JULY 26/AUGUST 2013
Is it correct for a lay person to “lay hands” on another?
Charism gifts building up the Church
(Excerpt from the Rule of St. Michael) 2004, Order of the Legion of St. Michael
237. Misdirected and False Teachings […]
(c) On Using the term “baptism”: Although the Church has instructed the Renewal on the proper definition of the “baptism” of the Spirit, the use of the term, “baptism” in the Holy Spirit, is nevertheless misleading and is a “Pentecostalism.” A more accurate term would be a “re-awakening or filling with the Holy Spirit” 42
since existentially and ontologically that is the phenomenon actually taking place. 43
The term “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the context of the charismatic experience was born in theological error.
Pentecostals do not believe in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Thus when they read the passages in the book of Acts about laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, they misinterpreted it to be some additional post-conversion act that must be performed. That is not true. The gift of the Spirit may not be separated in any way from conversion…44
There are no instances in the New Testament of the “laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit” outside of the Sacraments.
(d) On the Laying on of Hands and Anointing with Oil: The practice of anointing with oil and laying on of hands to “receive the Holy Spirit” was adopted by Pentecostals, as explained above, because they did not understand the doctrine of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Given this theological bias, it is not surprising that they misinterpreted the passages in the Book of Acts 45. As such, it appeared to them that this “laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit” was a separate act and experience from that of conversion, rather than as an act of the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholics we know that there is no need for us to “receive the Holy Spirit” in some extra-Sacramental way. As the Catechism instructs us, Confirmation gives us “the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 1302) We already have the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, there is no need for any additional forms of quasi-liturgical ceremonies or actions to “receive” the Holy Spirit and His gifts. In addition, the Magisterium has repeatedly warned the Faithful against performing rites and prayers that too closely resemble the Sacraments or the actions and prayers reserved to priests. The Instruction on Prayers for Healing, 46
Confusion between such free non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided. for example, makes this point: Another example is found in the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest: In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil. 47
Pope John Paul II reminds us that: …the particular gift of each of the Church’s members must be wisely and carefully acknowledged, safeguarded, promoted, discerned and coordinated, without confusing roles functions or theological and canonical status. 48
Also in the Collaboration Instruction: Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion … To avoid any confusion between sacramental liturgical acts presided over by a priest or deacon, and other acts which the non-ordained faithful may lead, it is always necessary to use clearly distinct ceremonials, especially for the latter.
Finally, in a letter sent to us from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Monsignor Mario Marini, Undersecretary, writes:
Prot. N. 1116/00/L Rome,
24 June 2000
This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter dated 4 May 2000, in which you ask whether the Instruction Ecclesiae de mysterio on Lay Collaboration in the Ministry of the Priest, article 9, should be interpreted as prohibiting the use by laypersons of blessed oil as a sacramental.
While a certain degree of prudent reserve in this matter is indeed advisable, it is clear that the exclusion of traditional devotions employing the use of blessed oil, and in which there is no likelihood of confusion with the sacramental of Anointing of the Sick by a priest, is not the intention of this Instruction. Excluded instead would be any use by a layperson of oil, which even if not the Oil of the Sick blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday, would be interpreted as replacing the sacramental Anointing by a priest, or which would in any way be seen as equivalent to it, or which would be employed as a means of attaining for laypersons a new role previously reserved to clergy.
The intention of the person using the oil, the clarity with which such an intention is expressed by such a person, and the understanding of those present will all be relevant in determining the likelihood of misunderstanding and therefore the degree to which such a practice should be avoided. In this matter as in all similar cases, such a practice is subject to the supervision of the local Pastor and ultimately of the diocesan Bishop.
Thanking you for your interest and with every prayerful good wishes for a blessed Easter Season, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini, Undersecretary
The common practices of the Charismatic Renewal of the quasi-liturgical “laying on hands to receive the release of the Holy Spirit” is often done without regard to the understanding of those present that the Congregation requires. Even when permission has been attained by a group’s Pastor, the actual practice among many groups tends to be quasi-liturgical in appearance. Many individual Charismatics seem present themselves as quasi-priest in their demeanor even if verbally claiming they are not. Thus, in much of the Charismatic Renewal this practice can be both potentially theologically problematic and certainly too closely resembling what is reserved to bishops and/or priests.
47 Holy See, Instruction, On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of The Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry Of Priest (15 August 1997), art. 9 §1.
48 John Paul II, Discourse at the Symposium on “The Participation of the Lay Faithful in the Priestly Ministry” (11 May 1994), n. 3, l.c.; quoted Collaboration, “Conclusion.”
Collaboration, art. 6 §2.
An extract from the Konkani Catholics blog, January 4-6, 2008
David MacDonald is a convert into Catholicism and he’s a singer; his website www.catholicbridge.com.
The site does provide a wealth of information for Evangelicals on their various doubts and questions on the Catholic faith. The answers are simple and easy to understand and have the additional force of his testimony and music background.
Here is the section on “Sacramentals” (and I hope our readers know what “Sacramentals” – not Sacraments – are). This is how he explains it:
QUOTE: Many Evangelicals have a problem with the Catholic idea that a material item can conduct spiritual power. Despite this criticism, many Evangelicals freely use the idea of Sacraments and Sacramentals in their ministry (though they don’t call it such). For example:
-blessing people (especially the laying on of hands)
-anointing people with holy oil during a healing service
Austine Crasta, moderator
Laypeople’s Use of Oil
ROME, July 28, 2009 (Zenit.org) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara…
There are chaplains who minister at a local Catholic hospital and one of them likes to use “oil” when she prays with the patients (Catholics and non-Catholics). I feel that this causes confusion. One of the chaplains attended a recent convention of chaplains and was told by a presenter that this practice is allowed as long as they tell the patients that they are not receiving the sacrament of the sick. I seem to recall that years ago the Vatican came out with a document on the use of oil by laypersons. Could you please comment? — A.S., Bridgeport, New York
A: The document you refer to is probably the 1997 instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest.” This is an unusual document insofar as it was formally issued by the Congregation for Clergy but was co-signed by no fewer than eight Vatican congregations and councils, including that of the Doctrine of the Faith. This gives the document a certain weight with respect to its authority.
The document first presents the theological principles behind its decisions before giving a series of practical considerations on aspects of lay ministry in the Church. Then, having laid the groundwork, it enunciates in 13 articles practical provisions and norms that outline the possibilities and limits of the collaboration of the lay faithful in priestly ministry.
The first article, on the “Need for an Appropriate Terminology,” attempts to clarify the multiple uses of the expression “ministry.” This responds to an intuition of Pope John Paul II who, “In his address to participants at the Symposium on ‘Collaboration of the Lay Faithful with the Priestly Ministry’ …, emphasized the need to clarify and distinguish the various meanings which have accrued to the term ‘ministry’ in theological and canonical language.”
The document accepts that the term “ministry” is applicable to the laity in some cases:
“§3. The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated ‘extraordinary ministers’ when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, those offices mentioned in Canon 230, §3 and in Canons 943 and 1112.
Naturally, the concrete term may be applied to those to whom functions are canonically entrusted e.g. catechists, acolytes, lectors etc.
“Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes — mentioned in Canon 230, §2 — does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful.”
