Is there Healing in the Catholic Church?

Is there Healing in the Catholic Church?

 

 

Introduction

Some people have always asked and even some doubted whether there is healing ministry or power in the Catholic Church. The doubted has been increased by the growing number of church who claim to perform healing miracles. In this short article we shall try to answer this question and remove any doubt that there is in truth healing in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church believes and understands that Jesus has left in her the power to heal. “As you go…heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the paralytic, cast out demons” (Mt.10:8). In his public ministry here on earth Jesus healed people in several occasions both those with physical illnesses and those who were possessed by demons.

And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mr 1:34).

Although he left the world he loved his people of the world so much (Jn 13:1) so that he willed that his healing ministry continues in the world. That is why he said “I still have other sheep. I must also bring them, so that there is only one flock and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16).

So that his ministry of healing may continue in the world he left this healing power and mission in the Church. “When he was lifted up he rendered captivity captive and gave gifts to men” (Eph 4:8).

How does the Church exercise her Healing Office?

1.      Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)

In the Catholic Church a sinner is understood to be spiritually sick and requires healing as Jesus himself put “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:31).

The Church offers healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation through the ministry of her priest. It is Jesus himself who left in the Church the power to forgive sins when he commissioned the Apostles “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven” (Jn 20:23) which is now exercised by those with ministerial priesthood in the Church.

 

2.      Through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament has been erroneously understood as the sacrament of the dying. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “The Anointing of the Sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (CCC 1514).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church continues to teach that this sacrament can be received more than once “If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same sickness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated” (CCC 1515).

The reception of this sacrament is encouraged by St. James when he teaches “Is any one among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save him, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas 5:14-15).

Effects of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

i.            It strengthens peace and courage to the sick person to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age (CCC 1520).

ii.            By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion (CCC 1520). This gives the sick person some relief as Paul says “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24).

iii.            The Church prays for the sick person who also prays for himself that if it is God’s will he be restored to his health (CCC 1512 & 1522).

Recent days have witnessed many people buying and using olive oil as advertised by many churches. For a Catholic the use of such oils is not sacramental. One may use them as physical medicine if it is so prescribed by a physician. It is also important to note that “Only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick” (CCC 1516).

The word of God teaches us “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed” (Prov 9:5 ). “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Isa 55:2).

3.      Participation in the Medical Sector

This is done by some of the members of the Church participating in the medical sector as medical doctors or medical practitioners in hospitals or those who heal by traditional herbs in our community. Moreover, the Church establishes and manages health facilities like hospitals, medical schools and clinics and by sponsoring medical students.

The Church understands that God who is the ultimate healer has created the healing power in nature and gave some of us the wisdom to recognize and apply them through science. That is why the church teaches and encourages all those who are involved in the medical sector in our societies to recognize the sacredness of their ministry as they do so in the name of the Church and indeed in the name of God who uses them to impart healing to His people. This is what Sirach has to tell us:

Give doctors the honor they deserve, for the Lord gave them their work to do. Their skill came from the Most High, and kings reward them for it. Their knowledge gives them a position of importance, and powerful people hold them in high regard.

The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible person will not hesitate to use them. Didn’t a tree once make bitter water fit to drink, so that the Lord’s power might be known?  He gave medical knowledge to human beings, so that we would praise him for the miracles he performs.  The druggist mixes these medicines, and the doctor will use them to cure diseases and ease pain. There is no end to the activities of the Lord, who gives health to the people of the world” (Sirach 38:1-9).

4.      Taking Care of the Sick

When we take care of the sick in our families or in hospitals we are carrying out the healing ministry of church. Jesus himself recommended this as among requirements for one to be admitted into heaven “I was ill and you visited me” (Mt 25:36).

 

5.      Through Offering Counseling to the Sick

This can be offered informally by those who visit the sick and other medics who are trained as counselors. Priests also do counseling in their ministry and they are trained for that in their priestly formation. Priests always offer counseling to the sick even if they do not publicize it on TV or other media.

6.      Praying for the Sick

Another way through which the Church exercises her power and mission of healing is by praying for the sick. This is done through the Sacrament of Anointing of Sick as explained above and through other prayers in the Church during Mass or as we gather in the families of the sick, in our small Christian communities (Jumuiyas)  or when we visited the sick in hospitals. What do we pray for?

  1. That the patient may get all that is required to see a doctor
  2. That the doctor may be able to understand the disease and the medicine to cure it.
  3. That the medicine applied may cure the disease
  4. That the patient may not lose heart because of the illness
  5. That those involved in taking care to the patient may do so with love, patience and that God may reward them for their loving care.

Sirach again tells how to combine doctors and prayers:

My child when you get sick, don’t ignore it. Pray to the Lord, and he will make you well. …Then call the doctor—for the Lord created him—and keep him at your side; you need him. There are times when you have to depend on his skill. The doctor’s prayer is that the Lord will make him able to ease his patients’ pain and make them well again.” (Sirach 38:9-14).

7.      Exorcism

When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his domination, it is called exorcism” (CCC 1673). What Jesus did when he cast out demons was exorcism (CCC 1673).

The Church believes and understands that the devil can also possess God’s faithful and cause them physical and spiritual harm with an intention that the person does not serve God effectively and does not reach salvation.

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke” (Lk 11:14). This demon had made the man mute so that he could not praise God.

“…a man with an unclean spirit … living among the tombs…was always crying and bruising himself with stones” (Mt 5:1-13).

Jesus healed many people who were possessed by evil spirits and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcising (CCC 1673).

How does the Church exercise Exorcism?

i. Minor Exorcism

This is done during the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism (CCC 1673).

ii.  Major Exorcism

The solemn casting out of demons is called major exorcism. This is what could be referred in today’s language as “kutoa mapepo.” This is what people would like to see happening every day and since they do not see happen so often may have been the reason for many to conclude that “there is no healing in the Catholic Church.

The Church performs exorcism with great care and caution to avoid any abuses:

1. Solemn exorcism can only be performed by the priest at the permission of the bishop (CCC 1673 and Can.1172). Although every priest by virtual of ordination is an exorcist, to exercise this faculty he requires a special permission from his bishop.

2. The Church again cautions the permitted priest “The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church” (CCC 1673). The church has established the rules, procedures and prayers to be followed when exercising this ministry.

3. Illness especially psychological illness is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science (CCC 1673).

This is very important so that one does not apply a wrong solution to a wrong problem. Many people view all illnesses as possession by the devil and seek spiritual intervention. Let us take a problem to when it belongs. If it is malaria already God has given us doctors and medicines to treat it. Through the doctors God will heal the malaria patient not through exorcism.

This problem has been aggravated by current preachers. They make people think all problems are caused by evil spirits: there are people who have blocked your success, your business, your promotion; you cannot get a child; you cannot succeed in your studies because they have blocked you. They create and problem, scare people and pretend to offer a solution, just for the love of money. If you want to advertise any soap brand first scare people that there are germs everywhere and then convince them that your soap can stop and kill the germs.

Conclusion

I believe it is now clear that there is healing in the Catholic Church. What is needed is to get a clear understand of illness, the nature of the Church and how the Church heals. It is also important not to attribute to the devil any kind of illness and always to avoid seeking spiritual solution to every problem. As Catholics, let us make use of the richness of the Sacraments that we have in the Church. Let us be proud of what we are and what Jesus has done for us.

 “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Isa 55:2).

 

 

I wish you a blessed celebration of the Day of the Sick – 11th February.

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