Syncretism, Superstition and the Occult
Last week, Newsday featured an article on a highly placed individual in the government of our Nation. This individual had just published a new autobiography. Among the bullet-points in the article highlighting the personal details in the book, the one that assuredly disturbed us all stated that: “She is a religious Catholic, and writes about her own astrological signs and handed out a New Age positive-thinking book to her staff.” Quite unfortunately, this prominent individual is far from the only Catholic who engages in syncretic behavior, which seeks to reconcile Christianity with the powers of darkness. If one believes in Jesus Christ – God the Son; the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; Savior of the world – and is a member of His Body – the Holy Catholic Church – there is no place for horoscopes, New Age fancies and the like. Engaging in such practices is incompatible with and injurious to Christian faith and our relationship with God, and can expose our souls – and those of our loved ones – to the machinations of the Evil One.
The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes (prohibits) superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; and to irreligion (tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony).
Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy (effectiveness) of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition. For example, attributing powers to a medal, a relic, or to the repetition of prayers, rather than to God. The throwing salt over the shoulder; avoiding ladders or stepping on cracks or black cats or the number 13, are a few of the most common, long-standing superstations. Athletes follow many superstitions in attempts to positively control the outcome of the game. I would suspect that most of us have at least a couple of small superstitious practices in our daily lives that we may not even be aware of. If we believe that our day is going to go wrong if we omit or don’t do something properly or fail to follow a precise sequence of procedures in our morning routine … we are guilty of it!
Idolatry: The first commandment condemns polytheism (the belief in many gods) and it requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, (of) silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.” God, however, is the "living God” who gives life and intervenes in history. Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing (making to be God) what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon.” Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast"; refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.
Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."
Divination and Magic: God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility. 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. Occult practices, consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the reading of tarot cards, the use of Ouija boards, 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.
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called “traditional cures” does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity. (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #s 2110 – 2117)
Santaria (a perversion of true religion that mixes the veneration of the saints with elements of witchcraft and ancestor worship), crystal-ball gazing, lucky charms (i.e.: rabbit’s feet, lucky horseshoes, etc.); “mojo” items; the cornuto, corno, or cornicello (a.k.a. “Italian horn”) worn to “protect” against the “evil eye” and/or to promote fertility and virility; numerous other pagan amulets of various cultures… the list goes on… all of these are incompatible with the Christ who suffered, died, and rose from the dead to save us from sin and everlasting death. There is no such thing as “white (good) magic,” which is opposed to “black (evil) magic.” Witchcraft, witch doctors, and the adherents of thousands of religious movements and cults are out there looking to lure people away from true religion and salvation. If practitioners of any of these (and there are too many to mention them all) do not ascribe all praise, power and glory and honor to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, run away from them with all haste.
There are some people who are indeed gifted by God with the ability to see and know things that most others are not able to (as mentioned above about prophets and saints; a number of examples may be found in Sacred Scripture). Hopefully these individuals use their gifts as God wills.
However, many of those who are mediums and fortune tellers are either profit-driven charlatans preying upon those in states of desperation – or even worse – are in consort with Satan and his minions. Yoga, reiki and myriad eastern practices have become extremely popular these days. I honestly do not claim to know much about them and have no interest in exploring them. All the spiritual and meditative treasures I need are in the tradition of the Catholic Church. I do not want to invite evil to walk right into my life. Be very wary when approaching these things, so that you are not led into praying to false gods or letting yourself be “channeled” by entities other than those that come from the living God. May the Holy Spirit of God, our Blessed Lady, and our Guardian Angel keep us in the ways of the Lord always.
CATECHETICAL SUNDAY: Today is Catechetical Sunday. At the 9.30 Mass our catechists and students will all be blessed. Sincere gratitude to Brother Joseph Bellizzi, S.M., our Director of Religious Education, and Mrs. Louise Shannon, our Faith Formation Administrator, to all our grade coordinators, catechists, aides and staff. May God bless those who teach and those who learn.
