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.