Exploring Exorcism

SatanFearsOver the years of reading and viewing the testimonies of several exorcists, I have realized that the more I was aware of the Evil One, the more I knew his limitations, weaknesses, and powerlessness against our Lord Jesus. Rather than increase my fear, knowledge of Satan’s abilities and tricks actually increased my confidence in the Catholic Church and her King. Because of this, I am sharing these best-of-the-best resources of exorcism experiences, hoping they help you as much as they have helped me grow in faith.

  1. Many exorcists have a police officer present during the diagnosis process, or even during the ritual. Jesse Romero is one such [former] officer, and his experiences are riveting:
  2. Demonology is not a common specialization for laypersons, but Adam Blai is not a common layman. His work as a demonologist has been a great aid to many exorcists, and his interview by Patrick Coffin (of prior Catholic Answers fame) is deeply informative:
  3. Father Gary Thomas is perhaps the most well known American exorcist (because of Matt Baglio’s journalistic investigation and the subsequent movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins: The Rite). Here is an uncut extended interview with Fr. Gary:
  4. Father Cliff Ermatinger’s presentations through the 2015 Miles Christi Conference are exceptional and should be listened to carefully at full length (available here for purchase, set #23). Here is a brief sample:
  5. Exorcism Movies:
    1. As for The Conjuring, arguably the most popular recent exorcism movie series, please see my review here.
    2. See here for my review about Deliver Us from Evil.
    3. For what I think is the best exorcism film to date, please see The Exorcism of Emily Rose, based on the exorcism of Anneliese Michel. An insightful commentary about the Anneliese case can be viewed here:
  6. And for the experience of a dear friend of mine, through the intercession of the St. Benedict Medal, please see here.
  7. Lastly, remember that as flies are drawn to rotten bodies, so too are demons drawn to rotten souls. Get pure, stay pure.



A Look-See at Lucy

Lucy-BannerWhen the first Lucy trailer hit my face, I was about to scream plagiarism!

On a warm autumn day in 2002, I daydreamed about a girl who had an accident that fully unleashed her mind. From then on, the scenes of how she would live played out in my imagination… and eventually give rise to the raw origins of my novel: Little Miss Lucifer.

I wasn’t worried though, and am not even threatened by Lucy. The story is way different. But even so, after spoiling it by reading the plot on Wikipedia, I still wanted to see what director Luc Besson could do with such a character. Here’s what I think of Lucy:


Saint Lucy1) First, the name of the film and Johansson’s character is — you guessed it — Lucy. But who was the person who popularized that name? Who is the person who every “Lucy” afterwards was named after? Well, like most names we have in English today, those names belonged to saints who launched them into popular use. Think of MaryAndrewJohn, and yep… Lucy.

Saint Lucy was a young Christian woman who was persecuted for her love of Jesus. One of the ways she was tortured before being martyred was that her eyes were ripped out from her face. Many icons of St. Lucy depict her holding her two eyeballs in a dish.

But here’s how this relates to the movie: In Latin, the “lu” in the name Lucy refers to “light,” as in “luminous” or “luster”. When St. Lucy was blinded and murdered, she no longer saw created light (the light of the sun, stars, firelies and lightning), but instead became able to see the true Light of the World: Jesus Christ, the God who created all other lights. (Btw, notice all the emphasis and focus on Lucy’s eyes in the film and its ads.)

In the film, Lucy also symbolizes this as someone who becomes able to see more than light. She can see, and sense, the world we know as mystery. She even explains that time is the standard of defining reality, not us humans and our standards, but time. Now, I don’t agree with this because even time itself can be destroyed (since spacetime is only a product of the Big Bang), and if time itself can be destroyed, then what? Instead, what I take from this is that we do not define what is real or true. Instead, the film tells us that reality and truth exist apart from what we think of it. In short, the film busts relativism (the idea that something is true only as long as we want it to be, and that we can all have our own truths about reality) into smithereens!

Creation of Adam2) Lucy in the movie also amasses huge amounts of information. She and others believe that knowledge is the purpose of life. She gains the ability to time-travel, manipulate matter, teleport, and even control other people. There’s criticism out there that the film’s use of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam suggests that Lucy has become god. However, if this is the film’s intention, then it cancels itself out in a few ways. First, Lucy knows a lot about how and what things are, but she does not know why: as in why is there such a thing as the universe as opposed to nothing? Why is there life? Why does she exist? Why does she love her parents (their conversation was one of my favorites in the film)? Why is there love anyway? And what is love? Why are some things beautiful and others not? Why does beauty exist?Why does anything exist at all? Second, Lucy can do a lot, but she couldn’t even save her own body from decay. Unless there’s a sequel about her resurrection, she’s a pretty flimsy god. Third, she’s an even flimsier god since she needs a cell phone to tell her friend that she is everywhere (and more on this below). Fourth, is it really enough to know something, to know all things? If you had all the information in creation, but nobody ever existed to share it with, would that be enough for you? If you knew about love and what it was, but you were never loved by anyone, and had no one to love in return… would that be enough for you? What I’m saying is that knowledge is not the purpose of life… love is! And this reminds me of a quote from beloved Pope Benedict XVI: “For those who love, you can never have enough information” — meaning that a lover never tires of discovering and rediscovering  the beloved.

