July 31 – Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spiritual Exercises and the Twelve Steps   

Saint-Ignatius-Loyola1

I have the book: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I’d tried to read it, study it, and bounce around in it. Then I’d put it away, not ever able to really “get into” it like I’d hoped. I purchased it years ago hoping to get inspiration and understanding about myself and my relationship with God. But the book was over my head.  I couldn’t sustain my interest long enough to really incorporate the exercises into my life in any meaningful way.

I remember thinking, “I wish there was a “Spiritual Exercises” for Dummies book I could read.  I laughed at this thought when I considered that’s basically what the 12 Steps are. I know, not really but sort of Spiritual Exercises for Dummies.

But that didn’t satisfy me either. The 12 Steps were too simplified. And truthfully, they relate only to a small part of the vast Exercises. I wanted the meat of what St Ignatius of Loyola taught but not so simplified it watered down the most important aspects of devotion to Christ and life in the Church.

I am “working the steps” again. In AA. It is called “working the steps,” the same way I suppose St. Ignatius called it “practicing” the Spiritual Exercises. Both are intended to be a “way of life,” if practiced daily promised to improve our relationships with God and other people. I don’t believe my salvation (my sobriety, yes but not my salvation) lies in the 12 Steps, as some swear. I believe I’ve indirectly practiced the Steps my whole life through my Catholic Faith. But by intensely directing these principles and practices at my alcoholism, however, I’ve been able to arrest the destruction and trajectory of my life, turn away from alcohol and to God.  A micro-conversion of sorts. I didn’t need to be converted to believe in God; but I needed to apply this conversion principle specifically to my alcoholism.

My 17-year-old son attends Catholic school and came home a couple of months ago with a homework assignment comparing the 12 Steps “process” of Alcoholics Anonymous to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I was giddy excited about this and asked him if I could have a copy of it and mention in in my blog. He said, “Sure.”

These were my son’s answers:

  1. Step 1: Sorry for sin and realizing we have done wrong.
  2. Step 2: Realizing God is merciful
  3. Step 3: Contrition
  4. Step 4: Examination of conscience
  5. Step 5: Confessing our sins
  6. Step 6: Going to confession
  7. Step 7: The Act of confessing our sins
  8. Step 8: Atonement and satisfaction
  9. Step 9: Penance
  10. Step 10: Daily Examination of conscience
  11. Step 11: Engaging in prayer to overcome our problems
  12. Sept 12: Seeking to help others

Fr. Edward Dowling, a Jesuit and friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercises influenced the 12 Steps. Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or the Exercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. The principles of the Spiritual Exercises were the same principles that inspired Bill Wilson to write the Steps, but there is no direct connection apparently.

AA was about five years old when Bill W. met Father Dowling. Bill was depressed and had thoughts of giving up. Father Dowling had heard of AA and saw similarities between the 12 Steps and the Spiritual Exercises; and he set out to meet Bill to learn more. Bill writes this meeting re-inspired him and gave him the grace he needed to persevere. His depression lifted. When their initial meeting together was over, Father Dowling told Bill W. if ever Bill grew impatient, or angry at God’s way of doing things, if ever he forgot to be grateful for being alive right here and now, he, Father Ed Dowling, would make the trip all the way from St. Louis to “wallop him over the head with his good Irish stick.”

Father Ed did give Bill a copy of the Spiritual Exercises in 1952, underlining the “Two Standards” meditation. Father Ed reminded Bill of the place he had bottomed out and surrendered to a “higher power.”  Father Ed believed that this was the place where humiliations led to humility and then to all other blessings. In saying this, he paraphrased Ignatius’s closing prayer of the “Two Standards” meditations. This was where AA became most like the Exercises.

When we forget to hold God as the center, something else will surely take God’s place. When we take our focus off God—pushing love, humility, and service to the side—something insidious creeps into us, turning our passion into poison. Sometimes we create our own demons without even knowing it. The Two Standards meditation isn’t a choice between the good and evil that’s out in the world—it’s a choice that lies within one’s own heart.

After the death of Father Dowling, Bill Wilson wrote, “Father Ed, an early and wonderful friend of AA, was the greatest and most gentle soul to walk this planet. I was closer to him than to any other human being on earth.”

 

Advertisements

Prayer for the Intercession of our Blessed Mother for those in Recovery

I found this prayer in the Spring 2017 issue of The 12 Step Review online4967. I love it and wanted to share with you!

