Healing and Healers

A Charismatic Church Near Tulsa

As the echoes of her last effort fought for life in the corners of the room, the piano player leaned back and flexed her fingers. For the last 30 minutes or so, she had been banging out old time Gospel choruses. Now, except for the occasional cough or throat clearing, the room was silent. The assembly, worked up by the singing and hand clapping, eagerly awaited what was to follow. The atmosphere was electric with anticipation

There was a soft sound at the rear of the sanctuary and every head turned to look. A well-dressed man had entered the room and was walking toward the empty dais. When he reached the platform, the man turned and, raising his arms, shouted, "Praise God!"

The crowd exploded in frenzied hand clapping and shouts of "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!" as the man thrust his arms heavenward and shouted again and again, "Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!" The piano player belted out a lively Gospel chorus and the man began to move around the dais in a dance of wild abandon as he shouted. Some in the crowd moved to the aisles or approached the platform and also began to dance. A few fell to the floor and lay there twitching

After a time, the piano again fell silent. The man stopped dancing and shouting and instead softly repeated a single word. "Amen. Amen. Amen" Slowly, the crowd settled down and people returned to their seats. In their Bibles, the faithful followed the preacher as he reminded them that God did not want them to suffer affliction or illness.

"Jesus died that you might be healed," he assured them. "You can read about it in Isaiah 53:5. By His stripes, you are healed. Healed. God does not want you to be sick!"

"Amen," shouted the crowd, as the preacher ceremoniously removed his suit coat and rolled up his sleeves. After recounting miraculous healings performed by Jesus, Peter and Paul, the preacher reported on some of the wonders God had performed through his agency. At his last healing service God had made whole again a man who lost both his legs in a motor vehicle accident 30 years previously. The man had come to the service in a wheelchair, the healer claimed, but he left dancing on his own two legs. Two others had been cured of terminal cancer and a woman born blind was given sight. The crowd was wild with excitement. Surely, this was a mighty man of God.

The healer called those who wished to be cured or made whole to come up on the platform. There he, the instrument through which the Holy Spirit would act, would touch them and release the mighty power of God. As the hopeful lined up on the stage, the healer began his work. Moving rapidly down the line, he listened briefly to the needs of each person before muttering a prayer in a heavenly language. Then, he pounded each petitioner on the forehead with the flat of his hand and pronounced them healed by their faith. Some, overcome by the incredible power that coursed through the hand of the healer, swooned and fell to the floor. Others reeled back, then steadied themselves and were helped to leave the stage.

A Rural Village in Northern Mexico

In a tiny village in the desert of northern Mexico, a handful of people are gathered in a small adobe church. As an acolyte in white cassock scurries about the altar, lighting candles and setting out the articles of worship, a deacon leads the group in singing songs familiar to those who attend the Catholic Mass. Outside, a small herd of goats nibbles at the thorny pads of the few nopal cacti that dot the churchyard. A bored-appearing man lounges under a palapa as he waits for someone to purchase the barely cool soft drinks he has for sale.

As the last song ended, a man dressed in the vestments of a Roman Catholic priest entered the room and walked to the altar. He turned and, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, blessed the assembly in the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What followed was a parody of the Mass, complete with readings from Scripture, but without the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When the ceremony ended, the healer seated himself on a throne-like chair and began to hear petitions

The first person, an elderly lady, complained of continual pain in her legs. The healer bade her kneel before him as he waved a long-stemmed rose in a circular motion over her bowed head. As he used his floral wand, the healer muttered a hodge-podge collection of blessings and short quotations from Scripture. When he had finished, he told her she needed to prepare and drink an infusion of seven rose petals in a cup of water three times a day, praying the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" as she sips the steaming concoction. After seven days of doing this, she would be freed of her pain, he promised

The next supplicant was a young mother who claimed that her infant son had been afflicted by the evil eye. The healer called for a leafy branch freshly cut from a pirul tree. As he mouthed blessings, Scriptures and commands to the demons to leave the child, he vigorously brushed both mother and baby with the leafy branch, cleansing the child. Before the young woman left his presence, he told her to burn a candle for St. Michael and wrote out a prayer for her to recite as she lit the candle.

