…if this chalice cannot pass away from me…

Continuing along with my weekly Passion meditations from (almost) every Friday, this last one on July 15th managed to get me only one more verse into Matthew’s account before stopping.

Matthew 26:42 “Again, a second time, he went and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this chalice cannot pass away, unless I drink it, let your will be done.”

(Via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version)

If you read Twelve Step literature and have attended meetings a lot, you’ll recall “Not my will, but yours (or God’s) be done” mentioned frequently. This is a very good exercise in getting away from oneself and putting others before you. We alcoholics and addicts can be a very self-centered and selfish lot.

We don’t decide what we want to do; rather we try and discern what God wants us to do. Not an easy task but if you are a Christian it is somewhat easier.

Study the Ten Commandments.

Study the Beatitudes.

Study Matthew 25:31-45.

Study the Lord’s Prayer.

Put God first, others second and yourself third.

Practice humility.

There is another object lesson in the passage from Matthew. Jesus knew what was going to happen, and based upon the text, might have been reluctant. Perhaps His human nature exerting itself? (Probably a theologically imprecise statement, but you know what I mean.)

The thing is, quite often we are faced with doing things we’d rather not do. Few of us will face something as severe like the trial and execution that Jesus was to undergo. Be that as it may, many times we’d rather run and hide than do what’s in front of us.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, “If Jesus can feel that way, that gives us some consolation. God knows everything, but knowing and experiencing something in His human nature AND in His divine nature I think divinizes the experience. We suffer, and are sorrowful so much so at times that our spirit embraces death. Not necessarily becoming suicidal, but the degree of severity to which we are suffering can be “like death.” We, as baptized Catholics, and thus members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can draw upon this when we “offer up” or pains. He knows about them. Not just because He is an omniscient God, but because He’d been there, He suffered them, too.. Our sufferings are gathered up into the Mystical Body, and as He suffered we can draw strength and courage from that.”

See also earlier posts on this topic:
My Way or His Way

Not My Will, but Yours be Done

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 spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

Continuing on with my Friday (almost) weekly Scripture meditations on the Passion of Our Lord, I managed to get only a few more verses on July 8th than last time.

Matthew 26:41 “Be vigilant and pray, so that you may not enter into temptation. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” really stuck with me. It should speak to all of us at various stages of our drinking. We want to stop, we know we must. But we can’t. We are addicted.

But we do not have to rely on the flesh for results. Our own will isn’t strong enough. It essentially never is when doing battle. We have to rely on graces from Our Lord. For example:

Matthew 19:26 “But with God, all things are possible.”

Phillipians 4:13 “Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me.”

We cannot overcome our struggles alone. We can try but we will continually fail. Even if we persevere and after each time we rise up and resolve to do better, that still takes its toll.

Granted, saints are made from those who always arise after their fall, but we can take heart that if we learn to allow God to shower us with His graces and let Him “take over,” we can be more successful. Trying to resist temptation on our own willpower will doom us to failure.

Scripture quotes via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

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"

For those addicted to gambling…

…you may have a patron in St. Camillus de Lellis.

St. Camillus was born on May 25, 1550, at Bucchianico, which is now in Abruzzo, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. His mother was about 50 when she bore him, and died when he was 12. His father was in the military and seldom home. He grew up neglected by the family.

He enlisted in the military and had a commendable career, having been wounded in the Battle of Lepanto. He suffered a wound which refused to heal and eventually left military service when his unit disbanded. He served as a day laborer for a while, and at this point I suggest that you look up his bio in the links I’ll list at the end of this post.

St. Camillus had, according to several “lives of the saints” bios I’ve read on him, an addiction to gambling. Apparently he wasn’t good at it, losing most everything he owned. In 1575 he had a religious conversion and this led him to enter into a life of service to the sick and terminally ill. He helped reform the care of such people, who previously had been neglected or cared for by less-than-diligent people. He wound up founding an order that was a precursor to the Red Cross.

He led an ascetic life, performing penances and other mortifications. His devotion to the sick and the dying, coupled with his Faith enabled him to abandon his prior worldly life.

St. Camillus de Lellis on Catholic Online

St. Camillus de Lellis on American 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"

My “Way” Obsession

“Hi, my name is Paul, and I am a Wayaholic.”

I’m admitting to having developed an ongoing obsession interest in the movie, “The Way,” which I blogged about a few months ago, right here: “The Way-the Movie.”.

It is now about six months since I wrote that, I must have seen the film well over a dozen times. I’ve also gotten to scouring YouTube, and more recently, Gloria.tv for videos on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I blogged about that, too: Camino de Santiago playlist on the SoberCatholic YouTube Channel. I’ve added more videos to the playlist since…

I’ve even taken to putting the DVD into the player and watching some of the “scene selections” as a part of my morning devotions. (Just a few times… I was going to do that this morning but chose instead to write this.)

