Friday, October 30, 2009

Boo! Part Two - Ghosts? Really? Really!

Part Two of Boo! About Ghosts
I look for ghosts; but none will force
Their way to me. 'Tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
Between the living and the dead.

 ~William Wordsworth,
 The Affliction of Margaret

Whenever teaching, writing about, or discussing theology, I have a pet phrase: Watch your language!

I'm not implying that my students or audience use vulgarities and cussin’ in my presence. (No, only after I leave!  Hardee-har-har!).

Ahem.  What I mean is this: When doing theology, it is of the utmost importance that anyone who  participates in the discussion, express his or her thoughts clearly and accurately, free of colloquial expressions, clich├ęs, images or vocabulary which may alter, confuse or cloud the actual concept being discussed.

With that theological rule of thumb operating, let's do a little “Q and A.”

When I am speaking with someone or teaching a group, and I mention “ghosts”, I am usually grilled with the same question: “Do you believe in "ghosts"?”

Using my above-stated theological rule of thumb, my answer is usually, “I believe in God, His Son Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of our bodies, the Real Presence, and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  I don’t believe in "ghosts":  I  acknowledge the existence of the paranormal activity colloquially called, ‘ghosts.’

Then comes the secondary question: “Really? You really believe in "ghosts"? You’re a Catholic Priest! How can you believe in "ghosts"?” 

I usually parry by using a counter-question: “How can I not acknowledge ‘"ghosts"’? They are really real!”

Now, unless you’ve been stranded on Gilligan’s Isle, you surely must have seen commercials on television or ads in newspapers and magazines, advertising shows about “"ghosts"”  or  “ghost’-hunting. Many recent incidents of paranormal activities have been scientifically documented, with several eyewitnesses, who usually have video, audio, or photographic evidence capturing these strange incidents.  Like it or not, there’s no denying that these events are happening,  They are real.  But … real whatThe interpretation of these activities is the heart of the matter.  Yes, okay, we see the video capturing a paranormal event; but who or what is performing for the cameras?

Since ancient times, across many cultures, there have been acknowledgements of the existence of "ghosts" or discarnate spirits. This includes the Ancient Jews.

Follow me now, as we “go through the back door” to prove something:

    ✓    God ’s Laws, revealed to the Jewish people, include prohibitions of any activity involving speaking with the dead or with discarnate spirits. 
    ✓    In 1Samuel 28, we find King Saul consulting a”necromancer” (medium) so he could speak with the soul of the deceased judge, Samuel. 
    ✓    However, in Leviticus 19:31 the Lord says: “Do not have recourse to the spirits of the dead or to mediums: they will defile you.” (For “extra credit, read Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Leviticus 20:27.)
    ✓    Saul sins and defiles himself by this activity.

If "ghosts" and discarnate spirits don’t exist, why does God prohibit interactions with them?

And, so, humanity has always acknowledged the presence of beings like "ghosts".

The pragmatic issue within this fact is this:  When people go to mediums or on ghost hunting expeditions to see or hear “ghosts,” are they seeing and hearing the disembodied souls of human persons, or spirits created as discarnate beings (without physical bodies)? (Discarnate beings include angels, both holy and fallen. The fallen angels are referred to as demons or devils.)

Expressed as a simpler question: When a "ghost" tells you through a Medium or Ouija Board that you have contacted your deceased Aunt Tilly — is that really your Aunt Tilly?  Or is it some thing  that is hell-bent on deceiving you and destroying your holiness and your life? (There will be more about this in the next Post.  Stay tuned!)

So, yes, “ghosts” really exist.  But that doesn’t mean that you and I should be involved with them as a form of entertainment or recreation.  There are reasons why God says NO to that.  The primary reason is that human beings involved with "ghosts" and spirits are in deep waters that are way over our heads.  It’s like playing “Tag” with the demons. Play with those nasty, hostile, lying playmates, and you’ll eventually suffer loss: the loss of your faith and hope, the loss of peace and balance in your life, and in some cases, emotional breakdown and loss of sanity!

