Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dennis White


Healing workshops and retreats have become a popular form of religious experience among some Catholics. These retreats differ from other, more traditional retreats, in that prayer is offered specifically for the physical and emotional healing of the participants. The purpose of this study was the investigation of two personality characteristics of persons who attended healing retreats.

Anxiety was the first characteristic to be studied. May (1977) defined anxiety in •a broad way as "the apprehension cued off by a threat to some value that the individual holds essential to his existence as a personality [p. 205]." This was measured in two ways. The first, state anxiety, refers to the anxiety a person experiences in the present moment. It is conceptualized as "subjective, consciously perceived feelings of tension and apprehension, and heightened autonomic activity [Spielberger, 1970, p. J]." It varies considerably over time. The second, trait anxiety, is the measure of anxiety proneness experienced at a relatively stable level over a period of time.

Religious motivation, the second personality characteristic studied, is a multi-faceted appreciation of a person's approach toward religion, the practice of one's faith. It is concerned with the orientation one has towards the role of faith in life, ranging from using religion as a means to an end (extrinsic) to the practice of religion for its own sake as the ultimate value of one's life (intrinsic) (Allport & Ross, 1967; Hoge, 1972).

The Ss tested in this study were Catholics who had participated in four different experiences: two healing workshops, a religious retreat in traditional form and a group chosen at random from a parish which served as a control group.

It was hypothesized that state anxiety would be reduced in the healing workshop participants The results showed that it was reduced for the three retreat groups, not for the control group. In the six week follow up testing, there was a significant difference between the retreat groups with the healing workshop Ss continuing their -reduced state anxiety levels and the regular retreat Ss showing an increased state anxiety level higher than when they began their retreats. Trait anxiety also showed like responses, but to a much lesser degree.

It was also hypothesized that participants in the healing retreats may be using prayer in a manipulative fashion, using religion to gain a more ultimate goal: their healing. It was found that this was not true. These Ss were more intrinsically motivated than were their counterparts in the other groups.

Other factors were investigated in order to discover interrelationships with the Ss' sex, age, religious affiliation, length and kind of education, and involvement in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Few relationships were found. The claim of healing was tested and found that it did not correlate significantly with experienced changes in the Ss' functioning.

This study offers new light on the phenomenon of spiritual healing among members of the Catholic Church. It challenges the a priori reason for systematically denying the historicity of the healing accounts in the Scriptures and gives some encouragement to participants in the Charismatic Renewal who believe that they have been healed through prayer.



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