As a Roman Catholic, contemplative nun (so I'll stay anonymous) I’m glad to share some thoughts on potential areas of concern for Catholics looking to receive ministry at CCIM. I hope this analysis will encourage others, hesitant Catholics in particular, to pursue their own journey of mind renewal with the help of CrossCounsel. Their ministry has been a great blessing to many, myself included.
This "Catholic’s Guide to CrossCounsel, Catholicism and TPM" I have written has been reviewed for theological accuracy by Father John Yockey, Ph.D.
CrossCounsel, Catholicism and Transformational Prayer Ministry
1. Is it appropriate for a Catholic to receive ministry at CrossCounsel?
CrossCounsel International Ministries, though Protestant founded and operated, bases their ministry on such fundamental Christian principles that it creates very little conflict with Catholicism. I cannot speak for the Church, but I personally see no problem with Catholics taking advantage of this amazing ministry that God seems to be using to transform lives.
The approach used at CrossCounsel is very simple. It’s based on two things: how the mind works and who God is. Our mind operates by association; we learn and function by building on and referring to past experience. And experiential knowledge is more important, even if less conscious, than intellectual knowledge in determining our actions and behavior. God is all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, and desires our holiness, wholeness, healing, and salvation more than we do. These are basic principles of psychology and Christianity. Put them together, and we get the ministry at CrossCounsel that prayerfully guides its clients to choose to be open to receive God’s healing truth in their past, thereby transforming their present, and giving hope to their future.
2. How does receiving ministry at CrossCounsel fit in with the rest of my Catholic Christian life?
God calls us to continual conversion. The Christian life entails striving to become more Christ-like, to grow in charity and holiness, to know and love God better, to serve others selflessly. We are called to be perfect just as our Heavenly Father is perfect (see Matt 5:48). This perfection is way beyond our natural capacities. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, is the One who perfects and sanctifies us. We need only to cooperate. But usually we are unaware of just how resistant we are to His work and just how many obstacles we place in His path. This is the main reason for ascetical practices like fasting and disciplining ourselves, so that we can be more free to respond to grace. We can also hinder the Spirit from transforming us by believing and thus acting out of false inner beliefs.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (see John 16:13). When we live in falsehood how can we live out the truth and freedom of our being sons and daughters of God? Therefore, mind renewal, the replacement of lies with the truth of Christ, is an important part of Christian conversion. God can renew our minds in many ways, such as life circumstances and relationships, and encountering Him in the Sacraments and through prayer. CrossCounsel offers an amazing and effective ministry that intentionally focuses on this aspect of our Christian conversion, helping us to allow God to transform us with His Truth. “Before Christ’s gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi).
As incredible as this ministry is, it cannot stand alone, nor can it replace the sacramental life in the Church. On our path of conversion we are upheld by the grace of the Sacraments. Our Protestant brothers and sisters are unknowingly famished without this grace and I am always edified by their perseverance in the absence of this great help.
I have found, and other Catholics have shared with me the same experience, that frequent Confession, participation in the Mass, and reception of Holy Communion are indispensable to supplementing their ministry at CrossCounsel. And the healing and growth as a result of this ministry enriches their prayer life and participation in the Sacraments. Encountering Christ and His healing and freeing Truth should overflow into the rest of our lives, and bear fruit in charity and holiness. We should grow in our love for God, for others, and for the Church, the very Body of Christ.
“The Saint is the person who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth as to be progressively transformed by it. Because of this beauty and truth, he is ready to renounce everything, even himself. Love of God is enough for him, experienced in humble and disinterested service to one’s neighbor.” (Pope Benedict XVI, homily for Mission Sunday, 2005)
3. If unconfessed sin comes up in a ministry session, don’t I have to go to the Sacrament of Confession to be forgiven?
At times, unconfessed sin can impede receiving truth and healing. When we sin, we reject God’s love for us and with mortal sin we turn completely away from God. In such a state, especially when we’re dealing with an attachment to habitual sin, our souls are not free to turn back to God to receive truth, even though He offers it to us.
First, the relationship needs to be mended; we need to repent, confess our sins, and receive God’s forgiveness. For Catholics, this forgiveness is received in the Sacrament of Penance. Often contrition, or sorrow for sin, along with the resolution to receive the sacrament as soon as possible, is enough to move forward in a session. The Catechism states:
Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again. When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible. The contrition called ‘imperfect’ (or attrition) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself, however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance. (CCC 1451-1453).
