Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

Morning Prayer for Tuesday, November 6, 2018 — Calm Down and Do the Next Right Thing — The antidote to fear is faith

November 6, 2018

Fear and worry had me down. Drinking and using drugs increased them. I worried about what I had done. I was afraid of what the consequences might be. I was afraid to face people because of the fear of being found out. Fear kept me in hot water all the time. I was a nervous wreck from fear and worry. I was a tied-up bundle of nerves.

I had a fear of failure, of the future, of growing old, of sickness, of personal ruin, of suicide. I had a wrong set of ideas and attitudes.

We have to surrender these fears and worries to a Higher Power.  I now try to think faith instead of fear. Have I put faith in place of fear?

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Meditation for the Day

Spiritual power is God in action. God can only act through human beings. Whenever you, however weak you may be, allow God to act through you, then all you think and say and do is spiritually powerful. It is not you alone who produces a change in the lives of others! It is also the Divine Spirit in you and working through you. Power is God in action. God can use you as a tool to accomplish miracles in people’s lives.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may try to let God’s power act through me today. I pray that I may get rid of those blocks which keep His power from me.

From Twenty-Four Hours a Day (with some edits in para one)
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Fear, Anger and Resentment

Source:https://addictioncounselor.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/f-a-r-fear-anger-and-resentment/

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Demi Moore opens up about her recovery: ‘I just never felt good enough’

October 29, 2018

Demi Moore has come a long way since she first became a star with her career-making turn in 1985’s “St. Elmo’s Fire.”

It was early in her career, she says, that she found recovery.

“I was spiraling down a path of real self-destruction and no matter what success I had I just never felt good enough,” Moore said on Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was honored with the Woman of the Year Award by Los Angeles-based women’s recovery center and sober living program Peggy Albrecht Friendly House.

By  Marc Malkin, Variety

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“I had absolutely no value for myself and this self-destructive path, it really quickly brought me to a real crisis point,” the “Ghost” star said. “It wasn’t clear at the time, maybe it was divine intervention, but two people who I barely knew stepped up and took a stand for me and presented me with an opportunity, which I guess was more like an ultimatum — unless I was dead, I better show up.”

While Moore didn’t go into detail about her demons, she said, “It gave me a chance to redirect the course of my life before I destroyed everything. Clearly, they saw more in me than I saw in myself and I’m so grateful because without that opportunity, without their belief in me, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Moore went on to say, “Life is certainly not a straight line and I think everybody here has dealt with not feeling good enough at some point in their lives. I know that in a moment of great struggle for me, I reached out to a wise teacher and I expressed my fear that I wasn’t good enough and she said, ‘You will never be good enough but you can know that value of your worth. Put down the measuring stick.

“So today,” Moore concluded, “I put down the measuring stick and I thank you for this beautiful acknowledgment and the opportunity to know the value of my worth.”

The 29th annual luncheon was hosted by Amber Valetta, and also included awards for interventionist Dr. Louise Stanger, legendary SoulCycle instructor Angela Davis and Barbara Bach Starkey and her sister Marjorie Bach Walsh.

The program also included video tributes to late Friendly House board chair Peggy Albrecht from Russell Brand and William Shatner.

https://pagesix.com/2018/10/28/demi-moore-opens-up-about-her-recovery-i-just-never-felt-good-enough/?_ga=2.31974333.2020863728.1540672799-1977846567.1423684927

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The actress dealt with drug and alcohol addiction in the mid-1980s. In 2012, she was hospitalized after collapsing into convulsions and went to rehab for addiction and an eating disorder, according to People.

Source:https://etcanada.com/news/380890/demi-moore-on-substance-abuse-issues-i-had-absolutely-no-value-for-myself/

Catholic Recovery: AA and The Sacraments (Addiction is no joke)

September 25, 2018

The Best Cure for a Sick Human Being May Be Prayer 

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By John Francis Carey

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The “Big Book”

Addicted people, alcoholics and drug addicts, generally know where to go to get sober: Alcoholics Anonymous (and Narcotics Anonymous). Oh you can go to Malibu if your health insurance is good enough or you are  rolling in dough, but only the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has a decades-long proven track record of getting drug addicts and alcoholics sober and keeping them that way.

So, having exhausted all prior options and afraid that sacrificing a live chicken in suburbia would upset the neighbors, I went to AA.

But since I am a Catholic, I have another place to go to help me to maintain a “fit spiritual condition.” We have the Church.

Suffering miserably, I trembled as I asked my spiritual advisor and AA sponsor the secret to good health and happiness.

“Go, listen to the Spoken Word, eat the Body of Christ in the form of the Eucharist at Mass, and confess your sins,” both of them replied.

I told them I thought I needed a better doctor and more health insurance.

“Nonsense,” one said.  “Physically you are fine. What you need is a spiritual awakening!”

There’s that thought again: spiritual awakening.

Isn’t “spiritual awakening” the entire point of Alcoholics Anonymous? Isn’t Step Twelve “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

So,  I stepped into a Catholic Church for the first time in years.  Before too long The Holy Spirit began to talk to me and recommended I go to confession and get a new start on life by wiping away all the built-up sin and grime and dirt.

After confession, my first in decades, I felt like I could fly. So, for once in my life I followed orders exactly: I went to Mass every day, I listened, paid attention, concentrated and consecrated my efforts in life.

I also received Holy Communion daily: The Bread of Life. I have been keeping this daily routine supplemented with lots of prayer and spiritual reading since 2007; and you know what? I have had a spiritual recovery.

My Old friend Peter calls it a “CONVERSION.”  Like Saul in the Scripture: “the scales fell from my eyes.”

And Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, used those same words.

“The scales fell from our eyes.”

One of the landmark books that told me I was on the right track was “Holy Spirit” by Father Edward Leen.

Father Leen says if you do the daily diet of Mass and Communion and you keep your life in a helpful, grateful and useful frame of mind with lots of good works: you will be filled with an “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

It happened to me exactly the way my spiritual advisor and Fr. Leen promised.  And I am reborn.

Many Catholics in AA find St. Francis de Sales a good one to read in order to straighten out a long lost catholic soul. “Introduction to the Devout Life” is the book that includes just about everything Francis de Sales teaches: but there are several shorter books of his teachings to get folks started.

And don’t let that word “devout” slow you down. Are you devoted to your sobriety or not? Are you grateful to God and devoted to Him?

I keep in mind that “what we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

Like a Space Walker tethered to the mother ship by a three inch diameter chord — we have support from our AA fellowship and the Church and all its benefits. But, I know that a mortal sin just now will slam the hatch, sever my relationship with God, and I could float off into space before I come to my senses and return to the Spiritual Life again! IF I can return to the spiritual life again.

Ed White was the first American to perform a spacewalk. Image Creit: NASA

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So as I look at the Twelve Steps and the Ten Commandments, and see that our supplemental Catholic Church effort actually has fewer steps that AA! And since we are seeking that “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” — it might be a good idea for me not to continue to violate the Ten Commandments. I need all the Grace God can give me and I sure don’t want to slam the door in God’s face again.

