Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Dangers of Astrology

(Epiphany 2020: This homily was given on January 5, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-13; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2: 1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Epiphany 2020]

Fr. Paul Desmarais is the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Carolina, Rhode Island.  He’s also widely recognized as an authority on the occult.  He’s given talks on the subject all over the country; he’s even worked at times with local police and law enforcement officials when they’ve had to deal with crimes in which occult practices were involved.

Fr. Desmarais came here to St. Pius a few years ago to give a talk to our confirmation students and their families on this very important subject, and during that talk he mentioned the fact that many young people today are being drawn into the occult (sometimes with the support of their parents) by things like psychic readings and Ouija boards and tarot cards and horoscopes and séances at sleepovers.  (And, I might add, by popular TV shows like “Long Island Medium”).  Fr. Desmarais warned our young people and the adults who were there that night that these kinds of activities can easily open the door to demonic forces: demonic forces which are beyond our ability to control with our limited strength and human resources.

He then shared several stories of young men and women he’s helped over the years who did open the door—and who lived to regret it.

Now one occult practice that’s opening the door to evil for many people today—young and not so young—is astrology, which is the one I want to focus on this morning in my homily.  Now I realize that calling astrology “an occult practice” is something that bothers some people.  That’s because they don’t think of it in that way.  They’ll say to me, “Fr. Ray, you’ve got to be kidding!  What’s wrong with astrology?  What’s wrong with reading my daily horoscope?  It’s not like I’m having a seance or playing with a Ouija board.  I just read my horoscope to get a little thought for the day.  I really don’t take it very seriously.”  Well, if we want a little thought for the day, we should read a verse from the Book of Proverbs every morning.  The author of the Book of Proverbs is Almighty God, the author of astrology is not. 

Now some might respond by saying, “But Fr. Ray, what about that star the Magi saw?  That star led them to Christ. And besides, these so-called Magi were astrologers themselves.” 

Well, it’s true.  The Magi were more than likely astrologers.  But we need to understand: the term “astrology” back then had a much wider meaning than it does today.  Back then astrology also referred to the legitimate study of the heavens that we would now call astronomy.  We also need to remember that the Magi were pagans; they didn’t know God’s revealed truth to the extent that we know it today.  So they had an excuse for believing some false ideas.  We don’t.  And furthermore, there is a difference—a very big difference—between God giving an occasional sign in the heavens, AND LOOKING TO THE HEAVENS AS YOUR GOD, which is in effect what people do in modern astrology.  We know that at various points in history God has given special signs in the sky: the rainbow that Noah saw after the flood, the star that the Magi followed, the eclipse on Good Friday, and more recently the miracle of the sun at Fatima.  But recognizing these as signs from God is very different from looking to the stars to guide your life, which is what modern astrology is all about.  I once read about an English astrologer who said that the sun is god and the planets are angels, and therefore we should reverence and worship them all. 

That idea, my brothers and sisters, is in direct conflict with the truth of Sacred Scripture.  

The dangers of getting caught up in astrology really became clear to me just a few years after I was ordained a priest.  As some of you will recall, when I was first ordained I was sent to a parish in North Kingstown, St. Francis de Sales.  There I got to know a young woman named Joanna.  Joanna was (and is) a very intelligent person and a very talented musician.  In fact she played guitar and sang every week at Sunday Mass.  But at the time (in the late 1980s) Joanna was also heavily involved in astrology.  She even got to the point where she was doing astrological charts for people—supposedly telling them what the stars revealed about their personalities and about their futures.  I remember talking to Joanna back then, along with my mother and several other people in the parish, and we all told her in no uncertain terms that she was making a big mistake.  We told her she was opening herself up to evil forces—to demonic spirits—even though she didn’t realize it.  When Joanna herself tells this story she says that her first reaction to us was to think to herself, “Oh, these poor souls.  Fr. Ray, his mom, Noel, Barbara, Dorothea they’re really nice people, but so unenlightened.  Someday they won’t be so ignorant.  Someday they’ll understand.”

Well, two or three years passed.  I got moved to beautiful Westerly, and one night the phone rang.  It was Joanna—in a veritable panic.  She said, “Fr. Ray, something’s wrong with me and I don’t know what to do.  I have this fear that I can’t get rid of.  I think I’m going crazy.  This has never happened to me before in my life.  And please don’t misunderstand.  This is not a normal fear.  It’s a different kind of fear.  It’s a PARALYZING spirit of fear.”  I said, “Well, Joanna, quite frankly I’m not at all surprised.  Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, because the fact is you’ve been trying to serve two masters—Jesus and Satan—and you can’t do that; you can’t serve both.  You’ve opened the door to this spirit through your involvement in astrology; I have no doubt about that.  Now Jesus can free you from it, no problem—he’s infinitely more powerful than Satan is.  But you have to do your part.  In Jesus’ name you’ve got to renounce astrology, and you’ve got to repent of all your past involvement in this evil practice.  That will allow the Lord to come in and straighten things out.” 

Well, praise God, Joanna did it, and she eventually found God’s peace again.  But that incident really made it clear to me: this is very dangerous stuff which must be avoided at all costs.  And our loving God warns us about this over and over again in his word.  As we are told, for example, in Deuteronomy, chapter 4, “When you look up to the heavens and behold the sun or the moon or any star among the heavenly hosts, do not be led astray into adoring them and serving them.”

Joanna learned from her terrible experience of fear what the Magi learned from their joyful experience of following the star of Bethlehem: that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the true light of the world—and that we need to submit our lives to him in order to find true and lasting happiness.

On this feast of the Epiphany, may we all learn that very same lesson, and live our lives accordingly.