An Office Building in Kyoto

A Reiki master seeks harmony with the universe as he prepares himself to help a young man who had been injured in an automobile accident. The master explains that Reiki is the Universal Life Energy that is all around us. When it is activated, Reiki enhances the body's natural healing processes and opens the mind and spirit to the sources of illness and pain. Armed with this new awareness, the individual then may take charge of his own life and healing.

Drawing on ancient Buddhist Sutras, the Reiki practitioner achieves harmony with the universe and is ready to channel Universal Life Energy to his subject. The master will be but a conduit, he reminds the young man, through which the Reiki will flow into the subject. It is the recipient's body that controls the actual flow of energy and how and where that energy will be used. The success of this treatment, cautions the master, will be determined by the recipient's willingness and acceptance.

The master puts the young man at ease, and tells him there is no need to remove his clothing. Reiki involves only a light touch, the practitioner assures the subject. It is safe, non-invasive and non-manipulative. Nothing is applied to the body, and no particular belief system is required. The Universal Life Energy can work through clothing, bandages, even casts. In fact, It is so powerful, a Reiki master can even heal over a long distance.

The healer begins by directing energy to different areas of the head and upper body, focusing on the major organs.

For routine pain and acute symptoms, Reiki can effect immediate relief, the master explains. However, serious trauma and chronic conditions may require extended treatment. The recipient relaxes and begins to experience feelings of warmth, well-being and comfort.

A Monastery in the South of France

In a monastery of the Order of St. Benedict, an Oblate is preparing to bless a seriously ill man in order to restore his health. In previous centuries, the Benedictine blessing had many forms. In 1882, however, Rome's Sacred Congregation of Rites approved a carefully prepared formula for use. So long as the approved formula is used, both secular and regular priests may give the blessing, if authorized by the Abbots President of the various Benedictine Congregations of Black Monks.

Originally, a relic of the True Cross was used in the blessing. However, since such relics are increasingly difficult to find, the Sacred Congregation of Rites authorized, in 1959, the use of the medal of St. Benedict to impart the blessing of St. Maurus in the approved formula.

"Who is St. Maurus?" you may ask. A monk who lived and died in the 6th Century, he is the patron saint of Benedictines. Maurus, who lived in the monastery run by St.Benedict, was favored by God with the gift of miracles. He was a perfect monk and exemplified the virtue of obedience. Maurus miraculously cured the sick and restored the health of folks grievously afflicted. He even walked on water without getting wet.

The black-robed monk has no relic of the True Cross, so he exposes the medal of St. Benedict which all Benedictine oblates wear. He lights two candles and speaks to the sick man, hoping to elicit from him acts of contrition and firm confidence. These are necessary, in order that by the merits of St. Benedict and St. Maurus the man might be healed, God willing. After a series of repeated ritual prayers, the priest puts on a red stole and, holding the medal before the sick man with his right hand, utters another series of prayers, one of which is:

"O God, the Creator, of all things. You ordained that Your only Son should take flesh of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit for the restoration of your people and You deigned to heal the wounds and infirmities of our souls by the redemption accomplished upon the sacred and glorious wood of the life-giving Cross: do You also vouchsafe through this powerful sign to restore health to your servant (name). Through the same Christ our Lord."--Order of Saint Benedict, The Blassing of Saint Maurus over the Sick, (C) 1963 by The Order of St. Benedict

Still holding the medal before the sick man, the priest confers the blessing.

"Through the invocation of the Immaculate Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, and the intercession of Saints Benedict and Maurus, may the Power + of God the Father (here makes the sign of the cross), the Wisdom + of God the Son, and the Strength + of the Holy Spirit from your infirmities. Amen.

"May God's holy will be done, and may it be done to you as you wish and pray, for the praise and honor of the most holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."--Ibid.

