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Michael Barber, Ph.D. / John Paul the Great Catholic University © 2012 www.JPCatholic.com / www.TheSacredPage.com
In the Presence of Spirits of Just Men Made Perfect
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly [Gk. ekklēsia: “ecclesiastical,” “Church”] of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant . . . 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. . .— Hebrews 12:22–24
Mistaking Jesus for a Ghost
As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to You.” 37 But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.—Luke 24:36–42 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-saida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”—Mark 6:45–50
Saul, the Medium at Endor and Samuel’s Ghost
Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at Endor.” 8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments, and went, he and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit, and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Have no fear; what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. 15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me; for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of 1
the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”—1 Samuel 28:7–19 Even after [Samuel] had fallen asleep he prophesied and revealed to the king his death, and lifted up his voice out of the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.—Sirach 46:20
Biblical Condemnations of Mediums
“Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” —Leviticus 19:31 “If a person turns to mediums and wizards, playing the harlot after them, I will set my face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people. . . “A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.”—Leviticus 20:6, 27 “There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, 11 or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”—Deuteronomy 18:10–11 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.—Catechism of the Catholic Church 2116
Judas Maccabeus’ Vision of Onias and Jeremiah
[Judas] armed each of them not so much with confidence in shields and spears as with the inspiration of brave words, and he cheered them all by relating a dream, a sort of vision, which was worthy of belief. 12 What he saw was this: Onias, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. 13 Then likewise a man appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity, and of marvelous majesty and authority. 14 And Onias spoke, saying, “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God.” 15 Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: 16 “Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries.”—2 Maccabees 15:11–16
Job and the Night Vision of A Spirit
Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, 14 dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. 15 A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up.—Job 4:13–16
Cf. Deut 18:10; Jer 29:8. 2
The Rich Man’s Request: Send Lazarus Back from the Dead
And [the rich man] said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’—Luke 16:27–28
Satan Disguises Himself
. . . for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.—2 Corinthians 11:14
Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are mad.” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel!”—Acts 12:14–15
The Saints in Heaven
“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev 5:8). “[The Beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.” (Rev 13:7)
Saint Thomas Aquinas
ON WHETHER THE SOULS WHO ARE IN HEAVEN OR HELL ARE ABLE TO GO FROM THENCE?
Summa Theologiae, Supplementum q.69 art. 3–4 citing Jerome, Augustine and other fathers
We proceed thus to the Third Article:— Objection 1. It would seem that the souls in heaven or hell are unable to go from thence. For Augustine says (De Cura pro Mort. xiii.): If the souls of the dead took any part in the affairs of the living, to say nothing of others, there is myself whom not for a single night would my loving mother fail to visit since she followed me by land and sea in order to abide with me: and from this he concludes that the souls of the departed do not mingle in the affairs of the living. But they would be able to do so if they were to leave their abode. Therefore they do not go forth from their abode. Obj. 2. Further, It is written (Ps. 26:4): That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and (Job 7:9): He that shall go down to hell shall not come up. Therefore neither the good nor the wicked quit their abode. Obj. 3. Further, As stated above (A. 2), abodes are awarded to souls after death as a reward or punishment. Now after death neither the rewards of the saints nor the punishments of the damned are increased. Therefore they do not quit their abodes. On the contrary, Jerome writing against Vigilantius addresses him thus: For thou sayest that the souls of the apostles and martyrs have taken up their abode either in Abraham’s bosom or in the place of refreshment, or under the altar of God, and that they are unable to visit their graves when they will. Wouldst thou then lay down the law for God? Wouldst thou put the apostles in chains, imprison them until the day of judgment, and forbid them to be with their Lord, them of whom it is written: They follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth? And if the Lamb is everywhere, therefore we must believe that those also who are with Him are everywhere. Therefore it is absurd to say that the souls of the departed do not leave their abode. Further, Jerome argues as follows (ibid.): Since the devil and the demons wander throughout the whole world, and are everywhere present with wondrous speed, why should the martyrs, after shedding their blood, be imprisoned and unable to go forth? Hence we may infer that not only the good sometimes leave their abode, but also the wicked, since their damnation does not exceed that of the demons who wander about everywhere. 3
