Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Lady's Square (Gospin Trg) - A Time Of Divine Intimacy

Our Lady's Square (Gospin Trg) - Me at the far left, in prayer to Our Lady
during my pilgrimage this past summer

Today's post continues with my series of posts on Medjugorje and the wonderful prayer locations throughout. With today being the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, it seemed only fitting to publish today's post in honour of Our Lady. I have done so in particular for those individuals who are new to Medjugorje. Whether you are on route, scheduled to go or in the process of planning a pilgrimage, I hope today's post will add to your pilgrimage experience.

The specific prayer location that I refer to today is Our Lady's Square (Gospin Trg) in the front area of Saint James Church. Saint James Church is the only church in Medjugorje and is considered to be the central area of Medjugorje. At Our Lady's Square, you find a beautiful white statue of Our Lady, several planters and water fountains. It is one of four well known and frequently visited statues of Our Lady in Medjugorje. Of the other three statues, one is located on Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja) and the other two are at the Blue Crosses. Orientation programs typically include a visit to the front area of Saint James Church, where the beauty and peace of Our Lady's statue is sure to catch anyone's attention. Some pilgrims visit Our Lady's statue as a matter of personal discovery. No matter how pilgrims are introduced to Our Lady's statue, one thing is for certain, all who spend time at this location will come to understand and experience that praying to Our Lady will be a time of divine intimacy.

In addition to the draw of divine intimacy, the central location of Our Lady's Square grants pilgrims an opportunity to pray to Our Lady in a very convenient manner. Unlike the major prayer sites of Cross Mountain (Križevac), Apparition Hill and the Blue Crosses, Our Lady's Square is located near many restaurants, shops, hotels and pensions. The close proximity affords pilgrims the opportunity to consider a visit to Our Lady's statue at any time of the day or night. For some it is simply a matter of walking across the street, others a brief walk from their pension. The convenience of this location really becomes apparent when pilgrims are inspired to pray to Our Lady unexpectedly. Some in response to inspiration, may climb up Apparition Hill or the Blue Crosses, while others may not be so inclined to do so. For those that are not, yet still seek divine intimacy with Our Lady, a quick and comfortable walk to Our Lady's Square will satisfy that desire. Upon arrival, pilgrims can quickly collect themselves, enter into Our Lady's presence and segue into prayer.

Our Lady's Square in July'2014

Availability to pray to Our Lady at this location is twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. At night the light posts automatically come on and illuminate the entire square where many typically gather for personal prayer. Some pilgrims make it a part of their personal prayer program to attend this location every night, when it typically is less occupied. If you plan to make a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in the summer months, do keep in mind that even during the late evening, there are many pilgrims at this location. It would not be unusual to visit Our Lady's Square in the late hours of the night and find pilgrims in prayer. It truly is a special location that can only be completely understood by experiencing it.

As to what your prayer program may include at Our Lady's Square, this is a matter of personal preference. If I may suggest, you may want to consider reciting part of your Rosary and include mediations such as Father Slavko Barbarić's book, In The School Of Love, which is available at the Franciscan Book Store next to the Information Center and Pošta (Post Office). Perhaps you prefer to simply speak to Our Blessed Mother informally in your own words as a continued expression of your love. Perhaps you will do all or any combination of the above. What ever you decide to do, it will be time well spent.

May Our Lady clear the way for your pilgrimage to Medjugorje, guide and inspire you while you are there and grant you an abundance of graces. 

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Age Alternative Therapies And Medicine - A Need For Discernment

New Age Therapy and Medicine - Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Today's post introduces a new book on the dangers of the New Age entitled, Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture - A Comprehensive Guide to Discernment written by Moira Noonan and Anne Feaster and published by the Ave Maria Centre of Peace. The book title does justice to its content as it truly is a comprehensive guide to discernment and serves as a key resource for anyone seeking clarity and understanding about the dangers of the New Age and its deceptive belief systems and practices. Detailing many aspects of the New Age, this book cites heavily from the Vatican document, Jesus Christ The Bearer Of The Water Of Life, a Christian reflection on the New Age released in 2003 as a response to the New Age phenomenon. Whether you are new to the dangers of the New Age or if you are somewhat well read on the subject matter, this book is a perfect compliment for those seeking to further their understanding and bring awareness to others. If today's post is the first time you have been alerted to concerns raised about the New Age, may I suggest you read my initial post on the New Age, The New Age - A Basic Introduction.

With fourteen chapters totalling almost 300 pages, this book covers a variety of topics on the New Age including: the heresies that form the historical basis of New Age thinking, the false philosophies that underlie its belief systems, a comparison between Christian contemplation and Eastern meditation, the truth behind alternative healing therapies and medicines, how popular culture, media and the youth have become the doorways to the occult, dedicated chapters for discernment of spirits, an explanation on demonology and deliverance, spiritual warfare and a "Q and A" chapter of questions posed by readers. The Endnotes are an impressive twenty pages that are sure to satisfy any reader's intrigue and desire for further reading. Included are several well known sources such as: Exorcists Father Jeremy Davies and Father Gabriele Amorth, Pope Leo XIII, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Monsignor Milivoj Bolobanić, Archbishop Norberto Rivera, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Father Mitch Pacwa, Michael D. O'Brien, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, LifesiteNews and Catholic News Agency just to name a few. In addition there is an extensive Glossary providing a much needed quick reference for what is sure to be for many, an unfamiliar listing of New Age terms, beliefs and practices. Add to this Appendix A, the complete document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for evaluating Reiki entitled, Guidelines For Evaluating Reiki As An Alternative Therapy and Appendix B, containing three pages of scriptural passages. In my view, the publication of this book has been long overdue and will certainly make for a welcome addition to your reading on the New Age phenomenon.

