Posts Tagged ‘Sister Ignatia’

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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See also:

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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God’s Role in Addiction Recovery: The Greatest Gift of All

June 28, 2018

Bill W.’s “A.A. Grapevine” article “The Greatest Gift of All”

A.A. cofounder Bill W. began his December 1957 article in the “A.A. Grapevine” titled “The Greatest Gift of All” by stating:

“The greatest gift that can come to anybody is a spiritual awakening.”

Bill continued:

“So, then, what is this ‘spiritual awakening,’ this ‘transforming experience?'”

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Bill Wilson

Bill went on:

“To begin with, a spiritual awakening is our means of finding sobriety. . . . We know that a spiritual experience is the key to survival from alcoholism and that for most of us it is the only key.”

Notice Bill’s shifting between “spiritual awakening,” “transforming experience,” and “spiritual experience?” More on that in a moment.

Then Bill spoke in his article about “a certain newcomer” who had approached Bill “[s]oon after he entered A.A.”

And Bill continued:

“Four years later, I ran across the same ‘newcomer.'”

Bill then related that that newcomer, “Joe,” had told him:

“‘The other day an old-time AA gave me an example which I’ll never forget. Jack is a real old-timer. In fact, he started AA in my town.’

And Bill recounted that Joe–speaking about Jack the old-timer on his death bed–stated:

“‘Whiskey had brought him [Jack the old-timer] great pain but, as a result, AA had given him great joy. With his “awakening” in AA had come the utter conviction, indeed the sure knowledge, that “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.” . . . He never did get to the A.A. convention. But Jack knew, and we know, that this didn’t really matter, for Jack was in full possession of ‘the greatest gift of all.”‘”

[Bill W., “The Greatest Gift of All” in the December 1957 of the “A.A. Grapevine”; reprinted in “The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings” (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 233-36].

Recognize the allusion to Jesus’s declaration in John 14:1-3 (KJV):

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

And there is more.

As many know, on the 2014 anniversary of the April 10, 1939, copyright date of the Big Book, A.A. issued a “75th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The AAdotOrg website stated about that volume: “This Conference-approved special edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous” is a reproduction of the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book as it was published in 1939.”

And here are two interesting, important, and related facts that may be gleaned from a careful study of the first printing of the first edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”:

1. For those who have heard/been taught that “the Big Book has never changed,” Step 12 read in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book:

“Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, . . .”

Note the phrase “spiritual experience?” That phrase was changed to “spiritual awakening” in the second printing of the first edition.

2. The phrase “spiritual awakening” occurred exactly zero (0) times in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book. Zero.

And there is still more.

About December 14, 1934, while in a hospital room at Towns Hospital where he was staying for treatment of his alcoholism, Bill W. stated that he had cried out: “‘If there be a God, let Him show Himself!'” And Bill stated: “‘Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably while light. . . . I became acutely conscious of a Presence which seemed like a veritable sea of living spirit. . . .” [‘PASS IT ON,’ (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), 121].

And about that experience, Bill also stated:

“. . . the great thought burst upon me: ‘Bill, you are a free man! This is the God of the Scriptures.'” [“The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 284].

Right after that experience, while Bill was still at Towns Hospital, Bill’s school friend from Burr and Burton Seminary, Ebby T.: “. . . brought Bill a book that offered further clarification. It was William James’s ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’ . . .

“Bill said he started reading the moment Ebby left. . . . James . . . had made a detailed analysis of a wide number of religious or conversion experiences.” . . .

“He [Bill W.] would later say that James . . . had been a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 124].

Notice the phrase “religious experience” in the title of A.A. “founder” William James’s book? And notice the statement that “James had made a detailed analysis of . . . religious . . . experiences”?

Then we come to Rev. Sam Shoemaker, a man whom Bill W. credited as the source of “the spiritual substance” of ten of A.A.’s 12 Steps [“The Language of the Heart,” 298]; who often quoted Professor William James’s book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience;” and whom Bill referred to as a “co-founder” of Alcoholics Anonymous. [See Dick B., “New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.” rev. ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 6]. Shoemaker often made statements such as the following, found in his first book, “Realizing Religion”:

“Our heavenly Father knows where we are really different. What you want is simply a vital religious experience. You need to find God. You need Jesus Christ.” [S. M. Shoemaker, Jr., “Realizing Religion (New York, NY: The International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations, 1921), 9]

Note again the reference to a vital “religious experience.”

So was there a term that came before “personality change,” “spiritual awakening,” and even “spiritual experience?” Here is some food for thought for the discerning reader:

“And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less: that all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences. . . .” [“Chapter #1: THERE IS A SOLUTION,” 10–(early draft of what was later renumbered as chapter two in the first and following editions of Alcoholics Anonymous). For online “copies” of an early version of this chapter—with no guarantees made as to accuracy of reproduction—see: http://www.alcoholicsinaction.org/forum/viewtopic.php…; accessed 8/28/12.]

Bill W. stated in his “autobiography” that when he had “walked into Towns Hospital” on December 11, 1934–about three days after he had been to Calvary Mission and had responded to the altar call there–he had “shouted” to Dr. Silkworth who had met him in the hall:

“‘At last, Doc, I’ve found something!” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years” (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2000), 140].

And looking back on his trip to Calvary Mission about December 8, 1934, and his “consciousness of the presence of God” in his hospital room at Towns a few days later, Bill W. stated in his “autobiography”:

“For sure I’d been born again.” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years,” 147].

As the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book ‘PASS IT ON’ says of this time in A.A. cofounder Bill W.’s life:

“He [Bill W.] always said after that experience, he never again doubted the existence of God. He never took another drink.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 121]

[For more information about the phrase “(vital) religious experience” as it was used in earliest A.A., see: “Appendix Three: The Expression ‘Religious Experience’ and the ‘Solution’ to Alcoholism” in Dick B. and Ken B., “Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed!” (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012), 75-84]

So what is “the greatest gift of all?” Consider these words (“selah”):

John 3:16 (KJV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And note that Bill W.’s article appeared in a December issue of the “A.A. Grapevine.”

“Gloria Deo”

In GOD’s love, Dick B.’s son Ken

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Sir Anthony Hopkins

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Each human being has a spark of God within him. Curing addiction can awaken this spark and create a spiritual experience — and a better person!

Pain, Suffering, Addiction and Spiritual Growth — Everyone Has Issues to Resolve — Here Are Some Resources

June 15, 2017

A friend asked us for a quick update on our spiritual journey — Here are some resources for others to consider….

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Above: This is the life of the average American man. At the bottom (the biggest part) is sex, drugs and rock and roll. (Notice there is a lot of wreckage near here!) As we move up, through the years, God hopes we are growing spiritually and throwing out things that get us into trouble. When we get to the top, He hopes we can reach out closer to Him. Many of us choose to fail….

