Intercessors to combat addiction

By Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

In addition to the more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19, another tragic consequence of the pandemic has been the rise in addictions, due to the depression and anxiety many are experiencing because of social isolation and financial hardship.  From drug and alcohol abuse to gambling problems, addictive behavior has been increasing in recent months.  We must remain committed in our families and communities to reaching out to help each other from slipping into the downward spiral caused by these destructive habits.

An amazing resource for those struggling with alcoholism is the Matt Talbot Retreat Movement, which promotes retreat groups to help people overcome alcohol dependency.  An inspiration to many in their battle with alcoholism, Venerable Matt Talbot was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1856.  He developed a drinking problem early in life, and by the time he was a teenager, he had become an alcoholic.  To combat the scourge of alcoholism of the time, the Catholic Church was promoting The Pledge, a 90-day pledge of abstinence from alcohol.  When he was 28 years old, Talbot took The Pledge and never had a drink again.  Living to age 69, it is said he died while on his way to attending Mass.  Today, he is on the path to sainthood and can be invoked by those seeking intercession for strength in overcoming alcoholism.

Matt Talbot’s life demonstrates how vital faith is in combatting addictive behaviors.  It took tremendous willpower to complete The Pledge and then maintain his abstinence from alcohol for the rest of his life.  His story reminds us how important it is to lean upon the sacraments of our faith, and most especially the Mass, in strengthening ourselves to combat addictive behaviors.

Another powerful intercessor for battling addictions is St. Camillus de Lellis.  Born in Italy in 1550, De Lellis followed in his father’s footsteps and became a soldier at just 16 years of age.  In a video on the life of St. Camillus, Father Dan Cambra, MIC, explains that, in his late teens, Camillus asked his father for his inheritance and it was granted.  Camillus didn’t know what to do with his newfound fortune and became distracted by immoral pursuits, including gambling.  He eventually lost everything to his gambling habit and had to take on menial work at a Capuchin friary to survive.  There, his soul was awakened to the faith, and he eventually discovered a call to care for the sick, becoming a priest and founding the order that has come to be known as the Camillians.

Today, the intercession of St. Camillus is often invoked by those struggling to overcome addictions to gambling.  In his life, he demonstrated the path we must all walk to remove disordered desires from our hearts and replace them with pursuits that feed the soul.  Camillus found the worldly pursuits that occupied him as a young man to be empty.  They left him unfulfilled and destitute; yet in that weakened state, God awakened his soul to those things in life that are fulfilling.

We should take heart from the stories of St. Camillus de Lellis and Venerable Matt Talbot because they remind us that God will meet us where we are and guide us through the most difficult trials of life.  All we need to do is bring an open heart into the world each day and have the courage to seek the right path—and then to follow that path just one step at a time.



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