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The Greatest Gift

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By REY FLORES

Alcoholism is a killer, as many Catholic heroes have told us while providing the answers to the problem through their own lives and examples.
For many of us during the holidays, we are invited to parties, get-togethers, and other events where alcohol may be served, and that is fine for some, but definitely not for all.
For the alcoholic, it’s always “the holidays” — no party invitation needed.
Alcoholics don’t need an excuse or a reason to drink. Drinking is many times the only option, or so some like to think.
We might say, “I’m stressed,” or “it helps me deal with a problem,” or “nobody understands me,” as excuses, weak ones at that, to overindulge in our drinking habits.
When I say that alcoholism is a killer, I mean that it can kill a living thing in a variety of ways, but if we look at how God created us in His image and likeness, it not only kills the body, but long before that it can kill our spirit.
Ask any wife of an alcoholic, if she’s still living, how much it is also killing her. Many alcoholics I have met are widowers. Their wives never drank, but they sure put up with a lot from their drinking husbands. Many died of cancers that were brought on by the stressors of being the only responsible adult in the house.
In the United States, 42.3 percent of men drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day on average; that’s twice as much as women at 21.9 percent, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Now, some of us can handle a drink or two without going over the edge, but alcoholism is a progressive disease that can progress straight into a living hell and into an early grave.
Some of us like to glamorize drinking and live in denial that we may have a problem with old John Barleycorn. In our society, we are led to glamorize drinking and other nasty habits like smoking, too.
Who could forget the popular songs about drinking that many of us listened to and went right along with, trying to live the songs out? George Thorogood’s 1985 hit I Drink Alone came to be the national anthem for alcoholics.
The song’s lyrics are a rather clever play on words as Thorogood sings about his good “buddy Weiser,” his pals Jack Daniels, Jimmy Beam, Johnny Walker, and his brothers Black and Red. The song is quite a popular crowd pleaser at your local honky-tonk, but the message is dark.
After we’re given a good dose of some searing slide guitar accompanying the story of a serious drunk, the last verse is tragically sad as Thorogood ends the song by singing: “My whole family done give up on me and it makes me feel oh so bad. The only one who will hang out with me is my dear Old Grand-Dad. And we drink alone, yeah, with nobody else. Yeah, you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.” By myself, indeed.
If you are holding a drink as you read this and you know in your heart it isn’t right, put it down and ask for the intercessory prayers of Sr. Mary Ignatia, CSA. If someone you love is drinking too much, also ask for Sr. Mary Ignatia’s help.
Sr. Mary Ignatia was instrumental in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, the twelve-step program founded by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. Her story is absolutely wonderful and I recommend that anyone, but especially Catholics who are either struggling to get sober or have someone they love who needs to get sober, read Sister Ignatia: Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s written by Mary C. Darrah and is available at amazon.com.
While attending AA meetings and getting a sponsor has worked for many, it may not work for some and a higher authority is needed to save some of us out here. Go see a priest.
What makes a Catholic alcoholic that much more special, in my humble opinion, is that as Catholics, we strive for holiness, or at least we should be doing so, already. Add the cross of addiction to the Catholic and the road to Calvary is that much more difficult.
Satan doesn’t want us to pick up our cross, so he hands us the bottle instead. He wants us to be miserable with him and he will do whatever it takes to keep us from the life and blessings God has given us.
Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us.
Catholic Online shares this with us about this wonderful man:
“Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925): From his early teens until age 28, Matt’s only aim in life had been liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God.
“Matt Talbot was born May 2, 1856, the second of twelve children born to Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. In Matt’s early years he knew little security or stability. Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly.
“At the age of 12 Matt got his first job; it was in a wine bottling store and that is when his excessive drinking began. One evening when he was 28, he went out and found a priest, went to Confession, and ‘took the Pledge’ for three months. Many times he felt he would not be able to hold out for three months, but within the year he renewed the pledge for life, never touching alcohol again (41 more years). His resolve was maintained by a new life of much prayer, daily Mass, hard work, and much penance.
“Matt Talbot collapsed and died of heart failure on June 7, 1925. Penitential chains were found on his body after his death.”
Alcoholism is a killer. If you are struggling with alcohol, be assured of my prayers for you and go see a priest. Go to Confession right away. Do not be ashamed to ask for help. I also ask anyone reading this to pray for alcoholics everywhere.
If someone you love is dealing with any addictions, talk to a priest and know that the clergy are there to help us. Sometimes we need guidance in asking for God’s help.
Life is the greatest gift God has given us and despite our struggles, see through the fog and the scales and look at all of your loved ones. They are blessings; love them.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! And Sr. Ignatia and Venerable Matt Talbot, ora pro nobis.

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(Rey Flores can be reached at ReyFloresUSA@gmail.com and he is available for speaking engagements at your event or at your parish.)

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