Virtue or Gift–I Say Gift

Virtue or Gift–I Say Gift


A Monk’s Life – YouTube Bertrand Vogelweide


In Part 1 I wrote of AA’s beginnings and its spirituality. In Part 2 I told of Bill W’s meeting up with Fr. Ed Dowling S.J., and his relating the twelve steps to the second week of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Jouis M. Savary in his book, The New Spiritual Exercises writes of a shift that is suppose to take place in the second week: “The shift calls you from seeing your spiritual purpose as simply seeking individual salvation, which is probably the life purpose of most believers, to committing your life to help carry out a divine project on Earth.”


Albert Holtz O.S.B. in his Downtown Monks describes well for me what this divine project might be:


“Traditional monastic theology often speaks of the monastery—optimistically, I suppose—as a head start on heaven, a foretaste and model of the Kingdom of light and peace. As monastics, then, one of our tasks is to spread the vision of the New Jerusalem to our brothers and sisters, encouraging them, by our life of community, poverty, and…”


Sounds good right? Well here’s the rub. When I look at Jesus hanging on the cross, I see a man who claimed to be god admitting he was powerless. Powerless over others’ choice to prefer God over their addiction(s). Now I want to say that again, it’s important. Jesus is powerless over others’ choice…Yes, we all may have things like, sex, alcohol, money, power, etc. etc. that we are powerless over, but even God chooses to be powerless over our choices. That’s a mystery in the highest sense. If I am to follow Jesus, I have to admit that I am the source of the problems in my life, not other people. My attitude has gone awry. Instead of being grateful for my life, I tell god and others how life should work and don’t follow Jesus’ response: “Not my will, but thine be done.”


This is the message of the 12 Steps, as well as the message of the Passion of Jesus for me. St. Paul of the Cross recognized this 250 years before Bill Wilson and the Oxford Group, and of course, Jesus showed this to us 2,000 years ago. Bill W. did not do this alone, nor did St. Paul of the Cross, nor did Jesus. They formed communities. I need a community in which to do this.


I chose the Passionist Community first because I grew up across the street from the Passionist Monastery in Chicago. This proximity led to me and my twin brother Dave’s joining the Bosco Club, sneaking in the swimming pool late at night, going to the daily 7:00 am Mass sung by the Confraters in the monastery chapel open to the public, attending Passionist’s Missions and eventually my entering their high school and Novitiate. I truly grew to become more a part of the Passionist’s community than I was of my own family.


That’s how I learned to love monastic life, especially as lived by the Passionists. But I left that life in the middle of my novitiate year. I keep coming back because no matter how hard I try, I can’t deny or escape my roots? When I left in 1963. The Second Vatican Council was in session and was opening up a whole new Church and world to Catholics. One of the new awakenings coming from Vatican II was the role of the laity. More on that in my next post.

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