Further, The same conclusion may be gathered from Gregory (Dial. iv.), where he relates many cases of the dead having appeared to the living. I answer that, There are two ways of understanding a person to leave hell or heaven. First, that he goes from thence simply, so that heaven or hell be no longer his place: and in this way no one who is finally consigned to hell or heaven can go from thence, as we shall state further on (Q. LXXI., A. 5, ad 5). Secondly, they may be understood to go forth for a time: and here we must distinguish what befits them according to the order of nature, and what according to the order of Divine providence; for as Augustine says (De Cura pro Mort. xvi.): Human affairs have their limits other than have the wonders of the Divine power, nature’s works differ from those which are done miraculously. Consequently, according to the natural course, the separated souls consigned to their respective abodes are utterly cut off from communication with the living. For according to the course of nature men living in mortal bodies are not immediately united to separate substances, since their entire knowledge arises from the senses: nor would it be fitting for them to leave their abode for any purpose other than to take part in the affairs of the living. Nevertheless, according to the disposition of Divine providence separated souls sometimes come forth from their abode and appear to men, as Augustine, in the book quoted above, relates of the martyr Felix who appeared visibly to the people of Nola when they were besieged by the barbarians. It is also credible that this may occur sometimes to the damned, and that for man’s instruction and intimidation they be permitted to appear to the living; or again in order to seek our suffrages, as to those who are detained in purgatory, as evidenced by many instances related in the fourth book of the Dialogues. There is, however, this difference between the saints and the damned, that the saints can appear when they will to the living, but not the damned; for even as the saints while living in the flesh are able by the gifts of gratuitous grace to heal and work wonders, which can only be done miraculously by the Divine power, and cannot be done by those who lack this gift, so it is not unfitting for the souls of the saints to be endowed with a power in virtue of their glory, so that they are able to appear wondrously to the living, when they will: while others are unable to do so unless they be sometimes permitted. Reply Obj. 1. Augustine, as may be gathered from what he says afterwards, is speaking according to the common course of nature. And yet it does not follow, although the dead be able to appear to the living as they will, that they appear as often as when living in the flesh: because when they are separated from the flesh, they are either wholly conformed to the divine will, so that they may do nothing but what they see to be agreeable with the Divine disposition, or else they are so overwhelmed by their punishments that their grief for their unhappiness surpasses their desire to appear to others. Reply Obj. 2. The authorities quoted speak in the sense that no one comes forth from heaven or hell simply, and do not imply that one may not come forth for a time. Reply Obj. 3. As stated above (A. 1, ad 3) the soul’s place conduces to its punishment or reward in so far as the soul, through being consigned to that place, is affected either by joy or by grief. Now this joy or grief at being consigned to such a place remains in the soul even when it is outside that place. Thus a bishop who is given the honour of sitting on a throne in the church incurs no dishonour when he leaves the throne, for though he sits not therein actually, the place remains assigned to him. We must also reply to the arguments in the contrary sense. Reply Obj. 4. Jerome is speaking of the apostles and martyrs in reference to that which they gain from their power of glory, and not to that which befits them as due to them by nature. And when he says that they are everywhere, he does not mean that they are in several places or everywhere at once, but that they can be wherever they will. Reply Obj. 5. There is no parity between demons and angels on the one hand and the souls of the saints and of the damned on the other. For the good or bad angels have allotted to them the office of presiding over men, to watch over them or to try them; but this cannot be said of the souls of men. Nevertheless, according to the power of glory, it is competent to the souls of the saints that they can be where they will; and this is what Jerome means to say. Reply Obj. 6. Although the souls of the saints or of the damned are sometimes actually present where they appear, we are not to believe that this is always so: for sometimes these apparitions occur to persons whether asleep or awake by the activity of good or wicked angels in order to instruct or deceive the living. Thus sometimes even the 4
living appear to others and tell them many things in their sleep; and yet it is clear that they are not present, as Augustine proves from many instances (De Cura pro Mort. xi., xii.).
Avoiding Demonic Influences
1. Avoiding demonic influence a. Avoid i. Do not attempt to speak to, bind or interact with demons unless you are a priest performing an official exorcism!1 ii. Do not use name spirits, employ the names of evil spirits or “dabble” in angelology iii. Do not curse or utter imprecatory statements iv. Avoid black magic, voodoo, witchcraft, Ouija boards, etc. v. Do not seek to contact the dead, hold séances, etc. b. What to do i. Receive the Sacraments regularly, particularly Communion and the Sacrament of Penance—both are more powerful than exorcisms when received in a state of grace! ii. Pray iii. Fast iv. Use Holy Water—but do so appropriately and respectfully! v. Use sacramentals and other blessed items vi. Have recourse to Our Lady vii. Have recourse to St. Michael the Archangel c. Avoid superstition! “Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.” (CCC 2111).
See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The Current Norms Governing Exorcisms” (September 29, 1984).
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