Father Candido’s cause is now in its first stages with assistant postulators now being delegated. While I have received no miracle attributable to him, nor can I recall details of any conversation with precision, I think my comments here are, nevertheless, of some importance regarding his heroic virtue. For the sake of completeness, I think I must mention that I was involved with the exorcism ministry off and on in one way or another through the decades in half a dozen countries around the world since the time I met up with Father Candido. I relate what I remember in the context in which I came to know him.
When I was but a young seminarian in Rome (early 1980s), my spiritual director, a Texan and co-sufferer of a certain situation, an unstoppable force of electric energy and ironic humor totally dedicated to Jesus, pretended to be so flummoxed after about a year and a half after coming to know more accurately my being a “mystery wrapped in an enigma”, that he made a show of deciding that he had better send me to a friend of his, another spiritual director, one who could take care of the more – How to say it? – difficult cases. As it turns out, he was merely leaving Rome, returning to glorious Texas.
“Do you know of Father Candido?” he asked, almost as if accusing me and ready for any response. “No,” I answered in such a way that was equally a challenge, implying: “This had better be good.” Immediately and against all rules of decorum, he stood on his head and explained that if I did this, with blood rushing to my brain, I might be able to think for once in my life. He then popped back on his feet and, after going into a humorous round of how terribly ignorant I was with my not knowing that I lived very near Father Candido’s home at the Scala Santa, he convinced me that I needed to be dragged along to Jesus by this extraordinary exorcist. It did not escape me that he was sending me to an exorcist. We said our goodbyes and he went off to the airport.
The Holy Stairs were already familiar to my knees, and when arriving to the upper floor, I would sometimes notice a commotion, thinking this to be annoying, but I ignored this in favor of getting back to my studies. But now I was on a mission to follow that tumult so as to meet up with the peaceful priest inside the maelstrom. Being peaceful includes, of course, that same exuberance of ironic humor totally dedicated to Jesus which I had met with my previous spiritual director. I could clearly see this with his witty responses, sometimes dead serious, full of compassion, sometimes funny, sometimes said with a humor so very dry that it would further desiccate the driest British humor, throwing some of his more inappropriate interlocutors into stammering and then silence. His blessings, his granting of appointments on the fly, the occasional immediate “special blessing”, perhaps for an ongoing case, all while on his way to do a more extended exorcism, provided with me a snapshot of sacerdotal availability to sheep who otherwise seemed to be without a shepherd. It was in the midst of just such chaos that he acceded to my request for an appointment. After having a long chat with me in the parlor of the Passionist residence to the left of the Scala Santa, he agreed to be my spiritual director. We had some sessions together for about half a year, and I felt terribly guilty in stealing time he didn’t have in the first place. He was so over-extended. The only description I am able to apply to this and all that I saw with his flock is: “heroic availability for Jesus.”
Meanwhile, my seminary was insisting on an even more rigorous schedule for spiritual direction, something difficult to realize in the real world with real people. I was grilled on this point many times by the Rector, who didn’t like outsourcing spiritual direction, though he allowed it. I think that in my case the Rector simply didn’t like it being said that one of his seminarians was seeing an exorcist. Politics being what they are in seminaries, I said my thanks to Father Candido and eventually found another spiritual director, still out-of-house, but a great priest in every way who could see me more frequently.
While all this was going on, I was brought to see what Father Candido’s old student was up to in a church near the Scala Santa, Father Gabriele Amorth. How that developed over the years brings many stories in its wake, but there is one thing Father Amorth recounted to me about Father Candido that I would like to bring to the fore. He’s written of this incident with Father Candido in less detail elsewhere (see the pertinent section below the page break), but I would like to add an observation to what he said.
In brief: in the early years of his ministry, Father Candido and his fellow exorcist dug up a cursed object the whereabouts of which they had learned during an exorcism. When they found it they didn’t bless the thing nor did they pray at all. They destroyed it. But the moment Father Candido touched the thing his stomach became terribly afflicted, so that he was bedridden for months with incapacitating pain which continued to disrupt his ministry severely for some ten years (and, if I remember correctly, never quite left him). Father Candido had admitted his lack of prayer as an error on his part for the sake of his student. I find that humility to be inspiring. But even more, and this is what I wanted to say: Father Candido did not give up on this ministry; he did not abandon the souls put into his care; he carried on in the very best way he could for sake of the establishment of the Kingdom of God among us. I have met by now I think well over a hundred exorcists. Of all of them, I would call Father Candido’s perseverance heroic virtue.
Here’s the story in Italian, recounted by Father Amorth:
P. Candido mi raccontava quello che lui chiamava errore di gioventù. Nei primi anni in cui era esorcista, non era ancora molto pratico. Gli capitò questo caso, insieme ad un suo confratello esorcista, stavano esorcizzando una ragazza, parlando col demonio, è risultato che le era stata fata una fattura e che questa fattura era sepolta. Si sono fatti dire in che cosa consisteva. In una scatola grande pressappoco quanto il palmo di una mano, si son fatti dire esattamente i luoghi in cui era sepolta. Un metro di profondità davanti ad un albero che era stato indicato con esattezza. Allora questi due passionisti armati di badile e di zappa sono andati a scavare in quel posto e hanno trovato questa scatoletta, l’hanno aperta, c’era dentro qualcosa di osceno. Poi subito aiutandosi con l’alcool hanno provveduto a bruciare tutto e poi quando hanno tenuto solo un mucchietto di cenere lo hanno buttato in un canale. Però, ecco l’errore di gioventù, non hanno subito benedetto la scatoletta appena trovata, non hanno continuato a pregare mentre la bruciavano. Fatto sta che p. Candido ne ha ottenuto un disturbo che lo ha costretto per 3 mesi a letto ogni tanto si rifaceva fuori per una decina di anni.