Is there really anything to debate about, when it comes to the existence of “ghosts”? (Read past reaction.) We think of this on All Souls Day.
Priests, bishops, and cardinals have written of them.
They used to be called “revenants.” (See, The Spirits Around Us.) Saints spoke of their visitations (souls from purgatory, or bound to the earth for whatever reason). In Scripture, Jesus used the word “ghost” (as differentiated from “demon” or “evil spirit”). A major Catholic scholar, Father Charles Arminjon, of France (whose work was greatly admired by Saint Thèrése of Lisieux), wrote that “it is not uncommon for departed souls to appear to the living: time and again, God has permitted these manifestations, either to awaken the living from their omissions and torpor, or in order that abandoned souls might obtain a swifter relief.”
Many “hauntings” are actually demons; but not all.
One of the most prominent cases, notes Father Arminjon (author of The End of the Present World), was that of Pope Benedict VII, who for a long while after his death allegedly appeared to the Bishop of Lapree. It is said that St. Thomas Aquinas likewise saw his deceased sister.
A rectory in Chicago was famously visited by a deceased bishop.
“So far as can be gathered from a study of the Latin Ritualia, whether medieval or modern, it would seem that the Catholic Church, at any rate in the West, has never taken very much account of those spectral appearances — ghosts in fact — which are said at times to disturb the peace of some ordinary dwelling house,” wrote an esteemed Jesuit scholar named Father Herbert Thurston.
“There is of course a lengthy ceremonial provided for the exorcism of persons possessed by the devil. But the driving out of the demons who have obtained control over a human being has abundant scriptural warrant and always been recognized by the Church a a function of her ministry.” He meticulously documented cases. (A prayer for blessing homes is at far bottom of this article.)
It’s just all over the news these days — as we have never before seen it — even The New York Times, previously a stalwart debunker — as if the veil is lifting or at least a major new wave of belief, even in the once totally skeptical secular media, has taken hold. Headlines all over the place. With so many digital devices, there are many photographs and videos, some suspect, some seemingly authentic (we do not advise viewing ghost-hunter videos). They are detonating, the headlines. To wit:
“A High-Tech Ghost Story” (TechCrunch.com)
“Ghost-Flustered: We Tried To Sleep In a Grande Colonial Hotel Room” (the LaJolla Light)
“Your College Ghost Stories” (The New York Times)
“An Executive Mansion Fit For — Ghosts” (The New York Times)
‘Haunted Hollywood: The Creepiest Ghost Stories in Tinseltown” (E! News)
“Is the White House Haunted? Jenna and Barbara Bush Share Their Ghost Story” (Variety)
“Reasons To Believe in Ghosts in America” (The New Yorker)
“Spokane Ghost Crew Summons During Hunt” (iFiber One News
“Alaska’s Oldest Building and its Ghost Story” (Alaska PBS)
“Many People Died But Never Left This Michigan Ghost Town” (M Live)
“Ghost Hunters Capture The Spirit Of Butler Opening Wine Cellar“ (The London Mirror — tabloid)
“Prankster Ghost Haunts Historic Phoenix Mansion” (AZ Family.com)
“Truly Terrifying in Texas: The Killing Fields, Hotel Ghosts, and Haunted Galveston” (AJC.com)
“Hoia Baciu: Inside The Creepiest Forest in Transylvania” (the London Independent)
“Is This the World’s Most Haunted School?” (the London Mirror — caution, tabloid)
“Plymouth Couple Capture Ghost In Spooky Dartmoor Picture” (the UK Herald)
“Proof of the Afterlife? Mum Photographs Poltergeist That Has ‘Plagued Her Home’” (the London Express, caution tabloid)
“Ghost Stories That Will Actually Give You Nightmares” (Bustle.com)
“Most Haunted Attractions in Connecticut” (The Daily Campus)
“Florida Panhandle Home To Some of Most Haunted Sites In the Country” (My Pandhandle.com)
“Mom Claims Her Home Is Being Haunted By Moody Ghost Named Malcolm” (News24)
This is in just the past few days. And there are more.
You get the point.
You find evidence — and not all of it is hucksterism; not all of it is photo-shopped (though certainly some is) — around the internet.
