Wednesday, March 24, 2010
“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
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
To many of us, the modern religious landscape appears increasingly confusing, even strange or frightening. No matter how strong in faith and regular in religious practice our families may be, we are not insulated from contact with a bewildering variety of religious expressions, a Babel of “prophetic” voices and a dizzying array of competing world views.
Sun Myung Moon founder of
the Unification Church
Questions Abound in Confusing Religious Landscape
Insulation is not what our lay vocation is about, anyway. Instead of insulation, what we seek is contact, the contact which makes the electric presence of Christ-in-us available to light our world.
What, though, is the lay of the land which is our field of mission? What species of faiths are we likely to encounter? What are we to make of the religious variety flourishing around us?
We may be familiar, to some extent, with mainline Protestant sects. But it is the increasing presence of cults, movements and world religions — some alarmingly aggressive — which give rise to questions like these:
“Our daughters both have steady boyfriends now; one is a Baptist and the other is Mormon. Do these relationships threaten their Catholic faith? If so, are they both the same kind of threat? How do we speak to our daughters about the spiritual implications of these relationships?”
“I just got the strangest letter from my sister. She says that her family is not going to celebrate Christmas this year, something about ‘pagan origins’. This is just going to give my mother heart failure. What should I do?”
“I thought it was great when my son said he was joining a campus Bible study. I was glad he was making Christian friends at school, even if they were Protestant. But now he says he is going to quit college to devote himself to fund-raising for this group’s outreach program. When I asked him where he thought he was going to live if he did this, he said it was no problem. Apparently this group has some kind of commune in a renovated old house and they have invited him to live there. I am furious that he would consider throwing away his education like this. He seems to have suddenly abandoned all the dreams he has pursued for years. Who are these people and what have they done to my boy?”
“There is a new woman at my job and I am going to be working with her a lot. She says she is Muslim. She sometimes refers to “the will of God” in conversation. I wonder: When she says ‘God’ what she is thinking? Does she pray to the same God I pray to?”
“Last week some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my house. They were very nice. It was great to have someone visit me. I’m beginning to feel cut off from everything, stuck here in the house all day alone with this baby. I hope they come back. I could sure use some friends. They offered me a ‘free home Bible study’; there can’t be any harm in that, can there?”
“My cousin has always been a little eccentric, but she’s a lot of fun. She invited me to some kind of ‘New Age’ convention next week? Doesn’t that have something to do with crystals and energy fields? Is there anything to all that stuff?”
“My brother and I had an argument about whether it is possible to be a Catholic and a Buddhist at the same time. He says you can, if you view Jesus as an “Ascended Master”. I thought we were supposed to view Jesus as God Almighty. The more I talk to my brother the more confused I feel. I don’t want to be disloyal to the Catholic Church, but I don’t like to think my brother could go to hell just because of his sincere convictions. Can someone help me sort all this out?”
Making sense of all of this and answering the questions of our family members and friends, requires that we make some distinctions between cults, movements and world religions.
How Do We Define a Cult?
Let's begin by clearing up confusion about the word “CULT”:
Do not get good “CULT” mixed up with bad “CULT”.
“Cult” (from Latin for worship) has the simple meaning of “devotion”, as in the Catholic usage referring to the “cult” of a particular saint or as used secularly e.g. when a movie is said to have a “cult following.” Within the past thirty years another meaning has evolved — the use of the word to describe a group, usually religious, which places certain destructive demands upon its members’ thinking and behavior.
Do not get “CULT” mixed up with “OCCULT”.
“Occult” (from Latin for covered or concealed) refers to those arts which are supposed to reveal hidden or secret knowledge i.e. astrology and various kinds of divination. Some cults do involve their members in overtly occult practices but this is, by no means, true of many groups which are correctly designated cults. Occult practices are not, in themselves, a factor in so labeling a group.
Identifying a cult requires the use of, and almost always combines, a theological definition and a psycho/sociological definition.
Theological definitions identify a cult based upon its doctrines.
Theologically we distinguish cult groups from Christian groups by those very things in which we and our separated brethren agree, in particular the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Thus we identify as cults those groups which deny the Christian doctrine of God, even though they may call themselves Christians and may use the Bible. Other United States cults are splinter groups from Eastern (world) religions or may represent attempts to fuse pagan beliefs with Christianity. Note however, that European Christians use the word "sects" to mean what Americans refer to as "cults".
Psycho/sociologically cults are identified by behavior.
