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Praying for Healing - The Challenge
by Benedict Heron OSB

Part 4

Chapter 7: Inner Healing and Forgiveness

When reflecting this morning on the writing of this chapter, I found myself thinking: What am I doing writing on this subject? People have been praying with me for inner healing since 1972. and I still suffer from anxiety, fears, guilt, and anger. Who am I to write on this subject? Then I realised with gratitude how much healing of anxiety, fears, guilt, and anger had taken place in me since 1972. I also remembered that our inner healing will only be complete when we get to heaven. Finally, I was reminded that the most obvious way in which I personally am used in prayer by Jesus is in bringing people peace. Thousands of people have said after I have prayed with them that they experienced peace or sometimes great peace. Indeed, I have at times felt frustrated that there was apparently no physical healing after prayer, and I have had to remind myself that the peace they experienced was perhaps more important or at any rate what God wanted to do. (I once was invited to pray one morning with a married man in his fifties who was going to have a serious cancer operation in the afternoon. He died in or just after the operation, and I felt rather a failure. Some time later a priest who was a close friend of the man who had died thanked me warmly for my ministry to him. He said that his friend had been full of fear until we had prayed together. Afterwards he had felt full of peace and the fear had left him. So much for our impressions of when we have failed and when we have succeeded!)

Perhaps my qualifications for writing this chapter are largely that I have personally experienced much anxiety, fear, guilt, and anger, and thus understand and sympathise with people with these problems, which are still mine to a much lesser extent. There is also the fact that Jesus seems to use me to heal anxiety, fear, guilt, and anger and to bring his peace to people. (All this may be very relevant for quite a few readers who feel that their own need of inner healing means that they cannot be used by Jesus to heal other people. Jesus does not wait for his followers to be fully healed before he uses them to bring release to others!)

In his important book,
Power Healing (Hodder and Stoughton, 1986, page 95), John Wimber defines inner healing as 'a process in which the Holy Spirit brings forgiveness of sins and emotional renewal to people suffering from damaged minds, wills and emotions'. In the very imperfect world in which we live we all suffer from 'damaged minds, wills, and emotions', so we all need inner healing, though for some it is much more pressing than for others. I thank God that I was born into a truly loving and caring home and family - and I realise increasingly how much I should thank God for this inestimable blessing when I am ministering to people, as I frequently do, whose mothers tried to abort them, or who were physically and mentally ill-treated by their parents, or who were sexually abused as a child or adolescent, or who frequently saw their drunken father beating their mother, or whose mother and father did not speak to each other - alas, these Situations are far more common than is usually imagined. However, even those of us who were very fortunate in being born into really loving homes were wounded in some ways. For instance, in my case my elder brother nearly died of chest trouble while my mother was carrying me, which naturally made my mother very anxious, and I was born one month early - all of which of course inevitably affected me.

We can be wounded from the moment of conception, for example, when it takes place as a result of a woman being raped. We can be wounded while we are in the womb, for the shocks and stresses experienced by the mother affect her child. We can be wounded at the time of our birth - the late Doctor Frank Lake used to think that claustrophobia later in life was frequently caused by difficult births. We can be wounded in infancy and childhood by such events as the death of our mother, father, brother, or sister, by a motor car accident or fire, by economic hardship and financial crisis in the home, by our inability to learn to spell at school (that gave me nightmares), and by numerous apparently lesser events like the death of a dog. We oan very obviously be wounded in adolescence as we try to copy with our developing sexuality and with the process of becoming an adult, or as we have to face the pressure of examinations. We can be wounded as adults when things go wrong in a marriage, when a child dies, when we cannot get a job, when our son or daughter takes to heroine, when our husband or wife dies or walks out, when we lose our sight. The list could be nearly endiess.

What are we to do with these wounds? We can ask Jesus, who was present with us during each difficult experience - because he is always with us, loving us, caring for us, watching over us - to heal the wounds, to pour forth the balm of his healing love on our painful memories, to make up for any lack of love or understanding in the past on the part of our parents or other people, to supply whatever support and help were lacking. Catholics can also ask Our Lady to pray for the healing of these inner wounds, especially any caused by the absence of maternal love and understanding. We can ask her to be a spiritual mother for us and to make up for what was lacking in our earthly mother - perhaps unavoidably, as when the mother dies gwing birth. We are not wanting to judge or condemn our earthly mothers, who perhaps could not have done otherwise in difficult circumstances.