3) So, what’s up with Lucy needing to use the cell phone? In fact, what’s up with all these latest mind-movies (like Transcendence and Her) showing that untethered consciousness still needs a way to be physically expressive? Could it be because God (the real One) created us humans that way? That we need the physical to make ourselves known? That “the body alone, and only the body, can make visible the invisible” (I stole that quote from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body). Think about it: if I had an idea, how would anyone know about it? Unless… I used my brain, nerves, eyes, hands, skin, bones, muscles, etc. to pick up a pen and write it out. Or used my vocal cords, lungs, breath, tongue and teeth to speak it out? We need our bodies, because we are our body. It’s not just something we have, it is us.

Lucy4) And back to the beauty question from #2 above: beauty is one of those realities that knowledge and information alone cannot explain. I mean, how do we recognize beauty? Why does it exist? Why is it important to us? And don’t just think of visual beauty, but think of music, flavor, fragrance, and texture! (Yes, this movie did make me think of this, after all… if knowledge was everything, why bother making it all pretty with Scarlett and cinematography?)

5) Scarlett made me notice another thing: when her roommate was gushing about her night with a man, Lucy was totally disinterested. Lucy not only didn’t care, but even mocked it. This reminds me of why some men and women in the Catholic faith choose a life of celibate chastity. I’m thinking of priests and religious sisters (aka: nuns). That’s right! Scarlett Johansson’s character just exemplified celibacy. Here’s how: priests and nuns put the ordinary and natural desire for married sexual intimacy aside and instead choose the extraordinary and supernatural desire for intimacy with God. By living celibate lives, they’re witnessing that we were not meant merely for marriage with another person, but were meant for marriage with the Person, with God who is more real than any creature, more beautiful than beauty (since He created beauty). In the movie, Lucy knows reality more than the average person and sees that sexual intimacy is not enough for her — that compared to intimacy with supreme reality, sexual intimacy is kind of a joke. [NOTE: Catholic teaching does not say that sexual intimacy is a joke (married intimacy is very holy), only that any other intimacy is incomparable to intimacy with God.] (Click here to see what I mean (these sisters went on Oprah to share their story!) (And click here for how Professor-X from X-Men also exemplifies celibate chastity.)

6) The movie starts and ends with this voiceover: “We were given life over a billion years ago…” Notice that it says we were given life. Not that life popped out of nowhere, or that we gave life to ourselves, but that it was given to us. In that case… who gave it to us? Being given something implies there’s a giver…

7) Lastly, there’s a sort of throwaway line that Lucy says when the lead police officer warns her about people dying. She says point blank: “No one ever really dies.” Now, this is a claim Christians should know very well, since we profess to believe in the Resurrection and the Life, that we will all live forever, and not just spiritually, but bodily too! So, not sure what to make of this line from Lucy since nothing else follows it up and fleshes it out.

8) All in all, I enjoyed Lucy. It made me ask a lot of philosophical questions and hinted at theological truths. It was fun, although corny at times. I’m just glad it wasn’t a waste of 90 minutes and a free admission, and I’m even more glad Luc Besson didn’t steal my idea about a girl who goes 100%. Yet, the greatest disappointment was that Besson himself didn’t go 100% on this film.

LML: Secrets of Homecoming (CH:03)

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]


—You: Obviously, the title here again summarizes what’s happening in this chapter, right? I mean, the sister comes home, running and running home. I like how you describe smells, views, sounds and even what she feels. Very visceral.

—Evan: It actually came a bit from personal experience. I remember being on my feet all day, heels aching, toes all stiff, and then stepping into soft cool earth. It was amazing how good it felt, especially since it was summer and everything was so superheated. It was like a massage just standing in the soil… similar to digging your foot deep into a beach volleyball court, deep where the sand is cool.

—You: Next time I’m at the beach, I’ll have to try that. But of course, there’s plenty of beaches where you live right? Great Lakes State?

—Evan: Definitely, lot’s of water.

—You: Speaking of water, I was a bit unsure of the third paragraph in the chapter. I mean, I think I know, but it’s so very subtle… Her heart bounces between her juggling lungs – forces blood throughout their bodies. It ripples her womb’s waters. She slides her hand under her belly – cradles with one hand and braces against the wall with the other.

I’m thinking here she’s very pregnant.

Yet again, she just ran all that way home from wherever she was before, some sort of laboratory or hospital. And the setting she’s in now, rice paddies and dirt roads, tells me she’s nowhere near the city.

—Evan: If you can’t tell, I have a smile on my face. Haha, so then what’s your uncertainty? It sounds to me you’re understanding just fine! I mean, a heart that pumps blood to two bodies? A womb filled with water? A hand cradling a belly? The other hand gripping the wall?

And if you think it’s nothing short of miraculous that she could run all that way home… well don’t forget too soon what the previous chapter was…

—You: Right! Divine Intervention. I guess that sort of explains things and also leaves it a mystery. But tell me about these pieces of familiar faces at the bottom of the page. I see later that the woman is holding ceramic skeletons. Are these statues of saints?

—Evan: Is that a question? Because it sure sounds like an answer to me.

—You: Psssh! But is it the right answer?

—Evan: I hope so! That’s what I was aiming to describe, after all.

—You: And these are smashed, hence the litter, the shards, the pieces and the nettlefield. Great metaphor by the way: nettles are so annoying and painful to step on!

