I was once in a parish where people would introduce themselves to me by reciting pretty much their entire family tree. Visiting cemeteries to look for relatives, paying others to do research, going so far as to do DNA detective work, many others have also become fascinated with genealogy as well. Fine.
I must admit that I’m a bit cynical when pretty much everyone who does this kind of thing finds out that their family sported only the most heroic of kings and emperors of bygone millennia. I guess there’s one benefit. One can get a coat of arms. I’d rather make my own, as a simple priest. There would be a donkey, a few pigs, a cross, a few other things, with the saying: ἐσπλαγχνίσθη, in Greek. Probably those in my genealogical tree, surely kings and emperors all, would take umbrage with this. Probably I wouldn’t care. But I digress. And I’m probably making genealogists a bit upset. Sorry! My cynicism might just be fed by my childhood. My family moved around a bit, and we kids knew very little extended family, or even grandparents.
I remember first being annoyed with “possessed” or “infested” (what a word!) genealogical trees in the mid-1990s. Ever since, it seems to have become fashionable to be important by holding one’s family tree to be in dire trouble, so that you yourself become the savior of your ancestors by having them delivered or exorcized. So many people would contact the office, saying that their family tree had to be exorcized, or that there had been an attempt to deliver the family tree from the grip of Satan:
“I must surely be possessed by the devil because I heard stories that my great grandfather was possessed and I think that I’m possessed because surely he was possessed and that’s why I think I must be possessed. I hope I did the right thing. I don’t know if I did, but I went to get prayed over at the deliverance prayer group that’s run by a group of women on the other side of town. They invited that new priest there, you know, Father I’ll-Do-Anything-To-Be-Popular, to pray over me as well. And he did, and they did. I don’t feel right after that. Really bad. And I hear noises and stuff, like from the moment they prayed over me until now. I’m scared I did something wrong, and that now I can’t get out of it, and that I’ve been given over to Satan as well. Can you help me?”
Sigh. These poor people. And so many! Who’s misleading them? I mean, is this kind of thing recommended in magazines popular among some groups of charismatics or what? I mean, if anyone knows how this came about, send me an email. I’m afraid I’m always out of the loop on these kinds of things. I guess I have an aversion to all this, and everything associated with it. I don’t go looking for it. Maybe I should. I do see the result.
At any rate, let’s see the logic of possessed genealogical trees: Satan, an independent person, harasses someone once, and is therefore bound to by law, you know, the famous law of genealogical trees (legislated by whom?), bound to harass others in that family for generations to come, bound to do this even if he would like to go after better prey, better targets?
It is to laugh, followed by grief when one sees the trouble people get themselves into. People like to make themselves more important than Satan, who they imagine to be a kind of long living family pet that no one likes but no one can shoo away. With the same inconsistent illogic, they are important because they are bothered by Satan. Oooooo! Aaaaaahh! I’m impressed. Not. I’m being a bit rough here. Whoever came up with such a fantasy is most at fault. I suppose that would be Satan himself. He presents this lie, knowing that he is not bound by any family tree.
Why would Satan get people to think in this way? There are many reasons, not the least of which are outlined above. Pride is a terrible thing. Satan is willing to look like he’s at the beck and call of men in order to have us turn from God. Then he will turn on such as these.
Also, all this distracts people from original sin, which is, by the way, passed along by generation, not just mere imitation, starting not with merely this family or that, but from Adam onward, the full genealogical tree! However, note well: Original sin, while instigated by Satan’s deception of the woman, is not to be equated with Satan’s harassment of mankind. Of course, Satan does have the right to harass man because of Adam’s obedience to Satan instead of to God. Satan’s harassment is a consequence of sin. His harassment spans generations, from the beginning to the end. Today’s widespread denial of the existence of original sin has to be filled up with something, however non-sensical, in this case, personalized evil, Satan, who is his own person, but is not our original sin.
Again, Satan does what he wants, when he wants, to whomever he wants. He is not bound by genealogical trees. God permits this, for God can draw good out of evil. Satan does have a right to harass us because of sin, original and personal, but does not realize, despite his intelligence, and because of his utter lack of wisdom, that God can turn the tables on him with full irony, using such suffering of men to forge great saints. We can make up all the rules for Satan we want, but Satan couldn’t care less about our little rules and mistaken theology.
Let’s be clear about some things:
(A) Deliverance or exorcism of dead people is not possible. Unless dead people are in hell, they are not possessed. If they are in hell, they want to be there. No exorcism will help them out. If they are in heaven, they are not possessed by Satan. Sometimes I think that this possessed genealogy thing is non-Catholics creating a kind of non-sensical purgatory on earth in order to replace the Scriptural purgatory always held by Judeo-Catholic doctrine and life.
Anyway, if those who have died truly are in purgatory – understood in the Judeo-Catholic sense – then we have to know that such souls are holy, filled with sanctifying grace, and have the presence of the Most Holy Trinity within their souls. Having said that, it is probable that such holy souls are bothered by Satan in purgatory:
That the souls in purgatory awaiting heaven are being harassed by Satan would fittingly be part of God’s justice. We have to come to know just how much our Lord did for us so that we will have the joy of thanking Him in heaven. If we were not generous enough in accepting God’s grace in this life, we have to learn in purgatory what a suffering of hell it cost our Lord to redeem us. All hell broke out on Calvary, and our Lord, lifted on high on the Cross, draws us to Himself through this hell, whether we realize it on this earth or not. Again, if we fill our lives with escapism and don’t really come to know these truths in this life, we will have to go through hell in purgatory to know what it is that the Lord has done for us so as to be able to thank Him in heaven. When we are filled with thanksgiving for our Lord in the midst of such hell in purgatory, we go to heaven to pronounce our thanks to Him in person, with great joy, with great thanksgiving, humble thanksgiving. It is better to do this now, when we can grow in charity. Indeed, having become ready to go straight to heaven in this life, we can still grow more in charity, getting many souls out of purgatory, and helping people in the purgatory of this life. Those in the purgatory of the next life are literally helpless, depending on our prayers to speed them along to their joy of humble thanksgiving in heaven. No exorcism is going to help anyone in purgatory, however harassed those holy souls are in such a place. Prayers will help them get out of purgatory. The reason, again, why no exorcism will help, is that this is part of God’s justice… and His great mercy!
(B) Satan may make it look like he is bound by a genealogical tree, but he may have better things to do, other, better targets.
(C) There is no such thing an “infestation” of a spirit. Either he is there or he is not. He is not an illness, a weakness, a contamination. A family tree cannot be infested.
Now, let’s remember, there is another genealogy, that of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He’s the Son of God and the Son of Mary, but what of those names? There’s Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba. Yikes! Not to mention various and sundry other sinners. Jesus redeems His genealogy, but does not exorcize it. He had the right in justice to provide forgiveness and grace to those who preceded Him while they lived, but he did not exorcize them. Making a stretch of all the terms, one could say that the incarnation of our Lord, and His redeeming us, and providing the grace of salvation, was like one huge exorcism, but that sort of stretching of words doesn’t mean that even a duly deputed exorcist could possibly exorcize a family tree. No. Even the rebuke of Satan in hell by our Lord on that first Holy Saturday is an exorcism of a person possessed by Satan.
Jesus exorcized some people during His years upon earth. He wants His priests to do the rest, while they depend on His authority. He wants us to know we are a family of faith. Say a prayer for exorcists! Haily Mary…