Due to the volume and density of information contained in this book and for the sake of brevity, I have decided to focus today's post on chapter seven Alternative Holistic Healing Therapies Affecting Mind, Body and Soul, which specifically deals with the many New Age alternative therapies and medicine. In my view, this is an especially important chapter due to the fact that it is through the medical field and the health/fitness industry that the New Age has established a domain of alternative healing practices. The result for many has been the following of false prophets, an acceptance of alternative belief systems and practices, and the reception of counterfeit healing and treatments

Today's focus also coincides with concerns stemming from my observations during many of my daily walks in which I have discovered several New Age practices within my local community such asacupuncture, chiropractic, holistic and preventive medicine, homeopathy, reiki, qigong, iridology, Traditional Chinese Medicine or "TCM" and yoga. This list is by no means an exhaustive one as Noonan and Feaster point out in chapter seven, there are many different types of therapies and medicine that fall into the alternative medicine category: 
The domain of alternative medicine is extensive because of the numerous types of therapies offered: homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbalism, applied kinesiology, reflexology and aromatherapy, bio-energy therapy, reiki, touch for health and therapeutic touch all fall under the heading of alternative therapies, with the list continually growing. Although the origin of each therapy may differ, they are all categorized under holistic health... (101)
Should you endeavour to do likewise and discover if the New Age has infiltrated your community, be on guard against the euphemistic titles and deceptive descriptions such as: oasis, sanctuary, wellness, mind body and spirit, holistic therapies, remedies, weight loss, massage therapy, natural and herbal, preventative and alternative medicine. If there is a treatment that you are unfamiliar with, do not assume it to be acceptable. This has been the mistake of many, failing to question the validity of these treatments and their origin. Also be cognizant of where such "services" are provided, which is typically within trusted medical centers, health and fitness locations. Be prudent, hold off and do the research. Do not be anaesthetized by the pleasant setting and encouraged by others who seem to readily accept New Age practices.

So what does the concerned Catholic do in trying to discern what therapies and medicine are acceptable and which are not? In addition to rooting your effort in prayer and fasting, seeking the truth is essential. This last inclusion of "seeking the truth" may seem rather obvious, but with so much information out there, it really is a necessary reminder for all of us. What this entails is accessing the right sources such as the aforementioned Vatican document, books such as the one that I am blogging about today, scripture and Church teaching which can be found in the Catechism of The Catholic Church. In Noonan and Feaster's book, chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, they provide information to help the discerning Catholic recognize which therapies and medicine fall under the New Age. For your immediate reference, I have included the four "common characteristics" to help you identify what are New Age holistic health practices:
  1. Altered States of Consciousness - Used by a vast number of practices, including: therapeutic touch, psychic diagnosis, dream work, crystal healing and higher mind healing. 
  2. Maya - A concept that claims that illness is just an illusion and proper healing can be induced through thinking, meditation, visualization or positive affirmation.
  3. A Magical Worldview/Divination - With this belief, the practitioner uses psychic powers to diagnose, predict or forecast alleged illnesses.
  4. Life Energies - The New Age model of holistic health is based primarily on its conception of energy and not matter. Illness is not seen as primarily a physical problem, but rather as an imbalance of energy in the body or as a by-product of unenlightened consciousness.
To clarify, "altered states of consciousness or "ASCs" are abnormal mental states that aim to create a void in the practitioner's mind typically characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will. It is through ASCs that practitioners are brought to an encounter with the demonic.

Further in chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, the authors recommend applying the following principles to acquire the truth about any New Age treatment: 
  • Determine if the practice is inherently unbiblical. Does it involve immorality, idolatry, demonic forces, mediums or Eastern mysticism? Better to continue to be physically sick than to become spiritually diseased (Deut 18:10-13)
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview, does it really work? Be a pragmatist. Don't just accept stories and testimonies which do not prove anything by themselves. Controlled studies are the best means of determining the effectiveness of any therapy.
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview and scientifically feasible, make sure that the practitioner does not influence you with a false spirituality or a mystical worldview. 

Having identified the problems with New Age alternative therapies and medicine, what then is to be understood about authentic healing? The authors provide guidelines in chapter seven under the subheading, Guidelines for Authentic HealingThe point to remember about authentic healing is this, it is a matter of divine grace, a gift from God.

Healing by divine grace is never achieved by employing techniques or through some ritual, nor should it be considered and associated in any way with an "energy" or "power" to be harnessed, handed down, manipulated or used at human disposal. Healing by divine grace comes in the form of the sacraments and prayer. Specifically noted are: the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the second sacrament of healing in addition to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, intercessory prayer of the faithful and the charism of healing that is bestowed upon individuals. These healing gifts are freely available given to the Church for its benefit. Those individuals who possess the charism of healing do so as a matter of being instruments of the Holy Spirit. All this is in sharp contrast to the New Age, which seeks to obtain healing apart from God, which is false and a counterfeit healing whose source is the demonic.