—Evan: Not to mention I just realized that “nettle” sounds awfully like “needle” too… wow.

—You: And speaking of similarities, I found an ambiguous sentence, and I really like it: “She stoops to touch the Virgin Mother’s cheek, brings it to her left cheek.” I mean, does the sister bring the broken half of the statue’s face to the other half? Or does she bring the broken half to her own face? Like how people touch cheeks when they say hello in some cultures?

—Evan: Actually, I prefer to leave that ambiguous. But I’d say both understandings show how beautiful some ambiguities can be.

—You: Tell me about the statues though. I see three: the Virgin Mary, Her Most Chaste Spouse, and a broken boy. Who are they, and what are the statues for?

—Evan: I’m glad you asked. It’s like when people use a phone, especially when talking with a loved one. People smile at their phones, whisper at their phones, sing into their phones, and say “I love you” to their phones – but are they showing affection for their phone? Or are they using the phone as a way to connect to the beloved at the other end of the line?

The phone is just a medium, a conduit, a fancy pair of cups tied together with string. Now that we have smartphones and video chat, the analogy gets even better: we’re human persons. Humans have ears and eyes, skin, nose and tongue – we can sense: hear, see, touch, smell and taste. And we need to. As Christians, we believe God made us and that He knows what He’s doing, that He made the physical body a good thing, and that humans need their body to be human!

So when we pray, we not only use our mind, voice and hearing, we want to use our sight and touch. We want to have beautiful eyes to gaze into, patient ears to whisper to, and open hands to hold. A statue serves that purpose. Of course, we would much rather have the person physically there with us, but it’s not always possible. Think of the times a mother remembers and thinks of her child when she folds their clothes, or when a father thinks of his child when he looks at an old photograph – that’s exactly what Catholic statues, icons and relics help us do. We don’t worship or love the object, but we use the object to remind us, to connect us with the beloved. The objects help engage more of us, not just engage our mind but also involve our bodies. As fallen humans, we need all the help we can get when we pray.

In fact, we want so much help that we pray to the saints. We know we can go straight to Jesus in prayer, but some of us don’t exactly have the confidence to do so, and some of us need to start off with an introduction. We see this sometimes when a father is upset with a son or daughter. What does the child do? He goes to his mother and asks for help, asks what he should say to Father, when and how to approach him. This basically explains why some Christians ask the saints for intercession.

Because we also believe the saints are those of us who have risen to Heaven, and they are closer (spiritually closer, and in the Virgin Mary’s case – also physically closer!) to God than we are here on earth. In Heaven, we also become more human than we are here on earth. Here, we have defects and deformities: sin, death and evil. In Heaven, we are what God made us to be: fully pure and alive, immortal and royalty. There’s a crown waiting for each of us. Thing is… do we want it enough?

—You: Wow, that makes sense… it reminds me of the phrase “smells and bells” when people think of the Catholic Mass. The priest uses incense and there are bells being rung at important moments. So, even our sense of smell is brought into use in prayer!

—Evan: And our sense of taste! When we receive Holy Communion, the flavor of bread and wine engage us. That reminds me of a time when I received the Eucharist and had a sort of mini-mystical experience. I won’t go into it now… probably save it for the later chapters.

—You: Hmmm! Interesting. I haven’t seen things that way before. I like how it’s not all intellectual, but also sensuous.

—Evan: That’s why ugly or plain churches are such turn-offs. Think about it: if God is Beauty itself, and His Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then shouldn’t the building that we gather in be decent? If not dazzling? There’s another reason for the beauty, but I’ll also leave that for a more relevant time. Something to think about for now.

—You: Yes, and for now I’d like to know what/who “Her Most Chaste Spouse” is referring to…

—Evan: Ah… that’s one of the titles (like a nickname) for Saint Joseph: also known as San Jose in Spanish! That’s right… the city in California is named after him. We call him Mary’s Most Chaste Spouse because he loved his wife (Mary) with a superhuman and chaste love, a love that was lustless and self-sacrificing. I understood this nickname of his even better when I heard one of his other titles: St. Joseph, the Terror of Demons. Yep… he terrorizes demons. They loathe him, avoid him, and fear his holiness. Because he refused to lust after Mary, the devil couldn’t bait him. Most of us, men especially, fall into lust because we don’t have the strength or know what true love is. True love is always chaste: honest, sincere, unselfish and faithful. Think about this… Mary is the most beautiful of all of God’s creations (If you were God, wouldn’t you make your mom perfect?), and since Joseph was her husband, it must’ve been quite tempting for him to use her for his selfish gratification. But… her beauty was so out of this world, that it inspired him to love her with a love that is also out of this world.

The Holy Family
[Click the icon to visit the artist’s page!]

And the love that is out of this world is Divine Love: God’s love… holy, pure, generous, faithful, fruitful, free, and total. In Greek, this love is called Agape: the love that would sacrifice itself for the beloved’s well-being.

—You: I never ever knew that! Wow… St. Joseph. And of course then, in this chapter, the broken boy that his arms are holding is the baby Jesus, right? I like that image, almost like a forewarning of suffering… like the child will suffer…

—Evan: I like how you out that! The Child Will Suffer. It’ll make a nice title for a future work!

—You: Haha, you’re free to use it as you please. But last question now: is that a Chinese flag hung up over the altar? Like, “a red flag of yellow stars”?