It is only by the Grace of God that I am still alive.

So we use everything at our disposal to stay sober and stay on a spiritual path. We “go to any lengths to get it.” That means we pray, we go to AA meetings and we go to Church.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob both once said, “I’ll never go to church again.” But both DID go back to church after they got sober using the steps.

Now a few thoughts on prayer:

“A soul should not resolve, on account of the dryness it experiences, to abandon prayer.” — St. Teresa of Avila

“No prayer, no spiritual life.” –St. John Paul II

“Nothing so much purifies our mind from its errors, or our will from its depraved  affections, as prayer.” — St. Francis de Sales

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” — St. Pio of  Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”)

For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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Padre Pio

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 (“Stay in the present moment.”)
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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.
  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

Spiritual Awakening In 12 Step Addiction Recovery — Meditation for September 23, 2018

September 23, 2018

Step Twelve is, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Note that the basis of our effectiveness in carrying the message to others is the reality of our own spiritual awakening. If we have not changed, we cannot be used to change others. To keep this program, we must pass it on to others. We cannot hoard it for ourselves. We may lose it unless we give it away. It cannot flow into us and stop; it must continue to flow into us as it flows out to others. Am I always ready to give away what I have learned in A.A.?

Meditation for the Day

“Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you.” When you are faced with a problem beyond your strength, you must turn to God by an act of faith. It is that turning to God in each trying situation that you must cultivate. The turning may be one of glad thankfulness for God’s grace in your life. Or your appeal to God may be a prayerful claiming of His strength to face a situation and finding that you have it when the time comes. Not only the power to face trials, but also the comfort and joy of God’s nearness and companionship are yours for the asking.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may try to draw near to God each day in prayer. I pray that I may feel His nearness and His strength in my life.

From the Book “Twenty Four Hours A Day”

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From Despair to Repair

Demi Lovato in suspected heroin overdose — When we see the danger signs, we have to be dedicated to helping

July 25, 2018

 Lovato, who was found unconscious, was treated with Narcan — a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose — at her home before being transported to a local hospital.

Demi Lovato was hospitalized on Tuesday in Los Angeles after a suspected heroin overdose.

A source tells Variety that she is currently in “stable” condition.

“Demi is awake and with her family who want to express thanks to everyone for the love, prayers, and support,” Lovato’s rep said in a statement to Variety. “Some of the information being reported is incorrect and they respectfully ask for privacy and not speculation as her health and recovery is the most important thing right now.”

According to law enforcement officials, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a medical emergency at the 8000 block of Laurel View Drive in the Hollywood Hills, where Lovato’s home is located.

Law enforcement sources told TMZ, which was first to report the news, that Lovato, who was found unconscious, was treated with Narcan — a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose — at her home before being transported to a local hospital.

The “Sorry Not Sorry” singer, 25, has struggled with substance abuse for years. Lovato revealed in June that she had relapsed just months after celebrating six years of sobriety.

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“To the ones who never left me / We’ve been down this road before / I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore,” Lovato sings in her recent single “Sober” off of her sixth album, “Tell Me You Love Me.”

Lovato, who began her acting career on the popular children’s series “Barney & Friends,” rose to fame on the Disney Channel. She appeared in the short series “As the Bell Rings” and show “Sonny With a Chance,” in addition the hit 2008 Disney Channel Original Movie “Camp Rock,” co-starring with the Jonas Brothers. Lovato said her drinking escalated during her Disney Channel days.

Lovato has received treatment for bipolar disorder, bulimia, and substance abuse. She chronicled her daily struggles with recovery in the 2017 YouTube original documentary “Simply Complicated.” In the movie, Lovato opened up about using cocaine while filming her 2012 doc, “Stay Strong.”

She had just performed a concert in Paso Robles, Calif., on Sunday.

Lovato’s show in Atlantic City, N.J., set to take place on Thursday at Atlantic City Beach, was scrapped following her hospitalization. The news was followed by the cancellation of tonight’s episode of the Fox game show “Beat Shazam,” which featured an appearance by Lovato. The episode was taped in April 2017. “In light of recent reports, we have decided to replace the episode of ‘Beat Shazam’ with another all-new episode,” the network in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to Demi and her family.”

Lovato’s reps did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

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https://pagesix.com/2018/07/24/demi-lovato-surrounded-by-family-after-suspected-overdose/?_ga=2.221795480.1857543448.1532508238-90351163.1532508238

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Demi Lovato Struggled with Drugs Weeks Before Overdose

EXCLUSIVE

Demi Lovato‘s overdose was not a shock to some of her friends, who say there were big warning signs for weeks that she had lost her battle for sobriety.

Friends of Demi tell us … even before she released her song, “Sober,” confessing she had fallen off the wagon, it was apparent to them she had slipped back into her drug use. They say the signs became more alarming as the days passed, and one friend says he knew for weeks she was in the danger zone … when he saw her this week it was apparent she was in trouble.

Another warning sign … she had a big falling out with her sober coach earlier in the month, accusing him of betraying her.

It seems Demi was able to compartmentalize her social life, because other friends say they didn’t see this coming. One friend says he was at her home less than 2 weeks ago and she seemed great.

TMZ broke the story … Demi OD’d at her home Tuesday and law enforcement sources say it was an apparent heroin overdose, but a source close to Demi says it was NOT heroin. When they arrived, she was unconscious and they used Narcan to bring her back. Narcan is used to counter overdoses of opioids.

http://www.tmz.com/2018/07/25/demi-lovato-struggled-drugs-weeks-before-overdose/

This news immediately reminded us of Amy Winehouse…

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Philip Seymour Hoffman's cause of death was acute drug intoxication it was announced today. The 46-year-old actor is seen in one of the last pictures taken before his death at the Sundance Film Festival

Philip Seymour Hoffman

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George Michael took his own life after four failed attempts, boyfriend claims

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/21/george-michael-took-life-four-failed-attempts-boyfriend-claims/

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George Michael ‘was discovered passed out in bath full of water after overdosing on GHB,’ claims pal

https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/george-michael-was-discovered-passed-12960472

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Whitney Houston

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Related Part I:

Catholic Church Teaching on Human Life and Suicide:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

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Many people have said to us that the four signs of a “dynamic Catholic” are also the characteristics of many Christians of all denominations and people in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The four necessary things good Catholics do (and the really good AAs also do them) —

1. They Pray and Meditate.
2. They read and study; 3. They “pour themselves out in loving service to others” and
4. They  evangelize. AAs call this “Twelve Stepping.”

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Related Part II:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

Amen.

Bill Wilson, Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and The Little Priest, Eddie Dowling

June 28, 2018

Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was down. His feet hung over the end of the bed that nearly filled the small room he and his wife, Lois, had rented above the 24th Street AA Club in New York. It was a cold, rainy November in 1940. Lois, who supported them both with a job at a department store, was out. Bill was wondering whether the stomach pain he was feeling was an ulcer.

