Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Ministry of Exorcism in Manila

By Rev. Fr. Jose Francisco C. Syquia

“What are the greatest needs of the Church today? Do not think that our answer is simplistic or superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs today is the defense from that evil that we call the devil.”

- Pope Paul VI (1972)

“The battle against the devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world.”

- Pope John Paul II (1987)

“The first task is preaching: to give people the light of the word, the message of Jesus … because the world is ruled by the powers of evil, this preaching is at the same time a struggle with those powers”.

-Pope Benedict XVI (2007)

The Church teaches that the devil is real, and so we must remember that although Christ is already victorious, the battle against the devil for individual souls will continue until the end of the world. A most powerful weapon that directly destroys the devil’s stronghold on people, things and places is exorcism. This weapon has been handed down to us directly by Christ Himself in order to free people from the clutches of the devil and allow them to experience the freedom of God’s children.

Pope Benedict XVI has made an appeal that all dioceses have exorcists, since there is a growing trend of occult and demonic activity. Many are falling victim to extraordinary demonic bondage. We see the young, who so easily get mixed up with sorcery and magic, call upon powers that are not of God. We later see the demonic effects when these young people fall into all kinds of difficulties: addictions, mental insanity, suicide, oppression and even possession.

The Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism (AMOE) was created to address the need for this type of ministry. This Office is composed of priests and lay persons commissioned by His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales to handle cases of extraordinary demonic disturbances, whether in persons (possession, oppression and obsession) or in places and things (infestation). AMOE has handled cases of persons from the very young to the quite old, from the most secular buildings to religious houses.

Except for the coordinator of the Office, all members are volunteers. Among the volunteers are a full time doctor and a lawyer. There are two designated exorcists, as well as one volunteer exorcist from another diocese. The Office also includes a religious priest who specializes in expelling spirits infesting a place and a group of sisters who assist when there is a need for inner healing. Contemplative religious communities continually pray and intercede for the Office.

When potential cases arrive at the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism (AMOE), an initial interview is conducted to evaluate the probability of demonic influence. If there is a real probability, we schedule a formal interview with a priest. Counseling and evangelization are usually part of this interview. Extraordinary demonic attacks usually point to a certain weakness in the person’s relationship with God. We also ask for a psychological diagnosis of the victim.

When dealing with cases outside of the Archdiocese of Manila, we ask referral letters from the respective diocesan bishops; if the victim resides within Manila, the letter of referral comes from the parish priest.

We give the victim assignments to fulfill to prepare him/her for the exorcism and deliverance sessions that will follow. The assignments, which are usually spiritual in nature, will vary according to the case. After all these have been fulfilled, we schedule an exorcism/deliverance session. Follow-ups and evaluations are then done after the session to check progress or lack of it.

This is not an easy ministry, but the spiritual benefits are more than worth it. When I was beginning, I felt like leaving it all behind due to the emotional and psychological drain that was always present. But as I persevered, this ministry has become a great blessing since it is truly a great grace to see the wonder and miracle of God’s liberating power. I discovered the reality of God’s love—that He is a God who cares for His children.

My experience in AMOE has led me to meet many priests and lay persons interested in this ministry. This is a very good sign that the Church is preparing to respond better to this need in the Philippines. I know of some dioceses that are now conducting seminars in spiritual warfare and some that now have official exorcists. If one keeps up-to-date with the Church in Europe and the United States, one would also notice a growing trend in this special apostolate.

In our Office, God is the source, power and motivation in all that we do. Our Office is also founded on the twin pillars that we always rely on: Mama Mary, the Mother of God and St. Michael, the Prince of the Angels.

Source: St Peter Online


The Church’s ghostbuster

FOR Fr. Jose Francisco Syquia, dealing with the devil is more than just a matter of ministry; it’s become a personal settling of scores.

The Director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism recalls battling the devil when he was 20, and a young graduate of AB Philosophy at the University of Sto. Tomas. “I started dabbling in parapsychology and Science of the Mind when, out of ignorance, I entered the occult. I crossed the line, and that’s when the devil started harassing me,” recounts Fr. Jocis, 39.

The devil hounded him in his dreams, and would choke and pin him down, he adds. “I sought help in my faith and the sacramentals, and after a few months, the nightmares stopped.”

The experience prompted him to detour from a possible career in law and into the priesthood, says Fr. Jocis, who, although born to a wealthy family, became a student leader and a member of the militant League of Filipino Students.

“I tried to stay away from anything that had to do with the paranormal because I did not want the nightmares to recur. But when I was assigned as Bishop Teodoro Buhain’s assistant in the Quiapo parish, I started encountering people deep into the occult, with all sorts of problems pointing to a demonic origin.”

