TWO MOST FREQUENT DOCTRINAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HOF PRAYER
These are about:
1. Generational Healing Prayer and Church Tradition
2. Generational Bondage and the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession
1. Generational Healing Prayer and Church Tradition
a) The Expression of Sacred Tradition
People who see a contradiction between the Tradition of the Church and the HOF prayer usually say that anything new is by that fact not Catholic because, in their opinion, Sacred Tradition is defined only by the past, and is fixed. However, Sacred Tradition is also a living Tradition.
In Mt 13: Jesus describes those “instructed in the kingdom of heaven” as bringing forth both “the new and the old”, and constantly journeying toward “all truth”. This sounds future-looking and expanding, rather than strictly past-looking at something fixed. For example, did the Church define the morality of human cloning in apostolic times, nearly 2000 years ago, or did the Church do that in our times, after the technology had been developed and the problem came up? But it did define this in continuity with its 2000 year-old Tradition.
"[Jesus said] Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes" And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old" (Matthew 13:51-52); and "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth" (John 16:12-13). To explore this matter more deeply, what form does this Tradition of the Church take? Is it static, immovable and dead? Or living and dynamic? If the Tradition of the Church is static, immovable and dead, then HOF prayer is dead wrong; and those who oppose it in that name are right.
But in fact, Church Tradition is living and dynamic. It has happened in the past, but it will also happen in the present and future. It develops and it grows in new areas, and is in each time expounded better, with the emphasis depending on where the Church is in its journey of faith at that time. Just as we understand our faith better and even the Scriptures better depending on the challenges of the time, so it is with Tradition. The same old anchorages of Tradition will be applied to new areas in new ways at new times, from the simple fact that we have to live our faith in the now but from the basis of its understanding from the earliest centuries of Christianity. There never was a Church document that proclaimed “That’s it – Church Tradition is now fixed, it comes up to here!”- and there never will be.
If Church Tradition were understood that way, then there would never have been a Vatican II Council. See how many new good things began happening in the Church that were hitherto inconceivable! All these new Ecclesial movements we see, for example, are the result of Vatican
II. Some may claim that Vat II broke from Church Tradition. No, Vat II reinterpreted Church Tradition in the present moment and what came out has now become part of Church Tradition, indeed a living Tradition.
But are the results completely new? They may look completely new, but their foundation is actually old – they are just a new way of living the same good old faith. A good example of something new but very old is the Charismatic Renewal – new in our time - but the first 300 years of the Church were marked with frequent exercise of the charismatic gifts, and healing was prevalent; in fact, healing was a prominent means of evangelization in the first centuries of Christianity.
Speaking to the new and the old in the Church, St John Paul II says in no. 18 of Tertio Millenio Adveniente: "In the history of the Church, the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ are always closely interwoven. The ‘new’ grows out of the ‘old’, and the ‘old’ finds a fuller expression in the ‘new’. Thus it was for the Second Vatican Council and for the activity of the Popes connected with the Council, starting with John XXIII, continuing with Paul VI and John Paul I, up to the present Pope."
The canonization of Pope John XXIII was a move by the Church to recognize him as an authentic interpreter of Church Tradition, that is, someone who guides Tradition to new ground by continuing to pull out of God's treasury both the new and the old for the Church, even if the things he ushered in were things which up to then were unseen in the Church. The single most important thing that the Church today recognizes in Pope John XXIII was his conceiving of the Vatican II Council.
Thus, the Popes could look at the "new" that was coming out of the Council, and confirm it as belonging to Church Tradition -- even if hitherto unseen, even if it had just now been created. So, Tradition is not always recognized by looking back into the past; it can lie in the present and future as well as in the past. But here is the key point: who determines what authentically belongs to Church Tradition, even if seemingly new, and what does not belong? Who ultimately determines that it is the Spirit of God leading us along to all Truth (cf. John 16:13)? It is the Magisterium of the Church, not just a theologian.
b) Pope Saint John Paul II and the Continuing Influence of Past Sins (Bondage)
Now let us move on to the discernment process of the Church: is the Church increasingly gaining awareness of this fact of past sin, which is not the personal sin of those in the present, yet still affecting those in the present? Yes, it is, as evidenced by the following: in no. 34 of Tertio Millenio Adveniente (November 1994). In the context of sins against ecumenism, Pope St. John Paul II said: “These sins of the past unfortunately still burden us and remain ever present temptations. It is necessary to make amends for them, and earnestly to beseech Christ's forgiveness.” In other words, there is a need to make amends for, and seek Christ’s forgiveness for, sins which we did not personally commit, but which “unfortunately still burden us and remain ever present temptations”. This idea -- of a burdening influence from sin of the past, which still tempts the Church, and for which the Church makes amends and seeks forgiveness, is a new expression in the Church. It is what we refer to in the HOF language as “bondage”.