Faithful Catholics will trust God and His decisions regarding human beings’ involvement in spiritually dangerous pursuits.  After all, He is God and we are not.  To think that we actually know better than God is foolish and ignorant, and a product of inflated pride.  Thinking that way is dumb, dangerous, and  sinful!

Sadly, human beings arrogantly thinking that something which God prohibits is actually beneficial to us (because we will learn what only God had known and we will be as intelligent as He is) is exactly the result of believing the lie which the Serpent (Satan, a discarnate spirit) told our first parents in an apple orchard in Eden (see Chapter Three of The Book Of Genesis).  Eve and Adam both believed that lie.  They swallowed it: hook, line, sinker, and fishing rod!  You and I are the inheritors of the virus of our protoparents’ Original Sin, with all the misery and  death it keeps reproducing in every human being conceived! 

Hopefully, you can see how sinful human pride easily connects to our society’s current fascination with the paranormal. That fascination increases in proportion to society’s  attempts to play God — to replace God — and to distance itself further and further from God and true religion.  Spiritualism and obsession with the paranormal amount to pseudo-religions: religions without God.  People are being lured into them, and dangerously deceived by them.  This cultural obsession with the paranormal is evil.  Catholics must have nothing to do with this.  No one should have anything to do with "ghosts" and mediums, whether as a form of entertainment, recreation, or “higher” education. 

So, my dear Academicians, take the Assistant Headmaster’s advice:  Attend to our Headmaster’s instructions!  If God communicates HIs warning and prohibition of certain actions or forms of knowledge, then we human beings should be compliant and confident that He knows better than we do, and that His prohibitions are for our own safety and happiness.   To think otherwise is reckless, excessive pride and immature defiance of God.  Such sinful, exaggerated self-confidence almost always ends in self-destruction.


To Be Continued…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dark Side Of The Soul - Reprised


I thought I'd bring to your attention, dear Academicians, an article I stumbled upon.

It was written by Father Raymond DeSouza back in 2005. It is an insightful article about the Star Wars movies.  

Since this is the Catholic Jedi Academy, I thought this might be some reading for extra credit!

So, for your consideration: click this link: Dark Side Of The Soul 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Souls Day Project - Pray for Priests


Father John Zuhlsdorf has an excellent suggestion on his blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say."  During the year of the priest, one can gain a plenary indulgence by praying for priests on the First Thursday of the month.  Since the Thursday following All Souls Day is a First Thursday, perhaps we can pray for the repose of the souls of our priests who have died.  Sounds like a good idea to me.  What do you think?

Here's a link to a beautiful Rosary meditation by the TeDeum Foundation to be prayed for the souls of priests in purgatory:  TeDeum Foundation.org.
And, here's another prayer for the souls of priests from various sources (from a website called catholic tradition.org): 

O GOD, Who in the ranks of the Apostolic Priesthood hast caused Thy servants to be invested with the Pontifical or Priestly dignity; grant, we beseech Thee, that may also may be joined unto the everlasting fellowship of the same Thy Priests. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Incline Thine ear, O Lord, unto our prayers wherein we humbly pray Thee to show Thy mercy upon the soul of Thy servant [name the priest], whom Thou hast commanded to pass out of this world, that Thou wouldst place him in the region of peace and light, and bid him be a partaker of Thy Saints. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

MY Jesus, by the sorrows Thou didst suffer in Thine Agony in the Garden, in Thy Scourging and Crowning with thorns, in the Way to Calvary,  in Thy Crucifixion and Death, have mercy on the souls of priests in Purgatory, especially those most forgotten and who have no one else to pray for them. I wish to remember all those priests who ministered to me, the priests my heart have never forgotten, and for those that I no longer recall due to my frailty of memory.
Do Thou deliver them from the dire torments they endure; call them and admit them to Thy most sweet embrace in Paradise.
Our Father, Hail Mary, and: 
ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO THEM, O LORD, AND MAY PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM; MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. AMEN.
 