However: “It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as ‘pastor,’ ‘chaplain,’ ‘coordinator,’ ‘moderator’ or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.”
Another article, No. 9, is on “The Apostolate to the Sick.” Regarding our reader’s question on the use of oil in a non-sacramental way, the article is very clear:
“§1. […] The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, by helping them to have the disposition to make a good individual confession as well as to prepare them to receive the Anointing of the Sick. In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil.
“§2. With regard to the administration of this sacrament, ecclesiastical legislation reiterates the theologically certain doctrine and the age old usage of the Church which regards the priest as its only valid minister. This norm is completely coherent with the theological mystery signified and realized by means of priestly service.
“It must also be affirmed that the reservation of the ministry of Anointing to the priest is related to the connection of this sacrament to the forgiveness of sin and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. No other person may act as ordinary or extraordinary minister of the sacrament since such constitutes simulation of the sacrament.”
To many it might appear that this document is excessively restrictive in its dispositions. Yet by providing clear guidelines and demarcations of proper competences based on solid theological reasons, it actually facilitates fruitful collaboration between priests and laity in a true spirit of charity and service to Christ, the Church and to souls.
Confirmation and the laity’s role
http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=832, Catholic Online
ROME, March 30, 2004 (Zenit.org) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara…
Q: Could you please comment on the following which occurred at an Easter Vigil Mass in my parish at which a number of RCIA candidates were confirmed. At the confirmation the priest asked everyone in the congregation to outstretch their right arm toward the persons being confirmed as we said the “Prayer of Confirming.” The words of the prayer were, in summary, “All powerful God … send your Holy Spirit upon (names) to be their helper and guide … fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ Our Lord.” After this prayer the priest performed the anointing with chrism on the candidates’ foreheads. The outstretching of arms by the congregation made it seem that the laity had some role in conferring the sacrament of confirmation. My understanding of confirmation is that the role is normally the bishop’s (or a priest in his place) to emphasize the transmission of the Holy Spirit by apostolic lineage going back to Pentecost. — D.N., Victoria, Australia
A: There are two elements to be taken into account the laying on of hands and the proclamation of the prayer over the candidates.
During the sacrament of confirmation there is a double laying on of hands. The rite you describe pertains to the first moment, which does not form part of the essential rite of the sacrament. But as Pope Paul VI wrote when he reformed the rite of confirmation (see “Ad Pascendum,” Aug. 15, 1971), the first rite should be held in high esteem as it contributes to the integral perfection of the confirmation ritual and gives a better understanding of the sacrament.
What the Church wishes to show is the transmission of the Holy Spirit, by apostolic genealogy going back to Pentecost, through the symbolism of consecrated hands being laid on the head of the confirmands.
In conformity with this principle the rubrics for this first laying on of hands states that when that when the bishop and priest(s) are both celebrating the Mass where confirmation occurs, they lay hands upon all candidates (i.e. extend their hands over the whole group of confirmands). However, the bishop alone says the prayer: “All-powerful God … send your Spirit upon them. … We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
The practice of laying on of hands is certainly subject to many symbolic meanings. In some cases, such as the sacrament of holy orders and the second imposition with the anointing of confirmation, it is an essential part of the rite without which the sacrament itself would not exist.
In other sacraments such as the anointing of the sick, it forms part of the auxiliary rites performed by the ordained minister.
In other cases it is a sacramental, such as when the priest extends his hands over a person or object in order to impart a solemn blessing.
It may also be used by lay people, such as when parents bless their children. In recent times it has often been used in prayer groups such as the Charismatic Renewal.
Given the symbolic polyvalence of the gesture it is necessary to determine its meaning and importance within the context of each specific rite.
In the rite of confirmation it clearly symbolizes the power of efficaciously invoking the Holy Spirit so as to achieve the effect of the sacrament. This power properly and fully belongs to the bishop.
Priests also possess this power in a latent manner and may exercise it whenever the bishop or general Church law delegates them to do so.
This is why only the bishop and concelebrating priests should extend their hands at this moment. But only the bishop says the prayer, since he actually administers the essential rite of the sacrament.
Even in a very large confirmation, where the bishop is assisted by priests who also administer the sacrament, only the bishop recites the prayer, as the priests receive their authority to administer the sacrament through the bishop.
When a priest confirms alone, as is commonly the case during adult initiation at the Easter Vigil, then all concelebrating priests extend their hands. But only the priest who confirms says the prayer.
Thus in the case of the sacrament of confirmation it is inappropriate for the entire assembly to either extend their hands or to say the prayer, as this gesture would symbolically indicate the possession of a spiritual power which they do not possess as it requires the sacrament of orders.
It is also hard to see exactly what is meant by this change, because the other elements of the rite seem to be respected; it does not appear that it symbolizes that the community is the source of the sacrament.
It might have been introduced as a nice way of having everybody involved, without much thought given to the consequences for the meaning of the rite itself. Modifying the rites in the way described despoils them of the wealth of meaning that they embody.
The reception of this sacrament through the ministry of the bishop — and in general the need for a minister for any sacrament — is a necessary element in showing that the grace of our sanctification is primarily God’s gift to us through the Church and does not spring from ourselves nor from the community. This does not mean that the community has no role in the sacraments. On receiving confirmation, a Christian enters, in a way, into the fullness of the common priesthood of the baptized through which Catholics receive the power and capacity to participate in the Church’s liturgy and to place their own personal sacrifices alongside that of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration.
However the common priesthood may only be exercised in communion with the ministerial priesthood and can never substitute it in its essential tasks.
This communion and the interplay between the two priesthoods are highlighted by the very rite of confirmation now under discussion, although it entails repeating one or two aspects already mentioned.
Before beginning the prayer of confirmation, the bishop, with the priests who will assist him on either side, says a prayer which invites all present to pray to the Father to send the Holy Spirit.
All then pray silently for a brief moment. This silent prayer is the exercise of the whole body of the faithful and thus for the faithful an exercise of their common priesthood.
After all have prayed, the bishop and priests extend their hands over the candidates while the bishop says or sings alone the following prayer which is redolent of similar priestly prayers of consecration such as the prayers of ordination:
All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
To this prayer all give their assent by responding “Amen” in an analogous way to the final amen of the Eucharistic Prayer.
In this way the organization of the rite makes clear that the prayer of the whole assembly is called upon during confirmation although the administration of the sacrament is reserved to the bishop or priest in virtue of the ministerial and hierarchical structure willed by Christ for his Church.
Traditionalists are wary and critical of the laying of hands on one another in charismatic circles:
When did the laying on of hands become Catholic?
Who did laying on of hands to Paul?
The Catholic Answers Forum, September 18, 2006
Interesting discussion… The brief answer is i) Ananias, Acts 9:17 and ii) The elders at Antioch Acts 13:2, 3.
St. Jerome wrote:
As Sergius Paulus Proconsul of Cyprus was the first to believe on his preaching, he took his name from him because he had subdued him to faith in Christ, and having been joined by Barnabas, after traversing many cities, he returned to Jerusalem and was ordained apostle to the Gentiles by Peter, James and John. –Lives of Illustrious Men Chapter 5
Laity and laying on of hands
The Catholic Answers Forum, June 13, 2012
Q: Do the hands of lay people have any special powers?