—Evan: I’m pretty sure the Communist-Chinese flag is the only red flag with yellow stars, right? Haha. I know the Communist-Vietnamese one is also red, but with only one yellow star. But yes, you’re right about the flag in this scene. It’s important to also remember that it’s communist.

—You: I see the antagonist in the story is being built up. This is a story of political struggle, too then?

—Evan: I’d say struggle isn’t strong enough of a word in this case.

LML: Secrets of Intervention (CH:02)

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]

02 Intervention

—You: The second chapter’s title Intervention reminds me of the phrase “divine intervention”. I’m guessing that’s what you were going for?

—Evan: You guess well – that’s exactly what I was going for. It’s a pretty common phrase, even found in pop songs like Mraz’s “I’m Yours”. It usually means that God (Divinity) cuts into the world to directly make a miracle happen. The Lord usually let’s be the laws of nature (that He designed), but sometimes He will make an exception, and not to go against nature or logic, but to go above nature: to cause supernatural phenomena.

—You: And in Intervention, we see a sort of Great Escape.

—Evan: You know what, I wasn’t even thinking this when I was writing the scene, but it reminds me of when Peter was imprisoned. An angel sears into the jail cell, wakes Peter and breaks him out! My goodness… this scene matches really well with Luke’s account in Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 12. There’s even the light shining on Peter, as there is a light shining on the protagonist in Intervention!

—You: I’m going to read Acts 12 and see for myself! But I sort of recognize the beginning of your second chapter: “In the sixth month since…” It just doesn’t sound like something anyone would write these days – the style.

—Evan: That’s because I’m alluding to the Gospel of Luke’s first chapter, verses 26 and 36 (I actually just realized it matches with 36 too!). In verse 26, the Angel Gabriel visits Mary in the sixth month, and in verse 36, the Angel Gabriel shares with Mary the news of her cousin Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. So… there’s some recurring theme here…

—You: Haha, not to mention that the Angel is an agent of divine intervention. Very Biblical! I noticed terms like fishermen and mission too.

—Evan: Yep, I decided to stick to metaphor. There’s just so much weight and richness when using metaphor and analogy.

—You: I noticed. You supersaturate the pages with metaphor. In fact, I don’t think you even used the word cry or tears at all in this chapter. I’ll have to reread it to be sure, but all I remember are words like heavy rain, streams, rapids, waterfall, ocean, whirlpools, monsoons, typhoons, tsunamis and weeping mommies.

—Evan: And aren’t those words a bit more expressive? I’ve decided that in my writing, I want to describe and say things in ways no one has said them before, or at least in ways rarely used. In this story, I also tried to use an organic approach: I wanted to use living and natural things in my descriptions. I avoided techie and artificial objects. It makes the tone more… gritty and alive. Of course, it matches the type of story too.

—You: One thing I’d like clarified is the “sisters” we’ve been reading about. Are they all related, like biological siblings here? Or are we talking about Catholic nuns?

—Evan: I’ll have to let you think that out. But I will share this: All nuns are “sisters”, but not all “sisters” are nuns; and when I say nun and sister, I mean Catholic Christian women who have taken vows to live lives of poverty, chastity and obedience. Such women are called consecrated/religious sisters, and such men are called consecrated/religious brothers.

A nun is different from a religious sister in the same way a monk is different from a religious brother. Nuns and monks are cloistered, meaning they lock the world out so that they can focus on a simple life and pray the rest of their lives, praying for you and me, praying for those of us who have no one to pray for them. In fact, that’s kind of what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI decided to do when he retired from the papacy. He went into a monastery to pray (for the rest of his life) for Pope Francis, for the Church, and for the world. He didn’t retire to relax!

Religious sisters and brothers do not go into cloister. Instead, they work in the world, minister to the ill, the weak and the abandoned. They become teachers, nurses, engineers, and even multimedia specialists. Anything to help evangelize. There was even a religious group of sisters who went on Oprah!

—You: Ohhh, I see. So Mother Teresa is a religious sister, not a nun. And that’s pretty cool that Benedict XVI is doing that. I didn’t know!

—Evan: So these sisters you’ve been meeting in LML are not technically nuns, nor biologically siblings.

—You: They’re religious sisters, and spiritual siblings? I get it now, I get it. And those prayer knots, I think you called it a knotted thread? Is that what I think it is?

—Evan: If you’re thinking it’s a Rosary, then you’d be right. You can actually make one yourself! It’s not too difficult, and with enough time and practice, even middle schoolers can make them (I helped a bunch of them learn during a Lent retreat last year).

—You: Aren’t Rosaries made of beads though?

Cord Rosary—Evan: They can be beaded, but the simplest ones are just a series of barrel knots. I actually like these cord Rosaries best. They’re durable, resilient, light and quiet. I’ve seen people use big cords to make knots as big as fists, or they can be the usual pea size. All you need is enough thread/twine/string/etc. Anyway, I’ll share more details about it in the coming chapters. It makes a reappearance. And hang onto the setting of this scene, it’ll come in handy further along the story… when flashbacks happen *hint hint*.

—You: Hmm… all right, until next time!

—Evan: Happy Feast of the Epiphany And enjoy your snowday!

