New Issue of 12 Step Review is Out

photoFather Emmerich Vogt, OP has put out the Summer 2013 issue of The Twelve Step Review and it’s a really important one for those of us out here in recovery-land.  Letting go of resentments is the focus and he nails it.

“Among feelings of unexpressed anger, resentment is regarded as the source of many mental and even physical illnesses. It has been defined as anger re-sent. It’s reliving the bitter hurts of our lives. Going through life with deep resentments leads only to unhappiness and futility in our efforts to get along.”

It was interesting for me to read that there are only two individuals in Sacred Scripture who are called Jesus’ “friends:” Lazarus and Judas. Lazarus makes sense. But Judas?

In the feature article, Father writes, “When Judas comes to betray Jesus, he is not greeted with ‘You filthy betrayer may you rot in Hell!’ Rather Jesus greets him with “friend.” (Matthew 26:49) I’ll write more verbatim from Father’s words:  Why did Judas betray Jesus? This is an important question to ask because betrayal is something we might all be capable of, and the more we understand our sinful nature, the more we can learn from other people’s mistakes, even Judas’.

It would seem that Judas, having his own agenda, was trying to force Jesus into something that would play into his own plans, trying to force Jesus’ hand, so to speak. And, meditating on the role of Judas, some of us can see ourselves in his behavior. How? When we try to force the outcome of events, when we complain against God when things don’t go according to our plans. For this reason, the person seeking to recover from the effects of sin in his life is taught by Step Eleven to put aside all self-serving motives in his relationship with God. The focus of our prayers should be only seeking God’s will for our lives.

Father says he heard once, “Anger is not getting my way in the present; resentment is not getting my way in the pas; and fear is not getting my way in the future. ”

The Twelve Step Review is a quarterly newsletter and web site publication of the Western Dominican Province and written by Father Vogt.  Visit them at www.12-Step-review.org for the whole thing.

Ciao!

The Best Medicine

tumblr_mde4ncT1kk1qbzun1o1_500I have always been a big fan of modern medicine—maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing which implies the sciences are gifts to us from God’s grace, or maybe it’s just because I’m all about the quick fix to ease my aches and pains. I hold medical researchers, doctors and smart people in high regard.

If I’m completely truthful, I actually don’t hold the agnostic or atheistic researchers and doctors in high regard—those types think they are gods so I absolutely hope to steer clear of them. But the humble faith-filled smart doctor people have my complete affection and respect.

But today I experienced the most natural form of healing which involved no medicine, no research, no health studies, and no cardiovascular exercise: lunch with my mother.

I’m telling you, and I’ve said this before on my blog, that my mother is one of those people that lives her life the way the saints did: in self-sacrifice for the people God has entrusted to her and in complete obedience to Him and His will.

She would say, “Are you kidding me?”

And I would say, “No, I am not kidding, Mom. I want to be you…the same way I wish to be a saint but never will be.  You give me an ideal to strive for and you offer mercy and forgiveness before I even realize I miss the mark.”

I could write about how Mom goes to daily Mass, takes care of my father and mothered and continues to mother eleven children who never got hooked on drugs (ha ha ha why is that my standard, that none of us ever got hooked on drugs…ha ha ha).. and I could write about how when we were wealthy and then had hard times she went immediately to work to make ends meet; how she loves and forgives and loves and respects and loves and loves and loves her husband.  This is huge; because marriage is really hard.  Especially for me, lately.

I could tell you all that, but instead I’ll just talk about my lunch with my Mom today, which will give you an example of how to be a mother:

Me: Mom I’ve been in such a funk lately.

Mom: I know darling–you haven’t written any blog posts in almost two weeks and I miss them.

Me: I know. I’m a little worried after sending out all these resumes at the beach that some of my future employers might read my blog so I don’t know what to write anymore.  What if they read what I write and think I would make an awful employee?

Mom: Yes, maybe. But does it matter?

Me: No, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to work for anyone long term who didn’t get it.  And Husband and I are like friends passing in the hallway.  After 15 years of marriage I don’t think he likes me.

Mom: Sure he does darling.

Me: And he does this and this and this.

Mom: Yes

Me: And this and this and THIS. And he did THIS!

Mom: Yes.