The walls were closing in. Thousands of copies of the Big Book were waiting in a warehouse, unsold. A few people were sober, but Bill was frustrated. How could he reach all who wanted help? Nine months earlier, a gathering of rich New Yorkers had come and gone with applause for the young movement, but no money. Hank P., after complaining for half a year, finally got drunk in April. Rollie H., a nationally famous ball-player, sobered up but broke AA’s policy of anonymity by calling the press for a full name-and-photograph story.

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From: The Catholic Digest, April 1991

Eventually, Bill fell into the same trap as Rollie; he began calling reporters, too, wherever he gave talks. Now he was becoming the center of attention. He had just returned from Baltimore, where a minister had asked him to face the self-pity in his own talk. He was depressed. What if he — five years sober — were to drink?

It was 10 p.m. The doorbell rang. Tom, the Club’s maintenance man, said there was “some bum from St. Louis” to see him. Reluctantly, Bill said, “Send him up.” To himself, he muttered, “Not another drunk. ”

But Bill welcomed the stranger, all the same. As the man shuffled to a wooden chair opposite the bed and sat down, his black raincoat fell open, revealing a Roman collar.

“I’m Father Ed Dowling from St. Louis,” he said. “A Jesuit friend and I have been struck by the similarity of the AA twelve steps and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.”

“Never heard of them.”

Father Ed laughed. This endeared him to Bill. Robert Thomsen tells the rest of the story this way in his book, Bill W.:

“The curious little man went on and on, and as he did, Bill could feel his body relaxing, his spirits rising. Gradually he realized that this man sitting across from him was radiating a kind of grace…

Primarily, Father Ed wanted to talk about the paradox of AA, the ‘regeneration,’ he called it, the strength arising out of defeat and weakness, the loss of one’s old life as a condition for achieving a new one. And Bill agreed with everything…”

Soon Bill was talking about all the steps and taking his fifth step (telling the exact nature of his wrongs) with this priest who had limped in from a storm. He told Father Ed about his anger, his impatience, his mounting dissatisfactions. “Blessed are they,” Father Ed said, “who hunger and thirst.”

Father Edward Dowling

Father Ed Dowling and AA’s Bill W.
by Robert Fitzgerald, S.J

When Bill asked whether there was ever to be any satisfaction, the priest snapped, “Never. Never any.” Bill would have to keep on reaching. In time, his reaching would find God’s goals, hidden in his own heart. Thomsen continues:

“Bill had made a decision, Father Ed reminded him, to turn his life and his will over to God … he was not to sit in judgment on how he or the world was proceeding. He had only to keep the channels open … it was not up to him to decide how fast or how slowly AA developed … For whether the two of them liked it or not, the world was undoubtedly proceeding as it should, in God’s good time.”

Father Ed continued quoting Bill’s work to him. No one had been able to maintain perfect adherence to the principles. None were saints. They claimed spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.

Before Father Ed left, he pulled his body up, and leaning on his cane he thrust his head forward and looked straight into Bill’s eyes. There was a force in Bill, he said, that was all his own. It had never been on this earth before, and if Bill did anything to mar it or block it, it would never exist anywhere again.

That night, for the first time in months, Bill Wilson slept soundly.

Thus began a 20-year friendship nourished by visits, phone calls, and letters. Both men spoke the language of the HEART, learned through suffering: Bill from alcoholism, Father Ed from arthritis that was turning his back to stone.

Bill turned to Father Ed as a spiritual sponsor, a friend. Father Ed, in a letter to his provincial, noted that he saw his own gift for AA as a”very free use of the Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits for the second week of the Spiritual Exercise.”

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Book: 12-Step Approach to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Thus Father Ed endorsed AA for American Catholics with his appendix in the Big Book and his Queen’s Work pamphlet of 1947. He was the first to see wider applications of the twelve steps to other addictions, and wrote about that in Grapevine (AA’s magazine) in the spring 1960 issue. Bill added a last line to that Grapevine article: “Father Ed, an early and wonderful friend of AA, died as this last message went to press. He was the greatest and most gentle soul to walk this planet. I was closer to him than to any other human being on earth.”

For his part, Father Ed counted many gifts from Bill. He had told his sister, Anna, that the graces he received from their meeting were equivalent to those received at his own ordination. And he thanked Bill for letting him “hitchhike” on the twelve steps. In 1942 he wrote to Bill that he had started a national movement for married couples to help each other through the twelve steps: CANA (Couples Are Not Alone). He used the steps to help people with mental difficulties, scruples, and sexual compulsions.

When chided by an AA member about his smoking, Father Ed stopped with help from the twelve steps and wrote to Bill that as a result he was becoming as “fat as a hog.”

Next, he tried to use the twelve steps with his own compulsive eating. One story of his struggle ends with Father Ed one night eating all the strawberries intended to feed the whole Jesuit Community. He became so sick he had to receive last rites. He went from 242 to 167 pounds and up again like a yo-yo. He asked Bill to start an 00 (“obese obvious”) group.

Often Father Ed spoke of being helped by attending an open AA meeting and wrote to Bill that AA was his “lonely hearts club.” In his last 20 years his ministry changed radically due to AA and his friendship with Lois and Bill. He gave CANA conferences for families, using the twelve steps, once a month from 1942 to 1960. He cheered Lois on as she started and continued with Al-Anon. Father Ed rejoiced that in “moving therapy from the expensive clinical couch to the low-cost coffee bar, from the inexperienced professional to the informed amateur, AA has democratized sanity.”

He wrote his superior to free up another Jesuit, Father John Higgins, who was recovering from mental illness, to work with Recovery Inc., a group Dr. Abraham Low had started for people with mental problems. Those groups for mental illness were especially close to Father Ed’s heart as there was a history of depression in his own family. He called people to be “wounded healers” for each other.

Was there anything from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius in Father Ed’s gift to Bill? Father Ed pointed out parallels between the Spiritual Exercises and the twelve steps several times, but Bill had written the twelve steps before he ever heard of the Spiritual Exercises.

Father Ed did give Bill a copy of the Spiritual Exercises in 1952, underlining the “Two Standards” meditation. When Father Ed met Bill, moreover, he had called him to the place where he bottomed out and surrendered to his 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.

And this, Father Ed maintained, was where the Exercises become most like AA. He went a step further and invited Bill to make choices based on poverty and humility rather than on money, power, or fame.

This suggestion helped Bill Wilson turn down an honorary degree from Yale. On the packet of letters dealing with his decision, he wrote: “To Father Ed, with gratitude.” In the letter to Yale he stated his reasons for declining the honor:

“My own life story gathered for years around an implacable pursuit of money, fame, and power, anti-climaxed by my near sinking in a sea of alcohol. Though I survived that grim misadventure, I well understand that the dread neurotic germ of the power contagion has survived in me also. It is only dormant and it can again multiply and rend me — and AA, too. Tens of thousands of AA members are temperamentally like me. They know it, fortunately, and I know it. Hence our tradition of anonymity and hence my clear obligation to decline this honor with all the immediate satisfaction and benefit it could have yielded.”

