Seminar With Witch Accents Dangers Of New Age And Occult In Catholic Settings
It's dangerous to be "closed-minded": Odds are, when we're on the other side of the veil, we'll be surprised at how God judges (and how He views various religions). We must always be careful not to condemn too quickly.
But are there times when openness goes too far?
Such clearly seemed to take place at the Bishop Howard Hubbard Interfaith Chapel at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, recently, where, according to at least one report we have received, a Haitian voodoo service was allowed.
We have no further details. According to the diocesan spokesman, Ken Goldfarb, the chapel is not under diocesan control, and repeated attempts to educe an answer from the college itself have not as yet borne fruit (despite promises of a quick reply).
But if true it may be the most extreme example in what are proliferating reports of alternate religions, New Age-like practices, and outright occultism in Catholics settings.
Another example: a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, called "Earth Spirit Rising" (June 8 through 10). The conference -- which features a famous witch from California named "Starhawk" -- will propagate the view of earth as a living organism. ("This shift is a change towards Earth Wisdom," says the website. "It represents a movement towards recognizing that nature provides the ultimate answers to the questions of our times.")
Sponsoring "patrons" of the event include the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Cincinnati Region; Sisters of Providence, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana; Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana; Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania; Sisters of the Precious Blood; St. Mary of the Springs; St. William Church; the Franciscan Sisters of Mary; and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The sponsoring "friends," meanwhile, include Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange, Illinois; Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling, West Virginia; the Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University; and The Well, Sisters of St. Joseph, LaGrange, Wisconsin.
The New Age long has been seen in ecological movements that incorporate paganism by means of "Mother Earth" (as opposed to defending it as God's Creation). Christians argue that only God Himself has the ultimate answers -- and that while protecting the environment is crucial to the good Christian, introducing pagan notions (particularly nature spirits, and especially witchcraft) is contrary to the doctrines of Catholicism -- and condemned in the Bible.
It is not known if local bishops and the Vatican are aware of the nuns' participation.
Meantime, in Fort Myers, Florida, a hullabaloo erupted during March when a conservative Catholic named Lori Bohan -- long a participant in Marian activities -- confronted a yoga teacher at Blessed Pope John XXIII Church there. The yoga sessions were being held inside a chapel in full view of those worshipping in the church itself.
While mainly used in the West to "stretch and strengthen muscles, control stress, and find peace," yoga, notes one wary Christian website, is from the Sanskrit word Yug, meaning "union" with the Divine higher "self"). The involvement of self or God as an impersonal universal energy is a prime tenet of the New Age.
Moreover mantras used in the meditative practice often invoke pagan spirits by name, and deliverance ministries warn that methods used to clear or "blank" the mind can offer a vacant home for spirits.
"It is a path for transcending the ordinary mind (who you think you are) in order to merge with your 'higher self' or 'God self,'" notes one Christian website. "Yoga means 'to yoke' -- to yoke with Brahman (i.e., the 'Infinite,' the 'Universal Spirit,' the impersonal force that the Hindus call 'God') via the realization of an altered state of consciousness, thereby theoretically releasing oneself from the bondage of endless reincarnation. Yoga comes out of the Hindu Vedas. It can be traced back to Patanjali, who was a religious leader. Shiva, one of Hinduism's three most powerful gods, was known as 'The Destroyer' -- he's called Yogi Swara or the 'Lord of Yoga.'"
The yoga in Fort Myers ended when Mrs. Bohan sprinkled Holy Water on participants and paid a visit to the bishop.
The same problems accompany reiki -- an energy "healing" method that is popular in New Age circles and now also at dozens of retreat centers operated by Catholic nuns who likewise view it as a neutral method and have integrated it with Christianity, as we have previously reported.
Proponents of reiki believe that there are "vibrational" fields around humans that influence our well-being -- energies that surround and interpenetrate. It is similar to the Eastern concept of "ki" or "chi" energy that many non-Christians in Asia believe flows around the human form as sort of an aura.
While no one knows enough about the powers of the universe to determine precisely all aspects of every belief, nor what energies flow around living beings, the links to paganism and the opportunity for infestation are cause for strong warnings. Indeed, instructors in reiki have been known to "channel" spirits -- a practice condemned by virtually all major Christian denominations.
On Long Island, Bishop William Francis Murphy has informed a parishioner concerned about reiki at a church in Northport that an inquiry is under way. In Oak Lawn, Illinois, ministers to the homebound reportedly have proposed instruction in the esoteric technique at St. Germaine Church.
These are for the most part good and well-intentioned people who have been deceived. But the effects can be profound -- and chilling.
Notes one viewer, "About ten years ago I was visiting my husband's grandmother, who had around-the-clock care. The woman who was on duty practiced reiki. She wore crystal earrings and necklace, and was also a fallen-away Catholic. I had a headache and when I mentioned it to her, she said she wanted to lay her hands on my head. I was uneasy about it, but I let her do it. At that time, I was having a deep conversion back to my Catholic faith. I had a rosary around my neck, but it was underneath the sweater I was wearing.
"When the woman put her hands on my head, she screamed and ran away from me, shaking her hands. This shocked me, and she said that her hands burned when she touched me. She said it was like touching a hot iron. It was getting hot in the room so I took off my sweater, and it is then that I remembered the rosary that was around my neck. The woman wanted to try laying hands on me again, and by now, I was ready to see what would happen. As she lay her hands on my head, the heat was too much for her and she ran across the room, shaking her hands again. She just could not understand why my head was burning her hands. I knew that I was being protected by the Crucifix."
Other practices such as the enneagram and labyrinths have gained widespread use in Catholic retreat centers.
The answer is not condemnation so much as prayer.
Says a viewer from Austin, Texas: "During one CRHP [Christ Renews His Parish] retreat (on a full October moon), the men were 'encouraged' to spend time in the 'maze.' A secret plan had been set up to get all former CRHP members who still had their candles to bring them to the maze so that we could 'light the way' of the men on retreat.
"When I spoke my piece regarding my boycott of anything that would detract from Christ's Eucharistic Presence in the chapel (where I planned to spend multiple hours in prayer), the torrent of hate and anger was unstoppable. The plan was to be continued --but God had the final word....my cries were heard, my heart was softened as I prayed for rain. Many of us did and in the joy of that weekend, the men did stay -- inside the retreat house, as did the candles, before Him, as the rain continued to fall, for the entire weekend."
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