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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Answering God's Call to the Priesthood...

Fr. Daniel Martin...
St. John Mary Vianney, known as the Cure of Ars, would often say, "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus." While, Bl. Pope John Paul II once said, "No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord. Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest!"

I'm sure those remarks may raise some eyebrows in today's jaded and skeptical world, especially considering the stories that have captured the headlines on national news media over the past decade or so.  But, just as for every Judas, there was a Peter and a decade of other apostles, for every stray priest, there are nine or ten more who live righteous and holy lives and don't get the recognition they deserve for their humility, dedication and unwavering service and love for Christ and His Church.

Those are the priests the Catholic Church has relied on for the past two thousand years to evangelize the world and administer the sacraments that Christ handed to His apostles, and those are the priests that the Catechism calls the "means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church" until the end of time...

At 27, Fr. Daniel Martin is the youngest priest in the Archdiocese of Miami. Freshly ordained by Archbishop Thomas Wenski, along with three others last May, the South Florida native, who was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital, raised in Coral Springs, where he attended St. Andrew's Catholic School, and graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, has hit the ground running at his first parish assignment at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables (where I just so happen to be a parishioner!).

So, instead of focusing on his career, starting a family or just hanging out and having fun with friends, like most men his age, he is getting up before the crack of dawn to pray, celebrating daily Mass (as early as six fifteen in the morning!), anointing the sick, meeting and counseling parishioners and couples getting married, visiting hospitals, administering last rites, attending funerals and celebrating funeral Masses, going to parish ministry and school meetings and somewhere in between, preparing his daily reflections and Sunday homilies, catching up on the news (to ensure his homilies are relevant), reading, praying and more praying. And, that doesn't even include Saturdays, which are filled with morning and vigil Masses, Confessions, Baptisms and Weddings!  (And, you thought doctors were busy!)

The life of a parish priest is not one of comfort and leisure, especially at large parishes, where the demands are many and idle time few and far between, particularly as you get your grounding. It's a life of sacrifice, service, discipline and selflessness, but Fr. Martin, who once considered the Jesuit Order, like his favorite saint, St. Francis Xavier, the 16th Century missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, whose zeal and passion for Christ helped spread Catholicism into India, where Fr. Martin's family descended from, wouldn't want it any other way.  The priesthood is the fulfillment of an internal longing that drew him to the Mass from an early age.

"I always loved the liturgy. I was an altar server almost since the time I did my First Holy Communion. I don’t think I ever missed Mass, maybe once, in my entire life because I always loved the liturgy. I also have a very philosophical mind and liked to ask questions. In the Church, I discovered many great philosophical minds, who liked to ask great questions and were able to conform faith and reason.”

That inquisitive mind and a theology teacher in high school, who challenged his faith and made him dig a little deeper, started him on a journey of discernment that eventually led him to the Sacrament of Holy Orders this year.

“I think adolescence is a time to question and that’s when you need good teachers and priests to guide young people. It’s by asking questions that faith can grow deeper and stronger. It was during that period of questioning that the deepest desire arose within me.”

The laying of hands...
It is one of the reasons he enjoys working with teens and young adults so much.  Admittedly, like most teenagers trying to discover himself and the world around him, those questions and a thirst for truth, heightened by that theology teacher, kindled within him a fire that continued to grow.

Despite knowing since high school that God was calling him to be a priest, he says his discernment was a gradual one.  So, when I asked him during an interview, shortly after his ordination, what he thought of so many teenagers straying from their faith (many times after receiving their Confirmation), he answered that he didn't believe it was necessarily such a bad thing.

"I think every person has a time in their life of challenging and questioning what has been handed to them. They have to come to their own sense of values, their own belief systems.  They need to kind of embrace what has been given to them; what has been handed to them by their parents."  He added, "Anyone who doesn't question their faith at some point in their life or doesn't go through that process is probably missing out because once you get through to the other side of that, you usually come out with a deeper faith and that is what happened to me."

In fact, as long as they have a sound faith formation at home, Fr. Martin believes that, like the lost sheep in the Bible parable, those that stray will eventually be led back home.

