Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men — New Book by Randy Hain

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

I haven’t read it, but Randy is a friend of mine: and I’ve read the review by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff from our parish. Randy and Deacon Mike have dedicated their lives — BUSY, family-work-filled lives! – to helping us all live out our Faith more authentically. They co-founded the Integrated Catholic Life blog/website which has over 100,000 followers from around the world. They created the Atlanta Catholic Business Conference, which presents a stellar line-up of speakers each year. They have an active social media presence with fans that help them spread their message.

Randy has written several books: Find them all at Integrated Catholic Life or RandyHain.com

Landed!: Proven Job Search Strategies
The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work
Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith
Something More: The Professiona’s Pursuite of a Meaningful Life
and now, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men

Deacon Mike’s Review:

There is an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that is very evocative of one or more of life’s greatest philosophical questions.

“‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. ‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

“‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

“‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.

“‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

“‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.

“‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’”

This exchange is often paraphrased and attributed to Carroll as, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Maybe Yogi Berra said it best (also paraphrased), “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up someplace else!”

Do you know where you are going in life?

Do you have a plan?

Have you laid out your route on a map and checked on your progress lately?

If you are a Catholic man who wants practical help to live a deeper faith and to have a stronger relationship with Christ — or you know someone that fits this description — Randy Hain’s fifth book, Journey to Heaven – A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing), is a must-read.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

 

Let the Oppressed Go Free

imageI have a bookshelf, well, actually it’s more like a couple of drawers full, of books that have and are helping me through my alcoholic journey.  As a Catholic alcoholic, or maybe just the way my contemplative/mystical brain works makes this so, I don’t gravitate towards Louis Hay and her affirmations – or even the AA books- when I’m feeling squirrely and in need of help. I don’t “call someone.” I don’t “go to a meeting.”  Instead I retreat into my world of Catholic books…with the Church, Her wisdom and guidance, Her help.  The saints, the Sacraments, Mass. Confession. Adoration.

These things fill me up.  The other things just don’t “do it for me” when I’m in the most need.  The company of others helps when I’m happy and content.  But when I am struggling, all I want is God.

So, I go into a place by myself, a place only me and God exist – other people would just distract me, no matter how well-meaning they are.  Being around others all the time exhausts me, drains me. As an ambivert (look it up) I do like other people a lot. I like to get out and talk to people and be social or bounce ideas off of others. But this also wears me out, leaves me tired and often confused.  My best friends in the rooms of recovery are not Catholic. And the rooms aren’t Catholic. So, while all of this camaraderie and all of the meetings do me a world of good for staying on track, they’re the last thing I look to when I find myself getting off track.

That’s when I turn inward. In order to refresh my soul.  I retreat into my world of Catholic books and my little quiet spaces with God.  Maybe that’s how Jesus felt when he sometimes went off to find a quiet place to pray.  Being around other people all the time makes me tired. Then I crave my quiet time with God, the same way I’d crave a drink.

Soooo…. I just took three paragraphs to explain myself!  Why so many explanations — I guess because in the rooms, I’d be told I was “isolating.”  Or, I’d be told to “call someone.”  As if my desire to be alone was a bad character trait that will make me relapse.  In treatment, when I really wanted to walk the grounds, rosary in hand, and simply be by myself – I was accused of not caring enough about others, of not opening up and talking with the other women.  In treatment they had a whole “group session” of the other women telling me I don’t care enough to open up and talk to them.

Come to think of it, it’s been this way my whole life – I was an ambivert in high school, too. And so, although I had a lot of friends and was involved in lots of activities, often I just wanted/needed to be by myself. Collect my thoughts, not be around people. I was accused of being a “snob” on numerous occasions. And I remember thinking, “God if you only KNEW how insecure I was?!” I’d think, “If you only knew that I’m the furthest thing from a snob – that I think you are so comfortable and happy and I am so uncomfortable and awkward!” I’d think, “All I want is to be alone, just me and God for a little bit; and then I promise I’ll be back.”

And so I feel a little insecure about my desire to retreat.  Nobody else seems to do this. At least not the people that are staying sober. They do the “we” thing.  I completely second guess myself. What if I was better at being a social being, wanted to be in community with others more? Maybe then I would be “doing this right.”