Me: And here I am 43 years old. And I have everything I ever wanted: marriage, children, family, house, blah blah.

Mom: Yes. (she holds my hand.)

Me: So how are the rest of the siblings?

And then my mom updates me on everyone… All of my ten siblings, what’s new and what every one is up to.

And then I take it back to me.

Me: So I don’t know. I’m just all crabby lately.

And she says, “We have to have lunch at least once a week.”

And I say yes, yes, we do.

And we will.

Because I need her. Because my mom doesn’t judge or try to control me. My mom doesn’t get focused on petty stupid things and she doesn’t engage in gossip. My mom doesn’t like to go shopping (I really hate to “go shopping,” like it’s some sort of special event) and she doesn’t use passive aggressive tactics to manipulate me.  She just LOVES ME.  And she loves her other ten children just as unconditionally.

Like God. None of us says she loves one more than the other. No favorites. Unconditional love available for eternity for all of us.  Just like God.  So that’s where I’ve learned my concept of God, from my mother.

And my mom is my medicine.

Prayer of Saint Catherine of Siena "My Nature Is Fire"

In your nature, God I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature? Boundless love? It is fire. Because you are a Fire of Love. And you have given me a share in this nature, for by the fire of love you created me. Oh how ungrateful I can be!

What nature has God given me? His very own nature! Am I not ashamed to cut myself off from such a noble gift through the guilt of deadly sin? Oh, eternal Trinity, my sweet Love! You, Light, give me light. You, Wisdom, give me wisdom. You, Supreme Strength, strengthen me.

Today, eternal God, let my cloud be dissipated so that I may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth. God, come to my assistance! Lord, make haste to help me!  Saint Catherine of Siena

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: Seeds of Grace–A Nuns Reflections on Alcoholics Anonymous

seeds of grace bookSeeds of Grace, A Nuns Reflection on Alcoholics Anonymous
by Sister Molly Monahan (not her real name)

ISBN-13: 9781101215678
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 3/19/2001
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 208

Review:  A+

I was so happy this book was available as an eBook. I was able to purchase it on the spot.  That’s the thing about eBooks. You’re looking around for a book to read and you find one. With print books, I’d have to wait 3 to 5 days to get it in the mail and by that time I’d already started another book. So, IMHO eBooks are the best invention ever.

Like the good little traditional, practicing Catholic that I am, I had “contempt prior to investigation” with this book. I began reading it with bias. Why?

I’ll tell you. It’s well-covered in the media how there are a lot of nuns in the US that have sort of “gone rogue.” The “nuns on the bus” event last year really bothered me. The media made it seem like all nuns in America are like these nuns on the bus, which made me very sad.

So I read this book as a skeptic, looking for traces or hints of Kennedy Catholic opinion–cafeteria Catholic.  But there was none! She did mention her horoscope sign and her Ennegram number (she is a 1 on the Ennegram scale), which is a little un-Catholic but that was only one sentence. And I like looking at that stuff too and it doesn’t mean I believe it to be Truth, just interesting.

My opinion about the Ennegram method is informed by someone I completely trust, Peter Kreeft.  He has said, “I know Christians who are cultivating ingrown eyeballs trying to know themselves so well—often by questionable techniques like the enneagram, or Oriental modes of prayer—so that they can make the decision that is exactly what God wants for them every time.”

BTW, I am a mix between the 4 and the 7 on the Ennegram scale.  But I digress.

I was so happy that there was nothing cafeteria Catholic about the book. She fully embraces the teachings of the Church. Yay! And I want to find this nun and develop a friendship with her because I feel so connected. Unfortunately she followed AA tradition and so the book is published anonymously, so I can’t find her. I even tried to Google and search for some way to find her but to no avail. I was hoping she had a blog or Facebook page I could connect through.  Oh well.  Back to the book:

From the Publisher: 

Sister Molly Monahan had been drinking, quietly and compulsively, for years when she finally decided to attend her first AA meeting. There she found the emotional support that AA is famous for-but she also found a surprising source of spiritual strength. In this unique book, she reflects on how a nonreligious group brought about such a powerful reawakening of faith-and explores gratitude, community, forgiveness, prayer, and many more subjects of interest not only to alcoholics but to anyone on a spiritual quest.