The Pope’s approach is precisely the approach of the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9, as shown in the HOF book. It is the same stance the Pope himself will again take during the celebration of the Jubilee year six years later (2000). In the midst of the celebrations of that Jubilee Year, speaking this time in the context of general sin, in his homily during the Day of Pardon Mass in March 2000, John Paul II said: “Because of the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body, all of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgment of God who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us.” Moments later, the Pope, along with the Cardinals present, publicly take a stand of generational repentance, and begin to ask God for forgiveness for a whole list of sins committed by members of the Catholic Church over the centuries; including slavery. This exercise concluded with a prayer that included these words: “Grant that our forebearers, our brothers and sisters, and we, your servants, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit turn back to you in whole-hearted repentance, may experience your mercy and receive the forgiveness of our sins.” The Pope was expressing repentance for sins committed by past generations (as well as present sins), which is exactly the meaning of generational repentance for sin that caused/s bondage.
We cannot from this then say that generational prayer in the practice of Church leaders is unknown. It may not be called by that name, but there is powerful evidence of growing awareness in the Church, as the Pope makes it a prayer of the whole Church. But actually, generational healing prayer has been in the Catholic Church for over three decades now, with the writing of the books of Fr. Robert De Grandis, Intergenerational Healing, and of Fr. John Hampsch, Healing Your Family Tree, written three decades ago, and as coming out of a practice that had already begun being in the Church for some time. In fact, the Church has a specific position on generational healing prayer.
c) The Church’s Recognition of the presence of Generational Healing Prayer
In 2007, the doctrinal commission of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, headquartered in Rome, published the "Guidelines on Healing Prayer" out of a colloquium at which was notably present Cardinal Bertone, then secretary of State of the Vatican. On page 39 of that document, Intergenerational healing prayer is listed as one of those healing prayers that are under study, discernment, and pastoral oversight; (definitely NOT condemnation). It is under study for the simple reason that the Church, even though it now prays this kind of prayer, doesn't have much experience with it. But this is not the only healing prayer in this category. St. John Paul II has spoken about the “Healing of Memories” prayer, and that, too, is under study, discernment and pastoral oversight - even though it was mentioned by a Pope – because, again, the Church doesn’t have much experience with it. Lots of Christian therapists and some incredibly effective healing ministries have embarked on this path of the healing of memories prayer, in the inner healing ministry. The results are tremendous. I believe the Pope also had very much in mind something to do with collective memory, national bad memories, usually from past international, or national, conflicts – which we still have to discover how to go about in healing prayer. It’s a brand new wide open field in healing prayer that Catholics have thus been invited to discover, if they so wish. The third type of healing prayer mentioned in the same category is the prayer for healing of the land. There are a number of healing ministries working in this line, notably those that do the “Jericho march” around pieces of land, with a lot of good results.
And so, in this phase of the Church’s discernment, the practitioners of generational healing prayer should make available their experience of this prayer, trying to explain it the best they can, such that, from our experience, the Church has something in hand, (data), with which to judge, when the time comes for its judgment. So, we can legitimately pray this way because the Church is counting on us to do it. Obviously, the Church would have no data if nobody did these prayers, (including the other two mentioned). That's why the Church does not forbid them, like some would like to do, not content to wait on the wisdom of the Church, and ignoring the fact that the Church herself has prayed this way. The Church needs the experience, which it cannot have if there is no experience.
Meanwhile, Bishop Julian Porteous of Australia has published a; Manual of Minor Exorcisms with an Imprimatur from Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and a Nihil Obstat from Rev. John Flander. On page 59 of this manual we find this prayer; Send the sword of your Holy Spirit to sever and break any spells, curses, hexes, including all negative genetic, intergenerational and addictive material, past, present or to come, known or unknown, against me, my relationships and family, finances, possessions and ministry. Thus, generational healing prayer, it would seem, is getting established in the language, prayer, and study of the Church.
This is not to say that errors in application don’t happen. Yet these errors do not argue against generational healing prayer, which even the Church prays, because the problem is the error, not the prayer. People sometimes condemn because the first time they heard of it, it included some badly flawed explanations. This is exactly what happened in Korea, where the Korean Catholic Bishops banished the;Family Tree prayer because those who first took it there spent all their time speaking about ancestral spirits, which too easily got associated with ancestral worship, which is the traditional pagan religion in much of Asia. In the Bishops place, we would have done the same.
