Here comes this time of the year when it becomes fashionable, even downright obligatory, to share our experiences with ghosts and the paranormal.
I would like to share my own experiences with ghosts, except I don’t have one.
I don’t believe in ghosts, primarily due to my staunch Catholic upbringing that convinced me that God is above all else and I need not fear anyone or anything. Not some lady who wears white, nor some Kapre or Manananggal that stalk their prey in the night. Many people agree that seminaries and retreat houses are hotspots for ghosts; however, I have spent seven years in three seminaries and the last decade from one retreat house to another but have yet to see a single ghost.
This is not to say, however, that I have not had any experience of the paranormal and the spiritual realm.The Catholic Church taught me that when a person dies, his soul is either taken up to heaven, condemned to hell, or at least spend some time in purgatory. Growing up in a seminary, we were taught that these souls in purgatory do not have the privilege of praying for themselves; hence, we always prayed for them, day in and day out. The priests said that anytime we felt that strange feeling other people would attribute to the presence of a ghost, it was actually just a soul from purgatory asking for prayers from us. Whether that was true or just their way of explaining the unexplainable things happening in the seminary, it actually worked for us, and I still hold on to that belief to this day.
The ‘unexplainable’ things happened occasionally; one such example was our study hall back in our seminary in Pampanga. There were several accounts of seminarians telling me that they were hanging out on the benches just outside our locked study hall when they would hear the noise of a chair being dragged on the floor. We didn’t make a big fuss out of it, but it remained ‘unexplainable’, nonetheless.
One of the priests told me of this incident: One night, his office was packed with young seminarians, as was always the case, as he was a very loveable funny priest. The bell rang for rosary, and he was alone in his office after that. Instead of the usual smell of sweat and adolescence that permeated his office every time we invaded it, he smelled the refreshing aroma of flowers. Then it struck him; there was this seminarian who was always in his office before as he served as his secretary. The moment he remembered this seminarian in his thoughts, the fragrance started.
This seminarian died a week before this incident.
My experiences with these souls are far less significant, perhaps because I treat them no differently from the usual things that happen to me every day. I would like to think that the souls in purgatory and I have reached some sort of understanding; that I would pray for them every chance I got, and in turn they would make their presence felt less spookily, so to speak. I even ask them for little favors, like waking me up at a certain time whenever my alarm clock conked out on me. To this day, little things like funeral corteges make me do the sign of the cross and pray for that person’s soul.
Smug with this confidence, I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
It was four or five years ago when it all began. I was giving talks and seminars against the evil of abortion back then; there are more babies being aborted every year than there were casualties in all the great wars of the modern world, so I felt it was necessary to speak out against this evil. Doing God’s work, however, meant that I was to be directly going against the forces of darkness, which I was least prepared for.
It all started when I saw strange shadows behind the last row of the audience. Like those squiggly lines in your eyes, I was able to see them only through the sides of my eyes; whenever I turned to look at them directly, they would be gone. Then it dawned on me that these shadows were only there during one specific talk; the abortion segment.
It became worse before it got better. One night, before my abortion talk, I prepared my materials promptly; the handouts, the music, and the VHS tape which contains the bulk of my presentation. I got the tape, played it, and realized it has been fast-forwarded on its end. I rewound the tape, played it a little just as the introduction was playing, stopped the film and ejected the tape, which I returned to its case. I then began my talk.
The shadows were there, behind the audience, but they seemed more perturbed and agitated than before. As I played the tape, the TV just showed a blank screen for a few seconds. I ejected the tape, and saw why it wouldn’t play: the tape was fast-forwarded on its end.
After my talk, which ended around nine or ten in the evening, I had the sudden inexplicable urge to go home. The trip going home seemed like hours; even though the FX I was riding was full, I felt that the only passengers were me and the driver, and I didn’t dare look at his rear view mirror. I went home with that terrible and oppressive feeling of hopelessness that sinks deep into your very being; I felt that no matter what I do, evil would eventually triumph, and that the devil was coming for my soul.
It was even worse the next week. Flashing before me, sometimes even during my talks, were grotesque and monstrous faces. It lasted less than a second but for the first time I felt the clutches of pure terror gripping me. I didn’t know it but I was slowly sinking into despair back then.
That night a friend of ours visited us at the retreat house and decided to spend the night there with us. He woke us up just as we were about to catch sleep, and he was trembling. Without telling him about what I was going through, he said he saw flashes of evil faces in his mind. We prayed the rosary right there, and we were able to sleep in peace.
The height of the terrifying visions was when I was seeing images of aborted babies inside my head, and they seem to be mocking me. Desperate for help, I went to confession. I told the priest everything that was happening to me, and he told me to trust God more in these times of trial and temptation.
I started praying more, especially the rosary. I asked God and the Virgin Mary to help me banish these thoughts away. God listened to my prayers, and now it seemed that everything that had happened to me happened for one reason; for me to learn humility, and to put my trust in God always.
I don’t think I will ever be the same person again, seeing what I have seen. But I am proud to say that I have seen the face of evil and have walked away victorious; not of my own efforts but through an omnipotent God who saved me from the darkness.
This is not to say that the visions have stopped. I still get them, albeit rarely. What matters more, however, is the strength I have gained from knowing that, though the forces of evil do their best against me, I am no longer alone. God is at my side.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge-then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
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