Does a lecture on the practice of Shiatsu belong in my parish?

My parish is having its second annual summer long festival with several weeks of activities: lectures, book clubs, athletics, etc… They offer many interesting and entertaining activities, and on the whole it is a great thing. But in yesterday’s bulletin there was a list of these activities and one of them is a lecture on Shiatsu which will be given by a visiting nun. This strikes me as very New Age, and not something that belongs in a Catholic summer festival. I’ve tried to research it a little on the internet, and am left with the same feeling although I’ve found no overt references to spirituality. Am I wrong to be concerned? And can you point me in the right direction for more info? Should I email my pastor and express these concerns? Thank you for any info you can give me. God bless.

You have every right to be concerned about the Shiatsu lecture being offered at your parish.

Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning “finger pressure”. Practitioners of Shiatsu believe that many physical and emotional ailments are caused by poorly distributed “energy” in the body. By applying pressure with the fingers to various parts of the body it’s believed that these imbalances in the energy channels (meridians) can be corrected, thus restoring health to the body and mind. Another term for this technique is therapeutic touch (healing touch).

The following excerpt is from the Church document on the New Age: Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’:

“Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualization, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colors, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programs and self-help groups. The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.”

“New Age is often referred to by those who promote it as a “new spirituality”. It seems ironic to call it “new” when so many of its ideas have been taken from ancient religions and cultures. But what really is new is that New Age is a conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judeo-Christian religious roots. “Spirituality” in this way refers to the inner experience of harmony and unity with the whole of reality, which heals each human person’s feelings of imperfection and finiteness. People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life. When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, and to take their place in the universal process of becoming and in the New Genesis of a world in constant evolution. The result is a cosmic mysticism based on people’s awareness of a universe burgeoning with dynamic energies. Thus cosmic energy, vibration, light, God, love — even the supreme Self — all refer to one and the same reality, the primal source present in every being.”

I recommend you first bring your concerns and criticisms about this lecture to the attention of the person responsible for the event. If that fails, the next step would be to go to your pastor. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. He will lead you.

Documentation:
Is Healing Touch at Your Parish?
by Clare McGrath Merkle (a former “healer”)

Vatican document on the New Age

Information on Shiatsu

Catholic perspective on Shiatsu

God bless you! You are in my prayers.

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