The same misinformation must have been at work when Fr. Hampsch first published his book, Healing Your Family Tree, 30 years ago. He tells a story of how five US Bishops called him up in succession, each one asking him what this whole thing was about that they were hearing, and where he had got it from?! And as you may know, if you’ve read it, that book is loaded with Scripture, and that was his strong point. In the end, not only were the five Bishops convinced one by one, all five became his promoters. So, often people complain about what they have heard, because there is real error in the information to complain about. However, when correctly informed, it is so easy to understand. That is how Fr. Hampsch has done Healing of Family Tree Masses for 30 years in many places in the world, being joined today by scores of other priests worldwide who have discovered its effectiveness.
Likewise, if someone is supposedly informed about the HOF ministry, but in fact misinformed, as a ministry where people preach generational sin, and where people sin and have no responsibility because it is generational (when in fact it’s not what we teach), then what would the hearer naturally conclude? Throw it out! So representation may become crucial at times. Surely one reason the HOF seminar goes on for a full weekend is to make sure that people understand the concepts very clearly because a lot of misunderstanding can creep in very easily. But it has also been our concrete and constant experience over the years that the more people understood the concepts the more they healed, and the less they understood them the less they healed. It was a puzzle to see this at the beginning, and we used to ask ourselves; since when is healing prayer “intellectual”?! Well, after a while we figured out why that was the case. That will be for another time.
A careful reading of the HOF book will show that the HOF prayer is not centered upon generational sin but on generational consequences of sin, which is a completely different thing, and a very readily observable fact of everyday life. If we admit, that yes, there can be consequences of parents’ actions that can deeply affect their children in one way or another, the next question is to ask whether parents and their children are just heaps of flesh with no spirit to them?! Definitely, they are a spirit and a body. And once we admit that these children are also spirit-ual, then whatever concerns them in the body also concerns them in the spirit, especially if it is something significant. That puts you right in the middle of where negative generational entanglements are generated.
Having on one side these lingering effects of sin in an individual (see Pope John Paul II’s General Audience below), and having on the other, the hereditary aspect of our bodies which reveals the “hereditary” aspect of our spirits, it makes perfect sense to think that these lingering effects of an individual’s (even) confessed sins can be “inherited” by later generations. It is only a myopic materialistic vision of life that stops at just what meets the eye. Everything about us is also spirit-ual because we are not just pounds of flesh, we are also simultaneously spiritual beings. The HOF book explains this point in depth as the first of the five Cardinal Points in Chapter 4. What Science is only now discovering in its brand new field of Epigenetics, where environmental circumstances can cause a kind of superficial effect on humans genes, causing a superficial mutation in them, but which mutation can now be transmitted genetically to future generations is very interesting in this regard.
No one will read the 5 Cardinal Points in Chapter 4 of the HOF book without understanding what is going on in our family systems, and why we pray the way we pray - unless, of course, one doesn't want to understand. But there are many people in positions of Church authority who do understand. One Catholic bishop, after reading the HOF book, wrote and said that in his 40-year experience of doing healing prayer ministry, both as a priest and as a bishop, he had never come across anything as comprehensive as this book on the entire subject of healing prayer. Yet another Catholic bishop wrote back to express gratitude for the book because he had found immediate and effective applications of it in people’s lives.
2. Generational Bondage and the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession
A common claim as some look at the HOF ministry is to say since Baptism cleanses us of all sin, so then why talk about bondage? Well, while it is true that the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us of the only sin that we can ever inherent, original sin, it does not cleanse us of its consequences. The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1264 makes this very clear:
Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, ʺthe tinder for sinʺ (fomes peccati); since concupiscence " is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.ʺ Indeed, ʺan athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
So that is why today we can speak of concupiscence, or, our inclination to sin. Our inclination to sin is a consequence we carry in us because of the sin of Adam, which sin we are nonetheless freed of at Baptism. Family bondage may be looked at as a sort of specification/customization of concupiscence, in families. Whereas we all retain the tendency to sin as a consequence of Adam’s sin, we don’t all tend to sin in the same ways, in the same areas, and with the same intensities. Bondage may somehow be the specification of the ways, areas, and intensities in which we shall personally tend to sin. Common observation sees these as patterns expressed within families, for the obvious reason of the internal physical and spiritual attachments that exist within families. This is only looking at bondage in the behavioral category, which is only one of the categories of bondage we have identified; the other three being life circumstances, diseases, and what we call the specials, like families with suicides and recurrent accidents.
