All of these Catholic healing ministries operating in the Diocese of Lansing agree upon the following answers to these frequently asked questions: Encounter Ministries, St. Paul Evangelization Institute, and the John Paul II Healing Center.
For a better understanding of the Church’s teaching on sickness and healing, we suggest reading the following Church documents:
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
- Instructions on Prayer for Healing, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Pope Paul VI, Nov. 18, 1965
- Salvici Doloris, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Pope St. John Paul II
Q #1: Why does God allow suffering?
A: God would not allow evil in his creation unless he intended to bring good out of it (see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part I, q.2, a.3). God is not the cause of evil and suffering. He allows it because He brings about a greater good through it. Jesus’ death on the cross is the greatest example. The world is redeemed through his suffering and death. Jesus makes human suffering a part of the work of redemption. Since we are members of the body of Christ, our suffering can be joined with his suffering. It can be a form of union with God, the Father.
This unification may bring about the healing we seek or God may allow the suffering to continue so that a greater good may be achieved.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “…but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
— See also CCC #’s 412, 618, 1499.
Q #2: Does God want everyone healed?
A: Yes. Through Jesus, God reveals that all people will be healed, body, mind, and soul in the kingdom of heaven (CCC 1503). But the degree to which this healing comes in this life is a mystery. The fact remains that this life will include suffering (CCC 1505). While suffering is part of God’s permissive will, the victory of the Cross reveals that God wills to bring the greatest good out of evil and suffering (CCC 599). As we read in the Prophet Isaiah, it is “by his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5). God promises complete relief of all sickness in heaven and our hope is in this promise.
“Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christian faith in general. [It is] a religion of healing. When understood at a sufficiently deep level, this expresses the entire content of ‘redemption.’”
- Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 176.
— For further reading see Rev. 21:4, CCC #’s 1045, 1046, 2629
Q #3: Isn’t spiritual healing the most important healing to experience?
A: Yes, it is. By the term ‘spiritual healing’ we mean reconciliation with God. This will include the forgiveness of sins and may also include the healing of interior wounds which make it more difficult for a person to receive God’s love and mercy. God desires to be in a relationship with each of us. If a person has interior wounds that need to be healed in order for them to enter into this relationship with him, then he will work to remedy those. It is common for people to experience interior spiritual healings when they seek physical healing. Yet, full reconciliation with God, our Father, is always the goal of ministry, including healing ministry. Sometimes physical healing occurs as well, and sometimes not.
— For further reading see CCC nos. 1, 602, 1505.
Q #4: What if you’re not healed after participating in prayer for healing?
A: God still loves you. The presence or absence of physical healings in this life are not an indication of your value to him. He wants what is best for you and is always working that out through the things you experience. It is good to seek healing through both medical and spiritual means. Jesus taught persistence in prayer, even to ask the same petition again and again, so it is a good thing to repeatedly ask him for healing. If you don’t experience healing, know that God has a great purpose for your suffering (see FAQ #1). He is using it for your good, no matter what. This requires dialogue and discernment with God about how you are to respond in love to your situation. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Romans 8:28
— For further reading see CCC nos. 1505, 2742, 2633.
Q #5: What if I’m not healed in the way I expected?
A: God’s ultimate plan is to prepare us to be with him forever, not just to remove every pain and suffering from our lives on earth. Many people have specific expectations from God when they seek healing. This is natural. If someone has cancer they may be hoping and even expecting to be made cancer-free. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet, God may choose to work through healing prayer in a way which brings about a change of heart toward him, a softening of some stubbornness, a partial healing of the cancer, or any one of a number of other ways that can lead that person to conversion (CCC 1501). He may be inviting us to receive joyfully what seems a mystery. When someone seeks and experiences healing prayer, it is important to do so within a personal dialogue with God about what he wants in our lives. We should ask him questions and be open to all kinds of answers (CCC 2560). A Spiritual mentor or counselor can be very helpful in this endeavor. (See questions #3 for more info.)
Q #6: What if I think I experienced a healing but then the ailment returns?
A: When a person experiences a miraculous healing they are not guaranteed to never experience that ailment or some other ailment again. Even Lazarus, who was brought back from the dead by Jesus, had to experience death again. We are no different. Total freedom from sickness and suffering will only occur in heaven. That said, there remains a great deal of mystery surrounding miracles of healing, and even more about this rare occurrence, sometimes referred to as ‘losing a healing’. All our experiences of God’s grace need to be discerned in order to be understood. So, during this life we should engage in a dialogue with God about everything we experience; God uses everything in our lives for our good and his glory. We should seek to cooperate with him and trust him with our lives, including our ailments (CCC 1499 & 1501).
We cannot discount the fact that in some cases the relief that some people experience in prayer for healing is due to natural means instigated by a positive experience of ministry. When a person who is sick is given positive attention through the loving care of other individuals they may simply feel better, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. This is the work of God through the Christian community, even if it isn’t miraculous. That means that some people may think their ailment is healed because they feel better, but days later they realize that the particular ailment is still with them. This, then, is not a ‘lost healing,’ but perhaps a time of refreshment through experiencing God’s presence and goodness (Acts 3:20).
As to the phenomenon of “lost healings”, it is impossible to provide a generalized answer for every time someone thinks they have “lost a healing”. Whether it can be “lost” is of much debate and each case needs to be addressed individually. Doubt may play a part in some of these cases. The devil will always work against God and try to prevent people from living in the life of faith that he provides. It is important to trust in him and hold fast to the blessings he provides and not allow yourself to question or doubt his love for you.
God’s ultimate purpose is to lead people to union with him through the forgiveness of sins and the divinizing power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. Miracles have an important part to play in God’s purposes. Yet, in healing ministry we must evaluate our experience of God’s grace according to his ultimate purpose, eternal union with him. When a miraculous healing occurs we should ask, “Did it help people experience conversion and move toward union with God?” From St. Paul we learn that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
— For further reading see CCC nos. CCC 313
Q #8: Does everyone have the charism of healing?
A: No, not all are given the charism of healing. Those who have it should exercise it with prudence and docility to the Holy Spirit. All baptized believers are encouraged to intercede for others to be healed of their ailments, whether they have the charism or not. Christians can be confident in prayers which rely on the name of Jesus. He is willing and able to work through any person’s prayers for the good of another.
“…Charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” (CCC 799)
“…the particular forms these gifts take in various times and settings cannot be made normative for any person or group. One cannot say that any one charism is for all Christians, since they are freely given as the Spirit wills.” Baptism in the Holy Spirit, International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Doctrinal Commission, 3.6.
The charism of healing is “a gift granted to a person to obtain graces of healing for others.” (Instruction on Prayers for Healing, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000)
“From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8).” (APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM para 2)
— For further reading see CCC nos. CCC 799-801, 1508 -1509.
Q #9: How are the sacraments related to healing ministry?
- A: The sacraments are the ordinary way that Christ makes present his work of salvation (CCC 1076). In baptism, for instance, we receive the Holy Spirit who makes us participants in Christ’s relationship with the Father. Therefore, we are sons and daughters of God. It is through this participation that we receive extraordinary charisms to build the kingdom of God. The charism of healing “is a gift granted to a person to obtain graces of healing for others.” These are an act of God’s mercy and love. They are meant to lead people to conversion and to a deeper participation in God’s life through the Sacraments.
— For further reading see CCC nos. 1504 & 1509.