Most of those who turn a nose up at the very idea of haunted places have never investigated and read through the tremendously extensive literature (simple Google searches do not always suffice as research).
Souls roam the earth. We will not understand just why, in each case, until we have the perspective of Heaven. Some seem attached to places or people or things. Some seem in need of prayer. Some seem deceptive — nefarious entities. None should be communicated with. All should be prayed for, in case they are ones in need, except the dark spirits that must be cast out upon first sight in the Name of Our All-Powerful Lord Jesus.
What seemed all but impossible a few short years ago has now become commonplace: medical doctors writing about the supernatural.
A Harvard brain surgeon, Eben Alexander, writes about his near-death experience. So does a major cardiologist from Florida. Recently, there is Dr. Robert D. Leslie of South Carolina writing of miracles he has recorded in the emergency room, Dr. Barbara R. Rommer of Florida discussing near-death experiences (including hell), and Dr. Mary C. Neal, a graduate of UCLA’s School of Medicine, whose first book, To Heaven and Back made the New York Times bestseller list.
Let’s take the case of Dr. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon now residing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
In a new book, 7 Lessons From Heaven, How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-Filled Life, she discusses a particularly fascinating aspect of a brush with death, the review of one’s life.
It isn’t always what we expect.
Dr. Neal, who “left” her body and felt encompassed by Jesus when a kayak she was paddling got trapped under a waterfall, during a junket in South America, writes:
“I was gently leaning into Jesus, embraced and comforted by His Presence.
“Scenes from my life became visible in front of us, as though projected onto a three-dimensional multisnesory screen.
“Rather than anxiety or apprehension, I felt nothing but love.
“When I looked into Jesus’s Face, I saw only kindness in endless supply.
“In His arms, I felt like a newborn baby into whom He poured all of His hope, concern, love, and His very being. His embrace was gently, complete, and familiar.
“As my life unspooled before me, I felt deeply loved, and I knew somehow that His love was not just for me, but for all people.”
And so it is that Dr. Neal went through scenes from her life — like swiping through the chain at the bottom of “all photos” on an iPhone (as she puts it). Others see a “movie” or “slide show” or “hologram.”
Every once in a while, the Lord would halt the forward motion of the images and pluck a scene from the strand of her life, she recalls.
And with that, Dr. Neal not just watched her life in review but re-experienced it with absolute understanding, and from “every vantage point” — including that of others in her life who were present at the moment.
“As I looked at each aspect of a scene or event, I was able to instantaneously see the life story of the people involved,” she writes. “I perfectly understood their emotional backgorunds, motivations, and feelings. I understood their side of the story, what they brought to the situation, and how we were each changed by it.”
Suddenly, Dr. Neal understood why everyone was the way they were.
“Again and again,” she says, “seeing a person’s backstory — their experiences, circumstances, sorrows — changed my understanding of them and my emotional response became one of grace” — instead of anger.
Everything in her life and everyone who had been in it suddenly wove together perfectly and made perfect sense.
She also realized that a key to life is “surrender to absolute trust” in the Lord — something made easy for her because she saw the supernatural Presence of God and angels all around us all the time, even if they are seldom evident.
We make them evident through that “surrender to absolute trust” in Jesus.
We must pray from the heart.
“Regardless of whether this review is perceived as a panorama, a movie, or in small segments, it is always infused with understanding and compassion,” she says.
It is an angel-filled life of miracles when, discarding the cynicism of our time, and the hyper-rationalism, we let those miracles occur.
“God loves us because of Who God is,” a fellow named Philip Yancey once wrote, “not because of who we are.”
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God,” said another, Corrie Ten Boom.
For life is like a — well, it’s like a kayak ride down a river, Dr. Neal came to learn.
There are twists. There are turns. There is calm water. There is whitewater. Out of the blue, there can be a falls. There are waves, rocks, obstacles. We flourish with challenges when we handle them well.
“For every mile of the river, our choices will directly influence our enjoyment of the journey,” the surgeon writes. “How we navigate a difficult part of this river can lead to satisfaction and fun, or misery and injury. We get to choose. Fortunately, even when we make poor choices, the current never ceases pulling us onward, carrying us toward our destination.”
