One of my favorite online shops is called Etsy. All of the products are handmade by the seller and you can find everything from jewelry to art to Kleenex cozies. Every once in a while I will stumble across someone selling an occult item, and usually I am relieved to see they have almost no sales, but last week my stomach dropped when I saw that one particular seller had made over 5,000 sales. Unconvinced that there was that big a demand for spell books, I looked at buyers’ comments somewhat relieved to find statements like, “your incense makes my room smell so good” or “your candles are so romantic” instead of more sinister uses.
One of the things that convinces me so much of the truth and uniqueness of the Catholic Church is how universally her trappings, like candles and incense and altars, are used to evoke the otherworldly and supernatural, particularly by those who serve evil. Like Frodo said in the Lord of the Rings, evil cannot make, it can only mock.
I encountered a young man recently who really knew his Catholic faith. He was such an apologist that I could not help but ask how he knew his faith so well. I guessed that he was raised in a solid Catholic household or he went to some unique school where authentic catechesis had survived. Imagine my surprise when he said he used to worship the devil! He told me briefly what it was like and I was struck by the Catholic symbols they used, including a sacrifice on an altar (they used cats *shudder*). It seems that evil is more than happy to use our signs and symbols, our vestments and sacred silence. (I’ll bet Satanists never need to be told to stop chit chatting and shut off their cell phones for their sacrifices.)
I encountered this young man again in line for confession the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. I asked him how his Easter was and he smiled glowingly and said it was fabulous. He fidgeted nervously in line and said that he’s always nervous the priest will say, “No, you’re too bad. I can’t forgive you”. I know he knows better. When I made my confession, our new priest absolved me in Latin and I was struck by how mystical the words sounded and felt – the kind of feeling I imagine young people are looking for when they buy a “spell book” full of strange incantations . I thought of that young man and how I hoped that he would find his appetite for ritual authentically satisfied now that he is back home.
I also thought of the power of Divine Mercy. I know God can forgive anything, but standing next to that young man in the confession line made it real for me. I will admit a bit of discomfort and fear standing next to him and fighting my doubt that God can really forgive him. But when Divine Mercy Sunday came and I saw him go to Communion with such joy, genuflecting before the tabernacle as he re-entered his pew, it dawned on me that, in the eyes of God, both of our slates were wiped clean. The ex-Satanist and I, presuming we both made good confessions, were now equals in the merciful sight of God. I stood in joyful awe of God’s liberality and love on this special feast. I imagine that this young man will realize that call he has that we all do: to lead those dabbling in the occult to the Merciful Heart of God, the only place where they will find peace and have their hungers truly satisfied.