Today in the local newspaper I saw an article about how Penn Highlands (local community college) is teaming up with a young man who works as a medium to create some kind of paranormal show. Of course we always stay far away from such things, because what happens with this is an attempt to seek spiritual power from forces other than God. In very simple language it means inviting the devil or one of his fallen angels into your home. This is not simply some sort of simpleton way of viewing things, but it is a real spiritual truth: we do not invite the devil into our lives. This is not made up. Rather, we invite Christ into our homes. This is the best way to protect ourselves and our families. Our savior came to redeem all of creation, and we do not want to live in darkness apart from Him.
Today’s feast of Candlemas or the Presentation of the Lord can help us to do this. First the principal Mass of the parish begins with the blessing of candles. This blessing from the priest returns these created objects to the worship and the service of God, thus providing a level of protection against real spiritual attacks. The blessing calls down the power of God, invoking the Holy Cross to dispel gloom of evil spirits. The prayer of the Roman Ritual asks God “empowered with the seal of the holy cross, let the spirits of darkness depart trembling and fly in fear from all places where their light shines, and never more molest or disturb nor molest those who serve thee almighty God”. When a sacramental is blessed, that prayer is made into a concrete form—the prayer remains with the blessed object, and that is why we never throw out blessed items.
There is a real spiritual power on such objects and when they are used with faith, they can really help us to grow closer to God(cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1667f). I was listening to one man say how he had a priest come bless several objects: candles, water, salt, oil, and when he used them he really felt God’s power. The next time he made his usual confession he wept tears of sorrow for his sins because he felt at a much deeper level God’s love and how his sins had rejected that love. I know of one woman who burns blessed candles when she experiences some kind of fear, and that fear dissipates as the candles burn. This is because such physical objects which have been blessed and returned to God’s service, convey God’s grace.
Sacramentals are not magic objects, but they do convey real grace. They do convey real power that is meant to draw us away from sin and toward God. We use a sacramental quite often: the sign of the cross. Saint John Vianney counseled: “the sign of the cross is the most terrible weapon against the devil.”
We can use sacramentals to help us to pray. We experience a concrete connection to our Lord through these physical objects: the sign of the cross, candles, water, salt, epiphany chalk, rosaries, scapulars, medals… They dispose us to better receive God’s grace, and today’s Mass in a particular way calls to to take advantage of this blessing upon our candles. The Blessed Virgin shows us something very important. Even though she would not have any need to go for this ritual of purification since she was a virgin before, during, and after birth, she still followed God’s law and brought our savior to the temple.
The demons will try to entice with all sorts of lies: worldly success, power, pleasure, fame. It’s all a facade that will lure us into the trap to ultimately fill us with despair and hatred. John Lennon made a pact with a demon for success for 20 years. 20 years later, he was shot and killed by a man who heard voices telling him to shoot mr Lennon. That man was later exorcised of 5 demons.
It is the Blessed Mother’s humility, purity, and obedience that terrifies demons. Her intercession and the intercession of the angels and saints is something to get excited about. We should not get excited about the paranormal. This feast reminds us that even in difficult situations, even when we cannot seem to understand how God can be working, to grow deeper in trust, to turn from any attachment to sin, and to ask the Blessed Mother to help us to see with the eyes of faith, allowing the light of Christ to fill our souls as we go forth to bring this light to a world that is obsessed with darkness. It is important to remember that the devil is a fallen angel. Created by God, he refused to do God’s will, so he uses his angelic powers to lead souls to hell. He is not equal to God, and the saints often use the image of a ferocious dog tied to a chain. God allows us to see or hear him every now and then to remind us he exists. If we do not approach, he has no power over us, no matter how he might try to disturb. This is why if one has used things like ouja boards, gone to mediums or fortune tellers, uses charms or casts spells, one should confess these sins in the Sacrament of Confession.
We should also be aware of the devil’s usual tricks: complacency and despair. One might be tempted to just float by in the spiritual life, but eventually a life of comfort will experience a deep unease. Then there will be a temptation for the spiritual quickfix, but that never goes well! Then there might be the temptation of despair—one might view one’s life and just give up hope—hope of growing closer to God, hope in eternal life, or hope that one’s life has a real and deeper meaning other than just the here and now. Of course we NEVER listen to the voice of the devil.
By remaining in the state of grace and running to confession when we sin, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the angels and Saints, and by prayerfully using blessed sacramentals we place our lives into God’s hands. Exorcists will note that as an exorcism is ending, the Blessed Mother often just shows up. The devil is absolutely terrified of her and won’t even say her name. Blessed Bartolo Longo was a young man who got caught up in a life of sin and was even a high priest of Satanism. At one point he was so full of despair, that he was very close to suicide. He met a Dominican priest who heard his confession, but he still struggled with this despair. He remembered the Rosary he learned as a child and he began to pray. The Blessed Mother saved his life, and after his conversion, he went to seances denouncing such activity and counseling people to pray the Rosary. He even built the shrine to our Lady of Pompeii, Our Lady of the Rosary, in Italy. We do not rely on our own powers, but on the power of God who has entered into the Temple in the arms of Mary. May we invite Him into the Temples of our bodies, of our Church, of our homes! We see what a life full of grace is like: with her help, we can receive our Lord in the Eucharist only when we are in the state of grace, and truly be open to the graces of constant conversion in order to full of God’s life in our souls. Souls who are faithful to this struggle to the end are the saints in heaven. St Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Divination and magic
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 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.48 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.
2117 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.
Beware! the New Age Movement Is More Than Self-Indulgent Silliness
Manual for Spiritual Warfare
A great source for well constructed Rosaries and Sacramentals