During our meeting, I was struck by the young priest's gentle demeanor and pastoral nature.  Fr. Martin, who says he enjoys listening to Y-100 (my daughter's favorite station!), although his musical taste ranges from classical to classic rock, depending on what station pops up on the radio when he is trying to avoid commercials, exudes a sincere desire for helping people; a virtue that will suit him well in his vocation.  When I asked him what he would be if not a priest, he was actually stumped momentarily and said it was a hard question to answer. After a brief pause and some thought, he finally answered that "maybe" he would be a politician because "politics is about trying to make the world a better place."

A scholar at heart, he enjoys reading about theology, politics, economics and social issues.  He grew up tinkering with computers, playing soccer and basketball and playing the piano, which he still toys with from time to time, and once competed in on a state level.

After high school, the novice priest attended the historic Fordham University, in New York City, where, as an honors student, he earned a Bachelor's Degree in philosophy before enrolling at (none other than) St. John Vianney College Seminary in west Miami-Dade in 2007.

He grew up in a devout Catholic family, where prayer and church were a part of the everyday life for his parents, who immigrated from India, his younger brother, John Paul, and him. In fact, he says his father played a huge role in his vocation, albeit unbeknownst to him.  After his ordination, his dad, who has two uncles who are priests in India, confessed that he had been praying for Daniel to become a priest from the day he was born!

Therefore, St. Andrew’s, where he attended Mass from the time he was two years old, was like his extended family.

“The great thing about being at my home parish is that everywhere I turned, the church was my family because one of my uncles was a sacristan (the person in charge of the sacristy), another of my grand uncles was a leader in the Spanish choir, and another was an usher. So, it was a family affair and I jokingly say that, after becoming a priest, we could basically run the church!”

Meanwhile, his brother, who is currently a member of the National Guard, was also an altar server, his father, who is a psychiatrist in the Miami-Dade prison system, served as a Eucharistic Minister, and his mother became a Catechism teacher.  Needless to say, service and parish life was in his blood.

Giving a blessing...
In fact, one of his biggest thrills so far in his short pastoral career was celebrating his first Mass after his ordination at his parish.

“It was an awesome moment because, just being there so long… We all have a sense of what the Church is and we usually think of our home parishes when we think about the Church. You don’t really think of the Vatican. You think of where you go to Mass. So, it was really cool to be there and to lead everyone in prayer.”

It was a thrill that set the tone for his ministry and he has carried the enthusiasm into his first assignment at Little Flower.

He says he wants to be a positive and inspiring influence; a true witness and mentor like his old high school teacher was for him, especially to young people.

"They need to come to the point where they feel like the ones who are teaching them the faith are actually witnessing and living the faith; that they actually ascribe to what they are teaching.  They need to really see it (the faith) in action."

It is reminiscent of a quote by Pope Paul VI, which was used in Pope Benedict's letter proclaiming the Year for Priests, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

That is why Fr. Martin believes that his role, as a shepherd of Christ, is to present the faith in a way that touches people and attracts instead of detracts.  In other words, he wants to live up to the words of St. John Vianney to be "the love of the heart of Jesus" and draw wayward sheep back into the fold.

"I think that many times people leave when they have encountered some sort of rash treatment.  As most people know, the second largest Christian group is former Catholics... We need to present our faith from a positive perspective.  I've heard many homilies where I agreed with everything being said but I would not be convinced by how it was being said.  I think the only way to really convince anyone is on a personal level."

Yet, despite the negative stories of doom and gloom in the ranks and files of the Catholic Church and the shortage of priestly vocations, Fr. Martin sees many signs of hope.

"Just here in the Archdiocese of Miami, we have 50 seminarians.  We have about 100 parishes.  If those seminarians become priests (and more follow at the current pace), we should be able to replenish any need in the next 10 to 20 years.  St. Vincent de Paul Seminary (in Boynton Beach, Fl.) has more seminarians then they have ever had.  So I don't think the crisis is necessarily true."

New laborers for God's vineyard...
When I interviewed Fr. Martin, he had just celebrated his first funeral Mass, after having performed his first anointing of the sick at a local hospital and was getting ready for his first Spanish homily at a wedding, after having celebrated his first Spanish Mass the previous Sunday. So, obviously, as with any new priest, there will be lots of firsts for him this year.   But, as legendary NCAA basketball coach and devout Christian, John Wooden, once said, "I'd rather have a lot of talent and little experience then have a lot of experience and little talent" and Fr. Martin certainly has the talent to be a great priest.

