Christian Mystics Understood

In a previous blog, we discussed the extraordinary reality of spiritual gifts in the Church, including discernment of them, as well as the fact healings and miracles still happen in the modern Church.  While many seek out the extraordinary, the reality is God is always with us.  In daily prayer, scripture meditation, the Eucharist, at service or mass, or when helping the poor and afflicted.  Still, the human soul seeks out these extraordinary events or individuals, to maybe strengthen faith, look for verification, find a particular healing, or find deeper wisdom.  Obviously again discernment is key.  Above all, listening to the Church or Elders or those in ministry who warn against certain events or individuals.

Apparitions and mystics are considered private revelation.  This means that any revelations, teachings, or prophesies that emerge are not part of the deposit of faith, or equal to that of Scripture or the teachings found in the Creed.  While they may very well be from God and true, the weight of the message is not binding on all believers but merely, when approved by spiritual authorities, additional spiritual ideas.

Christian Mystics are private revelation but still have important messages. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

It is important to differentiate Christian mystics and holy apparitions from fortune tellers and the occult.  Unlike the occult where powers are tied to Satan or unseen voices, Christian mystics receive their spiritual gifts from God.  They are put forward as a service to the Church.  They do not attempt to seek out but are freely given.  They do not attempt to meet the dead or find voices but are freely met in Christian love between the Church Triumphant in Heaven to the Church Militant on earth.

In these experiences, the message is for the seer or is meant for a broader base of the Christian community.  Hence some are for the spiritual advancement of the individual soul, while others are told to write and share their experiences for others.  Some act in the title of prophet with warnings, while others may offer deeper spiritual insights into the realm of God.

St Teresa of Avila is very well known Catholic mystic and Doctor of the Church for her numerous insights into communion with God.  Many of her private spiritual experiences were shared in the “Interior Castle”.  She speaks of some extraordinary experiences with God that some souls are blessed with on earth.  In all her writings, she reports that such experiences are gifts and never a sign of worthiness by the soul.  The soul that finds itself so in love with God though is sometimes bestowed with additional blessings.  St Teresa refers to this as spiritual ecstasy where the soul forgets itself and finds the most perfect union with God that is available while alive.  In this state, the soul is fed the presence of God and seeks only perfect unification with Him.  St Teresa refers to this in analogy as spiritual marriage.  In these states, the mystic has been known to levitate or change appearance in the presence with God.   The “Interior Castle” is a classic for all Christians, not just Catholics, seeking a closer union with God.  St. Teresa outlines the relationship the soul seeks with God on this earth and its many challenges and stepping stones.

St Teresa of Avila is known for her famous work. “The Interior Castle”

 

Some mystics have also given more insight into the life of Christ, or have referred messages from Christ.   St Margaret Mary detailed experiences in which she witnessed the appearance of Christ under the title “The Sacred Heart”.  The message from Christ was His intense love for humanity but the pain of sin upon His Sacred Heart.  St. Faustina also received communication from Christ as the Sacred Heart and was given the “Chaplet of Mercy” prayer where souls pray for forgiveness to Christ for reparation against sins committed against His Sacred Heart.  In the prayer, the Christian repeats, “For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

Another classic work about the hidden life of Christ came from Sister Mary Agreda in her famous work, “The Mystical City of God”.   In this, Agreda relates a series of visions between Christ and His mother regarding the life of Christ.  There are numerous details that supplement the stories of Scripture giving more insight into the feeling of Christ.  Nothing in the apparitions contradict Scripture or deny the events themselves.  Another famous apparition, utilized in Mel Gibson’s, “The Passion of the Christ” also comes from a mystic known as Blessed Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich who received intense visions of Christ’s passion.  The visions intensity discussed in far greater detail the brutality Christ endured at the cross and the role Satan played in the events of Christ’s torture and death.

Some mystics are also visionaries.  Blessed Lucia, St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, who experienced apparitions of Mary in 1917 experienced her presence 6 separate times from May to October of that year.  The events were culminated with the famous miracle of the sun, where thousands witnessed the dancing of the sun in the sky.  Eye witnesses accounted different visions, some seeing the sun dance, others seeing the face of Christ in the sun, and others seeing the sun fly towards the earth.  Ultimately a very wet and dreary day became totally dry as if drought had existed prior, according to eye witnesses.  The message was to pray for reparation for the sins committed against Christ through the rosary.  If not, Mary warned the rise of Russia and great wars to follow.  There are other numerous apparitions throughout the 2000 history of the Church, including Guadalupe in Mexico as well as Lourdes in France.

Other mystics manifest extraordinary signs and wonders.  St Padre Pio manifested the stigmata, where the wounds of Christ appeared on his hands.  St. Francis of Assisi also exhibited this type of spiritual martyrdom.   What makes Padre Pio’s wounds so more interesting is because he lived in the mid 20th Century and unlike St Francis of the 13th Century, Padre Pio’s wounds were documented, photographed and empirically analyzed.  While this type of manifestation is rare, it has occurred throughout the history of the Church.  In addition, according to sources, Padre Pio was able to be in other places, read thoughts of others, and constantly engaged in spiritual battle with the evil one that sometimes included physical beatings.

St Padre Pio and the stigmata

 

In SC600, the text book on Christian Mystics includes many of these saints but is far more comprehensive also including Christian mystics from other traditions.  Ultimately, it is important to remember that Christian mystics are supplemental and not necessary to one’s core relationship with Jesus Christ.  They are considered private and not official teaching of the faith.  It is extremely important to cautiously approach any mystic without official Church approval.  St Ignatius Loyola taught extensively on discernment and discernment is key in any message that does not come from Scripture itself.  While many of these visions and messages may be true, other charlatans play on the weakness of others, or worst yet, are manipulated by the evil one.