This, then, is where Father Ed met Bill that rainy night long ago, in the small room where bottoming out opens up to life, where humiliations lead to humility — and to all other blessings.

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What Are the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius?

https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/examen-and-ignatian-prayer/what-are-the-spiritual-exercises-of-saint-ignatius

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Related:

Anthony Hopkins: ‘I’m happy I’m an alcoholic. It’s a great gift’

May 31, 2018

“We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.” — “Just be grateful to be alive.”
Alcoholism and ambition fuelled the actor’s rise. He talks masculinity, fame and ‘King Lear’
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Mon, May 28, 2018, 09:04

Anthony Hopkins is joined by a star-studded cast in the BBC’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Video: BBC
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For anyone who looks toward their later years with trepidation, Sir Anthony Hopkins (“Tony, please”) is a proper tonic. He is 79, and happier than he has ever been.

This is due to a mixture of things: his relationship with his wife of 15 years, Stella, who has encouraged him to keep fit, and to branch out into painting and classical composition; the calming of his inner fire, of which more later; and his work.

Hopkins loves to work. Much of his self-esteem and vigour comes from acting – “Oh, yes, work has kept me going. Work has given me my energy” – and he is in no way contemplating slowing down. You can feel a quicksilver energy about him, a restlessness. Every so often, I think he’s going to stop the interview and take flight, but actually he’s enjoying himself and keeps saying, “Ask me more! This is great!”

We meet in Rome, where he is making a Netflix film about the relationship between the last pope (Benedict) and the current one (Francis). Hopkins is playing Benedict, Jonathan Pryce is Francis.

He is enjoying this – “We’re filming in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow!” – and we are both relishing the lovely view across the city from the penthouse suite in the hotel where he’s staying. Still, he declares that the film we are here to talk about, the BBC’s King Lear, filmed in England and directed by Richard Eyre, is the piece of work that has made him truly happy.

“I felt, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ I can do this sort of work. I didn’t walk away. And it’s so invigorating, because I know I can do it, and I’ve got my sense of humour, my humility, and nothing’s been destroyed.”

He’s played the part before, at the National Theatre in 1986, with David Hare directing. “I was… ” – he counts in his head “… 48,” he says. “Ridiculous. I didn’t realise I was too young. I had no concept of how to do it. I was floundering.”

Now, he feels he’s got Lear right, and few would disagree. In a star-studded cast – Emma Thompson plays Goneril; Emily Watson, Regan; Jim Broadbent, Gloucester; Jim Carter, Kent; Andrew Scott, Edgar – it’s Hopkins who dominates. He is fantastic: his white hair close-cropped, his manner like a heavy-headed bull, a scary tyrant losing his powers, a drinker who flips into terrifying rage.

Hopkins’s theory is that Lear’s wife died giving birth to Cordelia, and Lear brought her up, his favourite, as a tomboy. Of the older two daughters, Watson said, “and I agree with her, that they have become monsters, because he made them so”.

Hopkins believes that Lear is terrified of women, can’t understand them. Hence the awful specificity of the curses he rains on his older daughters, damning their wombs. He seeks refuge in men, surrounding himself with a boisterous male army. The scenes where Lear wants to bring his retinue to Regan’s house are reminiscent of an awful, all-boys-together drink-fest.

“I come from a generation where men were men,” Hopkins says. “There’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about any of us, where we were from in Wales. There’s a negative side to that, because we’re not very good at receiving love or giving it. We don’t understand it. After Richard Burton died, his brother Graham invited me to the Dorchester where they were all having a get-together, the wives and the men, all the sisters and brothers. All pissed. And I noticed the women were sipping their ports and brandy, but all the men were, ‘Come on, drink! Drink!’ I thought, ‘There’s something very Greek about this.’ Men together. You know, like the bouzouki dancers. It’s not homosexuality, but it is a sexuality, a kind of bonding. That’s what I was thinking of.”

Hopkins often uses his past to find his way into a character. Small incidents that stick in his mind, real people who inform. In the scene with Kent, Edgar and the Fool, as Lear descends into madness, he has all three line up on a bench and addresses them with the wrong names. Hopkins decided that Lear had seen his father drown three puppies when he was young and believed his friends to be those dogs.

“Cruelty to an animal stays with you for the rest of your life,” he says. “I once witnessed something like that, but I can’t think of it too much, it’s too upsetting. But that little kernel of an event doesn’t go. It grows with you.” When he portrays deliberately scary people – such as Hannibal Lecter or Robert Ford in the Westworld series – he plays them quietly, emphasising their sinister control. His Lear, though, is explosive. “He’s completely bonkers – he laughs at the storm. That’s what I like about him.”

In the film, Hopkins uses a horseshoe as his crown. He asked a friend, Drew Dalton, a props guy on Westworld who is also an Idaho farmer, to get it for him, and he told him it was from an old horse, born in 1925. When Hopkins talks about this horse, he gets a little teary. “I carry the horseshoe with me wherever I go now. I still get emotional about it – the power, and the loneliness, and the pain of that horse. That’s Lear.”

Tears come easily to him, especially when he talks about hard work, old age, masculinity. His father, Dick, was a baker, a tough, practical man, born of another baker. But, Hopkins says, as he got older, small things would upset him, “like if he made a mistake in his car and drove off a ramp instead of getting it just right, he’d break down crying. Towards the end of his life, he used to drink, and he was unpredictable. Never violent, but sudden turns of rage, and then deep depressions. Turned on my mother, turned on me. I was old enough, so it didn’t bother me. We didn’t speak much before he died. He resented me for something. I understood it, I could get it, and I thought, ‘What a terrible, lonely horror, for people at the end of their lives.’”

It’s easy to see how he drew on this for Lear. Hopkins has a daughter, too, Abigail, from his first marriage, but they don’t have a relationship, so there was no inspiration there. “No. I accepted it years ago. It’s her choice and she must live her life. I say to young people, ‘If your parents are giving you trouble, move out.’ You’ve got to let go. You don’t have to kill your parents, but just leave if it’s holding you back.”

Lear came out of another BBC film, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, also directed by Eyre and broadcast in 2015. Hopkins was the ageing, belligerent actor Sir, who is preparing to play Lear; Ian McKellen was Norman, his dresser. Hopkins had wanted to do the play since picking up a copy in a bookshop in Los Angeles, where he lives: “It opened the valves of nostalgia.”

