“Ask a Priest: If Mary Spoke to Me in a Dream, Is That Clairvoyance?”

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Q: I’ve always been told that psychics are bad and immoral. But throughout the Bible prophets have seen or spoken to God, and to me that sounds like aspects of clairvoyance. Is clairvoyance OK if it is used to seek a deeper connection with God instead of for personal gain? I’m asking because I’ve experienced premonitions in dreams before, and I believe Mary came and spoke to me in my dream during a time of struggle for me. It led me to see clairvoyance as a gift, but I still am told by my grandmother that it’s against God. I didn’t ask for or actively seek out a special ability like this, so is it really bad? I’d really like to know what the Church says about things like this. Thank you. – H.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There is a big difference between clairvoyants and fortunetellers, and the prophets and saints who do God’s bidding.

The short answer to your question is: If you want a deeper relationship with God, the way to do it is through prayer and the sacraments and Scripture reading and works of charity.

If God allows, for instance, the Blessed Virgin to appear to you in a dream, that is great. But that is a bit out of the ordinary — and it is far removed from clairvoyance, which tries to tap into occult, demonic powers.

In the case of the prophets, it was God who took the initiative to communicate to them and through them. Throughout Scripture the prophets were chosen unexpectedly – Moses wasn’t seeking the burning bush that he happened to encounter, for instance. With clairvoyance, by contrast, people try to tap into some kind of spiritual force that is not the Almighty.

A few numbers are worth quoting from the Catechism:

Divination and magic

2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity. [end quoted material]

If you think Mary appeared to you in a dream, then you might interpret that as a sign of her closeness to you. The dream certainly had nothing to do with clairvoyance. You might want to intensify your devotion to her, through the rosary. In this way you will take advantage, licitly, of what is perhaps a special grace.

You might consider one of our online retreats on Mary and the rosary, entitled “River of Wisdom.”

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