BURLINGTON, Ky. — They wait in silent prayer for the healing touch of Father Richard McAlear.
Hundreds have come to this one Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Some are in wheelchairs, hoping to have their bodies cured. Others have injuries of the heart, or illnesses that can not be seen with the human eye.
It is standing room only for what Father McAlear calls a “healing Mass.”
He is one of the few priests in the Catholic church who call themselves faith healers.
This is not “last rites”, also known as the anointing of the sick. “It became the sacrament of the dying,” says Father McAlear. “When all hope was lost, you called the priest. And when you saw the priest coming, you knew it was all over.”
Instead, Father McAlear’s blessing is a very real attempt to cure the patient with prayer, and with the laying on of hands. Because it is not a sacrament, anyone can receive the blessing, even non-Catholics.
Father McAlear says, “there’s nothing extraordinary happening right in front of my eyes, except you can tell the Lord’s present. Then weeks later I get a letter saying, ‘something really happened at that moment.’ ”
He says faith healing was like a “calling within a calling.” As a young priest in 1972, Father McAlear was asked to pray over a very ill woman in Buffalo, NY. Her family begged the priest to actually heal her.
Father McAlear recalls, “I gave her a blessing, I touched her head, and darn if she wasn’t healed — instantaneously, miraculously in front of my eyes.”
Word spread quickly, and soon Father McAlear was inundated with requests from the gravely ill. He decided to to make it his life’s work, launching a “healing ministry.” He now travels the globe, celebrating masses as far away as China, and to groups as large as 3,000 at a time.
• The term ‘faith healing’ refers to healing that occurs supernaturally — as the result of prayer rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians or other medical care.
• But while faith healings do take place today just as they did in the early Christian church, the teachings of some churches, movements and individuals on this subject amount to spiritual abuse.
• Legitimate churches and movements do not equal using drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God.
• Research resources on faith healing
• Vatican “Instructions on Prayers for Healing
• Richard McAlear’s website