Seeking supernatural help against a demon economy
If ever there was a time to channel our spiritual sensitivities towards apparitions, it is now, writes Carol Hunt
All the exorcist experts said it definitely happened. Even the Vatican's former chief exorcist was quoted as saying "the act was an exorcism alright" and surely he'd know.
The footage showed a young man in a wheelchair, opening his mouth and either screaming or breathing deeply as the Pope put his hands on his head and prayed for him during a Mass in St Peter's Square. The man then convulsed and slumped in his chair. Pope Francis himself however, is being characteristically humble about the whole thing, playing it down and saying (through a spokesperson) that it didn't happen, or even if it did "he didn't intend to perform any exorcism".
Who could blame him? Sure if word of such extra-terrestrial powers got out, the man wouldn't get a minute's peace. There'd be a clamouring for him to fling demons out all over the place, not least right in the heart of Dublin where our own Lord Mayor this week insisted that his home is possessed by spirits.
The little devil sighted in the Mansion house (at 3am by Mayor O Muiri's young daughter Briona) was a "girl with dark curly hair sitting watching TV". O Muiri explained that his daughter was "very sensitive", which is why she was able to observe such a supernatural occurrence.
But she's not the only one, not by a long shot. Look at our history of apparitions and visions, moving statues and tree stumps shaped in the face of Jesus and sure, even the Pope would have to admit that the Irish are probably one of the Most Spiritually Sensitive Nations Ever (MSSNE).
We've had crosses in the sky and weeping holy statues in Dungloe; an image of the Virgin and Child on a tree stump in Rathkeale; Christ's face on the Cliffs of Moher, and the Virgin Mary rocking on her heels in Ballinspittle during the wet summer of ruined crops in 1985. Not to be outdone there were no less than 30 other grottoes where statues began to move, float, even sing (did you notice, I made that last bit up) in the wake of the Ballinspittle moving-statue frenzy.
Of course, the Queen of our apparitions is the shrine at Knock where, on the evening of 21 August 1879, the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist seemingly appeared at the south gable end of the parish church of St John the Baptist in Knock, Co Mayo.
And that seems to be the pattern: historically, it's always at times of social and economic distress – famines, cold or rain destroying crops, land wars, recessions and depression – that people need a bit of supernatural support. You can bypass the power of the bishops if a heavenly figure appears to you directly, you see. And our preference for Mary supposedly stems from the idea of the intercession of mothers between powerless children and patriarchal males. The ability to see visions is very much a cultural weapon of the oppressed.
And if ever powerless Ireland needed a Marian apparition interceding on our behalf with the demons who currently possess us (and every last shilling we own) it's now. So, please everyone, keep an eye out for ghosts, exorcisms, moving statues, apparitions of Mary etc. At the very least, it will be great for tourism.