Oh Blessed Mother, heart of love and mercy, hear my prayer. I am comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your intercession. We trust those in recovery from alcohol who are sick, lonely or hurting to your gentle heart. Help us all, Holy Mother in the recovery from the burden of our sins until we may share eternal life with you in the kingdom of your son, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen

Saint Monica: another patron saint for alcoholics

st-monicaI looked at my blog stats yesterday. I hadn’t looked at them in so long but what has always stood out to me when I do is the posts that get the most traffic. This one from 2013 is ALWAYS in the top five of the posts people read or come across when they search for something Catholic alcoholic related on google.  This post about Saint Monica.

So many of us must be seeking help (whether for ourselves or for a loved one) and who better than Saint Monica to ask for prayers from? Heck, if her prayers were strong enough to convert Saint Augustine then certainly they’ll be strong enough to help me, right?  And seeing now she is also the patron saint of difficult marriages, victims of unfaithfulness, and victims of verbal abuse…my devotion to her has taken on another new meaning.  Here you go:

Saint Monica is patron saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse.

Saint Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honoured in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband, and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legends recall Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.

Monica was born a Christian at Thagaste, North Africa, around the year 331, the daughter of devout parents who educated her in the faith. Augustine gives only one incident from her youth, obviously relayed to him by Monica herself, of how she was in danger of becoming a wine bibber, but was corrected when her secret sips in the wine cellar were discovered and a maid, in a moment of anger, called her a “drunkard.” This stinging rebuke prompted her to change her behavior and develop perseverence. Perhaps this is why recovering alcoholics are among the many groups who intercede to Saint Monica.

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Monica
Dear St. Monica,
Troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine; your prayers were answered. Grant me that same fortitude, patience,and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (Mention your intention here.) and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

She was married early in life to Patritius, who held an official position in Tagaste, He was a pagan, his temper was violent, and he appears to have had bad behavior outside the marriage. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one. Her mother-in-law was as bad as her husband. Her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence.

Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. She asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent.

Eventually her husband became a Christian but died shortly afterwards. She decided not to remarry.

All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was promiscuous and partied all the time. And, as he himself tells us, he was lazy. Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism Monica drove him away from her home. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.

It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly. She met St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.

In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she “brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, and wine.” When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine, since “it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink”. So, Augustine wrote of her:

In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.

— Confessions 6.2.2

Mother and son spent six months of true peace and then he was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan.

At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. She had such a joyful disposition that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica’s strength failed, she said to Augustine: “I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service.”

The finest pages of Augustine’s Confessions were written as the result of the emotion he experienced after his mother’s death.

The “weeping” springs outside Santa Monica, California were named for Saint Monica.

2 More Patron Saints for Alcoholics: St Therese of Lisieux and St Dymphna

St Therese of Lisieux - the LIttle Flower

St Therese of Lisieux – the LIttle Flower

These are not officially patron saints for Alcoholics, but I think they could be. Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Dymphna.

The first is St Therese of Lisieux – the Little Flower:

St Therese’ story is disarmingly simple. She was born in Alencon, France in 1873 the youngest of five sisters. She was only fifteen when she entered the Carmelite Order in Lisieux where she was known as Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy face. Nine anonymous years later she died, with no indication that her reputation for holiness had spread beyond the cloister walls.

But within a very few more years she was a household name in Catholic European circles, the object of an extraordinary worldwide following. She had then become “The Little flower.” Less than 30 years after her death, she was canonized saint of the universal Church, without question the most popular and best-loved saints of the twentieth century—an extraordinarily influential force in the spiritual lives of millions of ordinary people.

Her deathbed promise was to spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Alcoholics desire God. It is a rare alcoholic that doesn’t wish to be closer to her Creator. St Therese always desired to become a saint, but in comparing herself with the saints she felt she was as far removed from them as was a “grain of sand trampled underfoot to a mountain.”  Instead of feeling discouraged by such reflections, she concluded that God would not inspire a wish which could not be realized. And that, in spite of her “littleness” she might aim at being a saint.

Many alcoholics strive for sobriety but struggle to attain it. St. Therese instructs us that “the striving” for God is pleasing in His eyes. He knows our imperfections and limitations. I offer there is not one more “little” in one’s own mind than the alcoholic, full of shame and remorse wishing he were a better person.

The second saint I believe would be great for alcoholics to have recourse to is Saint Dymphna.

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna, another saint who died at a very young age, is “officially” the patron saint of mental illness. Science has established that alcoholic is a “disease of the mind.”  Alcoholism affects the deep recesses of our brains, the limbic system, which controls pleasure, reward, survival, spirituality. Over time, with persons pre-disposed to this, alcohol changes our brains and makes it very difficult for us to recover absent miracles.

So, alcoholism is a mental illness which is treated with the latest medication, therapy and 12 step programs – Saint Dymphna has a special love for those of us hindered by brain/mental diseases as her father was “mad.”  She fled her home with the assistance of a local priest in order to escape her father’s desire to marry her to replace the loss of his wife/her mother. She fled into the hills and became a hermit. But her father found her and beheaded her and her friend.