Proper Catholic discernment tells us that under no circumstances even for the purpose of achieving "better health" are we to have recourse to the demonic. The Catechism of The Catholic Church makes this very clear:
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity (2117)
The spiritual perils of New Age therapies and medicines are also revealed by the fact that they are both scientifically unproven and questionable. That being the case, to rely on them is a matter of superstition which reveals the New Age's anti-Christian approach as Noonan and Feaster point out: 
If a medicine, or any healing system, cannot be explained and proven effective by the most reliable method of science available, then relying on it could very well be a form of superstition. Trusting in an illogical type of medicine or device for healing would be no different than believing in superstitious practices such as carrying objects for good luck. To do so is to act contrary to the virtue of religion. (111) 
To further your awareness and understanding of what therapies and medicine are New Age, I have provided for your immediate reference, a list of New Age practices that Noonan and Feaster have compiled in chapter seven, under the subheading, Alternative Therapies as a Glance. The authors have also taken the step to categorize the following practices as either, "scientifically questionable (SC), scientifically unproven (SU) and/or energy healing (E)" (114):

  • Acupressure (SQ, E), Acupuncture (SQ, SU, E), Allergy Elimination Techniques (SQ, SU, E), Applied Kinesiology (SQ, SU, E), Aromatherapy (sometimes SQ, SU), Astrology and Horoscope Readings (SQ, SU), Aura Healing and Aura Soma color therapies (E), Ayurvedic Medicine (SU, E)
  • Bach Flower remedies (SQ, E), Body, mind and spirit healing and workshops (SQ, E), Bio-energetic healing (mystical energy) (E), Biofeedback (can be SU, E)
  • Chakra Balancing and Healing (E), Chelation Therapy (can be used but SQ), Chiropractic (can be E, can be SQ, can be SU), Colonics (can be SQ), Colour Therapy Healing (E), Cosmic and Vortex Healing (E), CranioSacral Therapy (SQ, can be E), Crystal Healing (E)
  • Eckankar Soul Travel (E), Edgar Cayce Methods of Psychic Healing (SU, E), Energy Balancing and Energy Healing (E), Energy Medicine (SQ, E)
  • Feng Shui (art of energy displacement) (E)
  • Herbalism (SQ, E), Homeopathy (SQ, SU, E), Hot Stone Massage (SQ, SU, E)
  • I Ching (Chinese fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Iridology (SQ)
  • Live Blood Analysis (Nutritional Blood Analysis) (SU, SQ)
  • Magnet Therapy (SU, sometimes E)
  • Naturopathy (SQ, SU, E), Nine Star Ki (fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Numerology & Charts (divination) (SQ, SU)
  • Palm Reading/Angel Readings (SQ, SU)
  • Pendulums, Dowsing, Consultancy and Healing (E), pH Balancing (SU), Polarity Therapy (chakras and energies) (E)
  • Power Bands/Energy Bracelets/Q-Ray/Ion Bracelets (SU, SQ, E), Psychic Healing and Psychic Readings (Psychic surgery) (SU, E), Psychics, Mediums, Clairvoyants (SU, E)
  • Qigong (SU, E)
  • Reflexology (SQ, E), Reiki (SU, E)
  • Self-Hypnosis and Hypnotic Regression (SQ, SU), Shamanic Healing and Work (E), Sway Testing (SQ, SU, E)
  • The Healing Code (SQ, E), Therapeutic Touch (energy channeling) (SQ, E), Traditional Chinese Medicine (SQ, SU, E)
  • Visualization or Guided Imagery (can be SQ, SU; and sometimes E)
  • Yoga meditation (Yogic Hindu Spirituality) (E)

Some practices are more dangerous than others, such as reiki which I have written about in my previous post, The Dangers And Deception Of Reiki - A Counterfeit To Christian Healing. The one common thread running through all these New Age alternative treatments and practices is a departure from faith in God. Whether some one does this knowingly or unknowingly, this is exactly what is at the core of these alternative practices, alternatives to God's authority. This is simply an extension of the New Age itself, an alternative thinking and very different world view to Christianity. For further details on the New Age world view, in addition to my aforementioned basic introduction to the New Age, may I also recommend two of my posts: The New Age - Further Aspects and The New Age - The Human Person, God and The World.

We all want to be in good health and have it abundantly. We can seek healing for our ailments properly and avoid the New Age deception of its counterfeit healing as this post has detailed. Our decisions should respect God's authority and reflect a personal trust in His will for our lives. So many want to bypass God's authority and seek immediate healing remedies. Such decisions are contrary to God's law as the First Commandment tells us, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." Any therapy or medicine that is either scientifically unproven or questionable or "energy healing" should be removed from consideration and never accepted as a treatment. Avoid anything that involves the occult, magic or superstition and has roots in pagan religions. Noonan and Feaster also point out that seeking good health with the use of conventional medicine is also part of an authentic approach to healing, one that co-operates with divine grace.