POPE ST. PIUS X AND VEN. POPE PIUS XII, PRAY FOR US AND ESPECIALLY OUR PRIESTS!

 

WOW! What A Trick!

Alright, dear Academicians:  Tell me how this was done and receive extra credit.  Maybe I'll send you a prize or something.  Maybe!  Meanwhile, watch this!

Cool! Archbishop Dolan has a Blog


Good news!  New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan now has a blog on the Archdiocesan website.  (The only negative aspect of the blog is the archbishop's advice to Mets fans that they be sure to observe the feast of St. Jude on October 28th - the feast of hopeless causes!  Oh, it's rough not being a Yankees fan in New York).

Yesterday Archbishop Dolan posted comments supportive of  Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island in his reprimand of Congressman Patrick Kennedy.  Congressman Kennedy had recently criticized the Catholic Bishops of the United States, wrongfully accusing them of being opposed to universal health care. Evidently Representative Kennedy feels that protecting the unborn is not a valid reason to oppose the health care legislation that is being proposed for our nation.  He also must believe that Catholic physicians, nurses and other health care workers do not have the right to defend their conscience by being exempted from participating in immoral procedures, such as abortion.  It seems that Mr. Kennedy is promoting health care legislation at any cost...even the cost of the lives of scores of unborn children.

As Archibishop Dolan states in his post:
The Catholic community in the United States hardly needs to be lectured to about just healthcare. We’ve been energetically into it for centuries. And we bishops have been advocating for universal healthcare for a long, long time.
 
All we ask is that it be just that -- universal -- meaning that it includes the helpless baby in the womb, the immigrant, and grandma in a hospice, and that it protects a healthcare provider’s right to follow his/her own conscience.
Both bishops call for Representative Kennedy to issue an apology.  Unfortunately, we probably shouldn't hold our breath.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BOO! Part One: About Ghosts

Halloween is almost here... 
... And millions of Americans have already prepared for this secular holiday. Sales of Halloween candy, decorations, and costumes are brisk, even though our nation's financial crisis is far from over.
Halloween
has grown into the nation's second largest holiday. Only Christmas produces larger retail sales... ."
"The National Retail Federation estimated the average consumer in 2003 spent about $41.77 on Halloween-related items, including $14.41 on candy, $14.85 on costumes and $10.37 on decorations. Total retail sales in 2003 surpassed $7 billion, up from $2.5 billion in 1997."
"Consumers spent about $2 billion on candy last year, making Halloween the biggest season for sweets. And the $586 million spent on decorations makes Halloween second behind only the Christmas season."

I find these facts rather unsettling. From my perch, here at the "Academy," I have been observing the rising popularity in all things paranormal. For example, on the subject of ghosts and hauntings, I have found an abundance of television programs featuring ghosts, contact with the dead, and ridding homes of unwanted spirits. 
Here's a example of these ubiquitous TV programs:  
  • Celebrity Ghost Stories
  • Extreme Paranormal
  • Ghost Adventures
  • Ghost Hunters
  • Ghost Hunters International
  • Ghost Stories
  • The Ghost Whisperer
  • Haunted History
  • John Edward (the TV "psychic") Cross Country
  • Medium
  • Paranormal State --
-- and there might be more programs that I missed. (If you, dear Academicians, know of more, I'd appreciate your launching an e-mail to me with said information. Thanks!)

Why am I writing about these things?  What makes me qualified?  Experience! Statistically, I must be part of a rare subset of people: people who have had several experiences with ghosts and hauntings in several different locations and countries. All told, I've had at least 19 separate experiences of paranormal activity. My first experience came when I was five-years-old. My most recent one: last month.

Over the years -- because of my experiences -- I have read a lot of books, done a lot of research, and asked a lot of questions about ghosts and hauntings.   As a priest, I expanded my knowledge of things that go bump in the night -- by contemplating Scripture, examining Church History, and studying the Church's teachings to cast light on these phenomena.