I know other people need their quiet time with God too. Of course. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I need that each morning too.  What I’m talking about is needing days of this!  Needing to step away from the world for days and recuperate from all this togetherness.  My need for retreat seems to be exaggerated. After too much time with people, I pull away and HAVE to have it. And so I’m sometimes not a very good friend.  At least in my own head, I’m not.

There’s a woman in the meetings, a new friend — she’s AWESOME. Wonderful, caring, loving, faithful (not in a Catholic way but in a very wonderful Jesus loving way) and she really likes me. She’s helped me with rides and stays in touch with me. So, I feel guilty pulling away but it’s exhausting me. And so again I lose a friend – or at least I lose the intensity with which she wanted to be my friend.  Her feelings appear to be hurt and I feel badly about this.

And my point is….

My point is, I’m doing this now. I’m in a retreat. Actually, creating my own little “retreat” with all of my wonderful books. I’ve been reading the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola — a tough read, but I love it! And my Magnificat, of course. And my book “In Conversation With God,” by Francis Fernandez. And my 30 day series of books with the Saints —namely St Teresa of Avila, St Teresa the Little Flower and the Cloud of the Unknowing. And I found a little book I bought last year called “Let the Oppressed Go Free” by Cardinal Rigali.  And THAT’s what I wanted to talk about today!

This little book should be in the hands of every Catholic alcoholic and family member who loves one of us.  It’s from “The Shepherd’s Voice Series,” published by Basilca Press.  Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction.

Cardinal Rigali writes perfectly for me. He explains the nature of addiction and how the Church can help addicts so simply and eloquently — I wonder if he is a Dominican? I usually am drawn to Dominicans.  My thoughts are so rambly today, sorry! I can’t even give a good review of this book because my head is swirling with too many thoughts.  So, I’ll spare you dear reader and close.

I’ll review the book tomorrow or something.

Book Review: Anonymous Disciple by Gerard E Goggins

untitledAnonymous Disciple, copyright 1995, is written by an author who not only did his research and is an excellent writer, but by someone who knows what he’s talking about. I can always tell when a book or a work is written by someone who has walked the walk with us.  The understanding is there. Reading this book was often like sitting in an AA meeting listening to a fellow alcoholic speak of his experience, strength and hope.  I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants a better understanding of our plight and how God’s healing miracle can be performed in the heart of an alcoholic.

It’s written like a novel – but it’s actually a biography of a Catholic priest who suffered from alcoholism and whose life was transformed by God into a beautiful thing.  Father Jim, the book explains was a disgrace to his fellow Jesuit priests, couldn’t stay away from the bottle and was admitted into the psychiatric ward of the hospital as a hopeless case.  This is what they used to do with alcoholics, put them in psychiatric wards because they were obviously insane.

There was no other way to keep them safe—from themselves and others.

Insanity. What else could the diagnosis be? A person who drinks themselves to oblivion every day, causes all sorts of trouble and disgrace to those who love him and whose own mother told him at age 50 to never come home again; yet he still continues to drink.  This wasn’t his first stay in a hospital either. He had been numerous times; but each time he was released with a little bit of health he went right back to the bottle or the bar.

A person with “so much potential.”  The alcoholic is mind-boggling to the “normal” person. Why can’t he just quit? Why would he drink again?

The author describes how to an alcoholic in this dilemma, this insane thinking is commonplace. We think alcohol is the solution to our problems, our only solace. Alcohol becomes the problem and the solution.  We get to the point we can’t imagine life with or without alcohol.  So we keep trying to drink the next time and hope for no consequences.

Father Jim and Father Fred drank together. Father Fred visited his friend in the hospital one last time before traveling to Detroit to “get sober” at Guest House, a rehab for alcoholic priests.  A few months later, Father Jim joins him at Guest House and the book walks the reader through their experience at Guest House and their miraculous lives afterwards.

Both Father Jim and Father Fred devoted their lives to AA, sobriety and helping other alcoholics. God turned disgraced lives into saintly ones.  A must read for every Catholic alcoholic and every Catholic who loves an alcoholic.

Guest House is still doing great work today.  http://www.guesthouse.org

Their mission is to provide the information, education, treatment and care needed to assure that clergy, men and women religious and seminarians suffering from alcoholism, addictions and other behavioral health conditions have the best opportunity for quality recovery and overall health and wellness.

