A lot of people are superstitious (Even some Catholics)
“In Superstition, Father Thurston [carries] on his relentless war against frauds and pseudo-mystics.” — The Tablet
It’s common for educated Catholics to dismiss superstition as silliness or ignorance. Fair enough. But the famed British Jesuit, Herbert Thurston, took superstition seriously. It affects more souls than we think, he said. And it is spiritually dangerous, because it encourages irrational behavior and can lead even Christians to impiety.
Fr. Thurston traces the Church’s long battle to eradicate the superstitions of the classical world, of the barbarian tribes and of Catholics, ancient and more contemporary.
While superstition endured throughout the Middle Ages, he argues that it enjoyed a kind of renaissance after the Reformation. Once they were stripped of the true faith, people in Protestant lands succumbed to a host of superstitions ranging from astrology to witchcraft to voodoo dolls. Even people who should have known better succumbed to superstition: the appearance of a comet sent Queen Elizabeth I into a three-day panic.
Father Thurston explains how to distinguish between authentic religion and pious practices, and superstitions which draw people away from real faith.
- How to recognize superstition when you see it — the classic definition from the scholastic theologians
- Examples of strange devotional superstitions that crept into Catholic practice
- Why it is so easy for superstition to attach itself to religion
- The greatest danger of superstition
- When being irrational spills over to being impious
- Overviews of common superstitions including Friday the 13th, spilled salt, breaking a mirror, opening an umbrella indoors
- The distinction between marvelous phenomena and miracles
- How superstition afflicted even the most intelligent people of ancient Greece and Rome
- The Church’s long, hard struggle to eliminate superstition
- Instances of the Catholic faithful permitting themselves to be taken in by phony relics and spurious visions (even the learned St. Anselm was once duped)
- Why St. Thomas Aquinas believed in “the evil eye”
- Why the Reformation did nothing to end superstition — but World War I did
- Quirky superstitions you may not have heard of before
- Can superstition have any good effects?
- Astrology and why it is bad