He heard the crickets chirping as he neared the glistening altar of Jesus Christ. Clad in his usual black soutane, Fr. George Sanchez Angga of the Archdiocese of Davao clung onto his silver rosary as he kneeled down to say his evening prayers. At three in the morning, his day was just getting over. Outside, the forlorn darkness loomed overhead, sweeping half the world into a starless night of formidable grim; as if nature had wanted to share the sentiments of the weary priest. Absorbed in his prayers, Father George could no longer hear the crickets, and the dangling sound of his rosary began to fade away from his senses.
“But the devil will never let peace be,” he thought. As quick as the springing of his realizations came the blowing of a freezing wind alongside the unison of a distorted voice throwing blasphemous threats and curses of deaths at him. The hair on his nape rose the moment he felt its presence and he began to sweat profusely at the knowledge that the demon was just starting. It was a familiar feeling; the demon was an old foe. Alone inside the chapel, Father George fought to stay in his prayers, knowing perfectly well why the devil was haunting him again.
Exorcism as a ministry
The day before, Fr. George had been summoned to perform a peculiar case of exorcism. A woman, alias Amor, had been said to have become an “energumen” (a technical term clergies use to refer to a diabolically possessed individual) and was in dire need of sacramental intervention. For Fr. George’s part, warding off evil entities was not a rarity. He was, after all, an exorcism practitioner for over 20 years. Long before he was even a priest, he first came face to face with a human body hosting a demon which he was able to cast away through exorcism.
“Exorcism is a ministry, it is a ministry that belongs to Jesus Christ himself; it belongs to God, to the person of Jesus Christ entrusted to the church,” Fr. George expressed.
Interestingly, for Fr. George, this duty of destroying evil lies not only on the church, but also to everyone who is part of Jesus Christ and his church.
“The Bible, based on The Greatest Commission, based on the word of God, the teaching of Jesus, every believer has the power and authority to drive out evil spirits. Not only the priest, not only the ordained minister.” he explained, citing in support verses from the Bible which proclaim that faith alone is the “fundamental requirement” in practicing exorcism.
This biblical understanding of exorcism is the fundamental conviction as to why Fr. George believes that anyone, priest or not, can perform exorcism. However, this does not tie well with the 1983 Code of Canon Law recognized by the Catholic Church. According to this Canon Law, a code comprised of ecclesiastical laws presiding over the Western Catholic Churches, there are two types of exorcism: the solemn and public exorcism and the simple exorcism.
The solemn and public exorcism, following the Canon Law (no. 1172), can only be done by a bishop or a priest delegated by a bishop. This kind of exorcism uses the Rite of Exorcism— prayers that are a juxtaposition of Latin and English—and can only be done by priests of piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity. On the other hand, a simple exorcism refers to a prayer that is done by any priest every time there is a celebration of the sacrament of baptism. This type of exorcism is performed not because a person is possessed but, by virtue of the original sin, this is done to liberate a person unbaptized from the tyranny of the devil that succumbed him or her due to humanity’s original sin. Essentially, this type of exorcism does not ward off energumens.
Neither the former nor the latter is performed by Fr. George— for one, he is not delegated by the bishop, which means he cannot perform the solemn and public exorcism. He does not perform only a simple exorcism either, as he goes way beyond to exorcising energumens, too. Making his way towards Amor that day, Fr. George knew that it did not matter whether he belonged to any category in the Canon Law or not—these are just ecclesiastical laws anyway, in existence because humans created them. For Fr. George, the deliverance or exorcism he performs are anchored on what was spoken by Jesus Christ in Mark 16:17, a divine law that is from the Holy Bible itself.
Exorcism through faith
Ultimately, Fr. George believed he was not performing exorcism as defined by the Catholic Church. What he has been doing for the past 20 years or so, was, according to him, praying in true faith.
Just as he had done endless times, he would once again begin his prayers to ward off the demonic entity that had enslaved the poor girl Amor.
As a rule in exorcising energumens, psychiatric conditions must first be ruled out as a potential reason for the strange behaviors of patients. For Fr. George, he began by a simple interview with Amor in an attempt to “diagnose” if she was, indeed, an energumen. The latter had answered back, apparently in discomfort at the interaction with the priest. It was one manifestation of diabolical possession, Fr. George thought, as the devil abhors the faithful and would avert from them. To further test Amor, Fr. George proceeded to another ‘tester’, exorcism preliminaries, as he calls them, in order to gauge if Amor was truly possessed.
”The devil is very canny, very crafty.” Fr. George warned, saying it utilizes all ways possible just to hide itself from the exorcist.
The devil that was in Amor was one that was crafty, for the devil did not manifest itself until Fr. George took the sacramental rosary as a tester and laid it on the energumen’s palm. The exorcism began at nine in the evening. At that point, Amor howled and a hundred voices reverberated in the room. As Fr. George began chanting the Ave Maria, Amor’s face began contorting. Foam began to form in her mouth and it did not take long before she began to writhe and violently thrash. Albeit being a small girl, four men were needed to keep her down as her strength grew uncontrollable. As Fr. George’s prayers grew in its momentum, the wails and squeals of a hundred voices inside Amor grew louder.
Fr. George then commanded the energumen to reveal how many demons there were, signifying the beginning of his interpolation. A low, deep voice within Amor grunted and screamed “A legion of a hundred demons!”, her eyes rolling back and turning white. Fr. George would later begin his Latin prayers while everyone in the room prayed on their own. The demons inside Amor would once again scream blasphemous words and threats against Fr. George. In order to bring about distraction, the voices would also reveal the sins of the people present in the room. Yet Fr. George pushed forth.
After six long hours of battling with the forces of the devil, Fr. George was able to cast away a legion of 100 demons in a singular person’s body.
But the haunting of the devil never stopped.
Going back to the chapel, as Fr. George keeps himself from being distracted by the demon whispering to him, he kept on praying. Gradually, the noise halted, and he was able to finish his prayer. He would barely sleep that night for he knew that the devil would never give him peace after casting out a legion of demons in the name of Christ. But as always, the feeling after having been able to liberate a person from the chains of evil soared far higher than his fears.
“There’s no accurate or exact word to describe or explain what it’s like, what really happens in your life,” Fr. George proclaimed, referring to the joy he feels in every successful prayer he performs.
This thought pushed away all remnants of fear in his heart and, standing up, Fr. George could not help but feel braver. He walked into his room and from the darkness came the faint sound of whispers and hums, one similar to that which he experienced just moments ago.
Inside his room, he knew, his old adversary was waiting.