Father Michael watched the young boy closely. The priest was calm and focused. The child was writhing on the bed, his hands and feet bound to the head and footboard so that he couldn’t fall off. The eight-year-old spoke gibberish. Father Michael could discern no known or ancient language in the boy’s mutterings.
Once in a while, the boy would go quiet and look off into the distance. He seemed to be listening to someone. Nobody but he and the priest were in the room. The small child would nod his head at this voice only he heard. Sometimes he responded with a “yes” or “maybe.” Never a “no.”
The boy didn’t acknowledge the priest’s presence. He had made no indication that he felt the holy water Father Michael had sprinkled on him. The presence of the crucifix on his arm made him scream but not in pain. It was more out of annoyance, an intense irritation but definitely not hurt.
As Father Michael read aloud from his bible the stories of Jesus exorcising demons, the boy continued to writhe on the bed. Still, he didn’t seem bothered by his voice and the words he said. The more he interacted with the boy, the more the priest thought this wasn’t demonic possession. It presented as an acute psychotic episode or, worse early-onset schizophrenia. Granted, the child was very young to have the mental illness manifest. However, the disease often didn’t care about such “facts” and “attacked” whenever it wanted.
After saying a long prayer for the child, Father Michael left the boy to give his findings to the child’s parents. He pleaded with them to get Peter, the boy, medical help. The doctors could help much more than the Church could.
The mother and father were angry. Doctors cost money, which they did not have. An exorcist would have been cheaper.
The priest promised financial help from the local parish. He would speak to the bishop and get him to authorize some funds for them to take their son to a doctor.
Back in his car, driving back to his hotel room, Father Michael prayed for Peter. This early onset of schizophrenia would make it a difficult case for the doctors. He prayed and hoped they would be able to help him. He added Peter to his lengthy prayer list.