Advent is upon us!

As I’ve been doing for nearly eleven years, I’m about to remind you of the beginning of another season on the Church’s liturgical calendar. Although you are probably aware of Advent starting tomorrow night, my doing so is like a little exhortation to not just think of it as another page on the calendar or noticing differently colored priestly vestments or a new missal; no, it’s to help drive home the awesome wonderfulness of the liturgical calendar.

We pray and worship with the seasons and each one benefits us in a different way all the while drawing us closer to Jesus.

To me, it also helps the years pass by more quickly and aids in coping.

Advent is here, and with it we await Jesus’ first coming among us as a helpless babe. Teaching us humility, that the Second Person of the Trinity had the audacity to come to us in that manner rather than in some mighty and magnificent way (like one would expect), God drives home a difficult message and becomes humble. Humility is a trait not quite respected in most “advanced” cultures on Earth. We could use more of it. (NOTE TO SELF!)

Take advantage of the season: Jesus is coming and we have to prepare! Clear away from your hearts and minds all that is impure, unwholesome, wicked and selfish. Conquer self-will, try God’s will. Go to Confession at least once and clear out the gunk.

Here’s a good resource for those of you who wish to delve deeply into the season: Praying Advent 2018

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Death as a passage

What do you think of death? Is it something to be feared, avoided and denied? Like many people do you ignore it and hope it never bothers you?

I have had a relationship with death stretching back to my childhood. Not that I lost anyone close to me during that time, but I feared that I would. My Mom had celebrated her 47th birthday 11 days before I was born. Dad turned 50 a few months before that. I thought nothing of it until I went to school at age 5. At school events (choir, plays, etc.) I noticed right away that the other kid’s parents seemed different. I discovered that they were younger. They were farther away from death than my parents were. Death… as in going away permanently. I didn’t much like that. I was convinced that at any time Mom and Dad were going to die. I developed the habit of checking their chests while they were napping to see if they were breathing. This continued long after I reached adulthood during vacations home and after I returned home from California in 1995 to care for Mom.

My adult experience of death has been defined by my Mom’s dying in November 2005, and the subsequent griefwork (grief counseling, namely online discussion forums, in person counseling and grief support groups.) After the initial period which lasted well over a year, I developed the notion that death isn’t something to be feared. Sure, I would rather have my Mom and other loved ones still around, but as I moved past the pain and agony of the loss, I was able to see and understand the “Communion of Saints” doctrine of the Church as something of a comfort. This great “cloud of witnesses” that St. Paul writes about in Hebrews 12 may include our beloved dead, gone on before us. They form a part of the Church along with us. Those in Heaven being members of the Church Triumphant, while we still on Earth as a part of the Church Militant. Together with the Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory) we all comprise the Mystical Body of Christ. We are all members of a community of believers, and as a community can still have a relational bond.

Through prayer and devotion to the deceased, we can still maintain our relationships with them. They are not completely gone. We obviously cannot interact with them as we once did, but it is uncharitable and cynical to regard them as forgotten or “gone” . They are just beyond from where we are.

Therefore, death ceases to be a means by which our beloved are taken away and are gone. Death becomes a passage through which our beloved experience the joy of entering into the presence of God, the domain of eternity where He is.

Ultimately it is a passage that we need to think about and meditate upon. Unlike most times where we focus upon the destination rather than the road, this passage is significant unto itself. Everyone will experience it. Regardless of what you believe happens after death, it is universal. Happens to everyone. Whether the passage of death leads one to Heaven or Hell depends upon the choices we make while alive. Therefore death as a passage forces this consideration of our daily living. How do we live?

If your attention is focused upon Heaven, and you consciously yearn for that place which is our true home, the death is to be welcomed and not feared. Perhaps not desired, but certainly not looked upon with dread.

And definitely a motivation to repent and reform our lives and practice our recovery principles.

Death is our way home.

NOTE: This post is reblogged from another blog of mine on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell that is discontinued. Relevant posts on recovery are being migrated one at a time over the next few years to Sober Catholic.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Death and Purgatory

As a person who suffered from alcoholism, I can say that I have already experienced death of a sort.

The old me has died. Some parts of the old corpus may still be twitching, but essentially out of the agony and expiration of the old Paulcoholic a new person has been reborn.

