The Ouija Board: Just Say No

The movie Ouija has been tops at the box office now for the last couple of weeks. While interest in the movie itself isn’t necessarily of great concern (I happen to love horror movies myself), it’s the real-life obsession in the movie’s subject matter that is unsettling: the Ouija board.

Tens of millions of these “games” have been sold since their inception in the late 1800s. Modernized by Parker Brothers in the 1960s (and now sold under the Hasbro label), the board has been marketed as a harmless toy and party game. In fact, in 2008 Toys R Us even began selling a special pink edition just for little girls. How cute! Maybe the demons will wear tutus and ribbons when they come to the party! (The pink board has since been removed from the store, but a glow-in-the-dark one is still available.)

Make no mistake: the Ouija board is no toy. It’s not a game. It’s not harmless.

Fr. Thomas Euteneurer, exorcist and author of Exorcism and the Church Militant, is on record as saying that as many as ninety percent of the possession cases he encounters began with a Ouija board.

The late Catholic demonologist Ed Warren once called the Ouija board a proven “notorious passkey to terror.”

And the late Jesuit author Malachi Martin, who wrote extensively about demonic possession, once explained that the individual does not even have to intentionally engage the demonic. Simply dabbling in the occult, he believed, whether it was playing with a Ouija board or attending a séance or practicing transcendental meditation, the enneagram, etc., can dispose a person to possession because he has made himself an "aspiring vacuum" to "whatever happens along.

Something “happened along” one night many, many years ago in my own life, when a young female relative who was babysitting me thought it would be fun to show me her Ouija board. She was going to try to contact a long-dead family member known only to me as “Aunt Marie.” She started moving the pointer around the board until the word “H E R E” was spelled out. My babysitter was visibly shaken, I remember that, but whether or not she was faking, I don’t know. Nothing else dramatic happened right then. But later that night after I had gone to bed, I remember waking up and seeing a very scary-looking woman coming in my room through my window. She was smiling at me maniacally and I just knew–I could feel–that her intent toward me was evil. I screamed for my parents and the vision vanished. Maybe it was just a bad dream. Nevertheless, I never saw that Ouija board again.

The relative of whom I spoke I loved dearly. When she was around 30 years old, she disappeared under mysterious circumstances and has never been heard from again. She battled many demons during the short period of her life that I knew her, the addictive, destructive kinds that are on the natural plane. I’m sure, however, that her unfortunate interest in the occult only made things worse. I hope and pray I see her again one day.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear how we are to approach the occult:
2116: 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.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf offers this no-nonsense advice: “Avoid, avoid, avoid things that might open you up to oppression by the Enemy, such as Tarot cards and Ouija boards and other things that might be taken to be ‘games’.  If you have those things destroy them NOW, not later.”

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wicknedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Angels and the Rosary

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said that each time we pray a Hail Mary we attract the angels and repel the devils. Now think about how many times we say the Hail Mary in the Rosary. Hmm. That’s a pretty effective pest repellent, I’d say.

As satisfying as it is to know we’re chasing away sulfurous little creeps when saying the Rosary, it might be more beneficial to focus on the real angels and unite our prayers with theirs, keeping in mind the important roles their kind played in the lives of Jesus and Mary. They were there for every event, major and minor, public and private. Indeed, the angels illuminate the very mysteries we meditate upon during this devotion.

In honor of this month's Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I'd like to share this reflection from Pope Leo XIII:
The Angels revealed each of these mysteries [of the Rosary] in its due time; they played a great part in them; they were constantly present at them… Gabriel was sent to announce the Incarnation of the Eternal Word to the Virgin. In the cave of Bethlehem, Angels sang the glory of the new-born Savior. The Angel gave Joseph command to fly with the Child into Egypt. An Angel consoled, with his loving words, Jesus in His bloody sweat in the garden. Angels announced His resurrection, after He had triumphed over death, to the women. Angels carried Him up into Heaven; and foretold His second coming, surrounded by Angelic hosts . . .
What more divine, what more delightful, than to meditate and pray with the Angels? With what confidence may we not hope that those who on earth have united with the Angels in this ministry will one day enjoy their blessed company in Heaven?

(From the encyclical, On the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, promulgated on Sept. 12, 1897)

Feast of the Guardian Angels - A Short Reflection

Meditation for the Feast of the Guardian Angels

Pope John XXIII, October 2, 1959

According to the teaching of the Roman catechism, we must remember how admirable was the intention of divine Providence in entrusting to the angels the mission of watching over all mankind, and over individual human beings, lest they should fall victims to the grave dangers which they encounter. In this earthly life, when children have to make their way along a path beset with obstacles and snares, their fathers take care to call upon the help of those who can look after them and come to their aid in adversity. In the same way our Father in heaven has charged his angels to come to our assistance during our earthly journey which leads us to our blessed fatherland, so that, protected by the angels' help and care, we may avoid the snares upon our path, subdue our passions and, under this angelic guidance, follow always the straight and sure road which leads to Paradise...

Everyone of us is entrusted to the care of an angel.

That is why we must have a lively and profound devotion to our own Guardian Angel, and why we should often and trustfully repeat the dear prayer we were taught in the days of our childhood.