If you stay at the bottom, You’ll die in the desert

Related:

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Research Going Badly: I tried everything before I tried to allow God to find me!

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The Brain and Being Human:

On The Anniversary of the Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous — We Stop For a Moment To Give Thanks

June 10, 2016
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June 10 is the Anniversary of the Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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Bill Wilson, a stockbroker from New York, had success battling his alcoholism with the help of the Oxford Group, a national organization founded by Lutheran minister Dr. Frank Buchman that promoted waiting for divine guidance in every aspect of life. He attempted to help other alcoholics, but none of them were able to become sober.
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Bill Wilson
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In June 1935, during a business trip in Akron, Ohio, Wilson felt the temptation to drink. Using a church directory, he was able to reach a local Oxford Group member, Henrietta Buckler Seiberling, who put Wilson in contact with Dr. Bob Smith, an alcoholic who had recently joined the Oxford Group.Wilson explained how he was able to become sober, which had a profound impression on Smith. They developed an approach to remaining sober through the personal support of other alcoholics. Seiberling insisted on emphasizing religion, even if it made certain alcoholics less likely to join.“Well, we’re not out to please the alcoholics,” she reasoned. “They have been pleasing themselves all these years. We are out to please God. … God is your only source of Power.”On June 10, outside an Akron hospital, Smith drank a beer to steady his hands for surgery; it would be the last drink he ever had.

Both men began devoting their free time to reforming other alcoholics at Akron’s City Hospital, and were able to help one man achieve sobriety. “Though the name Alcoholics Anonymous had not yet been coined, these three men actually made up the nucleus of the first A.A. group,” according to the Alcoholics Anonymous Web site.

In 1935, a second group of alcoholics formed in New York followed by a third group in Cleveland in 1939. Through the group, Wilson “emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions and body,” according to A.A.

In 1939, the group published its textbook, “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Written by Wilson, the book explained the group’s philosophy, including the now well-known 12 steps of recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous continued to grow, spreading across the United States and Canada. According to the A.A. Web site, by 1950, there were 100,000 recovered alcoholics worldwide. Also in 1950, A.A. held its first international convention in Cleveland.

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Every night for several years now, on this Peace and Freedom site, people come to read my favorite article — our most viewed article ever.
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Most people, even some that have been in A.A. for years, send me emails saying they didn’t fully realize there were so many Prayers in the Big Book!
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Our second most viewed article ever is this:
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All human beings have problems.
Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
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Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.”
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A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
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“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
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In other words: stay in the present moment.
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How come we refuse to believe?
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It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
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The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
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Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
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Humility, self -abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
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The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
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I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?
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Third Step Prayer:
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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!
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Related:
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Our Thanks to Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R. — His books can be very helpful if you are seeking God in your life …..

The lady above is the first person in America to admit a person to a hospital to treat them because they had a medical condition she called alcoholism. Her name is Sister Ignatia.

Most people familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous know the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. But not as many people know about the woman both those men considered the third co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Sister Ignatia.

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Related:
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“God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”

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

A lot of people look at the book above and withdraw. They don’t like that word “devout.” But the truth is, we are all “devoted” to things. Maybe its sex, or booze, or crack cocaine. maybe we are devoted to great football or hockey or our garden.

Once a  human being decides maybe he can find a better life with the help of God, he naturally becomes less devoted to some things and more devoted to others….. When that happens it may be time for “Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales.

“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God. To get a new self; most human beings need to get rid of the old self.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

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 (Padre Pio) (If you are totally dependent upon God, and you are working to have a good life and want to stay alive, I guarantee you’ll have no trouble sleeping.)
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“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.
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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.

Dynamic Christians and the the really hard working people in recovery do the sames kinds of things:

  1. They Pray and Meditate
  2. They Study (The Good Book or the Big Book or both)
  3. They pour themselves out in loving service to others (AAs call this “Twelve Step Work”)
  4. They evangelize (They spread the message)

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 30, 2015 — Enrol in the Kingdom today and every day, to live, with Christ’s help, in the way he has shown us

July 29, 2015

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 404

Reading 1 EX 40:16-21, 34-38

Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
On the first day of the first month of the second year
the Dwelling was erected.
It was Moses who erected the Dwelling.
He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars,
and set up its columns.
He spread the tent over the Dwelling
and put the covering on top of the tent,
as the LORD had commanded him.
He took the commandments and put them in the ark;
he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it.
He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil,
thus screening off the ark of the commandments,
as the LORD had commanded him.Then the cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Moses could not enter the meeting tent,
because the cloud settled down upon it
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward.
In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling;
whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud
by the whole house of Israel
in all the stages of their journey.

Responsorial Psalm PS 84:3, 4, 5-6A AND 8A, 11

R. (2) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!

Alleluia SEE ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:47-53

Jesus said to the disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.”
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
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Commentary on Matthew 13:47-53 From Living Space

We come to the seventh and last of the parables in this discourse. Of course, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not speak them one after the other as they are presented here. They are the work of the author’s editing, putting matters with a common theme into one place.

Today’s Kingdom parable points to the end of time. There will come a time for the end of the Kingdom on earth and then those who belong and those who do not will be clearly distinguished and separated from each other. That is something which cannot and should not be done now as the parable of the weeds indicated.

When will that end be? That, of course, we do not know – fortunately! But one thing we do know is that our own end will come in a relatively short time, even if we live to be 100. And when that happens, it will be clear to God, if not to others, whether we are leaving this world in the Kingdom or outside it, that is, whether we are with God or against him.

How can we make sure we are in the right place? By making sure that I get confession and the ‘last sacraments’ before I die? Don’t bet on it! The best guarantee is to enrol in the Kingdom today and every day, to live, with Christ’s help, in the way he has shown us. If we do that on a day to day basis the future will take care of itself and there is no need to worry.

The whole discourse is then brought to an end by Jesus asking his disciples if they understand what he has been saying and they say they do.

Then Jesus gives a description of the truly learned disciple. He is a “scribe”, an interpreter of God’s Word, who can bring from his storeroom “both the new and the old”, someone who has both the wealth of the Old Testament as well as the vision of the New. “This picture of a ‘scribe who has become a disciple’,” comments the Jerusalem Bible, “sums up the whole ideal of the evangelist and may well be a self-portrait.” The author of this gospel is clearly a Jew who has become a Christian.

As Jesus said earlier, he had not come to destroy the traditions of the ‘old’ Hebrew covenant but to fulfil it with a new covenant. He would equally reject those who abandoned the Hebrew tradition as well as those who rejected the new insights which he brought. This is a process which goes on today in the Christian faith. There is a continuing and creative tension between what has been handed down in the past and the new understandings which arise with changing circumstances. We all have to be both conservative and progressive at the same time!

