Catholic retreat facilitator: what animal do you identify as?

Students at St. Mary's College of California question degree of Catholicism at Lasallian weekend
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Michaela Daystar was the facilitator for the retreat for St. Mary’s Lasallian community members. (image from heartscapesinsight.com)

On the weekend of Oct. 6, Lasallian community members went on a retreat at Saint Joseph’s Camp, owned by Christian Brothers and located near the Russian River. Students voiced concern over practices that Michaela Daystar incorporated into the retreat. Daystar, who has an MA in Leadership for Social Justice, facilitated the retreat and is an accredited SoulCollage facilitator, a Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher, and a Regional Master Teacher in the Embodied Wisdom Teacher Training Program certified through Shakti Feminine University.

Welcome to students of all faith traditions, the Lasallian community focuses on the charism of a Catholic priest and the founder of the Christian Brothers, Saint John Baptiste de La Salle. The Lasallian community too is sponsored by the Mission and Ministry Center (MMC). During Daystar’s facilitation, she encouraged students to identify on a spiritual level as an animal. The intent of this activity, according to Daystar in an email, was “exploring and naming their diverse personalities and ways of being in the world (with creation metaphors using animals) to build deeper group understanding and cohesion.” She led students through a centering meditation where they chose an animal and spoke about the personality traits of the animal and how it related to their interactions as a group.

Some students, who preferred to remain anonymous due to their connections with the MMC, expressed concern over Daystar’s exercises. One spoke of the activity: “What I could gather is that she wanted us to connect to an animal. In the midst of this, I and many others fell asleep. And when I woke up, all I know was that she was crouched (on the ground) like a mountain lion, pretending to pounce. So I proceeded to [identify as a] hawk. I honestly don’t know how Catholicism fits into this.”

Some things, another said, “freaked [them] out. [The retreat] was very illuminati. The content was really unexpected.” For the discussion, students met in the chapel of the retreat center. Daystar had arranged oracle cards on the left hand side of the church, surrounded by small statues from various faith traditions, owers, essential oils, and other objects. There were two decks present, Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards and Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides. Oracle cards, according to the back of the Goddess Guidance deck, “Bring Divine magic into your life.” One student explained that he knew that the use of such cards and other means of fortune-telling is condemned in the Bible due to his recent Seminar readings. “I thought the oracle cards should not have been in the chapel. I did not know if I should have talked to [the Lasallian community director] about them. After reading the Old Testament in Seminar, you hear about how God is greater than all other gods.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 2116 and 2117 that all magic is “gravely contrary to the virtue of religion” and “all forms of divination are to be rejected” because “they contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

The author of one of the oracle decks present, Doreen Virtue, who authored the Goddess Guidance deck, was baptized Christian last Spring after an “encounter” with Jesus. She has since denounced all her previous materials, including the deck displayed at the retreat, and asked her followers to turn away from “darkness” and burn the decks. Virtue asked her publisher to take materials out of print, “in case people used them to worship idols and deities other than God.” When contacted about the place of the cards in the retreat, Daystar declined to comment.

The Collegian corresponded via email with Daystar after the retreat. She stated that her overall intent was to help the community “better understand their unique gifts, to deepen their connection with each other, and to better understand how to discern their calling throughout their lives.”

According to Carrie Davis, Lasallian Community director and MMC employee, the purpose of the retreat was to bring the students together to experience community and faith. She emphasized the importance of community through structured sessions and free time spent bonding together. Faith was addressed through beginning each meal and the four retreat sessions with a prayer or meditation. Davis stated that the mission of the MMC is to “allow students in various ways to think about their faith, explore their faith, and live out their faith.” During the weekend, students were engaged in facilitated discussions and activities that centered around “self-care and vocation,” led by Daystar. In an email correspondence, Daystar declined to comment on the relationship between her facilitation and the Catholic faith.

Full story at St. Mary’s Collegian.

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  1. Be sure to click the link and read it all.
    Mother of grace, Mother of Mercy, shield us from the enemy and receive us at the hour of our death. Amen.

    • The kind of animal that warns with a snarl, then bites and devours, scattering the bones of the conquered with fitful abandon. Grrr!

  2. These are purely pagan occult practices. If Catholics want to do Christian meditation, they can pray the Rosary, use various Jesus Prayer meditaions or Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina was the type of meditation on Bibilcal passages that St. Teresa of Avila used and many other saints.

    • There is also mental prayer.
      I very much recommend Catechism of Mental Prayer by Fr. Joseph Simler.
      It is at TAN books or amazon has a kindle version.

  3. …pagan New Age, NOT Catholicism.

  4. Reading Daystar’s credentials would have been the first red flag against signing her on. Nowhere did I see Christ mentioned. Although not surprising, shame on St. Mary’s for putting their students through this. It sounds like pure torture. How about considering the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises for their next retreat??

  5. Over the last fifty years I was involved on a professional basis with organizational development, career counseling, management development, training and employee development, etc. I hold a strong conviction that the type of workshop described in this article is pure bunk, borders on total worthlessness, and often is psychologically injurious to participants. This is junk and the college administration should have stopped it from happening. The objectives of the workshop/conference/enlightenment/etc. could be achieved easily in a Catholic setting with Catholic materials and exercises. Too many institutions think of themselves as colleges first and Catholic second. It should be the other way around.

  6. James Riederer says:

    I do not have to be an expert to recognize the demonic when I see it.
    All of the activities described in the article are demonic.
    God help this woman.

  7. Good on the students to challenge this pagan wickedness.

  8. helen wheels says:

    Retreat?
    Sounds more like surrender.

  9. I identify as a hunter. Forget oracle cards and crystals. A gun is a good enough magic wand for me.

  10. Which bathroom do you use if you identify as a lion?

  11. Hmm. The four evangelists were often represented by various beasts. For example, Mark = winged lion, Matthew= winged man or angel, Luke =winged ox or bull, and John = eagle. So maybe this exercise is not all new agey!

    • There is such a thing as Jewish and Christian symbolism using animals, insects and birds, but it does not use tarot cards and astrology.

      • And we do not use them as “spirit guides”, whatever that means. They just symbolize the attributes of the person or what is taking place in a situation, such as the phoenix rising from the ashes sybolizing the resurrection, but we do not pray to nor ask the interecession of non human creatures.

    • We do ask the intercession of angels (non human creatures), but only those approved by the Church and are in our Bible — Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and our guardian angels. We do not ask the interecession of the unknown ones because they could be demons (fallen angels). The Coptic and some Orthodox churches use some other angelic names, but the Catholic Church only approves the ones spoken of in the Bible.

  12. Thanks for reminding me why we used the Newman list. Those colleges are not perfect but at least there is none of this kind of stuff.

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