LML: Secrets of Another Annunciation (CH:01)

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]

CH01 Another Annunciation—You: So let’s skip to where the story seems to start. Just before the first chapter, I’m noticing the Flutterfly again, but this time without a heart… just has its horns. Does it have to earn its heart or something?Flutterfly

—Evan: Not only that, but it has to trade something to gain a heart…

—You: What about the words on the page opposite the Flutterfly? It sounds like a taunt. From what I gather so far, is it the Devil taunting God?

book_of_job—Evan: If you’ve never read the Book of Job in the Old Testament, then you definitely should look into it! It’s exactly that: the Devil testing the limits of a person’s morality, daring God to let him – the Devil – tempt us to show our true colors. It’s quite fascinating, and also not a very long book to read.

—You: Maybe I will! Is that a taunt?

—Evan: It’s a dare.

—You: Well, perhaps when I finish Little Miss Lucifer. But opposite the first page of the story, there’s a quote by Saint Paul from his letters to the Corinthians. It’s 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 3: “Did you not know we shall judge angels?” I have to say, I’ve never heard that ever.

—Evan: Me neither, not until about Lent 2012! I was praying the daily Scripture readings at Mass that day, and when I hit that line from Saint Paul… I stopped and read it again, and again. I remember thinking, “What is this?! I cannot believe this! This is what the whole story is about! Saint Paul… I stole your idea!” So I knew then that I absolutely had to open the novel with that quote.

—You: But, what does it even mean? For us to judge angels?

—Evan: Well, Saint Paul is talking about the saints of Heaven, which is the Church Triumphant – the Church that’s actually made it to Heaven. The saints (and I hope you and I are among them one day!) along with Jesus Himself will be pronouncing judgment on the Last Day. At that time, as Saint Paul says, we’ll be judging and sentencing, and if we can judge, we can also dismiss… we can also pardon… we can also forgive. I don’t know about you, but that’s BIG news to me… us mere mortals judging walking shards of lightning? Craziness…

And anyway, what kind of angels need judgment? The good ones? Of course not… of course it’ll be…

—You: It’ll be the fallen angels. The devils.

—Evan: And Satan himself. The first of the fallen. The fact that the Lord would even let the saints judge angels shows us how humble He is. The only analogy I can think of is a farmer asking his cattle to judge his children! Baffles me… in a good way! The honor He would give those of us who love Him… despite how unworthy we are. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not for a prize that we should love Him, not at all, because then it’s not real love… but it’s shocking how generous He is…

—You: Wow. I heard of forgiveness of enemies… but forgiving even the Devil…

An Exorcist Tells His Story—Evan: That’s the ultimate enemy. In fact, when I was doing research for the story, I read plenty of accounts by exorcists. One who I looked up to most is Father Gabriel Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome. I will never forget when he explained that even Satan must be respected. Because the Devil is still a creation of God, that we must respect all Creation.

—You: What? Why? Isn’t Satan a fallen angel? Evil?

—Evan: But that’s not what defines Satan. Satan is still an angel. It’s the same with us humans. Just because someone grows up and becomes the Nazi fuhrer does not mean he’s no longer human. No matter how twisted, corrupt, wicked… Hitler was still a human being. Though he chose to be evil, his evil did not define him. Because if it did, then all of our own immoral actions also define us… but what defines us is permanent and unchanging. A definition cannot change. But our actions can change, because we can choose.

—You: So what defines Hitler then? What defines Satan?

—Evan: Well, same thing that defines you! You are the child of your mother and father. That is your identity, your unchangeable definition. Even if a person is disowned, they still are the child of their parents. And as Christians, we believe that everyone is a child of God. The angels are, and we are too.

—You: You’re saying that God still thinks of Hitler as His child? Still thinks of Satan as His?

—Evan: If a mother has a son who murders, is he not still her son? And does she not still want her son to become a better person? Hoping against all hope?

—You: This is going pretty deep… and we still didn’t start the chapter yet!

—Evan: Here we go then! Chapter One: Another Annunciation. The best visual aid I can share for this chapter is a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Annunciation is the event when God sent the Archangel Gabriel to announce God’s proposal to a young Jewish peasant girl. Her name was Mary, and we all know she said yes. I find Tanner’s depiction of the Annunciation as very real. I mean, just look at it! You can see how nervous and shy Mary is. She’s just getting over the fact that a beam of fire is speaking with her, without razing the whole house down.Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Annunciation"

—You: I’ve never seen this picture before! I really like how the angel is unintelligible… just brightness, just heat.

—Evan: Would you say it’s HOT? Just like the artist’s initials?

—You: Haha! You would notice that, of course.

—Evan: Thanks. And so the first chapter is merely another annunciation, and HOT’s Annunciation inspired me to present how it might’ve happened, but on another night, in another place, before another young lady in another time. One image I tried to describe was that the room became so bright, that it was like looking at the sun with our eyes shut.

—You: I don’t think I’ve ever done that.

[Almost like the Earth is bleeding.]

[Almost like the Earth is bleeding.]

—Evan: Try it next time on a sunny day. Close your eyes and turn to face the sun. The red you’ll see is intense… like staring at lava. But of course, it’s the blood in your eyelid that you’re seeing. That reminds me of a friend who slept under the open sun before. I have no idea how he fell asleep with a redness that bright glaring down at him…

—You: He must’ve been wiped out! But this chapter… this another annunciation is different, isn’t it? It could be Gabriel the Archangel again, but it’s not like the first one with Mary?

