There is a Solution

09-04-2022Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

September is National Recovery Month; bringing awareness that there is a solution to the problem of addiction/alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous, the granddaddy of recovery, puts it this way, when describing how to deal with the problem: “without help it is too much for us. But there is one who has all power-that one is God. May you find him now!”

And lest we think the problem is someone else’s, Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us that the problem, “engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends, and employers, warped lives of blameless children, and wives and parents… “. Which is why there is also the Al-anon Family of recovery programs, to help all those affected directedly or indirectly by the addict/alcoholic behavior.

Alcoholics Anonymous is most famous for its Twelve Steps. From a spiritual point of view, they contain nothing new, nothing that hasn’t been part of most religious traditions in the West: the need for faith in God, confession of sins/faults, a commitment to working on personal character defects or vices, practicing virtue, making amends for harm done, daily personal inventory or examination of conscience, prayer and meditation and self-sacrificial service. What is unique about the Twelve Steps is that these spiritual principles were put together in such an order that they could be applied to the problem of alcoholism and by extension other addictions, in such a way to provide relief for the sufferer.

Though the spiritual principles were already available, it took until 1939 for them to come together in the 12 Steps. However, there were some who used the principles and did find relief from their suffering. One such example was a man known as Matt Talbot. Matt was a working-class man in Dublin, and he gradually burned his life to the ground with his drinking. No matter how many times he stopped drinking, he could not find a way to stay stopped. He had the best of intentions but no willpower over his drinking.

During that time in the 19th century, Temperance Societies sprung up. Seeing the devastation that alcohol was causing so many individuals and families, these Societies asked people to “take the Pledge”, that is swear off alcohol for various periods of time. Here in the US that movement would culminate in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Matt tried many times to take the pledge but was not able to honor it for very long.

Finally, realizing that he was spiritually bankrupt and had no power to control his drinking, he surrendered his will to God’s will and found his way to becoming sober. But he realized quickly that he would need continued spiritual help to stay that way. From then on, he lived life with daily Mass, pray, penance and acts of sacrificial service. The man who was once a disgrace to his family and community became an almost saint-like man and stayed sober for the next 40 years until his death.

In many ways he applied the 12 Steps to his alcohol problem even before there were the 12 Steps. Thankfully for us, we don’t have to search to hard for the solution. However, the tricky thing with alcoholism and addiction, one of its chief symptoms is that it tells you emphatically that you don’t have a problem. And so, if you know someone who has a problem but won’t admit they have a problem, ask Matt Talbot to intercede for them, that they may have a moment of clarity and a spiritual awakening. (His cause for sainthood has been ongoing.)

“Lord, you give us the example of Venerable Matt Talbot as a man who seemed completely lost and beyond your grace. In a single moment, you pierced his heart and changed his mind, leading him back to you. Jesus, I pray for this same conversion and transformation for _________ in your perfect will and timing and for your greater glory. Amen.”

Love, Fr. John B.

PS Come to Bingo on Sep 17 in Madonna Hall and support the FullCircle Program for Youth at Risk! Details and tickets available here or in the Parish office.