I would like to conclude with Father Jeremy Davie's warning regarding New Age alternative therapies and medicine. Father Jeremy Davies is an exorcist for London's Westminster Archdiocese and co-founder together with Father Gabriele Amorth of, The International Association of Exorcists. Noonan and Feaster have included his expert advice which I consider essential to spotlight the dangers of the demonic element of New Age practices:
Beware of seeking help from anyone except Christ and the Catholic Church. On the physical side of things, accept, as a general rule, your doctor's advice. Don't answer advertisements of healers or physics or spiritualists, don't go to sects or cults, don't be tempted by universal energies or eastern religions or magic cures or alternative therapies or self-realization courses or psychological breakthroughs--most of them are demonic and will one make your worse. (113)

May God guide you in your discernment, protect you in your quest for the truth and grant you an abundance of good health.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Deception And Dangers Of Reiki - A Counterfeit To Christian Healing

Reiki body treatment

Today's post continues with my series of posts on the New Age and is the second post based on Brother Max Sculley's book, Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki - A Guide For Christians, a book that I had introduced in February of this year with a blog post of the same title. Of these three New Age practices, I decided to write about Reiki because of the ease with which people are deceived and the widespread usage that today has made Reiki a global phenomenon. If this blog post is the first time you are alerted to the problem of the New Age and concerns raised regarding these practices, may I suggest you read in addition to my introduction to Brother Max's book, my initial post on the New Age, The New Age - A Basic Introduction.

As to why Brother Max has included Reiki with Yoga and Tai-Chi, he explains that an enormous amount of people are flocking to these New Age practicesAt the advanced level, practitioners can acquire occult powers and even supposed divinization. At the heart of these three belief systems is the worship of an impersonal god which is so vastly different from the personal God of Christianity. Reiki, like Yoga and Tai-Chi involves techniques aimed at producing "altered states of consciousness." These altered states of consciousness or "ASCs" are abnormal mental states created by a variety of techniques and are at the core of New Age spirituality. Brother Max notes that "such states are generally characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will." (8) This is in sharp contrast to genuine Christian mystical experiences such as visions, ecstasies or prophetic revelations, which are not generated by techniques, but occur spontaneously and unbidden by the direct action of the Holy Spirit.

If you are new to Reiki, you might be asking yourself what exactly is Reiki? Reiki is an ancient healing art, whose origins date back to a Japanese man, Mikao Usui, who discovered Reiki in 1899. Bother Max explains that most Reiki people regard Reiki as "The Source," much in the same way as Christians look to Christ. Reiki translated means universal divine source which Br. Max notes seems to stem from or at a minimum has some connection to Mikao Usui's religion of Shingon Buddhism's, whose supreme god is referred to as Universal Divine Energy. In essence, Reiki is a counterfeit healing to the genuine Christian healing available through prayer, the Sacraments and Healing Mass. The source of Reiki's healing is not from God, but that of the demonic. Involvement in Reiki leads practitioners away from faith in God's healing and into the realm of the demonic, deceived by a host of concepts such as: maintaining and increasing good health, growing in self love, improving one's emotional life, relaxing more deeply, experiencing harmony and joy and nurturing one's own spiritual life by making contact with the "higher self (the divine self)." The ultimate source is not implicitly understood by the recipient nor explicitly communicated by the giver and as such, many enter into an encounter with the demonic unknowingly, attributing the experience to the host of deceptive concepts. Brother Max expands on this point by stating that:
The practice of Reiki generally leads to the acquiring of certain supernatural powers which are demonic in origin. Because its practitioners cover or cloud the true nature of this system, and because it does not have the usual trappings of a formalised religion, I refer to Reiki as a crypto-religion which nestles comfortably into New Age. (116)
Reiki essentially involves the laying of hands over a person either as a "head or body treatment," and is supposed to bring "wholeness" to both the recipient and the giver. The treatment is supposed to provide the recipient with a feeling of peace and deep relaxation restoring the "natural balance of the body." The treatment is supposed to last for approximately 60-90 minutes and is usually accompanied by quiet soft music, burning of incense and subdued lighting. All that is required to benefit from Reiki is for the recipient to be open and willing to receive the "energy." 

The Reiki that we have available here in Canada and in much of the Western world is a "non-religious" form developed by Mikao Usui for non-Buddhists. It involves the use of four symbols: Power, Mental Emotional, Long Distance and Master all of which are considered the means to making contact with the "source" of Reiki. These symbols are connected with Reiki's three levels of initiation, which involve the process of acquiring the "power." Unlike Yoga and Tai-Chi, very little is explained about this process and therefore, very little is required of practitioners.

To illustrate the deception and dangers of Reiki, in his chapter entitled, Reiki Wreckage, Brother Max provides case examples of people who were involved in Reiki and how it negatively impacted their lives. Under the chapter subheading of Counterfeit Healing, Br. Max details the experience of Ruth, a married woman with a family of three young children whose initiation into Reiki led her away from her Catholic faith and into encounters with the demonic, disguised in the different levels of Reiki initiation and through contact with other "Reiki people." Ruth's whirlwind of demonic deception eventually ended by divine intervention. Through God's love and mercy, Ruth was brought to a new point of conversion in her Catholic faith journey, in which she renounced Reiki and all New Age practices and embraced Jesus Christ as her Saviour and Redeemer.

Ruth's initial exposure to Reiki was an informal one, a workshop in the home of a Reiki Master, a beautiful 40 year old woman with a warm presence. Ruth along with seven others were to be initiated into Level One and at a later date, Level Two. Level One involved the Reiki Master placing invisible symbols upon everyone and each person was exposed to their so called "energy centers" or "chakras" in the human body. Ruth admits that never was Jesus mentioned at these sessions. 

