Happy Birthday, Mama Mary

September 8th is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; exactly nine months after we celebrated the glorious Feast of her Immaculate Conception on December 8th.

I hope that you readers, as sober Catholics, are doing something special in honor of our Heavenly Mother’s birthday.

You could consider consecrating yourself to her in the manner of St. Louis de Montfort or St. Maximilian Kolbe.

You could attend Mass. If it’s too late because this wasn’t posted in time for a reminder, you could watch one online and make a Spiritual Communion.

Start devotional practices to her in addition to whatever you are doing now.

Develop a filial devotion to her. She is more your mother than she whom gave birth to you; in your Baptism, Mother Mary gave you a new birth into  the sacramental life of grace. Without your baptism, you would not be in the Mystical Body of Christ and therefore would never attain the Beatific Vision of God in Heaven.

She loves you more than any other person on Earth can love you; she desires your salvation more than you do. No matter how grievous your sins she will intercede for you with her Son. All you have to do is ask.

Anyway, this day should be more than just a passing feast day on the calendar. God, from all eternity, decided that He would incarnate among us and he also decided to do it in a very unique way: to be born of a woman and not descend unto Earth in some glorious, majestic and awe-inspiring manner. God’s will is paramount, how He chooses to do something is not a trifling matter. To dismiss the Virgin Mary as insignificant is a grave error. And the birthday of she who bore the Redeemer should be given a great consideration in your sacramental and devotional life.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

The Anniversary of my Father’s Death

On this date in 1995 my father died.

He and I weren’t very close, (“fathers and sons …”) generational and attitudinal differences separated us.

As a result, I didn’t really grieve over his death. I mean, I was saddened and did feel the loss, but I wasn’t ripped apart by his death like I was over my Mom’s 10 years later.

This relative lack of impact was aided by the fact that I was 2,500 miles away and hadn’t seen him in 4 years.

I went home for his funeral, and reconnected with the family, but when I returned home to California I continued life as usual. I had started drinking heavily to cope with life’s problems a year before (failed romance) and my drinking picked up a little more upon my return, so that may have softened the need to grieve in a sober manner.

The point of this is that although I wasn’t too close to Dad during his life, I am much closer to him now. That would seem strange to non-Catholics, but for believers with a knowledge of the Communion of Saints, that shouldn’t seem strange at all.

Death doesn’t end a life. Death is just a passage from this life to another. This life is temporary, everything “is”, and then passes away to dust and a dim memory. The life after is eternal. Whether that life is spent in Heaven or Hell depends on what you do in your Earthly life.

There is a connection between those of us still here on Earth and those deceased. It is called, as I referenced in a previous paragraph, the Communion of Saints . (Via New Advent.) This is comprised of the “Church Militant” (those still on Earth), the “Church Suffering” (those in Purgatory) and the “Church Triumphant” (those in Heaven). Only the souls that have damned themselves to Hell are excluded.

“Communion” implies a community, wherein the members still can relate to one another. This relation is conducted by the means of prayer. We pray to the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering for their intercessory power with God. We can somehow sense their presence (although admittedly that “sensing” may be wishful thinking).

They are there to help, comfort and console us. We are separated from them by the chasm of death, but that chasm can be crossed eventually by our own deathly passage.

I said earlier in this post that I am much closer to Dad now than while he was alive. I have grown to be much like him, at least with regard to the practice of my Catholic Faith. (I still haven’t taken up woodworking as a hobby, nor returned to fishing as a pastime, but may in time. I do enjoy yardwork, like he did, and love baseball, too.) I understand him better as the years progress and as I grow older.

To anyone who has lost a parent (or anyone beloved) to death, fear not. They are not gone from you permanently. Consider them as just having moved far away, and the distance you need to travel to meet with them again will take the rest of your life.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

More on the experience of ‘eucatastrophe,’ but from the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe

I am doing my annual novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe ( a different one from the one I publish for my readers) and in it I have been reminded of some examples of ‘eucatastrophe,’ the term coined by JRR Tolkien that I introduced to you in “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” It means a sudden reversal of fortune resulting in a great good; as opposed to ‘catastrophe, meaning something ending in disaster.