Filipinos seem to be particularly susceptible to the phenomena of demonic possession because our faith is still not that pure, says this official exorcist for the diocese of Metro Manila. “We still practice a lot of occult folk Catholicism and this includes subscribing to pre-Christian animist beliefs practiced by our ancestors. Some examples are the use of anting-anting (amulets) and magical rituals for protection, offering animal sacrifices for good luck, and going to the manghuhula.”

Most instances of spirit possession are often referred to the neighborhood herbolario or occult practitioners, “which make them worse in the long run because true supernatural healing and deliverance can only be realized in and through Jesus,” says the priest. He adds that some possessed people may be diagnosed as merely having a psychological illness and are packed off to mental institutions.

Fr. Jocis recalls how his mentor, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, who has dealt with some 20,000 cases of spirit possession in eight years, once went to a mental asylum and prayed over the inmates. “After the prayers, 1/3 of them were well enough to go home.”

Which just goes to show how such episodes must be properly diagnosed. If there is demonic origin to the sickness, the victim must be healed through the grace of the sacraments and the use of the sacramentals. “Some people get healed and delivered even when I pray over them only in my mind. This shows that the problem is not merely psychological,” says Fr. Jocis, who is also a full-time formator, spiritual director and professor at the San Carlos Major Seminary in Makati.

When possessed by evil spirits: Is it an epileptic seizure, a mere fainting spell or a case of spirit possession? “A possession is the take-over of the evil spirit over the physical body of a person,” says Fr. Jocis. Manifestations include psychiatric symptoms (hysteria, seizures, split personality), paranormal occurrences (levitation, superhuman strength), and aversion to the sacred (like holy water, rosaries, the scapular). If the criteria have been met, the family or friends of the possessed person can call the parish priest who can then pray over the person using the prayers of deliverance, and use sacramentals such as holy water, exorcised salt and exorcised oil. He may also bring the person to the Blessed Sacrament and have the victim wear the scapular of our Lady and the medal of St. Benedict. Those around should also pray the rosary and offer prayers to St. Michael in faith and trust while the priest prays over the victim.

In extreme cases, when the person gets really violent and there seems to be some difficulty in expelling the demon, the parish priest can contact the Office of Exorcism. The two priests assigned to the Office have the faculty from the Cardinal to perform solemn exorcisms.

For the exorcism to be really effective, it must have the consent of the affected person, says Fr. Jocis. He or she must cease New Age or occult practices and change their sinful lifestyle. “When grace dwells in our soul, when we invite God inside us, there is no place for the devil and it is driven away.”

When haunted by a ghost: Haunting, according to Fr. Jocis, may either be due to souls in purgatory seeking prayers, or it could be an infestation, meaning evil spirits are frequenting the place. In the case of haunted houses, it is best to look at the history of the place and when the paranormal occurrences began. Ask around: has something evil happened here? Were there violent events? Were occult practices performed in the place? Such factors attract evil spirits. Bringing in a person sensitive to the presence of spirits can also help discern paranormal activity.

Sometimes, family prayers alone can help, says Fr. Jocis. But sometimes even a house blessing cannot, if the infestation is strong due to occult practices or grave sins that happened in the place, he adds. If there is infestation in your home, call your parish priest, who should then use prayers of deliverance before blessing the place, this priest suggests, adding that you can also use exorcised salt around the place to keep evil spirits away.

Spirits also derive power from their environment, he adds. “A family in disharmony aggravates the situation. Pag maraming away and negative emotions, the spirits draw near and worsen the problems. That’s why living a virtuous life is important.”

When building a new house or opening a new business: Using feng shui principles might attract financial success and good chi, “but they have negative spiritual and emotional trade-offs because our faith teaches us that they are occult in origin,” says Fr. Jocis. “Magic is the language of the devil, while prayer is the language of God. Resorting to magical rituals from our animistic past is a way of inviting evil spirits into our life. People then get depressed, get sick and experience a host of problems and difficulties.”

Therefore, he suggests, “when moving to a new house or starting a new business venture, it is best to seek blessings from God, Mama Mary, the angels and the saints instead of resorting to good luck charms which is a form of magic, and giving idolatrous offering to fallen spirits.” Better to use the sacramentals given to us by God Himself, he adds.

“Yung pagkatay ng manok (sacrificing a chicken) when one is building a new house, that’s an offering to the fallen angels residing in nature, like elementals, engkanto and other nature spirits. Let us also remember that the offerings given them are born of fear and fear is never of God. These offerings then give them more power over us,” cautions Fr. Jocis.

Instead, we must seek the Lord’s blessings and according to His will, he adds. “We do not need further help from the occult and the New Age if God is with us.”

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer



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