Friday, March 31, 2017

Overcoming Temptation


“You can overcome temptation—but only if you want to!”
by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ 
March 22, 2017 
Every addict who wishes to remain sober starts by admitting that he cannot resist by himself what will surely kill him. We must face our temptations similarly.“

"When the devil caresses you, he wants your soul.” That’s what one mother I knew said to her children whenever she caught them pilfering cookies. A bit over the top? Yes, a bit—but not entirely.

During Lent, we’re frequently encouraged to reflect on the role of temptation in our lives. Temptation is a universal experience. Indeed, when we’re tempted, we might be inclined to say, “Well, what do you expect? We’re only human!” But that’s only partly true.

Yes, as humans, we suffer from a fallen human nature, with partially darkened intellect, partially weakened will, and often disordered desires. When the inevitable temptation leads to chosen sin, we put ourselves under the authority of Satan, who as Jesus said, is the “prince of this world.” This is the fate of every fallen human who yields to temptation—without exception. Thankfully, the story doesn’t need to end there.

Yes, temptation befalls us because we are, as we like to say (especially when we’re about to make another excuse for our sins), “only human.” But Jesus the Christ, who is both Son of God and Son of Mary, offers to help us face our temptations with something so much more than what is “only human.” He offers to help us face our temptations as he did—with our human nature, and with his divine nature.

Saint Augustine reminds us that Christ “…suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you. If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him.”

Here’s what makes the Gospel truly good news! In Jesus Christ, we have a truly human man break Satan’s claim upon human nature. With his divine power he defeats sin, and then offers to share his victory with us! In other words, all that we need to overcome temptation, all that we need to transfer our citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven, all that we need in this life to enter eternal life able to see the face of God and live—all that is freely offered to us. What shall we do with that offer?

Knowing human nature as I do (including my own!), I fear that what we often do with God’s offer of liberation from sin is to postpone our repentance. We do so because we like the way our sin tastes and feels; we do because we underestimate how offensive and deadly our sin is; and we do so because we overestimate our ability to repent in time. In other words, we procrastinate—at the peril of our souls.

We all like to quote (bemusedly of course!) Saint Augustine’s famous quip: “Oh Lord make me chaste! But not just yet!” Even as we laugh at Augustine and ourselves, we forget that he also wrote: “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” Edward Irving’s warning is even more dire: “Procrastination is the kidnapper of souls, and the recruiting-officer of Hell.” None of us knows just when death will come for each of us or when Christ will return in glory for all of us. In terms of repentance, we’re always running out of time, and it’s always very nearly too late.

Every addict who wishes to remain sober starts by admitting that he cannot resist by himself what will surely kill him. We must face our temptations similarly. The recovering addict admits his need for a higher power to attain and retain sobriety. Saint Irenaeus recognized such wisdom centuries ago: “In proportion to God’s need of nothing is man’s need for communion with God.” In other words, we cannot be who we are (creatures made in the image and likeness of God) and who we are meant to be (fully alive before the face of God eternally) unless we allow the sovereignty of God its rights over us, against the claims of Satan, who is entitled to unrepentant sinners. Following our fallen will leads to misery and damnation (James 1:12-16). Uniting our will to the divine leads to joy and glory. Those are the only choices we will ever have. Any other “choice” is an illusion, a seduction from the pit of Hell.

In this life, temptation is inevitable—surrender to sin is not. Damnation, like salvation, is a choice. Christ who endured and triumphed over temptation offers us all we need to share in his victory—from the cross, to resurrection to glory. In the time we have left, please, let’s say “Yes!”


Note: Matt Talbot was certainly no stranger to temptation. And if he had read this article, it would not be difficult to image that he  would copy key words/phrases, especially those of St. Augustine, on a scrap of paper for future reference.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How's Your Lent Going?