When he first became involved in the theatre, in the late 1950s, Hopkins was a stage manager, touring northern towns, meeting “old, wrecked, alcoholic, wonderful” vaudeville comedians who’d worked during the war, talking to stage hands who knew the technique of dropping the curtain for comedy (fast) and tragedy (very slow). Then he joined the National in the time of Olivier and Gielgud. He was impatient for success. “Oh,” he says, “I had non-speaking parts, messengers and God knows what, and I was very disgruntled, because I wanted to be bigger. So I went to the casting director and said, ‘Who do you have to sleep with to get a part around here?’ I’d only been there three weeks!”

The casting director was taken aback, but mentioned him to Olivier, who gave him a part as an IRA man in Juno And The Paycock. Hopkins knows now that his hubris was ludicrous, but he was anxious to get to the action, and still is. “I think, with life, just get on with it, you know?” he says. “We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.”

I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess
At the National, he met the actors Ernest Milton, Donald Wolfit and Paul Scofield, and he drew on these memories to play Sir (Harwood had been Wolfit’s dresser). He surprised himself by how much he enjoyed making The Dresser. It was a sort of revelation. “When I was at the National all those years ago, I knew I had something in me,” he says, “but I didn’t have the discipline. I had a Welsh temperament and didn’t have that ‘fitting in’ mechanism.

“Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful, had it, but I didn’t. I would fight, I would rebel. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t belong here.’ And for almost 50 years afterwards, I felt that edge of, ‘I don’t belong anywhere, I’m a loner.’ I don’t have any friends who are actors at all. But in The Dresser, when Ian [McKellen] responded, it was wonderful. We got on so well and I suddenly felt at home, as though that lack of belonging was all in my imagination, all in my vanity.”

He’s always called himself a loner – “alone, loner, solitary”, he says to me – and in past interviews his outsiderdom has become almost his headline characteristic. But he and McKellen bonded, regaling each other with old stories instead of rehearsing. Having felt, for all those years, unwanted by the establishment, the establishment was making him welcome. He also realised that he wanted to do Lear for real.

Not on stage, though. Despite his nostalgia, Hopkins hates the theatre. In 1973, he walked out of Macbeth mid-run at the National and moved to LA. The last stage play he was in was M Butterfly, in the West End in 1989. It was a torment, he says, the tipping point being a matinee where nobody laughed, “not a titter”. When the lights came up, the cast realised the entire audience was Japanese. “Oh God,” he recalls. “You’d go to your dressingroom and someone would pop their head round the door and say, ‘Coffee? Tea?’ And I’d think, ‘An open razor, please.’”

He can’t stand being unproductive, working without a point; it drives him mad. David Hare once told Hopkins he’d never met anyone as angry: “And this was when I was off the booze!” He gave up drinking in 1975. For a while, he tried to quieten down his personality (“I was ever so careful”), but his mother told him it wasn’t working. “She said, ‘Why don’t you just be the bastard that you really are?’ She said, ‘I know what you’re like, you’re a monster.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Well, okay then, be a monster.’

“But the anger, you begin to channel it,” he says. “I’m very happy I’m an alcoholic – it’s a great gift, because wherever I go, the abyss follows me. It’s a volcanic anger you have, and it’s fuel. Rocket fuel. But of course it can rip you to pieces and kill you. So, gradually, over the years, I have learned not to be a people-pleaser. I don’t have a temper any more. I get impatient, but I try not to judge. I try to live and let live. I don’t get into arguments, I don’t offer opinions, and I think if you do that, then the anger finally begins to transform into drive.”

Now, if he’s not acting, he paints, or plays the piano. He released an album of classical compositions, Composer, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2011, which was well-received. “Hopkins writes with considerable flair and confidence,” said one critic, while Amazon gives it four stars. He began painting at the behest of Stella, who saw how he decorates his scripts. He goes over his lines around 250 times, until he can recite them backwards, sideways, in his sleep. Every time he reads them, he draws a doodle on his script, and the doodles, which start as small crosses, grow enormously large, covering all the blank space. Stella saw this and got him to paint “favours”, little presents for their wedding guests.

“She said, ‘Well, if they don’t work, no one’s going to put you in jail,’” he says. And nobody did, because his paintings are pretty fine; they sell for thousands of dollars. He shows me some on his phone. They’re expressionist, full of bright colours – “South American colours: Stella is Colombian” – and he’s working towards a show next year in St Petersburg, which he’s very excited about.

“Ask me more questions!” he says. He doesn’t want to waste time sitting around while the photographer sets up. We talk animals. He and Stella collect stray cats and dogs. We talk politics. He doesn’t care about Trump; he doesn’t vote. He takes a widescreen approach to politics, because focusing on the detail makes him too unhappy.

“I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess, and we’re very early in our evolution. Look back throughout history: you have the 20th century, the murder of 100 million people, barely 80 years ago. The 1914-18 war, the civil war in America, slaughter, bloodshed… I don’t know if there’s a design in it, but it is extraordinary to look at it and get a perspective. I think, ‘Well, if it’s the end, there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’ll blow over, whatever happens.’”

He remembers talking to his father on the phone during the Cuban missile crisis (“and I was a raving Marxist then”) and his father remarking that the bomb would be dropped on London, so Hopkins would be all right, “because the bomb will drop on you, so you won’t know much about it. But in Wales, we’ll suffer the fallout.” His dad also once said to him, about Hitler and the second World War, “Six years later, he was dead in a bunker. So much for the Third Reich”, which makes me laugh.

Now he avoids news and politics, for his peace of mind. “In America, they’re obsessed with healthy food,” he says. “They tell you, if you eat junk food, you get fat and you die. Well, television is run by money and corporate power and sponsorship. It’s junk food for the brain. Toxic.” If he’s not busy, he orders books online and sends them to friends – Wake Up And Live! by Dorothea Brande, The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – or watches old films and TV on his iPad. He was obsessed with Breaking Bad, and wrote a lovely letter to Bryan Cranston extolling his acting; now, he likes watching Midsomer Murders, The Persuaders and Rosemary & Thyme.

We talk a bit about the #MeToo movement . Hopkins says, about Harvey Weinstein, “I did know about the person you are referring to, about his sexual stuff. I know he is a rude man and a tyrant. But I avoided him, I didn’t want anything to do with people like that. Bullies.”

And actually, despite his desire to live and let live, Hopkins often calls bullies out: when John Dexter, the director of M Butterfly, started shouting at everyone in the cast, Hopkins told him to stop.

“I said, ‘John, you don’t need to do this. You’re a great director. Stop it.’ And he cried. I mean, I understand if people are bullies. They’ve got their problems. I can’t judge them, I won’t make fun of them at awards. It’s correct for women to stand up for themselves, because it’s unacceptable. But I don’t have a desire to dance on anyone’s grave.”

He understands that we can all be terrible, and we can all be kind. Fame and power have nothing to do with it. I tell Hopkins something the singer Tony Bennett once said – “Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough” – and he is delighted. “How extraordinary. What an amazing thing to say! You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous, and I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there’s nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive.”