Going back to St. John Vianney, he also once said, "Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord (the Eucharist). Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.”

May God bless Fr. Martin and all righteous and holy priests who have answered God's call, despite the sacrifices, in order to be, as John Paul said, the representatives of Christ on earth, so as to lead souls to heaven by sharing His love for each one of us...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Hans Balthasar...

"What you are is God's gift to you, what you become is your gift to God."

-- Hans Urs von Balthasar; Roman Catholic priest, author and considered one of the most important theologians of the 20th Century.  Balthasar is said to have influenced Bl. Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, among many others and was once called, "perhaps the most cultured man of our time." The Swiss born scholar priest published over a thousand books and articles and sought to offer an intellectual response to Western modernism.  He died in 1988, at the age of 82, just two days before he was to become a Cardinal.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Murder on Facebook and One Man's Claim to Fame...

Almost famous...
Derek Medina wanted fame and fortune.

He would apparently do anything to attain it.  He was a wannabe be actor, who was an extra in a USA's Burn Notice episode, which was filmed in Miami and he played a thug.  He posted over 140 videos of himself on You Tube.  He wrote and self-published six books.  And, like millions of Americans, he openly shared every aspect of his personal and professional life on social media.

But frustrated with his celebrity aspirations, he finally gained some notoriety, if not infamy, by doing the unthinkable; murdering his off-and-then-on-again wife of three years and posting a picture of her lifeless body on Facebook.

In addition, along with the graphic photo, showing the bloody corpse laying on her back on the kitchen floor, with her head propped up against some floor cabinets and her legs discombobulated back towards her head, as if she had been kneeling, with no apparent remorse Medina coldly wrote:
"Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news my wife was punching me and I am not going to stand anymore with the abuse so I did what I did I hope u understand me"  
Shocked and horrified friends reacted with nothing but, "What?," probably hoping that it wasn't real.

Yet, it wasn't only real.  It was surreal.  In fact, not only did he murder his 26-year-old wife, Jennifer Alfonso, who he married in 2010, got divorced to in 2012 and then remarried a few months later, but he did it while Alfonso's 10-year-old daughter was in an upstairs bedroom, where, according to Alfonso's father, he had apparently left her with the volume of a TV blaring, so she would not hear what he was about to do.

After shooting his wife to death, Medina, 31, changed clothes, drove to his family's house to tell his father and relatives what he had done and then drove himself to the South Miami Police Department and calmly turned himself in.

Police say he confessed to the crime, by saying a scuffle broke out, after she threatened to leave him, where he pulled a gun and she a kitchen knife, which he quickly took away from her and threw in a drawer. Afterwards, he said she continued punching and hitting him, a burly tattooed man, who would film himself beating and kicking a punching bag in a suit and tie, sparring in a kickboxing ring and posted pictures flexing his muscles on Facebook, until he shot her.

As you could imagine, by the time it was finally taken down by the social media site, at least five hours after the fact, the photo had gone viral and it was shared and commented on by countless of friends and strangers alike.  

The day before the murder...
The story, which I first heard about on a police scanner at work, where it is among my duties to listen to scanners for our TV news department, before the South Miami Police Public Information Office knew anything about it, has been on my mind ever since I first saw the horrific photograph and started wondering what our world has come to when a murdered corpse is posted on social media for the universe to see.

Legendary English author and cultural commentator of his time, GK Chesterton, once wrote, "Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."  Unfortunately, the problem for humanity since the beginning of time has been knowing where to draw that line.

And, in our voyeuristic culture, where self-promotion has become part of the air we breath and people's lives are in full display on social websites, that line, between someone's form of expression and their moral responsibility, was bound to be confounded.

But, I wasn't the only one troubled by the gruesome post.  A court official I contacted as the story developed later in the afternoon wrote me, "Seriously, this story is beyond words."  A co-worker admitted having trouble sleeping that night and another said to me, "This Facebook story is really haunting me."  And, haunting may be the operative word.