—Evan: No, you’re right. This one ends in violence, almost a rape. But not by the Archangel or by God. Never. Instead… we meet abductors, body snatchers, kidnappers. In a trance on the angel’s message and the angel’s beauty, she doesn’t realize what’s happening…

LML: The Secrets of the Cover Art

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]LML MiniCard

—You: So last time we wanted to get into the cover art and the book’s design. First question for you Mr. Pham: what’s up with all the black?

—Evan: Actually, if you look closely at the cover, it’s not all black. There’s something in the black – something in the dark. (Click here for the front cover art.)

—You: I’m noticing the swirls, grey swirls and curves.

—Evan: What do the grey swirls and curves look like? Just on the front cover.

—You: Hmm… There! In the bottom right corner! I see… I see her now. All the grey is her hair! Who is she?

—Evan: Tagline time: She is a secret.

—You: And she’s looking at something… a butterfly? There are a few words too – looks like “Dare to see in the dark.”

—Evan: Correct. I dare you. See in the dark. So many times we’re distracted by the bright, the light, that we miss the beauty in the black, the signs in the dark.

—You: What signs, exactly?

—Evan: Signs of more. Even in the most dark and forsaken places and persons, there are signs that there is more to them… signs that they are still beloved. Beloved forever.

—You: Hmm, so who is the girl we see on the cover?

—Evan: I told you, she’s a secret. But I can see you want more, so I’ll let Saint Paul elaborate: “She who was not beloved, I shall call ‘My beloved.’” So the girl was not beloved, and the story is about how she is being called “beloved” again.

—You: A redemption story? A love story?

—Evan: Both.

—You: But the cover…

—Evan: Is full of symbols. You might notice there are things in her hair.

—You: Grey flowers?

—Evan: What kind?

—You: Roses…

—Evan: And they appear in the story. Throughout. What else do you see?

—You: A red heart, it’s pierced.

—Evan: The pierced heart represents compassion, and “compassion” means “to suffer with, to suffer alongside and together with another”. One of the signs of real love is if another is willing to endure the pain with you, to tough it out as a team. It’s one of the reasons why pain, sorrow, mourning and suffering actually give us chances to love, and to mature in that love. And in the Catholic Christian tradition, the pierced heart defines the Blessed Virgin Mary – the Mother of God. The icon of her in sorrow at the death of her Son is called Stabat Mater Dolorosa aka: Our Lady & Mother of Sorrows.

When I watched the Passion of the Christ, I wasn’t as moved by the scenes of Jesus being tortured, mutilated, mocked and murdered as others were. Throughout the film, I knew He was all right. He’s God after all. He can take it!

But the scenes when they show Mary – His Mother… I broke down with her when I saw how hurt she was. In a way, she was suffering even more than Jesus! For any mother, any parent for that matter, to see their beloved child being abused and slaughtered… and being helpless to stop it… now if that’s not compassion, I don’t know what is.

Then it gets real theological when you realize that Mary could have told her Son to stop it all. Jesus is the perfect Son in every way, obedient to the Law, there to fulfill it all, including the law of honoring one’s parents. And since He is the God-Man, He really could have snapped His holy fingers and ended all the violence. All.

But He doesn’t. And she never tells Him to do so. Even though He did do the miracle of making wine from wash-water… at her request! But this time, there is no request… there is only compassion.

—You: Wow… all that meaning from a little broken heart on the cover?

—Evan: I had a lot of time to think about it! And the fact that this particular heart is in the butterfly means even more!

—You: Now, I noticed that the antennae on the butterfly look funny. They look more like horns.

—Evan: They are horns. For obvious thematic effect.

—You: Of course. But tell me about how the butterfly image looks. The little white dots…

—Evan: Now that I reminisce, it was about twenty years ago that my second grade teacher taught me how to do that. For a Christmas project, she passed out pages from a coloring book, and the images where Christmas scenes like reindeer and a sleigh, presents under a tree, etc. What we did was put a sheet of black construction paper under the coloring book pages, and instead of using crayons, she gave us pins and cardboard. The board went under the black paper, and we poked holes along the black lines of the coloring book pages, tracing by pinprick. When we were done, we peeled the sheets apart, held the black paper to a window and I never forgot how dazzled I was. The little points of light looked like stars, constellations in a night sky.

So I did that for the butterfly design. I actually call it the Flutterfly. The name makes more sense, since I’m not too sure they taste like “butter” anyway…

—You: Haha, yeah that does make more sense!

—Evan: Thanks for laughing. It builds my confidence.

—You: No problem, please… continue. I feel there’s more to the Flutterfly than merely it being pretty.

—Evan: How about you tell me… what do you think?

—You: Well… aren’t angels usually symbolized by stars? Like, the name “Lucifer” itself means “Morning Star”. So that makes me think of that third of angels that the devil swept down along with him when he fell from Heaven. One-third of the stars were shot down. Right?

—Evan: Right! Revelation, Chapter 12 recounts that. When Saint Michael the Archangel routs Satan and the other demons out of Heaven. I call it Dragon Fall.Like Lightning

—You: Like lightning. That’s what Jesus said right? He saw the Devil fall like lightning from Heaven.

—Evan: Looks like someone knows their Sacred Scripture!

—You: I try… but I don’t know any Chinese, or is it Japanese? What’s the characters on the cover?

