I have spent many hours doing pastoral work and in the confessional. I had some recreation time to get physical exercise and to maintain a balanced life with healthy interests like family, friends, studying, reading, writing, being a pen-pal, religious and family-friendly entertainment like watching EWTN and natural healthcare.
One of my other hobbies has been doing some magic tricks and flourishes using a deck of playing cards. I was interested in sanctifying and saving souls and this was just one of the ways I enjoyed reaching out to them. I used to do some magic shows for school children, parish groups, nephews, nieces, and small gatherings of my fellow priests. Hopefully, the faith I taught is more remembered than the magic shows I gave.
St. John Bosco can be seen as a patron saint of Catholic magicians since he used magic and juggling as a tool. His autobiography lists dozens of magic tricks used for the purpose of offering religious instruction to children and youth.
Fr. Ted Colleton, a very prayerful friend and pro-life warrior, used to enjoy doing card tricks. It was amazing how he could find the cards you picked in a deck and got you laughing, even into his old age. It is a way to be able to meet people and share some good cheer.
I have not read it yet, but there is a book that received an Imprimatur from the Catholic Church that shows how catechists can teach the faith using “magic” tricks.
Sleight of hand magic, or illusions, should not be confused with sorcery. This kind of innocent magic is not “new age” or occult practice.
Someone who does sleight of hand tricks to manipulate objects, including playing card shuffling games or flourishes, to catechize or entertain with a pure intention is not attempting to invoke evil forces.
What the Church condemns is summoning or attempting to manipulate supernatural power to further the magician’s ends. “All practices or 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.” (CCC 2117)
In 2011, my book “A Cut Above” was published. It is currently the most complete collection of one-hand card cuts ever published. Many of them are original. It is for those who are interested in learning some challenging card flourishes. Flourishes are basically fancy ways of shuffling or “cutting” playing cards in an entertaining way that requires skill with the hands and takes practice.
Even if you are an amateur and make a mistake trying to do a trick that is designed to entertain or catechize, you can laugh at yourself and get others laughing about it. You can still intend to make friends and evangelize or catechize, directly or indirectly, at the same time.
True ecumenism is to bring all souls to God, Who is Love, through the fullness of the Christian Faith in the Catholic Church. Everything we do, including our recreation, such as exercise or hobbies, can be offered up for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
I once wrote a booklet including card tricks I invented using table salt as a card locator. You could even use blessed salt. I was recently asked to bless and exorcise some salt according to the 1962 missal, for use on food etc.
I am posting a photo of me teaching a one-hand card flourish to “Dr. Casaubon.” As you can see, we were having a good laugh.
Msgr. Vincent Foy, February 27, 2015