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2175g/

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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
.
St. Ignatius believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God centered and less self-centered existence.
.
Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by Ignatius to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
.
Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
.
Related:
.
.
“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
.

Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo

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

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?  See also:

John Paul II Said no faith, no miracles….

“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites.

1) Opening prayer

God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading – Matthew 13,47-53

Jesus said to the people: ‘Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast in the sea and brings in a haul of all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen bring it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. ‘Have you understood all these?’ They said, ‘Yes.’
And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables he left the district.

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today presents the last parable of the Discourse of the Parables, the story of the dragnet thrown into the sea. This parable is found only in the Gospel of Matthew without any parallel in the other three Gospels.

• Matthew 13,47-48: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast into the sea and brings in a whole haul of all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then sitting down; they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use”. This story is well known by the people of Galilee who live around the lake. This is their work. The story shows clearly the end of a day of work. The fishermen go fishing with only one purpose: to cast the net and to catch a great number of fish, to haul the net ashore and to choose the good fish to take home and to throw away those that are no good. Describe the satisfaction of the fishermen, at the end of the day of a day, being very tired having worked hard. This story must have brought a smile of satisfaction on the face of the fishermen who listened to Jesus. The worse thing is to arrive to the shore at the end of the day without having caught anything (Jn 21,3).

• Matthew 13,49-50: The application of the parable. Jesus applies the parable, or better still gives a suggestion in order that persons can discuss and apply the parable to their life: “This is how it will be at the end of time, the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth”. How are we to understand this blazing furnace? These are very strong images to describe the destiny of those who separate themselves from God or who do not want to know anything about God. In every city there is a place where to throw the garbage every day. There is a permanent furnace nourished every day by the garbage of every day. The garbage place in Jerusalem was located in a valley called geena, where, at the time of the kings, there was a furnace even to sacrifice to the false gods of Molok. For this reason, the furnace of geena becomes the symbol of exclusion and of condemnation. God is not the one who excludes. God does not want the exclusion and the condemnation of anyone; he wants that all may have life and life in abundance. Each one of us excludes himself/herself.

• Matthew 13,51-53: The end of the discourse of the Parables. At the end of the discourse of the Parables, Jesus concludes with the following question: “Have you understood these things?” They answered: “Yes”. And Jesus finishes the explanation with another comparison which describes the result which he wants to obtain through the parables: “Well, then, every Scribe who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old”.
Two points to clarify:


(a) Jesus compares the doctor of the law to the father in the family. What does the father of the family do? “He brings out from his treasure new things and old things”. Education at home takes place through the transmission to the sons and daughters of what the parents have received and learnt along the time. It is the treasure of the family wisdom where the richness of faith is enclosed, the customs of life and many other things that the children learn with time. Now Jesus wants that in the community the persons who are responsible for the transmission of faith be as the father in the family. Just like the parents are responsible for the life of the family, in the same way, these persons who are responsible for the teaching should understand the things of the Kingdom and transmit it to the brothers and sisters in the community.

(b) Here there is the question of a doctor of the law who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom. Therefore, there were doctors of the law who accepted Jesus, and saw in him the one who revealed the Kingdom. Is this what happened to a doctor when he discovers the Messiah in Jesus, the Son of God? Everything which he has studied to be able to be a doctor of the law continues to be valid, but it receives a deeper dimension and a broader purpose. A comparison can clarify what has just been said. In a group of friends one shows a photo, where one sees a man with a severe face, with his finger up, almost attacking the public. Everybody thinks that it is a question of an inflexible person, demanding, who does not allow for any intimacy. At that moment a young boy arrives, he sees the photo and exclaims: “He is my father!” The others look at him and comment: “A severe Father, true?” He answers: “No, and no! He is very affectionate. My father is a lawyer. That photo was taken in the tribunal, while he was denouncing the crime of a great landowner who wanted a poor family to abandon their home where they had lived for many years! My father won the cause. And the poor family remained in the house!” All looked at him again and said: “What a pleasant person!” Almost like a miracle the photo enlightened from within and assumed a different aspect. That very severe face acquired the features of great tenderness! The words of the son, the result of his experience of being the son, changed everything, without changing anything! The words and the gestures of Jesus, result of his experience as a Son, without changing a letter or a comma, enlightened from within the wisdom accumulated by the doctor of the law. And thus, God who seemed to be so far away and so severe acquired the features of a good Father and of enormous tenderness!

4) Personal questions

• Has the experience of Son entered in you and changed your look, making you discover the things of God in a different way?

• What has the Discourse of the Parables revealed to you about the Kingdom?

5) Concluding Prayer

Praise Yahweh, my soul!
I will praise Yahweh all my life,
I will make music to my God as long as I live. (Ps 146,1-2)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/divina-lectio-matthew-1347-53

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE CONCLUSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 40:16-21, 34-38; MT 13:47-53

Today’s scripture readings provide us with two apparently different conclusions.  The first reading from the Book of Exodus concludes with the installation of the tabernacle.  It would henceforth be in this place that God would specially meet His people.  It would be at the Tabernacle that His presence would be felt strongly.  “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the cloud that rested on it and because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle.”  It would also be the way the Lord would guide His people for the rest of the journey through the desert.  “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle the sons of Israel would resume their march.  If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.”

In the gospel too, we have another conclusion to the parables of the Kingdom of God.  In the structure of St Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5-7, we have the Sermon on the Mount which presents the perfect ideal of the Kingdom of God.  Chapters 8-10 concretize the kingdom of God in the miracles performed by Jesus, and chapters 11-13 expound on the hidden nature of the kingdom by means of parables.  Appropriately, the end sums up the message of judgment illustrated in the parable of the dragnet, where the good would then be separated from the bad.  After judgment, those not found worthy of the kingdom would be cast “into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

At first glance, perhaps, we do not see the close connection between these two endings.  Yet, both are very much related to the presence and the reign of God.  The presence of God that filled the Tabernacle was a local presence in a place.  The reign of God that Jesus preached in the New Covenant is not located in a place but in the hearts of all men and women.  Whenever God reigns in our hearts, there God is present.  There will be joy and freedom for those who live under the New Law of the Kingdom, because we have God ruling our lives.  Unlike the Law of the Old Covenant, the New Law as summed up by the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond the Mosaic Law.  It spells out the true spirit of the laws given to us.

