More on Yoga and the Catholic Church

June 3, 2007

Dear Editor,

I’m writing to you in regards to your article, "Catholic faith and Yoga? They’re incompatible."

I realize that this is a very long letter, but I hope you will indulge me by reading it. I have been studying the document, "Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life" for several months, so I want to make it clear that I agree with you, in that Catholic faith is incompatible with Yoga. However, I was very disturbed by the course of actions taken by the woman, “Mary” at Ft. Meyer.

It appears that the world is much more adept at evangelizing Christians than Christians are at evangelizing the world. Why is that? Could it be that we lack the one indispensable ingredient—the love of God? St. Paul warns us that knowledge of the truth is not enough—without love we are nothing; merely a “noisy going.” If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. (1Cor.13:2). It is not enough to have the truth, we must live it. We are all prone to sin and need to discern what our true motives are—whether our ego is moving us to do something, or whether it is the love of God—the Holy Spirit. If we are motivated by our ego, we are not living the truth, and not motivated by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul counsels Timothy: a servant of the Lord is not to engage in quarrels, but has to be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient. He has to be gentle when he corrects people who dispute what he says, never forgetting that God may give them a change of mind so that they recognize the truth and come to their senses, once out of the trap where the devil caught them and kept them enslaved. (2Tim.2:24-26).

The document on “New Age” states: It should be recognized that the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention in their own communities to themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis, such as the importance of man’s spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life’s meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity. The document states its purpose: These reflections are offered primarily to those engaged in pastoral work so that they might be able to explain how the New Age movement differs from the Christian faith. . . .It is an invitation to understand New Age and to engage in a genuine dialogue with those who are influenced by New Age thought. The document uses Jesus as a model of how to minister to those involved in New Age, citing his encounter with the Samaritan Woman by the well: The gracious way in which Jesus deals with the woman is a model for pastoral effectiveness, helping others to be truthful without suffering in the challenging process of self-recognition (“he told me everything I have done,” verse 39). The Samaritans of Jesus’ day could be compared with those caught up with New Age, today. Jesus gave the woman dignity, humbling himself to ask her for a drink, acknowledging her as a person of worth (Pages 7-9, 81). St. Paul gives a similar example: Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed , as I strolled round admiring your monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it (Acts 17:23). St. Paul has the humility to admire the work of their hands and to acknowledge the good intentions of their heart—acknowledging their dignity. Then, he goes on to enlighten them and lead them to repentance—to turn away from their idols.

After reading Mary’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder if she has a spiritual director. If she doesn’t, it would be wise for her to get one. If she has a spiritual director, I wonder if she checked with her director before taking the actions she did. From the article, it appears that the parish in question wasn’t even her parish; that she read about these classes being offered; and that she took it upon herself to form a pose—“including a relations manager from Relevant Radio.” She seems to have intended to make her quest very public—and even took a camera to take pictures. This whole incident was turned into a public scandal—damaging the reputation of the Church, the women, the Pastor, and the Bishop who was responsible for the parish. Certainly, it is shocking that Catholic women would practice Yoga in a Catholic Chapel, (although, not surprising in our current culture), but I doubt that these women were aware that what they were doing was idolatry.

Why didn’t Mary attempt to speak to the Pastor, or Assistant Pastor, before the event took place, (or her own Pastor) in order to convey her concerns to them. If they didn’t listen to her, then she could have gone to the Bishop. Mary should have gone to the Bishop before making this incident public, not after. It is true that Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, but Jesus is the only Son of God; he was without sin, and embodied the fullness of the truth. The rest of us are all blind—it is just a matter of degree. The fullness of the truth resides within the Catholic Church, but not within any individual Catholic, or group of Catholics. Is there any Catholic alive today, or priest, for that matter, who has never held an erroneous belief, or said, or done something contrary to the faith? If so, then let him cast the first stone. Jesus taught his disciples: If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: “the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge.” But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector (Mat. 18:15-17).

As was stated, the Chapel is consecrated ground—a holy place (not a place to provoke confrontations and dissension. I suspect that somewhere in the Church there was a tabernacle holding the Blessed Sacrament, as well as holy water fonts. It is also true that each of these women, by virtue of Baptism, is a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Why did Mary feel that it was necessary for her to sprinkle the altar with holy water and blessed salt? Jesus is not a prisoner within the tabernacle. Jesus was present in that place, and has more power than the holy water and blessed salt. Why didn’t Mary go to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and ask the Lord to enlighten these women and lead them back to the truth? In my opinion, Mary used these holy sacramentals in a superstitious manner. (See CCC 2111).

Mary’s courage and zeal for the faith are commendable, and I’m sure she meant well, but in my opinion her actions were not an example of a pastoral approach, or an effective means of evangelization. I would hope that others do not follow her example. This incident was damaging to the reputation of the parish and to the pastor, and an embarrassment for the Bishop—not to mention the attack on the dignity of those women. We don’t need to start another “Inquisition.” Instead, we need to pray for enlightenment, for ourselves, and for those who are led astray; and follow Jesus example to the “woman at the well.”

Thank you for all that you do for the faith.

Lenora Grimaud

CLICK HERE to view the article Lenora references to as well as all the wonderfully illuminating comments that have been pouring from our readers about it.


Anne said...

Thank you, Lenora, for speaking truth. It is so easy to act out of anger, when we see people behaving in a way contrary to the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. You are speaking of a specific incident. I would also broaden it to include those who act out of anger or frustration in the name of prolife and social justice. Both are good, but as you said, "if I have not love, I am like a clanging gong...". If those who are working for peace, for life, don't have love and peaceful feelings towards those they would admonish, they will have little effect on those they want to evangelize. It is so important to treat everyone-I mean everyone-with love and respect. That's when they will listen, and give your word weight, and are more likely to hear what you are saying. Just like the woman at the well, the Samaritan, who recognized Jesus, they will recognize at the very least, that your words come from the heart, from love, and that is the most powerful force for change of all.

Anne Bremser

Anne said...

Thank you, Lenora, for a long needed discussion on how we need to come to a situation like this with love and peace. I would expand what you said to any situation where we need to confront others in the spiritual work of mercy of "admonishing the sinner". Here I would include those in the prolife and social justice movements. It is so easy to become judgemental, and to even hate those who we want to change. What we need to remember is that Each of these people is worthy of the utmost respect as the children of God. If we approach them with love and respect, they are more likely to hear, and give weight to the message of the Gospel we bring. As you said, Jesus gave respect to the woman at the well. He even revealed himself to her when he said he would give her living water. She had to hear someone who would break the social rules seperating them, and speak to her, an amazing thing in itself because of the hatred between the Samaritans and the Jews. So it is when we speak to those who disagree with us about issues of morality and church teaching on life-abortion, death penalty, just war, stewardship of the earth, economic justice, etc. We must try to see the people we want to teach not as the enemy, but as God sees them. With great love.