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Two paths of mine converged recently: I’ve been working on the 50 Million Names project to see to it that aborted babies are given names and honored by prayer and gestures of love, and I recently prepared for a talk about helping women heal from interior ‘dis-integration’. Into this mix, in God’s timely fashion, came the book Healing the Family Tree, by Dr. Kenneth McAll, a devout Anglican psychiatrist who writes about hundreds of cases in which an emotional or physical illness was cured through the release of spiritual bondage.
His awareness developed as he looked for the roots of illness that baffled all physical and psychological approaches and, finally, began to look backward from the patient into the family history for clues to seemingly incurable problems. In many cases, an instance of abortion, miscarriage, or other ‘loss’ of an unnamed child was found to be at the root of the symptoms. In others, some unquiet spirit within the patient’s blood line cried out for healing prayer. In fewer, outright oppression by evil spirits was involved.
In every case, the patient and the bondage was taken before Jesus Christ in prayer, and the Eucharist received with the intention of release for both patient and relative. I did some research and discovered that McAll’s work had influenced many, many people, including Catholics, to take more seriously the work of consciously praying for the dead, and for the living affected by generational sin, or bondage to dead relatives in unresolved need of acknowledgement, forgiveness, and other release.
McAll quotes Scripture, St. John Chrysostum, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Augustine, Church fathers, the Eastern Orthodox tradition in support of praying not to, but for the dead. He refers to the many Anglicans who are nowadays convinced “that there exists – and that there is an absolute need for – an intermediate stage of purification between death and resurrection” from which the dead may appeal to the living for prayer. Of course, Catholics have already acknowledged Purgatory’s existence (which Anglican author C.S. Lewis termed a ‘hopeful doctrine’) and are already instructed to pray for the souls there. I’m sure I don’t pray enough for them!
What struck me about McAll’s work is that I had never much thought about my own family history. Though I had done some praying for near relations, I began to pray about whether there were any souls in our tree, or any needs within my living family , for which such prayer should be offered. Using a prayer from Catholic priest Father John Hampsch, I headed for Our Lord in the Eucharist and began to pray. I was surprised as a number of ‘needs’ surfaced very clearly.
For example, I had once used birth control pills, and realized that there are probably children I’ve ‘lost’ without even realizing conception had occurred. My husband’s grandmother died during an abortion, and that child was never named or mourned. I have two adult sons living non-Christian lives, who may have fathered children now ‘lost’ to us. A father I know of died without reconciliation with his children, and without Sacramental burial.
A number of other souls came to mind as I prayed, and I believe that, through the prayer united to the Eucharist, release and healing was poured out on our family and friends in ways that I may not ever be fully aware of in this life. I’ve given names at 50MillionNames.org for several babies in honor of these persons for whom I prayed. I offer Fr. Hampsch’s prayer, here, as a gift to anyone else who may feel led to discern her own family’s need for healing in this way. God bless you!
P.S. Here is some more help from Fr. Hampsch, a Claretian priest, on such healing prayer.