—Evan: It’s Chinese, and it translates the title basically. The first three characters say “Lucifer” and the last two say “Miss” or “Little Miss”.

—You: Why Chinese?

—Evan: Because the story is set in China in the near future, rural Southern China specifically.

—You: What a perfect segue to the back cover… Chinese characters galore!

—Evan: And they all mean something. I’m not one to use a character just because it’s nifty lookin’.

—You: Right… like the majority of Chinese tattoos on people who don’t know any Chinese.

—Evan: Yep. And you see those seven reddened characters? In the back cover’s background? Those are key words. If it’s all too busy to tell what they are, the full text is on the last black page of the book. On that page, the reddened ideographs are white and all others remain grey.

—You: You aren’t going to tell me what it all means… are you…?

—Evan: Of course not… not in English at least! In Latin, the big clue awaits in Salvage: Chapter 5. The “Gregorian Chant and Latin Glossary” in the back also helps. Not to mention the online Chinese dictionary mentioned in the “Chinese Glossary” in the back also!

—You: I guess I’ll just have to investigate those later…

—Evan: And you’d guess right. You’re very patient.

—You: Do I have to guess about the origami too?

—Evan: Well, I tried to make them speak for themselves. What do you see?

—You: Turtle… flutterflies… and…

—Evan: Good! But before you guess the big purple origami, you should know that only half the time do people recognize it at first. Let me help you get it right: it’s swimming, and swimming to the right. Its tale is to the left. Its song is eerie, and the color of its origami snout is part of its name. That’s all I’m gonna say.

—You: Haha hmm… blue snout. I can see why it’s difficult for some to guess, because it’s not an animal we normally see in origami. Is it a blue whale? Swimming along the origami letters… and along the waves of her hair!BlueWhale

—Evan: Brrravo. The girl’s hair from the front cover becomes part of the back cover’s design, and see what it does by the sea turtle?

—You: Looks like claws, reaching for something… something beyond the cover’s borders.

—Evan: Reaching, yes. Reaching for…

—You: More. Yes?

—Evan: Yes. And let me add that the origami patterns are from actual origami paper originating from Japanese artists. I looked through hundreds to find the ones I decided to use. Let’s just say that I now have great admiration for the talents of those anonymous artists.

—You: Origami paper can get expensive…

—Evan: You’re tellin’ me! I saw some that were going for almost three dollars for a 5-inch square! But that paper was not ordinary. It even felt expensive to touch. Lots of layers, weaving, and detailing.

—You: But why origami?

—Evan: You’ll have to discover that when you see what the girl does with scrap paper… For now, you’ll have to be content with two words: Origami Army.OrigamiGirl

—You: Interesting! And the red exclamation point at the cover’s bottom left is screaming for attention: Attention: This book contains content forbidden in ≥ 50 nations (Hell included). What’s that about?

—Evan: There are at least 50 nations, territories, political states in the world where Christian tradition and belief are banned. Sacred Scripture is contraband in those places, and devout Christians are persecuted. It’s sort of like ancient Rome before Constantine: Christianity was outlawed, and we were hunted down and killed. So this book too would qualify as contraband, and perhaps nowhere as much as in Hell.

—You: What do you mean? That the Devil forbids this book?

—Evan: Exactly. You see, if the Nazis, or Communists, or Terrorists, or Satanists, etc., are okay with me, if those groups are comfortable around me, then I have a big problem. I don’t want people like that to see me as one of them, or to be acceptable to them.

—You: Because that would mean you’re like them… right?

—Evan: Exactly right. And I’m opposed to them! If evil likes me, then I’m evil! But if evil despises me, vilifies me… then I know I’m on the right side.

—You: And this book attacks them?

—Evan: It attacks Satan himself. But not with hate, not with curses or violence… but with beauty, mercy, grace and blessings. With Motherhood, with Fatherhood, with Childhood. With Love. With God. And those are more potent than any voodoo.

—You: Wow… wow… I guess that’s a great way to end this for now, with a bang. I mean, the other things on the cover seem self-explanatory enough.

Stigmata Hand—Evan: Except you forgot the book’s spine. If you look there, you’ll notice the logo for my publishing entity (Banned Books Press), the red handprint at the bottom. It’s also the same logo I use for the HolySmack.com blog. The red handprint represents the blood of the Christian martyrs who died of love for the crucified and resurrected Christ, symbolized by the cross on the palm – not unlike the phenomena of the stigmata.

—You: Stigmata?

—Evan: Tradition has it that some of the Church’s great saints have been granted the stigmata as a way for them to literally know first-hand how Jesus felt, by suffering the same wounds as their beloved Jesus. Their hands, feet and even side had unexplained open wounds, bleeding but never bleeding out, festering but never infected, gaping but never decaying. Sometimes the wounds would heal completely without a scar, and then return, then disappear again. It’s really mysterious. Off the top of my head, I remember Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Padre Pio all had the stigmata.

—You: Looks like I have a lot of research to look up until next time!

—Evan: Happy discovering!

All Girls Allowed!

As promised, 2013’s profits from Little Miss Lucifer sales have just been donated to help abandoned mothers and daughters in China (Below is a summary of what’s been happening, if you’ve been unaware).

Let’s do this again next year!

2013 AGA Donation

Each year, millions of Chinese girls are culled before or after their birth because of the Chinese Communist Party’s draconian One-Child-Policy, and because of unjust cultural discrimination.