“Monahan’s unique understanding of both the human and spiritual side of alcoholism forms an important, personal understanding of theology in action.” (Library Journal)

Sister “Molly” was trained in the methods of Ignatian Spirituality, had made week-long retreats annually, had studied spirituality and obtained a graduate degree in theology, yet as she writes, “None of this prevented me from becoming an alcoholic.” And she claims that without Alcoholics Anonymous’ spiritual program of recovery she would be “spiritually bereft.” That is a big statement!  She had all the spirituality and knowledge of Catholic sacramental life yet still couldn’t break the alcoholism cycle until she made it into AA.

cardinal newman

the late Cardinal John Henry Newman

The book is her effort to explain this dichotomy. How could a very devout and spiritual nun say she credits her rebirth in her spiritual life to AA?  Read on to find out.  I did and it was beautifully written and spot on perfect in its descriptions of AA meetings, sponsorship, and the Steps. It’s obvious the author is very intelligent. Every paragraph is smart, interesting and well-designed.

Sister Molly tackles head on some of the questions her experience in AA has raised for her in her Catholic faith.  And like me (and there are so few of us out there that I almost jumped for joy when I read this), for her spirituality and religion are one. Connected. Can’t be separated.  That is how it is for me.  One of the things that held me back from embracing AA in the beginning were all the “Spiritual But Not Religious” people. In so many meetings I hear, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” and I’m sensitive to that statement because in my warped mind it infers that religion is bad and spirituality is good.  For me, I’m spiritual AND religious. And Sister Molly explains this so well in her book.

Most importantly, she explores the distinction that Cardinal Newman made between real and notional assent to dogma in his paper Grammar of Assent, where he explores the phenomenology of religious belief. He explains how those that take religious belief in dogma just a bit further into an experience of religion fall in love with their religion in a  personal, intimate, loyal and difficult to explain with words way…This is what martyrs die for. This, in my opinion is what the mystics and contemplatives of the Church experience and represent, like Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Lisieux…

Anyways, a great intelligent read.

Lectio Divina and the 11th Step for My Recovery

lectio divina 0One of my favorite forms of Catholic prayer is Lectio Divina. It’s one of the ways in which I practice the 11th Step in my recovery.

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Traditionally Lectio Divina has four separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected (meditation) upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.

The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages, but rather viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning.

For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you,” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.

lectio divina 2In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine.

The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict. It was then formalized as a four step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century. In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of Pope Paul VI recommended Lectio Divina for the general public.

lectio divinaAnd yay! Our wonderful Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.

I practice Lectio Divina—not daily, but definitely often-— in the mornings when I read the daily Mass readings at home in my prayer chair.  It’s one of a variety of ways I practice my 11th Step–“sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as I understand God.”

I appreciate so much how I can go anywhere in the world and feel at home in an AA meeting and in a Catholic Mass.

AA meetings all have basically the same format. I know what to expect; and I can attend in silence without having to talk to anybody or interact with them if I don’t want to.  I love this because sometimes, especially when I travel, if I had to share, or introduce myself, or communicate with others, I probably wouldn’t go as often as I need to.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my “home group” where I share often and reach out to others.  But sometimes I just want to take it all in all by myself.

And the Mass is the same all over the world everyday, too.  I don’t think people who aren’t Catholic know this?

When my family travels for beach trips or visits to relatives out-of-state, we always make a point to find the nearest Catholic church and attend Mass on Sunday.

In every Mass — in the “Liturgy of the Word” part of the Mass, the same Scripture passages are read around the world.  If I’m in Idaho today, Thursday, January 31, 2013, attending Mass at a small chapel in a small town outside Boise, they will be reading the same passages from the Bible that are being read in New York City at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and in my home parish Saint Peter Chanel here in Roswell, Georgia:

First Reading for this example is Hebrews 10:19-25
Psalm 24: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Mark 4:21-25

lectio divina 3On Sundays, there is another reading from the New Testament added, as well.  The previous Sunday it was 1Corinthians 12:12-30, which is one of my favorites.

I love this about my faith, the universality of it all.  Since I usually only attend Mass on Sundays, I have a subscription to Magnificat, which takes me through prayers and meditations on the daily Gospels. (Or I can always check here to get the readings.)

