The departed are in God’s hands

I've been thinking a lot lately about two friends who have died.

One lived a difficult life and died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. I would appreciate your prayers for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his four children.

The other died nearly 17 years ago. Although I still pray for the repose of his soul, I am as confident as one can generally be - short of actual canonization - that he is in heaven praying for me and for everybody.

I am thankful for the communion of saints, that we are surrounded by "such a great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1). I absolutely believe that my departed loved ones who have passed purgatory and attained eternal life are "cheering me on." They are with God, and they can pray to Him on my behalf. I believe they still love me as I love them and that, as St. Dominic told his friars on his deathbed, they can "be of more use" to me from heaven than they could here on earth.

But still, I miss them. And, as "surrounded" as we may be by this cloud of witnesses, there is a curtain that separates us - a divide that is never crossed and only occasionally slightly breached.

This is unfortunate, because I have questions. Do they really see what's going on in my life? How can the souls in heaven be gazing upon the very face of God and still hear all of our requests for their prayers? ("You have reached St. Joseph's intercession line. I'm sorry, all circuits are busy. Please try your call again later.") Do they know how I feel about them? Do they know all of the things I didn't get a chance to say in this life?

I was discussing this with a friend of mine who had lost a loved one. She too had a lot of questions. But she was flirting with the idea of going a different route to find the answers. She wanted to consult someone who claims to communicate with the dead.

It's not difficult to see why someone who is grieving might be tempted to go this route. After all, it can't hurt, can it? What are they risking? A few hundred bucks? What's that compared to the possibility that they may be able to reconnect with a departed friend or relative?

Well, apparently the church seems to think it could hurt a lot. The catechism says, "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." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2116)

So what is the problem?

The biggest problem is this: We are messing in a world where we are, to put it mildly, in way over our heads. There is a spiritual world, and it is much bigger and more powerful than we can know. Our church teaches that there are good spirits - angels - and there are evil spirits. When we open ourselves up to that world, outside of the church's authority and her protection, we open ourselves up to those evil spirits - to forces we can't possibly understand.

The biggest risk isn't that we run across a sham psychic who is taking our money and not actually communicating with the "spirit world." The biggest risk is that we run across somebody who is, and that through this activity we open ourselves up to spirits who are not of God. These are spirits of deception - of course they can lie and convince us that we are communicating with our loved ones. And that draws us deeper into the occult, into that world of communicating with spirits apart from the love and protection of God.

These spirits hate us and wish to destroy us. Once we have opened that door, they are indeed free to "come in," and we have no idea about the havoc they can cause on our souls. Ask priests who do deliverance prayers - they will tell you some of the ways these occupying, deceiving, hating, destroying spirits mess up the lives of those naive enough to dabble in their world.

As Peter Kreeft put it in his book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven, "The only openings that are safe for us are the ones God has approved: revelation, prayer, His own miracles, sacraments, and primarily Christ Himself … The danger is not physical but spiritual, and spiritual danger always centers on deception."

If it's too late, and you already have participated in a seance or used the services of a medium or a psychic, it's probably a good idea to talk to a priest. There are forms of prayer that the church has given us to "clean out" these types of issues. If you don't know a priest who is comfortable dealing with these issues, call your diocesan office.

If you miss your departed loved ones, pray for the repose of their souls. Pray for their intercession. But don't try to "contact" them.

They are in God's hands. Leave Him in charge.

Bonacci is a syndicated columnist based in Denver and the author of We're On a Mission from God and Real Love.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014