I've decided to write a few Posts on this topic, because of the disturbing increase of TV and radio shows, websites, blogs, and books on ghosts and hauntings.  I'm concerned about our societal fascination with ghosts and contacting the dead. What concerns me are the ways that people are seeking out these phenomena with no regard for the inherent
spiritual and emotional dangers in these events.  Several metaphors come to mind: 
  • "Curiosity killed the Cat"   
  • "If you play with fire, you are going to get burned."
  • "What you don't know CAN hurt you"
  • "He who knows better has never tried it."
  • Or as Steven Wright  once said: "Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards.
    I got a full house and four people died.
    (Sorry! Just a little humor!)
You catch my drift.  I'm sure that, by now, you understand the direction my thoughts are leading you in.  People are tinkering with something seriously dangerous.  And videotaping it for all to see and be misled.


In a lot of ways, this fascination with the paranormal is increasing as our society distances itself further and further from God and true religion.  Ouija Boards. Seances. Psychics and Mediums. Ghost hunting with cool technology.  Clubs whose sole focus is to experience the paranormal. It's like having the dark version of Halloween every day.  

These constitute a "religion without God." And more and more people are being lured into it -- and dangerously deceived by it.


Who are all these ghosts anyhow?  What causes hauntings, really?   What is wrong with consulting a psychic or medium?  Or conducting a Seance?  Or using a Ouija Board? Or hunting for ghosts? 


I hope to  explore these questions with you in future Posts.  Until next time, here's a proverb to think about and apply to the subjects in our brief exploration of paranormal activities:   "Dead men tell no tales."

Monday, October 12, 2009

NY Times Publishes Balanced Front Page Article on Pro Lifers

Jill Stanek informs that the New York Times has actually published a front page story that is "fair and balanced" in its description of pro-life activists.  In fact, on its online edition, the Times not only entertains a respectful conversation with Monica Migliorino Miller, a theology professor and renowned pro-lifer, but even publishes graphic photos taken by Professor Miller of the bodies of aborted fetuses.  Professor Miller discusses finding the discarded babies at a medical lab where they had been sent for testing.  She and her husband, along with others, took the fetal remains and stored them until they could be given proper burials, including a funeral at which Cardinal Bernardin officiated.  Prior to burial, Professor Miller photographed some of the bodies and those pictures have become famous through their use at abortion clinic vigils and other demonstrations.  A   lawsuit against the professor and other pro-life advocates was decided in their favor in 2003.  This lawsuit was famous for the unsuccessful attempt by plaintiffs to use the RICO (racketeering) statute against pro-life demonstrators.




One  interesting comment made by Professor Miller in the interview was that her view of using graphic pictures of aborted babies has "evolved." and she no longer believes that the use of bloody, gory images are "acceptable."  The aim of her more recent photographs is to show the "beauty and humanity in the unborn child," and to evoke pity.  I have to say that I agree with her assessment.  Unfortunately, while the gory pictures may prompt some to change their mind about abortion, I have a feeling that they do more damage to the cause by creating an image of pro-lifers as cold hearted and unsympathetic.    It's an issue that has proponents on both sides, but in the end I believe that sympathy and pity, and above all, of course, love, are what will win the battle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When Is A Child Worthy of Protection by the Government?

There is an interesting story in the news today about a Philadelphia couple who have been arrested for not getting adequate care for their two year old son who died from pneumonia.  The couple, it is alleged, prayed for their son to be healed rather than take him to a doctor for antibiotics.  According to their lawyer, they thought the child had a cold and were not negligent.

The irony is that up until 2001, the government condoned withholding medical treatment from a child born during the course of an abortion, even if it would survive with adequate attention.  Such state sanctioned manslaughter was not chargeable. However, in 2002 President Bush signed into law the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that gave personhood to a baby who survived an abortion and needed care.

