Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Hope for the alcoholic"

Sunday Meditation


Msgr. Theo Nwalo

From our earlier meditation on the subject, hope, it is clear to us that there is hope for each and every sinner provided such sinner personally co-operates with the grace of God being offered to him. As long as the sinner, on realizing his offences, and willing to, and actually does, co-operate with God's saving grace, he will surely gain salvation.

In this and subsequent meditations, we shall present some encouraging samples on how this salvation story played out in various categories of grievous sinners. In this episode we turn attention on those enslaved by alcohol and drug addiction.

On June 7, 1925, a 69 year old unidentified man, an unskilled worker, collapsed and died outside a church in Dublin Ireland. He was later identified as a simple devout Christian whose face was common place in his work place, on the streets of Dublin and in the church which the made his regular attendance. Further inquiry revealed him to be a man who for 41 year lived heroic and penitential life.

In his workplace, he was so cheerful, so hardworking and so honest that his fellow workers looked up to him for leadership and encouragement. Out side the help he rendered to fellow employees, his wages went to charity supporting so many institutions for the needy and the promotion of the catholic faith. He spent very little for his personal needs. His life was such an inspiration that the cause for his canonization was introduced in 1947. Today, the influence of this unskilled labourer has gone world-wide. People flock to his tomb and fervently pray that this “poor serving and lowly ''servant of God be canonized by the Church.

Way back in 1871, a very heart-rending story began to unfold. It was the story of a boy of 13 who had set out on a life journey of alcoholism. His biographers in their various ways said of him: “As he was rounding out his twenties, his paycheck was blown in for drink. His galloping thirst was too far ahead of him. His paycheck was too small to last out the week. By that time, he had to (crawl and before drinks) from his pal's ………..” He was “bending the knees to but one god drink. His whole mind's march but to one thing- drink. His work's wages wasted on one object drink. His whole character formed by one master drink”. “He was an errand boy for a wine merchant; at 13, he came home drunk on wine. He was removed by his father, to work on the docks; he came home drunk again on whiskey. At seventeen he became an incorrigible topper. His week's wages were handed over in lump to the bartender, who then proceeded to dole out drink to the dawdling drunk. By the middle of the week he was through his money and became then, suppose, a kind of gadfly, taking or begging a shot from anyone who would stand him one” What a miserable picture of a lost cause, you would say. It would be better and more beneficial to divert, attention from this chronic alcoholic and channel those resources and energy to the so many others who are both capable and willing to move in the right direction. After all, this child destined for alcoholism one out of twelve children in the family. This line of argument is sound, that is, as far as human reasoning goes. However, with God and his graces, it is altogether faulty. This is because human logic and wisdom have denied the presence and effectiveness of the divine virtue of Hope.

Through this meditation, God tells us to take another look at the just narrated stories of the boy-alcoholic and the candidate for canonization. They are biographies of the same person: MATT TALBOT. Yes, the chronic alcoholic Matthew Talbot their need into holy Matt Talbot.

The big question is: how did this come about? The answer is that he eventually summoned courage to grab the life line, Hope, which God had all the while been dangling before him. This is how the turn around came: how the actual grace won. One day at age 28, the drinking friends of Matt Talbot got tired of giving him free drink's and bluntly refused to offer him another one. Such rejection proved too painful for Matt. That rejection was the heavy electric worth that doctors apply to re-energise a failing heart. It was a painful treatment but lovingly administered to receive a dying patient. Thus jolted back to life, Matthew Talbot there and then resolved to chart a new and salutary course: stop drinking. That evening when he made this decision, marked the beginning of the second part of his life: a life of simple saintliness. When he took the pledge to stop drinking even his mother was skeptical about his sincerity and advised him never to make false promise to God. However, Matt was fully determined to make it. He would never let go the life-line thrown to him. He confessed that the first three months without alcohol were the hardest, but he persevered especially through prayer, penance and the Eucharist. “He Prayed for the grace of prayer and got it in abundance. His hunger for it slowly deflated his hankering for liquor”.

The life of the dyed-in-the-wool alcoholic turned Saint: Matt Talbot is model, an inspiration for those enslaved by alcohol and by other drugs addictions. For these people, Matt Talbot has this very important message. “Give up your addition, but do not give up Hope. There is hope for your salvation”.

God in His infinite mercy, daily and continually patiently goes after these addicts, throwing them the life line- Hope, and praying them to grab it for their salvation. Such life line (call it Actual Grace, If you like) comes oftentimes, in strange and despicable forms, as it did in the case of Matt Talbot. It is up to each one to recognize the moment of actual grace and grab it. The life line may come to you through health problems resulting from your alcoholic or drugs habit. It may come through loss of job opportunity due to your drug or alcohol abuse. It may come to you through various family problems arising from your addiction. It may come to you through some friendly advice or even through anger from relations and friends.

Have you survived accidents of any kind? That is your moment of actual grace. Have you ever read the Bible? Have you ever listened to a homily: to some spiritual reflection? Have you ever heard or read the story of anyone that struggled to over come his weaknesses? Have you ever seen the anger and disappointment on your child's face resulting from ridicule from other children because you are an addict? You may perhaps be aware of others, especially children, making fun of you and unpleasant remarks about you because of your life of alcohol and substance addiction. These occasions are the life line, moments, of actual grace offered to you to change and be saved. You may also have witnessed or heard of incidents of problems or death that befall others in your addictions circumstances. Such incidents force you to tell yourself: this could have happened to me: “There go I but for the grace of God”.

The message is, and continues to be for you addicts: there is hope for your salvation. You can never be defeated by addiction unless you personally choose to give up. Therefore, grab the life line and look up to your patron saint Matt Talbot, for inspiration.