Now located in a beautiful setting in Lake Orion, Michigan, Guest House continues to do God’s work helping their clients return to active, faith-filled ministry in the Church. A lay ministry of Guest House is the National Catholic Council on Addictions.

Letting Go of Our Attachments is Key to Loving God

magnetsI’ve said this before but one of my most favorite daily prayer books is “My Daily Bread” by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, published in 1956.  Here is an excerpt from it regarding “attachments,” from pages 192 -194, Chapter 98:

1. My child, as you go through life your heart tends to attach itself to many things. If these attachments become too strong they will make you their slave. You will eventually sin because of them. True, your natural likes and dislikes are not decided by an act of the will. You can, however, control them with the help of prayer, mortifications, and My Sacraments.

2. Purify your love for all earthly things by using them wisely according to My will. Only with a pure love like this can you escape the slavery of earthly attachments. You will never again be too troubled at the possibility of losing something, be it a friend or a cherished possession. Nor is this a form of misguided selfishness. You are simply choosing first things first, God before creatures.

3. Refuse to be a slave of anything on earth. Love Me and My Will more than all else. You are still disturbed and displeased when matters go against your wishes and desires. You still fail to understand the passing nature of earthly things.

4. Let no human being nor earthly satisfaction mean so much to you that you would sin for them. If you love anything that much, your love is misguided and foolish. You are preferring a reflection of God to God Himself.

5. If you want true joy and real greatness, be attached to Me above every person and thing in your earthly life. Let your desires and love be guided by My wisdom, and they will never lead you into folly.

The Problem is Two-Fold in Nature

Originally posted on Catholic Alcoholic:

grand coteauPage 355 in the AA Big Book

The explanation that alcoholism was a disease of a two-fold nature, an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind, cleared up a number of puzzling questions for me.  The allergy we could do nothing about.  Somehow our bodies had reached the point where we could no longer absorb alcohol in our systems.  The why is not important; the fact is that one drink will set up a reaction in our systems that requires more, that one drink is too much and a hundred are not enough.

The obsession of the mind was a little harder to understand, and yet everyone has obsessions of various kinds.  The alcoholic has them to an exaggerated degree.  Over a period of time he has built up self-pity and resentments toward anyone or anything that interferes with his drinking.  Dishonest thinking, prejudice, ego, antagonism toward…

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The 9th Step Promises

Originally posted on Catholic Alcoholic:

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word “serenity” and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we’ve gone, we’ll see how our experiences can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?  We think not.  They’re being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  They will always materialize if we work…

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Buy the Book: Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics

stations-cross-for-alcoholics-paul-sofranko-paperback-cover-artJust in time for Good Friday, I’ve discovered, The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko, a terrific e-book written by my friend who blogs over at ‘Sober Catholic.’

Sofranko also wrote, The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics. You can read my review of that book here.

From the Catholic Sun, “Sofranko, a recovering alcoholic himself, has added one more element to the whole scheme of fighting addiction — hope. While many or even most self-help books suggest that we are the only ones capable of fixing our brokenness simply by reading the book, Sofranko elevates the place of prayer in the healing process and reminds readers of the necessity of relying on God for the grace to overcome our addictions.”

At our parish and I expect in most parishes the stations of the cross are offered every Friday during Lent. I usually only do them on Good Friday, though; and I like to do them alone. I know God likes us to worship Him in community with others—and I do that, of course—-but when I really want to experience grace, I like to have Him all to myself.

So, I’ll take my children through them and then later come back and do them by myself.

Good Friday is one of my most meaningful and spiritual days of the year.  More than Christmas. More than Easter! I love how in our Catholic faith, I can go into Church and by myself walk around the stations, pray, kneel, sit, read—and nobody bothers me. Ha ha!  I am not being anti-social, I just want to hang out with God in His house by myself. Nobody comes up to me and says, “Are you okay?”

Before I was married, and my parents lived in another state, I would spend Easters alone. Three years in a row I went to Stone Mountain after Mass on Easter Sunday just to climb the mountain and sit there.  I think normal people might feel sorry for me, spending Easter alone, but I LOVED IT.  I was not alone at all.  I was completely enveloped in the Alleluia and the risen Lord. The last thing I wanted, ha ha ha, was to be with other people.  I’m so weird!

