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The US Bishops Conference Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practices issued a document confirming what most of us already knew about the Eastern-form of "healing" known as Reiki, which is unfortunately practiced in some Catholic retreat centers.

http://www.usccb.org/dpp/Evaluation_Guidelines_final text_2009-03.pdf

"Where the Bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
St. Ignatius of Antioch  A.D. 69


 In case after case, centers run by nuns seeking ways to redefine themselves or raise money are embracing a spiritual method called reiki -- which is also sweeping through other parts of the Church -- and it is a lesson of why something is defined as occult (or "New Age").

We reported on this several weeks ago: the infiltration of questionable spiritual practices, of which reiki may be the most prevalent, in Catholic retreat centers across the continent.

That propensity can be expected to increase as the number of nuns -- and their resources -- dwindle and as they feel less attached to diocesan authorities.

What is reiki? How does it "work"? Why is it perilous?

Proponents of reiki believe that there are "vibrational" fields around humans that influence our well-being -- energies that surround and interpenetrate. It is similar to the Eastern concept of " ki" or "chi" energy that many non-Christians in Asia believe flows around the human form as sort of an aura or psychic influence.

When they are out of balance, manipulating these fields can bring healing, claim those who practice it.

Basically, the reiki healer (pronounced ray-kee) is supposedly affecting or activating the energy of a person with his own energy or channels -- sort of a laying on of the hands, but without a vital component: the Holy Spirit. If such impersonal energy or spiritual forces exist and are manipulated in such a fashion, especially without the Name of Christ, it enters a dangerous area. Evil spirits are attached to it.

Noted a leading reiki master, Pamela Miles, recently: "In a formal session, the recipient lies fully clothed on a treatment table, covered by a blanket if desired. Traditionally, the practitioner places hands lightly on the head and the front and back of the torso, with hand placements varying somewhat among different practitioners. Treatment usually lasts between 45 and ninety minutes, although in a hospital it is typically fifteen to twenty minutes."

While such practices may cause some relief (just as psychic healing can, at least temporarily), it invites in spirits of darkness that are only too happy to masquerade as angels of light -- if indeed they are not behind the reiki energy to begin with.

The devil mimics all that God does, and this includes healing. Just as the Holy Spirit gives us "words of knowledge," there are psychics who rely on their own occult energy to read thoughts ("telepathy"), divine wisdom from objects ("psychometry"), see at a distance "clairvoyance"), and peer into the future ("precognition").

The problem is that such power is not only vastly less effective than the force that flows from God and His saints, but also come with the bondage of owing forces of darkness in return. Psychics, fortunetellers, mediums, and channelers are often very problem-plagued people, and many succumb at an early age. Despite initial relief, those "healed" by them can end up worse than they were to start with, until they go to Jesus.

This is no bias against the many good people who have fallen into the deception. It is understandable -- especially when one is in pain -- to seek any form of relief. And it is wrong to be closed-minded against all that is unknown. We are called to pray for those involved in such practices as we pray for our own balance, open-mindedness, and discernment. Many are those who argue that the Vatican went too far, for example, in condemning (as it did, in a document about the New Age, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life) the practice of acupuncture, which also touches on the same

surrounding or interpenetrating forces.

But the Catholic Church is wisely cautious (the "narrow gate") and clearly it is the Holy Spirit Whom we are to go to when we want to cause a spiritual affect -- not our own or some other cosmic field of "energy."

Reiki began with the teachings of a man named Mikao Usul in the early 1920s and is now practiced throughout the world -- entering Catholic circles in a big way during the last decade [see previous story on extent of infiltration]. Its spread indicates both a disaffection with traditional Christianity and a lack of teaching about such topics from the pulpit.

Indeed, despite specific Vatican admonitions, parishes themselves have been known to sponsor reiki events and priests have spoken of it from the altar.

Those who are apprehensive about such practices are looked upon as overly wary, closed-minded, or even paranoid.

If so, they are joined by the Vatican and many experts on occult dangers. The argument: reiki is not really manipulation of occult energy but simply a meditation technique in which the healer acts as a conduit to reorient a person's own energy. "Healing pulsations" are activated.

It is used for everything from anxiety, sleep disorders, and indigestion to diabetes and cancer.

Tests have shown such benefits -- at least in the short term -- that major hospitals have allowed the practice, including Catholic ones (such as St. Vincent's Hospital's Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York). It comes at a time, ironically, when practices such as Eucharistic Adoration have been resisted by chapels, churches, and convents.

 But in fact traditional Christianity has produced healings that are vastly more numerous, time-tested, and impressive. Thousands of cures were attributed, for example, to a humble Canadian monk named Brother André Bessette at an oratory in Montreal.

His cures were effected largely through treating those who came to see him with olive oil from a lamp that burned in front of a statue of St. Joseph. When it is said that thousands were cured , such is meant literally.

Like reiki practitioners, Brother Andre often put his hands on the infirm for forty minutes and in some cases even hours -- massaging the areas of illness with the holy oil or a medal.

The difference: the energy Blessed Andre invoked was the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Christ and with the help in particular of a truly hidden power named St. Joseph.