Oblivion did not result from that death. It could have, as with the case of so many people who died of their addiction before being reached by treatment of whatever manner. Not to mean that oblivion follows death, as a Christian I believe in an afterlife. But an oblivion that results from dying anonymously, forgotten, and not-missed.

My rebirth as a sober alcoholic led me to return to the Catholic Church. In essence, my recovery helped to to sort out the garbage of my life and keep what’s best. My “truer self” is now represented by me.

The death throes of the old Paulcoholic could be likened to an experience of Purgatory. Purgatory is that state of existence after dying where the souls destined for Heaven need to be “purged” of their attachment to sin and the self. Nothing impure can enter into Heaven, and even if you die in the graces of God, you can still have an attachment to Earthly things that would prevent you from being fit to enter into the presence of God. Some Catholic mystics describe the purging as a pain caused by being near to God but separated from Him, and knowing that their Earthly attachments and selfishness is the cause of that separation. The pain is a longing for God that burns away those parts of the self that separates the soul from God.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

Via CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SECOND EDITION, courtesy St Charles Borromeo Parish, Picayune, MS, USA

I was “purged” of my addiction and character defects through withdrawal from alcohol and hallucinations, and finally just wanting what sober people had. The withdrawal could be likened to a “death”, the wanting of what others had with the purgation of the flaws of the old self.

In both deaths, the symbolic death of the alcoholic self and the real death we all face, a truer person emerges from the ordeal. In Heaven we will be free from all of our personal failings and shortcomings, all defects and things that hindered our true personality and development.

We will be the persons we are supposed to be.

That journey can begin now with a concerted effort in developing a vibrant prayer life, a commitment to involve oneself in the sacramental life of the Church, and a firm purpose of amending sinful ways.

Live as you were meant to live.

NOTE: This post is reblogged from another blog of mine on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell that is discontinued. Relevant posts on recovery are being migrated one at a time over the next few years to Sober Catholic.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Visiting a Cemetery in November

Catholic Culture has an excellent article regarding a very beneficial pious activity that can aid in your own spiritual progression. It also is a good reminder of where we’ll end up someday. (A grave. Morbid? True, but you should be more aware that you will die someday. Too many people are in denial.)

Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November is something I try to do every November. It is about the act of visiting a cemetery between November 1st and 8th.

To summarize from the “Catholic Culture” site:Indulgenced Acts for the Poor Souls: A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest  is prayed. This is a good prayer to recite especially during the month of November:

 ‘Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.'”

The Catholic Culture article explains the differences between plenary and partial indulgences.

NOTE: Portions of this post are reblogged from another blog of mine (The Four Last Things) that has been discontinued. Posts like this are what you should expect to see more of on Sober Catholic, especially come November. See: Slight change in direction for Sober Catholic

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Slight change in direction for Sober Catholic

In about a week I will commemorate the twelfth anniversary of my Mom’s death. One of the impacts of her dying and eventual death has been my increasing interest in Catholic teaching on the afterlife and specifically a growing devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. When I started Sober Catholic almost eleven years ago I also started a “sister” blog to discuss issues on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell, which are the called the “Four Last Things” in the Church. Hence, that was the blog’s name (“4LT” for short.).

4LT was a nice little blog, kind of intimate as I was probably one of a half-dozen readers. 😉 Last year I started thinking about whether it was necessary; that any posts there should be on here as “death and dying” and the afterlife are topics rarely discussed in recovery blogs or meetings. I thought that maybe they should be showcased in their own blog given how queasy some people feel about such things.

Excerpts from its first post:

There are four unalterable, unavoidable truths that every human must eventually face.

You will die.

You will be judged.

You will be received into Heaven or…

… your life will condemn you to Hell.

Period. No wishful thinking will alter the above truths. They are expressly laid out in the Bible and they cannot be avoided.

“But I’m not Christian…” Yeah, so what? Non-Christian religions may have much truth in them and they may lead people to God, but only in Judeo-Christianity has God revealed Himself to us and wrote a roadmap to the afterlife and salvation in the Bible. You will be judged for what you are responsible for (more on that in a later post).

Anyway, my name is Paul, and I am an alcoholic who found sobriety from drink in the Twelve Steps of a recovery program but discovered sustained sobriety in the Catholic Church. In the course of my recovery, I thought more deeply than most other 12-Steppers of my acquaintance on the eternal verities. Death. Judgement. Heaven. Hell. The four unavoidables.

