By Chris Roberts
Wednesday, Mar 9 2016
The people stir a few minutes past 7 p.m. when a tiny man wearing white robes — a long rectangle of cloth with Vegas-worthy golden sparkles hanging around his neck — appears from a door to the left of the altar. A few weeks shy of his 89th birthday, Father Guglielmo Lauriola walks slowly across the raised altar area to a waiting chair. Here he sits, facing away from his congregation in the style of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, to read from laminated card prayers and songs devoted to the Virgin Mary. Aside from Jesus on the cross, she is the principal figure of veneration here at the 104-year-old church.
Nobody moves. This is when the show really starts.
Two men step forward approach Lauriola, who has shuffled to the center of the altar area, in the same spot where he offered Communion. They stay on the church’s main floor, two steps below, flanking him on either side. The people line up in the same way they did when receiving Communion, but instead of a piece of consecrated bread, this time they’re waiting their turn to hold Lauriola’s hands for about 20 to 30 seconds as he offers each of them a special prayer. As Lauriola murmurs his blessing, the two men hold their hands up behind the person receiving it, their palms held out and a few inches away from the person’s back, as if preparing for a trust fall at a work retreat.
This is not an ordinary Catholic Mass — it’s a healing Mass. The prayers here are for sick people, for deliverance. Some of the prayers are to be rid of evil, of the influence of the devil in their lives — to be free of the hold Satan has on their bodies and souls.
This is exactly the right place for that kind of prayer. This is the house of an exorcist.