He shows me a picture on his phone. It’s of him aged three, with his dad on a beach near Aberavon. His dad is grinning. Hopkins is a cherubic child, with golden curls, caught somewhere between laughing and crying. “I was upset because I’d dropped a cough sweet.” He keeps it because it reminds him of how far he’s come.

“I think, ‘Good God, I should be in Port Talbot.’ Either dead, or working in my father’s bakery. For some inexplicable reason I’m here, and none of it makes sense. And I look at him and I say, ‘We did okay, kid.’” – Guardian

‘King Lear’ is on BBC2 on Monday May 28th

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The opioid crisis is draining America’s workforce

February 23, 2018

“The job search has not been going good,” said Harsanyi, a baby-faced 27-year-old with tattoos poking out of his collar. “I think when you’re a drug addict in sobriety with a felony on your record, they look at you different, like you’re going to rob their store.”

Jobs are plentiful in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, which boasts an unemployment rate of 3.1%. But after doing time for an armed robbery committed while he was high in 2015, Harsanyi has so far been turned down for jobs at Valvoline and Jiffy Lube, and is only able to pick up occasional work as a tile setter for another recovering addict he met through his 12-Step program.

Harsanyi’s experience isn’t just hard on him. The opioid crisis is turning into a real problem for employers, who are having trouble finding workers in the midst of one of the tightest labor markets in decades.

There are nearly 6 million job openings in the U.S. and the unemployment rate, at 4.1%, is at a 17-year low. But the share of people working or looking for work still hasn’t recovered from before the recession. Part of the problem: The rise in abuse of prescription painkillers, partially responsible for the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, has incapacitated thousands of working-age people whom employers would otherwise be eager to hire.

And it’s concerning officials at the highest levels of government. “Curbing the opioid crisis is of critical importance for ensuring a stable or growing employment rate among prime-age workers,” wrote President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors, in its annual economic report.

Related: How the opioid crisis is crippling America’s labor force

Last fall, Princeton economist Alan Krueger found that the increase in prescribing rates can account for between 20% and 25% of the approximately five-point drop in labor force participation that occurred between 1999 and 2015.

“Other countries had severe recessions worse, in many cases, than the U.S.,” Krueger said. “Yet they don’t face nearly the type of opioid crisis that the U.S. is facing. So I think this is at the moment a uniquely American problem.”

A map in Krueger’s study showing the intersection of opioid prescription rates and declines in labor force participation colors in large dark swaths over much of Appalachia and the Rust Belt. Those economically depressed places have become synonymous with the narrative of opioid addiction as a disease of the downtrodden, fueled by joblessness and despair.

opioid crisis

But the map also has dark spots in economically healthier areas, like coastal Washington state, northwest Arkansas and central Maryland, where unemployment rates are low and businesses increasingly complain that they can’t find enough workers.

Recent research by University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm suggests that while joblessness may have created fertile conditions for opioid addiction, the epidemic’s spread was fueled more by the availability of prescription drugs. Overprescribing has stricken communities on every rung of the economic ladder, and it’s now becoming a particular problem for places with more jobs than able-bodied workers.

“It’s coming out of areas where there’s a lot of money,” said Angel Traynor, who started a sober house for women in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2012 and now runs three of them. Many drug users can work for a while, but things usually fall apart when their habit becomes too expensive, which brings on crippling withdrawal spells. “Towards the end of anybody’s addiction, they’re not capable of holding a job,” Traynor said.

Related: Ohio blames drugmakers for fueling opioid crisis

Maryland saw a 70% increase in opioid-related deaths in 2016, when 1,856 people died. Although local law enforcement agencies often track overdoses, few governments have comprehensive data on the number of people in treatment for addiction at any one time. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that population has grown quickly.

As a result, some employers that typically screen drug users out through testing are starting to become less picky, according to Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce president Raj Kudchadkar.

“There’s definitely a direct impact on the business ecosystem,” said Kudchadkar, who has noticed changes primarily in the restaurant and retail sectors. “People have expressed fear about screening, because it might impact their ability to fill positions.”

deena bradbury
Deena Bradbury (right) at Grump’s Cafe with employee, Mehgan Degere.

Deena Bradbury, co-owner of neighborhood favorite Grump’s Cafe in Annapolis, said it would be hard to fully staff her two locations if she hired based on drug test results. One of her largest sources of labor are nearby sober houses, where residents are required to find a job, and usually don’t have a vehicle to travel far afield.

Bradbury will hire the people who list those telltale addresses on their applications, but she has to take extra precautions.

“Once we realized that there was a lot of folks with this set of circumstances, we changed how we dealt with it,” said Bradbury. For example, she makes sure that recovering addicts are honest about any past criminal records, and doesn’t assign more than one at a time to the same shift, to make sure they don’t negatively influence each other.

Related: Walmart is giving away free opioid disposal kits

It doesn’t always work out. Some employees relapse and disappear. But those who stay, Bradbury said, can be even better workers than those who’ve never popped a pill in their lives. “I think they tend to put forth more effort,” Bradbury said. “They don’t feel like a job is owed them. They tend to earn it.”

Such tolerance is not an option for all employers. Jobs that involve working with children typically bar people with criminal records. Construction companies, too, are less likely to take the risk of hiring someone who might come to work high and make a fatal mistake while on a ladder or using heavy equipment. In Annapolis, where a lot of construction work happens on government property, those rules are more commonly enforced.

But people in the treatment community emphasize that getting former addicts back to work is an essential part of recovery, and want more employers to give them a chance. For Mike Harsanyi, it’s another reason to stay on the wagon.

“When you’re not thinking about yourself, and you’re thinking about your job, and wanting to do better, and getting money, you just forget about you and your problems,” he said. “I really feel that addicts and alcoholics, once you get sober and once you get an opportunity, you flourish. But getting that opportunity is the problem.”

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All the economic forecasts were wrong on Brexit, Britain’s Brexit minister says

February 2, 2018
LONDON – Reuters

All the economic forecasts were wrong on Brexit, Britain’s Brexit minister says

Brexit minister David Davis on Feb. 1 rekindled a debate about the credibility of the government’s own forecasts by saying that every economic forecast made about the performance of the British economy after the referendum has been wrong.

“Every forecasting model on the performance on the British economy after the referendum by every major organization, the banks, the government organizations and, indeed, intentional organizations has proven wrong,” Davis said in parliament.

“One of the ways it has been proven wrong is because employment in this country has grown despite the forecasts to record levels today. We will be seeking to do the best we can to ensure that grow record is maintained.”

Meanwhile, British manufacturing lost some of its recent strong momentum last month as factories were held back by overall weakness in the economy in the run-up to Brexit, a survey showed on Feb. 1.

The IHS Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 55.3 in January, its lowest since June 2017, though still well above its long-run average of 51.7.

If sustained, that performance would lead to quarterly growth of 0.6 percent for the sector — better than the broader economy but only half the rate of the final three months of 2017.

The survey also showed one of the biggest jumps in the cost of raw materials in decades.

Manufacturing has been a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish British economy since the Brexit vote in 2016.