In a real sense therefore, the kingdom of God is already present in different degrees in us whenever we open ourselves to the grace of the Kingdom.  So the expectation of the kingdom cannot be relegated to the end of time.  Rather, at every moment of our lives, we are either rejecting the life of the kingdom or living under the Spirit of the Kingdom.  When we see the end of the kingdom in this perspective then the final judgment is not something to be feared but to be longed for.  If we find ourselves fearful of the judgment as portrayed in today’s gospel, it is because we tend to interpret the parable of the final judgment literally, as if we are appearing before God to be judged, like in a human court, and then after receiving our due sentence, sent to hell or to heaven.  Rather, the parable must be understood as a vehicle to make us realize that the decision for the fullness of life here and now will have an impact on our final decision.

From this perspective, the final judgment is not something to be feared. Rather, the judgment must be seen as the permanent establishment of the reign of God in our lives where there will be no more pain or sorrow.  With His reign, there will be peace, joy and love forever.  Where could this place be if not in the heart of God Himself?  Heaven, a state of eternal bliss and joy and love should be where we all hope to arrive.  Death is not a punishment but the passage to new life and the fullness of life.

For this reason, the psalmist declares, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!  My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed they who dwell in your house! Continually they praise you. I had rather one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”  We all have had a taste of this state of heaven, of living in the Tabernacle of God when we come before His presence in prayer, in intimacy and especially when we receive Him in the most Holy Eucharist. To dwell in the presence of God gives us a joy and a peace that no human being can give us.

But the fact remains that sin and God are incompatible, like light and darkness.  You cannot have God and Satan.  If we desire to come to the Lord, we need to purify ourselves in all sincerity.  Of course, we know that perfection is not something within our will, but it depends on the grace of God.  What is important is that we cooperate with His grace as much as we can.  When we fail, we simply have to turn to our merciful God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, trusting in His mercy and coming to realization that our sins hurt God as much as ourselves and the people around us.  So there is no reason to fear judgment because we know that God’s judgment will be tampered by mercy and forgiveness.  Of course this does not mean that we become presumptuous of His mercy and continue to sin without a real desire for repentance.  Without a contrite heart, we would then be consciously rejecting the kingdom of God, which is quite different from one who desires to live the kingdom life but on account of his weakness and ignorance fall into sin.

So what would our conclusion be like? Have you considered your conclusion at the end of your life?  Is it going to be one of liberation, joy and satisfaction, knowing that you have lived your life to the fullest with a clear conscience before God and man?  Would you be able to say with St Paul, “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:6-8)

St Paul could look forward to the fullness of the coming of God’s kingdom only because he had chosen to be with the Lord every day and every moment of his life.  He was always living in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, whether he was awake or asleep, at work or at rest, in prayer or with people.  We too can already have a share in this kingdom life to come when we live in full consciousness of His presence and love in a life of service, charity, forgiveness and compassion.  This is what the Lord is asking of us.

Just as God was with His people at every stage of their journey by making His presence felt in the Tabernacle, signified by a cloud and fire, so too, we must allow His presence to guide us.  At every stage of our life, we must rest and ponder the direction we are taking, like the people of God during the Exodus.  We read that “if the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.  For the cloud of the Lord rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see.  And so it was for every stage of their journey.”

So too, Jesus urges us to respond rightly at every moment when He advised us, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”  We must learn from our mistakes, from our past, whilst working towards the future.  From the storeroom, that is, the past and the present, we must maximize the lessons from our failures and the good we have done. From the storeroom of our history and our faith, let us, whilst appreciating and valuing the past, also be receptive to the new ways the Lord wants to work in our lives.  Forgetting our past will hurt us as much as living in the past, and forgetting the grace of the present moment coming our way will hinder us from allowing the future to take its full effect in our lives.  By bringing the past, the present and the future together in Christ, we will gradually make progress in the life of the kingdom.  As the author of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 31, 2014 — Achieving Transformational Change in Life

July 30, 2014

 

St. Ignatius Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Loyola

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lectionary: 404

Reading 1 jer 18:1-6

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This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Rise up, be off to the potter’s house;
there I will give you my message.
I went down to the potter’s house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Can I not do to you, house of Israel,
as this potter has done? says the LORD.
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, house of Israel.
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Responsorial Psalm ps 146:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6ab

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R. (5a) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, O my soul;
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Put not your trust in princes,
in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.
When his spirit departs he returns to his earth;
on that day his plans perish.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD, his God.
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
.

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Gospel mt 13:47-53

Jesus said to the disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.”
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there..
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**************************
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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
.
St. Ignatius believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God centered and less self-centered existence.
.
Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by Ignatius to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
.
Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
.
Related:
.
.
“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
.

Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo

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

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?  See also:

John Paul II Said no faith, no miracles….

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites.

1) Opening prayer

God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading – Matthew 13,47-53

Jesus said to the people: ‘Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast in the sea and brings in a haul of all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen bring it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. ‘Have you understood all these?’ They said, ‘Yes.’
And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables he left the district.

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today presents the last parable of the Discourse of the Parables, the story of the dragnet thrown into the sea. This parable is found only in the Gospel of Matthew without any parallel in the other three Gospels.

• Matthew 13,47-48: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast into the sea and brings in a whole haul of all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then sitting down; they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use”. This story is well known by the people of Galilee who live around the lake. This is their work. The story shows clearly the end of a day of work. The fishermen go fishing with only one purpose: to cast the net and to catch a great number of fish, to haul the net ashore and to choose the good fish to take home and to throw away those that are no good. Describe the satisfaction of the fishermen, at the end of the day of a day, being very tired having worked hard. This story must have brought a smile of satisfaction on the face of the fishermen who listened to Jesus. The worse thing is to arrive to the shore at the end of the day without having caught anything (Jn 21,3).

• Matthew 13,49-50: The application of the parable. Jesus applies the parable, or better still gives a suggestion in order that persons can discuss and apply the parable to their life: “This is how it will be at the end of time, the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth”. How are we to understand this blazing furnace? These are very strong images to describe the destiny of those who separate themselves from God or who do not want to know anything about God. In every city there is a place where to throw the garbage every day. There is a permanent furnace nourished every day by the garbage of every day. The garbage place in Jerusalem was located in a valley called geena, where, at the time of the kings, there was a furnace even to sacrifice to the false gods of Molok. For this reason, the furnace of geena becomes the symbol of exclusion and of condemnation. God is not the one who excludes. God does not want the exclusion and the condemnation of anyone; he wants that all may have life and life in abundance. Each one of us excludes himself/herself.