And so this morning I practiced Lectio Divina in solidarity with all the Catholics around the world reading the same Scripture.

READ:
This example’s Gospel is from Mark 4:21-25:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?  For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear out to hear. He also told them, ‘Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

MEDITATE:
A lamp is to be placed on a lampstand, and not hidden. For me, today, I relate this to how I am beginning in sobriety to follow God’s will more perfectly. To do this, it seems God is calling me to share myself with others. By being vulnerable–and I am just learning this for the first time in my life—by being vulnerable, I am able to connect authentically with others.  If I make myself vulnerable and put myself “out there” in an honest way–not in a vain or self-serving way but in a way that truly helps me form connections with others—then this pleases God.

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  This passage always seems to cut me at my core.  How do I measure?  Do I measure others by how well they practice their faiths, how much money they have, how they raise their children, how they measure others?  I  have a tendency to judge people who judge others ha ha ha.  How messed up is that?

I want to measure others the way Jesus measures me.  With compassion, patience, love and mercy.

PRAY:
Dear God, thank you for another day of sobriety.  Please direct my thinking today and help me do Your will. Teach me to measure the way You measure.  Enlighten me to be aware of when You want me to reach out to others who need help. Keep me out of my own head. Teach me to see others as you see them.

CONTEMPLATE:
This fourth stage of Lectio Divina is when the prayer, in turn, points to the gift of quiet stillness in the presence of God, called contemplation. So, I sit, quiet, still, breathing deeply and taking in all God wants this reading to give to me.  I just sit and hang out with God.  Like Mary (the sister of Martha) just listening to Jesus talk while Martha busied herself in the kitchen, I just sit here at His feet and listen.

“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation” — Saint John of the Cross.

Here is a link to Jeff Cavin’s take on Lectio Divina.

Sister Weekend and Mother Theresa

12345I’m down in Saint Augustine, FL with the goddesses for Sister Weekend 2013.  It’s been several years since we had our last Sister Weekend; and my Mom is so happy to be at the beach with her six daughters.

We are all—all six daughters and my mother—so connected to the beach, the tides, the moon. Something about being near the ocean calms my every anxiety.

Mom and I went to bed at 9:00pm last night; but the other sisters stayed up until after 3:00am–they didn’t get drunk (like I would have!).  They were just enjoying one another, drinking wine and laughing.

My room is at the top of the hardwood, echoing stairs so I could hear every word. I didn’t sleep well; but I couldn’t go down and sit in the “merriment” because I would have wanted to join in.

I know their laughs so well. I even knew which ones were accompanied by tears of laughter.  They were laughing so hard! Many times I laughed with them, albeit upstairs in my bed alone.  They were telling such funny stories, cracking up with Youtube videos, posting silly pictures of themselves on Facebook. I could sit here and say I sulked upstairs, sober, feeling left out, but that would be a lie.

I was completely okay about it.  I was okay not being down there with them—I guess I’m in a good place spiritually right now where nothing can touch my sobriety—I had actually asked God to surround me this weekend, so I could be present with my sisters and be of service.

I enjoyed it with them but didn’t  have to be in the middle of it, in the middle of all the wine and all the fun.

This morning I was up with my Mom at 6:00am—it was wonderful hanging out with my Mom, saying our prayers, talking and drinking our coffees.  We went out to the beach and watched the sunrise.  It was freezing, but so beautiful.  There was a seagull that kept staring at us even though I told him we didn’t have any food for him.  Other seagulls would try to come by; but our little seagull friend yelled at them that we were his people; and so they left.

sandpiperHe just sat there staring at us.  And then I noticed another little bird down in the water and Mom said it was a sandpiper.  I had never seen a sandpiper–or at least didn’t know that’s what it was if I ever saw one before.

Mom gave me this meditation prayer she says a lot and I was determined to re-type it here in my blog, my space.  I’ll type it on another page and back date it because it’s very long.  Click here to read it—it’s Mother Theresa’s own personal prayer she wrote as if Jesus was talking directly to her.  I love it.

I’m going to go to a 9:00am AA meeting–I found one called “Sober Sisters” about 5 miles away.  It will be nice to be in a meeting.