Communion with the Trinity is the key to the Christian life, Deacon Armand Danis told Our Lady of Pentecost Summer Institute.
It’s also the key to evangelization, and to spiritual warfare, he said.
Danis, a retired Catholic high school principal and counsellor from Thunder Bay, Ont., spoke on deliverance, and on discovering your spiritual gifts. But before addressing his formal topics, he presented extensive citations of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other Church documents to underline the point that Catholic Christianity is not about following rules, earning grace, or judging other people.
“We are not selling a product,” he said. “Our faith is about a relationship.”
Drawing on his counselling background, he noted that psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs lists self-actualization as the highest human need. But from a Christian point of view, he said, transformation, in and by Christ, is the pinnacle of life.
And that transformation is a free gift, he said. Too many Catholics think grace is earned, by being good and going to church. In fact, he said, that’s backward. Grace is a free gift from God that makes it possible to be good and go to church.
Grace, he said, is simply participation in the life of God. “What do we have to do to participate in the life of God? Want to.”
Evangelization, he said, is not an intellectual exercise. It’s an outgrowth of our relationship with God. When we have the intimate relationship God offers to us, we have the power to be His presence in the world, as instruments of His love, and in that way draw other people to Him.
This “spirituality of communion” makes us open to everyone. All humans are made in God’s image, he said, “so whoever you meet in this context is your brother and your sister.”
Concerning spiritual warfare, he warned that “the existence of the Evil One is real,” but if we are in communion with Christ, there is noting to fear from the devil.
“We are never alone,” he said. “We can dispel the Enemy, not of our own doing, but because we have this intimate relationship with our Friend and our Lord, who does it as simply as flicking a mosquito off your arm.”
While actual demonic possession is rare, Danis said, lower levels of demonic activity are more common. They begin with simple temptation, to which all of us are subject. Temptations fall into three main categories, as shown by the Gospel accounts of Jesus temptation in the desert: pleasure (in Jesus’ case, turning stones into bread); power (the devil offering Him the kingdoms of the world); and lack of responsibility (the devil’s demand that Jesus throw Himself down from the peak of the Temple).
Next comes oppression, in which we experience a frightening sense of lack of control in our lives. Job suffered from this in the Old Testament, and Danis said that when his wife, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer, the couple suffered from oppression for a time—not the cancer itself but the initial fear and hopelessness.
Another level is obsession, where the lack of control is real. This happens especially with addictions, including drugs, alcohol, and abusive sexual behaviour, but also with occult activities such as the use of the Ouija board.
Danis said it would take a whole weekend to talk about deliverance in detail, but the most common form of deliverance is self-deliverance, especially as found in the Lord’s prayer: “deliver us from evil.”
“Every time we say it, it’s a deliverance prayer,” he said. “The Lord’s prayer is one way to assure ourselves of communion with the Trinity.”
Concerning spiritual gifts, Danis said there is no known finite list. God gives countless gifts, some for specific situations and some for ministry. Discerning them can often be a matter of looking for the fruits of the Holy Spirit, as these may point to gifts we have received even though they aren’t exactly what we prayed for.
He told the story of a 22-year-old man diagnosed with cancer, and with days to live. Danis prayed for him, and though he was not cured—he in fact died within a few days—he received a massive spiritual healing that extended to everyone around him, and left him content and joyful.
“It can be a question of touching hearts rather than the external condition we’ve prayed for,” Danis said.
At other times, he said, he has seen the external situation change as a result of prayer. During his teaching career, one of his students cut his lip badly, obviously needing stitches. As he left to take the boy to the hospital, he had the other students pray, and when they got to the emergency room the cut was gone.
“What do you think that did for the faith of the children in the classroom?” he asked.
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