Catholic Power vs. New Age Weakness

Domenico Fetti, “The Sacrifice of Elijah Before the Priests of Baal” (c. 1621)
Domenico Fetti, “The Sacrifice of Elijah Before the Priests of Baal” (c. 1621) (photo: Public Domain)

In June, the Miami Herald published the article: “12 items an energy healer says should be in your bedroom.”  I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out the superiority of Catholicism over New Age, but I will be surprised if they publish it.  Secular newspapers are afraid to measure Catholic power against that of the New Age, so I interviewed four Catholics to learn where they find the power of healing and divine inspiration.

Here is a definition for energy healing: “The use of therapeutic modalities to benefit a person on subtle and emotional levels, as well as in their general and physical well-being.” Compare that with a Catholic priest.  Through Holy Orders, he acts in persona Christi calling Jesus down into the bread and wine during Mass, and forgiving sins in Christ's name.  And that’s just for starters.

New Age “Power”

The healer provided a list of “must-haves for generating positive energy and creating sacred space within the home.” “Sacred” has to do with a connection to God. But the god of the New Age is not the Catholic God from whom all power comes.

The New Age list includes things like a sandalwood candle because its oil vibrates to the first and fourth chakras. A chakra is each of seven centers of spiritual power in the human body. (It’s not just you. I don’t get that either.)

Among the many items were: a Yoga blanket which declares sacred space; a meditation cushion which makes the space cushy; sage for cleansing negative vibes; power animals—spiritual companions; Tibetan bowls that vibrate when rubbed because chakras like that; Inspired reads—the Bible wasn’t mentioned; and feathers because, why not?  Under “raw stones” was rose quartz for quick results and crystals said to vibrate. (Note: science nixed the notion that crystals vibrate.)

Catholic Power

As a priest in Scranton, Pennsylvania for 63 years and an exorcist for over 40, Msgr. John Esseff knows about the power of the Catholic Church. “The real power of the Church is God; he is the one who created all things,” Msgr. Esseff said. He explained that we know about God as three persons in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--though revelation and Scripture. “The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and they baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and each person who was baptized has the Trinity dwelling within them,” he said.  “God loves us so much, that he came from heaven to dwell in each baptized person and he explodes in us through the Holy Eucharist.

“Our Catholic sacramentals are connected to the Sacraments and only have power through God and through our faith in him,” Msgr. Esseff explained.  “In and of themselves, they are nothing.” 

In his home, is a large crucifix, images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Sacred Heart of Jesus among other sacred objects.  “Wherever I go in my home, I think of Jesus,” he said.  “His heart, in the heart on the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is what comes alive. If we don’t know that, we lose the truth of the sacramental.” 

Delilah Mayer is a member of the Light and Healing Ministry team in Richardton, ND—a group that prays over people for healing. She brings the power of the Catholic Church into her life through daily Mass and Holy Communion.  Reminders of the saints, our intercessors in heaven, surround her.   “I go to the cross of Jesus—I have a crucifix--and I go to the Bible,” Mayer said. “I also have blessed candles in my prayer corner,” she said and explained that she receives the blessing placed on the candles by the priest as she uses them. The rising smoke represents her prayers ascending into heaven. Other items include: a stained glass window from an old church, holy water and blessed oils which she blesses herself with, a statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and a rosary which she often prays.

Dan Burke, the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register, explained some of the things in his home that lifts his heart and mind to God. “We have two altars; my wife has one in our master bedroom and I have one in my office.” In his office are two icons: an ancient one of Jesus from St. Catherine’s monastery in Egypt and a Russian icon of the Madonna and Child.  Icons are considered glimpses of heaven as visual Scripture.  

Three  relics of saints are on his altar. “Relics are mentioned in the New Testament,” Burke explained. “St. Paul would touch an item and that item itself would carry some of the healing power, so having the relic present in some mystical way gives the power that God granted to that person to us.”

He also has a Russian crucifix. “It has skulls at the bottom which reminds me of the pain of sin and that Jesus paid the price as the perfect remedy for failure to follow God so I don’t have to suffer separation from him.”  

Theresa Waltz, of Bismarck, ND is the mother of two priests--her only two children. Visual reminders of the faith fill her house. “I have a collage of pictures of my childhood church,” she said. “It reminds me of the many hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in our family since the Middle Ages.  Our family also donated the Baptismal font and a large statue of Jesus to the church.”  A picture of all the religious priest, nuns and brothers among her relatives helps her to feel surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, [Hebrews 12:21].  Medals found at her grandmother’s house connect her to relatives who once wore them and to the saints whose image they bear. “I have a crucifix over every door to remind me that God is watching over us and is in every aspect of our lives,” she said.

Blessed palms from Palm Sunday Mass remind her that we should glorify God all the time. In her kitchen, a Last Supper picture represents the Eucharistic meal at Mass and reminds her who provides for us.

There are statues, plates, a picture of her sons meeting Pope John Paul II, and much more. “I’m surrounded by all these things so the idea to pray is all around me,” Waltz said. “It helps me to leave my problems in God’s hands instead of worrying about anything.”