Then, the priest blesses the sick person with the relic or medal of St. Benedict with these words:

"May the blessing of Almighty God, of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit descend upon you and abide with your forever."--Ibid.

At this point, the sick man kisses the relic or the medal of St. Benedict.

In the event the blessing does not have the desired effect, it may be repeated three times. Three votive Masses may be celebrated, in honor of the Passion of Christ, of St. Maurus, and for the Poor Souls. Or the 15 decades of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary are prayed according to the intention by the sick person, or by others in his name.

A Bedroom in Chattanooga

In her bedroom in suburban Chattanooga, a worried young woman falls to her knees and earnestly prays for her father, who is desperately ill. "Lord, I am no one important but I know You hear the prayers of Your children. Hear me now as I come before You in behalf of my father, who is near death. Others in our church are praying for my Daddy also. The doctors say medicine can do nothing more for him; that his fate now is in Your hands. I love my father, Lord, and I plead with You to heal and strengthen him, to grant him just a few more years before You call him home.

"Lord, I know my father will be happy in Heaven and that I am being selfish by asking You to extend his life, but I love him so and cannot bear to think of life without his love and kindness. Never the less, Father, not my will but Yours be done. If it is Your will to grant my Daddy a few more years, I shall be so happy. Should it be Your will to call Daddy home, then I shall be deeply saddened for a time, but I will know that he has gone to be with You. You are God, and in all ways perfect. Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayers."

Some Closing Thoughts

Faith healers sometimes assure us that it is God's will we not be sick; that Christ secured our good health on the Cross. They point to Isaiah 53.5 and triumphantly declare: "See? It says it right there: by His stripes we are healed. Just lay hold of that promise and have faith and your afflictions will be taken from you."

To reinforce their assurances, the healers might point to another passage:

"Again I say unto you, That if two or more of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."--Matthew 18:19,20

It matters not to these that the Isaiah passage has to do with Christ's substitutionary death, by which our salvation is made possible, or that the Matthew passage addresses matters of church discipline. Why worry about what God really said, when the faith healer can make the verses say what he wants them to say? The faith healer uses a parody of God's Word to support his claims of miraculous power to heal. Whether the result of ignorance, misplaced zeal or intentional fraud, the effect is the same, and must be offensive to God.

The Mexican curandero uses a parody of the Catholic Mass to set the stage for the miraculous healings he promises those who come to him. Then, after preparing the way, he calls on witchcraft to work his magic. Everything he does is demonic and those who seek his help are laying themselves open to demonic attack.

The Reiki practitioner, whether traditional Japanese or New Ager, channels Universal Life Energy through his hands into the body of the recipient. This avatar of Eastern healing has its origins in the Pit as well.

What about the black-robed Benedictine priest who invokes the blessing and intercession of dead people and uses candles, medals or bits of wood and ritual prayers in his healing efforts? If healing happens, who or what was responsible? The bit of rotted wood? The medal? The intercession of Mary or one of the dead saints? Could it have been the candles? Or the repeated ritual prayers? Or was it demonic? Can the Lord God truly be involved in a ritual that involves idolatry, the invocation of dead Mary and the intercession of dead saints? Surely, the Benedictine Blessing of St. Maurus is nothing more than a dressed up pagan ritual..

And the young woman in Chattanooga? Are her actions godly? They seem to be. She is alone in her prayer closet, talking directly and reverently to her Heavenly Father. She is not abusing Scripture nor invoking the aid of dead people nor even mysterious life forces. And she is joined by other believers as she intercedes in behalf of a loved one. Christ's brother, James reminds us of the power of prayer in the fifth chapter of his letter. She understands that God is not bound by her prayers to heal her father, and she is submissive to His will. Whether the man is healed or not, God is honored .

Twisted Scripture, mystical forces, idolatry and invocations of dead people or faith and fervent prayer. Which is the Christian way? Don't look to Rome for a truthful answer. Instead, open your Bible and see what God Himself has to say on the subject.

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. -- (James 5:13-16)

Home | More Weird Stuff | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum