In encountering those who may be possessed or other kinds of demonic attacks,
how might I protect myself in this area as a lay person?
The best spiritual protection is living a holy, faith-filled sacramental life. We encourage regular confession, and at least weekly Mass and reception of the Eucharist. This should be combined with daily prayer and regular use of sacramentals such as crucifixes in rooms, holy water, and holy pictures. If people believe they might be the subject of direct demonic influence, then daily deliverance prayers can be helpful. We encourage people to pray the daily “Auxilium Christianorum” prayers found on the APP by that name. There are also many deliverance prayers on our APP: "Catholic Exorcism" as well. In particular, the “Prayer against Retaliation” can be helpful when dealing with someone who may be possessed and also, the “Binding Prayers.” Both of these are found in the section: “Deliverance Prayers for the Laity." Fr. Chadd Ripperger’s book, "Deliverance Prayers: For Use by the Laity” is recommended. It has a number of good prayers of protection. Our website has a link to purchase the book here.
I am thinking about practicing Reiki. Is that okay?
Here is a document from the Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue. It covers the New Age Movement, the philosophy behind it and lists some of the practices that are included in it. It might be helpful to read it. It is important to understand the theological and spiritual presupposition embedded in these therapies and how they compare with the Church’s approach. When it comes to issues of physical health the Church recognizes the value and role of medical science. The question with many of the alternative medicines is what are the principles that inform them. Are they based on observable and verifiable data or some belief system that requires a type a faith? Many of the energy therapies come from the Hindu and Buddhist religions and are based on the tenants and practices of their faith. These are decidedly different from the Catholic faith.
Reiki is one example of this energy therapy and it has been condemned by the USCCB. Here is a link to the USCCB’s document on Reiki. These are some important quotes from the document:
6. Nevertheless, there are some Reiki practitioners, primarily nurses, who attempt to approach Reiki simply as a natural means of healing. Viewed as natural means of healing, however, Reiki becomes subject to the standards of natural science. It is true that there may be means of natural healing that have not yet been understood or recognized by science. The basic criteria for judging whether or not one should entrust oneself to any particular natural means of healing, however, remain those of science.
7. Judged according to these standards, Reiki lacks scientific credibility. It has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy. Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious. The explanation of the efficacy of Reiki depends entirely on a particular view of the world as permeated by this "universal life energy" (Reiki) that is subject to manipulation by human thought and will. Reiki practitioners claim that their training allows one to channel the "universal life energy" that is present in all things. This "universal life energy," however, is unknown to natural science. As the presence of such energy has not been observed by means of natural science, the justification for these therapies necessarily must come from something other than science.
8. Some people have attempted to identify Reiki with the divine healing known to Christians. They are mistaken. The radical difference can be immediately seen in the fact that for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal. Some teachers want to avoid this implication and argue that it is not the Reiki practitioner personally who effects the healing, but the Reiki energy directed by the divine consciousness. Nevertheless, the fact remains that for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the "Reiki Master" to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results. Some practitioners attempt to Christianize Reiki by adding a prayer to Christ, but this does not affect the essential nature of Reiki. For these reasons, Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace.
10. Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief. For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems. In terms of caring for one's physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.
11. In terms of caring for one's spiritual health, there are important dangers. To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction. While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible.
The principles used by the Bishops with regards to Reiki are the same principles that should be used to evaluate all such alternative and energetic therapies. These would be natural science and your Christian beliefs. Without the backing of science or the Christian Faith, engaging in energy therapies from the Hindu/Buddhist religions can open one up to the spiritual realities that animate these religious belief systems. The same applies to therapies that, although not based in a particular pagan religion, still use forms of divination to diagnose and/or prescribe treatments for illnesses.
Opening one’s self to spiritual forces that are not from the one, true God can be spiritually dangerous. Thus, Christians are advised to stay away from such approaches.
What are your thoughts on Unbound by Neal Lozano? I have encountered lay prayer ministers who believe that they, as lay Christians, have been given the authority to bind and to loose and thus see their work as a deliverance ministry in which they speak of casting out demons and evil spirits and speak of liberating souls from the oppression of malign spirits.
There are many potential benefits and abundant graces that result from such healing prayers. One place to tread lightly is in regards to Key # 4/Authority and the "word of command". Many Catholic exorcists agree that pastoral prudence is called for when suggesting that lay Christians directly command demons to be cast out. While theologically it is true that every baptized believer has authority to serve in Jesus’ name, laity with the intent to directly command demons to be cast out can be inviting trouble. It is our belief that leading persons themselves to cast demons out is both prudent and efficacious.
Moreover, exorcists often make the distinction between deprecatory prayers and imprecatory prayers. The laity are encouraged to use deprecatory prayers, ie., ask God to cast out the demons, rather than imprecatory prayers which command the demons directly. We recommend that the laity not engage or address demons directly, but rather encourage souls, in courage and clarity, to unearth and name their woundedness aloud, beseeching the Lord to take away their misery and to be freed.
Another important point to make is that once the woundedness has been named and spirits have been cast to the foot of the cross, an infilling of the power of the Holy Spirit, mercy of Christ, and Fathers love is essential. When our focus rests disproportionately on the workings of the enemy of our souls, rather than on claiming the promise and freedom of Christ Jesus, we again have a disordered and potentially risky perspective at play. When we prayerfully call upon and invite in the light of Our Triune God, to push back all darkness and take up residence, we are being obedient to the teaching of Jesus. We not only empty, sweep clean, and put in order, but invite our Lord to dwell within, filling us with hope, peace, joy & faith to name a few, lest “it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first.” MT 12:45.
A Wiccan just moved in a few houses over. I am wondering if we should remove our visible signs of faith, namely St Francis statue and Divine mercy image in front window, so as to not draw attention and provoke curses etc.?
Absolutely not! that would be a “win” for Satan... rather, trust that God and the Blessed Virgin will protect you. If you are concerned, pray the “Auxilium Christianorum” prayers daily which can be found in the APP under that name or online.