As Christians, we are not called to go looking for supernatural  and extraordinary messages. Scripture is very clear to avoid spiritualists and fortune tellers.  Instead, we are to live our life in prayer and love of Christ, accepting His will and crosses.  But when pain occurs, so many times, individuals look for something tangible they can touch.  Instead of merely opening the Bible or praying in Church, they seek out the extraordinary to find proof, or a message.  This can lead to an obsession that the devil can easily use against oneself.  While it is fine for pilgrims to visit sacred sites, read about apparitions, explore approved miracles, it is important that they also realize that God is ever present in their lives if they just look inward.  I personally feel, approved mystics and their messages are beautiful and strengthening to the faith, but they should never be our main spiritual meal.  Our main spiritual meal should consist of prayer, scripture, and the Eucharist.  Those things are the most important to our daily lives.  The other approved mysteries through private revelation that God has revealed enhance our faith and strengthen existing ties, or bring non believers to the faith.  If ones faith is “only” about seeking out supernatural events and not consisting primarily of daily prayer, then one needs to refocus on Christ and His message.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification

Additional Resources

“13 Powerful Women Mystics Who Helped Shape Christianity”. Blumberg, A. (2015). Huffington Post.  Access here

“Christian Mysticism Through History”. Learn Religions.  Access here

“12 Interesting facts about St. Teresa of Avila”. Bosch, M. (2015). Aleteia. Access here

“What happened at the Miracle of Fátima?”. Silva, L. (2021). Portugual.com.  Access here

 

Religious Decline and Why?

Declines in religious affiliation have been occurring for the last 75 years.  Stronger close knit religious generations have weakened overall every preceding generation.  Even by the standards of 1972, when over 90 percent of the nation considered itself Christian, it now only lingers around 60 percent according to a Pew Survey.  The amazing decline is how in the modern day 30 percent of the population has drifted to atheistic, agnostic or unsure.  This dramatic shift did not happen overnight but occurred over time and due to various abuses and secularistic ideals.

Dwindling Church attendance are all signs of a decline in faith and religion.

 

The article, “Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline” by Adam Gabbatt looked at these statistics from the Pew Survey as well as others and found a steady decline in Christian Protestant Churches, as well as decline in attendance in both Catholic and Protestant Churches.  He states,

“Churches are closing at rapid numbers in the US, researchers say, as congregations dwindle across the country and a younger generation of Americans abandon Christianity altogether – even as faith continues to dominate American politics. As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year in the country – a figure that experts believe may have accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline”. Gabbatt, A. (2023). The Guardian.

To read the entire article, please click here

Commentary 

One can easily attribute the fall of Christianity in America to Satan.  Of course, he is the mastermind and puppet master of every trick, but there are concrete reasons for the fall of religious participation in the United States that have indirectly led to this religious vacuum.  Satan has his hand on it, but society has to also take responsibility.

Religious Sloth 

Religious sloth is one of the primary problems that some do not even recognize.  While grandparents attended Mass, church service or performed daily prayers in open sight of children, their children became more lax in emphasizing the religious teachings and obligations.  This sloth has spread in many American families which has led to individuals with little knowledge of the faith, or desire to attend.  Instead, many Christians do not have family experiences of consistent Sunday obligation or daily prayer.  The young generation is not educated, nor told the importance of their faith.  Instead they fall victim to other “isms” and social norms that take the place of the faith.

In addition, many families lack the same structure as in the past. Single family homes account for a growing number of Christian families.  Through divorce, many single parent families lacked the structure or desire to ensure a child made it to service or mass.  This accounted for more religious sloth in religious education and religious participation.

Dusty bibles and lack of prayer life are signs of religious sloth.

 

The Covid Pandemic damaged a weak existing Church-going base.  With the closing of Churches for the pandemic, individuals without strong faith roots, acquired new habits of not attending.  First, by simply watching a service on television, then gradually dismissing it all together.  This also led to a poor spiritual life void of Scripture, prayer or God.  The void created a vacuum for modern day social views and “isms”.

The Church first starts at home.  With broken families, religious sloth, has weakened a generation from understanding the faith, defending it, and participating in the mysteries of it.

Various “Isms”

The last 75 years have created a religious vacuum, where Christianity and many organized religions have been replaced by other “isms” to replace humanity’s natural needs.  Secularism and Materialism as always constant distractions to religion, gladly moved into the hearts and minds of the next generation.  The new god was the world and the world offered more because the true God was no longer emphasized.  With technology and new advances, individuals found secular life more exciting.  With secular life came new social norms and values.  Secular Humanism presented a new morality regarding life and death, sex and choice,  and gender and personhood.  These new radical ideas were not challenged but openly accepted.  The ideas of Christianity were then considered biased, judgmental, hateful and wrong.

Religious Abuse and Extremism

The abuses within the Church added to the problem in this sharp decline.  The Catholic Church’s sexual abuses weakened the image of the Church and its credibility.  In Protestant Churches, sex scandals and financial scandals also rocked the faith of the youth.  These abuses led many away from religion and into the hands of secularism.