When praying for the healing of the difficult and painful memories, wounds, and relationships of the past, it is normally a great help if we can to pray explicitly for the painful memories and relationships in question. So if fearful memories of a drunken father are involved, we should pray for the healing of those specific memories and for the relationship with the father. However we quite frequently do not know what it is that has damaged us, because the wounds and painful memories can be buried in our subconscious minds. Jesus can heal wounds which never do come up into the conscious mind. So it is good to pray for the healing of all the painful memories and wounds of the past, including those of which we are ignorant at the conscious level.

However, the Holy Spirit will sometimes give someone a 'word of knowledge' or a picture which can give us the clue to the cause of the wounds. Some people who are particularly gifted in this field may receive a very precise picture or 'word', such as a picture of a child with a brown dog if the death of a brown dog or the child being attacked by a brown dog is the difficult memory that needs to be healed. The age of the child at the time might also be given. I myself when praying for inner healing with a person Sometimes find that a word like 'father' comes strongly nto my mind, and this will influence the way I talk and pray with the person. Recently I was praying With a man for various things including inner healing when to my surprise the word 'beware' came strongly into my mind. This put me on my guard, and before long I realised that some of the things which the man was telling me about himself and his past were pure fabrications.

People are quite often mistaken as to which wound. or relationship is the main cause of their difficulties. Recently three of us were praying with a very cultured and gifted middle-aged lady who was suffering from depression. She thought that the basic cause of the depression was the break-up of a relationship with a man whom she had hoped to marry. She also thought that memories in connection with her mother needed healing. However, when we started praying for the healing of the memories and relationships of the past, she collapsed in tears when our prayers were concerned with her father, who had been a cold and aloof man. It became apparent to us and to her that it was this relationship not the others which was the basic cause of her difficulties.

'From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"' (Matthew 4:1 7). Jesus is still calling us all to repentance, and this can be the gateway leading to much inner healing. We have all reacted to the wounds and pressures of life imperfectly - often very imperfectly. Sin has entered into our reactions, sometimes at a very deep level, so that our emotional wounds have been affected and infected by sin. And repentance is the way to receive Jesus' healing and forgiveness from sin.

When we have been deeply wounded in life it is very easy just to blame other people, circumstances and even God for our pains and difficulties, while feeling very sorry for ourselves. This is very understandable - and very unhelpful! A great step forward has been taken when we realise that we need to repent and not just blame other people and circumstances. Sins like unforgiveness, anger, pride, lack of faith and hope - and others as well - inevitably play their part in our emotional wounds and problems. If we had perfect faith, hope, and love, which of course no human being can have in this life, then we would not be afraid or anxious, because we would know that Jesus is in charge and that with him at our side there is nothing to fear: 'perfect love casts out fear' (1 John 4:18). So, without judging other people on account of their fears, we can repent of the lack of faith, hope, and love present in our own anxieties and fears. We can also repent of the lack of faith and hope present in our false guilt. The Christian gospel teaches us that when we repent our sins are forgiven. Many Christians have truly repented of a sin but do not feel they have been forgiven, which shows lack of faith in Jesus' promise to forgive (cf. Luke 24:47).

We also need to repent of the way in which pride has influenced our emotional wounds. People can be depressed and feel suicidal because their worldly ambitions, status, and reputation have collapsed. Not a little emotional sickness can be linked with wounded pride. To repent of our pride and to grow in humility can be very healing emotionally, and can transform painful memories of the past.
Forgiveness is the key to much or even most inner healing. The teaching of Jesus on forgiveness is very clear and very demanding. We are taught to pray: '
And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors' (Matthew 6:12). We are to forgive 'seventy times seven' (Matthew 18:22), which means we are to forgive indefinitely. And Jesus gave us the perfect example by forgiving those who put him to death: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:24).