I guess, beyond the lack of moral judgement, there's also the issue of respect.  How much respect can someone have for another human being to want to post their dead body on Facebook?  It's a slap in the face, not only to her memory, but to her family, not to mention, her 10-year-old daughter, who someday may find the gruesome image on the internet.  Think about it.  This is the sort of picture you may see in the Middle East, where they kill an "infidel" and post pictures of their mutilated body as a show of disrespect and degradation.

Then again, how much did Medina respect himself by confessing his crime in such a public forum?  It's really hard to imagine.

As a news department, my station decided to blur out some of the gruesome photo.  We considered, not only our audience, but Alfonso's family.  This is not the last image I would want a loved one to be remembered by!

Yet, Medina's family says she drove him to that point.  They claim she was physically abusive, something her family and friends vehemently deny, and that he is not a monster.  In fact, they say he was loving and warmhearted.

Although neighbors called him "strange" and friends of Alfonso said he was jealous, manipulative and aggressive with her, in a Miami Herald article on Sunday, his family's pastor from the Episcopalian chapel at the University of Miami, Rev. Frank Corbishley, who visited the family Friday night, called him a "complex and multidimensional person just like everybody else."  Albeit, one might argue, not everyone would murder a person and post it on Facebook!

Medina was an alter server in his youth but, like many young people, had drifted from his faith and church in his teens.

Happier days...
Somewhere along the line, darkness grew inside him.  He became drawn to the occult and developed an interest in ghosts and the supernatural, which was the topic of one of his books, and a passion he shared with his wife, and, at the risk of sounding crude, maybe, the reason for the haunting photo!

On Saturday, I attended a funeral Mass for the father of a friend, who passed away in his 90's. He lived a long and fruitful life dedicated to his faith and family.

In his homily, the priest talked about how we, who believe in the way, the truth and the life, can hope with a confident certainty that we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven someday.  It is a hope that helps us overcome the difficulties of life and the loss of people we love.

I couldn't help but think about Jennifer Alfonso and Derek Medina.  As far away from the faith, as they may have been, since dabbling in the supernatural is probably as far away from Christianity and the certainty the Christian faith offers as you can be (although there is no way to know what was in their heart),  I wondered if they have (or had in her case) that confident hope of someday going to heaven?  In other words, is there room for hope in the darkest recesses of the human heart?

Without that hope, what true purpose and meaning is there?  Life becomes but a shadow lost in the shade of a large tree, where it's hard to determine where you're at and where you're heading just by looking at it, and the only thing that matters is the fleeting search for happiness through physical pleasures, fame and fortune in this world.  Of course, physical pleasures, fame and fortune, as Medina sought, is not going to be worth much when we're dead!

It appears, at least, Alfonso's family have that hope since she was given a Christian funeral and buried at a Catholic cemetery.  Still, as Christians, we can only pray that God has mercy on her soul and that, in the upcoming hardship, loneliness and despair that is sure to come, Medina repents and returns to the faith of his childhood.

In any case, we walk a slippery moral slope as a culture when a murdered body is posted on the internet like a trophy of some great accomplishment but, considering the attention the story has gotten, it may just be a matter of time before another person, looking for instant fame, will try to attain it in a similar way...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Losing Man Card Reading The Exorcist...

I gotta admit, I have never been much of a horror film or book fan. Maybe, it goes back to my early high school days when I saw Friday the 13th in the same theater back-to-back with a friend (who wanted to see it again!), and I almost jumped out of my skin twice during the same opening scene in the lake, when the rotting corpse jumps out of the water and grabs the girl in the canoe from behind.  It went downhill from there!

In fact, I was never into the gore and slasher films.  My idea of horror movies growing up were the black and white Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney films, that I still enjoy today.

Therefore, I didn't get into the Halloweens, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13 Parts 2, 3, The Final Chapter, the post final chapter, etc., etc., like many of my peers, or anything with "Living Dead " or "Zombie" in its title and I was too young to watch The Exorcist (although, I did watch it years later on TV and also watched the first Nightmare on Elm Street and Psycho II, because of friends; peer pressure!)

I've always been more into psychological thrillers myself and some of my favorite movies include Silence of the Lamb and Seven, which are scary in their own right but are not as senseless in showing squirting blood like the slasher films.

As far as reading, I can only recall ever reading one scary book, The Omen, sometime in my late teens or early 20's, which scared the bejesus out of me!

That is, until recently.

