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"Why are there so-called 'haunted houses'?" asks Father Jose Francisco C. Syquia of the Philippines. "Are they real? What is really involved when a house is said to be haunted?"

Let us add our own question: How do "ghosts" jive with Catholic teaching?

"In scientific parlance," says Father Syquia, who directs the Office of Exorcism for the Archdiocese of Manila, "a house is said to be haunted when there are paranormal disturbances occurring within the vicinity -- invisible entities or beings manifesting themselves or making their presence known. Based on Church authorities and teachings, a 'haunted house' can truly exist."

It is a controversial realm yet one that needs to be explored at a time when the paranormal -- when spiritual disturbances -- are so widely reported.

Father Syquia addresses the topic in a new book (Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult), and we look for his answers as we review (in the next few weeks) the realm of "haunted" phenomena.

Have you ever known somebody who believes he or she is plagued? Have you ever encountered "things that go bump in the night"? Do you feel troubled by something unseen?

He offers a prayer (below) for those who may be under attack in their households. It is a time, he states, when the attacks have greatly increased.

"In the lives of many saints, God allowed them to see and hear souls from purgatory in order for the saints to intercede for them," he says. "The 'place' for the expiation of souls seems not only confined to purgatory but may also include this earth.

"Blessed Anne Catharine Emmerich said, 'There are also souls neither in Heaven, purgatory, nor hell, but wandering the earth, in trouble and anguish, aiming at something they are bound to perform. They haunt deserted places, ruins, tombs, and the scenes of their past misdeeds.'

"But the important thing to remember is that when a soul manifests itself to the living, it is basically a cry for help. It must be noted that once a soul is granted the necessary prayers and sacrifices, the manifestations stop."

Sometimes, says the exorcist, it is a soul offering consolation to a living relative.

"These manifestations would normally occur on the days right after the death of the loved one, like during the wake, or could occur on the death anniversaries of the deceased," he writes -- for our own determination.

It is not something we should ignore nor about which we should develop an unhealthy curiosity.

Never do we seek contact with the deceased. In many cases, states Father Syquia, disruptions -- hauntings -- are caused by demons.

This can be for two reasons: due to sinful or occult activities in a home, or because a building has been used "as a residence of blasphemers, Masons, criminals, leaders of criminal organizations, drug dealers, and so on," he claims. "Sin, evil, and the occult therefore attracted these evil spirits to inhabit the house."

We can also add: psychic phenomena, the New Age, horror novels, palm-reading, mantras, Tarot cards, and fortune-telling -- among many others. Especially, we can add seances -- the attempt to summon the decease, which all too often brings the wrong kind of force.

It is a long list -- the activities that can draw such entities. And when they infest a person, it can be like the tomb of Gadarenes.

Father Syquia cites the case of a man who became infested after joining a spiritist group -- exhibiting "possession" in the form of an epileptic-like attack.

"I had always believed that the devil exists and that he can assault human beings through many extraordinary means," says the priest. "But to see this firsthand, with my own eyes, was just beyond me. It's like knowing that violent crime exists but it's just out there and would never happen to me personally.

"But this time, I had come in contact with the devil. I knew this from the bottom of my heart. But what amazed me and touched me was the authority in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. I, an unworthy human being, because of my priesthood, was able to drive away a fallen angel from this person."

[Father Syquia's prayers for protection and deliverance:

Step 1: Prayer for Protection:

Jesus Crucified, cover me, my family, relatives, and friends and all our possessions with Your Precious Blood. (Recite three times)

Step 2. Prayer for Armor

I put on God's armor to resist the devil's tactics. I stand my ground with truth buckled around my waist and integrity for a breastplate. I carry the shield of faith to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. I accept salvation from God to be my helmet and receive the Word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.

Step 3. Prayer for Deliverance (said forcefully)

In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, through His tremendous power as God and through His most powerful and salvific Name, I rebuke, repudiate, bind and cast out all spirits not of the Holy Spirit. I command you, in the Name of Jesus, to depart right now from (state the person or place) and go immediately and directly to the foot of the Cross and never to return.

(Then pray this prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for assistance and His infilling):

O Most Holy Spirit, enter into the empty spaces left by these spirits and fill (state name of person or place) with Your Presence, love, and protection. Please do not allow these spirits to return.

Step 4. Prayer to the Angels.

(Make a personal prayer to the angels to stand guard and remain around the person or the place just delivered to seal them from future demonic influences)

Step 5. Prayer for Cleansing.

Heavenly Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray that the cleansing power of the Most Precious Blood of Your Son come upon us right now. Purify us and wash us clean with the Blood of Jesus from the top of our heads down to the very soles of our feet. Let this Blood penetrate the very marrow of our bones to cleanse us from any entanglement from whatever spirit and refresh our bodies, souls, and spirits. And may the Sign of Your Holy Cross drive away all evil spirits from us. (Make the Sign of the Cross). In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Step 6. Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving.

(Make a personal prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God)

[resources: spiritual warfare books]

[see also: Occult watch: looking at 'orbs']

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