So often in practice our ideas on forgiveness are COnditional: 'I would forgive him if he apologised'; 'I Would have forgiven her if she had not done it deltherately'; 'I would forgive him if he had not done it 50 many times'; 'I would forgive her if she were not continuing to do it'; 'I would have forgiven him if it were myself and not my child who had been attacked'; 'I would forgive if the offence had not been so deliberately cruel and malicious'; 'I would forgive her if she had not ruined my whole life'. But the teaching of Jesus is clear and simple: we are called to forgive everything always, without any exceptions. Whenever we have failed to forgive fully we need to repent and ask for the grace to do so. We are also told: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (Matthew 5.44). The test as to how far we have really forgiven those who have hurt us is often how truly we are loving and praying for them.

Often people are aware that they have not forgiven or fully forgiven someone or some group of people. I once asked a priest who came to me for ministry if he had fully forgiven everyone. He replied immediately: '
No, I have not forgiven my father.' Well, we knew where we were, which was an advantage. However, often people are not aware that they have not forgiven someone or some group, as was my position before I 'rested in the Spirit' when Francis MacNutt prayed for me, as I mentioned in the last chapter. So when someone answers my question about forgiveness by saying immediately 'No, Father, I have forgiven everyone everything', I know that there may be quite a lot of hidden unforgiveness under the surface. For example, a Polish exile may not have fully forgiven the Russians or the Communists or the Germans or the Nazis for his own past sufferings and those of his family, or a person of one race may not have fully forgiven people of another race. Or someone may not have fully forgiven their father or mother, but this may have been suppressed in the subconscious mind, because the idea of not loving and forgiving them is unacceptable, something too difficult to face.

I remember a man telling me that he had only just learned to forgive his mother for dying when he was three. What did he mean, for his mother had not committed suicide or anything like that? He knew with his rational mind that there was nothing to forgive. But deep down in him there had remained a little boy of three who was furious with his mother for disappearing when she was greatly needed. Hidden within many of us there are still angry children who have not fully forgiven.

Forgiveness is fundamentally an act of the will, so we can basically forgive even when we are feeling very angry at the level of the emotions. However perfect forgiveness involves the emotions also, and we must often pray that our forgiveness will flow from the will into the emotions and into the subconscious mind.

I know a deeply spiritual priest who says that he tries to forgive an offence within ten seconds - while many of us are still floundering around ten minutes, ten hours, ten days, ten weeks, ten months, or ten years later! It is a great grace to learn to forgive quickly. When we do not forgive we are the first victims of our unforgiveness, for we cannot experience the peace, joy, love, and healing which Jesus wants to give us if we are not at least trying to forgive.

We are called to forgive in three directions: other people, God, and ourselves. Of course we know that objectively there is never anything to forgive our infinitely loving God. But we can be very angry with God for having allowed this or that to happen in our lives: the break-up of a marriage, the death of a child, financial disasters, the collapse of our health. So we have to repent of all bitterness and resentment over the hard knocks we have received in life.

Many people cannot forgive themselves for their past sins (e.g. an abortion), for their past mistakes, for having made a mess of their lives. Well, we have all I sinned, we have all made mistakes, we have all made a mess of our lives in one way or another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save and heal sinners, not 'good people' - the greatest saint is basically a saved sinner! We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and this involves learning to forgive ourselves. If Jesus can forgive us when we repent, then we can also forgive ourselves.

Unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and wrong anger are not only spiritual and emotional sicknesses, they can also affect our physical health. The statistics show us that during the eighteen months after the death or departure of a spouse, when there can be much unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and anger, people are considerably more likely to get cancer than at other times. And there have been cases of cancer disappearing when people learned to forgive. Frequently we find that there can be a link between arthritis and unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and wrong anger. So forgiveness can also often be the key to physical healing. On many
occasions when I am asked to pray for physical healing I ask the person whether they have forgiven everyone everything, for this may be the root of the trouble.

