What Do You Know About Healing in the Catholic Faith?

We play Catholic Trivia over on Instagram each month. These are the questions and answers to this month’s #4thFridayTrivia game.

My eczema was flaring up again.

The skin on my fingertips was raw and open. It itched and burned and oozed. Strangers were afraid to shake my hand.

It was hard to take care of my family. I couldn’t open jars or tie shoes or even change my baby’s diaper. Washing my hair made me cry.

The constant pain was exhausting.

One day my mom, with her true mother’s heart, said to me, “I wish I could take this pain away from you.”

A few days later, she sent me a message: “How are your hands?”

How did she know? Within the last few days, my eczema had cleared up – if not entirely, almost so.

It was such a quick turnaround and an immense relief.

I sent her a text back: “They are great! I’m feeling so much better. Were you praying for me?”

Of course she had been. And not only had she prayed for my healing, but she had prayed to personally take my suffering away from me.

And to my amazement, she actually did.

Suddenly, after having never suffered from eczema before, my mom’s hands began to dry out. Her skin began to crack and peel. Her fingers swelled up and itched and burned…

… at the very same time that my hands found relief.

… at the very same time that she prayed to take my pain away from me.

I’m not saying this is a miracle, but it’s a very powerful example of the real power of prayer. It’s my story of healing through God’s grace and my mother’s intercession.

Now, as I said, I’m not entirely cured. I’m sure that eczema will be a lifelong struggle for me.

However, my eczema has never yet gotten as bad as it once was. It flares up now and then, but the debilitating pain is a memory.

And more than that, whenever I see my mom’s eczema flare, I know that she is sharing my pain. She is lifting my burden. She has freely welcomed suffering in order to help my healing.

I believe in the power of intercessory prayer.

I believe in God’s grace.

I believe in the gift of healing.

The Catholic Church has a rich culture of healing.

Today I have 10 Trivia questions about Catholic healing to test your knowledge and help you learn something new!

This trivia game is sponsored by: The Natural Catholic Mom, Relics by Rose, and aromaRosary.

Mariette writes about her pursuit of health and holiness on her blog The Natural Catholic Mom.  She is a firm believer in the healing effects of real food.

Rose makes gorgeous Catholic jewelry and accessories in her shop: Relics by Rose. Among others, she has a St. Peregrine medal to help you seek comfort and intercession through battles with cancer and other illnesses.

Chantal seeks to bring you to the place where grace and wellness meet with her beautiful aromaRosaries. She is a wealth of knowledge about God’s gift to us in the healing effects of essential oils.

What do you know about Catholic Healing?

From the incredible stories in the old Testament, to the sacraments, to the unconventional healings performed by Jesus, and healings at the intercession of the Saints, the Catholic Church’s teachings, history, and tradition are filled with the power of healing.

Let’s see how much you know!

1. What are the 2 sacraments of healing?

A: Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

“Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ” (CCC, 1420).

We enter into the Church, the Body of Christ, through the sacrament of baptism. We increase our communion with her through the Eucharist. We are sealed and strengthened in the Spirit through confirmation.

However, it’s possible for this life in Christ to be weakened or lost through sin (CCC, 1420). When this happens, we are in need of healing.

There are more sacraments for that!

The following line from the Catechism powerfully sums up the beauty of the sacraments of healing. Read it in your head or out loud with the voice of a charismatic preacher to get the full effect.

“The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members.”

(CCC, 1421)

For this, we have the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick (the two sacraments of healing).

Penance (also called Reconciliation or Confession) is the Sacrament by which we approach Jesus through his representative on earth: the priest, confess our sins, and receive absolution (forgiveness).

When our souls are hurt by sin, Penance heals us.

When our souls are cut off from God, dead to him, because of grave (mortal) sins, Penance restores them to life.

If a Catholic has mortal sins, she must confess them in the sacrament of Penance before she may receive Holy Communion.

Catholics are required to seek the sacrament of Penance to confess their mortal sins (if they have any) once a year, but frequent reception of the sacrament is recommended.

Anointing of the Sick is the sacrament by which those who are experience bodily illness or suffering, or who are in danger of death, are anointed to receive strength and grace to lift them up through their suffering.

The Anointing of the Sick is for the purpose of both spiritual and physical healing.

“The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or frailty of old age… The assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.”

(CCC, 1520)

Sometimes, this sacrament is mistaken as only a sacrament for those who are dying. But in fact, this sacrament may be sought out for many kinds of illness – not just those threatening the life of a person. This sacrament may be received before illness, or during hospitalization.