Whatever its doctrines, if a group uses deception in recruiting and retaining members, it is identified as a cult. Authority within a cult group is abusive and is maintained by manipulative communication and coercive control. Isolation, either physical or psychological, contributes to the siege mentality and paranoia of cult members — while it fosters pride in the exclusivity of membership in the group. Many cults actively recruit Christians — especially targeting youths and the aged — although no age group or social class is immune.
How a Movement Differs from a Cult
Movements lack the tight organizational structure of cults; they do not usually foster exclusivity and isolationism. Rather, a movement is promoted by loosely-associated teachers through various media channels. Movements often exhibit the nature of fads — great initial enthusiasm and interest soon fades — or a movement may be assimilated into the common way of life. The movements focusing on health and exercise within the past couple of decades are examples of this and demonstrate that some movements are theologically neutral or benign. However, other movements can be dangerous to Christians.
A movement may lead people away from the Christian faith and lead them to believe and promote error. This can be an insidious process. No one could be, for example, an active Mormon and an active Presbyterian at the same time or be a member of a Catholic parish while identifying as a Jehovah’s Witness. Yet someone can be part of a movement (i.e. the “New Age” movement) while maintaining active membership in a local Christian congregation. Thus it is that movements have the potential to quickly spread false teaching among Christians. Even when doctrine is not an issue, the faddish nature of movements can be destabilizing, distracting and wasteful — but when a movement promotes bad doctrine, the effects can be disastrous. Some recent religious movements have resulted in the formation of new cults.
One example of this is the formation of the International Church of Christ (not to be confused with the fundamentalist Protestant Evangelical Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ). This cult group, which recruits so heavily on college campuses that some colleges have had to ban their activities, formed out of the "shepherding" movement within Protestantism.
What Makes a Religion World Class?
When we refer to the “world religions” we are acknowledging the world class status and global influence of several belief systems, some of which are of great antiquity. The major world religions apart from Christianity and Judaism are: Hinduism; Buddhism; Confucianism; Shintoism and Islam. Although authentic representatives of these religions live in the United States, for the most part what we find in this country are variants which have been revised for consumption by Westerners. Many lesser known religious, ethical and philosophical systems have promoters in this country.
More than size and antiquity are needed to qualify, however. A world religion must contain a belief system of enough richness and complexity that it is capable of supporting a civilization. It has to give an account of life that can sustain people in all walks of life, deal with the real complexities of human relationships, absorb new ideas and discoveries, and enter into conversation with the other great human traditions. A look at the list shows that such belief systems do not come along often in history. The last one to appear in the list above is Islam in the 7th century.
We are seeing in America the development, over the past 100 years, of what may be the next world religion. That is Mormonism. To the question of whether Mormonism is substantial enough of a belief system to support a civilization, we must admit that it already supports an entire state in the United States, an entity already larger than many countries. It is interesting to observe that if Mormonism does indeed become another world religion, it and Islam would both owe their vitality to the great amount of Jewish and Christian thought they appropriated.
Cults, Movements and World Religions —Why be Concerned?
The variety of religious contexts which have formed our neighbors have given rise to many religious dialects and languages. As religious pluralism increases, so do religious languages proliferate and we may discover ourselves at a loss to find shared meaning when it comes to discussing those things which matter most to every human being. Some knowledge of these groups can help us to build bridges to our neighbors, bridges over which some of them may be graced to cross into the Catholic faith. This knowledge can also protect us and our loved ones from deception.
Such acquaintance must, of necessity, make use of labels and consider people as members of groups. There are some advantages to this; a group identity is a kind of shorthand. That someone identifies himself or herself as a Christian Scientist, a Unitarian or a Seventh Day Adventist does say something about his or her constellation of beliefs. But it would be a mistake to conclude that we know a great deal about a particular individual once we know a religious label. Rather, our awareness of the religious affiliation should help us find a way to open up personal communication.
Source: Catholic Education Resource Centre
Diane Benscoter talks about how she joined the Moonies -- and stayed for five long years. She shares an insider's perspective on cults and extremist movements, and proposes a new way to think about today's most troubling conflicts. Watch this video:
Please post your comments.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
This film is a 3 part series but has an extra section on a special topic.
The First Part: "The Spring of Life" reports the real life and internal world of the contemporay Chinese Christians of all walks of life: including farmers, students, officials, orphans, gangsters, actors, scholars, writers, scientists and enterpreneuers.
The Second Part: "The Seed of Blood" shows from the Ching Dynasty till the past fifty years, the Chinese Christians of the 20th century including Wang Ming Dao, John Song, Watchman Nee, Yuan Xiang Chen, Samuel Lin, Xie Mo Shan etc.