Centuries later, the tombs were discovered and the name “Dymphna” was written on a brick found on the coffin of the young girl. As the remains were reinterred in a tomb, miraculous healings of those suffering from mental illness were reported in the immediate area. The bishop of Cambrai commissioned a text of the life of Saint Dymphna and the tomb became a pilgrimage site for those suffering.

By the end of the thirteenth century a hospital was built near her tomb for the treatment of nervous and mental disorders. today, Gheel remains a world-renowned hospital center, offering the most enlightened methods in treating the mentally ill.

I have a special love for these two young saints and often pray they intercede for me and for my loved ones who suffer from alcoholism.

June 19 is the Day We Remember Venerable Matt Talbot

“Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him.” Matt Talbot

talbotMatt Talbot was declared “venerable” in 1975. He is remembered each year on this day, June 19. The most complete resource for information on Matt Talbot can be found here: Matt Talbot Resource Center

If you get the chance, “like” the Matt Talbot Facebook page here.

From Circle of Prayer: (click for link) Matt Talbot was born in the poverty of Dublin’s inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict. After sixteen years he decided to ‘kick the habit’.

A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which providentially incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of this Priest friend Matt modeled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.

It was a tough program of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. His Higher Power was the Christian God. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonization in the Catholic Church

Here is a link to a Matt Talbot Retreat Group.

To his neighbors and his work mates in the timber yards, he was a cheerful, happy friend. He gave away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and abroad. “Matt had no time for money”, his sister remarked. He was keenly aware of his fellow workers struggle for social justice. A loyal member of Ireland’s Transport and General Workers Union, a Union leader, Stephen McGonagle, described him as “a beacon of light to Irish workers”. After a life of heroic perseverance, he died suddenly on the way to Mass on 7th June 1925.

Matt’s program of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. “Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

Most of the favors attributed to his intercession world-wide are for addicts and their families. Hundreds have been reported. Some day he may be declared the patron saint for addicts.

History of the Matt Talbot movement–click here.

Talbot was declared Venerable in 1975 which means that the church has decided that from a human point of view, he has the qualifications of a Saint. However a physical miracle is required to show Gods Approval of this judgment before he will be Beatified and another Miracle after that, before he will be canonized.

The Holy father believes that Matt Talbot has been chosen by God as a model for addicts. He was a recovered Alcoholic. It is now known that the rehabilitation program given to him in 1884 incorporated the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. although these steps were not formulated for another 50 years.

Devotees of Matt Talbot may be interested to learn that the present Pope wrote a paper on Matt when he was a young man.

My friend Paul at Sober Catholic created a Yahoo group for Catholic alcoholics called the “Matt Talbot Way.”

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Matt Talbot

“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favors the power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Saint Monica: Another Patron Saint for Alcoholics

saint monica
Saint Monica is patron saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse.

Saint Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honoured in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband, and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legends recall Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.

Monica was born a Christian at Thagaste, North Africa, around the year 331, the daughter of devout parents who educated her in the faith. Augustine gives only one incident from her youth, obviously relayed to him by Monica herself, of how she was in danger of becoming a wine bibber, but was corrected when her secret sips in the wine cellar were discovered and a maid, in a moment of anger, called her a “drunkard.” This stinging rebuke prompted her to change her behavior and develop perseverence. Perhaps this is why recovering alcoholics are among the many groups who intercede to Saint Monica.

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Monica
Dear St. Monica,
Troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine; your prayers were answered. Grant me that same fortitude, patience,and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (Mention your intention here.) and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

She was married early in life to Patritius, who held an official position in Tagaste, He was a pagan, his temper was violent, and he appears to have had bad behavior outside the marriage. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one. Her mother-in-law was as bad as her husband. Her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence.

Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. She asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent.

Eventually her husband became a Christian but died shortly afterwards. She decided not to remarry.

All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was promiscuous and partied all the time. And, as he himself tells us, he was lazy. Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism Monica drove him away from her home. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.

It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly. She met St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.

In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she “brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, and wine.” When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine, since “it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink”. So, Augustine wrote of her:

In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.

— Confessions 6.2.2

Mother and son spent six months of true peace and then he was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan.

At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. She had such a joyful disposition that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica’s strength failed, she said to Augustine: “I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service.”

The finest pages of Augustine’s Confessions were written as the result of the emotion he experienced after his mother’s death.

The “weeping” springs outside Santa Monica, California were named for Saint Monica.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Catholic Alcoholic

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.

— Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

View original post