Back to the book, and from the publisher:

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics is a book that is rooted in an ancient Catholic devotion. It is intended to assist Catholics and other Christians find deeper meaning in their struggles with alcoholism, by connecting the oftentimes hard road of sobriety with Jesus’ suffering road to His Crucifixion. The reader sees that their old alcoholic ‘self’ is being led to the Cross and the joy of eventual resurrection of a new sober self can follow. Whether they are still drinking and struggling, or have been sober for many years and still have difficulties coping with sobriety, this book should help readers maintain that sobriety.

I particularly like “Jesus falls for the third time.” What a lesson on life that is! If God came down here to show us that it’s okay to fall again and again as long as we pick ourselves back up and keep going, keep carrying our crosses–then those of us who have fallen a few times can take comfort. Who cares if the world thinks I’m a loser. Get back up. Keep going. He’s right there with me.

I still feel a little weird walking into Church with my iPad…even though my readings are on my tablet and many of my prayers…it still feels weird–but this Friday, I’ll be doing just that as I take the Stations of the Cross with this e-book by Paul Sofranko.  It’s only a matter of time before we all have tablets in the pews, right?

My oldest son came home from school last week after having done the Stations with the whole school community. The eighth graders acted out the stations and gave running commentary for the rest of the younger children. Ben was telling me about this and reminded me, “Mom, it’s not always a good thing to go along with the crowd. The crowd is who killed Jesus.”

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko is just $2.99:

But The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics on Amazon

Buy it on iTunes

Buy it for your Nook

The Way of the Cross is not only a great testimony to an inner depth and maturity, but it is in fact a school for interiority and consolation. It is also a school for the examination of conscience, for conversion, for inner transformation and compassion — not as sentimentality, as a mere feeling, but as a disturbing experience that knocks on the door of my heart, that obliges me to know myself and to become a better person.”  - Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI

The Cloud of the Unknowing, Cafeteria Catholics and Pope Francis

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene--OlsenOne of my favorite spiritual works–I haven’t read it in its entirety but as I do with most of my God books I read bits and pieces and skip around—is The Cloud of the Unknowing.

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the 14th century. It is a spiritual guide on Catholic contemplative prayer. It proposes the only way to truly “know” God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowingness,” at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God.

With the election of Pope Francis it seems a new era has swarmed into the Church. I am careful not to say a “better” era. I felt Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a brilliant pope who left us beautiful epistles, wonderful homilies and made great strides in uniting certain facets of Christians with the Church.  Also, he held fast to supporting the Church’s moral truths which are under attack in the secular world, therefore our very Catholic selves are under attack.  I loved him, looked at him as a true shepherd of our Church, guided by God to shepherd the whole Church.

What I mean by this new era is how Pope Francis is able to appeal to the other Catholics, ex-Catholics and the ones who might be more cafeteria-style in their Catholic morality but who nonetheless want to know, love and serve God. Unable to grasp the importance of God’s moral truths in following Him, they still want to follow Him.

And Francis opens that door, without compromising on the Church’s moral truths. By his humility, his meekness, his imperative and primary call to serve the poor, these Catholics fall silent–in a good way, silent. They stop attacking temporarily. They perceive a pope they might actually be able to relate to. This is the God they know and love, the God who serves the poor and the God who loves all of us, even those of us who can’t—-by nature of our ignorance and pride, which we all have to some extent in different capacities—come to accept moral truths.

I’ve listened to the commentary and have been impressed with comments like “breath of fresh air in the Church,” and “guarded hopefulness.”  As for me, it’s funny because the Church has ALWAYS been about social justice–at least in my lifetime. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were tremendous champions of the poor and the vulnerable.  So why couldn’t these other Catholics see it? And why do they see Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air?

I can only guess it’s because these types of Catholics abhor authority, hierarchy, pomp, Catholic morality?  I don’t have a problem with authority, hierarchy, pomp (beauty!) and theological morality. So, I saw the Church’s grand social justice network as part of a whole, not a separate thing.

Anyways, for those cafeteria and ex-Catholics who might entertain coming back to the fold because of Pope Francis, welcome! And yay! You don’t have to have a perfect understanding (I say “understanding” because if these Catholics truly understood Catholic morality they would embrace it) of morality in order to be welcomed in the Church.  Just come back. Your understanding of the necessity of her moral teachings will come more readily once you’re here for a while.  So come back and let the Church and the Holy Spirit transform you.

