Catholics attracted by new thought

CINCINNATI - A group gathers at the Positive living Center, A New Age-thought church in Hartwell, for the Friday night program.

"How many of you come from Catholic backgrounds, or are practicing Catholics?"  Church president and minister Patricia Mischell asks the group.  About half the people in the room raise their hands.

Why does the New Age philosophy attract these Catholics?

Mischell, a baptized Catholic who left the Catholic Church 17 years ago, said that more than any other religion, Catholics are open to the beliefs contained in the New Age philosophy.

"You know, (Catholics) have always believed in miracles, always believed in visions." she said.  Catholics also believe certain people have the gift of prophecy.

"New Age talks about the laying on of hands,"  "Well you know, Catholic's have had more of an open mind abut this than any other religion.  The Chrismatic movement started in the Catholic Church".

Another reason Catholics may be attracted to Mischell's brand of New Ageism, is the claim by Mischell that St. Therese of Lisieux speaks through her at the Friday night sessions.

Mischell said she became a channeler of St. Therese, a late 19th century Carmelite nun also known as the Little flower, in 1976.  It was during a meditation session with 12 other people, according to Mischell, that she fell asleep.  When she awoke three hours later, the others told her St. Therese had spoken using her vocal chords.

Mischell allegedly channels St. Therese each Friday evening.  The messages she relays are always of a general nature, asking those present to love others, pray for world peace, glorify God and to find the Christ within themselves.  The voice also makes very general predictions.

But the voice also condemns organized religions and, according to Mischell, has promised that the blessed Mother will appear at the Positive Living Center.

Father Richard Sweeney, dean of the Athenaeum and Associate Professor of pastoral psychology and

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spirituality, said a great deal of caution needs to be taken when dealing with channeling claims such as those made by Mischell.

"The church has always discouraged belief in mediums," he said.  Vatican II, for example, "does condemn all forms of invocation of spirits," he said.

Mischell contends New Age philosophy and the beliefs of the Catholic church can co-exist.  She believes that her falling away from the church had more to do with "man-made laws" rather than dogma.  Pictures of Christ, statues of the Blessed Virgin and books about St. Therese of Lisieux are placed prominently about the Positive Living Center.

In addition to the sessions with St. Therese, the Positive Living Center also offers hypnotherapy, massage therapy, "spiritual healing and energy balancing," yoga, crystals and healing works-shops.

Mischell's psychic services have been hired by police departments seeking missing persons and solutions to crimes and parents hoping to read the minds of their autistic children.

Mischell also claims to channel the "Ambassadors of God," a group of spiritual beings.  She offers for sale some of the messages from the "Universal Mind of God"  for 19.95 per tape and claims the messages on the tapes are "God's thoughts."

While the Catholic church does not deny the possibility of spirits, it doesn't sanction spiritualism.  It does occasionally investigate claims of apparitions and messages when they have widespread impact.

Father Sweeney said the church judges the authenticity of messages conveyed through alleged apparitions by testing to see if they are fully in accord with the teachings of the church and bear fruit for the faith community over a long period of time.

A Message is not authentic if it "is fostering confusion and illusion," he said.

Who is St. Therese De Lisieux?
CINCINNATI - St. Therese De Lisieux, better known as the little Flower, was a Carmelite nun who
 lived in the late 19th Century.

Born Marie Francoise Therese Martin in 1973, the Little flower entered the Carmelite Convent at Lisieux in 1888 at the age of 15.

It was during the last four years of her life she articulated her "Little Way."  Her way was not a single virtue, but an attitude of soul, the basis of an entire

 relationship with God.

St. Therese contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 24.  Her sister edited St. Therese's writing and they were published as an autobiography after her death.

As the autobiography gained popularity, there were reports of favors spiritual and material, granted through her intercession.  She was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925.

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