"Forgiveness breaks the connection with the unlove of the past. It is a pathway of healing. It's a lifelong practice. There's always something we have to forgive. It's a moment by moment grace. When we simply allow the Lord to empower our choice to forgive, then the transformation process begins. Then we begin to change."

So says Father Lou Cerulli -- a powerful priest (from Canada) and an expert at what they call family or intergenerational healing. It's a heavy statement, full of meaning we have to digest: Forgiveness. Christ said to do it all the time -- not just seven times, but seven times seventy: meaning constantly. It lifts us out of current crises -- stops the aggravation that so often mires us and our loved ones -- and when applied to past generations, even to the deceased, claims this priest, it can have surprising results. This is especially important in the closing moments of this month during which we pray for those in purgatory.

Forgiving the dead? Do we really need to do such a thing? Why?

There are bonds, claims Father Cerull. There are bonds between us and those in our bloodline. Are we not bonded all the way back to the Garden? As a result, Father Cerulli, a former corporate consultant who was ordained about ten years ago, recommends prayer in which deceased relatives are visualized and forgiven. What really helps, he says, is receiving Communion for them. He believes it's especially important to pray for two groups of people: those we liked the most and those we disliked the most! They are the ones who were either closest to us or who caused the greatest antagonism.

Praying for them can often free us from problems that otherwise seem to have hidden roots, asserts this charismatic priest, who hails from Montreal. "We just bring all of them before the Lord and into the Eucharist," he says. "First we ask the deceased to forgive us. In the Presence of Jesus, we ask them to forgive us for any wrongs we may have committed against them. That may include the failure to pray for family members who needed prayer. Then we forgive them -- we forgive them for their sinful habits, and for the damage they have done."

It is a growing ministry that is both controversial and fascinating. Are we really affected by the deceased? Can what relatives and even distant ancestors have done still take a toll? And if so, how do we know what to pray about?

One basic way of approaching this, says Father Cerulli, is to simply state: "I forgive you for whatever you have done that is affecting me today." The priest recommends that we apologize to God on behalf of our ancestors -- "for the insults they have perpetrated, perhaps through occult activity," he states in his tapes. "Receiving forgiveness from Christ removes guilt. Receiving forgiveness from someone else lubricates the healing-love flow. And giving forgiveness removes resentment."

"Jesus says in 1 Corinthians 11:26, 'whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.' And so in this part of the Eucharist we pray for our family trees. We pray that even as Jesus comes into the bread and wine, so will He come into the family we are praying for."

What matters, says Father Cerulli, is not how we may or may not feel, but that we concentrate on showing the Lord to the dead person and let Jesus bring healing to the living. He believes that the afflictions of the deceased can otherwise haunt the living. "The negative bond between us and them is broken," he asserts. "The Eucharist contains all the means we need to be set free."

This is especially important, he says, for deceased relatives who may never have known the healing love of Jesus. Often the bondages we have are not due to demonic spirits, he believes, but to familial spirits. He cites the case of a lady who had an unusual fear of heights and sensed the presence of a dead grand-father, whom she frequently saw in her dreams. After offering the Eucharist on his account, according to Father Cerulli, the woman found that she no longer had a phobia of falling. Further research revealed that her grandfather had died after falling off a ladder.

"Sometimes what people sense as an evil spirit may be rather a familial spirit," he asserts. "However this may work on a spiritual level, it's like someone who is trying to get our attention and needs our prayer."

[for Fr. Cerulli's tapes]

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