Source: Huffington Post
By Steve Kissing, Guest Writer
In 1975, when I was a fifth-grader at St. William Elementary, a Catholic school in Cincinnati, Ohio, the devil began visiting me — or at least so I thought.
During these episodes, my brain felt as if it were vibrating and then turning to concrete from the inside out. I wouldn’t lose consciousness, but I would zone out, unable to speak. My reality was twisted in ways both nonsensical and scary. Most everything I saw either changed physically or registered as something else in my mind. For instance, a teacher would turn into an alligator, a pencil into a sword, a tree into a dinosaur.
After each episode, I was left with a creepy feeling and a monstrous headache that caused me to be distracted and unsettled for hours. Still, as freaked out as I was, I didn’t tell anyone what was happening to me. Not my parents, not any of my teachers, not my friends, not my brothers or sister nor my parish’s priests. In part, it was because I had trouble finding the words to describe what was happening. And, at first, I wondered if it was really happening at all or if maybe it was just my imagination run amok.
A few months after my first episode, I experienced a “visitation” inside St. William Church, where my school attended Mass weekly, and it was then that I began to suspect ― and worry ― that what was happening to me was actually the devil’s work. In my impressionable and naïve 12-year-old mind, it made perfect sense: What — or who — else could penetrate the thick limestone walls and spiritual force field of God’s own house and have its way with me? The more I thought about it and considered the things I’d been taught in school about the devil, the more it made sense.
What’s more, my hallucinations began about a year after “The Exorcist” was released in theaters. While I was too young to see the movie, I had heard all about it, and I mistakenly understood it to be a highly accurate documentary. Though my head wasn’t spinning and I wasn’t spewing green bile, the things I was experiencing were unbelievably vivid and defied logic. I had every reason to believe that I might soon start exhibiting the same disgusting and frightening behavior as the girl in “The Exorcist.”
I was terrified but also convinced more than ever that I had to keep my affliction a secret. I feared that if anyone found out I was possessed they would either think I was crazy and send me to an asylum or, if they actually believed me, I would have to face possibly being seen as evil myself.
While I hid my possession, I refused to accept it. I fought back. Hard.
I embarked on a three-pronged plan to strengthen my body, my mind and especially my spirit. To improve physically, I turned to long-distance running. I ran every single day for years. My dedication paid off. As an eighth-grader, I won the citywide Catholic track-and-field championships in the mile run and, as a high school freshman, I ran a marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes. I hoped God was pleased.
I feared that if anyone found out I was possessed they would either think I was crazy and send me to an asylum or, if they actually believed me, I would have to face possibly being seen as evil myself.
To enhance my mind, I worked harder in school than I certainly would have otherwise, earning mostly A’s thanks, in part, to completing every extra-credit opportunity placed before me.
Of course, what needed the most improvement was my spirit. I prayed multiple times throughout the day and volunteered to serve as an altar boy at every Mass I could manage. This included the dreaded 6:30 a.m. weekday Masses, but I hoped to prove to Jesus that I believed in him and wanted his grace.
My super-secret weapon for my super-secret condition was self-exorcisms, which I would perform in my bedroom or, when the rest of my family was out of the house, in our dining room. I would place our family Bible on the table and then light a votive candle (which, ironically, I had stolen from church). With a rosary dangling around my neck, I would make the sign of the cross, splash myself with holy water I got at school and recite prayers. I would then hold a small piece of sandwich bread over the candle’s flame. In my young mind, this process turned the ordinary bread into devil-blasting communion. I’d swallow it, say a few more prayers and then quickly hide all the accouterments of my self-exorcisms before my family returned.
I was desperate to be freed from my condition, and I was living a double life in hopes of being rescued from the devil. Still, my efforts to live a good, pure life were not always successful. Like most boys my age, I had impure thoughts about girls on a near-constant basis. I sometimes stole money from my mom’s purse to buy candy. In high school, I started drinking beer — a lot of it — on the weekends.
This is why I believed my purification efforts weren’t successful. From fifth grade through most of 10th grade, the devil’s visits increased in frequency. Though everything I was doing didn’t seem to be helping, I worried stopping would only invite Satan to come on even stronger. And one day he did. Big time.
Pope Francis Believes in Exorcism; Do You?http://t.co/NOfkFBIXqf
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) August 2, 2015