It would seem that providing care to such babies would be a "no brainer," however, Barack Obama, as an Illinois state senator in 2002, not only voted that providing medical care to such unwanted babies would be an "undue burden" to the mothers, he actively worked to prevent passage of the law.  In our strange world of hypocrisy and confusion, we can imprison parents who mistakenly seek religious solutions to medical problems, but laud those who would abort perfectly healthy babies even up to the time they're able to live on their own.  The guys at Creative Minority Report created an eloquent You Tube video during the election that perfectly captures the sentiment, "It's a Mad World."  (Please note there is one disturbing image in this video):

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Lady of the Rosary - The Battle of Lepanto


On October 7, 1571 the Turkish armada was defeated by Christian naval forces in a decisive sea battle that saved Rome and much of Europe from Muslim conquest.  The victory came after Pope Saint Pius V urged Christians throughout Europe to pray the Rosary in advance of the battle, seeking the intercession of Our Lady to avoid defeat and bloodshed.  The Christian fleets, drawn from Venice, Genoa, Spain and the Knights of Malta, faced a proud and confident Turkish fleet whose galley slaves pulling the oars were half-starved Christian slaves.  In a 2007 article for National Review, Michael Novak wrote of the battle,  "The Christian victory was far more complete than anyone had dreamed. The victory seemed to many quite miraculous, and victory was immediately attributed to Our Lady Queen of the Rosary — soon to be called by a new title, Our Lady Queen of Victory. All over Europe, from city to town, church bells rang out continuously when news of the impressive victory arrived. Ever since, October 7 has been celebrated as a feast day by the Catholic Church."   It is especially important to remember that our struggles of today are not unique and to not lose confidence that prayer is, as always, the best weapon as well as the best path to peace in the world.

One Million Children to Pray Rosary for Peace

Venezuala's National Council on the Laity has established a program to encourage one million children to pray the Rosary for peace in the world.    The children are being asked to pray three times:  Once on October 16th in their schools, again on October 17th in their parishes, and then, finally, on October 17th at home with their friends and families.  The campaign is based on St. Pio of Pietrelcina's words:  "And to think that if one million children prayed the Rosary.  How many graces would be shed over the world!"  The website in English provides downloads and aids to help children with this program.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God Save Us From Smart People (the ones without humility, that is)


In a recent column for National Review Online, Thomas Sowell discusses the danger in choosing leaders based on their intellectual prowess alone. His column was prompted by the over-emphasis in the media and elsewhere of  the oh-so-impressive academic credentials of  President Obama and his administration.  As Sowell relates, history shows that brains without wisdom can be more dangerous than beneficial.  He analyzes some of our previous, ivy-league educated administrations and the messes they created.  The article starts with FDR's "brain trust" which failed to come up with a solution to the Great Depression and, in fact, stretched out the suffering until another disaster, World War II, eventually brought it to an end. Not long thereafter,  he points out, it was LBJ's "whiz kids",  a group of well educated intellects led by Robert McNamara, who "micromanaged" the country into a disastrous situation in Vietnam.  Around the world, brilliant and charismatic leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Juan Peron, brought murder and destruction to their own people and others. 

Sowell notes that these very "smart" leaders had been told all their lives how brilliant they were, and eventually they began to overestimate their abilities. Great intellect combined with great ego can be a very, very dangerous commodity.  As Sowell notes, "There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people  For creating a truly monumental disaster you need people with high IQs."

In order for true intellect to be used for the good, it must be tempered with true humility.  Brilliance fueled by pride will always lead to disaster.  The pinnacle of this dangerous combination is the devil whose brilliance made him the "lucifer", the light bearer, but whose lack of humility led to his fall from heaven and the destruction of many souls.

May our leaders always remember that their intellect is a gift.  From God.  They are not responsible for their intelligence, but they are accountable for how it is used.  And, hopefully, they will use it in His service.  As Saint Therese, whose feast day we celebrate today, said, " ...the only good is to love God with all one's heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth."  Amen.


In Over 20 Years Of Officiating At Weddings...

...I have never had this happen:


Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Hey, Mister Academician! Why not take a moment and visit their website?

Don't Fall Asleep During "The Academy's" posts!