Father Ignatius faced a direct question from one of his parishioners.
"Father, do you think the devil can possess people these days?" she asked.
He had to be very careful with his response. The Bible, especially the New Testament, has many references of people being possessed by the devil and Jesus sending the devil away. Those accounts are sometimes very graphic saying that the victim was in some kind of fit, the devil speaking out against Jesus, and on one occasion a whole group of demons possessed a man and Jesus commanded them to leave the man and enter a herd of swine; which then perished off a cliff.
He said a silent prayer before answering.
"We Christians believe in the devil," he said, "we cannot possibly believe in God and Jesus and not believe in the devil. He exists all right. He is a fallen angel who rebelled against God. And God, let him and his followers go. Their role, it seems, is to tempt us away from God. The devil tried to tempt Jesus in the desert; so we should not be much of a challenge.
"Yes, I believe the devil can possess people these days. Our Church believes so. That is why they have appointed and trained many exorcist priests in our dioceses.
"Does the devil possess an individual as described in the Bible when Jesus healed such people? I have not had any personal experience of this. But I don't see why not.
"Does he possess people against their will?"
He stopped, noticing she was a little nervous. Maybe she had had some sort of personal experience. He chose to tread carefully.
"Let me put it another way, Georgina," he continued, "I have not heard of the devil possessing a devout Christian against their will. He will try to tempt them away from God, as I said earlier. Just as he tempted Jesus.
"But I doubt he can possess a devout believing Christian against his will. God would not allow it. It is not in God's interest to see such a person go to the other side, as it were!"
She smiled at his turn of phrase. He was relieved he had got over that point carefully but firmly.
"I believe the devil will try to influence people who are already leaning his way. You know ... people who do not believe in God. People who mock those who believe in God. People who encourage others not to believe in God.
"I doubt he would possess people in a spectacular way like described in the Bible; sending them into fits of rage and insults. That would not serve his cause well. If the devil acted so dramatically today, people would be frightened. They would certainly believe in him. And even turn against him. He is much more subtle now.
"Times have changed, and the devil has become modern ... with the times. He would slowly, patiently and carefully influence his followers to do his work for him. To sow the seeds of doubt. Of despair. To create worries and trouble amongst people.
"There are many temptations these days in the world. I need not give you examples, Georgina," he continued, "and the devil, I believe, would use his followers, those already susceptible to his wiles, to use these temptations to draw people away from God."
He noticed her wince. He continued, treading carefully.
"What prompted this question about the devil possessing people anyway?" he asked with a smile to deflate the seriousness of the question.
"Well ..." she hesitated, "there is this woman I know. I believe she is evil. I sometimes believe she is the devil himself. As you say, Father ... she often causes trouble. Starts an argument about people at work; or when we're in the pub. She lies also ... she tells you something about someone that is not true to make you change your mind about that person. Then she tells someone else something about you so they don't like you as well.
"As a result people don't know what to believe, but their relationships, which may have been friendly at first, are now all changed with suspicions and doubts and broken trust.
"She even came between a friend of mine and her fiancé. She tempted him and I believe she tried to take him to bed by performing a strip tease for him. When he resisted, she spread a rumour that they had an affair together.
"Now the couple have split up. I believe it was a lie, Father. He would not do such a thing. But his girlfriend is full of doubts and for now ... the wedding is off!"
He noticed her hands twisting the handkerchief she was holding. He felt that tact should take a holiday for a while and the direct approach was needed.
"Why have you called the wedding off?" he asked.
She started crying wiping her tears with the handkerchief. He waited patiently. Saying nothing but praying silently.
When she calmed down he asked, "Do you love him?"
"Do you trust him?" he asked again.
She nodded once more.
"Do you want to spend your life with him?"
She nodded wiping her eyes.
"Well, that's a good reason to call off the wedding," he said.
She laughed ... he smiled too.
Then he said, "Look Georgina ... I do not know if this woman you mention is possessed by the devil or not. Or whether she is influenced by the devil to sow discord and hopelessness around her. Yes ... some people do seem to do the devil's work for him. I cannot tell in this case.
"But I do know that she managed at least to come between you and your husband to be. Not enough it seems to make you stop loving him and trusting him. But she did cause some damage at least.
"I believe the whole of God's Creation is based on love. He loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. When love is destroyed the devil is satisfied."
He waited for a few seconds of silence and then added:
"You have a decision to make ... and so has Kevin. Are you going to let that woman win? Are you going to let the devil win? Because, whether he influenced her or not, he is certainly happy at your crisis right now ... it is his first step to come back later and try to tempt you and Kevin some more.
"I think you should go and speak with Kevin. Tell him what you feel. Tell him what you told me. If needs be ... come both of you here and we'll discuss matters further."
She left with a lighter heart than when she first came to see Father Ignatius.
The wedding is in four months' time.