Tonight there will be a presentation at my home parish on the Camino. The dude who is the parish youth coordinator (or whatever his title is, he runs the youth programs) will be speaking on his Camino pilgrimage and will also be showing The Way. The whole thing is four hours long. (The movie is only two hours.)

I may go. I may not, I’ll see how I feel this evening. It’ll be strange for me to watch the movie with a bunch of others, I’ve only seen it alone in the wee hours of the morning. I may be interested in his pilgrimage experience, although I seriously doubt I’ll ever go and do it myself.

I just like the film, to me it and the Camino are symbols of the journey, the “trudging the road of happy destiny” we are all on. It’s an obvious trope, but obvious works for me quite often!

The film draws me out from “where I am” to somewhere most other films, including escapist stuff, doesn’t. And that may be why I may not go; the film is very personal and I’m not sure if I want to “share” the viewing experience with strangers. Just my melancholic/introverted personality…

{{{sigh}}} What to do… what to do…

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"

My soul is sorrowful, even unto death

One of my favorite saints, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, once suggested somewhere in his writings that we should meditate on the Passion narratives of Our Lord on Fridays. Or was that St. Therese of Lisieux? Another favorite of mine, I’ve been studying her writings recently along with St. Max’s. I might get their suggestions mixed up at times.

Last Friday I started with the account in Matthew’s Gospel. I got as far as:

Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them: “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

(via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version)

I’m a melancholic individual, sometimes depressed or sad for miscellaneous reasons. Sometimes for too long as I tend to dwell on things. I have contemplated suicide three times in my life (1985-86, 1994-95 and late 2005-early 2006. I may discuss them at some point (if I haven’t already, at the moment I didn’t feel like searching for any blogposts on the subject, but there is a post category on it so I must have…)

On the night He was betrayed, He was praying in Gethsemane, praying hard and was “sorrowful, even unto death.” He knew what was coming. He also knew, based on His nature, that He’d survive. And yet He was still “sorrowful, even unto death.”

Those words just stopped me cold and I couldn’t read past that. I’ve read those words numerous times before, and they’ve always brought some comfort. If Jesus can feel that way, that gives us some consolation. God knows everything, but knowing and experiencing something in His human nature AND in His divine nature I think divinizes the experience. We suffer, and are sorrowful so much so at times that our spirit embraces death. Not necessarily becoming suicidal, but the degree of severity to which we are suffering can be “like death.” We, as baptized Catholics, and thus members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can draw upon this when we “offer up” or pains. He knows about them. Not just because He is an omniscient God, but because He’d been there, He suffered them, too.. Our sufferings are gathered up into the Mystical Body, and as He suffered we can draw strength and courage from that.

Ask for the graces…

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"

Fifteen years…

…ago I started attending AA meetings. Not sure as to the exact date, as I was unaware of the significance, but it may have been earlier in June.

A family member called the local AA number and found out where a meeting was. He had prior experience with the Fellowship as his father was in the program decades prior.

My then-employer had wanted me to go to a treatment facility if I wanted to keep my job. I declined.

They gave me thirty days to think about it. I thought about it and decided that if the job that was driving me to drink was the reward, they can forget about it…

Anyway, I barely remember the meeting save for Gene (the elder statesman of that Group) giving me my copy if the Big Book (the 3rd edition was the current one. The 4th edition came out six months later.)

As I’ve stated in previous “About Me” posts, I didn’t quite get the Program right away. It wasn’t until February 2002 that I stopped drinking and that wasn’t because I had an “awakening” or some such experience, but rather I was too sick and physically weak to make it to a liquor store. Or an AA meeting.

I suffered withdrawal and hallucinations and wound up in the local hospital for six days and a $10,500 bill I somehow paid off in about four years.

And then I went back out after 3 1/2 months!

That’s all. Just a personal reflection that occurred to me when I saw a calendar.

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"

A fortnight of years in sobriety

Today marks my 14th anniversary of my last drunk. I sort of remember it, although for years I couldn’t recall the exact time (as in hour/minute) I took my last drink. I still can’t. I won’t bother with the details of my last drunk as I’ve written about them before.

Question: “How’d I do it?” Answer: “One day at a time!!” Well, there’s more to it than that, but in essence the twelve step practice of taking each day as it comes does help.

Sometimes I have to take each hour as it comes.

Speaking of the Twelve Steps, yes, they are useful. A wonderful lifeline when other things are absent or insufficient. (Absent or insufficient because they have not been developed enough as a response to external factors that may create a desire to drink.)