by Scott Weeman
March 8, 2017
We are about a week into the time of year that can be considered a “spring training” for Catholics. Lent is an opportunity for us to imitate Christ by renewing our spiritual discipline prior to the glorious resurrection of our Lord on Easter. The ashes that launch this journey remind us of our own sinfulness and draw us into mourning for our Lord and the price He willingly paid for our salvation. It is an opportunity for renewal.
So, how is that journey going for you so far?!?
It’s easy to see Lent as a time where we simply remove things from our lives that we want, but perhaps do not need. Giving up chocolate (or social media, which seems to be the new chocolate)  for forty days and fasting from meat on Fridays can be a recipe for building mild levels of virtue, but how can you turn that voluntary sacrifice into a lasting experience of faith? Relating our Lenten sacrifice and spiritual practices to what brings success to those in addiction recovery can provide some answers. Furthermore, it can offer some encouragement to renew your commitment over the next several weeks, even if you haven’t gotten off to a great start.
A theme has been ringing through what I have heard a lot of people (both addicts and non-addicts) share in some fashion lately. Some version of, “I always told myself that I never wanted to end up like that,” has come out of the mouths of people who did, eventually, turn out like that. It happens without the person realizing it until much later on, when they recognize that the thing they were running from is the thing that has been running them for a long time. Much of it is rooted in fear, which drives our behavior much more than we would like to admit (there is a reason that when we do our fourth-step inventory we dedicate an entire section to our fears).
Constantly reminding yourself of what you are not going to do has never been a strategy that I have seen work out too well. In fact, obsessing over it can have the opposite effect. When the thing we’re trying to remove from our routine is constantly running through our minds, we tend to want it more. We get pulled to it, often without realizing it until it’s too late. Once we do realize it, feelings of shame and unworthiness appear and keep us from believing that we even deserve better. Lost in all of this is the spiritual meaning of Lent in the first place—to unite us with the suffering Christ while shedding our earthly attachments.
Instead of mentally obsessing about that thing you’re looking to give up (whether temporarily or permanently), try shifting your focus on what can be gained. By the grace of God, you have a great opportunity to make a difference in your life and the lives of others. This gift is given to you today, regardless of how well you’ve kept to your Lenten offering or other promises you’ve made to yourself. Have a vision of the best version of yourself and get into action! The Church suggests increased prayer and almsgiving (sharing your resources) through fasting. Here are a few other things that can bring lasting fruit and fullness to your life this Lent:
  • Make a commitment to a small support group or bible study
  • Dust off the daily devotional you’ve thrown in your desk drawer and commit ten minutes to it each day
  • Sponsor someone in recovery or be available to those in your parish that are preparing to receive sacraments during Easter
  • Reach out to individuals that you have not heard from in a while
  • Replace the radio with prayer during your morning commute
  • With money saved from your fast, buy a meal or a household essential for someone less fortunate
  • Communicate with others about what they’ve found to be helpful practices and share some of your success in our community forums
Ash Wednesday is not the only day during Lent that allows spiritual growth to begin. At this point, even if you have come up short of the goals you’ve set, it is not too late. Clean house, serve God, help others. A shift in your attitude and approach this Lent can have an impact for the rest of your life… but is best when taken one day at a time.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Venerable Matt Talbot's Life Offers a Beacon of Hope


The following is from 26 February 2017 "Musings" at http://www.intercommagazine.ie/newsletter-resources-february2017/.
 

All of us, ordinary and flawed, have at heart a seemingly longing for fulfillment.

On this Day of Prayer for Temperance, we consider Matt Talbot, who had only seven people at his funeral in 1925, but whom hundreds of thousands came to see as a beacon of hope that reflects the struggles that addiction can impose on someone’s life. He relied on a higher power that affirmed and accepted him, without preconditions. He made an extraordinary journey from the darkness of excessive addiction to wholeness and the light of holiness.

Amidst the anxieties and personal anguishes of his own pained-filled days and nights he shows us the answer to one of the seven questions that Jesus asks in the Gospel today: Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? 

Matt Talbot could identify with the words of today’s Psalm: “In God is my safety and glory, trust him at all times, pour out your hearts before him." He imbibe the refreshing of waters of grace and renewed his life as an heroic witness of the power and presence of God at work within his life.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Grzegorz Returns to his Venerable Matt Talbot Mission


We welcome back online, Grzegorz Jakielski, who experienced a major health issue, lengthy hospital stay, and is now recuperating at home (with internet access). We are grateful to all who prayed for him and continue to do so. Grzegorz writes both in English and Polish as well as speaks about Venerable Matt Talbot.

Below are some of his most recent posts in English on his Matt Talbot Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Matt-Talbot-304690079653019/:

"When Matt was twenty-three years old in 1879, Mary appeared in Knock, Country Mayo, and at the age of sixty-one, she appeared to the children of Fatima in Portugal."
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  Cross which belonged to Venerable Matt Talbot.
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No automatic alt text available.

