Monday, September 15, 2014

Praying for those addicted during Mass

In this 2006 church bulletin article at,  Fr. A. Richard Carton discusses why a prayer for those who struggle with addictions is often heard during the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass.


This prayer is often heard during the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass. Some would say that every human being has an addiction of some form or another. There are others who maintain that we often exchange one set of addictions for another. Either way, it is when any addiction becomes overwhelming and controls the life of a human, that a path which could lead to destruction is set. For years I have been intrigued with programs which offer support to addicts. In seminary, we studied the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous chiefly because of its spiritual nature. I have often stated that the 12 step program is one for all who are serious about living a full life of faith whether chemical dependency is an addiction in our lives or not.

Recently, I went to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had never been before. A close friend was celebrating a milestone in his life. Five years of sobriety. I wanted to be there to support him and also to understand a little more about the dynamic of what a meeting is about. Unfortunately, one can have many preconceived ideas of what individuals at an AA meeting look like and how they act. What I found were men and women who in their day to day environment would not stand out in any way that would indicate that they were alcoholics. There was none of the stuff that might sometimes be seen in movie versions of AA meetings. I was told before the meeting that a celebration meeting was different than other meetings in format. As I witnessed it, a celebration meeting affords the person celebrating an opportunity to ask two friends who are alcoholics to share a little about the one celebrating, but, more importantly, to share their own stories of struggle and addiction. As I listened and watched, I noted the men and women there often shaking their heads in agreement with the experiences of the speakers. There was a common bond of pain and struggle with those who had gathered. As I listened, I began to wonder about the others in the room. What was their story? What had happened to bring them to an addiction that they would battle for the rest of their lives?What is it within the human person that causes addiction to become part of our pattern of behavior? Many questions came to my mind as I continued to listen and learn.

Growing up in Ireland, I remember in religion class learning about a man who struggled with alcoholism. Matt Talbot (1856 - 1925) was born in the poverty of Dublin's inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. Matt was an addict. After sixteen years, he decided to 'kick the habit'. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. Matt's program of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. "Never look down on a man who cannot give up the drink", he told his sister, "it is easier to get out of hell!" He is now being considered for Sainthood and has been declared Venerable by the Church.

I have no doubt that there are more who participate in that struggle than we will ever know. That is why our prayer is so important. An alcoholic once told me that when we pray for addicts during Mass, she knows that she is not alone and can feel the power of our prayer. Perhaps as we pray, we can ask the intercession of Matt Talbot for all who suffer with addictions. It is possible that one day he may be declared a Saint and Patron of those who suffer with addictions. I am most grateful for the example of my friend in his desire for sobriety. As he told me after the meeting, it is cooperating with God’s grace that makes the struggles bearable. For all who suffer from addictions – we pray to the Lord.