Obedience to God or to Man?
A Catholic Woman’s response to the
Catholic Bishops’ prohibition of Reiki
Copyright 2009 Lauri Lumby Schmidt
On March 25, 2009, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine released their document, Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy. Acting as the modern-day Inquisition, the Committee on Doctrine has effectively burned at the stake all men and women who have been teaching or practicing Reiki within Catholic institutions. As a Roman Catholic woman who has studied Reiki under the tutelage of women religious and has incorporated Reiki into my own ministry, I am both saddened and offended by this document. I am saddened by the effect it will have on those who have shared this remarkable gift within the context of their retreat, spiritual direction and healing ministries. I am offended by the poor scientific research and ignorance of Reiki on the part of the Bishops who formulated this document. Even more alarming to me is the temptation of fear that has driven the Bishops to take such a prohibitive stance. I am left wondering how the Bishops could have missed the grace of God that has been revealed to so many in both sharing and receiving the gift of Reiki.
My own journey with Reiki began nearly 20 years ago when a friend mentioned she was taking a Reiki class. At the time, I knew nothing about Reiki, but there was something in the word itself that grabbed me and I observed a deep knowing that Reiki was something I needed to study at some point in my journey. I spent the next 15 years looking for a Reiki teacher and while teachers were abundant, none felt quite right. Then in 1999, while completing my training as a spiritual director, I discovered that the Catholic sister who was the director of our program was a Reiki practitioner. I took the opportunity to inquire and she referred me to her teacher, another Catholic nun who had attained the level of Reiki Master. I knew that this was the teaching path for which I had been searching. I immediately signed up for the Level One training and have never looked back. After completing Levels One through Three of Usui Reiki, I then went on to study Level One and Level Two of Karuna Reiki – again, through a Catholic woman religious.
What I most appreciated about the path to which I had been led was the way in which my teachers presented Reiki in light of the Catholic faith in which I had been raised. I have found Reiki to be consistent with scripture and with my Catholic faith. Through the Reiki attunement, we are ritually commissioned to go forth and heal in the same way that Jesus’ disciples were commissioned:
Jesus sent them to proclaim the loving counsel of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9: 2)
Reiki provides an opportunity through the charism of healing to accept the unique way in which we are gifted and called to participate in the Body of Christ:
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another expression of knowledge…to another faith…; to another gifts of healing…; to another mighty deeds; to another prophesy; to another discernment of spirits; to another variety of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as the Spirit wishes… Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually parts of it. (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11, 27)
And in accepting this call to being the Body of Christ, we can be assured that God will work through us in ways far beyond what we could possibly accomplish on our own:
Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these because I am returning to the Source. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do so that our Creator may be glorified. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. (John 14: 12-14)
It is through prayerful reflection on scripture that I have come to understand Reiki as one of the ways in which I am called to continue Jesus’ healing ministry and to be a vessel through which the healing love of God can be revealed in our world.
Where I have embraced Reiki as a path revealed to me by God, for the fearful few, Reiki cannot be considered valid because “it is not truth unless it is explicitly handed down by the magesterium.” In this case, I believe that the fear is that Reiki will somehow lead the practitioner or recipient away from their Catholic faith. In my own practice, I can say that my experience has been quite the opposite. In each situation where I am blessed to witness the healing grace of God, I am drawn deeper into my relationship with the Divine. I am at once humbled and awed at the way in which God works in the lives of the people to whom I minister. As a spiritual director, Reiki has helped me to grow in my practice and has helped me to be more effective in assisting my clients in finding healing for their spiritual and emotional wounds. Through Reiki, I have come to understand Catholic teachings that I had previously passed over as irrelevant. Furthermore, Reiki has allowed me to more and more fully embrace the Vatican II Council’s invitation to ecumenical dialogue as I grow in compassion through exploration of and dialogue with the mystical practices of the East. Reiki has become a magnificent tool through which I, along with my Catholic/Christian clients have the opportunity to more and more fully embrace the peace, love and joy that are at the heart of Christian teaching.
As I reflect on the way in which Reiki has been such a tool, one client in particular comes to mind. This woman, stricken with MS, came for a Reiki treatment upon the recommendation of her son. Her granddaughter had been killed in a tragic accident a year earlier and her husband, who could no longer handle the stress of her disease, had recently filed for divorce. She was bent over with grief and stooped from the crippling effects of the MS. As I listened to her story, and witnessed the despair and hopelessness in her face I asked myself, “What good can Reiki possibly do for this woman?”
When the treatment was complete, the woman stepped down from the treatment table and I will never forget what I saw. The woman stood up straight and in her stride was a sense of purpose and ease that had not been there before. Her face glowed with a look of peacefulness and serenity. She actually looked joyful. She sat beside me and shared her experience: “What just happened? I have never felt like this before. Never in 12 years of Catholic school, or in all the prayers I have offered or in 50+ years of attending mass have I experienced this. For the first time in my life, I feel completely at peace. The pain has melted away and I feel like I have been resting within a warm vessel of love. What was that and how can I experience this again?” Her experience brought me to tears and together we were in awe over the way that God had reached into her broken spirit and given her the gift of peace. She had what St. Ignatius of Loyola called her “foundational experience of God.” From that day forward, she adopted a daily discipline of meditation and prayer that has allowed her to grow in her faith. While she still struggles with the physical symptoms of MS, her spiritual, mental and emotional life are filled with contentment and joy. It is her story, along with countless others that continues to affirm that this is the path God has ordained for me.
As I struggle to find a response to the Bishops’ document, I am reminded that as Reiki practitioners, we are not alone. Jesus’ own disciples were forbidden to teach or heal in the name of their great teacher (Acts 4: 13-21). Perhaps Peter and John’s response can be a source of inspiration and a balm of healing for those within and without the Catholic Institution who seek to be true to the path God has set forth for us: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
Lauri Lumby Schmidt is a Reiki Master, Lay Minister, trained Spiritual Director, and writer. Lauri shared Reiki as part of her ministry within the institution of the Catholic Church until 2003. Lauri is now the owner of Authentic Freedom Ministries in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where she offers Reiki, Spiritual Direction, Adult Spiritual Formation and retreats. Lauri is looking forward to the publication of her book, Authentic Freedom – the Hidden Teachings of Christ in the fall of 2010 which details the connections between Reiki and the teachings of Christ. She can be reached through her website: www.authenticfreedom.net.