Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

The stuff of life is serving/blessing

29th April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

“We need to have our house blessed. Is that something you can do soon?”

That request had a familiar ring for the third time in a couple of months. Of course, I readily agreed and we fixed the date as Saturday, April 13. The short trek to Mansfield led me to a community of beautiful, functional 12-year-old homes.

The husband’s mother and father were visiting from Port Allen, across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge. Our conversation ran swiftly from one topic to another, soon settling on the condition and circumstances of the house to be blessed.

“We have been here 12 years,” the husband responded to my inquiry about the house. “We do hear various noises, especially upstairs around the attic.”

“Are you sure that you’re not hearing raccoons or squirrels?” I asked.

Several answered together that the sounds were not small animal noises, but heavy sounds like those of a succession of human footfalls traveling across the floor.

“Furthermore,” the husband added, “in an area where none of us are, we sometimes hear the distinct sound of a door opening and then slamming with a bang.”

“And I saw a man standing before me in one room,” added the husband’s mother. “He looked like my son, but he was definitely not my son. Then he disappeared.”

I took them back about 30 years to a request for a house blessing in New Orleans East. When I got to the house, I was met with a chorus of stories about noises, but most of all about sightings of young children walking, especially in the hall next to the living room. At times, several family members simultaneously experienced such apparitions.

“It’s the land!” the wife’s mother advised them during a midday meal.

Startlingly, later research showed that squatters had occupied the then-empty land there and that some of them were apparently buried there through the years. As you may know, this is a common scenario for sites and dwellings plagued by preternatural events.

One of the more usual causes ascribed to such goings-on is the phenomenon of poltergeists, a German compound word in which polter means noisy and geist means ghost/spirit. Popularly one of the most fascinating topics in the world, poltergeists are indeed noisy, but not evil or mean-spirited, whatever their composition happens to be.

In brief, nobody seems to know exactly what they are, but there is speculation that poltergeists are the physical manifestations of a field of human energy such as the presence of energized, restless teenagers. With the earliest recorded cases dating back to the 1st century, such otherworldly activity piques and fires our curiosity and imagination.

Another poltergeist/blessing episode in New Orleans, dating back likewise three decades, involved a then 100-year-old shotgun house whose occupants experienced very frequent oddities such as flying bottle openers and a door chain lock that jumped open.

One night, the 20-year-old youngest daughter was the last to leave the living room where she turned off the light, then entered the first bedroom and pulled the light cord. An invisible hand seized her wrist with such force that it left fingerprints on it, causing her to scream with great fear. Now in her fifties, she just laughs about it.

However, that same daughter suffered something even stranger while sleeping in the wee hours of the morning. Awakening, she had the conviction that someone was lying next to her. Finally marshaling the nerve to reach her hand out, she touched no one, but her hand followed the distinct imprint of a human body along the mattress. In a class at Xavier University comparing psychic and divine, a student told her own such experience.

Then there was the cold room in that old house — cold during all seasons. One of the cousins, a college student who believed none of what the others said, was visiting one day and walked past the cold room in a robe. Peering into the room as she passed by, she saw in the dresser mirror not her own but the image of a strange woman dressed in red.

In sheer panic with tears flying, she burst into the living room where the others were chatting and told them what a fright she had in seeing the unknown woman.

After the 10:00 a.m. Sunday Mass on April 14, as congregants were filing out of the church, I was glad-handing and hugging when one mother paused to give me the latest information about her daughter’s house that I had blessed a couple of weeks before.

“There have been no more noises since you blessed the house,” she assured me.

That prompted a huge smile and “Praise God!” from me with a further thought about what plight lay in store for the house that I had just blessed the day before. My other thought was, “What was really going on at the house of that lady’s daughter?”

Just as Esau desperately sought his father Isaac’s blessing in Genesis 27, 38, so do we seek above all our blessings from each other and our privilege to serve and be served.

This article originally published in the April 29, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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