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“Sorry I’m late. Got tied up at the rectory, it being Sunday and all—it was the blueberry pancake breakfast for the kids and their families,” he said standing on my front porch, a balmy breeze blowing the boxwood hedges behind him. It was Father Dan, Pastor of the College Church, his Roman collar gracing his long sleeve clergy shirt.

“You’re just on time,” I said escorting him to the dining room table around which we sat. “I’ve been looking forward to this.” I had received the Sacrament of the Sick numerous times before knee surgeries and within healing Masses, but I sensed this would be different— the unexpected pitfalls of my terminal illness, especially the long nights, still cried out for God’s mercy.

“I’m so glad to help you out, Liz,” he said smiling as he withdrew from his pocket the sacred olive oil and the pyx containing the consecrated host. Then he found the place in his worn ritual book and placed it in front of him. Only chirping of tree sparrows enlivened the silence we shared as we waited for the Lord’s fullness to manifest.

Antiphonal prayer followed a reading from the Gospel of Matthew: Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, my burden light. Then dipping his fingertip into the olive oil, Father Dan traced the sign of the cross upon my forehead saying in hushed tones, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Then, other crosses upon the palms of my hands, with the prayer, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” It was done—graced crosses resonated within my entire person: body, mind, spirit.

Fragrance like blossoming olive trees seeped into the wiggle-room of my humanness and soothed the rough edges of my terminal illness. I would not lose heart.


“I just love my grog,” admitted the fifty-five-year-old proctologist that May evening in 1935, seated in the library of the gatehouse of Henrietta Seiberling in Akron Ohio. That comment followed hard upon his listener’s narration of two decades of alcoholic debauchery in the northeast, his finding a new God during treatment in the Towns Hospital in New York City, and his five months of sobriety. Hope flash-fired their spirits: the doctor’s identification with another alcoholic and the discovery of a way out; the latter’s need for the drunk’s story to remain sober.

From this simple encounter between Dr. Bob and Bill W. emerged the worldwide organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Recovering alcoholics, sipping coffee and sitting in church basements, continue interfacing their unruly instincts with the 12 Steps, amidst laughter and occasional tears. Stories abound. Outside of meetings, work with sponsors fine-tunes this conversion process.

Such rigorous honesty and humility effect psychic changes within alcoholics, previously mired down by the evil of their disease. Frowns, steeled jaws, and tense shoulders, evidence of spirit-bondage, give way to lightness and mirth. Joy of living in the fourth dimension with a Higher Power facilitates engagement with their lives, usually for the first time. They are reborn.

Years pass, yet sobriety deepens. Issues of health, loss of significant others, retirement, and finance continue refining the lightsome spirits of those sharing around the tables of AA. Having already escaped the spiritual death of alcoholism, the diminishment of their bodies is not that all troublesome. Many even embrace their last years with laughter and introduce themselves as grateful recovering alcoholics!

They’ve found a way out!


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