Spring 2013 Issue of Twelve-Step Review: Christian Friendship

12A wonderful, and under-marketed project by Father Emmerich Vogt, OP is the Twelve Step Review. He writes and sends out a quarterly newsletter on topics relevant to Catholic alcoholics and also provides CDs and DVDs of his talks about recovery. Father Vogt has published a book The Freedom to Love on the subject of adapting the 12 Steps to a serious understanding of the Seven Deadly Sins.

This issue of the Twelve Step Review covers Christian Friendship, inspirational quotes from Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, as well as information on Father Vogt’s most recent talks and recordings.

Here is a quote from the newsletter and the book of Sirach on Christian friendship:

A faithful friend is a strong defense. He that has found him has found a treasure. Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend and no weight of gold and silver can countervail the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality. The book of Sirach 6:5-17

The emphasis here seems to be on the “faithful” friend.  We all know there are many other kinds of friends (Facebook “friends,” acquaintances, business contacts) but the “faithful” friend is a treasure.  Let’s hope we each have one or two of these types of friends in our lives!  I do, thank you God.

200 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

numbers-200Thank you so much! I just noticed I now have 200 “followers,” which is so cool for this girl from Alpharetta, Georgia.  Some of you may follow me because of my experiences in alcoholism and recovery and some because of my experiences as a Catholic.

I appreciate all of your comments and insight as I write daily about things that come to my mind.

But most of all, I enjoy reading YOUR blogs. From you I learn so much about what it means to be a friend among friends, no better and no worse than anybody else.  Have a happy, holy Good Friday everybody!

Number 9

 

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

Dear God

girl-prayingDear God,

Today, I got nothin.

So, what to do, what to do?  I suppose I’ll go back to the basics: gratitude, praise and then petition, then my memorized Catholic prayers, mainly  my Marian prayers.

Okay, gratitude first: thank you for my sobriety. Sometimes I get jealous that other people can drink and I can’t.  And they don’t even love it as much as I do!  It doesn’t seem very fair?  But thank you for it. You never promised me fair. You promised me peace.

Thank you for my precious boys!!

Ben hit a home run Friday night, got his arse kicked in tennis Saturday, and then played with cousins on Sunday—the life of being a child!  Ups, downs, fun—none of it is taken too seriously. I got an email from on of Ben’s baseball coaches from five years ago, saying he ran into him at the ballpark this weekend and wanted to compliment us on what a handsome, respectful, good boy we are raising.  Proud Mama Bear.

And my Brian, my baby!  He’s so conscientious, judicious. My little attorney. He’ll win an argument with Ben even if he is completely wrong simply because he’s stubborn and Ben gives up in exasperation. He gets that from his Dad—Husband never loses.  Even if he loses, he wins.  It’s funny!  Seeing this in my son makes me look more favorably on this in Husband—I understand it better.  The boys got their report cards and Brian missed straight A’s by 1 percentage point in Math.  An 89.  He was annoyed with himself but vowed to do better this fourth quarter.  School comes easily to him. Proud Mama Bear.

Ok, God, that was my gratitude.  Now, praise.

I forget to praise you!  Gratitude could sort of be the same thing as praise right?  Well, actually no, because in my gratitude I’m thanking you for gifts and grace you’ve given me. It’s still all about me. And praise is all about you!  Ok. Praise. Here goes.

Dear God, you are HUGE. I’m in awe of how you are everywhere and with every one in every moment. I love that your greatness is beyond my understanding, beyond puny human understanding–we humans think we’re so smart.  You must laugh about that, knowing how much you know and how little we know. I’m thinking you laugh a lot. And it’s holy week this week so I can’t help but focus and think about how nice that was of you to come down here and live among us, show us how to live according to your will which is the only path to happiness. Service, sacrifice, mercy, love, justice.  And dying like that on the cross—OUCH!  None of those fake Greek gods or other “goddesses” and deities of other religions would have done that.  You are simply remarkable and I love you so much!

