Category Archives: Personal

Can Catholics “Pray Over” People? Answering 3 Objections to the “Laying On Of Hands”

I grew up in a very “charismatic” family. To me, though, we were just Catholic.

As far as I was concerned, everybody who was Catholic went to mass on Sundays, listened to Scott Hahn tapes (yes, TAPES) on long car rides, and had grandfathers who would pray over people, receive words of prophecy, and experience God manifesting physical healings through the laying on of hands.

It wasn’t until I grew up and met other devout Catholics that I learned that there are some within the Church who are not on board with the “style” of prayer on which I was raised. There are those who view laypeople praying over one another as maybe not-totally-ok or perhaps even not in line with Church teaching.

Well listen here, y’all. There is nothing in Scripture or in Church teaching that prohibits laypeople from laying hands on one another and asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Not a thing. I promise.

When you look this up, the closest “objection” from any official Church teaching you’ll find is to point out that praying over someone is not the same thing as a sacrament. There is a difference between a layperson praying over someone and a bishop conferring the sacrament of confirmation, or a priest giving absolution. Of course, those in the Charismatic Renewal will be the first to tell you this. We need the sacraments. Praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something we should all be doing regularly as Christians, in addition to receiving the sacraments.

But because praying over people is still sometimes seen as “weird” or “not ok” in some Catholic circles, I wanted to write to answer some common objections I’ve encountered over the years.

 “God Doesn’t *Need* You To Lay Your Hands On Someone”

This is absolutely true. God can work miracles in whichever way He pleases, and He is certainly not bound to our physical actions. There is nothing *magical* about physically laying your hands on someone to pray for them.

Still, there is no denying that throughout Salvation History, God employs physical means to carry out His Divine power. We see this from the very beginning. Adam is formed from the dust of the ground, Eve is taken from his rib. In Exodus, Moses must hold his arms in the air in order for the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites in battle. When his arms inevitably grow tired, Aaron and Hur have to come to his side to hold his arms for him, because when they drop, the Amalekites begin to win the battle. It seems so arbitrary (and how foolish they must have looked!). Surely God could’ve told Moses that all He needed to do was pray fervently and silently for the duration of the battle—but for whatever reason, that’s not what God wanted. Even in Jesus’ ministry, He heals a blind man with spittle and dirt. Surely He didn’t need either, but for some reason, Jesus used physical matter to do His Father’s work.

Of course God doesn’t need us to lay our hands over every person we pray for, but if He asks you to, will you?

“It’s ‘Too Showy’”

This one goes with the previous objection, and perhaps even gives some context for it. Yes, praying over someone makes a bit of a scene. And to some extent that’s probably the point.

Laying your hands on someone to pray for them is a physical witness to your belief in the power of God. When you lay your hands on someone and ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you’re saying that you believe that God will answer when He is called upon. You’re counting on Him to show up, right then and there. You’re not demanding for Him to do so, of course, but as Christians we believe our God is faithful, good, and loving to His children. Why wouldn’t we expect Him to show up?

This is not presumption. It’s faith. God may not answer our prayers in the way we expect or want Him to, but God answers the prayers of His children.

“It Ought To Be About The Giver, Not The Gifts”

I agree with this. And I think most people I’ve met who pray over others agree with it, too.

The thing is, the Giver wants to bestow His gifts on us. Sometimes we’d prefer that He did not, as His gifts are often heavy crosses that seem impossible to bear. But as we progress in holiness, we learn that it is when we embrace these crosses that we come closest to Jesus.

Ironically, many who raise this objection of “Giver and not Gifts” to those in the Charismatic Renewal are among the first to point out that we should not reject the gifts of God when they are crosses, but for whatever reason these same people struggle to accept that God also might have sweet gifts of charisms of the Spirit to bestow on His children, too. Well, just as “charismatic” Catholics must be cautious of not becoming distracted by gifts of the Spirit, so should “traditional” Catholics be cautious of rejecting the gifts God wants to bestow on them in the name of fear masquerading as a kind of false piety.

To be honest, I’ve found myself leaning towards both directions at different points in my life. The fact is that we need to embrace all the gifts God has for us, simply because He wants us to have them.

Conclusion

So rest assured, my friends. There is nothing “unCatholic” about praying over one another! It is completely in keeping with Scripture and with Church teaching.

By the way, if you’re new to this “style” of prayer–or even if you’re not!– I highly encourage you to check out “The Wild Goose Is Loose” produced by 4PM media. It is a great overview and introduction to praying to and with the Holy Spirit!

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I’m Getting Old, Guys.

Well, it was going to happen eventually.

YoungAndCatholic.net is now MaryPearsonBlog.com 🎉

At just shy of 27, I think I can still reasonably command the descriptor of “young” –for at least a little while longer (..maybe?). But in matter of just a few years things were going to start getting real awkward, real fast. And while “Middle-Aged And Catholic” has a nice ring to it, I concluded it is probably safest to just stick with my actual name, as I don’t anticipate that changing with time.

I’ll be writing more or less the same kinds of things here as I always have: Matters relating to the Catholic faith, how I’m trying to live out my faith, and generally just what I feel God puts on my heart to share with all of you.

With the new blog title comes a shiny new tagline: “Words, when necessary.”

Yes, it is based off of that old quote attributed (most likely falsely) to Saint Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.”  And yes, it is a little cheesy. That’s probably why I like it.