Many have been turned away from the faith to extremist groups that enshrine themselves with political parties.  An idea of a Christian Nationalist in America frightens many youth.  Many of the political and social ideals do not match the next generation.  While the Church should not change dogma for social approval, many non religious do not wish to align with religious ideas that do not align with contemporary social ideals.  Many of those within religious organizations present an extremist view, as well as a hypocritical but still judgmental attitude.  The alignment with religion with the “right” and any political party has helped isolate religion from many youth.  Especially when, high ranking religious officials or politicians who claim religion show ill example in in public scandals.  This still does not mean the Christian Churches must bow doctrine to social norms but it needs to exchange dialogue on issues of homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion in a way that does not fall trap to hypocrisy, hate, or extremist views.

Spiritual but Not Religious

Many of the 30 percent who did not align themselves with any particular creed, or voiced uncertainty, have turned to spirituality.  Within spirituality, individuals carve out their own religious beliefs and how they wish to speak with God.  When spirituality is void of religion, the personal trek without an objective moral code, can lead one into many errors.  One in essence can become a cafeteria Christian that creates and choose what rules one wishes to keep. Spirituality is key but when it is isolated from religion it becomes a faith of one.   Likewise those who are religious but lack a spiritual life, are merely shells of the faith and usually utilize faith as a weapon or form of identity only.

A healthy faith is both religious and spiritual. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Humanity is spiritual and most people thirst for spirituality and divine connection.  With the religious extremism and abuse, coupled with the pandemic, and lack of family values within the church at its core level, the family, other spiritual options have appeared.  These options many times allow individuals to match their faith with the social norms of the day and as well experiment with multiple religious ideals.  New Age, Eastern religions, and other spiritual quests have driven people away from the Church due to its lack of presence and ability to combat the new “isms” and social norms of the day.

Church Reform

The Church needs to reform itself both in its Catholic and Protestant forms.  Religious extremism and abuse need to be eradicated.  The Church needs to offer real solutions but not from high pulpit but through example one person at a time.  It needs to preach the message of Jesus without compromise to social norms, but with a authenticity, zeal, and intelligence.  It needs to answer the scary questions but show that the Jesus’ way is one of love.  It needs again to attract the youth to this mission.  Exposing the lies of secularism and modern social norms can only be accomplished through a totally reformed Church that can clearly present the message of Christ.  What Jesus has to offer is superior to any message today but somehow, somewhere, along the way, families stopped teaching it and those at the pulpit corrupted it.  Reform and revitalization are key.  The message of Christ can still excite the masses when it is properly utilized and presented.  Christianity is not a nationalistic religion of the right, nor is it a judgmental and hateful creed, but one that adheres to the laws of Christ with love and compassion.  I truly believe that if everyone truly properly understood the faith, participated in it, and experienced it, then the misconceptions, abuses, and hypocrisy that surrounds it would be dismissed.

Without Faith

While not proposing one law of morality over others in a pluralistic society, we still must acknowledge that religion and religion tied to family life increases civic and good moral behavior.  While the atheist may blame religion for wars, the reality is wars would still exist, just another difference or secular doctrine would be used as an excuse.  Religion has been misused many times for war, or by extremists to promote hate or division, but that does not mean religion is bad.  Religious life is important, or at least a world code that ties one to some responsible duty to one’s neighbor.  While faith is given to God, the by products it gives to one’s neighbor creates in a social contract.

Without faith, morality drops.  The drop in the modern world of morality cannot be a coincidence with the drop of faith in the home.

Conclusion

If ever there was a need to restore the Christian Church in America, it is now.  This does not only include reaching out to people and better presenting an option of why Christ and His laws are the way, but also by living by example.  Christians need to set better examples and also present in a logically and non hateful way, why  what the world offers is contrary to true happiness.  Sometimes in dark hours, people return to God.  With wars, famines and political divide, people may finally in the future start turning back to God.  Till now, the numbers continue to dwindle.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification.  Christian Counselors and Pastoral Counselors can play a key role in education and guiding individuals in the faith.  They can play a role in aiding the restoration of the faith in the modern world.  AIHCP offers an online and independent study certification for qualified individuals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

Additional Resources

“Modeling the Future of Religion in America”. (2022). Pew Research Center. Access here

“Generation Z and the Future of Faith in America”. Cox, D. (2022). Survey Center on American Life.  Access here

“The Great Decline: 60 years of religion in one graph”. RNS. Access here

“People everywhere believe society’s morals are in decline”. Wilcox, J. (2023). Science.  Access here

 

 

 

 

Anointing of the Sick and a Peaceful Christian Death

Death entered into the world as a result of sin but through Christ, new life and a new beginning is granted.  While fearing death is natural, the Christian can see death as a transition not a final chapter.  It is a doorway to new life and the fullest life possible.  It is not in the temporal world, where humanity’s nature is complete and unbroken, but only in the next life.  In the next life, the soul is reunified with God and through the promised General Resurrection, the guarantee of unification of again and body and soul.  Hence death is not an end but a phase of existence that is only temporary and an opening into a world so much larger.  It thus extremely important to ensure that transition to the next life is a priority.  This is the case for all world religions, but also the same for Christianity.  With Heaven or Hell for eternity in the balance, ensuring a proper and good death with God is essential and vital.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament in Catholic and Orthodox faiths and a sacred ritual in other Christian denominations for the spiritual renewal of the dying person

 

Christianity has since its conception emphasized the importance of preparing for death.  The Anointing of the Sick has its origins in Scripture. The Apostle James comments, “is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).

