Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/789
RECENT RECRUDESCENCE OF SUPERSTITION. 771
tation bursts forth/' It therefore behooves purchasers of real estate to ascertain not only that the deed to the property is valid and the conveyance firm in law, but that it is also unencumbered by devils as well as by debts since a Satanic lien may ultimately be the source of greater annoyance than a mortgage or mortmain, or any other sort of legal claim. On this principle, property that has been in the hands of pious people from time immemorial ought to have a higher market value than the dwelling places of the notoriously wicked. Our author thus emphasizes the truth of Holy Writ by showing that not only is " godliness profitable unto all things," but also, as mediaeval writers were wont to say, unto some things besides, which the apostle Paul in his admoni- tions to his " son Timothy " never dreamed of.
Exorcism may be practiced by any regularly consecrated priest with the approval of the diocesan bishop. It is by no means necessary to be a saint in order to possess this power. " Such a demand would be absurd. Saints can not be stamped out of the ground at pleasure, although it would be an excellent thing if all priests were saints. . . . Priestly ordination and a pure life suffice to overcome demons, at least in most cases." But in addition to sacerdotal dignity and personal worthiness certain physical qualities are desirable. A priest who is infirm or prone to melancholy or of a timid disposition ought not to undertake such duties. Strong faith, robust health, moral courage, force of will, and a certain inventive genius in extemporizing expedients within permissible limits are essential to the highest success in coping with devils. " The instructions which precede the exorcis- mus ad liberandos obsessos, in the Roman ritual, leave much to the personal initiative and spontaneity of the exorcist, who, by making a proper use of this freedom, is often able to confuse and conquer the infernal adversary beyond the most sanguine expec- tation." Dr. Bischofberger gives an example of what can be ac- complished by such ingenuity from his own experience. In order to expel the devils from a house in which a murder had been committed fifty years before and gone unpunished, he bored holes in the four corners of the doors, and after filling them with con- secrated objects pegged them in. After a time, seeing that this measure had proved ineffectual, he investigated the matter, and found that the pegs had been pulled out and the contents of the holes removed. He then replaced the holy objects, scorched the pegs in the flame of a consecrated candle, dipped them in holy water, and drove them into the holes. This ingenious device threw the devils into the utmost confusion and compelled them to vacate the premises, from which repeated efforts had been made to expel them for more than three months.
Demons are said to watch with lively interest the progress of