Hopwood Hall 1975

            There had been a conference for Catholics in Guilford in 1974, after the leaders meeting in Rome in 1973 which I did not go to but heard a lot about from some of the brethren who had gone.  But I went in my holidays to Hopwood Hall in 1975.  This retreat was led by Fr. Francis MacNutt OP. (a St. Louis Dominican whose life had been totally changed by his experience of the healing ministry.  He wrote two famous books, but then left the order, married and it is only in the 1990s that having returned to the Church and having all the dispensation, he is  back to working with some Catholics.)  There were some 150 priest among the 400 or so members of the conference.  From the beginning it was full of incident.  His talks were excellent in content and style.  His communication of his message and the solid theological and scriptural basis of his talks (some of his points I still use) made a big impression.  However when we came to the evening Masses and ministry I saw for the first time people resting in the Spirit.  That is when he prayed over them they fell back and rested on the floor controlled by some assistants.   I watched some elderly crusty parish priests go down though I did not go down myself.  (I did not rest in the spirit for years, and it was only when I heard the story of Peter Hocken in Toronto in 1995 that I allowed myself to rest while being prayed over by Fr. Leonard May at Maltby – there was nothing special which happened to me at that time but it was another step in understanding what was happening with this curious and obviously beneficial phenomenon).  I remember asking Fr Leonard Jackson who with Fr Kentigern Devlin was there, what he had experienced and he told me it was a wonderful moment in his spiritual life.   (I heard later from a parishioner of Fr. Kentigern’s that the effect of the retreat on his sermon the following Sunday was so remarkable that people asked what had happened to him.

            On another day we were all asked to go to a lecture room because there had been a problem of oppression and a deliverance was taking place.  The priests were asked to go and pray and support.  We found Fr. Francis McNutt with a middle aged woman.  She was in a very distressed state, shouting and groaning and retching.  He was calmly   praying and involving the name of Jesus to destroy the evil Spirit in her.   The eyes of the priests assembled were out on stalks!   Francis broke off to remind us that we were part of the praying team for this ministry, that the woman had come to the chapel that morning and had begun shouting obscenities at the crucifix, and it became calmer that there was an evil spirit in her as she had been a normal pious Catholic  mother.   He said that when the Holy Spirit was acting in power as he had been in the chapel and was in the lives of the retreatants, this kind of activity was quite common.  He said that in African it is much more accepted than in the West, and the retching was greeted with cheers because this was the expulsion of evil spirits.   He told us that if this happened one sometimes had to be hours with the person, one should get support, and to realise that part of the histrionics were to get you to stop the deliverance because it was threatening to the evil Spirit.  He also said that priests could be attacked by secrets made public if there was any weakness in their personal lives.   I had recently read the Exorcist and was amazed at how many of the phenomena I experienced were mentioned in that book which was purported to be based on historical cases and research.

I saw the lady next day and she looked better.  She came into my life on a small number of occasions since and she is now a catechist and Eucharistic minister in a large Lancashire parish.  This retreat made a very big impact on the priests and people.  It was the first time that we had seen some signs and wonders, because there were many healings of one sort or another some quite dramatic.   It was the first occasion many had experienced the power of the Gospel, of Jesus, to change things and make them better.