The Third Part: "The Bitter Cup" presents many touching testimonies of many young Christians dedicated to the ministries after the Cultural Revolution. They stood firm in the Lord even under persecution, and that caused a great revival in China.
Below are videos on the Third Part:
Please post your comments.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, it is named in honor of Christopher Columbus.
There are more than 1.8 million members in 15,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to "practical Catholic" men aged 18 or older.
Councils have been chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Guam, Spain, Japan, Cuba, and most recently in Poland.
The Knights of Columbus was founded by an Irish-American Catholic priest, The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut.
Please post your comments.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
There are many Catholics (and perhaps other Christians too) who seem to believe that success and wealth are evil. Consequently many Christians can suffer guilt and considerable anxiety due to their wealth and success. Sadly, there seems to be many contradictions regarding wealth and poverty and, dare I say there are double standards. I have called these "Poverty Consciousness" and "Prosperity Consciousness". I believe that both these views are unbalanced from a Scriptural viewpoint.
Money is the root of all evil?
2 Timothy 6:10, does not say that 'money' is the root of all evil. It says that the 'love' of money is the root of all evil. There are many people who think that the rich will not enter the Kingdom of God. They seem to believe in a Gospel where only the poor are blessed and do not seem to understanding the fulfilment of Isaiah 61:2. Jesus read this text at the beginning of his earthly ministry when he declared that he was anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor. (Luke 4: 18-30). Good news for the poor presumably meant that the poor do not have to be poor any longer.
Blessed are the poor?
Many of those who believe in a gospel of poverty often have no idea what it is like to live on the streets freezing in winter and going without food for days on end. A case in point is Julie, a young lady who asked me for a lift one Saturday afternoon. She was spaced-out on drugs and was looking for a fix. She made her money by prostitution and was on her way to a hooker area for the day.
I noticed that she was in pain with severe bruising over her legs and face. She was totally confused but managed to tell me what had happened: She had been beaten mercilessly by her girlfriend and sent out to earn money. I spoke about what Jesus could do for her, but confusion and the desire for drugs were too strong. I gave her a contact number and dropped her off at the park. To see Julie was to see real poverty, and I can tell you, Julie was not in any way blessed by it. There is a world of difference between 'real' poverty and 'elected' poverty.
Are the rich damned, and the poor really so blessed?
Matthew 19: 16-26, tells about a rich young man who came to Jesus one day, "a man came up to him and said, 'Teacher, what good must I do to possess eternal life?' Jesus questions him about what is good and says, "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." In a nutshell, that's it! There is no mention about his money! However, the rich young man tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments since his childhood and he asks, "What more do I need to do?" Up to this point his eternal salvation is not in question.
This rich young man could have walked away with his wealth and eternal life. It is only when he begged the question that Jesus said to him, "If you seek 'perfection' go sell all your possessions, and give to the poor." That's when the young man is downhearted because of his wealth. Jesus was now referring to perfection, not just his salvation.
There are two values here.
Only after the young man questioned Jesus did he challenge him regarding 'elected' poverty. It is then that Jesus turned to his disciples and said, "I assure you, only with 'difficulty' will a rich man enter into the Kingdom of God. I repeat what I have said: it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." This overwhelmed the disciples and they asked him who can be saved? Jesus tells them, that for man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible, which, of course included this young man in spite of his wealth.
A wrong conclusion.
Many will read this text and imagine a tiny hole in a sewing needle compared with a huge camel. Naturally, the word, "impossible" comes to mind and they mentally reinterpret the text to read, "It is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." Of course this is not what Jesus said at all! He mentions nothing about it being impossible, in fact he says that with God it is possible, Jesus simply said that it would be difficult. I see this misinterpretation as one of the root causes of a 'poverty consciousness'.
What did Jesus mean when he compared the eye of a needle with a camel?
The "eye of the needle" was not referring to a sewing needle, but to the trade entrance in the city wall through which the merchants would bring in their camels laden with merchandise. If the camels were overloaded, they couldn't get through the gate, so the merchant would have to unload some of the goods enabling the camels to continue.
Jesus seems to be saying that success is not the problem. Rather, if it is going to keep you outside the City of God, then it is better to dump the 'love of money' so that you can enter in freely. To have a 'love' of money is to place it above the first commandment and you cannot serve two masters. The rich man could have kept his wealth and still had eternal life. Jesus seemed to have no problem with that. He was warning about wealth because it is the 'love' that is the root of all evil, not the money itself: The poor can love money just as much as the wealthy.
To illustrate the point: Jesus' attitude to money.
