To answer this, we first must ask ‘What is a superstition?’
presuppose a supernatural world that interacts with our world. These
interactions cause both positive and negative effects on our life.
Moreover, through superstitions, we can in some way control these
interactions to make them work more favorably for us.
So, for instance:
wear my lucky tie to an interview and I land the job that I want. The
lucky tie, in my view, was a factor (perhaps even a major one) behind my
getting this job. Had that tie been ruined at the cleaners the previous
day, and I had to wear another tie and didn’t get the job, that spot of
“bad luck,” might have contributed, or even been decisive, at least in
my view, of why I didn’t get the job.
This approach to the
supernatural is contrary to how the Church tells us how we are to
approach God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses that we are
to bring our petitions before God: “The vocabulary of supplication in
the New Testament is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead,
invoke, entreat, cry out, even ‘struggle in prayer.’ Its most usual
form, because the most spontaneous, is petition: by prayer of petition
we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who
are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own
last end” (CCC 2629).
The Church affirms that we do not have any
claim of power or authority over the supernatural, only the ability to
ask God to intervene in our life.
In the example above, the
thought that the tie that I wore had any bearing on God’s intervention
in the interview or the decision-making process of the hiring runs
counter to a proper understanding of how God works in the life of a
Christian person. We can’t command God to act, we can only ask, knowing
in faith that our God will give us what we truly need.
ties and the like are not good for us. But what about praying a novena
or practicing some devotion for a specific intention? These are good
things to do, if we keep in mind that we approach God in a spirit of
trust that He will intervene in the best way for us. Some prayer books
or people will make claims that this prayer or this medal will work in
the way we want every time we use it. But remember, God is not one we
can command with certain words or gestures. As Jesus says, “Ask and you
will receive” (Luke 11:9).
Finally, Catholics are certainly to
avoid superstitions such as viewing horoscopes, visiting a medium or a
psychic or attempting to contact the dead. Such practices are
specifically mentioned in Deuteronomy: “Let there not be found among you
anyone who … practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or
sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks
oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to
the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael Parish in south St. Louis.