While on vacation with my family in Sanibel several weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the 40th Anniversary edition of The Exorcist, which had been sitting on my book shelf ever since I got it after watching an interview with the book's author, William Peter Blatty, on a Catholic TV show a couple of years ago.

The book, by the way, is an amazing read that was on the NY Times best sellers list for 57 consecutive weeks and number one for 17 weeks in 1971.  And, the movie release two years later caused an upheaval in Chicago and Kansas City, among other places, where police had to use tear gas when movie-goers waited in line for hours and rushed into theaters, in one case by using a battering ram to gain access through a double side door!  Talk about a phenomenon!

In any case, after starting it during our vacation, I went back to work the next week halfway through the book.  Meanwhile, my wife and children left for Orlando, where my 8-year-old daughter was dancing in a national dance competition, the day after we got back from our family vacation.

That meant I was all alone for the week, and, in all honesty, reading the book at night in an empty house didn't exactly boost my confidence in the manhood department, if you know what I mean!

Don't look at me with those evil eyes...
It's amazing how the mind can play tricks on you. One night, after closing the book and turning off the lights, after reading a scene, where the demon inside the 12-year-old girl in the book started chasing the nanny like a snake around the house, I was lying in the darkness and suddenly had to wrap my legs tightly with the blanket; just in case a snake slivered into my room without my noticing and climbed into bed with me!

Let's just say, I wasn't exactly feeling like William Wallace, aka Braveheart, at that point (and, at the risk of losing my man card, was probably not the image of 'protector of the homestead' that my wife envisioned when we got married).  In fact, the fear made me laugh internally (as I tried to convince myself that it was just a novel!) but, shortly afterwards, I found myself praying to my mommy; the Blessed Mother!

A note of interest; I was close to slobbering like the woman looking into the camera in The Blair Witch Project, which I happened to watch with my wife and it freaked us out.

What makes The Exorcist so alarming is that it is based on a real life case that made national headlines in the late 1940's, which Blatty came across while in college.

In 1949, a boy identified by the Church as Roland Doe, but in more recent years was identified as Robbie Mannheim; a 13-year-old only child living in Maryland with his German Lutheran Christian family, who is said to have had very few friends his age, started using a Ouija board, apparently to try to contact a dead aunt who he was close to.

The case is said to have been recorded in the journal of the attending priest, Fr. Raymond Bishop, who was called in after all other medical and psychiatric treatments were exhausted, as well as a failed attempt at a Lutheran rite exorcism, under auspices of the Episcopal Church.

The boy was taken to Georgetown University Hospital, where Fr. Bishop and several other Jesuit priests struggled for several weeks until finally, after about thirteen attempts, the demon was apparently expelled in a loud noise that was reportedly heard throughout the hospital.

The boy fully recovered and had no recollection of what had happened.  He went on to live a full life and eventually got married, had children and became a grandfather.

The Exorcist starts off with an opening scene of an archaeologist in Northern Iraq, Fr. Lankester Merrin, making a discovery of an amulet with the image of a demon that he once battled in an exorcism years prior. Merrin concluded the demon was back for revenge.

It then jumps to the story of an only child, like Roland Doe, who spends hours playing alone and starts using a Ouija board to entertain herself.

The battle of good v. evil...
In this case, it's a beautiful girl, Regan MacNeil, just shy of her 12th birthday, and living with her actress mother, Chris MacNeil, in Georgetown, where the latter was filming a movie.

Through the Ouija board, Regan starts a relationship with what was believed to be an imaginary friend named Captain Howdy.

At first, the mother began hearing rapping on the walls and ceiling at night and thought it was rats in the attic.  She tells her live-in handy man to put up mouse traps, despite his insistence that the attic was clean.

Soon, other supernatural activities began to unfold, heavy furniture is found moved in her room, extraordinarily chilling temperatures and foul odor emanating from the room, Regan's bed shaking involuntarily and she starts claiming Captain Howdy wanted to hurt here.

In the meantime, acts of desecration and, what appears to be rituals used in Black Masses, conducted by devil worshipers, began to appear at a nearby Catholic parish.  

As Regan's demeanor continues to deteriorate, the mother starts taking her to doctors, who examine her, give her drugs and when they fail to work, they administer more tests and drugs, and then more and more tests, until they send her for to a specialized psychiatric clinic, where doctors and experts check her for all sorts of possible illnesses, which ends in frustration.  At that point, just when the mother is at wit's end, someone suggests an exorcist.

