The popular movie “Ghostbusters” features this lyric in its title song. And it poses a good question. Do you believe in ghosts? And if you do…are you afraid of them? Everyone seems to ask or be asked this question at some point in their lives. I remember being a kid and rolling my eyes if somebody brought it up. Thinking to myself, Oh brother there’s no such thing as ghosts! And when it comes to little white Casper characters, or people simply sticking around here on earth because of “unfinished business,” I still hold that opinion. But as I have grown older, I have changed my view slightly. Do I believe in ghosts? Maybe. I think a better statement would be that I believe in spirits. And am not afriad of them. I know that many people hold varying beliefs on this subject. I would like to share with you the Scriptural reasoning behind my beliefs, and some personal stories from the lives of myself and those closest to me.
The Holy Spirit is able to reach us in many ways. As one of the Persons in our wonderful Triune God, the Spirit is able to move in many different ways. Through the Holy Spirit and the power of our awesome and almighty God, I believe that we can be contacted by angels and by those who have gone before us in Christ.
We know that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her the wonderful news she would become the Mother of God. Throughout the Bible, we see angels appearing on a regular basis. And we believe that God has blessed each of us with a Guardian Angel to watch over us here on earth. While we may not see our angels, I believe that we feel them at times and that at times, they may appear in some form. Several years back, someone I care deeply for was going through a very tough time. Due to many complications in his young life, he decided that the best option was suicide. Living near the mountains, he went out on the trails to a remote area to end his own life. His parents frantically were searching for him but with so many trails and different paths to go down, it would have been nearly impossible to find him in time without heavenly aid. As they were searching, they came across a man who knew where their son was and pointed them in the direction. As they turned to thank him, he was gone. Now, they were in a fairly open area and would have been able to see him even if he was leaving. They found their son just in time. He had slit his wrists in this remote location and had given up. His parents were able to rush him to the hospital before it was too late, and he is alive and well because of it. Now, many people might say this was coincidence. Or that it was just a regular man who guided their steps. But they firmly believe, as do I, that they were guided by an angel who took the form of a man to help save this young man since it was not yet his time to go.
Many people think of ghosts as people who have not yet finished their time on earth. Or as people who are angered by how they died and therefore stay on earth to haunt others. This is not what I believe. When we die, we know that our souls are instantly met by God. When Jesus is dying on the cross, one of the criminals crucified next to Him professes His belief that Christ is innocent and undeserving of such a death. Christ tells the man that “this day you will be with me day in paradise” (Luke 23:43.) This tells us that when we die, we are not left on earth to finish business or stick around haunting people. We are face to face with our Creator as we stand witness to how we lived our lives.
When I say that I believe we can be contacted through the power of the Holy Spirit by those who have gone before us, I am referring instead to a heavenly intercession. We know from Scripture that there is a community between the living and the dead. We profess this belief in Mass every week when we state that we believe in the Communion of the Saints. The belief in the saints and their ability to intercede on our behalf confirms that those who have passed on before us are, indeed, able to hear us, interact with us in some way. The miracles necessary for a person to become beatified, for example, show us how people who have gone before us in Christ have the ability, through Him, to connect with and assist those on earth. It is my personal belief that not only does this occur in the miraculous events of those recognized by the Church as Saints, but that this can occur in other forms as well. A saint is anyone who is in Heaven with God. As I have written about in past blogs, the Church recognizes certain people as saints who led virtuous lives known to the public and who, after their death, in some way interacted with those here on earth to confirm their place in Heaven. One a person has died and is brought to new life in Heaven with God, I believe that in some way, they are still aware of us here on earth. Not in a way we can know. They are free from all pain, despair, worry, doubt. They know pure happiness and peace as they are in Paradise with the Lord. But I believe that God sends our deceased loved ones to us at times to assure us of the peace and wonder that is to come. Perhaps through a dream. Maybe through a vision or hearing that person’s favorite song on the radio at precisely the right time.
My grandfather builds small boats and has been boating and fishing for my entire life. His best buddy would go fishing with him many times. Several years back, his friend passed away. One day, my Grandpa was out on the lake when over the radio he heard a voice saying “Quasimodo, come in Quasimodo. Where are you Quasimodo?” And then it was gone. While this seems like a silly thing, my Grandpa told us that “Quasimodo” was a silly, secret nickname they had used for each other. As they aged, they became more hunched over and both of them having a great sense of humor, would call each other that as a joke on the lake. No one else knew of this. Not my Grandma, not his friend’s wife, not any of their other boating or fishing buddies. Grandpa believes that this was his friend reaching out to him.
I’ll share another story, this one from my Mom. A dear friend of hers lost her daughter a year ago in a car accident. Her friend was talking with her recently and shared a dream she had. She dreamt that her daughter was visiting her. In the dream, she was asking her daughter where she had been and why she hadn’t been visiting. Her daughter was all smiles and full of joy and told her that she had been around so many times. My mom’s friend shared other little moments from her dream as well. But when she woke up, she felt so happy. Now some people might argue this was just a dream based on memories. But we believe that her daughter was sent to her in a dream by God to assure her that she is happy, at peace, and still there for her mother.
