Wendell Talibong has one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs on earth.
The fortysomething battles ruthless enemies impervious to any weapon made by man, whose sole goal is to enslave, corrupt, and destroy people, body, mind, heart and soul.
One time, while Talibong was hurrying to his home city of Ozamiz to succor an elderly woman under a repeat assault, the enemy thrashed his vehicle with a coconut tree trunk thrown like a projectile.
His teenage son suffered grave head injuries, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Miraculously, the boy revived, but doctors said the damage to his brain and nerves meant he would need a ventilator machine pumping air into his lungs for life.
The night before a scheduled operation to reconnect the boy’s brain and spinal cord, Talibong prayed that God take his son, to spare the youth from a life tethered to a breathing machine, and to have his own offspring praying for the family in heaven.
However, Talibong recounted at the Marian World Congress in Cebu two weeks ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke to him and said his son would live.
The next day, doctors found that the severed nerves were healed without surgery, though the boy would be in intensive care for three months. After 27 days, he was breathing on his own. And the paralyzed youth regained sensation and motion in his limbs after drinking water from Lourdes, the healing fountain where Our Lady appeared in France.
Talibong eventually got home to Ozamiz and delivered the mother from the demon afflicting her in a repeat attack — and which probably had something to do with the tree trunk cast at the minister’s car.
Brother Wendell Talibong is a Catholic lay deliverance minister, empowered by the Bishop of Ozamiz to cast out demons. And the minister says the devil has been increasing and intensifying his assaults in our time.
Demonic activity on the rise
The rising incidence and intensity of demonic attack were also observed by the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist till his death a year ago at age 91, and Fr. Jose Syquia, director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism.
Fr. Amorth’s successor, Fr. CesareTruqui, also observed that symptoms of demonic possession were getting more frequent in Italy. And exorcists in America, coming back from the biennial gathering of exorcists in the Vatican this past June, also saw an escalation of demonic activity, according to the National Catholic Register paper.
“The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it,” Fr. Vincent Lampert, exorcist at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told the NC Register. He cited the spread of pornography, narcotics, and the occult — all entry points for the devil. “Where there is demonic activity, there is always an entry point,” he said.
That sinful behavior lets the devil in, is easy to understand. As for psychic or occult activity, as well as superstitious practices, they implicitly deny God’s supreme power by seeking knowledge and abilities from other forces and entities.
And often, the devil steps in and empowers practitioners, which then gradually makes them more and more dependent on and influenced by demons.
What makes this route of diabolical intrusion even more open and unguarded in our time is the widespread disbelief in the devil.
If people don’t think demons exist, then why will they fear demonic attack or influence? That’s why then-Pope Paul VI warned in an encyclical that those who do not believe in the devil are already in his grip.
Most people pay little heed to such warning. So, it’s no wonder if many probably snickered when Fr. Amorth warned years ago about fantasy films that glamorized vampires and zombies, as well as yoga exercises and even the Harry Potter novels set in a fictional school for aspiring young wizards.
Wanted: More exorcists and deliverance ministers
With demonic activity rising, more priests and lay people are needed to fight the devil. But since the Second Vatican Council, there is less attention and instruction given to exorcism and deliverance. Indeed, few seminaries and schools of theology teach demonology and angelology. (The University of Santo Tomas, a pontifical institution, is said to be among the few offering those courses.)
That may well be a dereliction of priestly duty. Considering that the clergy are supposed to be “other Christs” ministering to the faithful as Jesus did in His earthly life, then they should be able to preach, forgive sins, heal and cast out demons — the most prominent acts that our Lord performed in His public life.
All priests preach, of course, in mass homilies and pastoral instruction, and they are the channel of God’s forgiveness in the confessional. But the healing ministry has almost entirely been left to doctors, while exorcism is less practiced. Nor are people taught about demonic assault.
Under Church mandate, all bishops are exorcists, and they can give that faculty to priests. Prelates can also designate priests, other consecrated persons, and lay people as deliverance ministers.
Yet while parishes recruit many faithful as mass readers and communion ministers, hardly any congregations invite people to the deliverance ministry.
That is largely the result of the greatest deception perpetrated by the devil in our age: the lie that demons do not exist, since science cannot prove their existence.
Even when physical manifestations of possession are plain to see, these convulsions, vomiting, enhanced strength, and other extreme behavior are summarily ascribed to psychological or physical factors.
Yet as Talibong has seen, there are victims of possession deemed normal by psychological measures, yet act abnormally, and are cured of these fits by repeated deliverance prayers.
Next Sunday, we will talk more about fighting demons. For now, here’s one test for possession: ask the suspected victim to pray to Mary. Devils are most fearful of our Blessed Mother.
(Ric Saludo gives Fatima talks in Los Angeles and Miami on Sept. 19-30. Interested groups may email email@example.com.)