Additionally, preparation for the sacrament is certainly appropriate within the context of a session at CrossCounsel. Sometimes lie-based thinking about God’s forgiveness needs to be addressed, such as ‘God could never forgive me this’ or ‘I am worthless because I did this’. It’s also important to address false guilt and false shame. At times we have trouble accepting the forgiveness God has already given, or we don’t feel forgiven of something we have already genuinely confessed, or we feel like we are guilty of something that is not actually our fault. These are all lie-based, and can be addressed in a ministry session.
Moreover, it is also beneficial to consider the sources and motivation behind our sinful behavior. Sin is often a form of pain management. We sin in an attempt to relieve some of the lie-based pain we carry, especially when our lies are triggered by life situations. This does not excuse our sinful behavior, since we freely choose to sin. But it does provide hope that as God replaces the falsehood we believe with truth, thereby removing the pain those lies were causing, we can more easily reject temptation and sin. This mind renewal process, along with the abundant grace of the sacrament of Penance, can help us live in the true freedom of the children of God.
4. What is demonization and what does the Church have to say about it?
Although not a frequent occurrence, it could happen that there is a demonic influence in a session. This is not surprising, considering the devil, the father of lies, certainly does not want our lies to be removed so we could know the Truth and find freedom from his influence. Even though defeated by Christ on the Cross, the devil is still a powerful creature. He tempted our first parents, and continues to wage war against their children.
A quick glance through the Catechism is enough to see that the Church takes the devil and his fallen angels very seriously:
By our first parent’s sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though he remains free. Original sin entails captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil (CCC 401).
Christians believe that the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one (CCC 421).
Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled with power and great glory by the king’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover (CCC 671).
The Second Vatican Council upheld the Church’s long-standing teaching on the devil and evil. It did not dismiss the devil as an out-dated myth, nor reduce his influence to psychology.
Although set by God in a state of rectitude, man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at the very start of history… Man therefore is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness. Man finds that he is unable of himself to overcome the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though bound by chains. But the Lord himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out the prince of this world, who held him in the bondage of sin… Both the high calling and the deep misery which men experience find their final explanation in the light of this Revelation. (Gaudium et Spes, 13)
The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. (Gaudium et Spes, 37)
Catholics rarely use the term ‘demonization’ so it’s hard to know the Church’s exact stance in this area. Angels, whether fallen or not, cannot force our wills, but they can suggest things to our imagination, influence our emotions, and (more rarely) affect the physical world. But they only have power over us to the degree that God allows.
There are various terms and categories used, but we generally think of the devil and demons as having the powers of temptation, opposition, oppression, and possession. We are all familiar with temptations, those deceptive suggestions that the devil specializes in, making things that are not exactly good seem to be good and desirable. Opposition are all those ways that the devil and his angels try to impede the spread of the gospel, hinder the conversion of sinners, thwart the salvation of souls, distort the truth, and cause divisions within the Body of Christ. Oppression can take many forms. This is when the devil or demons afflict, burden, harass, or bind us with things like: intense emotion (for instance, depression, anger, or discouragement); external tragedies (such as with Job); illness (see the many examples in the Gospels); horrible visions, physical manifestations, or even bodily harm (as seen in the lives of some saints, such as the Cure of Ars, Patre Pio, and St. Catherine of Siena). Possession is a grave turning away from God and opening oneself to evil. Demonic possession is not possible in someone who is in a state of grace. (Yet, there have been exceptions, such as infrequent cases in which it seems that simple religious indifference and not willful choice resulted in possession, and rare examples in which God has allowed someone to be oppressed to the degree of possession even though involuntarily and while seeming to be in a state of grace).
The Church uses exorcism (solemn exorcism) to drive away a demon in the case of possession and deliverance (simple or private exorcism) in the case of oppression, both with the power and authority of Christ’s name, which makes the victory of the cross present. Only a priest who is expressly assigned as an exorcist by the Church can perform a solemn exorcism. But any baptized Christian can do a simple exorcism. “Private exorcism which truly is not sacramental can be executed by all the faithful. The effectiveness of this exorcism is not derived from the authority or prayers of the Church, nor is it done with the name of the Church, but in virtue of the name of God and Jesus Christ” (Noldin and Schimitt, Summa Theologia Moralis). The Roman Ritual has suggested formulas for simple exorcisms, one short form is, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you unclean spirit to depart from this creature of God.”
