Book Review: The Freedom to Love by Emmerich Vogt, O.P.
BN ID: 2940014633703, Publisher: Mill City Press, date: 4/24/2012, Pages: 158
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.