The most important moral teaching, the foundation of it all, is the Church teaching on the dignity of the human person. Thank God for her stubborn insistence on condemning abortion. Pro-life in all circumstances, it is my prayer that Catholics who support a “woman’s right to choose abortion” will come to understand the love behind the Church’s teaching on this.

I’ve been thinking about the things that appeal to more liberal Catholics–and in addition to social justice, to me they seem to be more existential in nature. I’m making a big generalization here but it’s also an invitation.

where-only-love-can-go-30-days-with-john-kirvan-paperback-cover-artCheck out the Cloud of the Unknowing. A contemplative myself, this is a great entry point for those looking for the softer side of the Faith. Softer as in—it’s all about “love”— and not morality.  But this spiritual classic is not for beginners who wish to dabble in spirituality and new ageness. This spirituality is deeply rooted in Jesus, in forgetting everything about the world and getting to know God without distraction.

The Cloud of the Unknowing is written in middle English and for me is very difficult to read. I have to read every sentence three times to get it. So books like the one by John Kirvan, “Where Only Love Can Go,” are excellent tools for me to embrace this spiritual classic.  Where Only Love Can Go is a thirty day trip through The Cloud of the Unknowing, in modern language.  Here is an excerpt:

My dear friend in the Spirit, up until now you have lived a good but ordinary Christian life, not very different from your friends. But apparently God is calling you to something more. Because of the love in his heart, which he has had for you from the moment of your creation, he is not going to leave you alone, not about to let you off so easily. You are beginning to experience in  a special way God’s everlasting love, which you were brought out of nothingness and redeemed at the price of his blood. You can no longer be content to live at a distance from God. In his great grace he has kindled a desire in your heart to be more closely united to him.”

Kirwan notes that the anonymous author of The Cloud of the Unknowing instructs its reader that this is a book and a journey, which requires serious attention. He goes on to say, “The Cloud of the Unknowing is not for those who are tempted to “dip into” spirituality, to play around the edges of contemplation, presuming that the journey to God is a trip into warm fuzziness and uninterrupted serenity.”

So, in conclusion here I’m excited that ex-Catholics and “cafeteria” Catholics are looking at Pope Francis fondly and therefore looking more fondly at our Church. If only they would stop criticizing her for a minute and simply experience her in all her beauty and complexity, they will come to love her as I do. The Cloud of the Unknowing, a very Catholic spiritual work, might be a good place to start. And eventually, their understanding of God’s moral truths will come—and they will see the moral truths are there not to punish or condemn us but to free us and perfect us to closer union with our Creator.

Audio Resources for Catholic Alcoholics

7deadyI plan to invest in these CDs over time. I’ve purchased too many Nook books lately, so I need to wait a few weeks to make more money. After having read the book The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt (which incorporates the 7 deadly sins into our experience of recovery), I am comfortable recommending his CDs because he teaches an authentic Faith and has 30 years of experience working with the 12 Steps.

Once I purchase and listen to these I will review here, but for now I wanted to share:

The Eleventh Step and the Spiritual Life
In this series of lectures and homilies, the eleventh step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God) is framed in terms of developing our catholic spiritual life through prayer, meditation and sacrifice. Father Emmerich uses clear and sometimes humorous examples of how to take disasters and change them into truly good, life changing and worthwhile experiences, both with others, and in our interior relationship with God. Set of 5 CDs, $35.00.

The Power of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Steps
A five CD set consisting of conferences and homilies given to a live congregation at CASA MARIA retreat house in Irondale, Alabama. 5 CD’s – $35.00.

The Spirituality of the 12 Steps
In this set of nine conferences Fr. Emmerich grounds each of the Steps in classical Gospel spirituality, and brings in the teachings of the saints. Each conference is about one hour-long. $65.00 for 9 CDs.

 

Book Review: The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt,O.P.

freedom to loveBook Review: The Freedom to Love by Emmerich Vogt, O.P.

BN ID: 2940014633703, Publisher: Mill City Press, date: 4/24/2012, Pages: 158

Verdict: A

It’s funny when I experience something, I sometimes make the mistake of thinking I am special, that I am the first to ponder these things and the one to share my findings. And then the more I delve into and explore my ideas I inevitably discover this has all be done before.  No need to re-invent the wheel here.

