Do I have a superstitious or supernatural outlook? As a Catholic, I know I am not supposed to be superstitious (i.e., lucky rabbit’s foot, bad luck from broken mirrors, etc.) Yet, this article from the National Catholic Register was thought-provoking, especially this paragraph:
With superstition, or what might be called magic, the practitioner is always manipulating the material world in order to manipulate the supernatural world for his own benefit. The magician or shaman kills a black cat to kill the evil powers that threaten. The superstitious person wears a talisman to ward off the evil eye. The superstitious Catholic says prayers and does penance to get God to give him what we wants. [Emphasis mine.] The superstitious Catholic wears a scapular to escape hell—not as a sign of his constant life of prayer and faith.
The passage was thought-provoking because I wondered whether my seeking of plenary indulgences for victims who died from terrorist attacks might be superstitious. Am I doing the requirements for a plenary indulgence in order for God to give me what I want? How do I know whether I am doing my will or doing His will?
This is the challenge of the spiritual life. Do you find yourself with similar struggles? Do you find yourself praying, doing penance or some kind of mortification in order to bargain or manipulate God to give you what you want?
I wonder, in my case, whether it makes a difference that what I want is for the benefit of others. The plenary indulgences I seek are not even for people I know personally. And, I am seeking the help of St. Therese of Lisieux in order to make my indulgent work perfect. I hope that by making the indulgence less about me and more about souls I will one day meet in Heaven, I am conforming to God’s will and growing in supernatural love.
The article goes on to say this:
Supernaturalism, on the other hand, is God’s grace coming to us through the natural world. In superstition we try to impose our will. In Supernaturalism we try to conform to God’s will. In superstition we do something to get our way. In supernaturalism God does something to change us to his way. This is why when we do bring our prayer requests to God we always include the prayers, “According to your will.”
So, that is my hope: God’s grace coming to us through the natural world: bread & wine, acts of contrition, faith, hope and charity, verbal prayer for the Pope’s intentions. If some stain of self-interest remain, then I hope St. Therese will intercede for me and make my offering perfect. I pray that my actions conform to His will, not mine.
Dear Lord, thank you for the Enchiridion of Indulgences. Thank you for allowing us, your humble and useless children, to participate in Your Infinite Mercy. It’s not my actions that merit the plenary indulgences for souls, but the merit of Christ on the Cross. The infinite value of His Sacrifice is stored up in the Heavenly Treasury. In Your Divine Wisdom, we are allowed to participate in Your merciful action; by seeking plenary indulgences, we grow in love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Purgatory. We grow in hope that we will one day see them in Heaven and worship You together with them. Amen.