Now I must make an important point. When we encourage people to repent of lack of faith and hope, of unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, wrong anger, pride, and other sins, we must make it very clear that we are not judging them or condemning them. For so many of the people who come to us for inner healing, it is much more a case of having been sinned against than of sinning. We must not burden them with false guilt. What we can say to them is that we have all sinned, that we are all called to grow in repentance, and that repentance is very healing and liberating for all of us. It may well be that the parent, or husband, or whoever has caused the wound, may need to repent one hundred times more. But our job is to repent for our own sins, not for those of others!

One last point in this chapter: it is right to pray for and seek prayers for our inner healing. And since it is normally a gradual process, it is right to continue to pray for it. However, we must avoid an exaggerated concentration on ourselves and our problems, including our need for inner healing. Too much praying for our inner healing can be a sign of being too self-centred. Having prayed we need to get on with praising God and helping other people. Indeed, sometimes the very act of forgetting ourselves, concentrating on praising God and helping other people can be the royal road towards inner healing!

Chapter 8: Praying for Deliverance

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luke 9.1-2)

The seventy returned with joy, saying: 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!' And he said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon seipents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothingshall hurt you.' (Luke 10:17-19)

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons. (Mark 16:17)

From these and other texts in the New Testament it would seem clear that the devil and other demons exist and that at any rate some disciples of Jesus are called to cast them out. I find it strange therefore to meet Christians, including some Catholics, who do not believe in a personal devil or personal demons and I who therefore do not believe in casting them out. Perhaps in this field some Catholics have been over-influenced in the ecumenical dialogue by liberal Protestants and insufficiently influenced by evangelical Protestants, by the Pentecostals, and by the Eastern Orthodox. In his general audience on 15th: November 1972, Pope Paul VI asked the question: '
What are the greatest needs of the Church today?' This is how he replied:

Do not let our answer surprise you as being oversimple or even superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs is defence from that evil which is called the Devil. Evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living, spiritual being, perverted and perverting. A terrible reality. It is contrary to the teaching of the Bible and the Church to refuse to recognise the existence of such a reality or to explain it as a pseudo reality, a conceptual and fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes. That it is not a question of one devil, but of many, is indicated by the various passages in the Gospel (Luke 11.21, Mark 5:9). But the principal one is Satan, which means the adversary, the enemy; and with him, many, creatures of God, but fallen, because of their rebellion and damnation - a whole mysterious world, upset by the unhappy drama, of which we know very little. (L'Osservatore Romano, 23rd November 1972)

Pope John Paul II, in his general audience on the 13th August 1986, makes it very clear that the official teaching of the Catholic Church includes the belief in the existence of both a personal devil, Satan, and of other personal demons. Towards the end of this talk, the Pope said:

To conclude we must add that the impressive words of the Apostle John, 'The whole world lies under the Power of the evil one' (1 John 5:19), allude also to the presence of Satan in the history of humanity, a presence which becomes all the more acute when man and society depart from God. The influence of the evil spirit can conceal itself in a more profound and effective way: it is in his 'interests' to make himself unknown, Satan has the skill to deny his existence in the name of rationalism and of every other system of thought which seeks all possible means to avoid recognising his activity. This, however, does not signify the elimination of man's free will and responsibility, and even less the frustration of the saving action of Christ. It is, rather, a case of a conflict between the dark powers of evil and the power of redemption.

According to the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1172), 'No one may lawfully exorcise the possessed without the special and express permission of the local Ordinary. This permission is to be granted by the local Ordinary only to a priest who is endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life.' So in the Catholic Church solemn exorcism may only be carried out by a priest specially appointed by the local bishop.

In this chapter I am not writing about solemn exorcism of the possessed, which would in any case be beyond the scope of my competence. However, the need for deliverance from demonic possession is relatively rare, while deliverance from various degrees of demonic oppression is very much commoner. To understand the whole question of trouble from the devil perhaps I can make a comparison with physical illness. We can say that someone is suffering from sickness, and that can be anything from the beginning of a sore throat to the last stages of terminal cancer. So it is with trouble from the devil or 'demonisation'. John Richards sees it as a long thin wedge. At the thin end of the wedge there are the 'flaming darts of the evil one' (Ephesians 6:16) by which we are all attacked frequently - it may be a stronger than normal temptation or feeling of fear or depression (the 'flaming dart' is often directed at and adds to an existing spiritual or psychological weakness). At the thick edge of the wedge there are things like demonic possession and deep involvement in Satanism.