Different Christian traditions all believe in the value of anointing in the sick and terminally ill, but others classify it differently.  In Catholicism and Orthodoxy it is a sacrament.  The Anglican Church considers it to have sacramental character and in most Lutheran and other Protestant denominations, see it as a critical ritual of the faith.   As a sacrament, The Anointing of the Sick, and in the past, Extreme Unction, is an outward sign used to manifest and give grace to the soul.  As a sacrament, it gives grace through the source of Christ’s death on the cross that flows through the Holy Spirit to the soul.   It can be received multiple times depending on the grave danger of the person’s condition.   Hence, it can be received in multiple terminal or possible death situations, whether in the hospital or home.  In the Orthodox, it can also be utilized in communal services.  In the West, under extraordinary circumstances, such as before war, soldiers and certain qualifying groups may receive it.

The matter, or visible sign, is the blessed holy oil.  This oil in the West is blessed by diocesan bishop on Holy Thursday.  In the East, this oil can be received throughout the year at the end of Liturgy on certain feast days but in itself is not the sacrament but used for overall physical and spiritual healing and continued good health.  The form of the sacrament constitutes the various prayers and words offered by the priest or minister during the administration of the sacrament.

Holy Oil is used to anoint the sick. It is the visible sign of healing and presence of the grace of God preparing the soul for the next life

 

Last Rites is sometimes confused with Anointing of the Sick.  It is important to note in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Last Rites entails three sacraments.  Anointing, confession and reception of the Eucharist.

The effects of the sacrament and ritual has multiple sacramental and grace infused benefits to the soul.  It forgives sin but also prepares the soul to peacefully accept death and prepare it for reunion with God.  Physically it can heal but healing and miracles are alone determined by the will of God.  There are miraculous cases but these are extraordinary examples and not the norm.  Death is natural and the healing is more so focused on the spiritual than physical.  Although from a physical and psychological standpoint, the ritual can bring mental peace and a presence of God within the mind of the person.  It is comforting to know that Christ is present with one in one’s suffering and death.

Throughout the study of suffering and Christian grief, the Christian does not seek to escape death, deny it, or even escape suffering, but is called to carry one’s cross and unify it with Christ as one’s High Priest.  Christ is the ultimate example of the Suffering Servant and His example of accepting death and suffering should inspire other Christians to do the same.  While always praying for a cure or miracle, the Christian should also be accepting of God’s will.  One should primarily seek spiritual healing and God’s presence in one’s final moments.

During the reception of Anointing, one may be unconscious or awake, but it is critical to voice the need prior of the desire to receive it.  Family or nurses should be made aware of one’s desire to see a minister or priest.  This can be laid out in healthcare directives and becomes critically important if one becomes unconscious and unable to ask for spiritual aid in person.  Also, it is important prior to risky surgery or potential unconsciousness due to drug induced states to request Anointing of the Sick.  Most in everyday procedures that are not risky may simply say a short prayer of contrition and adoration before simple anesthesia but with far more risky procedure one should never leave one’s soul open to possible spiritual risk and danger.

Through Anointing of the sick, Christ comes to us in our dying moments. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program

 

In conclusion, spiritual preparation before death is critical.  If it happens like a thief in the night, one may receive the sacrament post mortem but one should always pray both morning and night proclaiming love of God and sorrow for sins.  One of the most beautiful things one can pray for is a peaceful death where one is able to receive the sacred mysteries in advance.  This is a blessing that many sometimes never think of due to the fear of thinking about death itself.  However, a peaceful Christian death with grace and the image of God is the greatest gift that may be given in this world.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“WHAT IS ANOINTING OF THE SICK? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?”. Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. (2006). Access here

“The Anointing of the Sick – Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. CNA. Access here

“Is Anointing Oil Biblical and Should We Use It Today?”. Riggleman, H. (2021). Crosswalk. Access here

“40 Bible Verses about Anointing With Oil”. Knowing Jesus.  Access here

 

Christian Counseling and Broken Desires Video

In the temporal world, humanity is scarred with the sin of Adam.  While baptism washes away this mark, it consequences still manifest.  Human nature while preserved still is inclined to disorder and without grace cannot find proper direction.  Within the body, one can see the disconnect between mind and body and the discord it can cause between doing what is right or wrong.  There are a variety of physiological functions that can lead to issues that affect thinking and emotions.  Passions and yearning that are disordered to an illusionary good that is sometimes not moral according to God’s design can further complicate.

The intellect and will are at odds in humanity’s fallen state. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Working with vice and immorality can be a difficult process.  Christian Counselors, mentors, and pastors can help one live a better life with virtue but ultimately we all need God’s grace.

Fortunately, God is very patient and merciful.  He sees our broken nature and understands the difficulties.  He is always sharing His grace and forgiveness.  It is critical we try and accept His grace to be morally better.  On the final day, the body will rise and again be restored to its original order.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals interested in Christian Counseling.

 

 

 

Please review the video below

Social Pressures on Moral Decision Videos

Social influences have impacts on individuals and how they respond.  Multiple social experiments show how individuals respond to social, authoritative and peer pressured situations.  Hence moral beliefs within individuals can sometimes be altered due to situations.  While not everyone alters their moral belief due to circumstances and social pressures, many individuals succumb to pressures.  This explains why in many cases, dictators can overwhelm a population and paint justifications for immoral actions.

Social Influences can play roles in how someone morally responds. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals..  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

 

 

Please review the video below

The Spiritual World and Christians

It is important to note, that Christianity believes in a metaphysical world where God, angels, spirits, demons and the living interact through the temporal plane and metaphysical plane.  How that interaction occurs is what differentiates the occult and extraordinary gifts from God.

