|I see Long Island in your future...|
Our friend admitted to being a longtime fan of the "Long Island Medium," Theresa Caputo, who has a "reality" show on TLC, and that all she was hoping for was to "get a message from her parents."
To be honest, I was a bit thrown aback. I mean, this is seemingly an otherwise well grounded woman, who from all appearances, is a joyful and loving wife and mother. She is gregarious, witty, good natured and always seems to wear a contagious smile on her face. Yet, apparently, there is something amiss. Why else was she being drawn into the occult, although I doubt she saw it that way?
What possibly disturbed me most, is that she is Christian; a Catholic no less and, considering her openness, although, in all fairness, she looked around and spoke in a low voice when she told me, she probably doesn't realize the conflict between her curiosity (or genuine desire to contact her parents) and her professed faith.
Then again, the New Age movement, (which ironically is a combination of many centuries old heresies and Eastern religious practices) and its distortion of truth, where everything is OK because there is no absolute truth, and so, it's all about finding a "personal" truth, has become so widely spread in our post-Oprah, spiritual guru-loving, Deepak Chopra-influenced, yoga-meditating and watered-down Christianity culture that many people find it difficult to decipher faith from fantasy. (Which reminds me, I really hate those Coexist bumper stickers that use the symbols of several world religions, as if it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you blend into the societal pot of acceptance and "tolerance.")
In fact, Caputo, who I had never heard of before that brief conversation with our female friend, has become so successful that, on her web page, she boasts having a two year waiting list of clients.
Moreover, while Caputo says she has been communicating with spirits ever since she was four, and there are some clairvoyants, who actually believe they have supernatural abilities, a great majority of these, as recent news reports have shown, are nothing more than charlatans preying on vulnerable souls, who are lost and seeking guidance.
Unfortunately, as P.T. Barnum famously coined, "There's a sucker born every minute."
In a CD series I recently listened to, Overcoming the New Age Movement, Catholic apologist and speaker, Matt Arnold, who was once deeply involved in the occult, including crystals, "channeling," and read tarot cards to make money on the side, says it's a sophisticated psychological skill, whereby the "psychic" tries to figure out what the person is seeking and, talking in roundabout ways, makes the client hear what they want to hear and think the "psychic" is actually telling their future or communicating with their loved ones. The good ones become extremely wealthy (and maybe even get their own TV show!).
In any case, unlike the kindergarten parent friend who told me she was trying to contact her parents, some people just go to these "spiritists" for the fun of it, not realizing the potential eternal dangers of their actions.
The Catholic Church teaches that, "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. 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.” (CCC 2116)
And, this is not limited to Catholics. All Christians are called to reject the occult. In the Book of Deuteronomy it states, “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD, your God, is dispossessing them before you.” (Deut 18:10)
Listen, I understand where our friend is coming from. I think, we all seek a connection to our lost relatives and friends; especially when they were very close, like a parent, child or spouse. I often find myself talking to my grandparents, cousins and friends and asking for their prayers. Sometimes, when I hear a song by Todd Rundgren, I think and pray for my cousin or the Rolling Stones remind me of a friend, who was a huge Stones fan and died several years ago.
If we believe in eternal life then it's reasonable to believe we can talk to those who have passed on through prayer, knowing and understanding that they are more alive in the presence of God than we could ever be here on earth.
However, turning to clairvoyants to conjure up their spirits is, at least to me, as hard to believe as, at the risk of insulting any Wiccan readers, the existence of witches and vampires, which are other occult figures popularized and promoted in today's culture.
Now, I would love to write that when the friend told me about her plans to see the psychic, I shared all this wealth of knowledge, or told her that the most profound way we communicate with our loved ones as Catholics is in Communion, when we receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass, where the one God of the universe is made present, and the totality of the Church, which makes up His Body, including those living in eternity, become one with us through the one bread, as St. Paul writes.
In fact, when St. Therese of Little Flower received her First Holy Communion, she couldn't hold back her tears and later wrote that she overheard some of the nuns commenting that maybe it was because her mother, who had died when Therese was four, was not there to see her receive the Sacrament. In her memoirs, Story of a Soul, she explains, "As all Heaven entered my soul when I received Jesus, my mother came to me as well. Nor could I cry because you were not there, we were closer than ever before. It was joy alone, deep ineffable joy that filled my heart."
But, of course, I did not say anything like this. Sadly, all this came to me after reflecting on the exchange over the next several days. All I could muster at the time, was a faint smile and, as another parent approached us, quickly changed the conversation. Another missed opportunity to evangelize!
St. Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give a reason for your hope but do it with gentleness and love" (1 Pet 3:15). Since, the woman and her husband are parents at our childrens' school and we usually see them at school functions, hopefully, I will get another opportunity and be better prepared the next time...