[resources: 7 Lessons From Heaven]
[resources: spiritual warfare books]
[See from archives: ‘We Have A Ghost In the House‘]
After more than one vain attempt to find a form of ritual pertinent to such cases, wrote Father Thurston, he “stumbled” upon an old document contained on the appendix to an edition of the Rituale Romanum — “published with the full authorization of the Council of the Inquisition, at the royal printing office, Madrid, in the year 1621.”
That document, called Exorcismus domus a daemonio (“Exorcism of a house troubled with an evil spirit”), directs the priest who is tackling the “exorcism” to wear a surplice and stole and begin with the words: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen,” making at the same time a triple Sign of the Cross.
Then, after the versicle Adjutorium nostrum, and Dominus vobiscum, etc., there is this prayer:
“Almighty and Eternal God who has bestowed such grace upon Thy priests that whatever is worthily and conscientiously performed by them in Thy name is accounted to be done by Thee, we beseech Thy immeasurable clemency that where we are about to visit, Thou also wouldst visit, that we are about to bless, Thou wouldst also bless, that Thou wouldst lend Thy mighty right hand of power to all which we are about to do, and that at the coming of our humble person (by the merits of Thy saints) the demons may fly away and the angels of peace may enter in. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, etc.
“O God of angels, God of archangels, God of prophets, God of apostles, God of martyrs, God of confessors, God of virgins and all right-living men, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ I call upon Thee and I suppliantly invoke thy Holy Name and the compassion of Thy radiant Majesty, that Thou wouldst lend me aid against the spirit of all iniquity, that wherever he may be, when Thy name is spoken, he may at once give place and take to flight. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
“I adjure thee, O serpent of old, by the Judge of the living and the dead; by the Creator of the world who hath power to cast into hell, that thou deport forthwith from this house. He that commands thee, accursed demon, is He that commanded the winds, and the sea and the storm. He that commands thee is He that ordered thee to be hurled down from the height of Heaven into the lower parts of the earth. He that commands thee is He that bade thee depart from Him. Hearken, then, Satan, and fear. Get thee gone, vanquished and cowed, when thou art bidden in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who will come to judge the living and the dead and all the world by fire. Amen.”
This is followed by the recitation of the first five of the Gradual Psalms (119 to 123) which the priest is to repeat while he visits every part of the house and sprinkles it with Holy Water or blessed salt — ending his round with a few verses as an introduction to this appropriate prayer:
“Do Thou, O Lord, enter graciously into the home that belongs to Thee; construct for Thyself an abiding resting-place in the hearts of Thy faithful servants, and grant that in this house no wickedness of malicious spirits may ever hold sway. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
The second set of five Gradual Psalms are then recited while the priest renews his walk-through of the entire building — again sprinkling Holy Water and ending with a different prayer:
“O God, omnipotent and never-ending, who in every place subject to Thee, pervadest all and workest all Thy Will, comply with our entreaty that Thou be the protector of this dwelling, and that here no antagonism of evil have power to resist Thee, but that, by the co-operation and virtue of the Holy Spirit, Thy service may come first of all, and holy freedom remain inviolate. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Then for the third time the whole house is sprinkled — while the five remaining Gradual Psalms are recited, ending with another prayer:
“O God, who in every place subject to Thee are present as guardian and protector, grant us, we beseech Thee, that the blessing on this house may never slacken, and that all we who join in this petition may deserve the shelter which Thou affordest. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Upon this follows the extract from the gospels concerning Zaccheus, the publican, which is read in the Mass for the dedication of a church. Incense is then put into the thurible, the whole house is incensed, and after the prayer Visita, quasumus, Domine, habitationem, istam, and so forth, the priest gives his blessing, once more sprinkles holy water, and departs.
“For the exorcism of an energumen, as pointed out in the Codex of Canon Law (c. 1151), special faculties must be granted by the Ordinary, but this does not seem to apply to the use of such a form as that which has just been summarized, seeing that it concerns not a person, but a place. On the other hand no ceremonial of this liturgical character ought to be employed by private initiative or without episcopal sanction,” wrote Father Thurston.]