After long weeks of sleepless nights and concern for her daughter, who doesn't seem to be getting any better, Chris MacNeil doesn't know where to turn.  Despite being an Atheist, she decides she has no choice and turns to a priest that she has seen around the Georgetown University campus, who happens to be a psychiatrist, in hopes of getting an exorcism performed on her daughter.

Meanwhile, the Jesuit priest, Fr. Damian Karras, is having his own crisis in faith, after his mother's death, and refuses to believe the girl is possessed, instead thinking, like some of the previous experts, that it could be psychological.  But, seeing the child withering away, and after, among other things, hearing the child speak in foreign languages, including a recording where she spoke English in reverse, and letters spelling, 'Help Me' appearing on her chest, he decides to convince the Bishop to approve an exorcism (Do you blame him?), if only to help the child psychologically come out of her ailment through the power of suggestion.

To cut to the chase, the Bishop agrees but calls on an experienced exorcist to perform the ritual, instead of Karras.

The man who came to dinner...
On a rainy night, as the demon ranted and raved from Regan's bedroom, shouting obscenities and insults, while strapped to her bed, Karras and Chris are having coffee in the kitchen, both exhausted due to lack of sleep and mental stress, when they hear the doorbell ring. As Chris looked out the living room window to see who it was, she saw him; a tall elderly man dressed in a black raincoat and hat, holding an umbrella and carrying a black bag. You guessed it; Fr. Lankester Merrin!

I must admit, the book is harsh at times.  Aside from the exorcism itself, and the graphic descriptions of the vomiting, defecating and unbearable stench, some of the things Blatty vividly depicts are shocking, especially his descriptions of the rituals of the Black Mass and sexual behavior that the demon, using Regan's body, engages in.  But, as I mentioned earlier, it is a riveting and compelling read; a true page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

As a matter of fact, while the movie, whose screenplay was also written by Blatty, mostly focused on the exorcism itself, in the book, the exorcism is but a small part towards the tail end of the story.  Instead the novel concentrates on the characters and the situations, including a murder and it's subsequent investigation, leading up to the final battle between good and evil; i.e. the priests versus the demon.
After the first session with the possessed child, Blatty writes a poignant monologue by Fr. Merrin (that the author later admits to having taken from a sermon by Cardinal John Henry Newman), where, in a conversation with Fr. Karras, the elderly priest reflects on a time in his own life where he lost his faith and doubted in God's existence (not knowing that Karras was going through the same thing).  But it was there, Merrin concluded, where true love (and thus faith) is tested. Blatty writes:
"... How many husbands and wives," Merrin uttered sadly, "must believe they have fallen out of love because their hearts no longer race at the sight of their beloveds.  Ah, dear God!"  He shook his head.  And then he nodded.  "There it lies, I think, Damien... possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very rarely in extraordinary interventions such as here... this girl... this poor child.  No, I tend to see possession most often in the little things, Damien: in the senseless, petty spites and misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the wives.  Enough to these and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves... for ourselves."  
The truth is that evil exists.  Whether it manifests itself in demonic possessions, which are extremely rare, or in the actions of a deranged person, like those that go on deadly shooting rampages, or in the thoughts that lead a pious man to sin, is just a matter of semantics in the unfolding story of the human race.

We all have to battle our own demons; the evil that lies within our heart.  It is not the one that we choose to do intentionally for the sake of wickedness, but the sloth, indifference, neglect, selfishness and yes, fear that often destroys marriages, relationships and self-esteem and eventually leads us away from God.

Without giving away the ending, suffice to say, the battle was fierce and, at least for me, came to an unexpected ending, and while I was happier than the Geico piglet with his head out the car window when my family came home at the end of that week, and not just because I missed them, I found comfort, as reflected on the words coined famously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which said, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."

Of course that's not to say, I don't respect evil spirits (just in case, there are any looking for victims to haunt; we're good, right?) but, in any case, I would recommend The Exorcist to any red blooded adult male, who thinks of himself as courageous but may want to check if their man card hasn't expired.

As far as mine, where do I apply for a new man card again?...