Last night I was praying with my wife and she got upset when I wouldn’t put my hand on her belly to pray over the baby in her womb (I would have but it would have been an awkward position for my arm). I told her it didn’t matter where I put my hands and the argument went on. Who is right?
There is another discussion here:
Laying on of hands
Check out these:
The laying on of hands
April 9, 2009
The Sacrament of Confirmation
– The Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC 1285 to 1321
Imposition of hands
The Catholic Encyclopedia
A symbolical ceremony by which one intends to communicate to another some favour, quality or excellence (principally of a spiritual kind), or to depute another to some office. The rite has had a profane or secular as well as a sacred usage. It is extremely ancient, having come down from patriarchal times. Jacob bequeathed a blessing and inheritance to his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh by placing his hands upon them (Genesis 48:14) and Moses on Josue the hegemony of the Hebrew people in the same manner (Numbers 27:18, 23). In the New Testament
Our Lord employed this rite to restore life to the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18) and to give health to the sick (Luke 6:19). The religious aspect of this ceremony first appeared in the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the office of priesthood. Before immolating animals in sacrifice the priests, according to the Mosaic ritual, laid hands upon the heads of the victims (Exodus 29; Leviticus 8:9); and in the expressive dismissal of the scapegoat the officiant laid his hands on the animal’s head and prayed that the sins of the people might descend thereon and be expiated in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21). The Apostles imposed hands on the newly baptized, that they might receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost in confirmation (Acts 8:17, 19; 19:6); on those to be promoted to holy orders (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Matthew 13); and on others to bestow some supernatural gift or corporal benefit (Acts, passim). In fact this rite was so constantly employed that the “imposition of hands” came to designate an essential Catholic doctrine (Hebrews 6:2).
To understand clearly the extent to which the imposition of hands is employed in the Church at present it will be necessary to view it in its sacramental or theological as well as in its ceremonial or liturgical aspect. In confirmation, the imposition of hands constitutes the essential matter of the sacrament, not however that which precedes the anointing, but that which takes place at the actual application of the chrism (S.C. de Prop. Fide, 6 Aug., 1840). In the sacrament of Holy orders it enters either wholly or in part, into the substance of the rite by which most of the higher grades are conferred. Thus in the ordination of deacons according to the Latin rite it is at least partial matter of the sacrament; in conferring the priesthood there is a threefold imposition, viz.: (a) when the ordaining prelate followed by the priests, lays hands on the head of the candidate nil dicens; (b) when he and the priests extend hands during the prayer, “Oremus, fratres carissimi”, and (c) when he imposes hands at giving power to forgive sins, saying “Accipe Spiritum Sanctum”. The first and second of these impositions combined constitute in the Latin Church partial matter of the sacrament, the traditio instrumentorum being required for the adequate or complete matter. The Greeks, however, rely on the imposition alone as the substance of the sacramental rite. In the consecration of bishops the imposition of hands alone pertains to the essence (see CONFIRMATION; ORDERS).
The ceremonial usage is much more extensive. (1) In baptism the priest signs the forehead and breast with the sign of the cross, lays hands on the head during the prayer, “preces nostras”, and again after the exorcism, beseeching God to send down the light of truth into the purified soul (cf. Rom. Rit.). Tertullian mentions imposition being used in conferring baptism in his own day (de Bap., VI, VII, &c.). (2) In penance the minister merely raises his hand at the giving of absolution. The ancient ordines (cf. Martene, “De antiqua ecclesiæ disciplina”, passim), record this custom. (3) In extreme unction there is no imposition of hands enjoined by the rubrics, although in the prayer immediately before the anointing the words “per impositionem manuum nostrarum” occur. Possibly the imposition is contained in the unctions as it is in the administration of confirmation. (4) Apart from the sacraments the rite is also employed in almost all the various blessings of persons and things. Abbots and virgins are thus blessed (cf. Roman Pontifical and Ritual). (5) In the reconciliation of public penitents and the reception of schismatics, heretics, and apostates into the Church, hands were formerly, and still are, imposed (cf. Duchesne, “Christian Worship”, pp. 328, 435, St. Cyprian, De Lapsis 16). (6) Those obsessed by evil spirits are similarly exorcized (cf. Roman Ritual, Titus, x, cl). (7) The rubrics of the missal direct the celebrant to hold his hands extended during most of the prayers. At the pre-consecration prayer, “Hanc igitur oblationem”, he also holds his hands over the oblata. This action seems borrowed from the old Levitical practice, already noticed, of laying hands on the victims to be sacrificed, but curiously it has not been proved to be very old. Le Brun (Explication de la Messe, iv, 6) says he did not find the rubric in any missal older than the fifteenth century. Pius V made it de præcepto (cf. Gihr, “la Messe”, II, 345). The significance of the act is expressive, symbolizing as it does the laying of sin upon the elements of bread and wine which, being changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, become thus our emissary or scapegoat, and finally the “victim of our peace” with God. Nothing can better show the relationship that has always existed between prayer and the ceremony that is being considered, than this expressive sentence from St. Augustine, “Quid aliud est manuum impositio, quam oratio super hominem?” (De Bap., III, xvi, 21).
Laying on of hands
March 18, 2002
Q: What can you tell me about the idea of laying on of hands? Is it biblical? Can Catholic lay people do it to other lay people? What does it mean? Is it Catholic in tradition or does it come from more from a Pentecostal or Evangelical type tradition? –Brian Vogrinc
A: The laying on of hands is a sign used in a number of the sacraments, most particularly in ordination. It has been used in this manner since the first century and signifies the invoking of God’s blessing on the person on whom hands are laid.
Catholic lay people cannot administer any of the sacraments that involve the laying on of hands, therefore they cannot do it sacramentally. Some Catholics do lay hands on others while praying for healing, though this is not a sacrament and must not be confused with one. The latter practice has been especially popularized through the Pentecostal movement. -James Akin, Catholic apologist
Laying on of hands: Widespread practice can be both a ‘danger’ or a gift of the Holy Spirit
We are of two minds when it comes to the “laying on of hands.”
On the one hand (not to play on words), there are the many claims of healing and deliverance. Through the years — through the centuries — countless have benefited from prayer that is said while a healer or simply another person rests one or both hands onto the afflicted person, allowing for the flow of the Holy Spirit. “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied,” we have in Acts 19:4-6.
Clearly, the laying on of hands is biblical.
But then, in Scripture, we also have: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others,” intones 1 Timothy 5:22. “Keep yourself pure.”
Therein is the rub and the reason we always urge prayer and fasting (without haste) before allowing anyone, including a priest, to lay on hands. The reason is simple: if the person laying on the hands has a dark spirit (“sin”), there is a chance that spirit can be transferred. This is called “imparting” a spirit. Fasting seals a person against the enemy — and purifies. Meanwhile, we see that Jesus also healed by praying from a distance.
“Laying hands on a person in prayer is not just a picturesque religious ritual,” a foremost deliverance expert named Derek Prince once warned in a terrific, insightful book called They Shall Expel Demons. “It can be a powerful spiritual experience, a temporary interaction between two spirits through which supernatural power is released. Normally the power flows from the one laying on hands to the one on whom hands are laid, but at times it can flow the other way.
