Movies tend to paint an exaggerated picture of demon possession that some people tend to think it’s only a made up thing. But Father Jerome Rosalinda, one of six exorcists in the Diocese of Novaliches, someone who admits to have faced his own share of demons, says people, even places and things, can really get possessed by an evil spirit.
“Yung presence ng diabolical spirit in our world today has been doubted,” he tells ANCX. “We don’t believe in the presence of the evil spirit now as much as in the older times. But the devil is really present in our world today.”
Fr. Jigs, as he is fondly called by parishioners at Presentation of our Lord Parish in Quezon City, is part of an exorcism ministry called Liberanox. The name comes from the biblical passage in the Book of Revelation that says “deliver us from darkness or night.” Fr. Jigs was awarded power by the church to perform exorcism.
According to him, exorcism is part of the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to mankind. “That’s the ministry of Jesus—to proclaim the good news, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons,” he says. Exorcism is intrinsic to priesthood, but it’s also a charism—a gift of the Holy Spirit—that’s given to the lay faithful.
A woman possessed
It was in 2008, during his eighth year as a priest, when Fr. Jigs first encountered a parishioner who was possessed by an evil spirit. Back then, he had not undergone any training on exorcism. It wasn’t taught in the seminary. He was requested to administer the sacraments of baptism and confession to the woman.
The parishioner, who was in her 40s, had a painful past, Fr. Jigs would later find. Abused by a person of authority, she was filled with anger and resentment. She also got involved, as per Fr. Jigs, in a ritual that called for a blood compact with the devil, an offering of her blood. Since then, an evil spirit would take hold of her.
“Throughout the years, nagkaroon sya ng kakaibang powers, abilities that are diabolical in nature,” Fr. Jigs tells ANCX. “Magaling siya mag-throw ng curses. May namamatay because of her curses. She can hear yung mga usapan from the ground floor up to the third floor.”
Fr. Jigs recalls their encounter. “During the baptism, there was full diabolical possession. She was in a trance.” Since there was physical struggle, the baptism took almost four hours to finish. And although the lady received the sacrament of baptism that day and eventually calmed down, her battle would continue for years.
“Hindi siya madali [i-exorcise] kasi part ng struggle is yung pagba-blackmail ng diabolical spirits,” says Fr. Jigs. “Ite-threaten ang kanyang family, kanyang kabuhayan, kanyang buhay mismo. She wasn’t able to give up everything quickly.”
The lady would have a lot of near-death experiences after this, says the priest. “She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and yet hindi siya namamatay. She was in and out of the hospital. She was throwing up stones. It was unbelievable where those stones were coming from na napakadami,” Fr. Jigs recalls.
He eventually lost contact with the said parishioner. She changed her place of residence. But the challenge to completely help the woman was one of the reasons why he believed he was being called to the ministry of exorcism.
In the case of Fr. Jigs, there were personal life experiences that led him to this ministry. It happened between 2013 to 2015 when he left for Rome to finish his doctorate degree in Canon Law.
“I was filled with so many emotions. Kasi I left with resentment and anger. There were workers who offended me, which greatly impacted my ministry,” he says, opting not go into detail. “There was a loss of hope, a feeling of great discouragement.”
He didn’t expect this grudge would grow over time. “Sabi ko I have forgiven. Cool ang aking demeanor. Pero meron palang growing anger sa heart ko,” he says looking back. His hope and faith were shaken. “I was rushing to finish my dissertation, but nothing seemed to enter my mind. I was operating on the thinking that I was going to fail at everything. There was a lack of hope.”
It was at this point when he says he would hear God’s persistent calls for him to join the ministry of exorcism. He eventually found himself attending a course on deliverance and exorcism in Rome. He went through deliverance prayers himself and this he says liberated him from the clutches of depression.
“It was by God’s grace that I finished my doctorate degree,” he tells ANCX. Fr. Jigs returned to the Philippines in 2016 and, through the encouragement of his friends and classmates, accepted an invitation to join Liberanox. In 2017, he was chosen to receive the faculty to perform exorcism by the Diocese. He’s now part of a group called Philippine Association of Catholic Exorcists (PACE).
What happens during an exorcism?
The Diocese’s exorcism ministry observes certain protocols in its practice. But anybody can report an incident to their parish priest, who should then report it to the ministry. A protocol number is given to the case and an interview is conducted to evaluate, assess, and discern the problem.
Before the liberation or exorcism is done, an exorcist needs to know if there is an “opening.”
“These are the doors to a person’s life that allows the devil to take hold of him in different ways,” explains Father Jigs. “Either possession, obsession, or oppression.”
In his normal state, the individual is asked to write a narrative about what he thinks happens to him during the possession. He or she has likely not gone to confession for years or is heavily into occult practices or superstitions. Or she harbors deep trauma brought about by physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
“We have to know if there is an opening or not. Because sometimes it can be a psychiatric or psychological problem,” the priest explains. As exorcists, he says, they have a way of knowing if there is no presence of diabolical influence or spiritual content in a case.
It’s easy for people to think they are possessed or oppressed, or that there is a devil trying to toy with their feelings and emotions. But based on experience, says Fr. Jigs, the ones who identify themselves as possessed are not. “It is those who are quiet na parang hindi umaamin, kasi the devil would hide.”
After an evaluation, the exorcist decides if the individual needs deliverance or exorcism. “It is possible na kailangan niya lang mag-confess sa kasalanan niya. Baka matagal na siyang hindi nagkukumpisal o matagal ng hindi nakaka-receive ng sacraments,” he says.
A deliverance (a series of pray-over sessions) is then scheduled, if needed. Exorcism is done only when there is a demonic possession. In many cases, the liberation doesn’t happen right away, so the pray-over sessions have to be done repeatedly.
The most important part of the deliverance and exorcism is jumpstarting a relationship between the individual and God, says Fr. Jigs. “It’s not like dirt on your shirt na pag nilabhan mo wala na,” he adds, saying that living as a Christian believer helps a lot in keeping the devil away.
There are two types of exorcism, says Fr. Jigs—“the minor exorcism, that’s routinely done every time we baptize, and the major exorcism, which is the deliverance of people who may either be possessed, oppressed, and obsessed.” A person who is possessed by a diabolical spirit usually manifests three signs—extraordinary strength (“kakaibang lakas”), extraordinary knowledge (“of hidden things such as the sins of another”), and the ability to speak in a language inherently not known to the possessed.
In some cases, the possessed becomes agitated when he or she hears a prayer. He or she could manifest repulsion or repugnance for religious objects such as rosaries, crosses, sacred oils, and holy water. “These are good indicators but sometimes kasi pwedeng i-fake yun ng isang psychologically problematic. So we look at the three signs I have previously mentioned.”
If you know someone showing any sort of manifestations of being possessed, you may report him or her to your parish priest and he will do the initial intervention, advises Father Jigs. “Pwedeng pakumpisalin, kung may sakit pwede i-annoint. Pwedeng i-advise na mag-communion at sumimba. Sacraments muna. After that, kapag medyo hindi nag-subside or meron talagang kailangan i-renounce, these are reported to our ministry and then an interview is set.”
We become vulnerable to diabolical attacks or influences when we do not frequently receive the holy sacraments (e.g., eucharist, confession, and penance), says Fr. Jigs. The church suggests confessing to a priest at least once a year. A good rule of thumb, he adds, is “if you already need a haircut, you also need to confess.”