It may be celebrated for a single person, or a group of people.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament that may be received many times during a person’s life.

It is also often received at the end of a person’s life, along with Viaticum (the Eucharist) as their Last Rites as they prepare to meet the Lord face to face.

2. Which Evangelist (Gospel writer) is known to be a physician?

A: St. Luke.

This is not one of those old wive’s tales or legends about the Saints.

In Colossians, St. Paul writes, “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.” (Colossians 4:14).

I have no idea who Demas is, but BOOM. Luke. The Physician.

You can get the sense that the practice of medicine and the gift of healing are important to him when you read his Gospel. It’s chock full of Jesus’ miracle stories!

“Out of twenty miracles which he records six are not found in the other Gospels: draught of fishes, widow of Naim’s son, man with dropsy, ten lepers, Malchus’s ear, spirit of infirmity.”

– Catholic Answers, the Gospel of Luke.

3. In the Gospels, a man was lowered through a roof to seek healing from Jesus. What was his ailment?

A: He was a paralytic.

“And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into their midst before Jesus.”

(Luke 5:17-26)

Place yourself into this scene for a minute, and imagine what it must have been like.

Jesus was teaching, and the crowd around him was so big that nobody could get in the house. The paralytic man and his friends were desperate to seek out Jesus’ healing power, but they couldn’t get anywhere near him.

So they climbed up on the roof!

And the busted through the ceiling!!!

They lowered the man to where Jesus was sitting and teaching.

The way Jesus goes about healing the man is so powerful. He doesn’t heal him of his bodily infirmity immediately.

He starts with the healing of his soul: “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5: 20). Of course this gets the scribes and Pharisees upset, because only God forgives sins. I love the way Jesus addresses their concern.

He asks which is easier to say: your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk?

It’s easier to say your sins are forgiven, because we can’t see the power of that with our eyes. It’s easier to fake this power. But it’s not so easy to fake the power of healing a paralyzed man. If Jesus said “be healed” to the paralytic, and the man stayed a paralytic, Jesus would quickly lose all credibility.

So Jesus says it: “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:24).

And the man did.

Jesus demonstrated that he had the undeniable power of God to forgive sins by healing the paralytic man of his bodily infirmity – a healing that can be witnessed with the eyes of the body.

4. In the Gospels, Jesus healed a man with mud and spit. What was his ailment?

A: Blindness.

We’re going to go ahead and take this story straight from the Bible.

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

John 9:1-7

A little spit, a little mud: good as new!

5. In the book of Numbers, what did God tell Moses to make to heal people from their snake bites?

A: A bronze serpent.

This is funny, because God asks Moses to make a snake… in order to heal the people… from snakes.

Don’t you think God has the greatest sense of humor?

He’s a master of irony.

Anyways, back to the snake…

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Numbers 21:6-9

Fast forward a bit here, to the book of Kings…

And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it.

2 Kings 18:4

The Israelites had begun worshiping the serpent! So Hezekiah (the “he” in the passage) had it smashed.

Back to God’s irony – I find it endlessly amusing that the serpent was the symbol of healing. Serpents have such connotations of fear, and in the Jewish and Christian religions, very strong associations with evil.

But it was through the same thing that brought their suffering, that their healing would be brought about.

Kind of makes me think of Jesus.

We suffer death as a result of original sin. He endured death to save us from our sins. The suffering becomes our path to healing and salvation.

One last thing check out this symbol of modern medicine, still used today. Look familiar?

6.  Which oil is used to anoint the sick as a sign of healing?

A: Oil of the Infirm.

This was a bit of a trick question, because the answer was right in the wording of the question itself!

Every year at the Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses three oils:

“the Oil of Catechumens (“Oleum Catechumenorum” or “Oleum Sanctorum“), the Oil of the Infirm (“Oleum Infirmorum“), and Holy Chrism (“Sacrum Chrisma“) which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.”

– CERC, The Use of Sacramental Oils

The Oil of the Infirm is used in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. It is made out of pressed olives or other plants.

I love this summary of the grace and effects of the Anointing of the Sick, as described in the Catechism (1532):

  • the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
  • the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
  • the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
  • the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
  • the preparation for passing over to eternal life.

7. A miracle (such as healing) is necessary for what posthumous honoring of the faithful?

A: Beatification/Canonization.

There are so many laws and rules concerning the process of canonization, I can’t even begin to go into them here.

