Question re: Generational Healing

A reader writes:

This week, my parish hosted Fr. Gregory Bramlage, who conducted a healing mission. Several of the attendees have approached me, knowing that I teach apologetics, to get my opinion on what happened at the mission, and I’m at a loss on how to answer them.

Here is my summary of the questions and points of confusion, and a link to the document on the missionary priest’s website from which I drew these quotes.

Our parish hosted a mission that was given by a priest whose ministry focuses on healing. One of the more prominent (and controversial) elements of this mission included prayers for generational healing. Here are some statements from his document on how to prepare for this service:

“Great traumas may be healed through generational healing prayer without your knowing their exact cause. However, if you find that your family’s problems are not completely resolved after one Holy Communion or healing prayer session, continue to intercede for them. In some cases, it may be necessary for prayer for the Healing of Generations to be repeated several times for family bloodlines.”

This seems to denigrate the value of redemptive suffering and deny the necessity of bearing the cross as commanded by Our Lord in the gospels.

Here is a prayer that’s recited during the petitions at this service:

“We ask you to surround us, Lord Jesus with Your Holy Light. Heavenly Father, let the healing waters of our baptisms now flow back through our maternal and paternal generations to purify our family lines of Satan and sin.”

This seems to pervert the purpose of baptism, which remits the guilt of original sin and any actual sins committed at the time it is received. How can it be claimed that the graces of my baptism can flow back to others?

Thanks for any guidance you can provide.

I don’t see a big problem with the idea of generational healing. The notion that the “sins of the fathers” afflict subsequent generations is, obviously, a biblical one and lies at the heart of the idea, not only of original sin, but of such phenomena as child abuse, addiction, and all sorts of other bondages to which flesh is heir. The prayer that people be delivered from such afflictions and bondage is no more at odds with carrying the cross than any other prayer for healing and deliverance.

Similarly, I don’t see a big problem with praying that the power of baptism purify the bondages of generational sin that can afflict us. The notion that the prayer you quote is somehow literally baptising our ancestors is, I think, an overly literal reading of the prayer. It seems to me the point of the prayer is simply to loose the believer from ancestral patterns and bondages to sin. This seems right in keeping with biblical teaching, so long as we don’t read it to mean that it magically baptizes unbelieving ancestors or magically removes from us all responsibility for sin.

That said, my habit is to always treat such things as *a* form of Catholic piety and spirituality: good and helpful for some, maybe not so much for others. In essential things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.

  • Heather

    The problem with “generational healing” is that it can be done in a way that is consistent with Church teaching, but it can easily turn into something superstitious. If what you are going for is asking for personal healing from family-related problems, well and good. If you are doing intercessory prayer for members of your family, living or dead, to be freed from their sins, well and good.

    But I’ve seen “generational healing” that seems to be centred on the notion that your family problems stem from a literal curse that someone (God, the Devil, an enemy, whatever) has put on it, and that if you do this “generational healing” thing you will be delivered from the curse, and THAT seems pretty theologically dodgy to me.

    Asking for healing is one thing. But “let the healing waters of our baptisms now flow back through our maternal and paternal generations to purify our family lines of Satan and sin” — what does that even mean? You can’t baptize by proxy. Our baptism only applies to ourselves. The graces we receive from baptism, sure. We are admitted into the priesthood of the faithful and can engage in intercessory prayer, but “let the healing waters of our baptisms now flow back” seems an awfully weird way to express that.

    • Andrew

      Heather, stemming from what I posted in my comment above —

      I think that one of Satan’s tricks has been to convince us in these modern times – that recognizing him, his hatred for us and things like witchcraft, curses, hexes, etc etc etc. – is “below us” and that we are giving him too much power.

      It’s not about giving him power – it’s about recognizing him, recognizing the spiritual battle that is out there – and CLINGING to the Sacraments and a strong prayer life in order to be prepared.

      • Heather

        Oh certainly, supernatural evil is out there and praying for deliverance from supernatural evil isn’t a bad thing. And I have seen prayers of generational healing/deliverance that were completely appropriate. But looking at that particular one, you can’t exorcise your family tree by asking the “healing waters of our baptisms [to] flow back” onto it. You can ask the cleansing blood of Christ to be poured out onto your family, sure, but you can’t apply your own baptism to other people.

        Perhaps I tend towards being leery of these kinds of ministries because the first I ever heard of them was in some notice warning about a definitely dodgy quasi-Catholic fringe group from a particular country which was into “generational curses” in a big way.

    • Stu

      But “let the healing waters of our baptisms now flow back through our maternal and paternal generations to purify our family lines of Satan and sin” — what does that even mean?

      ————————-
      Yes. What does it mean? It comes across as something from an online prayer generator.

  • Andrew

    Mark – great answer.

    I think one has to be careful and “on guard” not to fall in to one or the other extreme.

    I’ve had a lot of experience with ministries that focus on Generational Healing. They’ve come to my parish, I have friends that have been involved with them, and I’ve had BOTH positive and negative experiences with those said ministries.

    I think it’s dangerous to fall in to one extreme or the other. I’ve been JUST AS concerned about my friends who lean towards being more “innocent and childlike towards systematic and rhythmic prayers” (unfortunately superstitious is the only word we really have nowadays, and it’s used too easily) as I have been concerned with my pragmatic Catholic friends who think it’s all superstitious.

    Do I think that someone is sinning if they don’t feel called to at least approaching and investigating more about Generation Healing? (Especially when it comes the generation sexual abuse which can often times lead to generational psychological issues that get passed down) No.

    BUT, I get very concerned when anyone in my family or friends who are practicing Catholics write it off saying “That’s a bunch of crock”

    I strongly believe that we need to, all of us, AT LEAST discern whether or not we are called to pray for and ask God to specifically heal the “sins of our fathers”

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    My parents recently went to a seminar on generational healing by Fr. Yozefu Ssemakula and brought me his book. I think it provides an excellent guideline for people. I’d also recommend books by Fr. John Hampsch and Francis MacNutt.
    When looking at a person or a family, it’s important to remember that we all have free will, and we all have personal responsibility for our own sins. What Fr. Ssemakula wrote that really made an impact on me was about necessary and unnecessary suffering and the nature of God. Jesus came to bring life. Satan is a liar and a murderer and brings death and destruction. Necessary suffering is when we suffer because of our faith in God–as many saints and martyrs have. Unnecessary suffering is sickness, consequences of sin, suffering we receive because of the sins of others, etc. They are unnecessary because they are not needed for our salvation.When we sin, we bring suffering and we give Satan an hold on us, and he brings only death and destruction to the lives he touches. It’s like being in a snug warm house. When we sin, we punch holes in it, letting the cold and wind in. Sorry if this is off-topic, but I had gotten it into my head that I had received so many blessings that something bad had to happen, that it was going to be taken away “For my own good” because being so blessed was somehow wrong. (I will admit to idiocy here, to save you the time of pointing it out).
    I would recommend looking into generation healing if you see a pattern of sin or suffering in your family, like several members who are alcoholics, or stricken with cancer, or if you know family past or present is/was involved with the occult.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    Well said, sir. I have charismatic tendencies myself, and have participated to a limited extent in generational healing (one of my grandmothers, for example, regarded herself — I don’t know in what sense — as a witch for some time). However, I like the phrase a friend of mine uses to describe his attitude, “charismatic with a seat belt.” I’ve seen some of the sketchier and more careless side of charismaticism as well, both inside the Catholic Church and outside her. But it is a recurring variety of spirituality, and can be very beneficial in its right place.


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