Those of you who are familiar with the Life of St. Maximilian know of these; the first example is when he had started printing his monthly newspaper. He was under orders not to incur any debt for the friary he was posted to, and yet when the bill came for the print run for the first issue, he couldn’t afford to pay it. With this catastrophe looming before him, threatening to destroy his apostolate before it even was launched, St. Maximilian turned to Our Lady and prayed for assistance. While leaving the chapel, he noticed an envelop resting upon the altar with the words “For you, Oh Immaculate.” In the envelope was the exact sum in Polish marks that he needed to pay the bill. His apostolate was largely self-supporting afterwards (which is not to say that it never incurred debt, just that the means were eventually found to pay it before disaster!)

Another time was when his apostolate was getting too large for the friary it was based in. St. Max knew that he needed a more centralized location in Poland. The friary was then located in Grodno, in eastern Poland, which is now in Belarus. He desired something more in the country’s interior, perhaps near Warsaw or Krakow. He discovered suitable land, easily near population centers and transportation hubs that was perfect for his needs. Upon approaching the owner of the land, he convinced him that the land should be donated. The property was originally for sale at a price too high for St. Max. Upon discussion, and perhaps being influenced by St. Max’s personality and charm, with no small amount of assistance from the Immaculata, Prince Drucki-Lubecki donated the land. 

These are two examples of ‘eucatastrophe,’ wherein Divine Providence reaches out to someone either in despair or great need, and suddenly they find themselves in a situation markedly different from just before, and a situation that is highly positive and beneficial.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

Sober Catholic now has a Page on LinkedIn!

I just discovered today that LinkedIn offers Pages, just like Facebook, MeWe and SP3RN. I don’t know how long this feature has existed since I don’t use LinkedIn much (this will now change!) but you can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sober-catholic-blog/

Please follow it! Thank you!

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers

The First Reading for the Mass for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) is from 1st Book of  Kings Chapter 19, verses 4-8;

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. 
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD! 
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. 
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water. 
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” 
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

 

I attended the Vigil Mass last night to fulfill one of the requirements for the First Saturday Devotion (receiving Holy Communion) and the First Reading from 1 Kings struck me. Elijah is depressed after having slain the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel. Jezebel took issue with this and has threatened Elijah’s life if she ever caught him, and so now he is on the run. 

Despite his success in defeating the false prophets and showing Israel just Who the True God is, he is at a loss as to what to do next. He feels defeated as he has no support amongst anyone in Israel. This, despite the obvious support of God, by Whom Elijah wrought his victory over the false prophets of Jezebel.

I think many of us can relate; despite obvious signs of Divine Providence in the past, we may be now going through difficult times and are at the end of our proverbial rope. We may even yearn for death; not in any suicidal manner, but just as a release from the uncertainties and transitory ways of our secular life and the joy of hopefully getting to Heaven. There, we find eternal peace, happiness and freedom form anxiety, fear and the need for material support like income and food as well as no longer having to suffer from our own character defects. But we don’t get that; it’s not God’s will that we join Him yet.

But, as Elijah discovers, from within the depths of despair or loneliness comes a sudden reversal of fortune and circumstance. God suddenly has something for him to do and He supplies Elijah with the means to do it. 

I hope we all have had similar experiences. I know one time in late 1993, I was unemployed and facing eviction and on the same day, just in time, I landed a decent job and an apartment. Despair was gone and I felt pretty good about myself for having faced down those threats and survived. (A side note: although I believed in God, this happened during a period when I was not practicing any religion.) 

There is a word for this: Eucatastrophe – Wikipedia:

A eucatastrophe is a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible and probable doom. The writer J. R. R. Tolkien coined the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically inspired literary criticism to refer to the “unraveling” or conclusion of a drama’s plot.

So, Elijah experienced a ‘eucatastrophe,’ as did I in November 1993. The biggest eucatastrophe is of course, the Resurrection. Eucatastrophes I think happen when things get out of control, either by external circumstances or our own neglect, and God will that He intervenes before we perish. This means He still has plans for us in some way. Perhaps He intervenes despite our past neglect and complacency; perhaps He Wills it to happen so as to show His might and power. Ultimately, all things work to glorify God. My life experience glorifies Him because although at the time I attributed it to my sudden newfound ‘street smarts,’ in retrospect it was done for me by Him in spite of myself. (And I wasn’t even a Catholic, or any kind of Christian!) 

