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Healing the Family Tree

Healing the Family Tree

December 18th (part 1) & 19th (part 2) at 6:30PM. Healing Mass after the talk on the 19th.

I have heard parents say to one another when they have become frustrated with a child, “That does not come from my family. It must be yours.” It sounds common and funny, yet there might be some truth to this statement as we look deeper into our family history.

Genetics are genetics and we receive specific traits from our parents, for better or worse. Yet, not only are we physical beings but we are spiritual as well. We not only pick up the physical traits of our ancestors but also the spiritual.

Despite the ancient temptation to blame our ancestors for our sins and misfortunes, we are each morally responsible for our own sins in the eyes of God. Indeed, we need to look into our own hearts and ask the Holy Spirit to help us repent so that we can find forgiveness and spiritual healing.

A while back I came across this great explanation for understanding the need to heal the family tree from Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, so I’d like to share it:

“It is also true to say that the sins of our ancestors — right back to our first parents, Adam and Eve — do affect our lives today and leave us inheriting some pretty heavy baggage to carry around. First of all, there is the inherited "wound" of original sin that is passed down to all of us from the Fall of Adam and Eve. They were the fountainhead of the whole human race, and when they turned their backs on God, they cut off themselves, and their whole progeny, from the life-giving, original gift of the Holy Spirit. They initiated a deprivation of spiritual life that left us all inheriting a human condition in which we are subject to suffering and death, disordered desires, weakened will power, and the clouding of the mind from the truth about God (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404-405). God does not hold us all "morally responsible" for the Fall of Adam, of course, but He did create us as an interdependent race so that we can suffer both spiritually and bodily from the sins of others. We may think this unfair, but remember that the interdependence of the human race is also the source of most of our highest blessings, for example, the solidarity and intimacy of family life and the communion of love and grace in which we participate as members of the Body of Christ. To make such supreme blessings possible to creatures with free will like us, the Lord also had to permit us to misuse that freedom and interdependence, with all its tragic results.”

“This "interdependence" of the human race also means that the sins of ancestors and parents can affect us in other, more subtle ways (and this is surely the truth behind the Lord's saying in Exodus 20:5 that He "visits the sins" of the parents on their children to the third and fourth generation). For example, some destructive conditions (such as alcoholism, depression, and irascibility) can be passed down to us in our genetic inheritance. Moreover, the problems of our immediate parents and grandparents can be passed down to us in other ways, too, such as if they set a bad moral example for us of giving in to those destructive, inherited dispositions (as, sadly, people tend to do from generation to generation), or if they abused our bodies or failed to give us the love we needed when we are growing up. In such instances, we can become "saddled" with emotional and developmental scars. For instance, if we weren't given the love we needed as children, we may spend our lives struggling to learn how to love others and ourselves. This does not make them fully "responsible" for our sins and all our problems today, of course, and we have the responsibility to take action to find healing for these generational wounds ourselves. But, in this sense, healing for the past is certainly an aspect of the Church's ministry of healing prayer today.”

I am not going to delve into the psychology of things. I am going to dive into the spiritual realm. I hope to show how these injuries can leave us open to the evil one who always seeks to exploit man’s woundedness so as to draw him from God’s grace. Yet God in His mercy comes to our aid and gives us the means to cut off the generational curse. Our goal is to detect (by asking questions of relatives) or discern, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what negative behavioral patterns or physical illnesses and disabilities need to be healed. You are not trying to get negative information for gossip; instead, you are asking God to heal specific problems and stop their continuation, out of love for others. You are praying from your heart for things to be made right. As such we seek personal healing and forgiveness of not only ourselves but also our ancestors.