Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Novena for Those Impacted by Addiction

Scott Weeman, Founder, Catholic in Recovery, announced today (9/22/2020) the following message at https://catholicinrecovery.com/novena/

The novena begins tomorrow so sign up immediately.

“Our Catholic in Recovery team is excited to share the launch of a new Catholic in Recovery Novena! A novena is a nine-day prayer rooted in ancient tradition that invites us to consider a specific intention and often invokes the intercession of a saint or saints. We will be accompanied by the likes of Saint Jude, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Augustine, Saint Monica, and others who are related to addiction recovery as we bring our intentions to the Lord. We hope this serves as a source of hope and healing for anyone impacted by addictions, compulsions, and unhealthy attachments.

Please join us in praying the Catholic in Recovery Novena by clicking the link above and signing up with your email address. With new participants signing up each day, we will be continually praying with and for each other. Families and communities will have the opportunity to unite in prayer together through shared intentions. Please share this valuable resource with others who may need the spiritual communion of prayer and hope, and be sure to sign up today to join us in prayer beginning tomorrow!”

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saints Are Ordinary People Driven By Great Love

This article is from a chapter in Mother Angelica’s Guide to Practical Holiness, which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Saints: Ordinary People Driven By Great Love

Mother Angelica

September 11, 2020


The concept of the perfect, faultless saint is unrealistic. We have only to look at the gospels to see how imperfect the Apostles and first Christians were. There was a point in their lives when they changed. We call that point the time of their “conversion,” their encounter with the Sanctifying Spirit. For the Apostles it was Pentecost, for Paul it was a blinding light on the road to Damascus, for Cornelius it was the mere presence of Peter.

However, most of the saints did not have dramatic experiences. As we have seen in the life of Matt Talbot, was pain, disappointment, and a feeling of emptiness that pushed him into the arms of God. No matter what happened, the saints determined at some point to follow Jesus. A vacuum deep in their souls began to be filled, for they found the pearl of great price. They all changed their lives, some their state in life, but they did not get rid of their weaknesses. They fought harder, conquered more often and grew, like Jesus, “in grace and wisdom before God and men” (Luke 2:52).


In the Acts we see Peter’s vacillating spirit making him and everyone else miserable as he took so much time deciding the fate of the Gentiles. Paul’s temper flared quickly as he argued his point before the gathering of Apostles. John, called by Jesus a son of thunder, had little patience with those who would not follow Jesus.

In the lives of all the saints we find the following similarities:

          - love for God and neighbor,

               -determination to imitate Jesus,

               -an immediate rising after a fall,

               -a complete breakaway from grievous sin,

               -growth in virtue and prayer,

          -and the accomplishment of God’s Will.

These factors are available to every human being; they do not exclude imperfections and faults. We must make a distinction between faults and sins. A saintly person keeps the Commandments; however, he may possess various human qualities, dispositions that make the imitation of Jesus a sanctifying process. These weaknesses make him choose constantly between himself and God. It is in this emptying of oneself and the “putting on of Jesus” that he becomes holy.

Holiness is a “growth experience” and growth consists in advancing in knowledge, love, self-control and all those other imitable virtues of Jesus. We must not lose sight of holiness as we grow, for holiness only means that Jesus is more to us than anyone or anything else in the world. But this desire to belong entirely to God does not exclude being loving to our neighbor, compassionate, caring, patient and kind. Our desire to belong to God enhances all these virtues in our souls, increases our love for our neighbor and makes us more unselfish.

A housewife becomes holy by being a loving wife and mother, filled with compassion for her family because she is filled with the compassionate Jesus.

A husband and father becomes holy by being a good pro­vider, hardworking, honest and understanding because his model is the provident Jesus.

Both husband and wife become holy together as their love for Jesus grows. Love makes them see themselves and change those frailties that are not like their Model. In doing this, life together is less complicated and more loving and understanding. They are bound together by love and prayer, mutual striving and forgiving.

Children become holy by being obedient, thoughtful, joyful and loving. These qualities are maintained by grace and prayer.

Being faithful to the duties of one’s state in life and faithful to the grace of the moment are not as easy as they appear. Our temperament, weaknesses, society, work and even the weather clamor for our attention. Living a spiritual life in an unspiritual world and maintaining the principles of Jesus over the principles of this world is hard, but within reach of all. The paradox is that if we choose evil over good it is hell all the way to hell and that is harder.

Christianity is a way of life, a way of thought, a way of action that is contrary to the way of the world. This makes the Christian stand alone and it is this aloneness that discourages him from striving for holiness. However, it is this same aloneness that makes him stand out in a crowd. He becomes a beacon for those who do not enjoy the darkness, a light that enlightens the minds of all around him, a fire that warms cold hearts.