May we never fail in this devotion to the angels! During our earthly pilgrimage we may often run the risk of having to face the natural elements in turmoil, or the wrath of men who may seek to do us harm. But our Guardian Angel is always present. Let us never forget him and always remember to pray to him.

Feast of the Archangels

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The Church has a rich history-filled archive of devotions, prayers, practices, and liturgical traditions dedicated to these mighty spirits, and a simple Google search will yield a fantastic amount of information and devotions for personal prayer and meditation.

A few ideas for your consideration:

Read the Book of Tobit. It's one of the shorter books in the Bible and tells the fascinating and charming story of St. Raphael's appearance and guidance to Tobit's son Tobiah and his family.

Recite the Angelus in honor of St. Gabriel. This prayer reminds us of the important role this archangel played in the mystery of the Incarnation, and how Mary's simple response set into motion the greatest event the world has ever experienced.

Read and meditate on G.K. Chesterton's famous poem, "To St. Michael in Time of Peace" (see below), first published in 1929. It will renew your fervor and love toward this Prince of Angels.

Have a wonderful, angel-inspired day!

To St. Michael in Time of Peace

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.

When the world cracked because of a sneer in heaven,
Leaving out for all time a scar upon the sky,
Thou didst rise up against the Horror in the highest,
Dragging down the highest that looked down on the Most High:
Rending from the seventh heaven the hell of exaltation
Down the seven heavens till the dark seas burn:
Thou that in thunder threwest down the Dragon
Knowest in what silence the Serpent can return.

Down through the universe the vast night falling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning!)
Far down the universe the deep calms calling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Sword!)
Bid us not forget in the baths of all forgetfulness,
In the sigh long drawn from the frenzy and the fretfulness
In the huge holy sempiternal silence
In the beginning was the Word.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen and the Angels

Archbishop Fulton Sheen was famous for attributing stagehand help on his television show, Life is Worth Living, to his "little angel." The reference was always good for a chuckle, especially when a very visible hand was shown erasing his infamous chalkboard in full view of the camera.

But as much as the good Archbishop joked about angels, he could be also be pointedly serious about them. As he said on one of his shows, "There are angels. I have one of them with me on this program. You've got one of them too, if you only knew it, incidentally."

Archbishop Sheen was renowned for his expressive–some would say overly dramatic–preaching style, and for his work in radio and television. At the peak of his media career, he reached an estimated 30 million viewers. Deservedly, he is often referred to as one of the first televangelists.

Archbishop Sheen died on December 9, 1979. His remarkable career as a priest, speaker, writer, radio and television personality has produced innumerable stories and testimonies about the personal holiness of this great man. As Pope John Paul II told him during an meeting with the Archbishop shortly before his death: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You have been a loyal son of the Church!"

The Church is now returning the favor by considering Archbishop Sheen for canonization. His cause was opened in 2002 by Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where Sheen was ordained a priest. In June 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had found Archbishop Sheen to have lived a life of “heroic virtues,” thereby conferring on him the title of “Venerable” and paving the way for the next step of beatification.

In the meantime, we can enjoy and benefit from the many writings, audio clips, and videos Archbishop Sheen has left behind. Among his works was a wonderful talk on the angels he gave on his Life is Worth Living show. Luckily, it has been reproduced on YouTube in three separate videos. Parts 1 and 2 are about 10 minutes each; part 3 is only four minutes. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy.




Wisdom from St. Philip Neri

Today, May 26th, is the Feast of St. Philip Neri. St. Philip was a 16th century Italian priest who founded a secular order of fellow priests called "The Congregation of the Oratory." St. Philip was known for his down-to-earth manner and humor as much as he was for his sanctity.

He had no money, but contributions poured in from his friends, rich and poor. Pope Gregory and Charles Borromeo gave generously, as did other prominent men. Cardinals and princes were now among Philip's disciples, though he sometimes shocked them by his impulsiveness. His desire was always to establish a close, human bond with others, even though it meant indulging in a wine-drinking contest, practical joking, or other undignified behavior. He acted in a jocular manner to conceal his deep emotion, or to put himself on a level with those around him. Humility was the virtue he strove most of all to practice, but of course he could not conceal his extraordinary gifts or sanctity. More than once he foretold events which later came to pass. He lived in such a state of spiritual exaltation that at times it was with difficulty that he carried on his daily labors. Men declared that his face often glowed with a celestial radiance.
(Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc., 1954.)

St. Philip left us with an amazing collection of thoughts, instructions, and sayings. Here are but a few.

"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”
"Nulla dies sine linea: Do not let a day pass without doing some good during it."

"Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

"First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow."

"Give me ten truly detached men. and I will convert the world with them."

"Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength."

"If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience, humility and charity.”

“Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God’s grace than to employ the intercessions of the Holy Virgin.”

If you'd like to be inspired daily by St. Philip, bookmark the website The Maxims and Sayings of St. Philip Neri. There is a quote there for every day of the year from this holy man who taught us, among other things, that's it's okay to be cheeky at times.

