Blog Post

Invoking vs. Evoking the Dead

So many people are falling victim to mediums who claim to be able to contact their deceased relatives because they don’t understand the difference between what Catholics do when they pray for the intercession of the saints and what mediums purport to be doing. 

There’s a big difference between the Catholic practice of invoking the dead, which is praying for the intercession of the saints, and what mediums do when they conjure up the deceased to either appear and/or communicate with them in some way.

Invoking the dead is when we pray to the deceased to ask for their intercession before God.

Evoking the dead is what mediums do when they ask for the spirit of a deceased person to appear or communicate with them in some way.

Invoking the dead is a holy practice; evoking the dead is a sin.

As we read in No. 2115 in the Catechism: “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 [carelessness], however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.”

In the next paragraph (2116) we read: “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

This teaching comes from Scripture where the Almighty tells us in many places that we are not to become involved in summoning the spirits of the dead [also known as necromancy].

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

To be actively involved in conjuring up and evoking the dead is considered to be the sin of necromancy and is strictly forbidden.

But what about all those occasions when a departed soul appeared to a saint? Was that the sin of necromancy?

No, because in these cases, the soul or spirit appeared without the saint having directly called upon it to do so. In other words, a saint may have been praying for the soul of a deceased loved one who was allowed to appear and ask for prayer. Or, in the case of Padre Pio, he would often see the souls of the departed who were suffering in Purgatory and were in need of prayer.

God does allow this and will facilitate the appearance of the soul who has no other way materialize in bodily form except by some kind of supernatural or preternatural intervention. Remember, the body of the soul is rotting in a grave somewhere. If it appears in bodily form, this means it “borrowed” a body from a source powerful enough to provide it (either a supernatural power (God) or a preternatural power (angels/demons)).

Because we know that God condemns necromancy, then it’s safe to assume that He would never consort with a medium or channeler to facilitate the appearance of the deceased, nor will He allow His angels to do so. And because the disembodied soul does not have the power to appear in bodily form, this leaves only one other option available – the devil – who has both the power and the motive to do this.

What should you do if you sought a medium to contact a loved one?

Because you were actively involved in seeking the appearance or communication of a dead loved one, and resorted to a medium to do so, you should confess this to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

You should also personally renounce having engaged in this activity through a simple prayer such as, “Jesus, I renounce having sought the assistance of a medium to contact my dead loved one. I repent of this sin and ask for your forgiveness.”

This personal act of renouncement closes whatever “door” might have been opened to Satan that allows him to have more direct access to you (often referred to as a “portal” in exorcist parlance).

Whenever we turn toward Satan and his powers with an act of our own free will, we open one of these “portals”. We must close it the same way we opened it – with our own free will – by freely renouncing the activity.