One more short story. A few years back a little girl passed away. A family member of mine was related to this girl and while at the home of the family, she noticed something. As they were comforting the mother and sitting in the kitchen, she noticed the dog. The dog was staring in a very fixed fashion on a specific spot in the room. An empty wall. Nothing was there at all. No food or toys. Not even a fly. But the dog just kept looking at this one spot. And not in an absent minded, staring into space way. Like the dog was truly seeing something. In that moment, she said she knew that the little girl was there watching over her mother and the family. Just making sure that everything was ok.
These stories might seem to some like they are nothing. But it really isn’t the story itself. It’s the feeling. The feeling you get when you hear these people tell the story firsthand. They were not scared or afraid. They somehow sensed in that moment that the Holy Spirit was sending its love, peace and guidance to them, whether through an angel or through a loved one who had passed on.
But while all of these stories are wonderful, I also believe that the devil has the ability to reach out to us as well. The devil is very real, and he will try anything to get to us. If we believe that angels can contact us, then we have to believe that the devil can try to do the same. We know the devil can tempt us in many ways to depart from God. I believe that, as God send His angels to watch over us, the devil can send demons into our lives for the opposite purpose. To frighten us, to cause us to worry or doubt. This is something I had never really thought about. But a few years ago, I had a brief encounter with, what I believe was a demon.
It was on Halloween night a few years back. I had been babysitting that evening and when I got home I was tired and decided to go to bed. I was in college at the time and 2 out of my 3 roommates were already out for the night partying. The other was downstairs with a friend. I went upstairs to my bedroom, got ready for bed, and crawled under the blankets ready to go to sleep. No one else was upstairs. There were no TVs or anything like that. As I started to drift off, I heard a noise from my closet. It was breathing. But it was not like any breathing I had ever heard. At first I thought I was imagining things. I held my breath to make sure I wasn’t hearing myself snoring! The sound was there. It was the most terrifying noise I have ever heard. Instantly my body was filled with fear. I have never felt so scared in my life. The breathing was so menacing, so terrifying. I couldn’t move. I wanted to get up and look but I was so terrified of what I might see that was making such a hideous sound. I felt like crying but was afraid to make even the smallest of noises. This probably only lasted a minute but it felt like a much longer time. I took a deep breath and blessed myself and began to pray the Our Father. The very second I blessed myself, it went away. I only got as far as “In the name of the Father and the Son…” and it was gone. Not just that the breathing noise stopped. But the fear was gone. The terrible feeling of panic and terror was gone. As I prayed, I felt more and more relaxed. But I could remember the feeling all too well. I got up and went downstairs. Partly because I needed to get out of my room. Partly because I wondered if my roommate had sensed anything. She and her friend were still in the same place as before. Laughing and working on homework. I stayed downstairs with them for awhile, afraid of going back into my bedroom. When I did go back to bed, it was with rosary in hand and I prayed until I fell asleep. This might sound silly to you reading this, but I can assure you this was no dream, this was no hallucination, this was not a joke. Even just typing out the description now, I am reminded again of the sheer terror that filled me. I know this was the devil. I know it because I have never felt so afraid. And I know that the one thing the devil cannot stand up to is my God. I know that as soon as I started praying, the Holy Spirit and the angels were there to protect me, to chase away this demon. For awhile I thought to myself, why? I was not living a terrible lifestyle. I was very active in church, prayed often, why in the world would I have such an encounter? I believe that this demon was trying to scare me. Once we are filled with fear and doubt, with terror and worry, the devil has room to tempt us to turn away from God. This experience was an eye opener for me. This showed me that we are all subject to temptation from the devil and that at any moment he could try to turn us away. But that we always need to place all our trust in God and He will watch over and protect us and keep us from all harm.
Why did I decide to share that story with you now? Because I believe in spirits. I believe we are more in contact than we realize with those who have gone before us and with our Heavenly angels. I believe that God sends angels and messages from departed loved ones to reassure us, to guide us, to bring us peace. But I also believe that we need to be on guard because the devil can send demons our way in a very real fashion to do the opposite. To replace that reassurance with doubt, to turn us away rather than guiding us to Christ, and to fill us with fear and terror rather than the everlasting peace of God. And I believe that by sharing these stories with you, particularly that last one, I am showing the devil that I am not afraid. I am not afraid to point him out to others. To join with the angels and with God to fight against him.
I know this has been a rather lengthy blog and I apologize for that! But I felt that in order to share my beliefs with you, it would be best to accompany them with true stories of experiences I have had or have heard firsthand accounts of. Am I afraid of ghosts? No! Because if I believe in “ghosts” as being the spirits I have talked about…what is there to fear? I need not fear the angels or spirits sent to me by God! And With God and thoes Heavenly angels by my side, I do not need to fear the devil because he is nothing compared to my great Savior.