Likewise, as the sacrament of Confession, cleanses us of our personal sin, it doesn’t necessarily take care of the consequences of those sins in us and in others, which consequences are of a different nature altogether than the sin itself. That is why we may retain the tendency to either return to our sin after personal Confession, or to suffer in some way from the sin, even after the sin has been forgiven. If one kills a man and later goes to Confession, God forgives his sin if he is sincerely repentant, but the dead man remains dead. He doesn't wake up because his killer has repented and God has forgiven him. His remaining dead is the consequence of the sin of killing. On this subject, St. John Paul II in his General Audience on Indulgences on September 29, 1999 (no. 2) said:
“…it is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual personal effort and the Church sacramental work. For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually ‘healed’ of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the ‘punishments’ and ‘remains’ of sin).”
It is safe, therefore, to suppose that every sin, however small, will naturally have those two parts to it: the sin itself, and the consequences of the sin. And moreover it is in recognition of the fact that not all is bloated out of existence by the sacrament of Confession that the Church teaches us the doctrine of Purgatory, which takes care of the after-effects of forgiven sin, in the afterlife, before we can fully be incorporated into God’s life. Thus the idea of “remnants” of sin is then not strange to us. While Purgatory operates on the idea of remnants of sin in the afterlife, bondage seems to operate on the idea of remnants of sin in this life.
As in the case of personal sin whose consequences may remain after Confession, so it is with sin from our past generations (the past sins of others to whom we are attached). And here we are supposing that all those sins were repented of, which would surely never be the case in any given family’s generations. So we are also dealing with consequences of sin that was never repented of. Whereas we may not inherit the guilt of those sins, even unconfessed sins (the only sin both the guilt and consequences of which we inherit being the sin of Adam), we surely inherit the consequences of those sins. And though it is within the ability of our freewill to resist the consequences, (talking of the behavioral category of the various categories of generational bondage), often we end up in sin from succumbing to the “pressure” of the generational consequences of the sinful choices of our families. When the prophet Nathan tells King David that “from now on the sword will not leave your house”, after killing a man and taking his wife, it meant that from now on there will be “high pressure” on your house from the sword. Not everybody in his house would have to be killed by the sword, but many would be. Nobody will ever be obliged to kill David’s family by the sword, every human being will always be free, but many would end up killing King David’s family by the sword. That’s what we mean by the “pressure” of generational consequences of sin. Note that he tells him this just after telling him that God had forgiven his sin. The sin had been entirely forgiven, then why the doom pronouncement? Well, consequences of the sin, It’s another thing.
A big difference, however, between King David’s family and us, is that he lived before Christ. There was no way he could take advantage of Christ, the Savior of humankind. (What is said of King David’s family before Christ is what has to be said of non-Christian families today). We clearly see in this how Christ to the world is not a mere “religious” question, good for “a belief”, Christ has to do with the very survival of humankind; that is why He is called its Savior.
By the grace and mercy of God, because we have Christ today, the HOF prayer deals with this generational inheritance of consequences of familial sin, freeing us from a lot of unnecessary burdens.
But why do we have to do all this in order to get this family healing from the same Christ? Why doesn’t He do it when I confess my sins? He is the same, isn’t He, and He knows I need it, doesn’t He? The answer to this should be something like this. When I go to Jesus for Baptism, He gives me Baptism because that is what I want and that’s is what I am ready for. And so it is or all the other sacraments, He will give the grace of the sacrament I want and I’m ready for, He will not give me all the others because they are all also good for me and I will need them. I will receive the grace of the particular Sacrament I am prepared for and asking for. Needless to say, that each sacrament is prepared for in a different way. And so it is that when we want to go to Him for our families healing we take a specific way to Him for this specific grace, and we get from Him what we want and what we have prepared for, just like for all the other things we get from Him.
Therefore whether we look at the Sacrament of Baptism, or the Sacrament of Confession, in both cases we have the clear idea of negative consequences of sin lingering. From the fact that they linger it follows that they can also be transferred, by (spiritual/physical/ even social) inheritance, as we have already shown from the prayer of the Church.
The HOF prayer is exactly centered on this no. 1264 of the Catechism; and on this lingering of the negative consequences of sin even after sacramental Confession, of which St. John Paul II speaks.
It almost goes without saying that, just as the consequences of original sin do not necessarily impede our entry into the kingdom of God, so does generational bondage. Both just make our ascent unnecessarily harder, but always with a real possibility of making us lose Heaven with the burdens they put on us, if we don’t choose to engage the fight against them, with the grace of Christ the Savior.
Healing of Families Team.