Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Writer’s Note: In response to the March 17 article “Psychology and Spirituality: Healing in Lent,” Rib Lake resident Mary Hebda suggested contacting a former Cathedral parishioner who has recently experienced physical healing.

Josh Johansen was baptized Catholic but was not raised practicing the faith. He ended up losing what little faith he had until a painful muscle condition literally sent him to his knees more than a decade ago.

Johansen, who acknowledges the spiritual healing that began with his return to the faith in 2013, experienced a physical healing earlier this year.

His testimony witnesses to healing while expressing the currants of grace for physical healing God is waiting to pour into the lives of those who ask, knock and seek.

A testimony of physical healing

On May 16, 2012, Josh Johansen woke up early with excruciating pain in his right leg.

“It felt as if someone was repeatedly stabbing me. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t put pressure on that leg at all,” he recounted. After making it to the living room, the leg pain migrated through his back and outward until every muscle was cramping simultaneously.

“All I could do was scream in pain,” he recalls.

After he was rushed to the local emergency department, multiple tests were run, but no clear diagnosis could be made. The episode would be the first of frequent and incapacitating flare-ups that would come on randomly, lasting anywhere from a few days to weeks.

Over the 11 years since his condition began, Johansen saw many specialists in various fields, even being evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“The best they could offer for a diagnosis,” he said, “was ‘general muscle weakness.’”

Johansen was prescribed a muscle relaxer that would temporarily make the flare-ups tolerable. Even so, the condition proved severely limiting, with simple daily tasks leaving him in pain and fatigued. There was also the sensitivity to temperatures and precipitation which, living in Wisconsin, were a frequent cause of intensifying the condition.

“During these years, I attended many Catholic healing-based events all over Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Johansen said. “I know and trust that the Lord, in his infinite goodness, healed different parts of me emotionally and spiritually on each of these occasions,” he affirmed, though the physical infirmity remained.

Johansen then attended a three-day event in Colorado Springs, Colorado, called “Breakthrough Workshop on Healing,” offered by Patrick and Joy Campbell with Fr. James Blount, SOLT, as a featured speaker. A focal point of the workshop was “doorways” that might block healing, such as unforgiveness, fears and deeply believed lies, occult practices and family patterns of sin.

It was during the workshop that, unbeknownst to him, Johansen received the physical healing he had continued to seek. In the decade prior, he had not gone more than two days without chronic pain.

“The day after the workshop, I woke up without pain,” he stated. “And then the next day without pain, and then the next day without pain … pain-free still on the fourth day, and the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth days. Finally on the 10th day, I started believing that I had been healed.”

It has now been three months, and Johansen has not had to take any muscle relaxers or pain medication. He has not had to use his crutches and continues to be pain-free.

“I feel like Lazarus coming out of the tomb!” he celebrated. “There are so many things, big and small, that I couldn’t do before – like shoveling after a snowstorm or being on my feet for long periods – and now I can.”

Living without the constant pain day after day has been his miracle.

Johansen also acknowledges that a significant part of his healing has been recognizing God’s goodness, “period – regardless of how I was feeling.”

He added that he has learned suffering does not come from God and that it is only permitted by him so as to bring a greater good out of it.

“Once I realized, and accepted, my healing,” Johansen said, “I felt like God gave me this verse from Genesis 50:20. ‘You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.’

“Indeed, God used my illness to bring me many blessings,” he went on. “He stripped me of my self-reliance and instead helped me to abandon myself to his providence and care. Thus, I realized my need for God and the Eucharist… I believe God also used my suffering to transform me, increasing my empathy for others.”

The Holy Spirit

Fr. Jerry Harris, who is the newly appointed Diocesan Liaison for the Charismatic Renewal Committee in the Diocese of Superior, has been a priest for 44 years. He shared that personally he has seen many healings through Charismatic prayer, the Eucharist and the sacraments of reconciliation and baptism.

“My first exposure to the Charismatic movement occurred while attending seminary at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners (near Milwaukee),” he said, adding that he witnessed the renewal happening at Jesu Church in Milwaukee through speakers and healers, prophecies, praising God by praying in tongues, people being prayed over and healed.

“Many people do not understand what this movement is about, but it comes right out of the Bible. The Acts of the Apostles 2:1 reads, ‘When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.’

“The Holy Spirit is not just for a chosen few such as the ordained ministry,” he said. “It is for everyone to receive, share and feel alive.”

Fr. Harris likened this impetus for the Christian evangelization at Pentecost to a sailboat: “You might have the most beautiful sailboat in the world with its sails extended but unless you have wind to fill the sails, you are ‘dead in the water.’ I have seen some churches that are beautiful buildings but are ‘dead in the water’ spiritually. There is nothing happening in them that reflects workings of the Holy Spirit.”

Referring to the diocesan “Maintenance to Mission” process, Fr. Harris noted the change of focus “from maintaining to becoming apostles” who share the Gospel.

“The biggest part of this apostolic mission,” he ascertained, “Is prayer – opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit.”

He commented on the Charismatic prayer groups and meetings taking place across the diocese, saying that coordinators have recognized more time needs to be dedicated to prayer and asking for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

“We need to place whatever is needed at that moment in the hearts of that group – prayers for healing of a loved one, a broken marriage, peace in a relationship, a daughter/son gone astray and for guidance in what the Holy Spirit wants for our church. Praise is also needed to be a part of that prayer for all that God has done. We need to be a people of gratitude.”

Using the analogy of falling in love, Fr. Harris addressed how someone opens themselves to the Holy Spirit in their life: “When you allow yourself to love another person, you literally open your heart to love.”

He continued, “I hope all can remember the first time you fell in love – whether in fifth grade, in your 30s or 80s. Love is a great and wonderful God-given gift. When we give love, we can receive the gift of love. Love is to will the good of the other.

“Likewise, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we receive gifts. A portion of the prayer in the Sacrament of Confirmation Ritual that the bishop prays over the candidates reads: ‘Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence’…It is as simple and profound as that.”

For someone who feels uncertain about how to invite the Holy Spirit, he suggests the traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

“O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Fr. Harris shared how blessed and Spirit-filled his life has been, how deeply grateful he is for what God has done in his own life and his desire to be an instrument of blessing for others to live Holy Spirit-filled lives.

Johansen highlighted the many instances detailed in the Gospels of Jesus healing the sick. In his experience, “My witness is just another example of the many signs and wonders that Jesus still works today. We need only trust that he, in his infinite wisdom, knows exactly when and how to heal us.”

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Josh Johansen and his wife, Anita, formerly parishioners at Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior, met during Josh’s coursing the RCIA program in 2013. The couple were married at the Cathedral in 2017 but moved to Denver in 2018 for Anita’s job. (Submitted photo)