Today, at least 37 million women and girls are missing in China – and those who survive the continued culling are considered illegal children, and their mothers and fathers are illegal parents.

Little Miss Lucifer is a story that stares down this horrific reality, that seeks to battle this and other evils. When Evan finished authoring and began editing the story, he remembered stumbling upon a way to help. He decided to act.

All Girls Allowed is a non-profit and non-government organization that helps China’s millions of unloved girls and women live and thrive in an unloving and unjust time.

To help, 15% of all profits from Little Miss Lucifer sales will be donated straight to All Girls Allowed.

But of course that is not enough. Please consider visiting the AGA website to learn more about this important mission, and please consider supporting the cause according to your will and ability.

[The novel, its author and publisher are not affiliated or endorsed by AGA in any way.]

LML: The Secrets of the Legend: The Genesis

The Secrets of the Legend

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]

—You (yes, you, the reader): So Evan, tell me where you got the idea for Little Miss Lucifer. It looks like you’ve thought of the story for a while…

—Evan: You’re right! I have. I remember in the autumn of 2002, while I was thinking of the human brain, I must’ve remembered something about how we merely use 15% of our neural capacity — I’m sure most people have known about that. But I pushed for more and asked: What if… what if someone could use more? What if an experiment was done that unleashed the brain’s full potential…

That’s what inspired me first. I saw a young girl manipulating the world around her — innocent and beautiful, imaginative and amazing — but that’s all I saw. Over time, I thought of scenarios to show off her abilities, and an origin story started to take shape.

Aurora BorealisIt begins with an alien abduction, and they take her. The extraterrestrials test her, study her, and observe her. In fact, they had been observing her since her conception. They started even before her birth, and she is the perfect specimen.

When the girl is ready for abduction, they begin more rigorous examinations, focusing on her brain. For years, they tweak it, test it, push its limits, until one final operation: they unleash it and lose control over her.

Mind Mining

Mind Mining

This was not what they wanted. They wanted to research the human brain’s unique power for more, but they also knew our fallen nature’s violent tendencies. So precautions were always in place to ensure their safety.
But of course, she escapes. And from there I wandered with her. For 400 pages I explored with her, watched her mature and meet her fellow characters. Eventually, I received plenty of encouragement and good feedback for the story and style. But I wasn’t impressed anymore. Remember that I was only wandering for 400 pages! Wandering! I didn’t want to wander anymore.

I desired to discover.

So although others wanted to read more, I couldn’t bear to read the story-in-progress myself. Where others expected major revelations and profound insight, I knew there was nothing behind the story and between the covers except for some good action and fluffy fluff. I needed there to be more, and there wasn’t.

I set the manuscript aside. Pretty much abandoned it. Three years after I started it (2005-2008), I had hit a solid wall of writer’s block. But by then, I began working on my English degree, so there were plenty of different things to work on: research papers, screenplays, poetry, memoirs, essays, short stories, etc. That took up most of my imagination.

—You: Do you still have the original manuscript?

—Evan: You bet I do! I think it’s great to look back on the beginnings and see how much has matured and how much is still so novel. It’s especially encouraging on an occasional discouraging day that we all run into.

—You: That’s a good way to think of it. Anyway though, please continue.

Never Forget

Never Forget

—Evan: Sure. Well, so for two years after I archived the manuscript, I never really thought about it. But in the autumn of 2010, as I was flossing my teeth, readying for bed, something filled my thoughts, something I call a mental aneurism. It was so clear to me, and it was so clearly not me: Evan, why does the story have to be about aliens? Why does it have to be about the brain? Why not be about the devil? Why not…

—You: The devil? That’s a big shift!

—Evan: Yes, and no. And then it hit me! Right! WHY NOT? The devil has preternatural powers, and can manipulate the world and show off all the special-effects I’ve been loading into the story, the devil can do even more than any alien or human can do! Because demons are not bound by natural laws, and demons are fallen angels! And angels are beautiful, imaginative and amazing (and although some are fallen, they remain powerful and brilliant — hence why they are dangerous).

This will work! Oh my goodness… this will work even better!

I was so excited, that I couldn’t keep up with the ideas swelling in my mind. I whipped back onto the computer and started organizing the scenarios, the plot and the insights. I did that for a year, gathering and sorting, researching and praying, watching and listening until I was ready.

When I started writing the resurrected version of the manuscript, Little Miss Lucifer (which was once merely the title of a chapter in the first draft), I never ran into writer’s block. It was smooth, slick, and like no writing experience I ever had before or since. I finished drafting the whole thing in ten months, and then began the editing process in August 2012.

—You: So once you knew, nothing could stop you?

—Evan: Once I knew how to end the story, everything came together.

—You: You knew the ending before you started writing?

—Evan: Absolutely. There are two things that I need to know about a story before I can tell it well: the ending and the title. It doesn’t matter if it’s a flash-fiction, an essay, a song, whatever. If I know how it ends and what it’s called — I’m off!

—You: That’s some useful advice!

—Evan: I hope so! Hasn’t failed me yet…

—You: Well, I guess this is a good point to wrap up this section. Right? Can we talk about the cover art and the design next time? I have to say… it’s not an ordinary looking book!

—Evan: I tried to make it as extraordinary as possible!