I need a eucatastrophe within a month. I know ‘something’ will happen, but there is the anxiety driven by not knowing when relief will come. But, Faith assures us when Fear tries to tell us the worst will happen. 

We just have to Trust in Him. 

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

St. Maximilian Kolbe Novena begins August 5th!

An annual post:

August 5th begins a novena to St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, one of my favorite saints for a myriad of reasons. One of them, and not the primary one, even, is his patronage of addicts. He was not an addict himself, but the Church in Her thinking has anointed him for that role by virtue of his death, for he was executed by a lethal injection.

His Feast Day is August 14th.

The following are links to a novena to him I wrote near the time when I began this blog:

The Novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe for Alcoholics and Addicts:

Novena Day 1 Novena Day 2 Novena Day 3 Novena Day 4 Novena Day 5 Novena Day 6 Novena Day 7 Novena Day 8 Novena Day 9

There are numerous posts on Sober Catholic about him, the archive of them is here: St. Maximilian Kolbe Post Archive

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

Shhh…. This is a cheat post

I posted something regarding the annual Sober Catholic novena to St.Maximilian Kolbe and noticed in my blog editor that I didn’t post at all in July 2021. That marks the first time that has happened since I began this project in January 2007. Oftentimes I notice near the end of the month that I hadn’t yet posted during it and would cobble up something, anything, and post; I have this crazed dedication to posting at least once a month. 

So, this is a cheat post. It was actually written on August 4th, 2021, but backdated to July 31, 2021. (Just so that the Post Archives dropdown menu doesn’t show a missing month. Oh, yes, I do have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) 😉 

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

Hypothetical 5th Edition of the Big Book to have major changes?

Although I do not attend AA meetings in person, I still make use of and work the Twelve Steps. I enjoy reading Twelve Step literature every day, whether it be favorite passages from the Big Book or from a few daily meditations and reflections books. I also really enjoy participating in online recovery on In the Rooms. My recovery program is hardly traditional, being primarily focused on Catholic spirituality and supplemented by Twelve Step literature and online recovery. But I still have a deep interest in AA, its future and such like.

The current Big Book of AA is in its 4th edition and was published in 2001. New editions come out every few decades (1st one in 1939, 2nd edition in 1955, the 3rd in 1976.) So, given that the current edition is coming up on being 20 years old, I was wondering if there might be plans afoot to update it with a 5th edition.

I cannot seem to find any definitive, authoritative online sources that say so; except for a few regional AA groups petitioning for such a thing, there does not seem to be any formal announcement from AA about a 5th edition, except perhaps considering discussing such a project in 2022. 

I did find one blogger who declared recently that they did vote on such a project, and that they will change the first 164 pages of the Big Book. This is the classic,  legendary and revered program of recovery section, commonly referred to as the “first 164 pages,” or simply, “the first 164.” These were written by Bill. W., the co-founder of AA and are almost regarded as a ‘sacred text’ by long time AA members. It is in these pages that the Twelve Steps are described, amongst other helps. “Anonymous Alcoholic,” in their blog of the same name, declared:

Unbelieveable. They will take out “To The Wives”, “The Family Afterward” and “To The Employers”, and they will change the pronouns to they and them and develop new stories.

Source: “And Yes…They Voted To CHANGE THE BIG BOOK!!!”

I submitted a comment, which hasn’t appeared yet asking Anonymous Alcoholic for their source; I diligently searched and like I said above, found nothing definitive.

I can understand and appreciate Anonymous Alcoholic’s concern. Change is hard, especially in something near and dear and life-saving. But still, survival means adaptation, and when people, places and human organizations do not adapt to change, they vanish. If this person’s fears are correct, and they will change the Big Book in the manner supposed, I have no problem with it (please read on before submitting hostile comments 😉 ) because in my opinion, for AA to release another edition of the Big Book and retain the current ‘first 164 pages’ sends the entire movement on the pathway to irrelevance. Other recovery programs using contemporary research on alcoholism and contemporary language will supplant AA. They even may make use of the Steps, but in the end the Twelve Steps may be all that anyone will recall of AA. The ‘fellowship’ will fade into irrelevance from blind resistance to needed change.

