FATHER William Goh, rector of St Francis Xavier Major Seminary, says he offers these tips to Catholics who want to keep their home free of spirits.
Be cautious when buying antiques, especially from countries where people tend to be more superstitious. They may be 'possessed', causing spirits to inhabit the house. He tells Catholics to steer clear of carvings and drawings of grotesque faces with horns which may symbolise Satan, and if they do bring such objects into their house, to "observe changes in harmony which may occur".
Spirits in a 'haunted' house are more likely to frighten than hurt one, he says. Their aim is either to communicate with you or to chase you out. Although it is highly unlikely spirits will push you down the stairs, "it is possible they might make you so scared you will fall down yourself", says Father Goh.
Evil likes to lurk in dark secluded areas, which is why unoccupied houses and rooms which are left empty and dark for extended periods are more prone to being 'haunted'. There is no need to keep the lights on, but if a room in your house is not in use, open the doors and windows often.
A home which has seen a lot of violence, abuse, unhappiness or vice is more likely to be 'haunted' than one that has not, he says.
Meddling with occult practices - such as visiting Satanic websites or sleeping with a coffin, as reported in The New Paper recently - can be viewed as "a direct invitation to demons", he says. "You're just inviting trouble."
Trust your instincts. Father Goh says most people have an intuition for sensing the presence of evil spirits - "although it depends on your sensitivity and experience in these matters". If Catholics feel something is not right yet can't pinpoint the reason, he says they should consult their priest, who will be happy to bless their house. It is free, although token donations to the church are accepted.
Be patient. Sometimes, it takes more than one blessing to rid the house of demonic spirits. It can take up to three or four blessings to cast out all the spirits, especially if there are several different types. Holding a mass is usually a way to exorcise them.
Catholic homeowners should have their homes, whether new or old, blessed when they move in. Repeated blessings are not essential as, in most cases, no evil spirits will re-enter unless invited.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 17, 2006