“The power may do either good or evil. It may emanate from the Holy Spirit or from a demon, depending on the one from whom it flows. For this reason Paul established certain safeguards. [Here he quotes the passage from 1 Timothy above]. In other words, be careful with whom you allow your spirit to interact!
“The laying on of hands should be done reverently and prayerfully. Any person participating should make sure he or she is not thereby, in Paul’s words, sharing in another’s sins. It is a mistake to lay hands indiscriminately on one another. The following brief testimony illustrates the danger:
“‘In 1971 I was attending a charismatic meeting, and the speaker asked people to stand if they wanted prayer for healing. I had a bad cold, so I stood. He then instructed people seated nearby to lay their hands on us and pray for our healing. Four or five prayed for me.”
‘When I awoke the next morning, my cold was better — but my fingers were all curled up and stiff and hurting. Immediately I thought, Someone with arthritis laid hands on me last night! I renounced the spirit of arthritis, and within five minutes all the symptoms were gone.
“‘I was a very young believer, less than one year old, and I have been so grateful to God for teaching me then to be careful who lays hands on me.'”
We see the need for caution at the same time we must not be paranoid. These things we discern only through extensive prayer, and protect against by fasting.
Laying on of hands
St. Michael Spiritual Warfare Depository Archive, May 17, 2010
Q: Well is laying on of hands good or bad? I have been to many Charismatic groups where they do this, but I will only let someone that I know and is right with the Lord to do this?
A: You are looking for trouble when you have someone lay hands on you. It is an open door to possession. The same goes with massage. If you consider how many people to a massage therapist and how many of them are carrying some kind of demonic “baggage” it can get transferred. So, the answer is NO, do NOT let someone lay hands on you. The only one who should lay hands on you is an ordained Catholic priest. PERIOD. –Ellen Marie
A: Well Ellen is wrong again on certain points not because I say so, but because the Vatican says so.
There is a grain of truth in what Ellen says. The Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest states at article 6 §2:
Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion… To avoid any confusion between sacramental liturgical acts presided over by a priest or deacon, and other acts which the non-ordained faithful may lead, it is always necessary to use clearly distinct ceremonials, especially for the latter.
This Instruction, however, does not prohibit such things as laying on of hands or the administering of oil in conjunction with laying on hands. I personally wrote a letter to the Vatican to clarify this.
In Summary, what follows is what the Vatican told me about the use of Holy Oil:
A) Sacramental Oil (blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday) cannot ever be used.
B) Blessed oil, like that you get at shrine MAY BE USED, but
1. Prudent reserve must be exercised.
2. The situation of its use MUST NOT be one in which there is ANY confusion that what is happening is the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick.
3. The use of a blessed oil by the laity MUST NOT replace the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
4. The use of blessed oil by the laity cannot be used in such a way as to be EQUIVALENT to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
5. The use of the blessed oil cannot be used in such a way as to create a new role for the laity which is really reserved to clergy.
6. The intention of the person using the oil must not be to violate items 2-5 above.
7. The person using the oil must express WITH CLARITY why he is not in violation of items 2-5 above.
8. The people observing or participating with the person using the oil must fully UNDERSTAND what is happening is not in violation of items 2-5 above.
9. The practice of using blessed oil by the laity is governed specifically (in addition to these general principles) by the local Pastor and ultimately the diocesan Bishop.
This instruction clearly does not prohibit the use of oil, or the lay on hands that is associated with it. What it means is that they laity can NEVER substitute the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick with their own anointing. If the situation is one that a priest would normally administer oil, then the laity cannot do it.
Laity cannot use oil in such a way that is equivalent to the Sacrament of Anointing of Sick even though they are not intending to do the Sacrament. This probably prohibits many charismatic groups from using oil in the way they do.
Laity cannot use oil in such a way that they essentially co-opt a role that really belongs to clergy. This too will prohibit the way typical charismatics use oil.
What is also important to see here, is that even if all criteria is met to allow a layman to use oil, if there is misunderstanding on the part of on-lookers, then it is not to be done. All involved must be properly catechized.
The situations in which oil and laying on of hands can be used are in situations in which there is some sort of paterfamilias relationship. This would include laying hands on your children, your spouse, or others family members. A paterfamilias relationship also may exist between a Spiritual Director and a directee or a Counselor and counselee (even the Spiritual Director or Counselor is not a priest). Even in these paterfamilias relationships, however, the non-priest can never use this privilege as a replacement for the Sacrament of Anointing which must be administered by a priest.
In other words, we cannot do these actions in such a way that too closely resembles that which is reserved to a priest. As long as we are cautious about that and those prayed over, and those on-looking are properly catechized about this, laying on hands can be done by laity.
The use of Holy Oil must not be the Sacramental oil blessed by the Bishop. If we use oil it must be oil that blessed in the normal way by a priest like that of Holy Water. Thus, oil given a normal blessing can be used by the laity in a similar way as Holy Water. Holy Water represents a washing clean factor, and is a reminder of our baptism and our baptismal promises. Blessed Oil represents a healing factor, and is a reminder of our confirmation and the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and our promises to live a Godly life.
If we understand the differences between Sacramental Oil and regular blessed oil, and understand the differences between the Sacrament of Anointing and what laity might do with its limitations, then we can be okay in the practice.
We must always remember that the Particular Sacramental Power of Healing is reserved to clergy.
Ellen also has a grain of truth concerning the possibility of becoming demonized when laying hands on someone. We have had clients who became demonized after having hands laid upon them. There is a phenomenon called transference. A demon can transfer from one person to another through laying on hands. This is why one should not lay hands on a person too quickly and a person should not allow someone to lay hands on them too quickly.
Certainly we should never lay hands on anyone without their permission. But, if we have the permission of the person being prayed for, and have the right preparations and discernment, and doing the act with the proper circumspection, avoiding doing anything that too closely resembles the acts reserved to priests, then lay on hands may be done. Only the leader of the prayer team, however, should be laying on hands, not the whole team. –Bro. Ignatius Mary
Laying on of hands
April 29, 2013
Q: Many lay persons laying hands in personal prayer. My question is: what the Church says about it? I’m not against it, but probably there are some rules. -Antonio
A: The Church’s concern is that laying on of hands not be a gesture that too closely resembles the actions authorized to priest, such as in the Sacrament of Anointing.
Otherwise, a layman may lay hands on someone in prayer if they have that person’s permission.
Laying on of hands in circumstances of possible demonization, however, can be very dangerous, and should not be attempted by those untrained in deliverance work. In this situation, laying on of hands can even cause a transference of the demon from the person being prayed for to the person saying the prayers. I know of several cases of this happening. No one should be attempting deliverance on someone else unless they are called by God and are thoroughly trained.
This warning is especially needed for the Charismatics who typically lay on hands as a matter of careless course, often in ways warned against by the Church, and most often in circumstances to which they are not competent, such as in deliverance. Because one is a so-called Charismatic does not make one automatically qualified and competent for anything, let alone deliverance. –Bro. Ignatius Mary
Isn’t Energy Healing and Laying on of Hands the Same Thing?
By Susan Brinkmann, March 14, 2012
MM asks: “There must be some element of truth in the practice of energy healers who use their hands to heal. Aren’t their methods similar to what Christians refer to as the ‘laying on of hands’?”