When someone says to me that they think they are being attacked by the devil and need deliverance ministry, I quite often reply that we are all being frequently attacked by the devil, that we all need deliverance from these attacks, and that every time we say the Our Father we are praying for deliverance: 'But deliver us from evil' - which certainly includes deliverance from evil spirits.

The important question is not whether we are being attacked by the devil or other evil spirits, which we all often are, as we can see when reading the lives and spiritual writings of many saints, but how seriously and in what ways we are being attacked. Some people are very frightened at the idea that they may be being attacked by the devil and need deliverance ministry. It can help to take away this fear if we explain to them that we are all involved in spiritual warfare, that 'fiery darts' are shot at all of us, that this is a normal experience in the Christian life. St. Paul is saying to us all: 'Put on the whole annour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 6:11-13) (cf.also 1 Peter 5:8-11).

We can often be delivered from less serious attacks of the devil and lesser degrees of demonisalion by the normal practices of the life of prayer, such as going to confession or receiving Jesus in communion, or participating in a prayer meeting. Frequently someone will go to Mass feeling spiritually oppressed and burdened, and after Mass they will be at peace and spiritually refreshed. In many such cases there has, I think, been some deliverance from evil spirits.

Again, it has been the experience of many of us that intense praise at a prayer meeting has liberated us from feelings of spiritual heaviness or agitation - and I am convinced that frequently this has involved deliverance from evil spirits, who obviously would not feel at home in an atmosphere of authentic praise.

Indeed the ways to receive deliverance from evil spirits and to receive inner healing are often largely the same. In both cases repentance, forgiveness, praise, and the use of the sacraments can play a key part. This is not surprising, for there is much overlapping between psychological and emotional sickness on the one hand and demonic attacks and bondages on the other. A sickness which is basically psychological or emotional can be aggravated by the fiery darts of the devil; and a problem which is largely demonic will have its psychological and emotional repercussions. So in practice I think we often have to be aware that we are dealing with a problem which involves both inner healing and deliverance from the attacks of evil spirits.

When possible it is good to deal with demonisation by praying for inner healing and for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I remember Abbot David M. Geraets OSB of Pecos in New Mexico (USA) saying that many cases can better be dealt with by praying for inner healing. They could be dealt with by casting out demons but there is less danger of problems arising if the inner healing approach is adopted. The Pecos monastic community has seen very remarkable healings from even very serious cases of demonisation by the inner healing and infilling approach.

Perhaps this is the right place to say that I agree with those people who think that 'fiery darts of the evil one' can sometimes affect our physical health, as was the case of the 'woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years' and concerning whom Jesus said: 'And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosened from this bond on the sabbath day?' (Luke 13.10-17). I believe the devil will sometimes try to stop people doing the work God wants them to do by attacking their physical health - I think that this has happened to me at times. 'Fiery darts of the evil one' can sometimes aggravate an existing physical weakness or sickness, or even perhaps cause a physical illness. So I believe that there is sometimes a place for rebuking an evil spirit of infirmity troubling oneself or another person. However, it is important to add that all sickness is not of course directly the work of the devil.

Not all cases of demonisation seem to respond to the inner healing and infilling approach, and this appears to be especially true of the more serious cases. In England and probably in many other countries also, involvement in things like Satanism, Voodoo, Witchcraft, Spiritualism, violence, and perverted sexual activity seem to be on the increase, and this is surely causing a growing number of heavily demonised people. Here we need to remember that Jesus has given to his Church a ministry of casting out devils, a ministry which, I think, is very much neglected by Catholics in many places.