Jesus says in Luke 16: 9-13. "What I say to you is this: make friends for yourselves through your use of this world's goods, so that when they fail you, a lasting reception will be yours." He was referring to money and goes on to say that if we cannot be trusted with this world's wealth that is elusive, then we cannot be trusted with everlasting wealth. We are asked to be good stewards of the things we have in this life, including money.
The parable in Luke 16:19-31, about the 'Rich Man and Lazarus' does not seem to be an indictment regarding the rich man's wealth. It is because he did not share it with Lazarus. The rich man knew what was expected of him under the Abrahamic Covenant relating to giving Alms, Tithes and Offerings. He ignored his responsibility and caused Lazarus to starve. That seems to be why he was severely dealt with,
not simply because he was wealthy.
Born in a stable yes, but was Jesus really poor?
When we look at the life of Mary and Joseph we may accept that they lived in humble circumstances but we cannot conclude that they lived in poverty. Joseph ran his Carpentry business and his major client was most likely the Roman army as well as others. When they were coming home from Jerusalem after the census, they stopped at Bethlehem for the night. The first thing that Joseph did was to book a room in whatever Inn had a vacancy.
The Inn was the equivalent of a hotel today. They ended up in a stable because there were no rooms available in the town. It was not because they couldn't pay their way. Obviously Joseph had enough money to pay for any hotel in town, One Star, or Five Star. Jesus' parents were not poverty stricken and neither was Jesus. He was born in 'humble' circumstances not 'poor' ones.
Jesus elected poverty.
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus laid down His Godhead, taking on the form of a slave and becoming as men are but without sin. (Phil 2: 6-8). Christ, the King of the universe, laid down his Godhead of his own free will, and, by his own free will, he took it up again. This is what I call 'elected poverty'. It is not that poverty which comes through deprivation, misfortune injustice, greed or pure laziness.
On earth Jesus had a full time job. He worked for Joseph in the family business. I am sure he received payment for his work because Joseph would have adhered to the Biblical principle that the workman is worthy of his hire. "Sell everything that you have, give it to the poor and come follow me" is a call to those who are not necessarily poor and who are called to the consecrated life through 'elected poverty'.
Saint Francis also elected poverty.
Saint Francis of Assisi was a rich young man who enjoyed life in the fast lane. By an act of his free will he gave up his wealth and devoted his life to 'Lady Poverty.' Saint Francis 'elected' poverty as a way of life and yet it was Saint Francis himself who pointed out that his way of life was not for everyone. He said that a married man cannot live that way because he must work and provide for his family. That was his first responsibility. Never-the-less, in spite of his love for lady poverty, Saint Francis finally admitted at the end of his life that he had been too hard on brother ass: His attitude to poverty had caused him considerable ill health and blindness.
Elected poverty is when we, like St. Francis, and many others, freely choose to leave behind our wealth and the security of a well paid job, take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ in the service of the Gospel.
How blessed are the poor?
Death squads stalk the streets and shoot street-kids like vermin. In some places people live on garbage dumps, and others sleep on the streets and in cardboard boxes. Even in the most affluent countries the poor are obvious even with the most cosmetic disguises to the contrary.
Can we honestly say that these people are blessed? When we see children with their bellies swollen with malnutrition, can we say these are blessed? When a derelict falls in the gutter, addicted to alcohol or drugs and sleeps in his vomit on an icy pavement, can we say he is blessed? Children sell their bodies in prostitution because their families are so poor, are these blessed? Was Julie blessed? No dear reader, the poor are not so blessed! Poverty is the most disgusting evil on this planet! This is real poverty, and bye and large, it is caused through the 'love' of money which selfishly ignores the plight of the poor, just as the rich man did with Lazarus.
If the poor are not blessed, who are the poor that are?
What did Luke really mean when he says, "Blessed are the poor"? because Matthew says of the same beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." What is the difference? The key word in both Gospels is the word 'poor.' To understand what this means, we need to look at the original Greek word used by Matthew and Luke. The "Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible" identifies the Greek word used here as "ptochos" which means; "trembling, poor." In the "Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" it tells us that "ptochos" is an adjective that is used "metaphorically".
According to "Websters International Dictionary of the English Language", "metaphor" means; "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable, in order to suggest a resemblance, such as: she is the flower of my life."
The "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary On The Whole Bible" says, "The poor in spirit are happy. These bring their minds to their condition when it is a low condition. These are humble and lowly in their own eyes. They see their want, bewail their guilt, and thirst after a Redeemer. The Kingdom of grace is of such; the Kingdom of glory is for them." This is talking about anyone, rich or poor, who understand their need of God; these are the truly poor in spirit.