Great question, MM, and now that you ask it, I’m actually a little surprised that it took two years for someone to pose it.
The only similarity between the methods used by energy healers and Christians who lay on hands is that they both use their hands – and this is as far as it goes.
The Catechism clearly states that the use of the hands in Christian healing is as a “sign,” not as an energy channel. “Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them. In his name the apostles will do the same,” the Catechism teaches. “Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given. The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the ‘fundamental elements’ of its teaching. The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epiclesis.”
In other words, the use of the hands in the Christian form is a symbol while in energy healing the hands have an actual function as a channel.
But that doesn’t stop proponents of energy medicine from luring Christians into their practices by drawing attention to this similarity. Some even go so far as to suggest that Jesus was an energy healer because of how He used His hands during healings. William Lee Rand, founder of the pro-Reiki International Center for Reiki Training actually suggested that because Jesus sometimes laid hands on people while healing them, He may have been using Reiki.
“There are many similarities between the laying on of hands healing Jesus did and the practice of Reiki,” Rand writes.
Naturally, he goes on to list only those episodes in the Gospel where Jesus used His hands to heal, leaving out all other methods such as the casting out of demons and healing by command. By deliberately “cherry picking” Scripture in this way, the result is a myopic and distorted view of the nature and purpose of the healing power of Jesus.
“Jesus was not channeling a universal energy, but was acting with the power of God,” writes New Age expert Marcia Montenegro.
“As Acts 10:38 says, ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.’ The power of God was not coming through a technique or secret teaching, but from the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus conferred this power specifically to and only on His disciples, He ‘gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness,” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:13-15, Luke 9:1). It is His authority over illness that Christ gave the disciples, not a secret teaching or technique.”
Perhaps the biggest difference between energy healers and the Christian laying on of hands is the fact that energy healers claim to be manipulating an alleged energy force. When Christians pray over one another, we’re not trying to manipulate God’s power. We’re simply using our hands as a sign of intercession. Whether or not God wants to heal the person is left totally up to Him.
Energy healers have a whole different mindset. This is their power that they supposedly learn how to use through classes or attunement ceremonies such as those required for Reiki masters. True biblical healing is never based on a belief in one’s own power, but is based solely on the power of God.
You should also beware of those who say Christians can participate in these practices simply by believing that the energy comes from God. This can be a very dangerous delusion, particularly in the case of techniques such as Reiki, which employ occult entities known as spirit guides.
Even if energy healers are Christians (sadly, there are many of them out there), they can’t say their energy comes from God because God never revealed Himself to us as an energy force. He’s a personal God who once identified Himself to Moses as “I am” not “It is.”
Whether the healer believes it or not, the energy he or she is using during an energy healing session is a putative energy form (that has no scientific basis) which is believed to permeate the universe. The healer can call this energy anything they want, but it doesn’t change the nature of it. It’s still a putative energy form. Just by calling it God doesn’t make it God. That would be like calling a dog a cat and expecting the dog to now be a cat. The energy is what it is and if the healer doesn’t understand this, then they don’t understand either energy medicine or basic Christian theology. (This blog gives a more in-depth explanation for why God cannot be called an energy force.)
The bottom line is that energy healers are to be avoided by Christians. They are not only practicing a bogus science that won’t help you anyway, but many of them also dabble in other New Age modalities, some of which – such as Reiki – are effected through occult agencies.
Laying of hands
September 12, 2011
Why is it dangerous to lay hands on others and pray?
If a person has a gift of healing, can he lay hands on the person and pray or does he needs an approval from the Bishop, priest or spiritual director?
How will a person know that this is a right time to lay hands and pray? –Lessly
On Question One: It can be dangerous to lay hands on others for prayer. The reason is that it is possible to have a demonic transference from one person to the other. Thus, one needs to be careful.
The first rule is to ask permission of the person you are praying for before you lay hands on them.
The second rule is to pray for protection of the person being prayed over and for yourself.
The third rule is only one person, the leader of the group, actually lay on hands.
I generally refuse to have anybody lay hands on me from the Charismatic Renewal unless I know the person very well. The reason is that there is so much malpractice, I guess one could say, in the practice of the charismatic gifts of those in the Renewal.
I have had clients who have become demonized because of the laying on of hands of those in the Charismatic Renewal.
We also must be very careful not even of here to do that which a priest does, such as in the Sacrament of Anointing. Those in the Charismatic Renewal tend to be careless and non-thinking about how close they come to the line, of even have crossed the line of doing what is reserved to a priest. I personally wrote a letter to the Vatican to clarify that issue. While this letter is specifically about the use of Holy Oil, it is instructive on the general issues of Laying on of hands. This is the response: [See page 6]
The Bottom line is that we should not lay hands on someone too quickly, and then only with permission of the person, and after preparatory prayer or protection.
On Question Two: It is very important that anyone who believes they have an extraordinary such as healing, miracles, or private revelations be under the discernment and advice of a Spiritual Director. To not have a spiritual director is dangerous in that we may think we have a gift when do not, or if we do have a legitimate gift we may not use it properly or interpret it properly. We can never under any circumstances trust our own discernment. Such experiences need to be taken today spiritual director to validate the experiences and to receive advice.
To my knowledge is not required that a person with the gift of healing have any recognition or approbation from his Bishop. However, given the extraordinary nature of these sorts of gifts it would be prudent to discuss any apostolate that is to be conducted with the Bishop or his designee.
On Question Three: The discernment to lay hands on someone prayer is a subjective one. Person must listen and seek the advice of the Holy Spirit. There is no formula for this. This is where many years of experience may benefit.
In that regard, one should not fear making a mistake. God can make lemonade out of the lemons we create. It is only through mistakes and falling down that we learn how things should be, if we allow God to teach us through those mistakes.
Here is the Vatican document on Prayer for Healing. –Bro.
Ignatius Mary OMSM
Laying of hands
September 26, 2011
I read the question of “Laying on hands” posted by Lessly on the 12th September on this forum. I have found it important to share your answer and introduce my friends to this website. Therefore, I’ve shared it on my Facebook.
One of my friends has put his comment like this: good info. but some of your points are not right and yea its true that’s its dangerous…unless u are gifted or strong in faith filled with holy spirit you cannot be attacked nor laying of hands become dangerous…many are misusing by doing this… they lay hands immediately and pray which is not good… sometimes u need to wait upon the lord and let the Lord lay his hand on them. How am I to answer his comment? –Simple
Your friend has made a mistake that is very common among people who do not have genuine knowledge and experience in spiritual warfare and deliverance. One can be attacked by the devil regardless of how filled with the Spirit one is – Jesus was attacked by the devil. St. Padre Pio is an excellent example of this. He was physically attacked by demons every day. The reason he was attacked is because he was so holy and thus he was a great threat to the devil. These attacks were based on the devil trying to get revenge because of a person’s holiness and mission from God.
The other kind of demonic attack, which we are speaking about here, is triggered by our concupiscence. No matter how strong one may think they are in the Spirit, if such a person becomes presumptuous that will allow the devil to harass him. Presumption and pride are sins. It is presumptuous to lay hands on a person without their permission. It is presumptuous and prideful to lay hands on a person without first praying prayers of protection. It is deadly presumptuous to think that because one is strong in the faith that they cannot be attacked. The Bible tells us “pride goes before a fall”. It is also presumption and pride when a layman lays on hands in a manner that too closely resembles what is restricted to priests.