Petition.  Okay, what am I asking you for? Of course, the health and happiness of Husband, the boys, my parents, my husband’s parents, my siblings and their families and my friends.  I also ask for health for the alcoholics and addicts that have reached out privately to me this week after that one post went viral—the ones who asked my advice and asked for prayers.  Please help them get sobriety. It’s so hard. Do your miracles on them, please.  Husband’s biological 95 year old grandmother and his biological mother need your prayers—touch their hearts and heal their aches and pains, please.

Prayer.  First, the Hail Mary. This is my centering prayer–in the East it would be called my “mantra” because I recite the Hail Mary over and over in my head when ever I find myself in need of self-soothing:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And one of my most favorites—the one my brain immediately goes to in any crisis: The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Have a great day, God! Today, direct my thinking and my actions so that I may be of service to others!

The New Evangelization: Facebook and Love Being Catholic

imageAbout a year ago, one of my sisters had become so frustrated with the anti-Catholic bias in the media that she felt convicted to counter this by being publicly, enthusiastically Catholic in all areas of her life.

The two year campaign of the election competition, the atrocity of the HHS mandate which diminishes religious freedom for Christians in this country, and the so-called “war on women” nonsense of the Planned Parenthood and NARAL money machines really took its toll on us regular, practicing Catholics.

Our faith was mocked not only at the highest levels of our government but throughout the news media, the entertainment industry and of course the social networks. Putting a bumper sticker on her car just wasn’t enough for my sister.

It’s funny how when we let the bad guys bully us into silence, the bad guys win. And when we, in my own case, let the shame of being an alcoholic silence me into anonymity—shame wins.  I believe strongly this is the devil at work. And we can’t let him win.

She started a Facebook page called, “Love Being Catholic.”  And quickly collecting 100 “fans,” she was very pleased and it sort of became for her a way to confirm our Faith.

With the blessed Mother by her side, my sister crushed the serpent and went overtly public with her love of faith. This, in our social circles wasn’t easy. And she lost a few “friends” over this, including a couple of relatives who didn’t like how faithfully she professed her love of Church teachings particularly on abortion, gay marriage and the HHS mandate.

So–flash forward to today.

She and I had lunch yesterday and were talking about how her Facebook page had almost reached 10,000 fans–with a “reach” of over 700,000! We were laughing and were amazed, but also so in awe of the holy spirit. We talked about how each of us can participate in this New Evangelization in our own ways.

This morning I woke to an email with the screen shot of her page showing 10,000 fans.  I couldn’t wait to share. I was so proud of my sister and so happy that I too “Love Being Catholic!”

There’s is a great article in the Catholic Sun today about Pope Francis by one of my most favorite Catholic theologians and authors George Weigel. His new book called Evangelical Catholicism hit the newsstands last month. I have all of his other books and will buy this one for myself for Easter.  In his article today, Weigel says, “The new pope played a significant role in shaping the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” which embraced the New Evangelization and put it at the center of the Church’s life.”

Like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI before him, Pope Francis absolutely understands how important it is to counter, as Weigel calls it, “the acids of secularism.”

So, rise up Catholics and be not afraid. Wear your faith on your sleeve. Preach the Gospel to all and if necessary, use (social media) words.

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3 Ps: Priorities, Perfection, Procrastination in Sobriety

prioritiesI just read a post on Therese Borchard’s new blog A Blog About Hope where she talked about perfectionism. I’ve followed her over at Beyond Blue on BeliefNet and read today that she’s closing down Beyond Blue to make time for other things, including this new blog which will be a repository in a sense for all of her archives and a place to move forward.

Anyways, her post made me think about priorities because she talked about having trouble turning down requests for help. She calls it perfectionism and maybe that’s what it is for me.  But I’ve always had trouble with the word “perfectionist.”  I’m a word girl, and sometimes that is to my detriment. The root word of perfectionist is perfect; and I am unable to ascribe anything to do with the word “perfect” to myself.