In my quest to reconcile the 12 Step Program (of which I am an enthusiastic participant) with my Catholic faith, I have often found myself alone, isolated. I’m not comfortable nor would it be appropriate to explore my Christianity in recovery meetings. These meetings and the 12 Step Program are necessarily non-denominational.

And I have checked out “Celebrate Recovery,” which is a terrific Christian-based recovery program started by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. Celebrate Recovery pulls from the 12 Steps but is based on their 8 Principals rooted in the Beatitudes. I have enjoyed the CR meetings I’ve attended; but I longed for a Catholic Christian version.  We have our own lingo, the saints, the traditions, Mary and established Catholic moral teachings passed down to us over the last 2000 years to study.  So, although I see the value of CR, it didn’t draw me in as much as regular AA meetings did/do.

Also, since I am basically a Catholic “activist” I am unfortunately aware of the ex-Catholic leanings of many members and leaders within Saddleback and in many of her offshoots.  For reference, check this out and this.  So, even though I did like CR, it just didn’t sit right with me, like regular AA meetings did.

So, where do I look for answers and consolation–certainly I look to the 12 Steps but I have to go beyond the 12 Steps into my faith in order to have a complete “design for living” as it promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gratefully, I’m not unique, after all.  Many have gone before me and have shared truly amazing resources and faith-based guides for me to follow.  Thank goodness for Google (or Bing, if I’m feeling counter-cultural)

Father Emmerich Vogt, OP published a book last year called The Freedom to Love.  It may very well become part of my repertoire and my design for living.  It’s that good. And it speaks my language (Catholic Christianity) so well that I immediately felt connected to the author in our common understanding of taking the 12 Step Program just a little bit further into living Christian principles.

In our Catholic faith tradition, I don’t think we’d ever (never say never?) create a “Catholic Program of Recovery.”  12 Step Programs work well for the Catholic alcoholic, are basically free and widely available throughout the world–thousands of convenient meetings every single day.  So, no, there’s really no need for a “Catholic AA.”

But there is a need–at least for me and since I’m  not unique most likely others have the same desire as I do—-for us to take the 12 Steps a little bit further and incorporate our Catholic faith into our design for living.

That’s what this book does well!  Vogt takes the reader through the Steps by putting a Catholic understanding to them.  It’s splendid (and I love that word, “splendid!”).

On to the book:

From the Publisher:

Addicted persons are unable to choose to really love themselves and others without being grounded in sound moral values. The founders of AA in the Big Book encouraged the recovering alcoholic to inventory the seven deadly sins in preparation for the 4th Step because recovery meant – not simply giving up drinking – but embracing a moral lifestyle.

As a priest who has worked with the 12-step program for over thirty years, Fr. Emmerich combines traditional Christian spiritual principles with the wisdom of the Steps. An understanding of the moral virtues, and the extremes that set a person up to become an addict, is addressed in this book.

For centuries Western culture has provided a moral sense of the deadliness of sin.  However, modern culture has dropped this wisdom, which the author believes has led to an  increased vulnerability to addiction.

The seven deadly sins are shown to be destructive of the love of God and neighbor. Uncovering these character defects in our lives should guide the Christians actions. A very real and profound moral disorder is found in the un-recovered person. The person who abuses himself and others through addiction and codependency does not love himself and cannot love others. There is nothing so beautiful and salvific as the revelation of God’s love, which alone makes man fully alive. We communicate this love by His grace, which heals the wounds of addiction and sets us free to love.

This book (eBook version is just $9.99 at bn.com) explains how relevant it is to look at how the seven deadly sins manifest themselves in our lives. And then it shows how the virtues (as presented in the Catechism) can be an excellent tool for us to redirect our sins to a higher calling.

Modern Psychology, with all her wonderfulness and contributions to understanding the emotional and psychological workings of our brains and relationships, has perhaps unintentionally caused misunderstanding of what used to be common vocabulary. Words like “sin” and “morals” and “guilt” have become four-letter words. To me, those words have meaning and help me grow towards my quest for an intimate relationship with my Creator.

So, we can’t let these words (sin, morality, virtue, confession, redemption) used throughout the book scare us.  In Catholic culture, those words are just part of our lingo and they make sense.

And finally, a wonderful resource for the Catholic alcoholic looking to blend their recovery with the Faith, the author of this book Father Vogt maintains the web site and ministry The 12 Step Review at 12-step-review.com.

Great book.