As human beings, we are both soul and body.  We are hybrids of two worlds and can interact with both worlds.  Our material body anchors us in this fallen and temporal world, but our soul although contained within the body is open to metaphysical experiences of the other spiritual realms.  It is true only death can allow one to cross over to the metaphysical realm, but our souls are attune to the spiritual realities that can interact with us.   As Christians, it is important to tread this line carefully.  As spiritual beings, we have spiritual qualities and spiritual aspirations but we must also constrain ourselves and cautiously interact due to evil spirits.   Scripture warns in multiple books the dangers of spiritualism, divinization and interaction with spirits.

There are numerous extraordinary spiritual events that can occur within Christianity. Prayer and meditation in itself is a spiritual exercise beyond the temporal world

 

One might be surprised though that the moment we enter into prayer or meditation, we are already interacting with the spiritual world.  In this state, we are talking to God, or asking for intercession before God.  We commonly pray for our deceased, or pray for angelic protection as well.  These are all examples of safe and secure interactions with the spiritual realm but there are extraordinary cases beyond the everyday function of prayer that is cemented in our faith and shows that God works through individuals and intervenes in history.

Extraordinary Gifts from God

While Christians are constantly warned to avoid spiritualism and divinization and rightfully so, there are numerous cases of the spiritual world communicating with Christians.  Christians have spiritual charisms and gifts that are beyond the normal but are highlighted talents within their spiritual makeup that contribute to the spiritual health of the Church.  While some individuals may be blessed with extraordinary physical gifts such as strength, speed, or leaping, others possess spiritual gifts that lead to greater insight.  These types of gifts should not be shunned, avoided, or dismissed, but embraced.

The key difference is these gifts are directed towards God.   They are not intended to prod or intrude upon the unseen world unsafely, but are guided by God’s grace and light.  They are receptive to God’s grace and avoid the usage of occult symbols, or pagan tools.  They are intended for the greater glory of God and His Church on earth.  In Scripture, one can see the variety of charisms bestowed upon the Church.  Prophecy, dream communication, speaking in tongues, divine healings, miracles and visions are all extraordinary events but part of the Christian faith.  They are given to prophets, healers, mystics and saints to guide the Church.  They are not intended for self glorification, gnostic searches for knowledge, or divinization of self, but for God’s greater glory.

Discerning if from God

Obviously discernment is key when dealing with any metaphysical reality.  If a Christian displays prophecy, or someone claims visions, then discretion and discernment are required.  This is not only critical for the people but the person experiencing the metaphysical activity.   Lucifer can indeed appear as an angel of light and it is key that all metaphysical activity is tested.  While this may at times seem profane it is also wise.  It is critical to dismiss any cases of psychosis or malicious intent from evil spirits.  Hence, the message is tested first.  Is the message orthodox to the faith?  Does it contradict Scripture?  Also, what good is coming from the event or the message of the person?   Are there any evil consequences?  Usually, it is best to leave such messages to proper Church authorities who can deliver a more thorough message.

If miraculous events do indeed occur, a respectful but objective investigative force should look into the person or events.  These individuals should possess authority but also be educated within the faith to properly discern and report.   Usually, these teams also present scientific members of the community to rule out anything pathological or of a natural explanation.

Within the Catholic Church, the bishop of a diocese sends out investigative teams to undergo a thorough investigation of the event.  Like Fatima, Lourdes, or Guadalupe, the Church reviews these metaphysical events and then decides if an apparition, person, or event is spiritually safe for the faithful to visit.  In the case of Guadalupe, the miracle of the Juan Diego’s shroud and the image of Mary upon it, convinced the local bishop to approve the apparition.

Discerning if a message is from God or not is key in assessing any spiritual event

 

There are many cases, where apparitions and mystics receive no official declaration, while others are declared not spiritually safe due to unorthodox message or fear of evil spiritual presence.  There are charlatans, fakes, and others who play on the faithful, as well as demonic tricks that the Church looks to identify and prohibit.  If, however, approved, no message is forced upon for all to believe.  The message is declared safe and probable, but the faithful can choose to ignore it.  What is in Scripture and the ancient creeds of the faith are the requirements of the faith not later apparitions or spiritual events.  Private revelations, even approved ones, are not required for belief.

Still many look to the messages of Fatima or the healing properties of Lourdes as a supplement to the faith because it is does not contradict it but enhances it.  Miracles from God still exist today.  Visionaries, within their own private revelation, share their stories.   Prophets warn of society’s sin.  Spiritually attune mystics guide and direct us to God.  Ultimately, we are spiritual beings with a spiritual end and whether one likes it or not, we have spiritual connections.  The important part is that we safely and with discernment partake in this spiritual journey.  Through discernment and following the guidelines of the Church, individuals can become part of the metaphysical world around us without fear of demonic or unsafe pagan practices.

Cultivating Extraordinary Gifts

Christians should never attempt to create within themselves extraordinary gifts.  One should not practice spiritualism or attempt to contact the dead.  One should never try to awaken within oneself something.  One should very much be aware of God’s presence, the presence of evil within our natural spiritual abilities, but beyond this, these extraordinary gifts will manifest within themselves through God.

God chooses who will prophesize, who will interpret dreams, who will speak in tongues, who will heal, or who will experience mystical experiences via apparition or visions.  Those who invoke these skills are driven by pride and can fall victim to satanic manipulation.  Furthermore, those lacking humility will attempt to create a spectacle to the community.  This is why such actions of serpent handling or speaking in tongues for purpose of show boating is not from God.  In fact, speaking in tongues, was never babbling but was the miraculous event of the apostles speaking in their own language but being understood by everyone else in their own language for the purpose of proclamation of the Gospel.  Hence when cultivating one’s own gifts, or witnessing another’s gift, discern whether this is about the faith or an individual.

