Deliver us from evil: Episcopalian priest shares experience with his ministry of exorcism

The author is Priest-in-Charge of St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, Queens

The author is Priest-in-Charge of St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, Queens

By Father Fred Vergara

I had a few experiences of exorcisms or deliverance ministry. In the Philippines, I participated in an exorcism rite in one barrio in Pangasinan. An extended family built their house on a former abortion clinic and they would hear infants crying by the wall. After the exorcism, we conducted a requiem mass which eventually healed the family of demonic oppression.

In Singapore, I served as assistant to an Australian exorcist named Bill Subritzky. He claimed he was able to see the demons and he described them as “beings without body” (and that was why they seek to inhabit other people’s bodies.) I have never seen the demons myself but I’ve seen strange manifestations when persons are exorcised.

Four years ago, when I was serving as Supply Priest at St. Michael & All Angels in Seaford, Long Island I was called to minister to a family in the neighboring town of Amityville . Amityville is the location of the 1970’s scary movie, “Amityville Horror.” It seems that the father of the family, had virtually invited the evil spirits to come. He bought the house close to the sea and remodeled it to look like the house in the movie and then exclaimed, “We’re going to be the next Amityville Horror House.”

From that time on, the wife and children had experienced some paranormal incidents, quite similar to some scenes in the movie. I do not have time to describe what happened during and after the exorcism, but this and many other experiences of encounters with evil spirits, I get a glimpse of the purposes of the devil.

What are the purposes of the devil?

In the Bible, Jesus gave us a glimpse of the purposes of the devil. In John 10:10, he likened the devil to a thief and he said, “The thief comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy.”

1. So the first purpose of the devil is to steal.
The devil comes to steal away your joy. The will of God is that we may live in peace and quietness, and to enjoy the blessings of life. If these are not present in your life, if there is no peace in your mind, no love in your heart and no joy on your face, then the devil has a hold on you.

So many people go through life without experiencing the good life that God has willed for all of God’s children. They dwell in pains and misery, in heart aches and heartbreaks, in hopelessness and despair because the devil has robbed them of God’s grace.

2. The second purpose of the devil is to kill.
Today, there are many happenings that make us believe that the devil is active in today’s world. The recent terrorist activities in France and other parts of the world, the ISIS cruelly beheading their hostages, the lawless elements in Nigeria kidnapping and killing children, the brutal killings of policemen in Mindanao and many other events of murders and massacres are works not of human beings but of evil.

Many of you know that I am under treatment from prostate cancer. I am beginning to think, ironically, that there is a purpose for my affliction. As a healing priest, it gives me a motivation to study about cancer. I have come to believe now that cancer is not just a problem that calls for healing but also of deliverance. In Mark 5:9, Jesus asked the devil inside of a man “Who are you?” And the demons said, “My name is legion, for we are many.” In the Roman Army, which was the context of this text, a legion is composed of 6,000 fighting men.

Cancer is not one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. They are named from the organ in which they start. For example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in the skin is called melanoma; cancer that begins in the breast is breast cancer; cancer that begins in the prostate is prostate cancer, cancer that begins in the blood is leukemia and so forth and so on. Cancer is a growth of destructive cells.

Now our body is composed of billions of cells. Some are healthy, others not. Therefore, if you have a cancerous tumor the size of an apple, then you have millions of harmful cancer cells. So like the devil that possessed the human body, the cancer also can be called a legion or many legions, for there are many cells. The devil, named “legion” like cancer, comes to kill. But thanks be to God! Christ comes to give us life and have it abundantly!

3. The third purpose of the devil is to destroy.
The devil’s ultimate purpose is to destroy the image of God that was imprinted in the human being. When God created Adam, he was formed from clay and he had no life. Then God breathe into the clay and Adam sprung up with life. That was the meaning—we are created in the image of God–in the image of God, we are created. The breath of God, the ruach of God, the spiritus of God, gives us life and the image of God was imprinted in every human being.

It means that a human being has innate godly or divine elements: the capacity to love, to give, to forgive, to experience peace, joy, forgiveness, and all positive aspects of life. But when the devil has come into the person and steals that joy, steals that compassion, steals that mercy and grace, then the person becomes the devil’s possession. He becomes a different personality. Suddenly he turns 180 degrees: from a loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, peaceful person, he becomes a hateful, wicked, unloving, unforgiving, cruel—the personification of the devil himself.

Possession does not happen instantly. The devil’s scheme has a progression: from attraction to repression, from suppression, to addiction and finally to possession. The devil may first appear as an “angel of light” to tempt and later on proceed to make a stranglehold. The addiction to alcohol, drugs, violence, etc. has all the makings of a devil’s scheme.

Fr. Fred with members of the community during the June 15 Tagalog Mass and Pistahan at his parish

Fr. Fred (far left) with members of the community during the June 15 Tagalog Mass and Pistahan at his parish

Father Fred Vergara is Priest-in-Charge of St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, Queens. After theological studies and ordination from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, he served in the Philippines and Singapore for nine years prior to immigrating to the U.S. He is known as a “healing and trouble-shooting priest.” This sermon is contained in his book, “Let God’s Light Shine,” a compilation of about 50 sermons collected and published by Parsons Porch in February. The complete version of this essay may be found in his blog, “Travelin’ Asian.”

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