If you’re into the details, see this from Catholic Answers, or this article from Canon Law made Easy, or go straight to the Code of Canon Law itself if you like things difficult.

Here are the basics:

1 miracle for beatification.

1 more miracle for canonization.

Check it this story about Bonnie’s sweet boy and the approval of his miracle for the cause of beatification of Fulton Sheen.

8. When are prayers for healing allowed during the celebration of the Mass?

A: During the Prayer of the faithful.

This is another trick question, sort of.

If you look at the wording from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on this subject matter, they lead with this:

…[P]rayers for healing – whether liturgical or non-liturgical – must not be introduced into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours.

Instruction on Prayers for Healing

So, the basic answer is: they’re not.

But then the document follows up with this:

“In the celebrations referred to [above], one may include special prayer intentions for the healing of the sick in the general intercessions or prayers of the faithful, when this is permitted.”

Instruction on Prayers for Healing

It’s not allowed. Except when it’s permitted during the prayers of the faithful (when they occur). It can be allowed then.

As far as healing Masses go, those must be explicitly approved by the bishop in order to be celebrated. And then they must follow the rules (norms) for liturgical services of healing.

9. Name one Saint who is known for the charism of healing in their lifetime.

A: There are… so… many…

St. Peregrine

St. Peregrine had cancer in his leg and the doctor was going to amputate. Overnight, he prayed before a Crucifix and his leg was healed!

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres met a boy whose fingers had been severed, dashing his dreams of becoming a priest. Martin promised to pray for the boy, and his hands were miraculously healed.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio is credited with healing people from near and far. One young girl suffered from burns that threatened to take her life, and upon her miraculous healing, said that Padre Pio (still alive) had visited her. On another occasion, he is credited with healing a baby who had already died from a serious illness. Healing is only one of Padre Pio’s many gifts.

What are your favorite stories of Saints who healed people during their lifetime? I’d love to know, please share them in the comments.

10. Which of the following methods of seeking healing IS permissible for Catholics? A. Energy Healing B. Experimental Medicine C. Magic

A: Experimental Medicine

Let’s start with the correct answer and talk about experimental medicine.

According to the Catechism, there are benefits of experimental medicine.

“Scientific, medical, or psychological experiments on human individuals or groups can contribute to healing the sick and the advancement of public health.” (CCC, 2292).

However, that’s not the end of the story.

The Catechism goes on to warn about the dangers of stretching the limits of experimental research. It asserts that they must take into consideration the dignity of man, serve their proper purpose, and be aware of their appropriate limits.

Further…

“Research or experimentation on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in themselves contrary to the dignity of persons and to the moral law.” (CCC, 2295).

It becomes a matter of prudential judgment. Case by case, we have to evaluate whether the benefits of a certain experimental treatment outweigh the risks and negative effects.

Experimental medicine must also occur at the consent of the patient, though consent doesn’t excuse treatment that violates the person’s dignity.

Let’s talk about the easy one next: magic.

“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.” (CCC 2117)

Big fat no.

Okay, now the tough and possibly controversial one: energy healing.

Let’s start with this explanation from Catholic answers, that helps us clear up the terms we’re using here:

Whether a healing technique involving bodily “energies” is problematic depends on the way the energies are conceived and the evidence that such energies exist. There are natural energies in our body—e.g., the electrical energy in the nervous system. If natural energies are in question, then the technique is not automatically problematic. But if it postulates natural energies for which no evidence exists, then it involves the scientific equivalent of superstition. On the other hand, if the energies in question are thought to be supernatural, then the technique involves superstition in the proper sense and thus violates the first commandment (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2111). 

Catholic Answers

There are natural energies in our bodies. But that’s generally not what we’re talking about when it comes to energy healing.

Energy healing deals with some sort of supernatural energy… and if that supernatural energy is not from God (which… it’s not…) then where is it from?

Many types of energy healing methods talk about the different sources of energy, which often sound either very superstitious or very pagan (worshiping other gods).

Here is a statement from the USCCB:

Since Reiki (a type of energy healing) therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.

USCCB

This is not my area of expertise, so while I can conclude with a firm NO about the use of energy healing for Catholics, I’ll leave the details to others.

Here are a few helpful articles, if you want to know more about energy healing, and why it’s a no-go for Catholics:

USCCB Guidelines for Evaluating Reike as an Alternative Therapy

Women of Grace What You Should Know About Energy Medicine

Catholic Answers The Dangers of Reiki

National Catholic Register Catholic Power vs. New Age Weakness

Let me know when the next round of Trivia is happening!

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