Level Two involved the reception of another invisible symbol, the Long Distance Symbol, where Ruth and others received the "power" to give Reiki to others at a far distance and receive feedback from others who were willing to receive the "power." The demonic element of Reiki is revealed in the following segment of Ruth's testimony:
As we continued we were told that there were spirits attached to Reiki and that you could call on them and receive your own personal spirit (your Reiki spirit) to help you with the person you were working on. With the help of my Reiki spirit, I could sometimes actually see into the body and see the problem, and at other times I would know what was emotionally wrong with the person. Through my spirit, I developed a real clairvoyance... (134)
The spirits Ruth refers to are demonic spirits. Proper Catholic discernment tells us that inspirations and gifts from the spiritual realm are either from the Holy Spirit or evil spirits. The latter is the case with Ruth's above noted testimony. This is further understood by the actual gift Ruth received, clairvoyance, which is not a gift from the Holy Spirit and contrary to God's law of, You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me, as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the section Divination and Magic:  
All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (2116)
Ruth even confirms this herself when she notes that she met so many people in Reiki that were involved in New Age practices, such as: crystal healing, Tarot Cards, astrology, Past Life Regression Therapy, clairvoyance, aura drawings and healing. 

Further on in Ruth's testimony, she continues to provide a first hand account of the deceptive and dangerous aspects of Reiki when describing her attendance at a monthly Reiki meditative meeting:
...This group had requested me to channel messages from the spirit world for them. It was like a being a medium at a séance. As these were all Masters, I felt very privileged to be asked. One day I channelled this being called Qwan Yin. As she entered me, my whole body shook. It was a strange phenomenon. It took a lot out of me. She was some divine goddess and I don't remember what she said.I really never remembered what these spirits said through me, but all of the Masters wanted more of this goddess so I channeled her quite a lot. I realised after a while that this sort of thing was not good for my body. So, since I was regularly in contact with my spirit-guide, I received instructions from it no to do this anymore. In fact, I was told not to channel any other spirits except one called Shannon... (135)
The above quote clearly shows that Ruth was in contact with the demonic. With all the New Age practices that she was involved in, such an account is not shocking by any means, nor is her admission of "doing a weekend of Astral Travelling" and a week of Past Life Regression therapy, both of which are New Age practices.

One day the Reiki deception all came to an end when one of Ruth's friends informed her that Reiki was not from God. At first, she was devastated by the statement, but she decided to think about it. Taking the matter to prayer began the process of her release from the clutches of the demonic. Ruth even admits that the release did not happen as it would normally have because although she was praying at Church, she was still involved in Reiki. Ruth stated, "...That's not a good mix." (137) Eventually, Ruth completely gave up Reiki and disposed of all her New Age material. Upon a visit to a Church of another Christian denomination and talking about Reiki with one individual, that individual simply responded with one explosive word, "Counterfeit." Ruth states that she knew instantly that Reiki was a counterfeit to Christian healing and decided to arrange a meeting with the pastor at this Church where she renounced: Reiki and all its allied psychic powers, spiritualism, astral travel, clairvoyance, belief in past lives and reincarnation. The group from this Church prayed over her and asked God to deliver her from all spiritual bondage. Ruth reasserted her belief that Jesus Christ was her saviour, unique Lord and she surrendered her life to him.

Ruth concluded that she returned to the Catholic Church and as a proper form of healing, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and confessed all of her involvement in Reiki. In the process, she felt as if a great burden had been lifted due in part to the compassion and understanding of the Confessor. As an end result, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Ruth had many scars removed from the hurts received throughout her life. She began to smile again in her life and praised God for her journey. By providing her testimony, it is Ruth's hope that others would also benefit from her life experiences and come to recognize the deception and dangers associated with Reiki and all New Age practices.

Brother Max's book is a timely publication, a warning to fellow Catholics and Christians alike of the deception and dangers of Reiki and other New Age practices. As he noted in the Preface, the Catholic Church has remained largely silent about the New Age phenomenon, citing the example of the Vatican's 2003 publication of, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, a commentary on New Age that evoked little response from local Church leaders in regard to these practices. I certainly agree with his conclusion that rightly or wrongly, some may interpret such silence as assent.

My blog post today, together with all my posts labelled "New Age" hopes to help remedy some of the silence from the Church. In addition to the Vatican document on the New Age, I would also like to encourage visitors to my blog to read a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditationissued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on October 15, 1989. I have already blogged about this document with a post of the same title. This document is an essential inclusion for anyone seeking to understand what the Catholic faith teaches about meditation. So important is this document that it was included and referred to in the Foreword of Br. Max's book by Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney.

May Jesus and Mary guide you in your quest for the truth and understanding of the New Age and the deception and dangers associated with these practices.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Beware The Night - Cases Of Demonic Investigation By Demonologist and Former New York Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie

Demonologist and former New York City Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie
Beware The Night, a book about a former New York Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie from the forty sixth precinct in the South Bronx who moonlighted as a demonic investigator, is a first hand look into the world of the demonic influence in today's modern society. Sarchie includes several cases in this book in which he candidly describes the process of his investigation and his findings, providing the reader with an insight as to how demonic enters into peoples' lives. The case details from what Sarchie refers to as "the work," reveal not only the very negative consequences of dabbling in the occult, but the lack of public awareness and understanding of its many dangers. This book is a testimonial of one man's quest to help deliver people from the clutches of the demonic and serves as a key learning resource for anyone seeking an understanding of this subject matter and how to prevent such influences from coming into your life.

The occult dangers are very real and Sarchie cites many different occult elements that were used by the demonic to entice people and lead them to a life of terror including: ouija board, tarot cards, seances, witchcraft rituals, Palo Mayombe "religion" (black magic), crystalmancy (divination), curses, enneagram and Santeria. As Sarchie notes, the ultimate goal of demonic harassment is always demonic possession, but in some of the cases Sarchie and his team arrived on the scene before the worst case scenario occurred. If during his investigations he discovered that a person was possessed, Sarchie would submit the case to a member of the Catholic clergy to perform an exorcism, in which he would assist.