The poor in spirit: in the Old Testament, the poor (anawim) are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God. See Is. 61,1; Zep 2, 3:
In the NAB the word is translated lowly and humble, respectively, in those texts. "Matthew added in spirit in order either to indicate that only the devout poor were meant, or to extend the beatitude to all, of whatever social rank, who recognise their complete dependence on God. The same phrase "poor in spirit" is found in the Qumran literature (1QM 14, 7)". (NAB Study Bible Footnotes). It seems clear therefore, that poverty is not the criteria for salvation, but rather the trembling, lowly and humble of heart who know their real need of God, regardless of their wealth or social class.
God tells us to put him to the test.
Malachi Chapter 3 is the only place in the Bible where God challenges us to put him to the test and it is relating specifically to money. Malachi 3 is a reproach to us when we, like the Rich Man to Lazarus, defraud the worker of his wages, reject strangers, deprive the widows and orphans, and, who do not fear the Lord.
We may well ask 'how have I done this?' and the Lord's answer will be the same, "Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings! You are indeed accursed, for you the whole nation, rob me." This is a powerful indictment that we can ignore at our peril.
What is a tithe and what is an offering?
The word "tithe" means a tenth. In other words 10%. In biblical terms it relates to the 10% of our gross income that is given into the work of God. That is, into where you are being fed with the bread of the Word of God. For the Israelites this meant giving 10% of their gross income and produce.
This was first collected for a famine in a time of abundance. It didn't make sense at the time, but some years later famine struck. The whole lands including Egypt were literally starving. The Israelites of course had more than enough in store. So much so that they were able to feed the Egyptians, their former slave masters. The Blessings of Abraham said that by keeping the Covenant they would "lend to nations and borrow from none." (Deuteronomy 28: 12).
In Malachi 3: 10 it says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me in this says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure?" The Blessings of Abraham belong to you because you have a Covenant through the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary (Galatians 3: 7-14). This gives us a key to releasing these particular blessings in our lives too.
Many people tithe on the premise that it will bring them an increase. It is certainly preached loud, long and strong in certain churches, and yet many do not see it. There is a simple reason for this: The tithe belongs to God; it is his portion and so it is not a gift or sacrifice from us. The purpose of the 10% tithe is to bless the 90%, and so it is the sacrificial generosity in our offerings from the 90% that causes the increase. God's rebuke in Malachi was to those of that failed in their covenant duties; if people failed to tithe, the 90% was not blessed and so all were robbed including God.
When we tithe we should not consider so much that 10% is a lot of money and so a sacrifice to gain more, but that we profit in the 90% increasing under God's blessing. Under that blessing, we have more than enough to put into every good work through our gifts and offerings; it is in the giving that we receive, and so it would seem that it is this portion under God's blessing through the tithe that causes the increase. While a tithe remains fixed at 10%, the offering and gift can be any amount.
In the case of a gift, we can give as often as we wish and to any amount we wish, and so it is understood as one off offering. In the case of an offering, it can be any amount and it is given regularly, and commonly held that whilst the tithe is to maintain the church, the offering is for the minister's work as we see in the case of Saint Paul in his letter to the Phillipians.
According to God, money is an indescribable gift.
Incredibly, two whole chapters (eight and nine), in Saint Paul's 2nd Letter to Corinth are devoted specifically to "Offerings." There is no room here to quote two chapters. I recommend that you read them for yourself. God's attitude to money will surprise you.
Towards the end of chapter nine Saint Paul says, "Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." This was a divine spiritual law which Jesus had taught them when he said, "Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you". (Luke 6: 38)
Saint Paul continues, "Each must do as already determined, without compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work." "Every good work" is referring to the work of preaching the Gospel from which works of charity come and, to which Saint Paul was committed. Offerings are given over and above the tithe and are for the ministers of the Gospel.
Saint Paul values this so highly that he calls it an "indescribable gift". This is because, "The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness." According to saint Paul it is an act of righteousness to give generously into the preaching of the Gospel for which God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, will more than supply all of our needs when we do so.
A fragrant aroma, acceptable to God.
Have you ever considered your giving into the "Love Offering" as a "fragrant aroma" which God will receive as an "acceptable sacrifice"? In Saint Paul's letter to the Philippians, this is exactly what he calls it. In this letter we find that the church in Philippi had been the only ones who had ministered to him in the manner of giving offerings as well as his material needs whilst he was with them. The fact that they had done this on more than one occasion makes this significant: the Philippians had actually taken to supporting a ministry that they believed in.
