Recently, Lionsgate Home Entertainment sent a copy of a newly released DVD called “The Possession."
I popped it into the machine and for the next hour and a half watched a story based loosely on a real event; A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that it is actually a Dybbuk Box. According to Jewish folklore, the box was used to house ancient demons. Soon she begins exhibiting Linda Blair’s "Exorcist" symptoms.
I yelled at the TV screen several times, trying to warn the young woman NOT to open the box…But she didn’t hear me and predictably, the demon was released to set up shop in her body.
Of course, the story has a Yiddish twist. Instead of the heroic Priest entering armed with a crucifix, holy water, and a holy book.....this one features a Rabbi with a Torah and the Star of David.
The story had a happy ending for the girl and her family…. however, the Rabbi, who gave his all, met a horrible fate and the demon lived on to inhabit another hapless victim.
But the premise of the movie reminded me of a Priest who I used to communicate with years ago.
The first time I heard him was when I would awake at 0 dark thirty a few times a week to drive to my job in the city. On the way, I would turn on the radio for company. One morning the first voice to greet me was the melodious accent of an Irishman. Of course, I tuned in to hear what he was speaking about.
That voice was Father Malachi Martin, a Kerry Ireland native, learned scholar, author and traveling envoy for the Vatican. At the time, he was a guest of the largest syndicated radio show in the world…so he was speaking to millions of listeners.
The drive took me an hour as I listened to how he described his brushes with evil. How every person has crossroads, how the seductive power of evil draws you down a path, even a seemingly insignificant one and puts you at risk.
As he went on, he described how he sometimes went to the extreme and ended up performing exorcisms on people who had become possessed.
Father Martin was a firm believer in the power of evil and battled it throughout his career as a Catholic Priest.
What he was talking about reminded me of Dr. Scott Peck, an author who was selling tons of books at the time. A brilliant psychiatrist and author, his books combined medical science along with his personal experiences. I had just read his “Road Less Travelled” and now had picked up his other book “People of the Lie.”
"People of the Lie" was Peck's scientific study of evil. He took documented cases of patients treated over his career and painstakingly investigated the genesis of evil. It was chilling to read of the cruelty that leaped out of that book. In fact, he prefaced “People of the Lie” with the warning that “it was a dangerous book.”
That day I wrote Fr. Martin a message. I let him know I had heard his interview on the radio and was appreciative of his points. I also informed him there was a prominent figure in the scientific/media world who would be a great person for him to contact and compare notes with, Dr. Scott Peck.
Later that night Fr. Martin sent his blessings via email. He thanked me for my input and suggestion, but that he was already very aware of Scott Peck and knew him personally.
As I read the rest of Peck’s “People of the Lie,” I reached chapter 5, Peck wrote of his experiences with exorcism and how he had worked with Fr.Martin in two of them. He described the exorcisms in detail from a scientific, case study point of view.
From time to time after that, I kept in touch with Fr. Martin. I always appreciated his intelligence and controversial points of view on the Church, as well as society in general.
Fr. Malachi Martin was an accomplished best selling author who possessed not only superb writing skills but also displayed tremendously keen insights into the Vatican, its operations and problems.
His excellent contacts in Rome gave him first-hand knowledge. However, he made enemies by his criticisms of those in positions of power and prominence, especially when he came out with his novel “Windswept House." A Vatican novel.
Fr. Martin was asked if he feared for his life since writing "Windswept House". He just said that he was, but was too old to change his ways.
But Father Martin soon met his death, many think it was under very suspicious circumstances.
He was found unconscious and bleeding in his home with wood fragments embedded in his skull. Some say he regained consciousness just briefly enough to declare that it was a murder attempt, but that he did not get a chance to see who did it. Fr. Martin fell into a coma and died on July 27, 1999. He was 78 at the time of his death.
A documentary titled ‘Malachi Martin: The Pope’s Exorcist’ is in Pre-Production at Irish Causeway Pictures. Belfast producers Chris Patterson and Paddy McCarney plan on featuring the life and times of one of religion's most famous figures.