at Loudun when the Possessions and bewitchments of the nuns seemed to be getting out of control. He was joined by a Jesuit, FATHER JOSEPH SURIN, and a Capuchin, Father Tranquille.
Lactance was especially zealous in his persecution of Grandier. As the condemned priest, badly broken by torture, was carted about town on his way to be burned at the stake, Father Lactance prevented supporters from helping him. He was the first to light the execution fire.
Later, when the priests continued their Exorcisms of the principal Demoniac, Mother Superior Jeanne des Anges, he was obsessed to know precisely how Grandier was suffering in Hell. One of the Demons possessing Jeanne, ISACAARON, tried his best to satisfy the priest, but Jeanne went into convulsions to avoid further answers. Lactance immediately suffered psychological and physical ailments. The evening of the execution, while the exorcists were at the convent, Lactance became pale and distant. He worried that he had prevented Grandier from making his confession by tearing him away from one of his supporters as he was taken to the stake. Perhaps this had been a sin. Reassured that it was not by his colleagues, Lactance remained ill at ease. He passed a sleepless night and by morning was in a fever. He repeated, “God is punishing me; God is punishing me.” A physician, Mannoury, bled him, a customary remedy at the time. He worsened and began hallucinating and hearing things. He relived Grandier’s screaming under torture and asking God to forgive his enemies as he was strapped to the stake. He saw swarms of Demons. The Demons entered him and made him rave and contort. He spouted blasphemies.
On September 18, 1634, exactly one month after Grandier’s execution, Lactance was on his deathbed. A priest was summoned to give him extreme unction. He knocked the crucifix from the priest’s hand and died. Lactance was given a fine funeral. Father Tranquille preached the sermon and said Lactance was a model of holiness who was killed by Satan. Shortly thereafter, Mannoury had a vision of the naked Grandier when he was pricked for Devil’S MARKS. The doctor fell to the ground, screaming for pardon. Within a week, he was dead.
- Certeau, Michel de. The Possession at Loudun. Translated by Michael B. Smith. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
- Ferber, Sarah. Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France. London: Routledge, 2004.
- Huxley, Aldous. The Devils of Loudun. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952.