• Matthew 13,51-53: The end of the discourse of the Parables. At the end of the discourse of the Parables, Jesus concludes with the following question: “Have you understood these things?” They answered: “Yes”. And Jesus finishes the explanation with another comparison which describes the result which he wants to obtain through the parables: “Well, then, every Scribe who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old”.
Two points to clarify:


(a) Jesus compares the doctor of the law to the father in the family. What does the father of the family do? “He brings out from his treasure new things and old things”. Education at home takes place through the transmission to the sons and daughters of what the parents have received and learnt along the time. It is the treasure of the family wisdom where the richness of faith is enclosed, the customs of life and many other things that the children learn with time. Now Jesus wants that in the community the persons who are responsible for the transmission of faith be as the father in the family. Just like the parents are responsible for the life of the family, in the same way, these persons who are responsible for the teaching should understand the things of the Kingdom and transmit it to the brothers and sisters in the community.

(b) Here there is the question of a doctor of the law who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom. Therefore, there were doctors of the law who accepted Jesus, and saw in him the one who revealed the Kingdom. Is this what happened to a doctor when he discovers the Messiah in Jesus, the Son of God? Everything which he has studied to be able to be a doctor of the law continues to be valid, but it receives a deeper dimension and a broader purpose. A comparison can clarify what has just been said. In a group of friends one shows a photo, where one sees a man with a severe face, with his finger up, almost attacking the public. Everybody thinks that it is a question of an inflexible person, demanding, who does not allow for any intimacy. At that moment a young boy arrives, he sees the photo and exclaims: “He is my father!” The others look at him and comment: “A severe Father, true?” He answers: “No, and no! He is very affectionate. My father is a lawyer. That photo was taken in the tribunal, while he was denouncing the crime of a great landowner who wanted a poor family to abandon their home where they had lived for many years! My father won the cause. And the poor family remained in the house!” All looked at him again and said: “What a pleasant person!” Almost like a miracle the photo enlightened from within and assumed a different aspect. That very severe face acquired the features of great tenderness! The words of the son, the result of his experience of being the son, changed everything, without changing anything! The words and the gestures of Jesus, result of his experience as a Son, without changing a letter or a comma, enlightened from within the wisdom accumulated by the doctor of the law. And thus, God who seemed to be so far away and so severe acquired the features of a good Father and of enormous tenderness!

4) Personal questions

• Has the experience of Son entered in you and changed your look, making you discover the things of God in a different way?

• What has the Discourse of the Parables revealed to you about the Kingdom?

5) Concluding Prayer

Praise Yahweh, my soul!
I will praise Yahweh all my life,
I will make music to my God as long as I live. (Ps 146,1-2)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/divina-lectio-matthew-1347-53

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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A NEW LIFE WITH GOD ENTAILS ACCEPTING OUR PAST AND BEING OPEN TO NEW POSSIBILITIES  

SCRIPTURE READINGS: JER 18:1-6; MT 13:47-53
http://www.universalis.com/20140731/mass.htm

What is most consoling about today’s scripture passages is that none of us, no matter who we are, is doomed.  Until the day of reckoning comes, as the parable of the dragnet tells us, this is a time of grace.  Indeed, both readings speak about the possibility of change and conversion so long as we are still alive.  They are not concerned with judgement.  God who is patient with the Israelites in their fidelity is also patient with us.

But what is even more encouraging about today’s scripture message is that the change that is envisaged will happen in such a way that it does not do violence to our natural process of growth.  God is gentle with us even when He invites us to conversion.   Indeed, the new life that God wants to give us would basically be derived from the old.  That is what the parable of the potter and the clay meant to tell us.  Like the potter who uses the same clay to re-mould the pots that he is dissatisfied with, so too God will use all our weaknesses, mistakes and limitations for our personal growth in grace.  Indeed, our sins and limitations would be the very means by which God will re-mould us into His likeness.

Consequently, we who are struggling to remain faithful to God and to the gospel life need not despair, especially when we find that the strength to change is rather weak, or when we find that we have an ugly past.  For many of us, we find it difficult to thank God for our past, especially our broken past.  Indeed many of us find it difficult to thank God for our weaknesses, especially in our struggles to be true to ourselves.  Most of us would rather hate and hide our past than admit them.

However, the scripture readings today want to remind us that we need not be ashamed of our past.  To deny our past will not help us to be whole and to be healed.  What is not exposed cannot be healed.  Hence, the only way when true healing can take place is when we accept our past with gratitude and thankfulness.  Let the past be the instruments of God’s purification for us in our endeavour to find the truth.  Indeed, our weaknesses and failures would be the very means by which God will bring us to realization and true conversion.  Even sins, although abhorred by God, can be transformed into powerful means of grace.

But that is not all.  The gospel also says that we must be like the learned scribe who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.  It is not enough to dwell on our past, even if we can accept it with gratitude.  Equally important is that we must also be open to what is being offered to us.  We must be open to the new possibilities for change.  We must be open to the new movements of the Spirit in our institutions and in the world.

But there is an implicit warning here as well.  Just as not everything that is old should be discarded, conversely, we must realize that not everything that is new is necessarily good and from the Spirit.  This is where it calls for discernment.  What is old can actually be new if we perceive the reality of it.  And what is new is, more often than not, actually old; simply old ideas in new packaging.  Consequently, newness or oldness is not a reality in themselves, but they are always clothed in various ways according to the epoch of our day.  Reality cannot be new, neither can reality be old.  Reality is always as it is.  But the way we perceive reality can be new.

Thus, the fullness of life would basically be a life that is carved from the old and in view of the potential life ahead of us.  In the blending of the old and the new, we find life.  In the blending of the old and the new, we see reality as it is.  Yes, between our inherited tradition and the progressive theologies, our faith grows and becomes dynamic and renewed.   Life is never of the past or even of the future.  Life is lived only in the present – but a present that is born of the past and from the future revealed to us by Christ.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/31-july-2014-thursday-17th-weekday-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.aY9DyV3W.dpuf

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The Ignatian goal of “finding God in all things” means that every part of our lives can lead us to God. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything shows us how this is possible, with user-friendly examples, humorous stories and anecdotes from the heroic and inspiring lives of Jesuit saints and average priests and brothers, as well as examples from Martin’s twenty years as a Jesuit. The traditional wisdom that Jesuits use to help other people in their daily lives is easily applied, but not often explained well to the general public.
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Many believe that the Spiritual Exercise of Saint Ignatius provide the framework for the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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After being seriously wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony purportedly inspired Loyola to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labour for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. After claiming to experience a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in March 1522, he went to Manresa, where he began praying for seven hours a day, often in a nearby cave, and formulating the fundamentals of the Spiritual Exercises. In September 1523, Loyola reached the Holy Land to settle there, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.