He struggles as all men struggle; he works, eats, sleeps, cries and laughs, but the spirit in which he accomplishes ordinary human needs and demands makes him holy. He does not always make the right decisions but he learns from his mistakes. He does not correspond to every grace, but he accepts his failures with humility and tries harder to be like the Master. He does not condone sin, and though he is ever aware of his own sinner condition, he loves his neighbor enough to correct him with gentleness when his soul is in danger.

He is free to have or have not, for his real treasure is Jesus and the invisible realities. He can possess with detachment or be dispossessed without bitterness.

He knows his Father well enough to entrust his past to His mercy. The Spirit is a friend who guides his steps and straight­ens the crooked paths ahead. His time and talents are spent in the imitation of Jesus in the ever present now.

The saint is the person who loves Jesus on a personal level; loves Him enough to want to be like Him in everyday life; loves Him enough to take on some of His loveable character­istics. Like Jesus, he lovingly accomplishes the Father’s Will, knowing that all things are turned to good because he is loved personally by such a great God.

Let us not be confused by the talents and missions of other Saints. Let us be the kind of saints we were created to be. There are no little or great saints — only men and women who struggled and prayed to be like Jesus — doing the Father’s Will from moment to moment wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

Saints are ordinary people with the compassion of the Father in their souls, the humility of Jesus in their minds and the love of the Spirit in their hearts. When these beautiful qualities grow day by day in everyday situations, holiness is born.

The Father gave His Son so we would become His children and heirs of His Kingdom. Jesus was born, lived and died and rose to show us the way to the Father. The Spirit gave us His gifts so we would be clothed with the jewels of virtue, the gold of love, the emeralds of hope and the brilliant diamonds of faith.

Let us not be content with the scotch tape and the aluminum foil of this world.

Be Holy — wherever you are!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Glories of Recovery

This author has written articles about Venerable Matt Talbot on his blog, http://www.sobercatholic.com that we have re-posted,  and we appreciate his wife, Rose Santuci-Sofranko, alerting us to the following article by Paul.

The Glories of Recovery 
By Paul Sofranko

In the Book of Genesis, Noah—a good farmer—planted a vineyard. And, after harvesting grapes, he promptly “drank some of the wine, became drunk, and lay naked inside his tent” (Genesis 9:21). There is no scriptural record of Noah’s wine drinking becoming problematic. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that alcohol’s use has been accompanied by its abuse from the beginning of human civilization.

The Glorification of Alcohol and the Tragedy of Addiction

Alcohol abuse has been glorified in popular culture for a long time. Heavy drinking has been depicted as a sign of manhood, especially if you can “hold it.” Books, movies, and TV shows have always been flooded with tough-guy characters who drink a lot. And broken-down women who can or can’t hold their liquor. Drunkards are also common comedic characters. Skits by Red Skelton and Foster Brooks come to mind, as do the Arthur films.

Yet for millions, drinking is no laughing matter. For such people, boozing is tragic. Lives are lost, home life is ripped apart, jobs and careers vanish. The variety of horrors resulting from uncontrolled drinking is longer than all the fancy lists you can find of cocktails, wines, and beers.

Alcoholism can strike anyone. It ignores age, race, sex, gender, nationality, religion, or any other label we can place on people. Origins and causes remain speculative. Compelling evidence supports either “nature” or “nurture,” meaning genetic and hereditary sources or familial upbringing could be the origin, or some combination. My Liguorian article isn’t concerned with why addiction happens. But because I am sure you, our reader, either is an addict or knows someone who is, this article hopes to address the question, “Now what?” I think I can help.

The Essential Role of our Faith in Recovery

We are Catholics, and as such we follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We know he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thus I can assure you there is a Way, using his Truth, to recover the Life he holds out for us.

According to the old Baltimore Catechism, we are put on this earth to love and serve God in this life so we can be happy with him forever in the next. God is our first beginning and our last end. Life is what happens in between. And because of Original Sin, we suffer from concupiscence, which disturbs that life. Our tendency toward sin has many degrees, from venial sins—which damage our relationship with God and others—to mortal sins—which  cause severe harm, including destroying a life of grace in the soul.

Somewhere in the mix of any life, addiction can fall. For an addict, at some point the normal use of a drink or a drug becomes abusive—crossing a line that’s different for every soul—and becoming a disease. Addiction is when the need for the substance becomes compulsive and causes spiritual, mental, and physical harm to the user.

Catholic spiritual writers for centuries have referred to addiction as an “inordinate attraction.” In a world that’s wounded by sin and fear, in which people are marginalized by impersonal and uncaring governments and businesses, where multitudes of messages bombard people through media venues that cause some to doubt themselves and make them feel less than others, it is no surprise that folks seek an escape. Drinking enables people to build a fantasy: a unique perception about themselves that is vastly superior to a reality in which they lack the control they desire.

Which brings us here:

The Sin and False Reality of Addiction

The title of this article is a purposeful homage to the classic text on the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary. While by no means equating this work with that of the saint, it is intended to convey what our ultimate goal should be: arriving at our true home, heaven, and basking in the glory of God and in being glorified ourselves.

