Many have found healing past generations an interesting concept. I did, and to pursue the topic I found myself in Twickenham, west London, at St Margaret of Scotland Catholic church on the evening of Wednesday 4 May, where Fr Angelus Houle, from the Diocese of Brentwood, had come to celebrate a special Family Tree Mass. More than a hundred people attended.
Upon arrival, the greeters were welcoming and I was handed a packet of papers. We were asked to fill out a blank diagram of a family tree, called a geogram, complete with a symbol key and codes, in order to label relatives as male/female, divorced, deceased, addictive behaviour, criminal activity, sexual abuse etc. (The geogram was collected during the Offertory). I was also told if possible, before Mass to read a very long prayer dealing with Spiritual Warfare.
Fr Houle started Mass in the usual way with an opening hymn and then we were instructed to sit. He gave a 'pre-homily' for approximately 30 minutes on how the challenges and problems of today are bereft of the saving Blood of Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Fr Angelus also suggested that sin and spiritual depravation had been passed down through the family line. A way to deal with this generational dysfunction is to rectify past generations via forgiveness and conversion.
A phrase Fr Houle used that sticks out for me in the 'pre-homily' is ...'those who hurt us the most, we love the most'... I have a bit of a problem with this concept. I agree that those we love more have the deeper capacity to break our hearts. Yet situations we cannot control or love have a similar capacity. The first example that springs to mind is the various traumas being suffered in the current refugee crisis.
After the pre-homily, we did some specialized prayers and Mass then proceeded as usual. We had the regular homily, which was geared to examining and healing the family tree. When Mass finished, together as a congregation we recited an Apology to God the Father, a Consecration and Litany to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, a Renunciation of Occult Practices and Renewal of Baptismal Promises. All this gave me the feeling of being a bit like a group exorcism. The Family Tree Mass lasted for approximately two hours. Completed in 1969, St Margaret's is a quite austere post-Vatican II building with the altar centrally located in the nave - which contrasted with the very traditional tone of this service.
The practice of looking to the family tree for information is not a new concept and is currently under research in various scientific schools of thought. The theory is that certain 'trauma' can interfere with the DNA and thus be passed on to future generations. A few examples are trauma connected with Holocaust victims, Post Traumatic Stress victims, and children exposed to stress. In 2014, The Tablet ran an article by Rachel Yeduda who discussed the how trauma had been passed down to the children of holocaust survivors and exceeded the predicted nurture factor influence. This is sometimes referred to as 'cellular memory'. Interestingly, posthumously healing and converting your ancestors is an intricate part of the Mormon faith, and is found in some traditional religions.
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