PARISH GALA DINNER AND CASINO NIGHT: Please save the date of Thursday October 26th. That will be our annual Parish Gala Dinner and Casino Night. Once again we will have the casino night provided by the M&M Twins (my good friends, Marco and Michael Posillico). This proved to be so enjoyable last year and was a great success. May I ask and invite all parishioners to attend this wonderful evening at the newly refurbished Cottage of the Milleridge Inn. Mr. Butch Yamali, the new owner of the Milleridge Inn, recently invited me to go there to bless this new endeavor. I was accompanied by the Chair of the Gala Mrs. Paula Maturo and by committee member Mrs. Anne Maione. I entered every room of the Inn to bless it and sprinkle the Holy Water, all the shops, and the cottage and carriage house. It is remarkable how this historic inn is being restored to its original splendor. Mr. Yamali is a good friend to us at St. Paul’s and I would encourage everyone to come that night and to see the refurbished Inn. It is our major fundraiser through the course of the year. The Gala this year will be a formal
welcome to Deacon Raymond P. D’Alessio who was assigned by the Bishop to St. Paul’s in February of this year I am most grateful to Mrs. Paula Maturo and her committee for all they have done for the success of this wonderful evening.
BLESSING OF NEW PARISH OUTREACH CENTER: On Sunday September 24th (the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy) our newly built Parish Outreach Center will be blessed. It provides a serene and welcoming place for those in need to come to experience the Love of Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart and the never-failing intercession of Our Lady. I am most grateful to Joe and Linda Curro and the whole dedicated Outreach program (of all ages) who work so tirelessly for the poor. The Feast of St. Vincent de Paul is celebrated on September 27th (the same day Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island in 1985). How appropriate that this home for the poor is blessed so close to the Feast of the Saint whose name is synonymous with love for the poor. The new Outreach Center is located at the back of the barn with a separate entrance and to where the statue of Our Lady that had stood at the front of the Church has now been moved. The Blessing will be right after the 11.00 Mass.
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS: On Sunday October 1st the Knights of Columbus will attend the 11.00AM Mass and the new Grand Knight Mr. Don Cavanaugh as well as all the new officers will be installed after the Mass.
SAVE THE DATE: On Sunday October 15, 2017, at 4.00PM, we will once again welcome the world renowned Glenn Mohr Chorale who will present a beautiful musical pageant based on the life of Our Blessed Mother. It is entitled Memorare: Mary Remembers. Please join us for an inspiring and uplifting afternoon of music as we celebrate the month of October, the month of the Most Holy Rosary. October 13th will mark the 100th anniversary of the last of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima at which occurred the Miracle of the Sun (October 13, 1917).
Our annual Golf and Tennis Outing and Awards Dinner will be on Monday, May 7, 2018. I am grateful to all our parishioners who make these wondrous events possible.
Capital Campaign: In July I spoke at all the Masses to announce the beginning of our Capital Campaign. I went into great detail (too much perhaps) in explaining our need to upgrade our building and grounds. The projects for which the capital campaign is being conducted will be completed in three phases. First, we will address the needed repairs to the rectory and the replacement of all the windows in Monsignor Costa hall. (This has already begin). The second phase will be the restoration of the interior of the Church. The third phase will be the repaving, restriping of the parking lot and the upgrading of our landscaping. This is an exciting time as we remember-restore and renew our buildings and grounds for the future generations.
The so called quiet phase of the campaign began shortly after Easter and I am happy to report that we are off to a great start in raising the 2.8 million dollars that will be needed for these capital projects. During the quiet phase I met with individuals and small groups to discuss our great project. I was so pleased with the enthusiastic response of so many. After our parish Picnic in September every parishioner will be invited to meetings at which I will explain in further detail what our plans are, with particular emphasis on the Church. Many may recall that I wrote over 15 articles in 2016 about the Church building and its importance and meaning as the gate of Heaven and the Vestibule of Eternity.
Next week I will again speak at all the Masses about the Capital Campaign and invite everyone to a meeting to discuss our great desire to do something wonderful for God all together.
Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary…in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart…If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda