ON FAMILY-TREE HEALING
By Fr. James Manjackal MSFS
Reading through the articles against the validity and fruitfulness of family tree healing and generational healings as practiced by the Charismatics; I, who am in the ministry of healing for the last 33 years, would like to share a few observations and comments on this subject. The subject is very vast, and I am afraid that a capsule sized article may bring more doubts and confusions to the readers! If Jesus allows, my book on this subject may soon see the light of the press. In all these criticisms I find a strong anti-charismatic attitude especially towards the gift of healing. None of the critics have ever reportedly had an experience of family tree – healings, hence I doubt their credibility concerning this subject. All these criticisms are based upon prejudices and widespread ignorance, in a spirit of calumny and detraction towards those actively involved in the spiritual ministry of healing. I do admit that there are aberrations and drawbacks with regard to the teaching and practice of family tree healing; but to declare it as nonsense, unbiblical or contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church is all too judgemental and unchristian. Those who say that the healers involved in family tree healings are mislead by the new age influence are actually contradicting themselves, because they do not believe in the existence of sin or evil spirits, a widespread misconception of the New Age, thus in fact contributing to the new age and esoteric movements. Today there is a strong tendency to deny the existence of the devil, which is a tactic of the devil in itself, so that believers may not be prepared to fight a battle against Satan – this clearly stands contrary to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and the Church (I Pet 5: 8-9; Eph 6: 10-17).
The prejudiced, unfair and implicitly venomed attitude of a critic writes, “Some of this pseudo charismatic business is really an attempt to unravel and explain the inexplicable”. Let him know, with humility of heart, that there are many mysteries of God which are beyond our comprehension, but the Spirit of God in the Church through her teachings unveils such mysteries and makes them comprehensible and available for the people of God (I Cor 2: 9). I do not say that the souls of the dead are wandering around as ghosts to capture and entice people, but we know that there are occasions when the Almighty God allows the souls departed to visit men of prayer to plead for the prayers of such men. We must know that when someone is in sin, he belongs to Satan (I Jn 3: 8). When a person continues in sinfulness adding sins upon sins, the devil takes a tight and intimate hold on him, keeping him in blindness and darkness of the soul not allowing him to repent but rather forcing him to remain hard-hearted (Rom 1: 21; II Cor 4: 4; Eph 4: 18-19). If such a one dies without repentance, his soul definitively will go to God’s judgement; but Satan, who was holding him to sin, perhaps would wander around to snatch people into his ensnarement (Lk 11: 24-26; I Pet 5: 8). These are the spirits that have to be dispelled by prayers of deliverance. Otherwise they may enter into persons and families to impart the same character and manner with which they behaved in the past with sinners. I do pray for deliverance in my healing ministry and I have seen the marvellous effects of deliverance on the people and on their families. There are families which are sold to the power of Satan by “pacts with Satan and/or consecrations to Satan, etc”. I believe that an anointed priest has the power to undo such pacts and to liberate families from such bondages. One should not take the tactics of Satan lightly, saying that they are psychological phenomena and that they are only for those who fear them or worry about them! It is the result of the pure ignorance of those professors and scholars, who lack any pastoral experience with the poor people who live as suffering victims under the power of Satan. Jesus did cast out Satan and He gave this power (Charism) to the apostles and disciples (Mk 1: 21-25; Mt 10: 1; Lk 10: 18-20). Jesus said to the Jews opposing Him and planing to kill Him, “You are doing the works of your father (referring to Satan)…..you belong to your father, the devil, and you willingly carry out your fathers desires” (Jn 8: 41, 44). The Jews had the “tradition” of killing the prophets, so the spirit of murder was passed on to generations, to which Jesus was referring here. How can critics explain the clearly visible diabolical influence of Satan on innocent children in seemingly normal families, by way of possession or oppression! Perhaps good and holy priests like Fr. Amorth may contribute to this subject and enlighten those who are in ignorance.
If what is written in the Old Testament is only for the Jews of the time, why should we Christian still use the Old Testament? It is sad when someone proclaims that whatever is said in the Old Testament on the subject of families is solely applicable to the Jews of those times and not to us. God’s great concern and love for families can be clearly appreciated both in the Old and in the New Testament. I Thank God that one critic at least mentioned that the Ten Commandments are applied for all time until the end of the world. It is in the teachings on the Ten Commandments, according to the preaching and revelation of Moses, that we find the mention of curses on those who do not keep these commandments (Deut 26: 16-19, 27: 14-26; 28: 15-68). It is very clearly stated that curses, sickness, calamities, disasters, failures, etc, etc. will fall on those who disobey God’s word and commandments. The book of Isaiah speaks of a curse that devours the earth, “The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants who have transgressed the laws, violated statutes, broken the ancient covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its inhabitants pay for their guilt” (Is 24: 5-6). And the New Testament very clearly says “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law” (Gal 3: 10); and in the following words we read, “That Jesus Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse” (Gal 3: 30). As the Catholic ministers have the duty of administering forgiveness and reconciliations to the believers with the authority and power given to them by Jesus Christ through the Church, they have the equal duty and obligation to break the curses and the evil consequences which follow the non observances of the commandments.
The criticism that the belief in ancestral curses or generational curses is perversion of the Catholic doctrine of original sin is ridiculous. In fact the Catholic teaching on original sin and the removal of its consequence by Christian baptism is in itself is a confirmation of the theory that the evil effect of sin can be transferred into generations and that it can be removed by sacraments and prayers. If we are still affected by the sin of the first parents of the first family on earth, how much more will the sins of our ancestors in our families, to whom we have a very close blood relation, affect our lives negatively! I do agree that the sacraments have great power to break curses and to take away the negative consequences of all sins committed by our ancestors, and we who are in the ministry of healing instruct the believers to take recourse to sacraments, prayers, penance and sacrifices in the Church to obtain healing and liberation. In fact through the ministry of healing we are bringing the believers to a deeper experience of the power of the Sacraments in the Church especially the Sacrament of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
God created humanity as families, male and female He created them and put them together as husband and wife; and He saves them as families (Gen 1: 27-28; Acts 16: 31). Family life has its roots in the very first page of the Bible and every family in heaven and on earth has its origin in God our Father who is love (Eph 3: 15). Nobody can deny the fact that today the majority of problems in society and in the Church are due to the brokenness in the families of today – the family is the basic cell and foundation of every society. Both, good and bad people are born and brought up in good or bad families. The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family. Humanity began as families, continues as families, and the documents on family life from the Vatican state, “The family is a domestic Church”. Hence, family plays an important role in the making up of the church in its integrity and sanctity. Today you may go to any counsellor or psychologist with any problem in your mind, the first question he would ask would be, “is there anyone in the family with the same problem?” Medical doctors also ask the same question. Why ask such a question? The traits, behaviour patterns and characters both good and bad, can be transferred through the blood of the parents to the children. The millennia old saying “as the parents so the children” is still valid, even today.
I do absolutely agree that we should not blame our parents and ancestors for all our existing problems, but I cannot deny the fact that there are many problems coming from the ancestral background in family trees which trouble the members of the affected family. Jesus charged the Jews of the blood of the prophets killed, “Therefore the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’, in order that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you this generation will be charged with their blood” (Lk 11: 49-51). In Mathew it is written, “Now fill up what your ancestors measured out” (Mt 23: 32). When the Jews refused to accept the message of the Gospel preached by Stephan, he accused them thus, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like YOUR ANCESTORS” (Acts 7: 51). Perhaps the attitude of atheism, idolatry, arrogance, immorality, or any other negative trait can be transferred from generation to generation through a blood relation, as a matter of fact, simple genetics.
The inspired author of the book of Revelation refers to the spirit of Jezebel that disturbed the Church in Thyatira, “Yet I hold this against to you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, who teaches and misleads my servants to play the harlot and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2: 20). In the book of Kings we read about the pagan ways of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who was influenced by her to grab unjustly the vineyard of Naboth, a poor neighbour, after killing him, to bring the worship of Baal and to support its prophets exterminating the prophets of Yahweh. She plotted to kill Elijah the prophet who cursed her (I Kg 19: 1-2, 21: 1-14; II Kg 9: 22, 30-37). Her name is used in a cryptic way in the book of Revelation with an obvious allusion to the Jezebel of I and II Kings; it is probably applied to a prophetess of Thyatira who was doing the same evils to Christianity, so it is ‘pseudo’ to say that there is no reference whatsoever in the New Testament to any evil spirit or negative qualities transferred through the generations or about the need of generational healings.
