Do you believe in ghosts? C.S.Lewis said he only met one woman who had ever seen a ghost and she said afterwards she didn’t believe in ghosts. It illustrates that perceiving is not believing. I read an article not long ago claiming that sightings of ghosts, demons, werewolves, black beasts and monsters of all kinds are higher than ever in modern day Britain.
A ‘ghost’ might be any number of things. It could be the unquiet spirit of a dead person who is still roaming this physical world. If this is so, it is theorized that this might be because the person was too attached to this physical world and can’t let it go. Others think that there is no objective reality to the ghost. In other words, it’s not really a departed soul, but a kind of psychic ‘memory’ of the departed person which is imprinted on a particular place–maybe through a violent or unprepared death.
Other ghostly manifestations seem to be slips in time–where a particular event is replayed over and over again. Whether this slip in time is real or simply perceived as real by persons who are sensitive to it is an arguable point. The fact that only certain people can see it may indicate that it is only in the person’s mind, or it may simply be the case that it is there, but only some people have the receptivity to see it. Paul Thigpen has an excellent article on the Catholic understanding of ghosts When I lived in England I went to a seminar by the famous psychiatrist Kenneth McCall, who wrote the book Healing the Family Tree. He was a very experienced exorcist and was very involved in the healing and deliverance ministry. He said that all that was required in most cases of paranormal activity was for two or three baptized Christians to pray the Lord’s Prayer with a focus on ‘deliver us from evil.’
This is my experience too. There are cases of profound demonic activity, and demonic possession is real, but most cases of paranormal activity are low level. For the last two thousand years the power of Christ’s death and resurrection has been active in the world delivering this realm of Satan from its bondage. The war has been won, but we’re still engaged in the mopping up operation.
The name of Jesus is also very powerful. A priest friend of mine named Roger, who is now gone home told me that he was once walking down the corridor of a psychiatric ward where he had gone to visit a parishioner when a madman ran up to him brandishing a knife.My friend was only just over 5′. His attacker was over 6′ and heavy. Roger pointed to him and said, “In the name of Jesus, drop the knife!” The man dropped the knife, burst into tears and hugged Roger and asked forgiveness.
While it is intriguing to hear stories of the paranormal and exorcists, it is also important to put things in perspective and avoid magical thinking. The priest involved in the deliverance ministry is not a magician. A magician distorts nature and tries to twist nature and God to do his will. The magician claims power for himself over the physical and spiritual realm. The priest is doing God’s work. Deliverance- or any healing ministry–is a reconciliation and restoration of what is natural. It is driving out all that is un-natural, twisted, distorted and destructive. The Christian person praying is putting things back in their proper order–things that have been destroyed by evil and Satan. We must therefore avoid all idea of magic thinking–that the priest of the Christian praying is claiming power for himself. If you hear of any minister doing this he is not doing God’s work but Satan’s.The true Christian minister is always a humble servant.
The most down to earth and simple priests I know are the exorcists. They always avoid sensationalism and always have a good sense of humor about themselves. They are humble men.
PS: If you would like to hear more about the paranormal and the Church’s response listen to my podcast Stories of the Unexpected. All the episodes are here on the blog for Donor Subscribers and I am uploading an increasing number to listen free at BreadBox Media.