We are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore our souls reflect his image. Tragically, this image is distorted and clouded daily by sin, sometimes to the point of completely obscuring it. Addictions in and of themselves are sinful in that individual wills are corrupted, with the consequences that things are done that ought not to occur.

Through addiction, people enter a false reality, their self-esteem and ego soar on wings like eagles, hurts are avenged, losses and missed opportunities are reimagined into victories, grievances are settled and—in short—they feel “healed.” Of course, the “healing” is as fake as the reality. The “healing” feeling will persist as long as the addict can function in his or her addiction. But at some point, the feeling will come crashing down, and life will become a wreck that the addict created and which desperately needs salvaging.

Recovery: The Path to a Fulfilling Life

Works of mercy, typically called “recovery,” are in place to assist people in addressing their addiction. Recovery helps people overcome addiction, rebuild lives, repair relationships with people and particularly with God so that when life comes to its end and we meet Jesus—our Just and Merciful Judge—we can hear his anticipated words, “Welcome my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Father.”

Recovery is redemptive. What was lost is recovered. It may be different from what might have been had alcohol or drugs not become destructive. Nevertheless, in recovery, a life that is now responsible and rightly ordered can be achieved.

To those who have a loved one in the vice of addiction, the most important thing you can do is pray fervently for that person until she or he reaches out in need. People generally do not begin recovery until they want it. Those who truly want to do the work necessary to recover will reach a point where they realize that if they continue drinking they will die, whereas if they stop drinking they may only want to die.

If addicts choose the hard work of recovery, they will eventually choose life, and you can hope to be present when they do. That is important: be present to them. At the moment they no longer want to live the way they are living, in their broken and wounded spirit, they will not know what to do beyond not wanting to drink anymore.

If you wish to be informed about addiction, how to respond to it, and what recovery from it looks like, resources are available in your community and online. Your local yellow pages book or online can point them out to you. The information you find will help you minister to your loved one’s needs. Immerse yourself in prayer and beseech the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. Insight into where to go may come from any source. Listen and be open to inspiration. Humility is also essential, as your loved one may resist your help and seek it elsewhere, perhaps even in recovery organizations. It is often believed—and in my opinion it’s often true—that only another addict can help an addict. Addicts in recovery have credibility from living through and recovering on a daily basis from the problem.

If you have an addiction and are seeking help, there are numerous recovery groups available, from Step organizations and those using other recovery methods. Make use of them. They comprise individuals who have been where you are now, they have suffered through it and now have a life that no longer wants the crutches of the drink or the drug. If you fear how difficult it might be to live a life clean and sober, they will teach you.

Recovery programs are like the practice fields athletes use before going out onto the actual field of play. On the recovery field you will learn the life skills you need and how to keep from returning to the addictive drug or drink of choice to cope.

Help from Fellow Catholics and Other Like-minded People

The Calix Society is a prime Catholic organization offering assistance to alcoholics. “The society is an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous,” says a line from calixsociety.org.

While Alcoholics Anonymous is not a Catholic organization, its early history reveals the influence of Catholics. AA’s Twelve Steps were developed with the assistance of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Ed Dowling of St. Louis. The steps are closely related to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in their exposition of faults, the amendment of life, and growing closer to God.

Sr. Ignatia, who worked with AA co-founder “Dr. Bob” in his hospital, awarded Sacred Heart badges to alcoholics who successfully left treatment. This initiated the tradition in AA groups of giving monthly and annual chips or medallions to people after periods of self-proclaimed sobriety.

My blog, “Sober Catholic” (found on sobercatholic.com) contains links to many useful resources for anyone who is looking to apply their Catholic faith in seeking assistance for addictions. It has been online since January 2007, and I have endeavored to maintain links to useful resources on it. I believe Jesus, the Divine Physician, established the Catholic Church and its resources, including  the liturgical and sacramental life, ministries, and lay apostolates. Our Church, in my view, therefore can be an effective partner for the alcoholic and addict in staying clean and sober. I am not a certified recovery specialist, just a sober guy with a blog. But my application of my Catholic faith has been primarily responsible for keeping me sober for many years. I have published two devotional booklets, The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts, and The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics (for information and to order, see sobercatholic.com). The former carries the reader through all twenty mysteries of the rosary with reflections on each one and how they relate to the alcoholic. The latter does the same with the Stations of the Cross. The reader goes on a healing journey as the old person is cast off and the new person emerges.

The Catholic faith, with its rich traditions of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, can assist with sobriety. Perhaps not completely on its own. Sometimes the sick need resources that deal specifically with an illness. In that regard, you or your loved ones should make responsible use of qualified professionals, from clinical recovery specialists to treatment centers or therapists. But there is an inexhaustible fount of graces and healing flowing from our Church. With those, the glories of sobriety—for your loved one or you if you suffer with addiction—are within reach.