It is not a mythical notion imported from sects outside the Church to pray for the healing of the family trees. “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked…” (Prov 3: 33). “The house of the wicked will be destroyed…” (Prov 14: 11). “Yes, affliction and distress will come on every human being who does evil…” (Rom 2: 9). A reading of Sirach 41: 5 to 9 will throw much light on this subject how the children are affected by the wickedness of the fathers. The book of Lamentation says, “Our fathers who sinned, are no more but we bear their guilt” (Lam 5: 7). I believe that the Word of God can not be changed because it is truth. The remedy suggested for the effective healing of a family tree is mainly forgiveness and reconciliation. In my healing programmes I tell the people to forgive all the relatives in the family especially the parents and ancestors and to reconcile with them all; and with love in the heart to ask God’s pardon for their sins, to do prayers, penance and charity on their behalf, to receive the Holy Communion for their sake and to offer Masses for them. Because Jesus loved us much He took our sins away upon Himself, and according to the Scripture He became sin for us (II Cor 5: 21). If we truly love a person we can also take his/her sins upon ourselves and ask God’s pardon and mercy. The Lord in His compassion, seeing our love in the heart will forgive his/her sins.
It is incorrect to assume that nobody can baptise a miscarried or aborted child. Perhaps it is based upon the ignorance of God’s word that baptism is necessary for salvation (Mk 16: 16). The text of St. Paul in I Cor 15: 29 clearly testifies that ‘baptism on behalf of the dead’ was a common practice in the early Church. He cited this in order to ascertain faith in the resurrection of the dead. It is very childish to say that we Catholics should not do it because the Mormons may be doing it! The Catholic Church took many good things from the good practices of other Churches and even from other religions. The power and blessing of the vicarious death of Jesus, which we receive in the sacraments, have great effect on those who are alive and dead. We Catholics offer Holy Masses for the dead because we believe that the power of the Mass will save souls from purgatory. So too, by giving baptism to the dead we are affirming and highlighting the tremendous saving power of the sacrament of baptism. It is sad that even some Catholic Theologians do not believe sufficiently in the resurrection of the dead, so they do not advise the people to pray for them or to offer masses for them. It has been the practice of the Church from the beginning to pray for those who passed away because we believe in the communion of saints. Through my teachings I try to bring the people to this good old tradition of praying for the souls in purgatory. When the people, who passed away from the family, are saved from purgatory by the good deeds of the family members, they will intercede for them and families in heaven. So I say, “make your ancestors saints by your prayers and sacrifices so that in heaven they will intercede for you before God”.
To conclude, family tree healing and generational healing are new subjects in the Catholic Church. Much study and discernment are required on these subjects. The Magisterium of the Church, without prejudice, should test everything and retain what is good (I Thess 5: 20). Outright condemnation is an unfair and unchristian attitude. The Church should see the good intention of those who pray for the healing of the families and the good results they bring about in the families. I have hundreds of such good testimonies especially of those who attended my retreats for married couples. The ministers of this anointed ministry of healing should be humble enough and open to the advices and corrections of the magisterium. Because the ministry of healing is not taken seriously by the Church, many Catholic believers are seeking healing from gurus and healers coming from other religions and sects and they fall prey to esoteric and new age practices, who inculcate “Familienausstellung”, “Breathing on families” “washing family trees”, etc. performed by cosmic energies and occult powers. This is the time that the Church, mother of all believers, knowing the signs of the times, should help the wounded people and the families for the healing and restoration to health through the exercise of the charisms of the good shepherd who goes after the wounded and scattered to bind the wounds and to heal by the efficacious power of the sacraments, sacramentals, charisms, and the prayers of the Church. Like the Psalmist who prayed to heal and to liberate from the guilt and evil effects of the sins of the forefathers, let us too lift ourselves and our families to the Heart of Jesus from where the Living Water and the Blood flow in order to heal and to give new life. “We have sinned like our ANCESTORS, we have done wrong and are guilty….” (Ps 106: 6-48).
(Fr. James is a Missionary of St. Francis de Sales of the South West Province of India, holding licentiate and doctorate in Philosophy, Theology and Anthropology, renounced his Professorship for the sake of the ministry of preaching, has travelled across more than 87 countries in all five continents continues preaching healing retreats and conventions to all classes of people)