What is happening in some areas is that more and more Catholics are going to members of other churches in order to receive deliverance ministry. I personally know of Anglican clergy who are gifted and have experience in this ministry to whom a considerable number of Catholics go. I heard of a case in the USA where a Catholic layman was seeking deliverance ministry. The diocesan authorities dithered and delayed over the matter for six months, with the result that the man in question lost patience and went one evening to the local Pentecostal church down the road, where he received effective deliverance ministry within half an hour!

I consider a big part of our problem is that the Catholic clergy in general have received no training in this field and have no experience in it - whereas every Pentecostal pastor would have received practical training in the deliverance ministry. When studying for the priesthood I listened to learned lectures for many hours on the heresies of the first few centuries in the Church, but no one gave me any instruction on how I might recognise whether or not a person was in need of serious deliverance ministry.

There is a further problem for Catholics. If it is judged that the demonised person may be possessed, then this case will be referred to the diocesan exorcist - if there is one - who will minister to the person probably after they have been examined by a psychiatrist. But all this takes quite a lot of time to arrange, and some demonised people may need urgent attention. I know of a case in which an Anglican priest experienced in this ministry was asked to minister to someone in another diocese. The Anglican bishop of the diocese insisted that the person in question should see a psychiatrist first - and the man committed suicide before this could be arranged! Suicidal or violent cases may need immediate attention.

Catholic bishops and priests are understandably and indeed rightly cautious when it comes to serious cases of demonisation. In the ministry of casting out demons things can go wrong, and indeed very wrong. A few years ago in the London borough in which I live a wandering evangelical preacher and his friend attempted to exorcise a woman at her request. In trying to get the demons out of her they stamped on her body - and this killed her. They then prayed for twelve hours for her resurrection, which needless to say did not happen. They then handed themselves over to the police. So it is obviously important not to let just anyone and everyone loose on the ministry of casting out demons.

However, cautiousness by itself is not enough. If we only play safe, which I suspect is what many of us Catholic priests are doing, then seriously demonised people who are in desperate need of help are not going to receive it, at least not from the Catholic Church. Doubtless many Catholics have been wonderfully helped through deliverance ministry from members of other churches. Some Catholics however have not found this ministry helpful. And there is a danger that Catholics who go to other Christians for this ministry may imbibe along with it teaching which is not in accord with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am worried when Catholics, sometimes influenced by some non-Catholic literature or preaching, seem to have developed 'demonitis', the, seeing of demons where there are none, the blaming of all our troubles on demons, endless talk about demons. (Our minds need to be fixed on God, on Jesus. Too much thinking and talking about demons are to be avoided.)

All this underlines, in my opinion, the need for the Catholic Church to wake up to the problems of serious demonisation in our society. In his book, Renewal and the Powers of Darkness (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1983), Cardinal Suenens has a heading, 'The necessity of a new pastoral teaching on the subject of exorcism' (page 96). Surely there is such a necessity, for some Catholics, including a few priests, do not even believe in the existence of the devil and a few other Catholics have caught 'demonitis'. Of the two problems, I believe the failure to face up to the needs of seriously demonised people is much bigger and more widespread than the excesses of 'demonitis', serious though the latter can be.

In his book Cardinal Suenens raises an interesting possibility:

I would add that if the office of exorcist has disappeared as a minor order, there is nothing to prevent an episcopal conference from requesting Rome to restore it. I do not know if this is advisable, but it is at least a possibility which is deserving of study. If the conclusion is positive, then the office of exorcist could be made available to qualified laymen. (page 97)

We need to recognise that some people have special gifts in the area of exorcism - and I do not consider myself to be one of them - that laymen and women are sometimes gifted in this way (not only the clergy), and that authentic gifts of this kind should not be wasted, especially at a time when the needs are so great.

Teaching people how to cast out demons goes beyond the scope of this book, which is concerned with praying for healing in general. Apart from the fact that there are other people more qualified than I am to write on the ministry of exorcism, I would be somewhat fearful of indiscriminately encouraging people to go round trying to cast out demons, which could lead to many casualties. On the subject of casting out, may I recommend the excellent booklet by James McManus CSSR, The Ministry of Deliverance in the Catholic Tradition, obtainable from Good News Books, St. Michael's, Shenley Lanes, London Colney, Hemts, AL2 1AF. In this booklet the author goes through the five stages of the prayer of praise, the prayer for protection, the prayer of binding, the prayer of casting out, and the prayer for the infilling of the Holy Spirit (page 26). He also makes the valuable point that 'the prayer for deliverance is ordinarily made in silence' (page 30), which can help to avoid all sorts of problems.