But I was able to figure out that I had a problem with setting priorities.  And I guess the way this manifested in me was sort of a form of perfectionism, mixed with a little bit of procrastination.

Borchard gives a quick example of how perfectionism manifests itself in her life:

“Can you help out with the Halloween party?” “Nnn…….. okay.”

“Will you chaperone the field trip to the pumpkin patch?” “I caaa…….sure.”

“Could you organize the ‘Santa’s Run’ fire-department gig for the needy kids? “Nnnnnnn……maybe.”

I want to be the devoted mom at all the class parties. I want to be the noble citizen who contributes her time to community service. I want to say thank you to my alma mater for the four exceptional years of nurturing and education I received.

So (I noticed recently that I begin a lot of paragraphs in this blog with “so.”) my priority problem was that I had, say, ten things that were my priorities: being a good wife (this created its own sub-category of sub-priorities!), being a good mother (more sub-categories), my work, my parents, my husband’s parents, being a good friend, cooking dinner every night, keeping the house clean, keeping the laundry folded (never had trouble doing the laundry but definitely put off folding it).  Oh, and taking care of my health/physical self, that needed to be on the list too.

I had no problem figuring out what my priorities were but I couldn’t put them in the right order, or any order for that matter. I put half of them at #1 and then the other half just never got on the list.

So this was my list:

  1. wife, mother, daughter, house, cooking, laundry (but not folding)

And there was no #2, 3, 4, 5…with all these other things as “top” priorities I ran myself ragged trying to get all those things perfect.

This whack-job on setting priorities was a big source of a lot of my anxiousness, overwhelmness—see, I’m doing it again. I can’t use the word “anxiety” because saying I have anxiety means I need to ease it, which leads me back to beer.

SO. So, I made it a priority to determine the proper order of my priorities.

What would I put first? Definitely cooking and cleaning were knocked off the list and I was down to the top three.  But was this procrastination?

godfirstinfographicI finally looked to my Faith to see what God says about priorities. Naturally, I wanted to put the children first on the list. But I learned from my Faith and the Scripture that “wife” was supposed to be first. What I mean by “supposed to be” is that God gave that instruction because that’s what works best. Putting the marriage first and the children second worked best for the children!  It was a trick!

Okay, so now my list:

  1. wife
  2. mother
  3. daughter

But my brain still created all these SUB-CATEGORIES.

Finally, probably in exasperation, I turned to God in prayer.  Why am I always so frazzled, God? Will you help me figure this out?

Ta da! I realized through prayer that I didn’t have GOD on my priority list.  I figured He was a “given.”  And I looked again to Scripture:

The Bible told me God was supposed to be FIRST.

So I put Him first.  And oh my goodness everything else fell into place!  If I put God first (the sub-categories for God ended up being sobriety/recovery, morning prayers and holding tight to the connection with Him constantly all day) then my marriage worked better, I was a better mother, I was a better blah blah blah.

I didn’t even have to THINK about the other things anymore. I didn’t have to stress over things. When I remembered that God was first on the list—-and nothing else—then it all just worked.

Luke – Chapter 12: 22-32

Then he said to his disciples, ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of the ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouses and no barns; yet God feeds them. And how much more you are worth than the birds! Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest? Think how the flowers grow; they never have to spin or weave; yet, I assure you, not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of them. Now if that is how God clothes a flower which is growing wild today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he look after you, who have so little faith! But you must not set your hearts on things to eat and things to drink; nor must you worry. It is the gentiles of this world who set their hearts on all these things. Your Father well knows you need them. No; set your hearts on his kingdom, and these other things will be given you as well.

And Luke: 12:34 For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.

So now my list looks like this:

  1. God
  2. Everything else

Happy Humpday everyone!  Make it a great day and remember to put God first today.

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.