My Catholic Faith was and is more useful. I do know that if I had to rely solely upon the spirituality of the Twelve Steps and meeting attendance, I’d be one of those poster children for relapses; “those people” you see who enter the program, “get it” for a while, and then go back out.

Once in a while there are stressors. Anxiety, isolation, economic concerns and so forth well up and I think, “Just one drink to take the edge off.” But no, I don’t. I get through it (“One hour at a time, one minute at a time…”) and move on.

At times like those I also grab my AA literature (the Big Book or 12 & 12) and get help that way. Sometimes I feel the need for a meeting, but don’t bother (I seriously am NOT a meeting person. Never was, never will be. Online recovery works for me. I visit In the Rooms a lot.)

Sometimes when I feel that way, that my Faith and other personal means to maintain sobriety aren’t working, and I feel the need to fall back on traditional fixes like “going to a meeting” or “calling a sponsor” then I assess the state of my Faith. Sincerely, the Faith is all one should need.

Jesus came to heal the broken and wounded. The sick. We are all that and so His Church and the sacraments and devotions should work. They have, for me and for others that I’ve run across over the years. But at times they seem to be “not enough.”

But that isn’t an indictment of the Faith, or possibly not even my practice of it. There’s a list of saints very long who have gone through frequent periods of spiritual dryness, times when the Faith “wasn’t there.” They persevered and discerned that it was God’s way of drawing them closer. It is a path of spiritual growth and development (see St. Teresa of Jesus, a/k/a St. Teresa of Avila.) We feel distant and therefore we persevere and strive on, or we abandon the path.

I stay on the path. (This must be why images and symbols of “the path,” “the road,” “the way,” “the journey” resonate with me.)

I have come to feel that in those times when I feel the urge to drink is strong, and I need to respond in a traditional twelve step way, that I need to work on my Faith. I need to make a Spiritual Communion, or meditate on the Holy Spirit and His indwelling in me, or talk to the Blessed Mother. If this sounds selfish to you who are avid and devoted Twelve-Steppers, so be it. For the most part, my experience with AA has been at variance with the common conception of a “fellowship.” It’s just one more organization where I am a misfit, despite trying.

To me, AA and meeting attendance are training wheels or a crib. Eventually you outgrow them. You learn to ride on your own without the help of training wheels, and you move out of the crib. Useful to understand alcoholism and get the basics of Twelve Step spirituality and how to change your way of thinking and responding to situations, but after a fashion, one should learn what the Faith has to offer.

We were created by God. We exist to love Him and serve Him in this life and to be united and happy with Him forever in the next life (Heaven.) To get through this life He has established a Church to guide us.

We are obligated and we owe Him the duty to fully explore that Church and the Faith that springs up around Her. This does not mean leaving AA, if that suits your sobriety and you really enjoy it, then fine. It can be considered a work of mercy. Perhaps even a source for friendships.

But working within a Twelve Step program shouldn’t come at the expense of your Catholic Faith; that is like continuing to eat pureed baby food when the bread of life is readily available.

That’s all I have to say! I’ve just been very reflective on my fourteen years, where I’ve been, am now and where I’m going, along with the means for the way.

Just trudgin’ my road of happy destiny.

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"

Ninety-nine years ago, today

Today is the 99th anniversary of the beginning of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal.

Two years ago I took a greater interest in the Apparitions than before and in studying them, discerned that they would be of great beneficial use to recovering alcoholics and addicts.

On the one hand, I probably shouldn’t have started blogging about them when I did, as I haven’t written in too great a detail about the individual apparitions; the result being too many posts of perhaps shallow substance (at least “shallow” for anyone very familiar with them). The primary purpose of this blog isn’t really to delve too deeply into things like Marian Apparitions. But, I do have two hands and the other one counters with the proposition that perhaps I may have whetted your appetite on Fatima several years prior to their centennial, and hopefully you have gone beyond what I have written here, explored them on your own and have taken to heart the Fatima message of prayer, penance and conversion.

The Fatima message is essentially the message of this blog. So… perhaps in response to the approaching centennial, I can incorporate more things on Fatima throughout the year, rather than just on the Apparition date. (I’m obviously blog-planning out loud…)

EWTN has a good page on first Apparition at Fatima.

Here are all my posts on Fatima to figure out what I was doing.

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"

Divine Mercy Sunday

(NOTE: Portions of this post were cobbled together from earlier ones.)

Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a new celebration established by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000 when he canonized a Polish nun who had received messages (or “interior locutions”) from Jesus in the 1930’s. (These are an accepted part of Catholicism, although not binding upon the faithful. Apparitions like those at Lourdes and Fatima and messages such as those received by Sr. Faustina (now Saint Faustina) do not add anything new to God’s Revelation to humanity. They are merely signs that the Good Shepherd is doing His work and is reminding us of certain necessary things. Quite often apparitions and locutions occur during critical moments in human history, indicating that the Lord’s “sheep” are going astray and He is coming after them.)