I’ve rarely heard these topics brought up in recovery meetings, except that some members presumed that they’ve already experienced Hell or went through Purgatory on Earth as a consequence of their drinking. I understood that as an expression of suffering, but I wondered about the real places , or whatever they are. That will be explored in this blog…

…another reason why I am starting this blog is that one thing I’ve heard in 12 Step meetings is the basic conviction or feeling that once you’ve stopped drinking, that’s it. You’ve run the race and you’re “in”. That’s always bothered me. Just not drinking today isn’t enough. You may still sin (that is, offend God), and perhaps even mortally sin. There are whole other ways to screw up your life besides drinking. You may still do those. Hopefully this blog will make you aware of that and start thinking beyond “just not drinking.”

However, because I rarely posted (there are 150 or so posts, and many are reblogs from prior years) there doesn’t seem to be much of a point. I think discussion of the Four Last Things is important for Catholics and anyone in recovery, but that blog had little exposure and thus its purpose was defeated. I never planned to blog on 4LT as much as on Sober Catholic, but I had hoped to much more often than I did. And so I have decided that further posts on death and the afterlife will be here (mostly around November).

The fact that I had debated this nearly a year ago and am only now doing something about it is further proof of 4LT’s “demise” in my mind. Read: The Future of the ‘Four Last Things’ Blog

The plan for 4LT’s closure will be different from what I envisioned in that post. I will not import 4LT’s posts into Sober Catholic; that won’t increase their exposure unless you explored the Categories and discovered a bunch of new ones. They will be edited for content and any needed updating and republished here (with an appropriate disclosure, just in case you’re one of 4LT’s six readers and would be wondering where you read that before 🙂 . Any that are of a “non-recovery” value will be appear on In Exile and thus giving it some bloglife.

One thing I will NOT do is go into endless debates on Purgatory, which seemed to crop up in 4LT’s comments section and are repetitious. I will hopefully post something on the Church’s teaching on that and be done with it. Doubters can read it and if it isn’t enough may politely ask a few more questions or make some more points; otherwise they can follow links to more information and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Polite inquiry and dialogue I’m OK with; my temperament doesn’t jibe with what passes for “debate” or “dialogue” nowadays.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

“Called Out of Darkness,” a new recovery blog by a Catholic!

I received an email the other day from Meagan M., a recovering heroin addict. She told me about her blog, Called Out of Darkness. It’s fairly new, just a few months old.

Please go to the link above and read her story. Support her! Encourage her to continue blogging! Not only does she share her story, but Meagan is also a street evangelist, calling all the souls that she encounters to Holy Mother Church (that’s the Catholic Church, the only one He founded…) She writes about that, too.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

EWTN Daily Mass Homily on Matt Talbot!

Last Friday I happened to watch the Daily Mass on EWTN. Fr. Joseph Mary had a nice homily on Matt Talbot! He even mentioned that there is a miracle attributed to Matt that is being considered for possible beatification!

He also read two prayers written by Matt:

Oh most sweet Jesus, mortify within me all that is bad, make it die.

and

In company, guard your tongue; in your family, guard your temper; when alone, guard your thoughts.

Fr. Joseph begins talking about Matt at the 5:00 mark, and the prayers he reads at the 10:03 mark. At 10:54 he mentions the story behind the possible miracle.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

100th Anniversary of the founding of the Militia of the Immaculata

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Militia of the Immaculata, an evangelization apostolate of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Established on the evening of October 16, 1917 at the Conventual Franciscan’s College in Rome by St. Maximilian and six of his fellow students, its goal is to “win the whole world for Christ through the Immaculata, Mother of God and of the Church.”

The original aim of the MI was “To pursue the conversion to God of all people, be they sinners, or non-Catholics, or unbelievers, in particular the freemasons; and that all become saints, under the patronage and through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin.

Kolbe was inspired to “do something” after a violent anti-Catholic demonstration by the Freemasons on Rome in early 1917, hence the original reference to the freemasons.

It has since spread throughout the world. One joins after a period of prayer and meditation on the charism of the MI. You then consecrate yourself to the Blessed Mother under the formula devised by St. Maximilian. His method is similar to the consecration of St. Louis DeMontfort. One typically selects a feast day associated with the Blessed Mother in order to join with however many others are consecrating themselves, and as a way of honoring Mary. The Act of Consecration is as follows:

“O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.

