Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/177

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MODERN INSTANCES OF DEMONIACAL POSSESSION.

over which, the witch had doubtless muttered wicked spells. Fifty dried pears—and this is the number the boy is said to have eaten—one would think, might suffice to play the devil with his stomach, without supernatural aid or intervention. It is the old story: If the child suffers from a surfeit of sweetmeats, it is not the goodies, but the goody, who is at the bottom of it, and who must have sprinkled her gift with devil's powder in saccharine disguise, or manufactured the sugar-plums at midnight out of witches' butter.

We are further informed that the father, after frequent conferences with the capuchins, has made good his unfortunate marriage: the nuptial ceremony has been performed again according to the Catholic ritual, and the children have been rebaptized by a Catholic priest. The mother, too, has been persuaded to join the Catholic communion, or rather driven into the fold by the persecutions of a violently bigoted mother-in-law, who was evidently the real demon of the household.

A "mixed marriage," although recognized as legitimate by the law of the land, has never been regarded by the Church as just and valid, but is characterized in ecclesiastical legal terminology as matrimonium legitimum sed non ratum. It has been reserved, however, for Father Aurelian to discover that the offspring of such unions easily come under the influence of evil spirits, and are peculiarly liable to demoniacal possession.

As convincing proof of diabolic agency, the exorcist makes the following assertion: "When I sprinkled the possessed boy with holy water, he sprang toward me in rage; if I used ordinary water, he kept perfectly quiet. In like manner, when I uttered a prayer of the Church in Latin, he became furious; if I repeated a passage from a Latin classic, he remained perfectly calm." Be-sprinklings with the foul contents of an aspercorium might excite the wrath of even a gentler spirit than a goblin from Tartarus; and although it may be true, as a popular proverb asserts, that "the devil is an ass," he would also seem to be a good Latinist (a union of the twain is not so rare a phenomenon as the unlearned are apt to suppose), and a sensitive purist quick to detect and to resent any forms of expression less correct and elegant than strictly classical locutions. Unfortunately, however, for Father Aurelian's argument, another priest who examined the boy positively denies this statement, and declares that, when Michael Zilk was sprinkled with holy water secretly from behind, the indwelling devil gave no sign. In concluding his report, Father Aurelian uses the following strong language: "Whoever denies demoniacal possession in our days, confesses thereby that he has gone astray from the teaching of the Catholic Church; but he will believe in it when he himself is in the