Fr. Denis Phaneuf
EDMONTON – Father Denis Phaneuf says New Age practices are not something to dabble in.
"You don't dabble with fire. A little child doesn't dabble with fire by putting his hand on a hotplate," said Phaneuf.
"He might say he won't do it twice, but even doing it once he gets burnt. I've seen people dabble with the occult only once and suddenly there's a shift that takes place in their mind, and they start to dabble more."
The priest, from Cudworth, Sask., said Deuteronomy 18 calls involvement in New Age practices an abomination. From fortune telling to Ouija boards, such activities can lead people to experiment in the occult, which dilutes their Catholic faith.
Phaneuf gave two talks at the 2013 Edmonton Catholic Renewal Services' spring conference, Ransomed From Darkness.
He spoke on spiritual warfare, the importance of spending quality time with Jesus in prayer, pondering the Scriptures and filling oneself with the truth of God's Word.
He also clarified the difference between power and authority.
"The devil has power, but no authority. As Christians, we have both power and authority.
The enemy, the devil, only has authority to the degree that we give it to him," said Phaneuf.
"If people involve themselves in the occult or New Age Gnosticism, we are surrendering to the enemy some authority."
Even for some activities that might seem inconsequential, such as hypnosis or taking a yoga class, he cautions that there is the potential for harm.
"There are many people in this room who have been involved in the New Age movement. I have people in my parish who go to psychics or they read horoscopes or they go to séances.
"They slowly lose their faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate goal of many of these occult practices," said Phaneuf.
New Age practices are akin to pollution that cannot be seen, yet that pollution is causing harm to the human body, perhaps creating disease.
He said when a school board promotes yoga, it is really promoting Hinduism, a religion that has powers behind it which are not of God.
He warned that even if people have a legitimate spiritual longing, engaging in such practices runs counter to Christianity.
Some people turn to New Age practices to find easy solutions to their problems. Perhaps for their health problems, they turn to questionable methods such as kinesiology, therapeutic touch or herbal medicines.
Phaneuf said St. Paul never once asked for problems to go away, just for the means to get through them.
"You can pray for your problems to go away, but they don't necessarily go away. What you should pray for is the strength to get through the problem, whatever that problem may be," he said.
"Some people do have very serious, painful, sad problems. But we have many stories of people coming out victorious. God wants us to go through those things so we can grow and mature."
Phaneuf's central message is the need to spend quality time with God every day. As stated in Psalm 16.11, we learn that in God's presence, there is joy.
"We have a lot of joyless people because they don't live in the presence of God," he said. "Some even live in the presence of demons, and they wonder why they're so depressed. Our job is to teach, preach and pray that people will find a happy, enjoyable life."