LL writes: “I am a 41 y.o. cradle Catholic. I recently saw a book my godmother is reading, about a medium who is from the westside of Cleveland who claims to help people who have died and haven’t gone over to the other side. My godmother is convinced that her mother had a ghost in her apartment before she died, and that this woman helped it “go towards the light,” She also said her sister had this woman come out to her house, to help some other guy who hadn’t crossed over. When I told her that I would’ve called a priest if I thought there was spiritual activity in my home, she claimed that this woman doesn’t communicate with evil spirits – just poor souls who got confused or had reasons that they couldn’t go over to the other side. Yikes! Obviously my godmother is/was Catholic – she’s my godmother. However, she’s drifting into spiritualism. She even said that her sister put some seed over every doorway, to keep any more spirits from entering. Can you give me some resources that I can use when talking to my godmother?”
Some of the best resources to recommend would be Father Herbert Thurstons two books on spiritualism, Ghosts and Poltergeists, and The Church and Spiritualism. These books contain absolutely chilling first-hand accounts of poltergeist activity and full-bodied apparitions of spirits, and applies a Catholic lens along with an understanding of the current science of the day to hypothesize about the nature and possibility of ghosts.
Another great choice is Peter Kreeft’s book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven which is written in an easy-to-read Q&A format by someone who is very faithful to Church teaching.
Even though I’ve already written a blog about ghosts, let me quote from Kreeft’s book in this blog to add to our collection of information about this very fascinating subject.
First of all, Kreeft warns us that the Church forbids any attempt to conjure the dead (Catechism 2116-2117) even for the purpose of “helping it cross over.” The reason for this rule is the incredible danger involved in the spiritual realm where deception by demons is more like the rule than the exception.
As Kreeft states: “We are out of our depth, our knowledge, and our control once we open the doors to the supernatural. The only openings that are safe for us are the ones God has approved: revelation, prayer, His own miracles, sacraments, and primarily Christ Himself…The danger is not physical but spiritual, and spiritual danger always centers on deception.”
Having said that, he goes on to say that he believes there are three kinds of “ghosts.”
“First, the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones. They seem to be working out some unfinished earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released from their earthly business. These ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past lives on earth.”
These may also be the spirits that many claim are “stuck between heaven and earth” but are actually here at God’s command to serve their time in Purgatory.
The second kind are malicious and deceptive spirits — demons. “These are probably the ones who respond to conjurings at seances. They probably come from Hell. Even the chance of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptations to necromancy.”
The third kind are “bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family, especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God’s will, not ours, with messages of hope and love,” he writes.
“They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for the sake of us the living, to tell us all is well. They are aped by evil spirits who say the same, who speak ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace’. But the deception works only one way: the fake can deceive by appearing genuine, but the genuine never deceives by appearing fake. Heavenly spirits always convince us that they are genuinely good.”
While the Church has made no definitive statement of belief or disbelief in the existence of ghosts, it is certain that there is no such thing as “lost souls” who can’t cross over. After death, we are judged instantly and are either saved or damned. The damned go to hell, and the saved go either to heaven or to purgatory.
Is it possible that souls in purgatory may be sent here by God to work out their purification? Yes. Is it possible that God will occasionally allow us see one of these spirits or even the soul of a departed loved one who is in heaven? Yes. Is it possible that one of these souls might somehow get lost and need our help finding their way back to God? Not hardly.
As LL correctly discerns, her godmother and other family members are definitely falling into the realm of spiritualism and should be stopped immediately before they bring harm to themselves or others. Demons are masterful deceivers and can fool even well trained servants of God.
Scripture minces no words about this. IN Revelation 12:9, we are told that Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world . . .” In 2 Corinthians 11: 14, his tactic of appearing as an Angel of Light (or this case, as a person “stuck” between two worlds) is revealed.
In an article written by Brother Ignatius Mary, OLSM, he suggests that anyone who believes they are seeing a ghost should do three things – be skeptical, be cautious, and be willing to test the spirits.
As he explains:
“First, we must recognize the GREAT possibility that we are imagining things. The human mind has great imagination capacity and we can psyche ourselves into seeing things that are not there or to misinterpret optical illusions. Second, we must always presume that we may be tricked by Satan and what we see is a demon in disguise or Satan taking advantage of our overactive imaginations or taking advantage of optical illusions. Third, we must be aware that it is possible for the event to be ordained by God.”
How can we discern if a spirit is good or evil? Bro. Ignatius gives us four tips:
1) a Godly apparition will NEVER contradict ANY Public Revelation (so we need to be well versed in Public Revelation)
2) a Godly apparition will NEVER lead you to disobey your elders, superiors, or the Church (so we need to be aware of Church teaching)
3) Although meeting a Spirit is scary, a Godly apparition will lead you to peace.
4) A Godly spirit will ALWAYS and without hesitation affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus we need to test the spirit with the formula of 1 John 4:1-3
Read “Do you believe in ghosts?” for a more indepth treatment of this subject.