There are many spiritual gifts given by God to the Church, including the gift of healing

 

Those who experience extraordinary gifts are usually humble.  Padre Pio and his stigmata or the three children of Fatima, never sought out these gifts but were chosen by God.  God chooses the low and humble to manifest His greatness.  Some extraordinary gifts are meant for oneself or a small circle, while other gifts are meant for the faith.  Hence it is important when discerning a gift or helping someone discern a gift, if it is sought or given.  If its end is prideful or humble.

In addition, all medical and psychological explanations must be explained.  If one thinks feels one is seeing the Virgin Mary, one may first question the experience. If counseling one, it may be important to evaluate any signs of psychosis.  In many cases, extraordinary events can be tested by asking questions that are beyond the knowledge of the person.  This was done in the case of St Bernadette of Lourdes.

After dismissing grandstanding and psychosis, discernment of the source becomes a critical step.  Prayer, fasting, collective minds and an orthodox message not contrary to Scripture must be presented.  Finally, what good comes from the extraordinary event?

As it stands, many mystics keep silent.  Their messages are private or not meant yet for the universal Church. Many are terrified of publicity and scrutiny.  This is why many miracles remain in small circles and are meant for those within that circle.  Many of us have experienced these small miracles and we know they are meant for the growth of our own faith.  We do indeed live in an age of miracles still, if we only look.

We still live in an age of miracles

While the Biblical miracles at this current moment seem distant, we still live in an age of miracles.  Personal healings, prophecy, apparitions, and messages from God continue to come to the world.  It is merely a matter of looking in the right direction.  We must avoid charlatans, fakes, and false prophets.  We must understand and discern if the message is from God or Satan.  We must dismiss the occult and spiritualism.  However, if we use our spiritual sight, we can find where God is appearing and spreading His message through His servants.  Miracles are alive today and one day, universal miracles that cannot be doubted will manifest.  In the meantime, we must be prepared and discern properly.

Miracles and spiritual events still happen today. Discernment is key. Review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

Additional Resources

“The 9 Gifts of the Holy Spirit”. Bradley, M. (2023). BibleKnowledge.com.  Access here

World Apostolate of Fatima.  Access here

“Discerning of Spirits: A Crucial Gift for Spiritual Warfare”. Ibbitson, D. Above and Beyond Christian Counseling.  Access here

“Christian Mysticism”. The Spiritual Life.  Access here

 

Brain and the Soul Video

A question by many involves the existence of the soul.  Is their a soul?  If so, where does it reside in the body?  How it is connected to the body?  Neuroscience attempts to explain away the soul with the entire functions of the brain.  Since the brain stores memory, controls emotion, and shapes personality, many contend that the actions of the soul are in reality the functions of the brain.  According to many atheistic scientists, this strips the necessity of the soul and replaces it with the natural functions of the brain.   However, many theists contend that the soul and the brain overlap and work together.  The brain is a metaphysical organ with the capabilities to translate for the soul and help the soul manifest itself in the world.  The brain and its functions hence are the vehicle for the soul to communicate with the world not a replacement.

Where does the soul and body meet? Is in the brain? Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

 

Please review the video below

Problems in Christian Marriage Video

Marriage can be difficult enough with its many conflicts regarding each other’s family, friends, habits, finances, or personality differences.  These things usually are secondary and only become a greater issue when more core problems exist at the most intimate level.  In love, there is more than just mere feelings but hard work, patience, acceptance and mutual understanding and give and take.   When love is only passionate, or only friendship, or only companioning, then the other lacking elements can cause problems in the union.  A healthy love involves intimacy, passion and long term companionship and they all must be balanced.

Problems in marriage can sometimes relate healthiness of the love two have. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification

 

Please review the video below

Church Fathers Video

Scripture remains the bedrock of the Christian faith.  It serves as a book of wisdom and guidance.  Christian Counselors, preachers, ministers and priests are able to utilize it to define, defend and spread the faith.   As the Church grew, the bedrock of the faith remained in Scripture, but new challenges arose that denied core Christian doctrines.  The Early Church Fathers utilized Scripture to defend and preach the faith.  Their writings while not inspired still stem from Scripture and provide invaluable concepts and doctrines to help others.

The Church Fathers supply excellent commentary on Scripture and defense of the faith. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Christian Counselors should become acquainted with their teachings and writings and utilize them in their own ministry.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Christian Counselor.

 

 

Please review the video below

Types of Demonic Influence in the World

While many deny the existence of the devil and demons, those of faith realize that their existence is a real threat to humanity.  Many would rather reduce the devil to a myth and as a scapegoat to blame for the evil of humanity.  The reality is Lucifer, the first fallen angel, consciously chose self over God.  He chose darkness over light and via the absence of good permitted evil to enter into the world through his proud disobedience to God.  He then spread his hate and evil to humanity through the tempting of Adam and Eve.  Humanity hence learned the capability of evil and sometimes even without Lucifer’s prompting, commits its own heinous deeds.  The seed though of all evil is Lucifer.