With the cases of demonic possession, Sarchie enlisted the help of two individuals in particular, Bishop Robert F. McKenna, O.P. who wrote the Foreward to Beware The Night and Jesuit and Exorcist, Father Malachi Martin, whose book on demonic possession, Hostage To The Devil - The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans, was read by Sarchie and helped him to better understand the "the work." Many of the cases in Sarchie's book were harassments of a lesser degree in the form of demonic infestation and/or oppression. Rooted in prayer and fasting, armed with St. Benedict Medals, exorcised or blessed salt, incense and holy water, relics including a splinter of the True Cross, Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer and crucifixes, Sarchie, his partner on the police force Joe Forrester and their team of investigative assistants would go off into the spiritual battle zone and engage in combat with the demonic.

Sarchie's involvement in "the work" also reveals to the reader something about the man himself, a person who sincerely wanted to help deliver people from the clutches of the demonic. As a Roman Catholic whose devotion to Our Blessed Mother was expressed in part with his daily recitation of the Rosary, Sarchie prayed for each case. Sarchie never charged anyone for his services and he would make every effort to avail himself to those who called him to investigate, helping as many people as he possibly could. Sarchie was also prudent as he never went on a case without getting all the facts first and then praying on the matter. Sarchie's investigative work during his own personal time is a great example of faith put into action. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17) 

Sarchie's life example is something we all can learn from, not only with respect to the dangers of the occult, but how we too can put faith into action. Clearly not everyone is called to investigate demonic influences, but we can ask ourselves, what are we doing with our God given gifts to better the community we live in and help others in the spirit of charity and brotherly love. There is doubt in my mind that Sarchie has been doing his part, which continues to this day. As I read each case, coupled with Sarchie's frank descriptions about some of his thoughts and struggles, it became abundantly clear that no one can go through all that "the work" entails without your heart and mind being in the right place. Make no mistake as Sarchie notes, this type of work requires a great deal of faith in God.

Beware The Night includes many cases and some fit into the expected scenarios as to why demonic activity occurs such as: a Satanist renting a basement apartment, someone dabbling in the occult or a teenager that played the ouija board. Sarchie notes that demonic harassment can happen by accident or by design. Some people do not take the occult seriously and think the ouija board is just a game or have no qualms about using tarot cards, attending a seance or performing witchcraft rituals. There are some that know exactly what all these and other occult elements are all about and try to tame the demonic for their own purposes. Of all his cases, I found two to be most intriguing. 

The first case was classified by Sarchie as being in the "innocent victim category" which he detailed in the chapter, The House By The Graveyard. The other case was one of a curse disguised as a religious object, as detailed in the chapter Dabblers In The Damned. In explaining these cases, Sarchie also elaborates on some aspects of demonology helping the reader to understand why these events occurred.

This first of the two intriguing cases, The House By The Graveyard, did not constitute the worst case scenario of demonic possession, but one of a lesser degree of harassment, demonic infestation. Infestation is the demonic presence in a physical location, such as a house, apartment, office, warehouse or any enclosed area. Sarchie describes infestation as follows:
...where the serpents from Hell worm their way into people's lives with small, malicious acts designed to create doubt and fear, an emotion dark forces draw energy from. The demonic will announce themselves in a subtle way. Your phone may ring three times, with unnaturally short or long rings. When you pick it up, you may be greeted by unearthly growling, strange noises, static, or no sound at all. Just then there will be three knocks at the door, but no one is there when you open it. Or you may hear far more distrubing sounds: someone whispering your name when you're alone in the house, heavy breathing in your may feel someone tap you on the shoulder or have your hair pulled, and turn around and find an empty room...Certain areas of your home may develop cold spots that won't go away no matter how much you turn up the heat or may have sudden, drastic changes of temperature, as if something just sucked all the warmth from the room. You may hear footsteps walking around in empty parts of the house or the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the floor. When you look to see the cause of the sound, nothing is out of place. Or you may be all snug in your bed, drifting off to sleep, when you hear a tapping or scratching noise coming from the walls or under the bed. Try as you might, you can't find the source of the noise. Suddenly you may get the unmistakable feeling of being watched, a sensation that makes your skin crawl. A certain room may become hostile to all who enter, even pets may refuse to go into the room, no matter how much they are coaxed. Lights may abruptly turn off, leaving you in darkness, only to blaze on in the middle of the night, jolting you from sleep...Objects may develop a will of their own, moving around the house no matter how many times you put them back...(70-71)
This case involved incidents where scratching noises were heard from a ceiling and heavy footsteps inside the house, which occurred at 3:00am, which as Sarchie explains is the "witching hour," the prime time for demonic activity. Sarchie elaborates on this as the demonic effort to do things in three, to show contempt for the Holy Trinity.

None of the residents from this house by the graveyard, did anything to invite the demonic into the home. As Sarchie points out in the investigation, the home was probably once occupied by a wicked person whose spirit lingered there. It is something he suspected upon discovering from one of the tentants that the landlady refused to go into the house when coming to pick up mail, always remaining on the street. From this Sarchie explains that, "the laws of the spirit world is, "like attracts like," a place haunted by an evil ghost (the spirit of a departed person) can become a magnet for demonic forces as well.