Exporters have been helped by last year’s global economic recovery, which is expected to carry on in 2018.

BrexitUKEnglandeconomyrecoveryDavis Davis

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 25, 2018 — Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. — Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature — Do you Evangelize? — What Bill Wilson Believed…

January 24, 2018

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Lectionary: 519

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Art: Saul on the Road to Damascus by Caravaggio

Reading 1 ACTS 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.”On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'”or

Acts 9:1-22
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
To go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
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From One Year Ago:
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There are only two people, as far as we know, that used the phrase, “Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes.”  One was saul. The other was one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. (Bill Wilson)
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Bill Wilson
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Conversion of Saint Paul (By Michelangelo)
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Who else in our “modern world” said “scales fell from my eyes”?

In November 1934, a man named Ebby Thacher visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson’s Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober.  Bill W.’s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as “the scales fell from his eyes” and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

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The story of how Saul, the devout Jew and zealous persecutor of the church, became Paul, a passionate preacher of the faith, begins along the road going northward from Jerusalem to Damascus. As Saul approached Damascus with plans to arrest those who “belonged to the Way,” he had a vision that totally changed the direction of his life. Luke describes the conversion three times in Acts (Acts 9:1-19Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:4-18), and Paul alludes to it in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Corinth (Galatians 1:16-212 Corinthians 11:22-23).

Saul was one of many Jews who felt that the followers of Jesus posed a threat to the Jewish religion. Earlier he stood by approvingly at the stoning of Stephen, one of the seven church deacons, for alleged blasphemy. Later, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, he went to the Jewish high priest for permission to arrest any followers of “the Way” in the synagogues of Damascus, where the Gospel was attracting converts.

The 150-mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus can now be completed in one day, thanks to excellent roads. When Saul set out from Jerusalem with his escort, he had the choice of two routes: One went east down through the canyon called Wadi Qelt to Jericho, then turned north through the Jordan River valley. It crossed the river at Scythopolis (modern-day  Beit Shean). This route would have taken Saul around the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and up to the mountain roads linking the Decapolis with Damascus. In summer time it is hot and uncomfortable, lying far below sea-level until the area east of the Sea of Galilee is reached.

The more frequented route moved through the khaki-colored hills of Samaria (the northern part of the West Bank/Palestine today), across the Jezreel Valley, then skirted the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, passing very near Capernaum, the base for Jesus’ three-year ministry (irony!).

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JANUARY, 2018, Thursday, The Conversion of St Paul, Apostle
ST PAUL A MODEL FOR ECUMENISM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 22:3-16 or ACTS 9:1-22PS 117:1-2MK 16:15-18  ]

The feast of the Conversion of St Paul is designated as the conclusion of the celebration of Unity Week with our Christian brothers and sisters.  This is very appropriate because his conversion exemplifies how Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians are called to work together as disciples of Christ for the transmission of the Good News.  Reflecting on his conversion story, we can extract the kind of disposition, the approaches that we must adopt to work together in one common mission for the spread of the gospel in obedience to the Lord’s command. “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved.”

Indeed, the last prayer of our Lord for His Church was that the Church be one.  He prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”  (Jn 17:11)   Again, He said, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”  (Jn 17:21-23)

What, then, is the way to unity among Christians?  Firstly, sincerity is a pre-requisite.  St Paul sought to clarify his position.  “Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you.”  (Acts 22:1)  He wanted to share with them his conversion experience of how he, once a persecutor of the Christians, had now become a disciple of Christ.  With truthfulness, he shared his conversion story with them.  When we are sincere in sharing our personal experiences without imposing our views on others, then we will get a better reception.  That is why the fostering of unity must begin with personal sharings rather than a debate over doctrines.  Without sincerity in seeking to make ourselves understood, as opposed to seeking to win an argument, it will be difficult for us to win the trust of our audience.

Secondly, St Paul immediately identified himself with his fellow Jews, their culture and their aspirations.  He wanted them to know that he was one of them and one with them.  He spoke their language.  “And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet.”  (Acts 22:2)  He also expressed his zeal for the Law.  “I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus.”  Identifying with our audience is necessary if we are to engage them.

Thirdly, St Paul did not engage them on matters over doctrines because it is divisive.  He appealed to their hearts, not their heads.  Hence, he began with the sharing of his conversion experience.  In engaging with Christians from different traditions, including non-Christians, it is best that we, too, begin by sharing our conversion experience and our religious encounters with the Lord.  When we begin with experience, there can be no room for dispute.  It calls for faith and trust.  This must also be our approach.  This is what the Lord asked of Paul.  Ananias said to him, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard.”  This is what is required.

What about unity in doctrines?  Is there no place in ecumenism?  If we are divided over doctrines, how can we speak of unity?  Doctrines of course are important, but what are doctrines?  They are the human formulation of a Christian religious experience or our encounters with the Lord; and the ensuing logical conclusions that are derived from such experiences.

So before we can even enter into a theological discussion, we need to enter into each other’s religious experiences.  Unless we can encounter God from the perspective of a particular Christian tradition, we will be talking in the abstract and this explains why we cannot agree because our presupposed religious experience is not shared.  In other words, we need to appreciate the different Christian traditions, how they originated and how such religious experiences were expressed according to the cultural, theological, historical and even political context; and how they were further developed and refined in the process of articulating their faith experience.  So in our relationship with Christians from different denominations, without understanding their history, we cannot understand the theological formulation of their religious experience.

Secondly, because theological developments are complex, it would be more manageable if we first begin with what we have in common.  We need to focus on what is fundamental to the Christian Faith before divergences take place in interpretation because of different philosophical, cultural and theological background.  Indeed, Pope Francis wrote, “The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message.”  (GE 34)  “Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone with­out exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”  (GE 35)  “All revealed truths derive from the same di­vine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gos­pel.  In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made mani­fest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith.”  (EG 36)

Thirdly, this means that we are called to affirm our brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ.  Like Ananias when he met Saul, his first greeting was, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  We must affirm that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ by virtue of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, sharing in one common baptism and filled with His Holy Spirit.  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  (Eph 4:4-6)  This one faith we profess in common when we recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.

Fourthly, we share also in the one mission of proclaiming the Good News to all creation.  We do this not by expounding doctrines, especially the secondary doctrines that divide us, but by demonstrating our common faith in the Risen Christ through the signs that He works through us, namely, miracles, healings, deliverance from the Evil One and eradication of falsehood spread by the Devil.  Indeed, the Good News is more than mere words.  It is about the Risen Christ that continues to work in our lives, showing forth His glory, His mercy and His love through us, in our words and deeds.  So we will be better off as Christians working together in manifesting the power of Christ at work in our lives, through preaching the name of Jesus, manifesting His mercy and love in miracles and healings.