Demonic activity is on the rise. Temptation, Obsession and Possession are the three key demonic interactions with humanity

 

Evil is not a equal choice to good.  It is not a rival to good but in essence is a lack of good.  It is the lack of goodness in an action.  God did not create evil, but evil was a conscious choice by sentient beings to dismiss God.  Like fallen angels, humanity also chooses evil at times but unlike fallen angels, humanity is not totally corrupted but has opportunity to repent from evil.  The demons fully understood their choices, while humanity, lacking angelic intelligence, learns from mistakes and hopefully chooses good.  Humanity in its current fallen form is far weaker than their angelic siblings,  The angels, both good and evil, have great intelligence and as pure spirit possess far greater abilities that fallen humanity.

Demons look to corrupt the goodness of God’s creation.  They seek revenge upon God by corrupting humanity.  If not for God, they would devour humanity, but Christ’s death on the cross preserved humanity from the sin of Adam and dark control of Lucifer.  Through Christ and His sacrifice, humanity has access to grace, the sacraments, and spiritual protection against the demonic.  Through Christ, power has been given to His followers to cast out demons via His Blessed Name.

Temptation

The most basic and common form of demonic activity is in the form of temptation.  Temptation is an outside source beyond our own fallen nature.  It is not our passions alone desiring something illicit and illusionary as good, but an outside force pushing one towards it.  Demonic temptation hence is different than our own fallen temptation and inclination to sin.  Demonic temptation can be seen in Scripture, where Lucifer tempted Christ in the desert.  Christ, as the ultimate paradigm, teaches the importance of rebuking Lucifer or whatever demon may be tempting oneself.   One of the most famous literary works on temptation is C.S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters” in which the demon, Wormwood, writes to hell about his temptation and workings against a simple man.  In the work, Wormwood plays off daily frustrations to try to turn the man away from goodness, even if in the most minute form.  Ultimately, Wormwood fails in his endeavor to corrupt the man but the Lewis helps expose the inner workings of demonic temptation in a daily basis.   This is why in the “Our Father”, Christ reminds us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.

While it may be easy to blame Satan for everything, one still must take moral responsibility for one’s actions.  One should develop a strong moral conscience in accordance with God’s law and enforce moral decisions based upon the teachings of Christ.  Whether it is one’s own internal passions, or demonic whispers, one is called to be accountable for oneself and choose good over evil.

Demonic Obsession 

A more intense demonic presence beyond the whispers of the devil is actual metaphysical presence in the world.  Demonic obsession and manifestations occur to both good and bad people and have different intents and purposes.  In the case of a saint such as Padre Pio, the obsession is one of hate, fear, and punishment.  St Padre Pio or even St John Vianney enraged the demons so much as to produce their manifestations.   Padre Pio accounted to be being beaten by demons, while St John Vianney related to the shaking of his bed.  God permitted these actions for His greater glory and victory of His saints over the demonic and these saints willingly entered into spiritual warfare with the demonic for the greater glory of God.

Obsession can manifest in sounds, hauntings, knocks, dreams, night terrors, visions and attacks

 

In some cases though, the intent is not one of punishment or anger, but desire to control.  Those who foolishly partake in the occult or expose themselves through New Age methods of meditation or out of body experiences endanger themselves to the metaphysical world of the demonic.  This is why Scripture warns individuals to avoid spiritualists, the occult and its tools.  Those who brazenly and without fear play the Ouija Board, partake with spiritualists, play tarot cards, attend occult functions, or attempt to control demonic beings via witchcraft open themselves to demonic presence at a more intimate level.

Others who attempt to disturb haunted sites or play with haunted artifacts with known demonic attachments, also risk the chance of more demonic attention in their lives.  Demons can attach to a variety of objects to remain in the temporal realm.  This is illustrated in the case of Christ exorcising the demons, Legion, from the man into the herd of swine.  Instead of returning to Hell, they pleaded with Christ to be sent into the swine herd. In this way, many demons remain attached to the temporal realm via cursed objects.  An object that has a demonic attachment that finds its way into one’s home can cause hauntings and obsessions.

Others can find themselves victims of demonic obsession via curses.  Those in witchcraft and the occult can place a curse over someone.  This not a magical curse but a malicious prayer and offering to the demonic.  As Christians prayer for God’s presence over loved ones, the occult can curse one with the presence of the demonic.   The demonic is then focused upon the particular individual and a type of physical haunting or obsession can begin.  In essence, demonic obsession is the haunting of a particular person instead of a place or thing.  The purpose is to inflict pain, fear, punishment, or dominion via possession.

Signs of obsession, or oppression, include lucid dreams of the demonic, mental images of the demonic and in some cases apparitions of the demonic.   Initially various hauntings will occur with sounds, knocks, laughs, or even physical markings on the body.  In addition,  mental illness, depression and physical symptoms may develop from the stress of the obsession.  Also, many experience unfortunate events surrounding their lives.  Some of these things obviously are coincidence but when they are all added together, and after all medical and scientific explanations are left unanswered, it is best then to take proactive action.

Obviously, those closer to God are safer from curses.  Naturally, the spiritual hygiene of a religious person is greater than a non-religious person.  A religious person is closer to Christ, attends Mass or Service, prayers regularly, reads Scripture, receives the sacraments,  wears sacramentals, blesses their home, and adorns the home with images of Christ.  These are powerful things to consider in any demonic attack.   Hence when one finds oneself against these odds, it is critical to turn to Christ, His Mother, and the rituals of the Church and its many sacramentals to protect oneself.   Blessing the home, wearing the cross or scapular, placing the St Benedict Medal throughout the home, and performing a minor exorcism of the home are important acts against demonic obsession.

