Immediately following the blessing, a woman across the church began, it seemed, to sob. Her cry, however, quickly turned into disturbingly loud shouts, shrieks, and pain-filled screams.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
9 October 2018
Last night I was honored with exposing the Blessed Sacrament and giving benediction at St. Joseph Catholic Church during Fr. Greg Bramlage’s healing service. Fr. Bramlage is headquartered in the Diocese of Colorado Springs where Bishop Sheridan appointed him as director of Ministry of Prayer and Evangelization. Fr. Bramlage established the Missionaries of the New Evangelization and currently travels the world evangelizing and sharing the word of God with others.
Last night’s healing and prayer service was a truly wonderful experience on many levels. For many people, I suspect, it was a quite unique and even shocking experience, given what happened after everyone received a father’s prayer of blessing—I’ll get to that below. First, a little more background.
When Fr. Bramlage visited St. Joseph’s about a year ago, I witnessed many healing miracles take place via the power of Christ and his Spirit working through the faithful gathered together in prayer. For example, one gentleman who suffered from a degenerative bone disease entered the church on a motorized chair. He was unable to walk more than a few steps due to severe chronic pain in his spine and ankles. After the healing prayer service, which included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, he literally ran back and forth across the front of the church and even hoisted his wife into his arms!
Some people might think it was a setup. Although I did not personally know that man, there were many others healed who I did know personally. No, the healing power of Jesus is real. Jesus lives! He waits with open arms for each of us to fully entrust ourselves to him. It is through this self-gift in abandonment to Christ that transformative change is allowed to take place in your life.
At last night’s service, Fr. Bramlage spoke about the damage “word curses” can inflict on people, such as an authority figure in someone’s life who states, “You’re no good” or “You’re dumb” or “Your sister was always better than you” or “You’re not competent for this job” or “You’re ugly,” etc. People can be deeply wounded by these harmful judgments because they begin to identify with them. They make them their own and begin to live as if they’re really true. However, as Fr. Bramlage noted, they’re not true. These kinds of things are not what God says about us. And it is what God says about who we are that matters.
Fr. Bramlage urged everyone present to read in the Bible about who God says we are. It’s important to read about God’s promises, his unconditional love for each one of us, and his unwavering dedication to providing for our eternal well-being. He recommended finding a passage of scripture that you can make your own. God’s word is active, transformative, it has the power to change your life because through it Christ becomes present to you. Here’s one of my favorites:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
The importance of forgiving others in order to receive healing in Christ, whether of a physical or spiritual nature or both, was also an element Fr. Bramlage stressed. Harboring resentment in our hearts hurts only ourselves, and anger often becomes an obstacle to experiencing the healing presence of Christ. The ability to forgive others is itself a work of Christ’s grace. Therefore, we must pray for this grace and then put it into action. Spiritual healing and forgiveness are inseparably bound together, as we state in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mt 6:14-15).
So, we see that receiving God’s mercy is tied to our willingness to extend mercy to others. Said another way, receiving the fullness of God’s love is bound up with living a life of love as God loves. For this reason, spiritual healing will not normally occur in the absence of forgiveness because a closed, hardened heart is often unreceptive to God’s love. As St. John reminds us, it is not possible to truly love God while, at the same time, entertaining hate for a brother or sister:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 Jn 4:20-21)
Physical healing of a miraculous nature in and of itself is something different. For example, Jesus often physically healed others simply because they asked it of him, without any other requirement on their part. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers after they cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us” (17:13). Nevertheless, if we are to speak of permanent healing in terms of salvation, which includes both spiritual and physical wellness in the general resurrection, our willingness to forgive others—as opposed to harboring anger and hate—in order to receive the forgiveness and salvation Christ offers becomes a requirement. In fact, we find forgiving others is commanded in a number of places. Again, in Luke’s gospel we find:
If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (17:3-4)
And in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives a particularly strict command to avoid hate, which implies forgiving others:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (5:21-22)
Obviously, the subject of healing becomes rather complex when considerations are given to the distinctions between physical and spiritual healing. Of paramount concern is the spiritual healing found in the salvation Christ offers for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in him. After all, mere physical healing means nothing in the end if a person dies in rejection of God’s love and in a state of mortal sin brought on by hate of others. For this reason, we should never jeopardize our soul by intentionally avoiding forgiving others and praying even for our enemies (see Mt 5:44). If we desire salvation (which means healing!), we must live as Christ lived. And we certainly find Jesus to be forgiving of his enemies, even those who crucified him (see Lk 23:34).
A Father’s Blessing
Another element of last night’s healing service was the importance of a father’s blessing given to his children. Fr. Bramlage reminded the faithful that God has given parents spiritual authority over their children. When a father blesses his children, he does so through the power of God the Father. In blessing his children and family, a father is participating in the will of God by bringing God’s grace and power into the lives of the members of his family.
Blessings are common to many Catholics. We receive a blessing at the end of every Mass. We bless our food, cars, and homes. We bless our spouse, children and families. We bless ourselves with the sign of the cross. As a result, these blessings can become something ordinary, something done out of habit without giving much thought to their power and importance. Although we know that God is working through our activities of blessing others, we begin to take blessings for granted. If you’re one of those people, last night would have shattered any level of complacency you might hold.
To both learn about and practice blessing others in our families, those in attendance were asked to place their hands on the people seated in front of them in the pews. Then everyone prayed a detailed, powerful blessing over the course of about five minutes. When finished, people switched places so that all could both pray and receive a blessing.
Immediately following the blessing, a woman across the church began, it seemed, to sob. Her cry, however, quickly turned into disturbingly loud shouts, shrieks, and pain-filled screams. I thought it would soon subside. I was wrong. Instead, the outburst only grew in intensity. Fr. Bramlage, whose voice was amplified by the sound system, urged everyone to focus on Jesus in prayer. The woman’s outcry grew in volume to the point that it drowned out his voice. Members of Fr. Bramlage’s prayer team quickly acted to usher her outside, where they continued to pray over her. She went screaming all the way.
People were shocked. I’m sure few if any of them had before witnessed anything like it. I have read about demonic influences in people’s lives. I’ve studied the topic. I’ve encountered people suffering from various forms of demonic activity. But I’d not seen anything quite like that. Fr. Bramlage, of course, had experience with these types of occurrences. He explained that what we had witnessed was a manifestation of an evil spirit. These manifestations can come in many forms: through pain, paralyzing fear, or controlling a person’s voice and forcing a violent outcry. The bottom line is this: the evil spirit harassing this woman found himself confronted by the healing power of Christ.
I don’t think anyone will doubt the power contained in a prayer of blessing again.
Tonight is night two of the mission. I look forward to more prayer and worship of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of humankind.
Photo Credit: Michael Pacher [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
This post was updated after its initial release to more accurately reflect the distinctions between physical healing and the spiritual healing found in forgiveness and union with Christ. Note also this correction: Although Fr. Bramlage’s ministry bears some resemblance to the Catholic charismatic renewal, he is not formally associated with the movement. His ministry focuses on prayer, healing and renouncing evil spirits in the name of Jesus.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.