St. Philip Neri . . . was called "The Humorous Saint," and at his door was a little sign that said, "The House of Christian Mirth." "Christian joy is a gift from God flowing from a good conscience," he said. Once, a young priest asked him what prayer would be the most appropriate to say for a couple after a wedding Mass, and Philip Neri thought and said, "A prayer for peace."
(Taken from the essay "Laughing with the Saints: Joy, Humor, and Laughter in the Spiritual Life" by James Martin, S.J.)

Happy Easter

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

Good Friday

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Good Friday
Theodore Maynard

The priest unveiled the crucifix, and I
Went up -- but oh, my heart was numb and dry!--
To kiss His image who once heard, "Crucify!"

Tears rained from Peter down the rugged rock
When, thrice denying, he heard the crowing cock:
I dull-eyed, with my sins a countless flock.

I kissed Christ's wounded bosom in my turn--
Death-cold, I colder. Would that I could learn
That piteousness with which the strong saints burn!

Next an old feeble, shabby woman came.
She kissed His feet, and was transformed to flame;
Then hands and face and side, and sobbed His name.

Compassionate and hungry, in eager bliss
Crucified with Him! Would that I could kiss,
Dear stranger, your poor, faltering feet for this!

(From Not Even Death: A Book of Poems by Theodore Maynard, 1941.)

St. John Bosco and the Big Gray Dog

On various occasions throughout his life, St. John Bosco found himself aided by a mysterious, yet gentle and loyal, large gray dog. The dog would appear unbidden when St. John was passing through dangerous neighborhoods, traveling on foot through the dark countryside, or, most famously, once when attacked by thugs. (The dog chased the thugs away after giving them a good scare with his not-so-little teeth.) St. John called his intermittent companion Il Grigio, Italian for "The Gray One."

A mysteriously as he appeared, the dog would trot away after accomplishing his duty. Not once did St. John ever see the dog take food or water. And on at least one occasion, the dog somehow disappeared from a cottage in which all the doors and windows were shut.

St. John had no doubt as to the origin of his furry friend: "It sounds ridiculous to call him an angel, yet he is no ordinary dog." Indeed, the saint firmly believed that had it not been for the big gray dog, his work would have been severely hindered, if not stopped altogether.

John Bosco, of course, went on to institute and organize the Salesians, a religious order for men and women under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales. Il Grigio reportedly retained a fondness for the Salesians long after John Bosco left the world. Between 1893 and 1930, sisters of the Salesian order testified that they had received the gray dog's protection on at least three separate occasions.

(A summary of information from Partners in Holiness: Guardian Angels in the Lives of the Saints)

Angels and the Holy Souls

Catholic tradition has given us some fascinating teachings and thoughts on the role of our guardian angels after we leave this life for the soul-cleansing confines of purgatory. (Assuming, of course, that we make it there and not any lower.) 

According to early Church Fathers, the guardian angel leads the soul to purgatory and thereafter visits and consoles that soul until its release. The angel also helps the soul by inspiring friends and relatives left on earth to pray and offer Masses for their departed loved one.

Moreover, some spiritual writers believe that the angels reveal to the poor souls the identities of those who are praying for them on earth so that, in reciprocal fashion, the holy souls can pray for them. 

As St. Augustine tells us: “The departed may be informed by the angels of things happening in the world, insofar as this is permitted by Him to Whose judgment everything is subject.”

Some saints have even "visited" purgatory (via mystical experiences or spiritual bilocation) and witnessed for themselves the close relationship between the poor souls and their angels. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque wrote that during her experience she saw:
" . . . an immense space filled with flames and glowing coals and, amid these, a great number of poor souls in human form, raising their hands to Heaven and imploring mercy. But all the while their Guardian Angels were at their side, inspiring them with courage and comforting them in the most tender manner."  (The Guardian Angels, Our Heavenly Companions, 1956)
St. Lydwine was also shown purgatory, having "flown" there on several occasions in the accompaniment of her own guardian angel. On one of her visits she saw a sad-looking angel keeping company the soul of a man who had been languishing there for twelve years. When Lydwine "returned" to her earthly surroundings, she immediately offered her physical sufferings for the soul of that man. Several days later, the man's angel appeared to her. No longer sad-looking, the angel joyously declared that the man had been freed from purgatory, thanks to Lydwine's sacrificial acts.

And what about that last part? The "get out of jail" part? Well, the language in this passage is a little old-fashioned, but it gets the point across nicely:
"As soon as the hour of release has struck for one of the suffering souls, the Guardian Angel of that happy soul is commissioned by God to descend into Purgatory, to open the doors of its prison and to lead the delivered soul without delay into the eternal habitations of Paradise. The good Angel descends with the rapidity of lightning into the dismal prison of pain to carry out the work of release because his love for his cherished ward urges him to liberate the Poor Soul and to lead it to the sight and possession of God. The Guardian Angel is often accompanied by other Angels or by a whole multitude of Angels, and then the entrance of the released soul is truly a triumphant one."  (ibid)
It is worth remembering that our Tradition also teaches that those of us who had the most devotion to our guardian angels on earth will have the most assistance from them in purgatory.