I personally know people who have become demonized through the laying on of hands by people who did not know what they were doing and who were presumptuous and prideful.
In terms of deliverance, no one should attempt a deliverance on someone unless they have been trained and evaluated by an experienced deliverance counselor who does know what he is doing (and some people who call themselves deliverance counselors do not know what they’re doing).
The bottom line: don’t play doctor when you barely know first aid. –Bro.
Ignatius Mary OMSM
January 25, 2009
Is it true that a person who’s not spiritually prepared to lay hands or “pray over” can be opened to transference of evil spirits like spirit of anger etc, from the person being prayed over to him/her praying over?
I’m aware of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we deal with not human beings but principalities, powers… So is this a myth or true? Nowadays it seems a lot of people are into this “praying over”, not for deliverance but rather for God to touch them, for empowerment etc. I have seen it happening from catechists to youth leaders. It’s like becoming a trend. Is there a spiritual danger for doing so? –Nivlem
It is true that one should not too quickly lay hands upon another person in prayer as there can be a demonic transference. A person who lays on hands needs to know what they are doing and be properly prepared (which nearly no charismatic who does this qualifies).
On the question about St. Paul’s teaching that we are not dealing with flesh and blood but with evil spirits, this is not myth. This is true. The author of evil is the devil. Although men can be evil in their own right, oftentimes the evil that men do are accompanied by demonic influence.
We see this in the story of when Jesus said to St. Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!” Peter was well intentioned and did not realize that his words were actually inspired by the devil. Jesus knew the real source, however, and chastised not Peter, but Satan.
We need to remember that our ultimate enemy is not each other, but the devil.
On the third question, yes, this “praying over” is a fad these days and it can be problematic for similar reasons as laying on hands.
Perhaps you would be interested in the essay, Charism Gifts Building up the Church. This essay details some of these things and gives the pros and cons of these practices. –Bro.
Ignatius Mary OMSM
Praying over someone in proxy for another
December 31, 2004
I was very disturbed when a friend I’ll call “Corrine” informed me that she thinks “got” cancer when I prayed over her some time ago. We would pray together infrequently in a small group especially when someone was experiencing one “crisis” or another.
Our prayer nights always included praise music and spoken prayer and usually finished with anointing with holy oil and prayer for healing of sickness or disease, troubled relationships, strained finances, etc.–whatever the problems seemed to be. Everything was always very prayerful and very Christ-centered.
The night in question was supposed to be for a woman I’ll call “Debra” who had just been diagnosed with cancer, and this coming on top of a recent separation from her clinically depressed husband. Debra was not feeling well and backed out at the last minute, but we went ahead and focused our prayer night towards her needs anyway.
Corrine volunteered to “stand in proxy” for Debra and be anointed and prayed over on her behalf–something we had done for others previously.
Corrine now claims that in being prayed over on behalf of her friend with cancer, the cancer somehow “transferred” to her body! Debra’s cancer did go into remission, and the cancer that mysteriously showed up in Corrine months later was Debra’s exact same rare type–a type of cancer that Corrine’s doctor says she should not have developed.
Various other medical and spiritual coincidences, that I will not bother detailing here, have convinced Corrine that her cancer was the result of my praying over her! She now believes that we were somehow “messing with” spiritual powers and that there must have been some demonic element present that night. In fact, she prefaced this disclosure about her beliefs regarding her cancer with a question about Reiki and other forms of “healing” prayer and practices. Needless to say, I am stunned to think that innocent, Christ-centered prayer for healing on behalf of an absent friend could somehow result in such a tragedy. None of us had ever had any dealings with the occult, and there was never anything remotely new age about our prayer nights.
Is she crazy? Is this even remotely possible? Could I have been unwittingly “used” by Satan in my zeal to anoint and pray even if it was all done through appeals to Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in imitation of what I had witnessed and experienced with various Pentecostal or charismatic Catholic groups? (I already know of your disdain for the charismatic movement)
What in the world do I tell her other than: “Don’t worry, I promise never to pray for you again!”?
Thank you for fielding this query. My wife and I have written before and have always appreciated your answers. Keep up the good work and may God richly bless you and this apostolate! –Alan
Thank you for asking about this situation because it relates to a very important points and cautions concerning some prayer practices.
First, I should mention that I do not have a disdain for the Charismatic Movement per se. I have charismatic gifts myself, and I teach others how to find and use their charismatic gifts.
My criticism of the Charismatic Movement in the Catholic Church is 1) that so many of the people in the movement are contaminated with Pentecostal charismatic ideas; and 2) Charismatics tend to view the world and evaluate the world around them and their experiences with emotional and subjective eyes which is contrary to the faculty of reason that is taught by the Bible, the Church, the advice of the Saints, and by plain common sense.
As I have said many times, the charismatic experience can be a great asset to a person and to the Church IF, and only IF, it is conducted with the proper reasoned thinking, proper use of gifts, and with fidelity to the Church and the Catholic worldview. I will not go into that more since I have already thoroughly explained my position on this in other posts (click here)*. *Link does not open
As for your friend Corrine, regardless of the unusual “coincidence” of her contracting this rare form of cancer and Debra’s remission of the same cancer, this most likely does fall within the mathematical probabilities of coincidence. We need to be careful jumping to conclusions to a spiritual cause or source. Corrine contracting this cancer may, in fact, be mere coincidence. People in general are unaware of how some very remarkable events that appear miraculously interlinked actually do fall within the mathematical probabilities of coincidence.
There are three practices common with charismatic healers and deliverance counselors for which one needs to be very careful: 1) laying on of hands; 2) praying in tongues; and 3) praying by proxy.
1) Laying on of Hands, it is possible to have a demonic transference by touching a person who is demonized. This should not be attempted as a matter of course, and should never be done without specific permission of the person.
2) Praying in Tongues, often in conjunction with the laying on of hands, can be a really serious problem if those tongues are not from God. While tongues speakers will fight tooth and nail that their tongues of from God and produces good fruits, the facts do not always bear that out.
There are more than a few documented cases, which I have mentioned before in other posts, where a sincere tongues speaker was utterly unaware that she was actually cursing God in her tongues. Almost no one has their tongues “tested” by the Biblical test and thus they really do not know for sure if their tongues is truly from God or not. Satan easily counterfeits this “gift.”
Thus, while laying on of hands and praying in tongues, the pray-er could be actually cursing the person for all he knows.
Speaking in tongues is one of the symptoms listed in the Official Rite of Exorcism of the Church as a symptom of demonization. There are many cases of people demonized through people laying hands upon them praying in tongues.
There is no valid reason to speak in tongues to begin with when doing healing and deliverance work. And since tongues is so easily counterfeited by Satan and since we cannot know what we are saying, why take the risk. St. Paul said that it is better to understand what one is saying.
3) Praying by Proxy, can also be dangerous as one is “standing in” for another and by that may be attacked by the demons of the person being prayed for.