"You Philippians indeed know that at the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, not a single church shared with me in account of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was at Thessalonica you sent me something for my needs, not only once but more than once. It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account. I am very well supplied because of what I received from you through Epaphroditus, "a fragrant aroma," an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accordance with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.".
Did you realise, that every time you support the ministry of the Word (that is, the ministry of the pastor, preacher, teacher and evangelist) by your tithes and offerings, you literally share in every grace and blessing that is credited by God for the salvation of souls? By doing this, you become, as Saint Paul says in Philippians 1: 7, "Partners in Grace." Every time someone accepts Christ because the Gospel is preached, you share in the blessings for their salvation just as much as the evangelist does.
Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money that is the evil root.
If we love money so much, we will hold onto it and become stingy in our tithes and offerings and, we could well reap a harvest of poverty upon ourselves. Whereas, if we trust God's Word and his attitude towards money, we will receive abundant blessings because of it. There will always be more than enough for giving into every good work, especially to the preaching of the Gospel. However, if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better to enter heaven lame, than to lose your whole self to the fires of Gehenna. Therefore, if your money and success causes you to sin, then you really must reconsider their true value.
I was told of a man whose business was on the verge of bankruptcy when he heard about tithing. He misunderstood the message and began to tithe 90% instead of 10%. God so blessed him that he now has a multi-billion dollar company. He still tithes 90% and the Lord still blesses him. He supports numerous Christian communities and organisations in various countries. God doesn't seem to have a problem with money. In fact he wants to bless you through it. His problem is with poverty that is, bye-and-large, caused by ignorance, selfishness greed and, the 'love' of money.
If you are doing well, enjoy your wealth, but do not neglect your tithes and offerings. If you are not well off or on Social Security Payments, do not neglect your tithes and offerings either. God cannot be outdone with generosity and he desires to bless you so that you will not have to remain poor.
"Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your produce: then will your barns be filled with new wine and your vats overflow".
(Proverbs 3: 9-10)
You see dear friend, the poor may well be able to help the poor, but only a man with bread can feed the hungry. After all, you cannot give what you do not have.
Source: Blaze Magazine
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He maketh me to lie down in green Pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
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Monday, March 15, 2010
Cosmic Conflict is a new documentary that will bring to life the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010
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Friday, March 12, 2010
Anna relates how she met Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. She started out with many misconceptions about the Church and in this video she explains how God revealed Himself and showed the misconceptions to be false.
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The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima is a feature film made in 1952.
It was promoted as a fact-based treatment of the events surrounding the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.
Watch the full movie in 10 parts on YouTube
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
After appearing in the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon series, Gibson went on to direct and star in the Academy Award-winning Braveheart. In 2004, he directed and produced The Passion of the Christ, a successful, film portraying the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ.
A devout Catholic, Mel Gibson has repeatedly emphasized the fact that he felt called by God to bring "The Passion of the Christ" to the big screen. During one interview, he said, "I'm not a preacher, and I'm not a pastor. But I really feel my career was leading me to make this [movie]. The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize ... Everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on set converting to Christianity."
This movie has received top reviews by Christians from all over the world. This is what American's best known Evangelist Billy Graham said about the movie:
"A Lifetime of Sermons in One Movie" says Preacher. "I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death," Rev. Graham said. "After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection - which Christians believe are the most important events in human history. The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned," Rev. Graham continued. "It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group. No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same."
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Her music has been successful in multiple formats including pop, country and adult contemporary. She co-starred with John Travolta in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Grease, which became one of the most successful films and movie soundtracks in Hollywood history.
In 2000 Olivia Newton-John, a Catholic, performed at the Jubilee Celebration for the Sick and Healthcare Workers at the Vatican, and had a private audience with Pope John Paul II.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010
According to Time Magazine in its December 1995 issue, some of the Bible's most familiar names, places and events, in fact — the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; King David, the slayer of Goliath; Moses and the Israelites' flight from bondage in Egypt; Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land and the gloomy prophecies of Jeremiah — are being seen in a new light thanks to a flood of recent discoveries.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"
53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
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This is a podcast in Catholic Answers with Moira Noonan
New Age theology has become somewhat of a problem these days. Moira Noonan discusses how to deal with New Age theology and what they believe.
Visit Catholics Come Home.
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
by Father Cliff Graham
Exorcists in this day and age are on the verge of extinction. No one, religious or lay, would like to acknowledge the fact that Satan is alive and well, tormenting and destroying souls. Many religious do not believe in possession and many are afraid to believe that it can occur. It seems that most religious fear Satan and what he can do to them, more then they believe in God who can do ALL things. Fear is Satan's dear friend. When someone fears Satan, Satan has power over them. The religious clergy fail to realize that Satan's biggest fear, more than exorcism, is confession. A priest who preaches, and hears confessions, should not be afraid to be an exorcist. To not use the powers of exorcism that Christ has given, is a direct betrayal of His command.
