It might be said that with great suffering comes even greater grace to endure. A source of severe human suffering for millions of today’s men and women is the scourge of addiction. Its many forms include substances such as alcohol and drugs, but also behaviors such as sexual activity and gambling.

A person suffering with an addiction despairs to the point of hopelessness as he or she tries valiantly to fight the addiction alone and often unsuccessfully. The misery becomes compounded and its effects extended into family members especially children, when a code of silence allows the addiction to continue or social stigma casts out the addicted person. The shame adds to a downward spiral of suffering. {{more}}

Cardinal Justin Rigali has likened this contemporary situation to that of lepers in ancient times. He points to the example of Jesus who not only embraced such persons thought to be unclean, but He healed them as well. The Cardinal drew the analogy at a conference on addiction treatment and recovery that was sponsored by archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services last week.

Caring people in communities, including parishes, can break the stigma of addiction by reaching out to get addicts the help they need to live free as they were created to be. Help is already available through recovery support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, which offer more than 1,800 meetings each week in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Many of the meetings have been held in Catholic parishes for years.

The Catholic contribution to addiction recovery is more fundamental than community support. The key to recovery, according to speakers at the conference, is spiritual conversion principally through the “12 step” process (find a link on our web site, Inspired by the Catholic spiritual tradition, though practiced in a nondenominational fashion, the 12 steps represent a font of spanine grace to heal the human wounds present in our time and culture.

The powerful themes of the process are recognizable to Catholics: radical dependence on God, recognition of sinful behavior and reconciliation with those hurt by such acts, as well as service to the community of recovering addicts. Its message is one of complete conversion of life, a radical turning to God one day at a time.

The 12 step recovery process represents spanine aid even for those people who do not suffer with an addiction but earnestly seek God in their lives. It is a gift for all people of the world, an invitation by God to new life in Him.