In addition, the whole concept of healing/praying by proxy is one that comes from non-Christian sources. This technique is very popular with witches and shamans and other “new age” healers. Here is an explanation from one witch practitioner:
Someone else, usually the practitioner, stands in for the client. Receiving the notes from the session, usually confirms the experience of the session, for the client.
If you consider that our body-mind-spirit system at a sub-atomic level is a vibrating field of frequencies, it becomes hard to distinguish where one energy field begins and ends. This observation by scientists of unified field theory that we are all interconnected. A vibration change in one part of the system is felt throughout the system or universe much like stubbing your big toe is felt throughout your body.
The theory is that we are all interconnected cosmically and thus a proxy can be the focus of energy that is sent out to the absent person to affect them for healing or deliverance. This theory is part of the energy-flow-connection-universe cosmology of oriental occultism. On a mathematical perspective this theory borrows from the Butterfly Effect of Chaos Theory (that a butterfly flapping his wings in India can cause a tornado in Kansas) but believes that the effect can be directed specifically to the intended person.
Although the Charismatics are unaware of the source of the concept of “proxy”, they are, nevertheless, involving themselves in an activity that is not based in Christianity and that can be spiritually dangerous.
The Charismatics justification for this practice comes from a misinterpretation of Daniel. To quote from a charismatic source:
Daniel intercedes for his people.
In chapter 9, where Daniel prays for his people, we discover that he prays intercessory prayers as if he, Daniel, is the transgressor. He says, “We have sinned and done wrong” (verse 5). “We have not listened to your servants the prophets” (verse 6). “To us, O Lord, belongs open shame” (verse 7) etc.
Daniel understood the key to intercessory prayer is to “stand in” for the guilty by proxy, praying their prayers for them—as if you are the transgressor.
In Charismatic circles there is a common expression that is used, and it’s called standing proxy for someone. And sometimes someone will go forward in a meeting for prayer and they will say, “I don’t have a need myself, but I’m standing proxy for someone else. There is someone who is at home lying in bed sick, and so I’m standing in their place and I want you to pray over me as though you were praying over that person.” It’s the same kind of thing. You actually become that person and pray as that person in the spirit. Therefore you can pray with full authority on that person’s behalf.
Perhaps the person you’re praying for has been beaten into unconsciousness and is dying and therefore cannot pray for themselves, but their spirit has reached out to God. God will move upon you as an intercessor and you will enter into the experience of that person who’s lying unconscious, and you will pray for them the prayer that they cannot pray. And you will release the authority of God to bring about deliverance, victory and healing or whatever is needed.
This language “And you will release the authority of God to bring about deliverance” is remarkably similar to the witches explanation of proxy “releasing” energy toward the absent person to heal them.
In addition to this procedure having a smattering of mediumship to it, these Pentecostals have taken a passage from Daniel and invented a prayer technique that Daniel never practiced.
In this passage in Daniel, the prophet is not praying in proxy for an individual, he is praying an intercessory prayer for Israel. He says “we have sinned” in the same context as you or I may pray to God, “We have sinned” meaning “America has sinned.”
This is just an intercessory prayer. Daniel is not standing in proxy.
This is an example of the poor thinking, weak theology, and subjective analysis that is typical with Pentecostal Charismatics.
While many may say that proxy is just a form of intercessory prayer, I would say to them, “why not then pray an intercessory prayer and not include the proxy technique practiced by witches and shamans, and for which there is no theologically justification?”
The idea of proxy is a Pentecostal contamination and should not be practiced by Catholics.
As Catholics we have intercessory prayer from ourselves and through the Saints; the dubious proxy method is not needed.
You ask how bad things could come from a prayerful and Christ-centered prayer meeting. Bad things can happen no matter how well intentioned and devout a person is because of ignorance and misunderstanding of the person about these issues. This is one reason to stay close to the Church and the Catholic worldview instead of borrowing things from other sources.
Do not give the devil the opportunity is a well advised cliché. Avoid Pentecostal and pseudo-Pentecostal techniques that are not consistent with Catholic theology and worldview.
In addition to all of this, the other problem is people messing with spiritual things when they are not qualified to do so and do not really know what they are doing. This is another tendency of charismatics. This lack of qualification is seen in the use of proxy prayer to begin with and also on the selection of who will stand-in as proxy. Your friend Corrine, from the description of her reaction, does not appear mature enough and strong enough in her faith to have offered herself in proxy.
If proxy was something that we could do wisely, I would never allow anyone to stand-in as proxy without about four years of training in spiritual warfare and an additional five years of experience and formation.
The proper thing to have done for Debra was for the group to pray for her with the normal intercessory prayers that we typically pray.
As for Corrine’s illness, it is probably a coincidence, but there is an outside and rare chance of a possible demonic involvement in her illness — especially if there was a demonic element in Debra’s life.
She needs to accept her situation, offer it to God, pray for healing, have others pray for her (but not by proxy), and pray Spiritual Warfare prayers for any demonic attachments that may be present. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
[Laying on of hands]
March 23, 2009
Concerning Laying on of Hands:
You mention that a “speaker” of a meeting was laying on hands for healing. There was no reference that this speaker was a priest. We need to be very circumspect about this practice. The Church has specifically warned against laity practicing gestures and pseudo-rituals that too closely resemble those gestures and actions reserved to priests. Many charismatics perform pseudo-rituals that are very close to the Sacrament of Anointing. They will say they are not trying to do the Sacrament, and that is fine, but the Church says that we must have concern even over the “appearance” that others may perceive of our actions. One of the major documents from the Church on this is the Instruction on Prayers for Healing. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Laying on of hands by a lay person
January 1, 2010
Some years ago, I attended a Charismatic prayer meeting in my parish church. No priest was present at this meeting. During the meeting, we were invited to talk about what was troubling us in our lives, and offered help. That day I had been involved in a bad row at work over which I was still angry. People spoke about various things that were troubling them. I felt compelled to join in, and mentioned the first thing that came into my stupid head; namely the row at work.
At the end we were asked to come up for a blessing and laying on of hands for healing, from a parishioner that I knew. At the end the layman called up people by name and putting his hands over them he called down the “spirit” to heal them. To my surprise he called me up and offered me the same thing.
As I watched this I was growing increasingly uneasy. The “feeling” that what he was doing was wrong became so strong, that I politely refused his offer. I may be mistaken, but surely only a properly ordained priest or bishop can do this sort of thing? I had been to other prayer meetings but, I had not felt like this at them. The uneasy feeling I had at this meeting was so negative that I have never gone back to them. It may seem a stupid question, but why did I feel like this at this particular meeting, when the others had felt okay? -Larry
Your gut-feelings are accurate. While there is a time and place where laymen may lay hands on people to bless them (such as a Father blessing his children), we must be very careful not to do something that too closely resembles that which is reserved to a priest. That is not my opinion, but the official word of the Church.
The Charismatic Renewal can be a great asset to the Church, but it must remain close to the Church not only in orthodoxy but also in worldview. It must also remove from itself the contamination of “Pentecostalisms”. These Pentecostalism are practices derived from Protestant Pentecostals who are extremely flawed in their theology in this subject.
I would advise reading the detailed essay, Charism Gifts Building up the Church. This document details the good and bad things about the Charismatic Renewal and outlines the Pentecostalisms.
