“Evil is Someone, Someone who is multiple and whose name is legion… It is one thing to be in the realm of demons, as we all are when we have lost the state of grace, and quite another to be held and surrounded, literally possessed by him.” –Franqois Mauriac
Fr. Gerard Theraviam is the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. In addition to his duties as pastor of Our Lady Lourdes Church, he has spent six years helping souls overcome the demonic through his unique ministry as exorcist. With the help of my cousin’s friend who is a parishioner (Justin Janath), I managed to track down Fr. Gerard Theraviam and had a sit down interview with him at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Klang to get his insights into the nature of demonic possession. Fr Gerard Theraviam still vividly remembers the case, which took place in 2010 and involved a young girl named Lisa.
They went in to see the girl. She was maybe 13 or 14 years old from a small town. Her family sought the help of a local parish priest Fr. Gerard Theraviam because she was acting out of the ordinary, the way her family couldn’t quite comprehend. He brought along a parishioner and trusted friend, Justin Janath to accompany him. “The windows and doors were shuddering just a little from the gust outside, not like what you see in horror movies, but enough to make you get goose bumps. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I went in anyways, with my faith.” said Justin. Then they walked in and exchanged good wishes with the family and were directed to her room. Fr. Gerard conducted an absolution of sins (a short prayer said to forgive one’s sins) for Justin, warned him never to look ‘it’ in the eyes, keep praying and they went in. She was seated with her head hung low and grunting almost like an animal. Fr. Gerard then proceeded to pray over her and Justin said his own prayers, both of them with their eyes closed. For some baffling reason, Justin decided to look at the girl in the midst of prayer and to his immense fear found her not on the chair but pinned to the corner of the ceiling. She defied gravity and her body concaved to fit the corner of that ceiling. He was rooted in fear and tapped Fr. Gerard who still had his eyes closed in prayer and muttered, “Father, she’s not on the chair.” Though in shock, Fr. Gerard yelled at her for her to get down from there and she fell with a sickening thud. She was a victim of ‘Demonic Possession.’
Demonic Possession in layman’s terms is the domination by one or more demons over man’s bodily organs and his lower spiritual faculties. In some instances of possession recounted in the New Testament, possession by the devil is manifested in various disturbances of the human body itself, where he has gained control over a man’s sight, hearing, speech, or the physical organism in general. To be possessed can mean that Satan has gained mastery over free will so devastatingly that sinfulness passes beyond ordinary depravity in the world, and its cause must be sought in a power above the order of nature. To be possessed can mean that Satan has clouded the intellect, so that the light of faith cannot illuminate it. To be possessed can mean that Satan has befuddled a person’s reason. Now simple and naive folk have wrongly made lunacy synonymous with diabolical infestation. I don’t blame them. How does one really tell between the two?
According to the Vatican, there are a few hard and fast rules that are fool proof and comprehensible. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying. Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge or knowledge of the unknowable (gnosis) and foreign languages (glossolalia), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength and extreme aversion to holy objects like the crucifix, rosary, Eucharist (holy bread) and holy water. Unlike in channeling or other forms of possession, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism. None of these paranormal symptoms appear in someone who has a psychological disorder. Even dissociative disorders mimic these symptoms but not to the heighten extremes that there’s no explanation. As stated before, how does one explain speaking in a foreign language instantaneously, or knowing things that are impossible to know and physical changes in their bodies with no apparent cause? Like how voice intonations change so drastically, or being able to quote scripture or convulsing when coming into contact with sacred objects? Roman Catholics believe this is the work of Satan’s foot soldiers, in other words malevolent spirits or demons. There is a hierarchy of angels in heaven and this applies to Satan’s minions. And there is one answer to drive out a demon of demons out of a victim: Exorcism. A successful exorcism happens when the demon or demons within the victim gives out their name or names and how many of them are residing within the victim. This is something the demons hold on to and will never divulge easily.
Once a possession is confirmed by a parish priest, he sends a formal letter to the Bishop (high ranking priest) who will assign an exorcist priest to the victim’s home. Every diocese has two exorcist priests. The diocese of Selangor has Fr. V.A. Michael and Fr. Philip Muthu. An ordinary priest will go as far as a spiritual cleansing but exorcist will perform the complete Roman Rites of Exorcism. Exorcists go through constant prayer and mostly free of sin. Demons, like thieves, don’t want you to know they are there so these priests have a daunting task ahead of them.
Can it happen to just about anyone? Unfortunately it can. I was one of those people that lived in oblivion thinking that it only happened to those who were filled to the brim with faith or those who had next to none. Reality check; those in between are on the line too. All it takes is for you to stop believing. The funny thing is it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in the devil, what matters is HE BELIEVES IN YOU.
Father Gerard Theraviam from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur
Justin Janath from Prodigal Apostles