Between 1524 and 1537, Ignatius studied theology and Latin in the University of Alcalá and then in Paris. In 1534, he arrived in the latter city during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Ignatius and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1539, they formed the Society of Jesus, approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as well as his Spiritual Exercises approved in 1548. Loyola also composed the Constitutions of the Society. He died in July 1556, was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, and declared patron of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Ignatius’ feast day is celebrated on July 31. Ignatius is a foremost patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country, and the provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Loyola

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In the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, the terms “Spiritual Experience” and “Spiritual Awakening” have become synonymous. The 1st edition of Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” published in 1939 used the term “Spiritual Experience” in Step 12; later editions changed the term to “Spiritual Awakening.” In Bill’s Story, his spiritual experience is described on page 14 in Chapter 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ basic text. A more detailed explanation can be found where Dr. Jung carefully described the concept to Rowland H. on page 27 in Chapter 2 – There Is A Solution.

Because of confusion regarding the meaning of the terms, Appendix II was added to the Big Book fifty years ago to explain that a Spiritual Experience is relatively sudden, lasting only minutes or perhaps a few hours while a Spiritual Awakening is a gradual transformation that can take days, weeks, months or even longer; Prof. William James described a spiritual awakening as an experience of the educational variety. In his writings, Bill W. explained the difference, noting that among AA members who perform all the spiritual exercises described as “the steps”, experiences like his are far less common than spiritual awakenings.

In any event, the result is the same; the individual has a personality change sufficient to recover from alcoholism.

For further explanation, see Appendix II — “Spiritual Experience” on p 567 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism 4th ed. (AA’s Big Book) or at http://anonpress.org/bb/assent.asp

It begins: “The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms…”

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Related:
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Bill W. (the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) struggled with depression and looked for help outside of the Twelve Steps. Bill began psychotherapy and began a friendship with Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest. This changed Bill’s perspective on the Steps and his understanding of recovery. As a result of this relationship with Dowling and his understanding of phychoanalytic treatment Bill changed his views on recovery. Bill adopted a Psychological View of recovery instead of the Religious Conversion principles he had once thought. This was important as Bill wrote The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions after changing to this viewpoint.

http://www.cleanandsobernotdead.com/aahistory/dowling.html

Two of the books about the spiritual development of AA. Co-Founder of AA Bill Wilson met a Catholic Priest named Eddie Dowling, S.J. The two developed a 20 year relationship. When Father Dowling died, Bill W wrote, “I believe that my duty would lie in helping the non-Catholic alcoholic discover the Grace of God.” More than 50 years later, “Modern Catholics” need to re-discover God as much as anyone else! Bill W also considered Sister Ignatia, a Catholic nun, a Co-Founder of AA. She was the first person to get alcoholics admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Related:

“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

When My Life Was A Trainwreck I Needed God’s Help

August 15, 2012

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I think most people in the world that have been around any length of time and studied history and culture just a little bit will agree that faith, religion and Churches do not seem to have the kind of fervent followers they enjoyed for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years before 2015.

We live within a culture, most of us, that preaches anything goes, more sex is good for you and will make you happy, and that it is very important to be rich no matter what principles one has to violate along the way.

Way back in the 1970s while I was still in my 20s I had the opportunity to live in the most decadent parts of Asia. Before I did, I said one last prayer to my Maker: “Oh God, you haven’t made me very happy and all this talk about living life right and avoiding the world of sin has gotten me nowhere so I’M LEAVING YOU!”

And He let me go!

Forty some odd years latter I came crawling back to God and I found I was saying the same prayer St. Augustine uttered while he was living in his Mom’s house with his pregnant girlfriend: “Oh God, I know I need to clean up my life and live by your law — BUT NOT YET!”

Not only had I broken most of God’s laws and many of the ones enacted and usually enforced by civil authorities in several states and nations but I was also addicted to substances that usually kill people before they reach the age of 60.

I needed help. And I needed God. In fact, I was told in order to lose my addictions, I absolutely had to have a total belief in a Higher Power — and H.P. could not be me.

It wasn’t easy for this lost and embittered Catholic to return to a Church that seemed to be run by the worst kind of sinners: child molester.

And then God Himself, I think, sent me dozens of messages and messengers.

At dinner with old friends one night they all listened politely as I complained loudly about the “lost, sinful clergy” when one old timer said very calmly, “So, you go to Chuch for the Priest; Not For Jesus.”

I felt like a rocket had hit me in the chest.

A few weeks later, still railing on about how screwed up the Catholic Religion was, another old timer said, “John: your job is to get John to heaven. These other guys are not your problem.”

Holey snikees!

Finally, as I lost steam and my arguments seemed dumb and dumber, I went off about a particularly dreadful member of the clergy and my dinner guest said, “They are human beings with all the sins and problems and character defects that you yourself confessed.”

That was it. I went back to Catholic Mass the next Easter.

As I sat very skeptically eyeing everyone from  the back row, I heard God Himself say to me: “See this crowded church? They are all sinners. I forgive them all. Even you, John.”

That did it. I went to confession and rejoined The Church. I also rejoined the human race by going into a daily practice of prayer, good works and service to others.

Then someone suggested that I join this secret, anonymous cult that had some chance of resolving my addictions.

For months I went and almost daily I raised my hand to announce that “This will never work for me.”  Finally, a little red-haired women yelled out at me: “You don’t know that!”

In fact, I found out  I didn’t know ANYTHING.

Now I have been practicing the 12 Steps of recovery for a few years and “living by the principles” and I feel terrific. What happened to me was beyond my wildest expectations: I had a conversion. And I didn’t even know it. My observant friends started to tell me and my wife, “Something seems to have happened to John…”

While in this 12 Step Program I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the genesis of this movement and how most faiths or religions seem to share dozens of good practices, habits and beliefs. In fact, I have come to conclude, like the founders of the 12 Step Movement did back in the 1930s, It really doesn’t matter what faith one has as long as one has FAITH: and that means a Higher Power.

But since I was born and raised  a Catholic I decided to give that two thousand year old Child of Christ a try.  And I found that being a Catholic is terrific — if I have the right frame of mind.

I no longer seek to reform the Church: I just try to get today right for me — and if that spills over into some good for others — all the better….

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Above: Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin, C.S.A.

Finally, I learned on my journey that Catholics helped make the 12 Step effort possible way back in the 1930s and 40s. A devout sister named Sister Mary Ignatia in Akron, Ohio was the first person ever to admit, on a regular basis, alcoholics to a hospital for treatment of the disease of alcoholism. Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob Smith considered her “the third co-founder of AA.”

She also started the practice of giving new people in recovery a medallion or “chip.”

Bill Wilson, late in his life and in the life of his spiritual guide, Father Eddie Dowling, wrote, “I believe that my duty would lie in helping the non-Catholic alcoholics discover the Grace of God.”

