My Story

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE        

            It was sometime in 1971 that I picked up a book in the book trough in the Calefactory at Ampleforth because the title struck me as strange.  The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church by Fr. Edward O’Connor.  It proved to be a turning point in my life.  The book set out the story of a group of Catholics who experienced their own Pentecost in February 1967. They were a number of University people at Duquesne University Pittsburgh who had had a retreat by some Holy Ghost fathers in the previous year they formed a prayer group. Two of them had been praying to the Holy Spirit for some weeks. And read the Acts of he Apostles because their experience seemed to be so weak and their ability to spread the faith so weak.  This and the subsequent retreat proved to be the turning point.   and spoke with a Pentecostal for whom the experiences were normal.  The Pentecostal suggested that the next step should be for them all to become Pentecostals, but this did not seem to be the right direction.   It became clear later that this experience had occurred in a number of places at the same time, an in some before the Duquesne experience.

            As the experience developed into a power powerful prayer group and many others experienced their own Pentecost.  The first theological discussions began as to what this really meant in the Church today.  There was even a name problem – was it Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or release of the Holy Spirit given at Baptism but not fully moving the believer, or was it a new Pentecost in the Church – was it really Catholic.  How did it relate to the traditional Catholic world of Sacrament?  And did it matter that you did not have this experience, and were you a normal Catholic if you had.  Was it for everyone, or just a few special souls?  These and other questions were to come later, but for me as I read the book I saw that the theology was in order and that it did not conflict with Catholic teaching in any way, but rather was peculiarly harmonious with the content of the talks which Abbot Basil was giving the community in the weekly chapters.  However there were two questions which occurred to me. Was this a real sending of the spirit to enable today’s Catholics live the faith in today’s world or was it another gimmick similar to the guitar masses which were becoming a controversial feature in the Liturgies of the time.  Secondly, if I find that it was the former, then did I have a part t play in it, did it apply to me at all?   The answer to the second seemed easy.  If this was a real Spiritual event for the Whole Church, then I as a priest in the Church could not stand aside from it.  However the question was is this an important spiritual initiative.

            It took some time for the events of my life to give me an indication that it was indeed a sending of the Spirit to the Catholics of our time to help them in their mission after the Vatican Council.   My first action was to write to Fr. Ian Petit who was member of our Community in St. Louis Mo. and who I had heard had some experience of this.  It was now more than three years since the original experience, and there had been a mushrooming of prayer groups round the world in the Catholic communities plus Conferences in the US which brought members of these prayer groups together. 1200 wee at the Fourth National conference pm Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church in 1970.  He sent me back a pamphlet which spoke powerfully to me about the state of the Church and the experience of the Holy Spirit. Later Fr. Colin Havard and Fr. Vincent Marron both monks at St. Louis came to the monastery and told me of their experience in the Visitation Convent in St. Louis.  Both of them subsequently left the community in St. Louis.  Fr. lan brought Fr. George Kosicki who was an early priest member of the founding group over to Ampleforth on their way to Rome to the first international meeting of leaders in 1973 or 4.  He spoke to us in the Guestroom and prayed for us – but I did not experience anything at the time.