This Week’s Ask Alice: Discerning Spirits. Dealing with apparitions.



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Carolyn Asks: My youngest daughter has twice seen a man during Mass that is wearing what she calls “Ellis Island” clothing. Yesterday at Holy Thursday service, she witnessed him during the consecration. She said he genuflected, put his cap on (touring cap) and walked out the back. He is older (she described a bowl cut hairstyle). She is very uncomfortable about this. As side note, recently, while spending the night at a friend’s house, she witnessed what she described as three ghosts . I called our priest about that. We went to confession asap. She slept on our floor for a month. She’s okay, now. She’s 16 years old. Should I find her a spiritual director?

Alice Answers: It is a privilege to answer your question. I believe your daughter has a special gift. She sees spirits because the eyes of her heart are open wide to Christ, and to the members of His Mystical Body.

Many years ago, during the consecration at Mass, I saw John, our deceased parish business manager. He was on the left side of the church, behind the altar. John had been kind to me when we served together on the Parish Council. Seeing him brought tears to my eyes by reminding me that, even in death, we remain connected, through the Body of Christ.

One evening at a party, I was telling a friend about seeing John’s spirit. An elderly priest approached and told me I had been given a gift.

Many people see spirits. Through the years, relatives, friends, and even complete strangers have shared their stories with me.

Spirits exist, whether or not we are aware of their presence. There are good and evil spirits all around us. Good spirits appear to bring us messages, comfort or assistance.

Sometimes, souls appear, asking us to pray for their release from Purgatory. Or, a soul might manifest, asking us to tell a loved one that they are well and happy.

Evil spirits also sometimes make their presence known, to people both good and bad. They tempt, taunt, disturb, and attempt to lure people away from God.

Scripture tells us to test the spirits:

“Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see if they belong to God.” (1John 4:1)

If your daughter has not engaged in occult practices, utilizing a Ouija board or Tarot cards, exploring Wicca, or visiting a psychic, then she most likely has not opened the door to evil spirits.

Since your daughter was cautious and uncomfortable toward the spirits she encountered, she seems to be wise in faith. If she has a good relationship with the Lord, then you can be reasonably sure that her mysticism comes from God.

As you have already demonstrated, frequent reception of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Penance are most important to your daughter’s spiritual growth and strength. Prayer and visits to the Blessed Sacrament will draw your daughter closer to the Lord.

Hopefully, she has some Catholic friends to help support and encourage her, in her faith.

Should you seek a spiritual director for your daughter? That’s a tough question!

Some priests, not having experienced mystical experiences themselves, may be squeamish and/or skeptical about such things, and may not be of much help. Pray that if God desires a spiritual director for your daughter, He will lead you to that person. A spiritual director doesn’t have to be a priest or religious, but might be a lay man or woman, who has been given the gift of wisdom.

“To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…Prophecy is given to one; to another power to distinguish one spirit from another.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, 10)

Clearly, God has given your daughter spiritual gifts and a loving, devoted mother to watch over and guide her. She is indeed blessed! As the late, soon to be beatified, Pope John Paul II liked to say, “Be not afraid!”

In Christ’s Love,

Alice

EWTN Q&A Forum on the subject with related links

Book excerpt from Google Books by noted author, theologian and philosopher Peter Kreeft, on the subject (see pages 32-35).

Seven kinds of ghosts

Seven steps to self deliverance

Useful Prayer Resources

A collection of related Q&A’s

Click here to see all of Alice’s other columns

Writer’s theory on alleged Mejugorje apparitions results in threats on his life


The possibility that the seers were seeing a spiritual entity which was not the Blessed Mother was mentioned explicitly the day before our trip to Surmanci by a priest who has been associated with the apparitions for over ten years and during that period has gone from an being avid believer and promoter to a confirmed skeptic.

After years of hearing confessions and assembling a library of new age material from penitents, it became clear to him that Medjugorje was a major stop on the New Age circuit.

Before long, the Blessed Virgin even started talking like a new age guru. The first message to issue from the lips of “Our Lady of Medjugorje” after the bishops’ condemnation was that her devotees should turn “negatives into positives,” a turn of phrase which struck this priest at the time as totally unbiblical, a feeling which received dramatic confirmation when he found exactly the same phrase coming from the lips of New Age guru, Sanaya Roman, “Channel for Orin.”

“Or,” the priest remembered, was the Hebrew word for light. The Latin word is Lux, whose genitive is lucis, which is the root of the name light-bearer, or Lucifer. The passage about changing negatives into positives, which Marija Pavlovic cited verbatim as the first message from the Gospa after the bishops’ declaration of April 1991, is the title of Chapter Five of Sanaya Roman’s book, Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation (Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer, 1986).

Somewhere between the hypothesis that Medjugorje was a joke that got out of hand and the theory that the kids are talking to demons, I begin to descry a third possibility, based on its geographical and historical context and their relationship to the massacres at Surmanci just on the other side of apparition hill.

The “seers” saw a ghost.

Ghosts, to begin with, are psychological, whereas demons are ontological. Demons are actual beings; they are pure spirits, or angels who have chosen to rebel against God and live in a state of eternal separation from Him. Their only consolation comes from making other rational creatures, who were created to share happiness with God, share their misery instead.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are a function of the mind which beholds them. They are traditionally seen as the souls of men who have not gone to hell but rather to purgatory, from whence they escape periodically to admonish the living about some still unfinished business.

Like the monster in horror fiction, ghosts represent the return of the repressed. Both Banquo’s ghost and Hamlet’s father represent an unrighted wrong. They are an indication that an event in the past has failed to achieve closure. As a result of repression, usually caused by guilt, the ghost frequently re-presents itself at moments usually associated in some way with an anniversary of the event that needs to be repressed.

Read more by E. Michael Jones

The Official Church Position, from the local Bishop