Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Watch Your Steps: Mass Could Use the Hard Dose of Reality Offered by Those Recovering from Addiction

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Watch Your Steps: Mass Could Use the Hard Dose of Reality Offered by Those Recovering from Addiction

Article excerpt


Well, technically, I've been going to church alongside the addicts. For the past 10 years a Narcotics Anonymous group has been meeting in the church basement during our Sunday evening liturgy. They're also not really "addicts" but in recovery--though the unflinching honesty of their gathering leads me to believe that they wouldn't shy away from such a politically incorrect term.

That truthfulness--their acknowledgment of their powerlessness against addiction and surrender to a higher power--is why I return to them in my prayer at Mass from time to time. It strikes me that their 12-step liturgy cuts more deeply than does our Catholic one, just take a gander at those steps they're trying to work on. I for one am not sure I could survive the "searching and fearless moral inventory" (step four), much less "make direct amends to everyone I've harmed" (step nine).


I often wonder if any of us Mass-goers are as serious about what we re doing upstairs, as the 12-steppers are downstairs. When I've at times had, to go to the basement during their meeting, I'm always struck by the absolute silence that s observed while a member tells his or her story, as if the very Word of God is being proclaimed. Maybe it is. I always make a quick, quiet exit out of reverence for holy mysteries that do not belong to me.

It's tempting to think that is as it should be. Recovery from addiction is a life-and-death matter after all; some people don't get another chance. And in our common moral imagination, there is far more shame attached to addiction to drugs than to our other, non-chemical dependencies. Keep those "addicts" in the basement, if you please.

But our Sunday Mass is no less a life-and-death matter, making present as it does the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, a mystery that opens the way to our own exit from the tomb. And let us be honest: Our compulsions are in the final equation no less death-dealing than heroin; they're just more socially acceptable.

The slow poisons of violence, greed, and selfishness are just as surely killing us, and they have brought great harm to the world in the process. The current economic collapse, the world's unrelenting poverty, and constant armed conflict among nations are nothing if not the rock bottom after a long binge, though it seems the gravity of our collective situation has yet to dawn on the world as a whole, nor are we ready to acknowledge the personal choices that have brought us here. …

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