First, the basic facts regarding new editions of the Big Book (which, incidentally, has the formal name of “Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition”). Every new edition is published for the express purpose of reflecting the changes in the membership of Alcoholics Anonymous since the previous edition was published. So far, this has only merited changes in the “Personal Stories” sections. Old stories are deleted, some retained, and new stories reflecting ‘changes in the membership’ replace the deleted ones. These typically reflect demographic and societal changes. Some people appreciate the changes, some dislike them, others don’t much care and just want to know “how they stayed sober.”

Second, it seems that every time a new edition is released, there is pressure to alter the first 164 pages. Through the 4th edition, AA has resisted the urge to alter them. Hard core traditionalists defend the efficacy of these chapters, and since Bill W. wrote them, they are untouchable. Others insist that they are archaic, sexist or outdated and have served their purpose. They need to be updated to maintain relevancy with people now entering AA.

I agree with the latter. I think the time is nigh for the “first 164” to be updated. Although the “first 164” has helped me and countless others recover from alcoholism since 1939, it is time for them to be refreshed. Now, before your head explodes with irate emotion if you’re among the legions who oppose such changes, bear with me, please, and read my arguments and counsels.

 Consider: the “first 164 pages” were written in the 1930s. They use 1930s American English complete with slang. Should people in the 2020s and 2030s and onwards be subjected to that? They reflect a 1930s understanding of alcoholism. Therein lies the need for a change; the archaic language just sounds very odd and difficult to contemporary ears. It also sounds sexist, although that merely reflects the social norms back then (over 90% of ex-drunks were male, and it was assumed the reader was a man) and thus no malicious sexism was intended. And then there has been nearly 90 years of growth in our understanding of alcoholism and the disease concept of it. AA need not abandon the “disease concept of alcoholism;” but they could update the chapters on understanding alcoholism with the near-century of development since then. 

The chapters that Anonymous Alcoholic cites, “To The Wives”, “The Family Afterward” and “To The Employers,” form the core program of what came to be the Al-Anon Family Programs. Al-Anon has been around since the 1950s, is a mature organization with its own literature, and they hardly need these chapters. Omitting them could free up room for more stories, or for more extensive recovery program chapters (or both.) 

For anyone worried that updating the language will render fundamental changes to the meanings of the classic program of recovery: AA could easily solicit recovered alcoholics and non-alcoholics who are experts in language and make certain that the essential program retains the same meanings and ideas, just rendered in contemporary English usage. Consider that the Christian Bible get translated every few decades to reflect changes in language as well as deeper understandings of the intent of the Sacred Inspired writers. The Bible gets updated while still (hopefully) retaining the same theology and doctrines, but the Big Book is sacrosanct and inviolable?

No one need to fear that the original 164 will be lost forever; if past AA actions are any indication, they could publish a separate book containing the original first 164 pages just like when in 2003 they published “Experience, Strength and Hope,” a book that contains every personal story from the first 3 editions of the Big Book that are not in the current 4th edition. With that precedent, AA seems intent on preserving their recovery heritage. Also, AA’s copyright to the first edition of the Big Book expired in the US; meaning it is now in the public domain and therefore can be published by anyone. (Nevertheless, AA has reprinted a special commemorative edition of it a few years ago.) So, the classic program will never be lost, either through AA itself publishing the ‘first 164’ on their own as a standalone text, or someone reprinting the original edition. So, I wouldn’t worry. Everyone will be free to use whatever ‘program’ they want; people can use the 5th edition with an updated text but still refer to ‘how it was done’ from 1939 thru 2020whenever. Or, people can use the 5th edition for just the newer personal stories and use any ‘first 164 pages’ heritage book/1st edition public domain reprint for the classic program of recovery. I would really be shocked if they just let the first 164 pages just pass out of memory; it has helped countless people and deserves to be preserved. So, any way you look at the issue, a revised “first 164” is hardly apocalyptic and calamitous. The classic text will always be around.

Just my 2 cents. Like this post? You can tip me using the PayPal badge in the sidebar. Thank you!

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

On the Sacred Heart of Jesus and me

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the most identifiably Catholic devotions, second only to the Rosary.

