A conversation a couple of weeks ago has left me wondering … if the person to whom I was speaking was seeking full communion with the Church (they weren’t) how would the Team deal with what the person came with?
It was clear from the conversation that there were some mental health issues but, sensing some deep spiritual disturbance, I continued with gentle questioning which brought out the fact that the person had been heavily involved in tarot reading and that many aspects of their life was now controlled by the cards. They were convinced of the presence of an evil spirit and terrified that, if they got rid of the cards, it would harm them and members of their family. We got as far as putting the cards out of easy reach and I am hoping that we will get as far as the cards being given to me or to someone else who can destroy them on the person’s behalf… it would take a long time for them to be able to do this for themselves.
But the thought lingered – and so I thought this opportunity to prompt discussion could be helpful not just to me but to others who might be walking alongside someone who has had a similar experience.
If the person is not baptised, there are, of course, the minor exorcisms where there is provision made for a prayer asking that, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God will remove “the worship of false gods and magic, witchcraft and dealings with the dead” (Prayer B, p42 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). But how often is this part of the prayer used? Is there a temptation to avoid saying the words out loud? Are we inclined to see such a prayer as appropriate in mission territories – or perhaps in Pentecostal churches – but less necessary for us? And yet, tarot – astrology – wicca – mediums – and more – are increasingly prevalent in the UK and many who are searching for “the spiritual” will often have tried some of them on their way to Christianity. Some may have emerged apparently unscathed. Others, such as the person with whom I was speaking, may be very seriously affected both mentally and spiritually and in need of medical intervention but also deep spiritual healing.
People who are baptised may also have been attracted to similar practices. The Rite does suggest that some of the rites belonging to the catechumenate could be used in the preparation of the candidates preparing for full communion. We often use the presentations of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer and Gospels and a penitential rite – but would we consider bringing in the minor exorcisms – and how would we do it? Obviously, there will be occasions when this is best done in private – and some people may need a fairly lengthy process of coming to trust that they have been set free of what was holding them bound with several rites along the way. (Discernment would be needed by catechists, sponsors and clergy as to how this might work bearing in mind the individual’s vulnerability). But might there be a place for the minor exorcisms to take place within a meeting – or during a service in the church? Does anyone have experience of doing this – and how did it work?
The prayer has to be that whatever brought them to take the step of getting in touch will give them the strength to continue the journey to healing… that they will continue to search for the truth – the real truth that will set them – and keep them – free.