Finally, ecumenism is completed through charity, dialogue and prayer.  Differences in doctrines are often due to different world views, linguistic and cultural divergences.  So the truth must be reformulated through dialogue, as what was done in the doctrine of “Justification by Faith” with the Lutherans.  Today, most Christian communities, Anglicans, Methodists, the Reformed Churches, together with the Catholic Church, recognize that we are no longer divided in this fundamental doctrine.   This dialogue must continue with the help of the Holy Spirit who is the source of Christian unity.  He will lead us to the truth by enlightening us as we continue this dialogue in truth and in love.   Let us speak the truth in love and with charity without ridiculing and misinterpreting the doctrines of others.   In the final analysis, the best means in the promotion of Christian unity is prayer, in imitation of our Lord.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Do you evangelize?

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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.

“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

The Four Signs are:
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  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. These people perform selfless service to others…
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
I find that these are the same four signs we might see in someone recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism — They pray; They study (The Big Book and other resources); They act with generosity by helping and sponsoring others (They do a lot of “service to others”); and they Evangelize (they do “12 Step work” and help others to get and stay sober).
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Related:
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The most frequently spoken line in the Bible may be: “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression in our society today?
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Answer: Declining connection to the Gospels and to God.
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Who and what lives inside each of us?
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Our Most frequently viewed articles:
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Book: Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
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Some “Buzzwords” heard in AA that are also common to the scripture:
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Art: Conversion of St. Paul (Number 2) by Caravaggio. Rarey do we see one artist depict the same bible event over and over.
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ENCOUNTER, ILLUMINATION, AND CONVERSION: ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

In celebrating the lives of her saints, rarely does the Church bestow more than one feast day on the same person. Even more rarely does she celebrate specific events in the lives of those saints other than the day of their birth into eternal life (the die natale). Therefore, tomorrow’s celebration – the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle – is one that deserves our contemplation.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” The pithiness of the statement doesn’t belie its essential truth, and we see this readily in the story of St. Paul, or Saul, as he was known prior to his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Saul avidly persecuted the first Christians, that he was not only present for the martyrdom of St. Stephen, but that “Saul was consenting to his execution” (Acts 8:1). At this point in the story, we would do well to pause and pretend that we don’t already know what happens next. That way, the intervening grace of God will take us by complete and utter surprise all the more.

Saul was party to an execution; he was, for all intents and purposes, an accessory to murder (assuming he didn’t actually assist in the deed itself). And he was hell-bent on continuing his war on the followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus, as we continue reading in Acts: “Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains” (Acts 9:1-2). We know how the story continues from there: en route to Damascus, a blinding flash of light knocks Saul from his horse, and a voice from the sky says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b). The voice identifies himself as Jesus, and instructs Saul to continue to the city, where he is to be met by a disciple named Ananias.

In one of the most dramatic accounts of the New Testament, Saul encounters the Risen Christ – not in physical form as the Apostles did after the Resurrection, but as a voice resounding from the midst of a blinding light. Since he had taken it upon himself to persecute Jesus’ followers, Saul no doubt had heard of Him; perhaps he had even heard Him preach in the synagogue in Jerusalem. Yet, until that very moment, Saul’s heart had been hardened to the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, to the point where he was ready to kill in order to prevent the spread of the Good News. This is hardly the kind of man we would imagine God to want on His team, and hardly the kind of man we would imagine capable of playing for that team. However, “nothing is impossible for God” (cf Lk 1:37), and the light of grace pierces through what seemed to be an impenetrable darkness surrounding Saul’s heart. Physically, Saul enters into the darkness as he is struck blind; spiritually, the illumination of his soul has just begun.

Following the encounter on the road, Scripture says that “for three days [Saul] was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). I imagine this time as a period of ascetic penance: Saul demonstrated remorse for the sins he had committed against the followers of Jesus and contemplated how his life would have to change in light of what had happened on the road to Damascus. In his hunger, thirst, and blindness, Saul longed for fulfillment and enlightenment, and slowly came to the realization that they could only come through Christ.

Indeed, it is only after Saul has been stricken blind that he is able to see clearly for the first time. The resounding voice of Jesus on the road serves as a death knell to his former way of life, and the three days he spent in darkness parallel the three days Christ Himself spent in the darkness of the tomb. After three days, Ananias heals Saul of his physical blindness and he emerges from this experience an entirely changed man, one who has been made new in the light of Jesus the Messiah. The scales falling from Saul’s eyes symbolize a sloughing off of a former way of life, a casting away of the blindness that kept him from seeing the truth: that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who saves the human race from sin and death. Indeed, he is so far removed from his former way of life that he is no longer known as Saul but as Paul; even his name has been made new in the light of his identity as a follower of Jesus. The light of Christ shatters the darkness of Saul’s soul and grants to him a new vision, one that will impel him to spend the rest of his life (and beyond) leading others to Jesus.

Another pause in our story so that we may contemplate the person of Ananias. He had heard of Saul, of the horrible things he had done to the disciples of Jesus, and of the fact that he was at that moment on his way to Damascus to continue wreaking havoc. For Ananias, seeking out this man’s company undoubtedly would have resulted in imprisonment or worse. If I had been in his sandals, I would have kept a low profile in Damascus until Hurricane Saul moved on. But such is not the will of God for Ananias. God calls to Ananias, who shows fidelity in his discipleship by responding immediately… until he hears what it is that God actually wants him to do. God wants Ananias to lay his hands on Saul so that he may regain his sight. Perhaps Ananias felt that Saul had gotten what he deserved, and that his reign of terror over the Christian people might finally be at its end. Surely he must have thought it a key strategic error to heal the man who had been causing such harm, and he expresses his concerns to God. Nevertheless, God insists, saying, “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15b). Again, if I were Ananias and had heard all of that, I still would have been tempted to say, “Really? Him?” Fortunately for Saul, and fortunately for us, Ananias displayed more trust in God, and although he still might have been afraid for his life, he accepted God’s will and sought Saul out, healing him of his blindness and initiating him into the Christian faith through baptism. Without the cooperative faith of Ananias, Paul might have remained in the darkness; he might have remained Saul. Ananias, too, underwent a conversion – a turning away from his previous assumption of how God works and an embracing of a new vision, a new understanding that God’s ways are not our ways. As Paul would later attest in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27-9).

In celebrating the conversion of St. Paul, we might be tempted to wish for a blinding flash of light that would knock us to the ground and eliminate our desires for those things in our lives that lead us from Jesus. I know that I’ve certainly wished for the clarity Paul seemed to have in the immediate wake of his encounter with Christ. However, it’s important to remember that Paul’s conversion was no one-time-only event; it continued for the rest of his life. As we see from his writings, Paul continued to struggle with temptation, fatigue, frustration, and persecution; yet he continued to turn his face toward Christ, continued to say “yes” to the will of God and “no” to that which clouded his vision, and in so doing, he fulfilled the command of Christ to “proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), and forever changed the course of human history.

http://sites.nd.edu/oblation/2013/01/24/encounter-illumination-and-conversion-on-the-road-to-damascus/

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