Jesus’ messages to St. Faustina concern God’s immense love for people and His boundless “ocean of Mercy” to which we are all entitled. No matter how dirtied we are by the sins of our past, when we dip into the ocean of Mercy we are scrubbed clean. God’s mercy is available to us for the asking, and is the source of immeasurable graces.

The devotion and practice of Divine Mercy is critical, I think, to anyone in recovery. It fixes our brokenness and mends our wounded souls. It teaches us that God is a loving Father, that Jesus is our brother and the Holy Spirit our infallible guide.

It was important to me, and critical in my recovery and how my Catholic Faith became more important than the Twelve Steps in maintaining my sobriety.

I had drifted away from the Catholic Church in 1987 thinking that religion was just human nonsense designed by the powerful to control people. I never doubted or disbelieved in God’s existence, as I’ve always regarded atheism as a supremely irrational and stupid human notion. I did feel nevertheless that religion was pointless. Anyway, to make a long story short, I drank to excess, abused it, and ended up returning to live with my Mom for 10 years. Originally I was to be her caregiver (my alcoholism was manageable), but for a while I was the person being cared for. (See also Drunkalogue.) My Mom watched EWTN a lot. Aside from the Daily Mass, from which I got a daily injection of Truth and sensibility from the sermons, she also watched the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy” each morning. She eventually taught it to me, particularly around Divine Mercy Sunday.

I think it was her daily praying of the Chaplet that brought me back into the Church. It also was, and continues through this day, to be a source of healing and mercy.

This is important to us Catholic alcoholics and addicts. We are so broken and wounded from our past. For many the past is just too much and they never fully escape from its haunting.

The all-encompassing nature of Divine Mercy heals our souls and enables us to draw upon the endless reservoir of God’s Mercy. It is a tremendous aid in our spiritual growth and progress. It led me back into the Catholic Church, with Her fullness of the Gospel Truth and the sacramental life and graces. It helps you to achieve a more fuller life.

The key elements of the Divine Mercy Devotion are:

Please click on each of those links to learn more! You can also click on this: Divine Mercy to explore anything else I wrote on it.

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"

Mother Angelica of EWTN dies, Easter Sunday 2016

Mother Angelica, the Poor Clare nun who founded EWTN, died today. She was 92.

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(Image via EWTN Facebook Page)

Mother Angelica was, to say the least, a significant factor in my reversion to the Catholic Church in 2002. It was a process that stretched over several years, but ultimately came to fruition when I was felled by my alcoholism and would up doing nothing but laying on my Mom’s couch for weeks on end as I was too ill to go anywhere and do anything. Mom watched EWTN every morning, mainly the Daily Mass and several devotional programs, particularly the Divine Mercy Chaplet. All of that, as well as Father Angelus Shaughnessy’s homilies and Father Benedict Groeschel’s programs. These all helped me straighten out my thinking.

My Mom had taught the Divine Mercy Chaplet to me during the years before my reversion and recovery. I think Mom knew something wasn’t quite right concerning my relationship to the Church, but she never said anything. Maybe she just taught it to me because I didn’t know it. Whatever, God knew, though! Mother Angelica’s broadcast of the Divine Mercy Chaplet devotion as well as the annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations from Eden Hill, MA slowly drew me back home. Although I wasn’t practicing the Faith, the annual Divine Mercy Sunday telecast was an annual event. I actually looked forward to it. The seeds were planted and slowly took root. Alcohol masked the interior growth. When I finally succumbed to it, being too physically weak to go anywhere, exposure to EWTN finally brought the Faith out from the dark nether regions of my soul where it had lain dormant.

Mother Angelica and EWTN helped me a lot in early recovery when I knew AA’s 12 Steps weren’t going to be enough. I had looked at them, thought them interesting and valuable, but felt they were at the shallow end of the spiritual pool. I needed something deeper. EWTN illustrated to me that Catholicism wasn’t something that you did for an hour on Sunday, but was a way of life, infusing your heart and mind with a manner of living and thinking that draws you closer to God, and ultimately, to our true Home, Heaven.

She had much to say about how to apply the Faith to daily living. Several books of hers directly dealt with problems and coping and just “How do I get through this…life…?” I have them all.

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(Image courtesy of EWTN)

EWTN has a full scedule of events this week, including her funeral, listed on their: Memorial site on Mother Angelica. The site also has much information on her life and work.

See also: CNA’s Schedule of Events on Mother Angelica

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"