Through one’s Baptism and the authority of Christ, one can in Christ’s name, command demons to leave one’s property.  The ritual of minor home exorcism is a loss art among Christians.  Seen as superstitious medieval, the scientific mind prefers to explain the demonic away.  Yet, Christians are constantly in Spiritual warfare and must engage the enemy.  By blessing the home with Holy Water and pronouncing the name of Christ  in each room for all evil to depart is a powerful weapon of Christians against Satan.  Symbolically, the doors and windows should be left open for all negative and demonic energy to leave the home.  Assisted with the words of Christ, blessed water and a lighted candle, Christians can defend their own home. In greater cases, a minister or priest may be needed but for most cases, the Christian can defend his or her own home through the authority of Christ.

Demonic Possession

Throughout Scripture, possession is a common occurrence.  Christ exorcizes multiple demons from individuals through the New Testament.  He also gives the apostles and disciples the same power in His name to case out demons.  In particular, Christ emphasized the importance of fasting and purity.  When the apostles were unable to cast out a certain demon, He reminded them of the need of fasting.

Christ gave the apostles and their successors power to cast out demons. The Rite of Exorcism is an ancient Christian Rite to cast out demons

 

While many so-called possessions were in fact mental disorders in the past, the Church still recognizes the reality of demonic possession.  After intense clinical investigation, the Church will determine if the person is possessed or mentally ill.  Cases such as Schizophrenia are quickly dismissed in the modern era, unlike the past, and with proper medical and clinical evaluation, anyone with mental illness can easily be distinguished from a true possession case.

Possession in itself is domination.  The demon looks to exert its will over the human person.  Some particular demons hope to utilize the vessel to experience sin, others look to torment the soul.  Possession can be imperfect or perfect.  In imperfect state, the soul is still fighting the dominion of the evil spirit, while in perfect possession, the soul has accepted its Satanic counterpart.  In the occult and other Satanic circles, many seek this type of sick union, in corruption of the union Christians seek with God.  Unlike union with God, which is holy and pleasing and respectful of autonomy, possession is vile and evil and domination of one over the other.

The soul that is possessed usually became possessed through foolishness or weakness.  Certain acts, or opening oneself without knowledge of consequences can lead to the ultimate possession of a person.  In Malachi Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil”, the now deceased author accounts 5 cases of demonic possession.  In most of the cases, the individuals were naive to the dangers or performing deeds in the occult.  Only after the trap was set did these individuals realize the danger they were in and sought help.

In demonic possession, the person’s moods can change drastically.  They are commonly severely depressed and suicidal.   They perform gross and disgusting deeds and can become dangerous if provoked.  Some exhibit extra human strength and while under possession know other languages.  Within the room, like any case of obsession, the demonic possessed can levitate, contort one’s body,  cast objects, or lower the temperature of the room.  While the movie, “The Exorcist” embellishes exorcism, one need not need special horror effects or embellishment to terrify oneself through the witnessing of a true exorcism within its own right.   In fact, what makes the movies “The Exorcist”, or “The Conjuring” so terrifying is that they are based on a foundation of reality. If anything, these movies open a greater awareness and belief in the devil’s existence which is good.

The Rite of Exorcism finds it power from the authority Christ gave to His apostles to cast out demons.  It has developed over the centuries to include a multitude of prayers invoking Christ, the Blessed Virgin and St Michael.  The ritual is a pastoral ministry carried out by the local diocese and assigned to a particular priest.  The process involves the concerned party calling the diocese and reporting demonic activity.  After all scientific and medical explanations have been investigated, the assigned exorcist priest will interview the possessed and assign a particular day for the ritual.  The priest will be accompanied by a few aides to ensure safety of the possessed and those performing and witnessing the rite.

The ritual is a battle of wills between the priest and the demon.  The demon will mock, expose sins, intimidate and blaspheme throughout the process but the priest must maintain focus.  The priest must realize it is through Christ and not his own words that this demon will be cast away.  One of the key stages is forcing the demon to expose himself and present its identity.  The priest will then continue to command the demon to the leave the person.  This can take hours or even days.  Circumstances surround the piety of the priest, the proper execution of the rite, the will of the possessed person to be free, and the power of the individual demon. Obviously, an exorcist priest is a special calling.   Many are called to a special devotion to Christ to fulfill this calling.  Many also do not live long lives due to the trauma they witness.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, some dioceses infected with secularism have dismissed the office and it can be sometimes hard to find a priest equipped with this particular training.  Furthermore, the exorcism cannot be performed without the consent of the local bishop of the area it is being conducted.  So the pastoral ministry against the demonic weighs heavily upon the bishop.  Dioceses with an exorcist priest and department that deals with this type of pastoral ministry is greatly needed at a higher volume than it is currently.  Demonic activity is growing as the faith continues to recede among the secular population.  Many individuals come across the demonic without knowing and need assistance from trained and spiritual people.

Only after a cleared medical diagnosis can a trained professional perform an exorcism. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Christian Counselors should never conduct an exorcism.  Simple exorcism of a home or blessings are fine but if confronted with the possessed or suspecting of the possessed, it is important to refer this person not only to a mental health professional for evaluation but also to the proper spiritual authorities.  Many who attempt exorcisms can be harmed both physically and spiritually.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

 

Additional Resources

“An Exorcist Tells His Story”.  Fr. Amorth, G. (1999). Ignatius Press.

“Hostage to the Devil”. Martin, M. (1992). Harper One.

“Is there demonic activity in the world today?”. Compelling Truth.  Access here

“Demons and How They Influence Mankind”. Cook. S. (2020). Thinking on Scripture.  Access here

“Exorcism – how does it work and why is it on the rise?”. Lam, V. (2018). The Conversation. Access here