PROCEDURE OF THE EXORCIST
The appendix of the Roman Ritual has the longer rite of exorcism and states that the exorcist should "Superpelliceo et stola violacea indutus," (wear an alb and a purple stole) right before the part of the prayer that begins "Ecce crucem domine, fúgite partes advérsae." The priest is instructed to "imponat extreman parte stolae ejus" (having made the sign of the cross over the victim, place the ends of the stole around this person's neck).
One may have two normal sized stoles sewn together in order to have a very long stole to extend from the priest to the victim's neck. It is truly amazing how the blessed stole calms and controls the possessed person. Certainly one initially may encounter violent reactions, but that is to be expected. The stole not only symbolizes, but demonstrates the power of the priesthood. Jesus binds the evil spirits with the use of this sacramental.
The Ritual next instructs the priest to place his right hand on the head of his vicitm. Of course, the imposition of hands was used by Jesus to heal the sick. The church mimics this use in the Sacrament of the Sick and in other ways. Jesus blessed children in this way. It has been noted by many individuals that hands of the priest's calm or burn them. If an assistant priest is present, they also may place hands on the person's head. A Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments should be on hand when questioning and commanding the demons to respond. After invoking the Holy Spirit, there is surprising response and confirmation, which are keys to opening up and freeing the person. For example, a woman who had been a war orphan revealed through scripture that she was not baptized. Another woman opened the Bible to Tobias where it stated that she was not married in the church. A couple opened the Bible to the Old testament reading on abortion, which confirmed, at some point to unforgiven sin. Others opened to a passage focusing on a generational curse. While still others read a verse on incest in the family. One girl indicated the story of Jacob and Essau. Her twin brother was murdered at three months of age. She was the second to be born and like Jacob became the first through infanticide. Others have indicated a need for greater humility, faith and fasting. The Rite of Exorcism uses passages from Jn. 1:1-14; Mk. 16:15-18; Lk. 1:17-20; Lk. 11:14-22; also use what ever passage the Holy Spirit inspires. This can hasten along deliverance and yield many crucial answers to the puzzle. It is always good to have on hand a collection of prayers that may be said both by the exorcist and those assisting. The Raccolta has a fine collection, as do other prayer books.
The rules for exorcism state that one should have relics of the saints at hand. Not all relics are of equal worth. First class relics are to be preferred. The greater the sanctity of the saint the more powerful the cure. One can tell by the reactions of the demons which relic gives better results.
According to the Act of the Apostles, handkerchiefs that were touched to Saint Paul and carried back to the sick curing them (remember the sick woman who was cured by touching the hem of Jesus?). The shadow alone of Saint Peter healed many. Although the Blessed Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Jesus, True God and True Man, and not any mere sacramental, it is an excellent practice to use it to bless the sick and possessed. The rules of exorcism in number 13 of the Roman Ritual states, "Sanctissima vero Eucharistia super caput obssessi, aut aliter ejus corpori ne admoveatur, ob irreverentiae periculum" (The Blessed Sacrament should not be placed on the head or any other part of the body of the possessed persons, due to the possibility of desecration). This rule or admonition need not apply in those cases where there is no danger or irreverence, that is cases in which the person's actions are nonviolent.
It is truly astounding to observe how many days (when proper use of the Blessed Sacrament is applied to the body of the possessed), can be taken off the whole length of time needed to dislodge the demons. It shortens the process. It may be wise in other cases for the priest himself to carry around his neck the Blessed Sacrament in a Pyx. This may prove at times, necessary for protection.
A Franciscan named Father Dominic Szymanski (a one time companion of St. Maximillian Kolbe) was working with a Benedictine priest, when Fr. Dominic asked the Benedictine if he was wearing the medal of St, Benedict. The Benedictine responded, "Yes, I am." Father Szymanski told him that he saw the devil in the form of a blue light going around him in circles, and that the evil spirit was unable to touch him because he was wearing the medal.