Why did you feel something was wrong and other’s didn’t? Because you, not they, were truly listening to the Holy Spirit.
–Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Is there a danger in having a non-priest lay on hands?
August 9, 2013
I am a woman who has been in formation to become a religious sister and am recently out of the cloister and working with my bishop and spiritual director to begin a community of women to live our baptismal promises and see what it is that God may draw forth from that. So in essence, I am in discernment, but sort of like a sister-without-a-community-until-it-is-created, rather than a woman-looking-for-one. This seems important given the nature of my question for you.
When I began the road to of entering a convent, my first spiritual director who had a particular deliverance ministry emerging in his vocation and my superior sister formator both directed me to not let anyone pray “over” me or “lay-hands” on me, as a general rule, reserving these forms of deliverance for an ordained minister of our Church. I was told that if someone tries to pray “over” me to take their hands and ask them to pray “with” me. The basic understanding for this is that much diabolic transference happens from the best intentioned persons unawares. I was comfortable with this as it seemed quite sensible.
Also, in those early days of formation, I made a general confession and went through a full deliverance rite with the priest and some sisters present. It was a powerful experience. Not dramatic or over emotional, but extremely solid and and clarifying. We all witnessed the deadly things that had fastened to me in my prior lifestyle be extricated from my soul and I left a profoundly healed woman, lighter, brighter, and in great joy and peace. Shortly after that, I entered a Carmelite cloister and it seemed certain God had “cleared out” my soul to prepare me for this next step in this vocation. I am continually amazed at the steps he puts in place that I could compose this path on my own even if I wanted to!
It has been a few years since then. I was in Carmel for two years and have been out for one now. I am currently in this process of forming this new group, whatever it is that Our Lord will create, and actively striving to stay obedient to previous directions given to me in the spirit of trusting that no direction should be dispensed with of my own volition, until a superior advises me. This is my commitment to my vocation.
Recently there are some problems at the church I am working at. We have a pastor who is a survivor of intense trauma and we suspect that he is struggling on some personal level. This is our “assumed” explanation for some of his erratic and at times cruel or harsh treatment of parishioners and staff, including myself. Personally, I take it all as grace, and offer my own distress at mistreatment in exchange for a healing and hope in his vocation. It’s not something I think appropriate to discuss at length with people at this point as I take it to prayer and to my current Spiritual director (different from the one previously mentioned as I am in a different diocese now).
To get to the point of my question, there is an intercessory prayer group here that I highly respect for the depth and commitment of the prayer they do. They believe they are commissioned for a special ministry and it takes the form of charismatic prayer in terms of speaking in tongues and laying on of hands. They have had many confirmations over the years that this is the path Our Lord wants them on and I expect this is likely to be true.
It’s not mine to judge, but I do perceive these to be hearty, wholesome, centered in Christ and grounded people. They want to pray over the staff members who had had challenges with the pastor as a way of bringing deliverance to what they are suspecting may be a diabolical interference in the life of the parish. They want me to come tomorrow so they can pray over me, and lay on hands, etc.
I believe that by my vocation and previous direction, this would be disobedient to how I have been directed. When I mentioned this I was told by a wonderful deacon who leads the group that it would be problematic, as if I was somehow seeing myself as better than other people. And that maybe after I saw how it was happening with other people I would want to change my mind. I explained that if I did change my mind it would be more suspect because I would be breaking with obedience, and this would not be a show of humility but rather stepping out of line with my calling.
What does your experience tell you about such a dynamic? My previous spiritual director, who is now an exorcist and a great resource for this question happens to be on retreat, so I feel oddly out in left field and don’t want to make this decision without some clerical input. Am I being vain and presumptuous to not want this kind of prayer? Am I justified in my reason being that I don’t want to be disobedient, or is it that a fabrication which is incorrect? I understand from what I have seen in deliverance that it’s best if lay persons pray with people and only ordained persons pray “over.” Do you think there is merit or actual canonical support for this view?
Is there any reference you may have to help me explain this to others? Right now all I have is that “my director told me years ago to not do this.” –Amy
I praise God for your vocation and will pray for you in the formation of a new community. Forming a new community is extremely difficult and one that will usually attract the harassment of the devil, both through spiritual means and by using people.
As to laying on of hands, one must always been very careful about doing this or allowing it to be done to oneself. It is true that demonic transference can take place. Except when a priest lays on hands during the Sacrament of Anointing, the Rite of Exorcism, or in prayers reserved to priests where laying on of hands of part of the rubrics, it can be just as dangerous when a priest lays on hands in these extra-Sacramental situations, such as deliverance — especially a so-called charismatic priest. I have had to pick up the pieces of more than one poor soul who has been harmed by charismatic priests.
If the laying of hands is done with the permission of the person, and the person doing the laying of hands is doing it with proper theology, intention, purpose, and methodology then there is nothing wrong with laity doing this as long as how they do it does not too closely resemble the gestures of what a priest does in the Sacraments or in prayers reserved to priests. By the way, I am talking about a single person laying on hands, not a crowd doing so. It is common among charismatic circles to have the whole prayer team laying hands on the person. That is never to be done.
The charismatic renewal has a profound history of abusing the laying on of hands and of arrogantly thinking they are qualified to do deliverance. No one should be doing deliverance as an apostolate unless they are trained by competent people. As a whole the Charismatic Renewal is decidedly unqualified to do this apostolate.
Training in deliverance is far, far more than knowing some prayers and a little theology. To do deliverance properly is a multi-disciplinary endeavor. One needs to know some psychology, psychiatry, medicine, counseling techniques, investigative techniques, interviewing skills, critical thinking skills, logic, and even some physics. A weekend or week long training is sorely inadequate.
Our training academy is the most extensive in the world. To graduate as a deliverance counselor with us takes around three years of academics and clinical training, an year-long internship, and after graduation an additional three years of residency, before one is truly ready to go out and form their own apostolate, if that is what they want to do.
The remarks of this charismatic deacon that you mentioned is very troubling. His arrogance is typical among the charismatics. He has no business trying to convince you to break what you perceive as an obligation of obedience, especially about something that is not even needed in doing deliverance. Christ wants our obedience more than our sacrifice. Frankly, given that deacon’s attitude, I would advise you to have nothing to do with that group.
While laying on hands, in the right context, with the right understanding and theology, and in the right manner can be done by laity, laying on hands is NEVER absolutely needed in deliverance.
Speaking in tongues is another issue. This practice is profoundly dangerous and totally unnecessary. We have an extensive essay that evaluates the pros and cons of the Charismatic Renewal, including the issue of speaking in tongues, a practice that is often counterfeit, even though the “speaker” does not realize that. In the essay we relate a couple of stories by priests who discovered people speaking in tongues that were cursing God and did not know it, or were otherwise exercising false gifts. St. Paul said, “… I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:19).
There are thousands of ways in which tongues can be faked, counterfeited by the devil, or misused. How can we know, when we do not understand what is said? There is patently no valid reason to use tongues in deliverance, and hundreds of arguments to show its danger. I would advise that you read and study that document before even thinking about working with a charismatic group: Charism Gifts Building up the Church.
This essay is actually written into our Rule of St. Michael, the rule of life for the Oblates and Missioners of St. Michael. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
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