Signal grace from St. Rita of Cascia

A “signal grace” is a free gift from God (grace) that is extraordinary in nature and evident in some manner (signal). It may be a visible sign or deep interior feeling that a prayer has been answered or a direction you’ve been seeking has been given. Another name for signal grace is “God-incidence,” a play on “coincidence” as with God there are none, because God actually works in that mysterious intersection where seemingly unrelated events in space and time meet up.

Well, I received one of those signal graces today.

Almost every day I stop off at my territorial parish and pray for a few minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I’m blessed that He is Really, Truly, Present: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity just a couple of miles away. Anyway, this morning I wander in and see this by the side entrance:

…a painting of St. Rita of Cascia. She is important to me in that her feast day, May 22nd, is also my sobriety date. This year will mark my 17th year sober. Just have to make it another thirteen days. 😉 I’ve written about her before: St. Rita of Cascia, Patroness of Lost Causes

Near this side entrance is a table where people can leave things for others to have. Usually the items are books, sometimes statues or prayer cards and other Catholicy things. Today, however, were a few paintings and posters. I saw St. Rita and went “Wow. MINE!” Although just to be sure that I could take it I hunted down someone with reasonably appropriate authority to give and found the nun who runs the social justice ministries. I figured she was official enough, so I asked her and she said “Yeah, take it. All that stuff out there is free.” I already knew that but this, to me, was a major haul and I had to check.

OK, so by now you’re asking, “That’s wonderful, Paulcoholic, but how is a beautiful painting of St. Rita of Cascia a signal grace? And could you get to a point?” Well, yes I am. Please read on…

I have been wondering a lot recently about life; (actually, my life has been consumed by this “wondering about life”) and where mine is going. I spent part of last night tossing about in bed wondering… I like to write or blog or whatever it is when you put words on paper or screen for others to read. Thing is, I don’t do it as often as you’d think I would. So, it got me to thinking, “Was it all just ego? Pride? Oh, look at me and read my thoughts?” I have been working on fiction off and on over the past 5 years, somewhat steadily (by my terms 😉 ) compared to prior eras but the novel is nowhere near being finished. I like working on it though; I love the characters and sometimes they go for rides in the car with me and we talk (Um, all righty…..) but seriously, the odds of it getting completed are somewhat low. But I might surprise myself. Or maybe not. Could it have all been a deception by Satan to keep me from doing better things? Or is it me with a discipline issue? Or, maybe the discipline issue was God’s way of keeping me from writing and publishing junk that I’d disown now since my reversion to the Catholic Church in 2002? Because the stuff I was working on back in the ’80s and ’90s was crap, no evidence of Faith (when I even had it) or a decent moral conviction. But mostly crap. So it might not have been a bad thing to be a slacker then as the stuff went unpublished or unfinished. Besides, I got material from slackerdom for writing when I did it later. BUT, since my reversion in ’02, and my desire to become a Catholic writer, one needs to know more about the Faith in order to be a good Catholic writer, and that takes time and maturation. So, my slowness in getting the novel written is actually all about me spending time learning more about the Faith, in order to write a better Catholic novel. Because I do read a lot. Or maybe that’s all hogwash and I’m just a lazy slacker, no matter how you slice it and reading is just an reputable way to be a slacker. But, see, I couldn’t be…. And then there’s…

See? This is what goes on in my brain. You would never want to take a stroll in there.

So, while tossing and turning in bed last night I was going over all this. All the reasons why I shouldn’t give up the whole fiction thing, (’cause I’ve been working on that most years since high school, I can’t give up now. Except for when I was drinking; then I stopped. You see, the stereotype is that writers drink a lot, as it’s a lonely profession or you get inspiration. But not me, I didn’t drink when I was writing and when I started drinking I gave up writing. I can’t even do that right.) Where was I? Oh, …Why I should try and do both it and blogging, or maybe just blunder along and be dissatisfied with both and give credence to the voices in my head.

And then I saw St. Rita this morning. And I thought, (right after going “Wow. MINE!) “OK, so I should focus on the blogging, after all St. Rita’s feast day is also my sobriety date, and she is the patroness of lost causes, and boy-oh-boy am I one. She ties it all together. After all, perhaps God gave me way back when the whole ‘like to write or blog or whatever it is when you put words on paper or screen for others to read’ so that after I stop drinking years later and sober up, I’d have sufficient skills to write a moderately enjoyable and reasonable blog on how the Catholic Faith can help maintain sobriety. The fiction could be just a hobby, or therapy. Maybe if that’s God’s will, too, it’ll get done somehow.” (yeah, like if I get a chunk load of money and can retire and scribble full time, yeah…)

I’ll have to mull this over (NO!!! IT’S A SIGNAL GRACE, YOU MORON; THERE’S NOTHING TO MULL OVER!). So, OK, now there’s certitude about things. I’m supposed to do this thing at SoberCatholic. “Blogging” is how my “writing” career will come to fruition. It’s not like all plans work out the way you intended. And sometimes write fiction, whenever, but not stress over it; if stuff gets finished, stuff’ll get finished. And from this some degree of confidence infuses other things in life. And I can still read a lot.

Perhaps this is a part of all that Divine Mercy stuff about “Jesus, I Trust in You,” and confidence in Divine Providence. TRUST, and He’ll let you in in things when you ask…

Here’s a close up:

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!!)


  1. Well, I think you will inspire more than alcoholics with your writing. I identify with your sincere thoughts on direction in life…wish God gave us sticky notes. Keep writing, I will read everything you write.

    • Thank you, Mary! I may find the time to do more writing; God has a way of opening up time and getting me to fill it with work! (I think that makes sense… 😉 )

  2. I’m always grateful to see your posts. There’s so much pseudo-mystical material in the sobriety world, that seems like the spiritually blind leading the spiritually lost! Yours is a refreshing reminder that our faith is the only path to sobriety that fulfills. Thank you for your voice.

  3. Thanks for reminding me of her Feast Day and to add her to my list of helpers for my daughter, a seemingly lost cause alcoholic. I remember visiting a church in Philly with a great statue of her. She is also my sister’s patron saint. Keep up your good work.

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