To rid the home of the demon, Sarchie and his team took hold of the aforementioned standard spiritual weapons and began to cleanse the home. The strategy in this case was to burn incense, sprinkle holy water and salt and recite Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer simultaneously at all three levels of the house, so as to deprive the demon of any place to go. The strategy worked and it was confirmed that the demon had departed. It was a successful end to horrific nightmare.

The other intriguing case was one of a curse placed upon a religious object. At first read, that may sound somewhat strange. You might be asking yourself how is that even possible. Sarchie explains:
Curses are typically used to exact revenge. Some magicians attach their evil spells to physical objects that carry the malevolent intention into the victim's home. These are called "contact objects." Just as a religious medal blessed by a priest has a positive charge of holiness and protection, objects cursed by a sorcerer have the opposite effect. They are repositories for negative energy that acts as a catalyst for demonic infestation. Some particularly fiendish occultists spread evils by making seemingly religious objects, such as ceramics or pictures with a Christian motif, then adding something extra: a curse. These artworks are then sold at craft shows to spread the germs of evil to the pious, unsuspecting people who buy them. (172)
Just so there is no misunderstanding, "contact objects" are not previously blessed objects. Any object that is blessed can not be used as a "contact object." This case involved a teacher who bought a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a local fair. The painting was cursed and when the demonic activity began to occur, Sarchie and his partner Joe Forrester were called in. Joe noticed something odd about the painting. Although it was strikingly beautiful, missing from the painting were Our Lady's feet, which is included in the actual painting depicting Our Lady trampling on a two-horned devil. This omission revealed the diabolic intent of its creation. Upon the discovery of the curse, the room temperature dropped a good twenty five degrees, indicative of a demonic presence. After Sarchie recited Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer, the room temperature came back to normal, indicating the demonic presence had departed.

There is a lot to learn on the dangers of the occult, which I suspect will become increasingly necessary in today's secular world where faith has declined sharply coupled with an increase in people dabbling in the occult. With many occult elements already apart of main stream culture here in North America, Beware The Night is a book for anyone serious about understanding the subject matter and a great resource on how to protect yourself from such influences coming into your life.

An end note to today's post. I had originally read this book approximately fourteen years ago. My second reading was prompted by the July'2014 movie release of Deliver Us From Evil, which is based on Beware The Night. During its July theatre run here in Toronto, I was unavailable to blog about it as I was on pilgrimage in Medjugorje. Upon noticing of Deliver Us From Evil's October release on my local cable provider's "On Demand" listing, I decided that I was not going to let the opportunity to blog about it pass me by again. To prepare for today's post, in addition to rereading Beware The Night, I also viewed Deliver Us From Evil. I hope today's post will encourage you to do likewise.

God bless Ralph Sarchie, all those involved in and connected to "the work" and anyone that endeavours to better their understanding of the demonic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Rosary - A Genuine Path Of Contemplation

Today's post continues with the theme of October Is The Month of The Rosary and specifically focuses on the contemplative aspects of the Rosary based on the writing of Saint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis MariaeWith the recent passing of the new feast day for Saint Pope John Paul II of October 22nd, which has been aptly selected to annually commemorate his inauguration as Pope on October 22nd, 1978, today's post also serves as part of my own personal tribute to a man whose life example has been a great source of hope, understanding and encouragement for my faith journey. If you are unfamiliar with Saint Pope John Paul II, I hope you will be encouraged by this reading to discover his life and the enormous contributions of his pontificate.

Saint Pope John Paul II's inauguration Mass October 22nd, 1978

Based on my own faith experience, many of my fellow Catholics seek contemplation in their prayer life. Sadly a significant amount of Catholics, in trying to fill the spiritual void in their lives, have turned to New Age practices, such as Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki and Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In addition, many of today's Catholics have become secularized and simply do not know about the Rosary as one of the few contemplative prayers available from the Catholic faith. The need to discover the truth about the Rosary's contemplative aspect was noted by Saint Pope John Paul II in Rosarium Virginis Mariae's Introduction: 
But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine “training in holiness.” Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become “genuine schools of prayer” (5)
In the Catholic tradition, the Rosary is a genuine form of contemplative prayer that is fundamentally Christocentric. Saint Pope John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae that, "With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer." (1) It is through the guidance of Our Lady that we are led to Jesus in the most surest and quickest manner.

Saint Pope John Paul II has spot lighted the importance of contemplating Christ with Mary by dedicating the entire first chapter to it entitled, Contemplating Christ With Mary. Citing the example of the transfiguration of Jesus in which the Apostles Peter, James and John were entranced by the beauty of the Redeemer and referring to it as "an icon of Christian contemplation," Saint Pope John Paul II further expands on the gaze of the Apostles at Christ's face as the task of each one of us:
To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ's face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. (9)
When we recite the Rosary we have Mary guiding us through the various mysteries of Christ's life. Mary's role is not only as our guide, but our incomparable model in the contemplation of Christ. Saint John Paul II notes that, "No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary." (10) Mary's contemplation began through the eyes of her heart, when she turned to Jesus at the Annunciation. It continued in a tenderly way during the birth of Jesus and throughout his life, always filled with wonder and would never leave him. As Saint Pope John Paul II also notes, Mary's gaze would, "...always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana .(10)

Saint Pope John Paul II praying the Rosary on Elk Island, Alberta (Canada) 1984
In reciting the Rosary and contemplating on the life of Jesus, we enter into contact with the memories of Mary. As Saint Pope John Paul II notes, Mary had her "...eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: "She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." (11) Mary's memories of Christ's life prompted her to reflect upon them at her Son's side. These memories that she reflected upon uninterruptedly during her earthly life, became Her lived Rosary. (11)

In Chapter 1 Contemplating Christ With Mary, Saint Pope John Paul II reinforces the special contemplative aspect of the Rosary by quoting from Marialis Cultus, the Apostolic Exhortation from his predecessor, Pope Paul VI:
Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed. (12)
Saint Pope John Paul II encourages the reader to pause and consider the above quote, and to recognize in the process that the Rosary is fundamentally a Christocentric contemplation.