I would categorize demonization as a form of oppression. This oppression can be voluntary or involuntary. If it is not a willed oppression, then praying a prayer of deliverance would be appropriate. At times demons are oppressing us because our will is allowing it. Why would we willfully allow demons to oppress us? Simply because we perceive them to be ‘helpful,’ to render us some useful service usually related to pain avoidance. We have this perception only because we believe a lie. Receiving truth from the Lord removes the lie and renders the demon useless, allowing us to reject their influence. So the solution to willful oppression is the same as any other lie-based thinking: to replace enslaving lies with the freedom of truth.
5. Truth-based pain, how does it fit in with the Church’s teaching on redemptive suffering, shouldn’t I simply bear and “offer up” my truth-based pain?
Sometimes in a memory that all lie-based pain has been removed through receiving God’s truth, there still remains pain that is truth-based. The residual pain, taking the form of sadness, grief, sorrow, disappointment, or regret, is not rooted in lies that were believed but in the real truth of the experience or situation. Lies need God’s truth, but the truth does not need more truth, so has to be dealt with differently. The Church’s long-time teaching on suffering can differ somewhat from the Protestant viewpoint. Many Catholics who encounter truth-based pain in a ministry session question the practice of giving this pain to Christ to carry for them. It seems contrary to the value we as Catholics place on suffering, and this particular wording (asking Christ to carry the pain) strikes a cord of concern over the validity of this practice. Yet on further consideration, this approach is not necessarily inconsistent with Church teaching.
Suffering is an evil; it’s a result of the fall. God cannot directly will an evil, but He can allow it, along with the promise to bring a greater good out of it. “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: For almighty God because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself “ (CCC 311).
The greatest evil ever committed, the Crucifixion of Christ, the brutal murder of God Himself, brought about the greatest good, the Salvation of humanity. Christ, by His passion, death, and resurrection, has transformed and given new meaning to suffering. Joined to His, our own suffering can be redemptive. We can say with St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). Not that Christ’s Passion was somehow insufficient but rather God wills that, in some mysterious way, Jesus’ work of Redemption be continued in the suffering of His members.
“The Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension- the dimension of love- the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limit; but at the same time He did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, though which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened Himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed.” (Blessed John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris).
Suffering has a time and a place in the plan God has laid out for each of our lives (see Ecc 31-8). He allows sorrows and sufferings and uses them to form us into His image and bring good to others. But very often we have borne the truth-based pain in our lives long enough. The time and season for that grief or sadness is complete. We do not need to hold onto it any longer and God asks us simply to hand it over to Him. He delights in our joy and happiness, and never in our suffering, even though, in His Providence, He allows all we need for our holiness and salvation, which mysteriously always includes suffering. We usually don’t need to go looking for penance and suffering; God often provides enough in our present that there is no need to hold on to pains from the past. Sometimes it does seem to be God’s will for us to let Him remove the burden of the truth-based pain we carry.
If God does not will at this time to remove the burden of our truth-based pain in a memory, He always wants to bear it with us. Christ desires for us to unite our pain and suffering with His, so that it can, in some mysterious way, take part in His redemptive suffering. This joining of our suffering with Christ’s suffering somehow transforms it, so that it does not exclude joy and peace and happiness. We still bear our cross but we find the burden has a degree of lightness and the suffering a measure of sweetness.
“Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else He says: “Follow me!” Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my cross! Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him… It is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy.” (Blessed John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris).
When we encounter truth-based pain in a memory, our best bet is to simply abandon ourselves to God’s will, allowing Him to remove our suffering or to unite it to Christ’s suffering.
One could ask, what about those saints who experienced the dark night of the soul (such as St. John of the Cross or Mother Theresa)? They felt abandoned by God, and bore the pain of separation from Him. Was this not lie-based pain, since God had not really abandoned them? In souls far advanced in the spiritual life, God sometimes allows a dark night of the soul, in which He removes all consolation of His felt presence and love in order to purify their love for Him, apart from His gifts. The pain of the dark night of the soul is truth-based, since God has in fact removed the feeling of His presence and grace and they feel that absence keenly, but it does not effect their belief that He is always lovingly present. Paradoxically, in the midst of this agony their faith was never stronger, their trust never greater, and their love never purer. God was so close that He seemed far away. They could never have born this dark night except in union with Christ, who Himself experienced this feeling of abandonment (my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) and yet maintained the loving trust of His heavenly Father that defined His whole life (not my will, but Yours be done; into Your hands I commend my spirit). The union with Christ in their truth-based suffering was further manifested by their radiant joy and peace, their burning love, their fruitful charity, and superhuman energy even while they felt this overwhelming darkness and dryness in their souls.