The St. Benedict medal can be pinned to the clothes of infants who are agitated, pregnant mothers or anyone who wants protection from evil. The use of the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Rosary are two sacramentals specifically mentioned in the Vatican II document on the church "Lumen Gentium." The blessing of the rosary states, "Nos eriperes de potestate diaboli" Our Lord Jesus Christ through His life, death and resurrection has "snatched us from the power of the devil." Abundant graces are granted through proper recitation of the rosary, "Ab omni hoste visibili et invisibili et ubíque in hoc sáeculo liberetur" (from every enemy both visible and invisible and everywhere in this lifetime be freed). St. Dominic freed a heretic from 15,000 devils, when the man had blasphemed the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. St. Dominic preached on the fifteen mysteries of the rosary and asked the faithful to pray and meditate. For every mystery, 1,000 demons left him in the form of burning coals until he was delivered. The rosary is the chain that Our Lady uses to bind Satan. It is often seen in a possessed individual, that the demon is irritated and they complain that the rosary burns them and they often destroy the rosary.
Another medal of great importance which was used in the conversion of the worldly Jew, Alphonse Ratisbone, propagated by St. Maximillian Kolbe, and used by the founder of the Legion of Mary-Frank Duff-is the Miraculous Medal (Medal of the Immaculate Conception of Mary). While placing the medal around the neck, the Presider prays, "Ut piisima et Immaculáta caelórum Domina vos prótegat atique defendat'' (May the Holy and Immaculate heavenly Lady protect and defend you). Our Lady promises special graces to those who wear this medal around their neck. The same is true for the scapular. If worn with faith, "They shall not suffer the eternal flames of Hell" and "shall be delivered from Purgatory on the Saturday after their death."
Then there is the crucifix, which should always be present. The victim will often stare at the cross and be forced to look away. The cross is symbolic of the defeat of Satan through the death of Christ. The long prayer for Solemn Blessing of the Crucifix, "Ut quóties triúmphum divínae humnilitátis, quae supérbiam nostri hostis dejecit" and (how often the divine humility has triumphed casting out the pride of our enemy). "Dignáre respícere, bene + dícere et Sancti + ficáre hanc creaturm incensi, ut omnes languores, omnesque imfirmitates, atque insidiar inimici, odorem ejus sentientes, efffugiant, et separatur a plasmate tuo; ut num quam lædatur amorsu antiqui serpentes" (Deign to care for bless and sanctify those being inflamed by passion and weakness, any sickness, deceits of the foe and suspicious resentments felt by them. Be cast out and driven away from your creature) and "Numquam lædatur a morsu antiqui derpentis" (Never to be hurt by the bite of the ancient serpent).
The following are selected paragraphs pertaining to the instruction of the Exorcist as indicated in the Old Rite - Rules of the Roman Ritual of Exorcism.
(RULE 1)The priest who with the particular and explicit permission of his Bishop is about to exorcise those tormented by Evil Spirit, must have the necessary piety, prudence and personal integrity. He should perform this most heroic work humbly and courageously, not relying on his own strength, but on the power of God; and he must have no greed for material benefit. Besides, he should be of mature age and be respected as a virtuous person.
(RULE 5) Let the exorcist note for himself the tricks and deceits which evil spirits use in order to lead him astray. For they are accustomed to answering falsely. They manifest themselves only under pressure--in the hope that the exorcist will get tired and desist from pressuring them. Or they make it appear that the subject of Exorcism is not possessed at all.
(RULE 6) Sometimes, Evil Spirit betrays its presence, and then goes into hiding. It appears to have left the body of the possessed free from all molestation, so that the possessed thinks he is completely rid of it. But the exorcist should not, for all that, desist until he sees the signs of liberation.
(RULE 10) The Exorcist must remember, therefore, that Our Lord said there is a species of Evil Spirit which cannot be expelled except by prayer and fasting. Let him make sure that he and others follow the example of the Holy Fathers and make use of these two principal means of obtaining divine help and of repelling Evil Spirit.
(RULE 20) During Exorcism, the exorcist should use the words of the Bible rather than his own or somebody else's. Also, he should command Evil Spirit to state whether it is kept within the possessed because of some magical spell or sorcerer's symbol or some occult documents. For the exorcism to succeed, the possessed must surrender them. If he has swallowed something like that, he will vomit it up. If it is outside his body in some place or other, Evil Spirit must tell the exorcist where it is. When the exorcist finds it, he must burn it.
In order for Satan to be driven out of the possessed, the exorcist must be humble. He must rely on God and only God for his answers and direction. Sometimes God forces the demon inside the possessed to reveal truths. However, the exorcist must be careful not to believe all that the demon possessing the victim might say. The demon will reveal exactly what the exorcist wants to hear even though it is not the truth, in order to side track him. The exorcist, out of his own curiosity, should not ask questions to the possessed regarding matters other than the exorcism at hand. Only through much prayer, fasting and humility of the exorcist along with the willingness of the victim, and of course, the grace and Will of God, can one be freed of this affliction.
Source: St. Michael
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