It is almost as old. Jesus gave St. Gertrude the Great interior locutions on the 13th Century telling her about the depths of His love for us. Earlier in that same century Our Lady gave St. Dominic the basics of what is the Rosary.

I can’t go into great detail regarding the revelations to St. Gertrude, as I am only beginning to read a classic book on that. Many of us are more familiar with His revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17 Century which established the modern devotional practices.

The point of this post is simple: Since the beginning of June I’ve been really getting interested in the Sacred Heart Devotion. I’ve been ‘into it’ for years, I’ve done the Nine First Fridays and I am really devoted to visiting Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I’ve meditated using devotional books on it; and I ‘get’ the basic fundamental gist of the devotion: that is the Sacred Heart is Jesus’ intense, sacrificial love for us, and our response to that love by loving Him in return with a love that sets our own hearts and souls aflame; including loving Him on behalf of those who don’t. But for but for some reason the fundamental aspect didn’t really resonate; that may not make all that much sense but the only way I can explain it is that the ‘feeling’ of the Devotion didn’t go too deep. It didn’t move me like the Rosary does and Marian feast days do, or the Divine Mercy Devotion and Divine Mercy Sunday.

But this year is different: I saw that June was coming up and I’m like all excited, “It’s the Sacred Heart Month! It’s the Sacred Heart Month!!” I’m finally reading this book: Love, Peace And Joy: Devotion To The Sacred Heart Of Jesus According To St. Gertrude The Great which is a boon to me; it’s really opened up my heart and mind to the essence of the devotion and its spiritual impact and effects.

Jesus’ love for us is so intense that it supplies what is lacking in our prayers and desires. It ‘fixes our past,’ not by a manner of temporal engineering and changing that past, but by burying our sinful past in His Heart (“Let go, and let God.”) we can find redemption in a tangible manner. The Sacred Heart Devotion, when combined with reception of the Eucharist and visits to the Blessed Sacrament make Jesus feel less like an abstraction and more of a real live entity. No wonder that the Sacred Heart Devotion has been popular amongst those who are more ‘traditional’ and who practice true holy piety (that sense of affectionate respect and love for God and His Church.)

It’s weird, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)

How St. Rita can help those of us in recovery

St. Rita, whose feast day is today, May 22nd, is the patroness of ‘impossible cases,’ as well as women in abusive marriages, mothers and those with serious illnesses and especially of wounds. A lot of that is appropriate for anyone in recovery, since we’ve experienced abuse and have given it, as well as succumbing to various illnesses. But there’s some more stuff thay I gleaned from reading a biography on her. (St. Rita: Saint of the Impossible)

In the opening chapters of her life, the words “humility and patience” kept being repeated. They were her tools to deal with many things afflicting her: her parents’ refusal to allow her to enter a convent, her abusive husband (and these tools were critical in converting him into being the model of a devoted husband,) her children who were intent on fulfilling a vendetta against her husband’s murderers, and her later illnesses in religious life.

Although her children were still intent on making good on the vendetta, out of fear for their immortal soul she prayed that God would either convert them or take them from life before they committed the mortal sin of murder. They died before they accomplished their task. That is interesting: how many would implore God to take their children’s lives to prevent a mortal sin? Rita was more concerned for her son’s immortal lives that their temporal existence. That is love; sacrificial love.

Her husband was afflicted with passions. I’m talking about explosive tempers, violent behavior, and riotous living. Those of us who are alcoholics and addicts can relate: even though we may not exhibit the abuse that her husband Paolo Mancini did, we often lack what is called ’emotional sobriety.’ We are ‘dry drunks’ from time to time or we otherwise display behavior ‘not quite serene’. We can ask St. Rita for help in this regard.

Passions, and our lack of control over them, can lead to other problems, such as being governed by anxiety and fear. Although anxiety and fear may be prudent feelings nowadays, we should not allow them to control us to the point of affecting our relations with other people as well as our own duties.

So, St. Rita has a lot to offer people in recovery. Apart from her traditional clients, her spirituality is one that can be of tremendous use for addicts and alcoholics in coping with the common travails of life.

So, look into her life. See about getting the book I linked to up above. I will soon post a list of resources on her life as well as on devotions to her.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)