Father Edward Dowling

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

Father Dowling showed Bill Wilson the power of faith using what he knew best: the Catholic Church, the sacraments and all the facets of Catholic teaching, history, tradition and beliefs.

Bill Wilson never became a Catholic himself, it is believed, because he wanted AA to be for everyone including Jews, Atheists, Muslims and everyone else.

So I am Catholic and Alcoholic: “Cathaholic.”

I belong to two of the greatest counter culture groups of all time: the Catholic Church and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Related:

 

Above: Just two of the books about the spiritual development of AA. Co-Founder of AA Bill Wilson met a Catholic Priest named Eddie Dowling, S.J. The two developed a 20 year relationship.

AA is not religious and does not require any religion or belief.

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

July 30, 2012

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.”

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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Bill W. struggled with depression and looked for help outside of the Twelve Steps. Bill began psychotherapy and began a friendship with Father Ed Dowling. This changed Bill’s perspective on the Steps and his understanding of recovery. As a result of this relationship with Dowling and his understanding of phychoanalytic treatment Bill changes his views on recovery. Bill adopts a Psychological View of recovery instead of the Religious Conversion principles he had once thought. This was important as Bill wrote The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions after changing to this viewpoint.

http://www.cleanandsobernotdead.com/aahistory/dowling.html

Bill W and Eddie Dowling “The Soul of Sponsorship”
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Related:

When My Life Was A Train Wreck I Needed God’s Help

Sister Ignatia: Angel to Alcoholics and Co-Founder of AA

Dead Man Walking: Not Taking Addiction Recovery Seriously

Seeking “Conscious Contact” with God

“Your Life Does Not Belong to You.”

Happy to Be a Catholic and In Alcoholics Anonymous

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Bill W.’s “A.A. Grapevine” article “The Greatest Gift of All”

A.A. cofounder Bill W. began his December 1957 article in the “A.A. Grapevine” titled “The Greatest Gift of All” by stating:

“The greatest gift that can come to anybody is a spiritual awakening.”

Bill continued:

“So, then, what is this ‘spiritual awakening,’ this ‘transforming experience?'”

Bill went on:

“To begin with, a spiritual awakening is our means of finding sobriety. . . . We know that a spiritual experience is the key to survival from alcoholism and that for most of us it is the only key.”

Notice Bill’s shifting between “spiritual awakening,” “transforming experience,” and “spiritual experience?” More on that in a moment.

Then Bill spoke in his article about “a certain newcomer” who had approached Bill “[s]oon after he entered A.A.”

And Bill continued:

“Four years later, I ran across the same ‘newcomer.'”

Bill then related that that newcomer, “Joe,” had told him:

“‘The other day an old-time AA gave me an example which I’ll never forget. Jack is a real old-timer. In fact, he started AA in my town.’

And Bill recounted that Joe–speaking about Jack the old-timer on his death bed–stated:

“‘Whiskey had brought him [Jack the old-timer] great pain but, as a result, AA had given him great joy. With his “awakening” in AA had come the utter conviction, indeed the sure knowledge, that “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.” . . . He never did get to the A.A. convention. But Jack knew, and we know, that this didn’t really matter, for Jack was in full possession of ‘the greatest gift of all.”‘”

[Bill W., “The Greatest Gift of All” in the December 1957 of the “A.A. Grapevine”; reprinted in “The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings” (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 233-36].

Recognize the allusion to Jesus’s declaration in John 14:1-3 (KJV):

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

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And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

And there is more.

As many know, on the 2014 anniversary of the April 10, 1939, copyright date of the Big Book, A.A. issued a “75th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The AAdotOrg website stated about that volume: “This Conference-approved special edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous” is a reproduction of the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book as it was published in 1939.”

And here are two interesting, important, and related facts that may be gleaned from a careful study of the first printing of the first edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”:

1. For those who have heard/been taught that “the Big Book has never changed,” Step 12 read in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book:

“Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, . . .”

Note the phrase “spiritual experience?” That phrase was changed to “spiritual awakening” in the second printing of the first edition.

2. The phrase “spiritual awakening” occurred exactly zero (0) times in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book. Zero.

And there is still more.

About December 14, 1934, while in a hospital room at Towns Hospital where he was staying for treatment of his alcoholism, Bill W. stated that he had cried out: “‘If there be a God, let Him show Himself!'” And Bill stated: “‘Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably while light. . . . I became acutely conscious of a Presence which seemed like a veritable sea of living spirit. . . .” [‘PASS IT ON,’ (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), 121].

And about that experience, Bill also stated:

“. . . the great thought burst upon me: ‘Bill, you are a free man! This is the God of the Scriptures.'” [“The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 284].

Right after that experience, while Bill was still at Towns Hospital, Bill’s school friend from Burr and Burton Seminary, Ebby T.: “. . . brought Bill a book that offered further clarification. It was William James’s ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’ . . .

“Bill said he started reading the moment Ebby left. . . . James . . . had made a detailed analysis of a wide number of religious or conversion experiences.” . . .

“He [Bill W.] would later say that James . . . had been a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 124].

Notice the phrase “religious experience” in the title of A.A. “founder” William James’s book? And notice the statement that “James had made a detailed analysis of . . . religious . . . experiences”?

Then we come to Rev. Sam Shoemaker, a man whom Bill W. credited as the source of “the spiritual substance” of ten of A.A.’s 12 Steps [“The Language of the Heart,” 298]; who often quoted Professor William James’s book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience;” and whom Bill referred to as a “co-founder” of Alcoholics Anonymous. [See Dick B., “New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.” rev. ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 6]. Shoemaker often made statements such as the following, found in his first book, “Realizing Religion”:

“Our heavenly Father knows where we are really different. What you want is simply a vital religious experience. You need to find God. You need Jesus Christ.” [S. M. Shoemaker, Jr., “Realizing Religion (New York, NY: The International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations, 1921), 9]

Note again the reference to a vital “religious experience.”

So was there a term that came before “personality change,” “spiritual awakening,” and even “spiritual experience?” Here is some food for thought for the discerning reader:

“And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less: that all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences. . . .” [“Chapter #1: THERE IS A SOLUTION,” 10–(early draft of what was later renumbered as chapter two in the first and following editions of Alcoholics Anonymous). For online “copies” of an early version of this chapter—with no guarantees made as to accuracy of reproduction—see: .

http://www.alcoholicsinaction.org/forum/viewtopic.php…; accessed 8/28/12.]

Bill W. stated in his “autobiography” that when he had “walked into Towns Hospital” on December 11, 1934–about three days after he had been to Calvary Mission and had responded to the altar call there–he had “shouted” to Dr. Silkworth who had met him in the hall:

“‘At last, Doc, I’ve found something!” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years” (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2000), 140].