Another 1000 cards with prayer for the beatification of Venerable Matt Talbot straight from the printer. They will be distributed for free in Poland.
If you want help us share prayer cards and information about Venerable Matt Talbot please send private massage (to his Facebook link above. The card is also available in English.)


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Statue of the Venerable Matt Talbot, the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism, sculpted by Brian P. Hanlon, graces the back gardens of the Loyola Jesuit Center retreat house in Morristown, NJ.
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"Let us Pray
Venerable Matt Talbot, addict for Christ, look down upon all of us in our strugles with different addictions, in bondage, tortured of soul, heart and mind, blind to the saving light of Christ. Through your prayers, let us have our eyes oponed by grace to see salvation in the Holy One of God, who hung upon a Cross so that we may be set free. Father, pour out your light and blessing in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen."

From "Comfort my people. Prayers and Reflections Inspired by the Venerable Matt Talbot" by Fr. Tom Ryan (https://www.catholicireland.net/comfort-my-people-prayers-and-reflection-inspired-by-the-venerable-matt-talbot/)

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21.03.2017 - 3000 days [until] the hundredth anniversary of the death of the Venerable Matt Talbot




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Free Pre-AA History Book


A Pre-AA History Book: A Study of Synchronic Events Between Years 1926 and 1935 which Culminated in the Birth of Alcoholics Anonymous
by Bob S
http://www.aamuncie.org/files/Pre_AA_History_Book_2011.pdf

According to the author, the purpose of this book is "to present a brief sketch of AA prehistory in hopes of attracting an interest in the exciting past of Alcoholics Anonymous."

He states his book does not attempt to delve deeply into pre-AA history, but simply provides a number of short snippets and photographs of some key figures that influenced the beginning of 
AA such as  Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob Smith, Dr. Carl Jung, Rowland Hazard, Ebby Thacher, Dr. William Silkworth, Lois Wilson, and Rev. Sam Shoemaker among others.

This free twenty-eight page online book is intentionally not available for sale. It is the author's hope that readers will print it not only for their own research but also pass it on to sponsees, Home Group, District, Area, Intergroup, local clubhouses, AA friends, and interested casual readers.

The author clearly notes that the book is of his own doing and is not endorsed by any Alcoholics Anonymous Group, District, Area or GSO or other agency of Alcoholics Anonymous.

At the same time, people in Ireland and other countries were beginning to learn about an alcoholic who became a holy man, named Matt Talbot (1856-1925), through the multiple editions of a biography written by Sir Joseph Glynn beginning in 1926 and continuing over the next two decades. Within a year of the first publication, copies were translated into fourteen languages.

While AA did not yet exist during Matt's lifetime,  a former Vice-Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Matt Talbot stated
that elements of the twelve steps can be identified in Matt's life. (Matt Talbot: Hope for Addicts, 2001, pp 20-27)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Fr. Ralph Pfau Biography (2017)

Professor Glenn Chesnut’s biography of Fr. Ralph Pfau, the first Roman Catholic priest to become sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and a strong supporter of Matt Talbot, is now available in print:

“Glenn F. Chesnut, Father Ralph Pfau and the Golden Books: The Path to Recovery from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, January 2017, ISBN 978-1532-0089-55, e-book ISBN 978-1532-0089-62, vi + 240 pp., paperback $19.95 U.S., e-book $3.99 U.S.” (Also note https://www.amazon.com/Father-Ralph-Pfau-Golden-Books/dp/1532008953)


As noted in our October 2016 post about this book (http://venerablematttalbotresourcecenter.blogspot.com/2016/10/father-ralph-pfau-strong-supporter-of.html), the final draft of this biography remains available as a PDF file and MS Word file.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Lenten Journey with Matt Talbot

In addition to your planned Lenten reading, it may be worthwhile to add Matt Talbot - A Lenten Journey (2014), a resource compiled and edited by Fr. Brian Lawless, Vice Postulator for the cause of the Venerable Matt Talbot, and Caroline Eaton.  
   
This free 69 page resource at http://www.acnireland.org/images/books/matt_talbot_a_lenten_journey.pdf  is recommended for those who are not yet familiar with Venerable Matt Talbot as well as a review for those who are familiar with him.

 




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