Today's post captured but a glimpse of the spiritual treasure contained within Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Reading this document again for this month of October proved to a very beneficial read. I hope that my experience has been a shared one with many others who have done likewise. This document is but one of the many gifts given to the Church and the world through the life and pontificate of Saint Pope John Paul II. If you have yet to discover this great saint in the Church, I hope that will soon change. Thank God for Saint Pope John Paul II.

Our Lady of The Rosary, pray for us.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Introduction To Father Slavko Barbarić's Book - In The School of Love

My copy of Fr. Slavko's book that I daily prayed and meditated upon at the Original Blue Cross.

With this month of October being the Month of the Rosary, I thought it fitting to publish today's post on a book that is a wonderful prayer companion during this dedicated month to Our Lady. This summer I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje for several weeks. It was one that afforded me the opportunity to spend many hours in quiet thought and prayer, learning from Our Lady. With my pilgrimage came many gifts, one of which was Father Slavko Barbarić's book, In The School of Love. Today's post shares this gift with all visitors to my blog. If you are currently in Medjugorje, I respectfully encourage you to seriously consider purchasing this book, available at the Franciscan book store, adjacent to the Information Center near St. James Church. If you really want to understand part of what your pilgrimage is all about, this book will provide the answer.

People go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje for many different reasons united in hope and with love for Our Lady. Whether it be for the discernment of a vocation, spiritual, emotional or physical healing, answers to life questions or the "recharging" of one's "spiritual battery," one thing is for certain, we all go there because we have been called by Our Blessed Mother who loves us, who wants to teach us how to love and in the process, invites us to enter into her "School of Love." Our Lady has been inviting us to become diligent students in her "School Of Love" in Medjugorje for over thirty three years. To date, over 50 million pilgrims have responded with their "yes," by making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Our Lady is the most surest and quickest way to understand and follow Jesus. With our "yes" to her invitation, pilgrims in Medjugorje become more resolute in their effort to follow Christ with a greater fidelity.

Commemorative Bolder at Cross Mountain (Križevac) - The spot where Fr. Slavko passed away in November'2000

Father Slavko Barbarić, a legend in the Medjugorje community, was a Franciscan friar who began working with pilgrims in Medjugorje in 1982, conducting numerous spiritual exercises and provided many talks about Medjugorje all over the world. His written contributions include many articles for different publications as well as books on the spirituality of Medjugorje, translated in more than 20 languages and sold in millions. His book, In The School Of Love, was written during the Balkan War (1991-1999) which he admittedly stated was not an easy task. Faced with "hatred in action," he sometimes found it difficult to write this book, but he persevered in prayer to move forward in the writing about love, spreading love in the process. The writing of his book was one of Fr. Slavko's many invitations to all people to open themselves without any fear to Our Lady's motherly love. 

Father Slavko's book, In The School of Love is a 132 page spiritual treasure that any reader is sure to read several times in one's lifetime. Each chapter is approximately one to one and a half pages and focuses on a specific message from Our Lady given to the visionary, Marija Pavlović-Lunetti. Each chapter can easily become your day's meditative reading and is especially useful for keeping the spirit of Medjugorje alive for those pilgrims who have left Medjugorje. I have outlined below the structure of each chapter's content: 

  • Chapter Title - Intrigues the reader to discover each chapter's content.
  • Our Lady's Message - Each chapter contains one of Our Lady's messages, upon which the reader is invited to "read and listen" to what Our Lady is saying.
  • Teaching and Meditation - Following each message Fr. Slavko provides a teaching that each reader is to meditate on.
  • Passage From Scripture - Each chapter concludes with quotes from scripture, offered as spiritual food for further reflection. Father Slavko's teaching is based on and empowered by the divine content contained within scripture. It serves to recap and confirm his teaching.

There is no time limit or any other parameter placed upon the reading of each chapter. To simply follow through Fr. Slavko's chapter structure takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Certainly it could result in much more time, as it might spawn a lengthy meditation and encourage the reader to spontaneous prayer to Our Lady. One thing is for certain, this book encourages you to "pray with the heart" and 
invites each reader to become a diligent student in Our Lady's "School Of Love," the most beautiful school.

To be consecrated to Our Lady, open and devoted to Her and to be Her student is a great gift and grace. Mary is the mother of us all and she was the first one to be nourished from the spring of Divine Love. It is with this same love that Our Lady desires to lead us, Her children to that same spring of love.

The visionaries have often quoted Our Lady, "Dear Children! If you would only know how much I love, you would weep for joy!" Reading this book united with prayer will help you begin to understand Our Lady's love for us, her children. I am certain that should you decide to read this book, that well before its completion, you will be praying daily for the gift of love!

May Our Lady help you to excel in Her School of Love.