When it comes to deliverance ministry, as far I can see, there is very little grey. As the Church tries to live with various pastoral difficulties and reach out and tolerate, when it comes to the spirit world, the demons tend not to be so pastoral in their approach and use every opportunity, regardless of intention, cause or situation, in order to take up residence. Many exorcists tend to be very black and white, certainly the ones I know, and I suppose this comes from having to work at the coal face knowing that pastoral niceties and subtleties don’t actually work when it comes to expelling a demon, only tough love and Christian integrity.
That is why, when a person is being exorcised, or in the process of deliverance, they will be urged to live a sound Christian life, adhering to the Commandments – in particular the moral teachings of the Church, and have to attend the sacraments regularly – Mass every Sunday (at least – daily Mass is often recommended) and frequent confession. Like a physical ailment, neglect to take the medicine and the condition will not only not heal, but in fact will probably get worse. In terms of deliverance ministry, if one refuses to begin living a virtuous life then the demon will borrow himself (or themselves if there is more than one) in even deeper. Hard things to hear, but experience has shown them to be true.
Why this reflection on deliverance? Well I am prompted by a recent news story about a priest in Southampton, Fr John Chandler, who has banned yoga classes from the parish hall. It goes without saying that the priest was absolutely correct: in charge of the property he has to ensure that no practices which are contrary to Catholic teaching go on there, and that is what yoga is.
Now I may have a load of apologists on to me telling me that yoga is perfectly okay, it is purely exercise and many people benefit from it. Well, people might like it, but does not mean it is sound. As for it being just an exercise, well we need to remember that posture in prayer and meditation is important: yogic exercises have significance for a particular occult practice and they cannot be divorced from it. Besides, when people practice yogic exercise there is a form of meditation and ritualistic breathing that goes with it and experience has taught that that opens people up to forces. As one of its apologists said in response to the priest’s actions: “yoga is spiritual, not religious”: there it is: can you hear the warning bells?
Yoga means “union” and it is orientated towards union with a force which some consider divine, and in that way achieve enlightenment. The exercises are not just there to keep you fit and make your muscles supple, or help you relax, they are a means of attaining this union. What we do with our bodies is significant – if I give someone the two fingers that sends a message – I might intend it to mean something different, but those who see the two fingers draw on the general understanding of the gesture and interpret it accordingly and correctly; I am the one who, in trying to reinvent the gesture, is mistaken, not them. So too with yoga – the exercises and positions send a message and the force they are designed to invite in interprets them as they are to be interpreted.
“But surely, Father, if we approach it intending it to be open to God, then it’s alright?” Well, no, you can approach a Ouija board intending to contact God and the angels, but that will not redeem it and the ones who contact you through it will not be God or the angels. There are some things which channel forces not of God and regardless of good intentions they cannot be transformed into instruments of God. Yoga is one of these, as is Reiki, Tarot Cards, fortune telling, “Psychics Live” and other New Age practices. And if anyone should doubt me, talk to an exorcist or someone involved in deliverance ministry and they will put you straight. Working at the coal face they deal with people who thought these practices were innocent, good, and they even benefited from them – for a while; but they opened a door and the forces they were dabbling with entered in, and soon enough they discovered that these forces were not as friendly as they first thought.
Dabbling in the occult is contrary to God’s law and Church teaching, not only can they not be redeemed, but in engaging in them one is in rebellion against God whether one realises it or not. The Lord will never bless such a rebellion, and so these instruments of the occult can never be used to come closer to God no more than one can say adultery can bring someone closer to their spouse.
So, if you are doing yoga, stop it and go to confession. If you are engaged in Reiki or other New Age practices, stop it! Well done to Fr Chandler; he had the courage to take on what is becoming a serious trend, even among Catholics, one which is producing disastrous results. Speaking just of Ireland, the few that are involved in deliverance ministry here are run off their feet dealing with cases, some of them pretty difficult, and many of them are the result of people practicing yoga, Reiki, fortune telling and other New Age practices. They do not have enough priests to deal with them (there only a few priests in Ireland working in this area). So pray for these dedicated people who work in silence at a hidden ministry which is demanding and dangerous.