Could I now make two strong pleas, the first to the authorities in the Catholic Church? Could the Bishops remind Catholics of the teaching of the Catholic Church which forbids us to get involved in the occult, for such involvement can lead to varying degrees of demonisation? The occult includes such obvious things as Satanism, Voodoo, Witchcraft (black and white), but also Spiritualism, and all attempts to divine the future. So ouija boards, astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, crystal gazing, and similar things are out for the Christian
(see Deuteronomy 18:9-14). Those of us involved in the healing ministry know how many Catholics do in fact go to spiritualists for healing and how many see no wrong in astrology or palm reading. We also know how many pupils in Catholic schools are playing with ouija boards and tarot cards.

My second plea is to those Christians who are aware of the dangers of involvement in the occult. Please do not exaggerate the limits of the occult, for this leads to classifying as demonic things which are not, and causes some other Christians to regard all warnings about the dangers of the occult as ridiculous. There are some Christians who are saying that all osteopathy, homeopathy, hypnotism, acupuncture, jujitsu, yoga, water divining, psychoanalysis, and extra sensory perception are occult and therefore demonic. Doubtless, in varying degrees, there can be dangers in some of the practices listed above, and people may sometimes need to be warned of the dangers. But that is no excuse for simply describing them all as demonic! Otherwise a good Christian whom God has healed through the hands of an osteopath will simply think we are fanatics.

May I make a special appeal here to Catholics involved in the Charismatic Renewal. The fact that a Pentecostal or Evangelical Christian is a very devout disciple of Jesus, has a wonderful healing ministry, and is a great evangelist, does not mean that we should accept his teaching all along the line. Let us thank God for his gifts and for what he does for the building up of God's Kingdom, but let us remember where his beliefs would differ from our own. This is relevant for the subject under discussion above. Many Pentecostals and Evangelicals simply regard all non-Christian religions and things linked with them as demonic. The Second Vatican Council in its
Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions states that:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims and must ever proclaim Christ, 'the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14.6), in whom men find the fullness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself(cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-1 9).

So we Catholics must not be surprised if we find that we do not always agree with Pentecostals and Evangelicals on the subject of the limits of the occult and the demonic, just as we do not agree with them on the rightness of asking Our Lady to pray for us. If Catholics involved in the Charismatic Renewal adopt a Pentecostal rather than a Catholic position on certain subjects, this will put other Catholics off the
Charismatic Renewal, which they will regard as not being truly Catholic. I think that it is a great pity when this happens, for I am convinced that the Charismatic Renewal has much to give to the Catholic Church.

On the whole question of the Catholic attitude towards non-Christian religions and towards various forms of unconventional healing and alternative medicine, may I very strongly recommend three excellent articles by Fr. Michael Simpson SJ in Good News, numbers 76, 77, and 78, 1988 (obtainable from The National Service Committee for Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Allen Hall, 28 Beaufort Street, London, SW3 5.AA). Having pointed out various very real dangers in this field, Father Michael ends his last, wise, and well-balanced article by saying: 'We must not dismiss as demonic or dangerous what, if practiced with wisdom and in a way centred on Christ, may in truth be part of God's creative plan for our growth to wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.'

At the end of this chapter there is one more thing which needs to be said. Although the devil and demons may sometimes give us a difficult time - as they did to Jesus during his temptation in the wilderness - if we are truly trying to follow Jesus and to trust in him, then we have nothing to fear from the powers of darkness. We read in the
Letter of St. James (4:7): 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.' And St. Paul writes: 'I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet' (Romans 16:19). So in truth Satan and the demons have more to fear from us than we have from them, if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and if his praises are on our lips and in our hearts. Alleluia!

Copyright © 1989 Benedict M. Heron OSB

This Version: 4th November 2001


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