We live in a society today where we see an ever-increasing rejection of God in a variety of ways. That said, turning away from God is actually contrary to human nature. “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself” (CCC #27). We, as a human race, inherently want to know God and all the things that come with knowing Him. Without God, in our weak humanity, we attempt to understand things in ways which cause us to remain unsatisfied and longing for more.
We, as Christians, have a natural dependency on God. We acknowledge that the trials He sends us are, in some way, a benefit to our spiritual lives, helping us to depend on Him more. We do not believe that earth is all there is and we have the hope of heaven because of what Jesus Christ came to do for us. These beliefs allow for a certain peace and letting go in our lives. However, there are those who do not believe in God and His divine hand in all things. They have a tendency to want to seek to have some control, not only in their own lives, but in the world. This idea of man being the master of his own universe has caused an increase in things such as occultism, which is concisely defined as belief in, or study of, human action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers. In other words, if a person does not believe that supernatural or supernormal powers are of God alone, than they will be prone to think they can have some control over such things.
This tendency of mankind is covered in part three of the Catechism. Not surprisingly, it is placed in a section titled “You shall have no other gods before me.” When a person tries to control or influence what properly belongs to God in the supernatural realm, they are essentially attempting to be God, or a god, themselves. This is an extreme form of the sin of pride to think that you can supersede God’s own will or power in a situation and then bend it according to your own will. Now, let’s take a closer look at the specific ways people participate in this through occultism and occult practices and what the Church has to say about it.
The first issue the Catechism addresses is superstition. Superstition is the belief that one thing causes something else on a supernatural level. We know of various superstitions and perhaps have entertained some of them. For example, an athlete might perform a specific ritual before every game to help him win. Another person may have “lucky” numbers that will one day win her the lottery. The reality is, regardless of correlation, or lack thereof, none of it amounts to causation. Good things don’t happen when you believe in the power of an external thing. Good things happen because of God’s grace in your life. Likewise, bad things don’t happen because of the power of some external thing. Bad things happen because God allows it for some greater good, which you ought to seek to recognize. However, superstition is not relegated to the secular world. The Catechism warns that even those of us within the Faith can fall into superstitious dispositions with regard to things like our prayers and sacramentals (cf. CCC #2111). For example, to think that praying a particular novena will definitely create a certain outcome would be wrong. Also, to place an overemphasis on the supernatural power of your scapular as a physical item is superstitious. Rather, our prayers and sacramentals should serve as reflections of our belief in the Almighty God and what He does for us through them. Our Catholic Faith gives us so many wonderful outward expressions of our beliefs, but we must be very careful to not believe in those things and items themselves.
Next, the Catechism moves to idolatry, another expression of occultism. Idolatry is to worship anyone or anything in place of, or over, the one true God, and it can manifest itself in a vast variety of ways. Of course, there is classic idolatry which is paganism and the belief in many gods. There has been an increase of paganism recently, particularly in younger generations, where there has emerged an unhealthy curiosity, obsession, and practice of Celtic, Norse and other types of paganism. This includes the building of altars, seasonal offerings, and various rituals — like a fertility ritual — to these pagan entities, either to give them some undue homage or to achieve a desired outcome. This is an obvious betrayal of the true altar and sacrifice of Jesus Christ to whom all honor is owed and through whom all things are made new (cf. CCC #2112).
Just as with superstition, even the faithful can fall into idolatry. If we are not making God the most important part of our life, other ideas or things can easily rise above Him. Work, success, money, and status are all common forms of idolatry in today’s world. However, there are other more subtle forms of idolatry that can creep in. For example, it may be so important to you that people think well of you, that you hide your authentic self, and thus who you are in private is extremely different from who you are in public. This is a lack of humility. Or perhaps you put your marriage or your children at the center of your life. While seemingly good, this is still idolatry when they’re valued above God or without recognition of how the grace of God works through them. If you have a tendency to idolize certain things in your life, remember that God has historically shown that He has a way of taking any of these things away in order to get your attention back to where it should be – on Him (CCC #2113-14).
Lastly, the Catechism refers to the occultism and its use of divination and magic. This one is worth quoting directly due to its strong language:
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 from 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.(CCC #2116)
We see here that in doing these things, we are attempting to control things that we have no right to control. However, there is more to it than just our own involvement. You see, the demons have great insight into our egos and pride and use these things to their advantage in attacking us. They use these types of practices as portals, either to enter directly into us or into our lives, with the purpose of leading us deeper into sin and away from God. What’s more, their influence is not dependent on our ignorance or knowledge. If we open the door and invite them in, whether we know we’re doing it or not, they will enter. These are very real and very dangerous practices that are unfortunately on the rise as a world that has lost sight of God seeks answers and control.
Your challenge for this week is to pray. Pray for all the poor lost souls who are trying to follow what is written on their heart, but who are seeking God in all the wrong ways and all the wrong places. Pray strongly that Satan and his demons relinquish their chokehold on our society and send them to the foot of the cross. Also pray for any of the subtle superstitions and idolatries to be erased from your own life and the life of your family. This is a time when we need all eyes firmly fixed on God, now more than ever.
** I have found exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger’s podcasts very helpful in understanding how demons operate. You can find him and others here.
** I have also listened to most of the videos on the Slaying Dragons Apostalate YouTube channel. Some of the videos include interviews with former occultists which I have found interesting and enlightening. You can access that channel here.
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