The devil exists; Fr. Benigno has encountered him often, has fought against him, and in the name of Christ and with the help of the Church, has won. Maria, a wife and mother of three children, an employee of a local business, has also met the devil: for five years, he tormented her soul and wounded her body.
Fr. Benigno, a member of the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Renewal, an exorcist, and a formator of exorcists in Sicily for the Sicilian Episcopal Conference, told Aleteia about Maria.
“Among all of the cases of liberation that I have seen in my 18 years of exorcisms, it’s one of the ones that has touched me most deeply; I presented it this year during the meeting for study and comparison among Sicilian exorcists,” he explains.
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“Although she was possessed, Maria was constantly at our little church, in the little town of Sant’Isidoro in Palermo. It was terrible to hear the devil speaking through her during the liturgies: she cursed those in attendance and the priest who presided over the Mass, she interfered during the homily, and in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, she would shout that it should be kept far away from her. At the most turbulent moments,” the friar says, “she was moved to a room off to the side, but her curses reached the ears of those who were praying. And her heart was full of profound and unjustified hatred towards her husband and her children.”
To this suffering of her spirit was added the misery of her body. “The pain that she suffered—physically as well—was incredible, above all during the exorcisms: she felt terrible pangs, as if she were being stabbed throughout her whole body. She contorted, she suffered atrociously. Often, her abdomen became very distended.”
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Maria, aware of what was being done though her body against her will, didn’t give up; she returned to the church repeatedly and asked Fr. Benigno for help. She did this during Holy Week as well, last year. “During the Holy Thursday liturgies,” the exorcist says, “our Father Guardian [the term used to designate the superior of a Franciscan community] asked the faithful who were at Mass to fast generously the next day for just one intention: Maria’s liberation. She was there, present, and her reactions were the same as always. In fact, it wasn’t the first time that the Father Guardian had gotten the community involved — encouraging them to pray, and inviting them to pray the rosary, to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, and to practice penance, had already played an important role in the liberation of about 50 people.”
None of the faithful of Sant’Isidoro went back on that commitment.
“Her sufferings and that of her family were clear to all,” Fr. Benigno says, “but the people were educated: they knew and understood, and saw her with mercy.”
The reply of the community was so decisive and so strong that the devil couldn’t resist.
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“On Good Friday, while we were at prayer, Maria was in a place apart, once again in thrall to the devil. Then, at a certain point during the liturgy of adoration of the Cross, we heard it, coming from the room where she was: for the first time in five years, she was praising the Lord in a loud voice. We understood. We all understood! I reached her, I asked her to come and adore the Cross, and I accompanied her along the entire nave of the Church. We walked up the aisle together, before the amazed eyes of all the people present. When she arrived before the Cross, I invited her to kiss it, as prescribed by the liturgy for that day. She leaned over, embraced it, and immediately burst into tears—and with her, the entire assembly.”
Once again, later that day, she retraced that path to meet Christ. “She received the Eucharist,” Fr. Benigno says, “and, serenely returned to her place. It was a publicly witnessed miracle, an extraordinary moment of community, because the liberation had occurred thanks to everyone’s contribution—there, in front of the entire community. She was free, and from then on, the devil would never enter her again.”
It was not, therefore, a liberation taking place while the rites of exorcism were being recited, but in the context of while all the faithful were praying, during a celebration at church.
“Against a strong enemy like the devil, there are three weapons that Jesus Himself shows us: faith, prayer, and fasting. And in this way, the community accompanied her, and me as well. This is how it should be, always and everywhere, for every suffering brother or sister, and for every exorcist. How much love they have given us! How many people stopped to embrace her the day of her liberation! How many tears in everyone’s eyes! One of our parishioners told her that he had fasted for her on Good Friday despite his diabetes. And also a 7-year-old girl, when everyone was asked to fast, wanted to participate. ‘Maria is suffering a lot,’ she told her mother, who wanted to dissuade her, ‘and I want to help her too.'”
Every disturbance she had and all of her hate were gone, and she returned to Sant’Isidoro together with her husband and children for the Easter Vigil, sitting in the front row.
“I ask those who do not believe in the existence of the devil: you might think it was a psychiatric illness, but how was it cured without medicine and without therapy? If it were an illness, it would not have been healed without a cure. The illness was the devil, and the medicine was that ministry that Jesus entrusted to the Church, which is called exorcism.”
Maria, like others who have been freed, was then given follow-up by Fr. Benigno with community support therapy. Making her testimony public, she herself said, “I must thank those who attend Sant’Isidoro, because I never felt rejected, but always accepted, welcomed, and actually loved. The night of the Easter Vigil, I celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord, which was also my ‘Passover’ of liberation.”
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This article is translated and adapted from Aleteia’s Italian edition.