A Colombian bishop’s determination to exorcise a violent, crime-ridden city in his diocese by pouring holy water from the air, was executed instead by a fire engine. As reported by La República, Bishop Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya said, “We want to surround Buenaventura and pour holy water so that God’s blessings come and free us from all the evil that is in our lives.”
The bishop traveled by firetruck Saturday, July 13, as part of Buenaventura’s annual patron saint festivities to some of the most violent neighborhoods, spraying holy water to drive out the evil in this impoverished Pacific coastal city which is a drug smuggling route to the United States and where murder, torture and kidnapping has become rampant.
“The tour sometimes became festive despite the solemnity of the message. Jaramillo stopped to bless a group of children in one of the neighborhoods and the fire truck he was riding in was decorated with green and yellow balloons,” La República reported. “The bishop stressed that security forces and courts work to reduce the chaos of the city, but that their citizens cannot wait and should support each other in any way possible.”
Bishop Montoya had earlier announced during an interview with a local radio station. “We have to drive the devil out of Buenaventura, to see if we can restore the peace and tranquility that our city has lost due to so many crimes, acts of corruption and with so much evil and drug trafficking that invades our port.”
He told ACI Prensa just ahead of the festival that he would go to the most difficult neighborhoods where people were murdered in recent years. “Where blood ran, where blood was shed, we will now pour holy water as a sign of reparation in the place of the dead fallen by violence… The problem is that there is not yet a culture of denunciation. Because there is fear, we have a society that is afraid to inform. ”
The Power of Holy Water
Sprinkling water over an area to fight evil may seem ridiculous, but it a David-over-Goliath kind of move. David had the power of God on his side over the fierce and mighty giant — and so too does water, blessed and made holy, have the power of God within it. It is a sacramental sign of the blessing that brings salvation and reminds the faithful of Christ, who called himself the living water, and who, with water, established baptism for our sake.
Holy water is a sacramental with blessed salt added to the blessed water. According to the Catholic Catechism of the Church (1670) , sacramentals draw their power from “the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.”
In the book Holy Water and Its Significance for Catholics, St. Teresa of Ávila’s autobiography is quoted describing a frightening scene where the devil appeared in a great flames. The devil told her that he would catch her. St. Teresa blessed herself twice and he disappeared but immediately reappeared. “There was some holy water there, and I threw it in that direction; he never returned again. I often experience that there is nothing the devils flee from more — without returning — than holy water… From this we can see how important everything instituted by the Church is; it comforts me to see the great power which her blessing imparts to water, so great is the difference between blessed and unblessed water.”
Pope Alexander wrote in around A.D. 130: “We bless salt and water for the people, that all who may be sprinkled therewith may be cleansed and sanctified.” Holy water is used by exorcists use to drive out the devil. People possessed by him can tell the difference between plain water and holy water. It is also weapon everyone can use in their daily spiritual battle for protection against evil.
Bishop’s Authority Over Evil
The power of holy water united to the authority of a bishop is especially powerful, according to one of this country’s oldest exorcists, Msgr. John Esseff of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who once was a spiritual director of Mother Teresa.
“The power of the Church entrusted to the bishops is exactly what the devil fears most,” he said in an earlier interview. “He’s afraid the bishops are all going to wake up and start exercising their authority. If they [the bishops] would come into the use of their power, what would happen to the kingdom of darkness would be amazing.”
“Let me get this straight,” he explained. “The devil knows authority. When the authority of the Church shows up, he has no choice but to respect it because it is the power of God. In the name of God, the Father, in the name of Jesus his Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, that power is what drives out the devil.”