Another sign of the times, via Catholic News Agency:

An Irish priest and exorcist is asking the country’s bishops for more support after noticing a dramatic increase in demonic activity in the country.

In a recent interview with The Irish Catholic, Fr. Pat Collins said he has been overwhelmed with the number of requests for exorcisms from the faithful in Ireland. In an open letter, he has urged the Irish bishops to train more priests to deal with the demand.

“(I)t’s only in recent years that the demand has risen exponentially,” Collins told The Irish Catholic.

Collins’ comments are on par with those of other exorcists throughout the world, including the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), a group of 400 Catholic leaders and priests, which has reported a dramatic increase in demonic activity in recent years.

In 2014, the IAE said the levels of demonic activity throughout the world had reached what they considered a “pastoral emergency.”

Collins said that he was “baffled” that the bishops haven’t trained more exorcists for Ireland, and added that anyone who doesn’t see the need for more exorcists is “out of touch with reality.”

“What I’m finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they’re afflicted by an evil spirit,” Collins said.

“I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the Church, the Church doesn’t know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped,” he added.

An Evangelical friend comments on this:

Can you imagine what a time of renewal and evangelism this moment could be for the Catholic Church if its leadership could get their heads out of their a**es?

True for other churches as well, of course, but this moment is tailor-made for Catholicism but they are determined to fritter it away.

It’s true. I have seen with my own eyes the power of the Holy Spirit, through a Roman Catholic priest, solve these problems. The Catholic Church is better equipped than anybody else in the West to confront this crisis, and yet … paralysis. Why? To me, the most remarkable aspect of this story is not that there’s a rise in demonic activity in Ireland, but that those with the power and the responsibility to fight it are sitting on their hands.

Remember the sermon that the previous Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church gave in Curaçao in 2013? Here was the controversial part.

We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.  We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.  For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.

There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves.  But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!  The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.

An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God.  The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand.  This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor.  This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.

Yes. I wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had refrained from judgment, and instead entered into true and open dialogue with the spirit that possessed her.

Ireland, like all of us, needs Christian bishops, priests, pastors, and laymen — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — who want to confront the world, the flesh, and the devil, not capitulate to them. Fr. Collins, the Irish exorcist, has been sounding the alarm for at least a couple of months now. From an earlier story:

‘It’s interesting as people lose faith in God, they are increasing their interest in the devil and it’s purely morbid,’ he said. ‘I’d say to anyone who’s got that morbid interest, ‘If you had to deal with evil as someone have to do, it is horrible, it is pure darkness.’

All I will say is this: if you have ever spent time with an exorcist, and with people (e.g., psychiatrists) who have to deal with those who get drawn into this world, you will not laugh at it. It is as real and as pitch-black as it gets.

UPDATE: A quick follow-up thought on this. A lot of people see the Benedict Option as a defeatist strategy for Christians. It is not. It is, rather, based on the reality that the terms of engagement and battle have radically changed, and the tactics and strategies of the Christian churches must change too. Politics are important, but they are far less important than they were in the past. Spiritual complacency was never justified, but it is far less justified than it was in the past. The way most Christians in the West — not only Catholics, but all of us — are situated towards the world is not remotely sufficient to the true nature of the confrontation.