And looking back on his trip to Calvary Mission about December 8, 1934, and his “consciousness of the presence of God” in his hospital room at Towns a few days later, Bill W. stated in his “autobiography”:

“For sure I’d been born again.” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years,” 147].

As the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book ‘PASS IT ON’ says of this time in A.A. cofounder Bill W.’s life:

“He [Bill W.] always said after that experience, he never again doubted the existence of God. He never took another drink.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 121]

[For more information about the phrase “(vital) religious experience” as it was used in earliest A.A., see: “Appendix Three: The Expression ‘Religious Experience’ and the ‘Solution’ to Alcoholism” in Dick B. and Ken B., “Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed!” (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012), 75-84]

So what is “the greatest gift of all?” Consider these words (“selah”):

John 3:16 (KJV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And note that Bill W.’s article appeared in a December issue of the “A.A. Grapevine.”

“Gloria Deo”

In GOD’s love, Dick B.’s son Ken

Sister Ignatia: Angel to Alcoholics and Co-Founder of AA

June 21, 2012

Most people familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous know the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob.  But not as many people know about the woman both those men considered the third co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Sister Ignatia.

Sister Ignatia was instrumental in crafting the spiritual program alcoholics have used to get sober since the middle 1930s; including the Twelve Steps, the Big Book, the coins (medallions or tokens) still in use today.  But mainly, she instituted the very first hospital ward for recovering alcoholics anywhere in the world and spearheaded the concepts today used in all hospital recovery programs.

By John Francis Carey

Sister Mary Ignatia was a Catholic Sister of Charity of St. Augustine who was considered a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous by the other more famous co-founders, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson.

Born Bridget Della Mary Gavin on 2 January 1889 at Shanvalley, Burren, in County Mayo, Ireland, the young lass learned from her mother at an early age that “drunks are an abomination. They sin against the will of God.”

Her mother’s feelings toward those who took a drink in Ireland were so well know that the word “drunk” was never allowed to be used in her presence.

At an early age she came to America and entered the convent novitiate announcing her intention to dedicate her life to God in 1914.

A skilled musician, she spent many years as a music teacher. In fact, she was so dedicated to her work that she suffered a nervous breakdown in February 1927  that left her with bleeding ulcers and two paralyzed arms.

It was then that a physician named Frank Doran  entered her life. He told the nun that she needed to totally accept her illness – her new situation in life.  She realized that even her malady was a gift from God.

Dr. Doran believed Sr. Ignatia needed a spiritual as well as a physical and mental recovery effort.

Both Dr. Doran and Sr. Ignatia decided that they were powerless to give her a full recovery based upon their powers alone: they needed a spiritual experience, then known as a conversion.

Biographer Mary C. Darrah, author of Sr. Ignatia, Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous, writes: “She redefined her spiritual values, this time honestly integrating the physical realities of her life… She balanced prayer, self-examination, meditation, and the comfort of spiritual readings against the physical and psychological realities of her life.”

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Sister Ignatia

“Providence suddenly struck Ignatia,” Mary Darrah wrote, “to redirect her course of action; to re-channel her creative drive and energy; to redefine and purify her spiritual path; to reintegrate her physical, mental and spiritual natures; and to open her heart in preparation for a new direction.”

The rest is history. Sr Ignatia became totally dedicated to the recovery of alcoholics, instituted the first tokens or ships in the pockets of alcoholics to remind them of their commitment, and was the single guiding light in the establishment of the first hospital ward dedicated to sober up alcoholics anywhere in the world.

Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson both considered her a co-founder of alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Sister Ignatia was the first person to use medallions in Alcoholics Anonymous. She gave the drunks who were leaving St. Thomas after a five day dry out a Sacred Heart Medallion and instructed them that the acceptance of the medallion signified a commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery and that if they were going to drink, they had a responsibility to return the medallion to her before drinking.

This is the way she expressed it all: “I am just one of those many women of the Catholic nursing community of America who are striving to rescue men and women from the bottomless pit of alcoholism.

 

“Universities and welfare groups have expended millions of dollars in an attempt to find the causes of alcoholism. Yet, no one has been able to place his or her finger upon the exact cause. However, it is the consensus of opinion among great minds who have attacked the problem that a lack of proper spiritual application on the part of the victim is at least a primary cause.

“The co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous believed that the solution of the problem for many was to be found in the merger of forces of medicine and religion. With this union, what could be more conducive to the regeneration of the whole person than the atmosphere of a Catholic hospital? The professional, medical case administered within its precincts affords spiritual, physical, mental, and moral therapy.

“Alcoholism strikes at men and women in all walks of life. Surveys show that 25 percent of the “Skid Row” population in any large city possess university degrees. The fruit of the vine — a harmless stimulant for many — in the hands of the alcoholic turns to poison.”

“The alcoholic is deserving of sympathy. Christlike charity and intelligent care are needed so that with God’s grace he or she may be given the opportunity to accept a new philosophy of life.”

Sister Ignatia has special names for each of the five days a patient spends at Rosary Hall. They are: Day of Reception; Day of Realization; Day of Moral Inventory; Day of Resolution; and Day of Plans for the Future.

As he leaves Rosary Hall, the recovering patient must then face his own problem. The way has been paved by the A.A. sponsor. The future is in God’s hands. He has learned to say, “O, God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

The patient is urged to guard against pride, self-pity, resentment, intolerance, and criticism; to attend meetings, spread the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and to return to the hospital to help others.

Finally, there is the Sacred Heart Badge. Not many are returned to Sister Ignatia. But when they are, she pleads for the patient not to take the first step on the return to ruin. Very often it means a long distance phone call, a fervent prayer, and the help of a local A.A. group to keep the tempted on the right path.

To alcoholics all over America, Sister Ignatia is called “Little Angel.” She is indeed small and frail, but her strength is that of a Michael and her message that of Gabriel. Both the humble and the great who “died” in drink and became “new” again will attest to that.

More on Sister Ignatia:

http://www.barefootsworld.net/aasisterignatia.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Ignatia

Many of ideas of Alcoholics Anonymous — including the use of tokens to mark milestones in sobriety — were introduced by Sister Ignatia. She would give alcoholics leaving St. Thomas Hospital a medallion of the Sacred Heart, instructing them that the acceptance of the medallion represented commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery. She added that if they were going to drink, they should first return the medallion TO HER HAND.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Scalloped Medal Color EXCLUSIVE

I carry my “Sacred Heart of Jesus” Medal in my wallet and each day when I see it I think of Bill W., Dr. Bob and Sr. Ignatia: and thank God for them! This is my A.A. “coin.”  When I leave this earth, my wife, I expect will find it in my wallet.