It seemed to fit for a number of reasons:

  1. Even though people often use the quote to get out of saying the hard things, I do agree with the spirit of it. Our whole lives should give witness to Christ. We can’t always be preaching in the classic sense of the word, but we can, and should, always be preaching by the way we live our lives.
  2. Who of us hasn’t used some version of this quote to try to weasel out of saying the hard things? It’s a bad excuse, but sometimes I’m a person who makes bad excuses for not living up to my calling as a Christian. Own it, and work on being better.
  3. Words are necessary. And sometimes, as a mom of little people, I don’t always feel I have the proper outlet for my necessary words. So, this blog will [continue to be] be a place for those.
  4. Finally, as anyone who has ever met me can attest, I’m a pretty quiet person. I tend to only speak up when I feel necessary. In that way, I think the tagline in its most literal sense is pretty, “me.” 🙂

So, that’s that. I’m also not great with the website stuff so if things seem a little broken or “off,” or if you catch leftover “YoungAndCatholic” flare– just bear with me (and kindly let me know).

Why Isn’t God Answering My Prayers?

I posted the Saint Andrew Christmas novena last week. I try to post it every year because it holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of my first Christmas with my husband’s family back in 2011. It reminds me of my father-in-law (who now prays it with our family from Heaven).  Most importantly, it reminds me to focus my heart on Christ’s coming (at least three times per day) during this advent season.

So yeah, I love this prayer.

People often share novenas alongside stories of answered prayers. For example, the first time I prayed this novena I prayed for mine and Tyler’s relationship. He proposed 5 days after that Christmas. The next time I prayed the novena I prayed for us to be blessed with a baby within our first year of marriage. Our son was born ten months later.

God answers prayers.

Well, two years ago I prayed this novena for the intention that my father-in-law would be healed completely and miraculously from his cancer.

He passed away exactly 6 months after Christmas.

I feel a little bad saying that I don’t even really remember what my intention was for the St Andrew Novena last year. I do remember it was certainly harder to stay on top of praying it last year, maybe because it is such a reminder of Doug.

However, this year as well as last year I have received discouraged comments from readers (perhaps echoing my own fears) stating that God never seems to hear or answer their novena intentions. To those readers (and my discouraged self), I direct you to the first comment on the first post I ever wrote sharing this novena. It happens to be from my late father-in-law–the one who shared the novena with me in the first place:

I LOVE this “novena” even though the number nine has nothing in common with it! One year I prayed for the improvement of the financial situation of one of my adult children and their family… almost immediately after the prayer was done the husband lost his job!!! Funny (scary sometimes) how God works, that was what needed to happen to them in order to get things headed in the right direction.

God answers prayers, just not always in the way we expect.

Rest assured, dear reader, your prayers are not going unanswered, and God most certainly does hear you. His ways are not our ways.

Jesus, we trust in you!

novena

mary-sig

Abortion Advocates: I Am Not Your Enemy

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States 43 years ago.  There are forecasts of a potential blizzard in Washington D.C., but the 2016 March For Life is still expected to go on as scheduled, as will the other walks and demonstrations planned throughout the country.

On the pro-abortion side of things, you might notice on social media today and tomorrow that women are being encouraged to share– proudly– their stories of abortion.  It is said to be an attempt to “lift the stigma” and “free” these women from the “shameful silence” they have been sentenced to because of people against abortion–people like me.

It might be an empowering narrative, the only problem is: It’s not true.

Please understand, I am not saying the stories are untrue, or that these women are in any way lying.  Nor am I denying the bravery it takes for any woman, regardless of her beliefs, to come forward and speak about something as personal and difficult as an abortion.  I am, however, calling out the “movement” for what it is: It is a lie.

Abortion advocates, I believe I can speak for virtually all of the pro-life movement in saying: 

I am not your enemy.

The one who has made you feel shamed into not being able to bring to the light what was probably the hardest decision of your life?  That was not me.

But I can relate.

See, I have made decisions in my life that have caused me to feel ashamed and cowered into silence.  I have done things I felt might be better hidden or kept in the darkness rather than discussed openly in the light.  In those times it has often seemed easier for me to blame others for my feelings of guilt and shame (“Society” has deemed this behavior “bad.”  It’s just my “Catholic guilt,” etc.)  than to acknowledge that these things were, in fact, mistakes that hurt me.

The truth is that the desire to hide in the darkness of shame comes not usually from other people, but from the real Enemy, the one who comes only to kill and destroy.  Satan wants nothing more than for us to feel ashamed, to hide, and to be kept in silence by those sorts feelings.

So abortion advocates: Do you want to talk about your abortion?  Please, let’s talk about it.  Let’s talk about it with honesty and compassion, without name-calling or condemnation.  

The truth is that this is what the pro-life movement has been after all along.  Bring it to the light.  Let’s be honest with women about what abortion actually looks like, about what the stages of development of life in the womb looks like.  Be honest that abortion stops a heart from beating, and terminates the development of a unique life never to be repeated again.  Perhaps most important of all, let’s be honest about the emotional pain an abortion so often brings with it.  Be honest that abortion so very often ends up hurting tremendously the very women it claims to help.

The truth is that calling something bad good will not make it so, no matter how much we try.  Uploading a video or tweeting 140 characters may bring with it a brief feeling of empowerment and pride, but if we are honest with ourselves, that gnawing emptiness will come again in the silence of the night and we will be faced with the grim reality of the lie we have been sold:

Bad is not good.  False is not true.  Darkness is not light.

The Enemy wants you to stay in the darkness that says that bad can be good; to stay in that darkness that says the antidote to shame is pride.  But the antidote to shame is humility and truth.  The antidote to shame is Jesus.  He is the only one who can truly free us from our shame and cleanse us of our guilt–not through vain tweets or social media campaigns, but through real healing that lasts.

All we have to do is take that grace-filled first step, out of darkness and into the light.

43yearspin

 

Jesus, We Trust In You!

http://hopeafterabortion.com/

 

mary-sig