If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and, “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the world.” Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter, you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise you, O sacred Virgin.

R. Give me strength against your enemies.”

The Daily Renewal of Total Consecration is:

“Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew
my consecration to you this day and for always, so that you
may use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in
the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers,
actions and sacrifices of this day.”

I have been a member of the MI since 2002; I recently celebrated my 15th anniversary of consecration to Mary this past October 7th, having selected the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary as my day to enroll.

Although the Militia of the Immaculata is not a recovery organization by any means, I do credit my consecration with keeping myself sober when AA was insufficient. I have always said here on “Sober Catholic” that my Catholic Faith has been primarily responsible for my sobriety, with AA and the Twelve Steps providing the focus for drinking-specific issues and root causes. But for spirituality and the growth and depth of my maturing relationship with my “Higher Power” (Jesus), the enduring basis for sobriety, I credit the Faith. And although I may not have realized it at the time, my consecration to the Blessed Mother quite possibly gave me the strength to deal with things that AA couldn’t. Putting yourself in the hands of Mary for her to use by whatever means she wishes to bring about a “Civilization of Love,” you’re pretty much guaranteed of a solid sobriety. Not that I haven’t on occasion “felt thirsty,” but the feeling withers quickly.

I do think that “Sober Catholic” is a direct result of inspiration from Mary. This is all subjective, of course. But that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Quotes and other information courtesy of Militia of the Immaculata in the USA. When you visit that site, you’ll discover plenty of information on the history and founding of the MI, including how to enroll and the preparation needed, as well as material on the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

If you’re not in the USA, go here: MI International and you can locate information for your country.

I have also blogged about St. Maximilian Kolbe numerous times: St. Maximilian Kolbe post archives on Sober Catholic.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Early October feasts

October has a great number of feast days of some really awesome saints. On the 1st was St. Therese of Lisieux, the 2nd was our Guardian Angels, the 4th was St. Francis (with the celebration of his death and passing into eternity, the “Transitus” on the 3rd.) October 5th was the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” who was inspired by Jesus to write a journal of His communications with her which is one of the 20th Century’s greatest mystical works (and may be on a short list of profound mystical writings in the 20 centuries of Catholicism). The 7th was the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. Today is St. Teresa of Avila, a master spiritual writer and mystic.

There’s no real point to this post except for two things:

1) to point out in a small way the riches of the Church through the lives of the saints. Thi is a major reason for this blog. Each one I mentioned above has something of value to offer sober Catholics. I may do a few blogposts in the near future to expound a little on that;

2) I have been blogging much too sporadically this year. I know, this has been an ongoing issue with myself over the decade I’ve been blogging and it will probably never end but still it bugs me. This quickie post is just “a little something” to get through the blogging blockage I’ve been suffering. “Blogging blockage” is the term I just now invented; it’s like “writer’s block,” but is caused by getting out of the habit of regular blogging (even if its just a post-a-week.) The blockage is that emotional of psychological feeling that too much time has elapsed since my last post and there’s this inertia keeping me from posting. A blogger at rest tends to remain at rest and blogging will just continue to slide. That answer to that is just to post. Post anything, as long as it’s relevant (and sometimes not!) Hence this.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

The Fatima Message is ongoing

The Centennial of Our Lady’s Apparitions at Fatima concluded this past Friday, October 13th. On that day in 1917, Our Lady appeared with a promised miracle, the “Miracle of the Sun” witnessed by over 70,000 people.

Because of this and other things I had thought that “something interesting” was going to occur of the 13th, something of a supernatural event. Nothing did, which is fine as my faith is not based upon prophetic events and the like. I was a little disappointed, but I got over it and “moved on.”

And so should we. The Fatima Message is not over with the centennial. I doubt anyone seriously thought that, but with all the postings in the Catholic blogosphere concerning 2017 being the anniversaries of several events (Fatima and the founding of the Militia of the Immaculata, the Bolshevik Revolution, the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Revolt, the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Freemasonry), I have a feeling that there was an expectation of something supernatural and with that a change in the world. Anyway…

God’s timing is not ours. We cannot will prophetic events. We can, however live Gospel lives and incorporate the Fatima Message into them. Prayer, penance, reparation for our sins and especially for those of others, saying the daily Rosary… all these point to living out our vocations as Catholics and hopefully making some positive impact on the world.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"