And That’s That

Today was the last of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at St. Jane de Chantal Church in Abita Springs. Not that I expected either it or me to be emotional, but it was all the more straightforward and matter of fact than usual.

It’s been an odd few months. While I had hoped the issues present with it could be worked out, quite clearly a number of those in attendance want their own Chaplain, and want their own Chapel, their own Mass. If that were not true then the Mass wouldn’t be moving.

Some of the tensions we’ve experienced with it have to do with that aspect. One has to be very Gamaliel Acts V about such things. A bit dramatic but true nonetheless.

And my advice is still the same; have nothing to do with these men, let them be. If this is man’s design or man’s undertaking, it will be overthrown; if it is God’s, you will have no power to overthrow it. You would not willingly be found fighting against God. 

Acts 5:38-39

Covid has aged me enough without added dramas thrown into the mix. While the decisions around the move have been fraught with confusion, I’m thankful all of that is in the past and the Mass will move on peacefully. I’ll be devoting more time to spiritual reading, prayer, health, wellness, and exercise.

Then there’s the reorganization of the Parish Staff, several renovations we’re undertaking, a master plan to start working towards the future on a solid foundation, and the mounds of paperwork that can happen when one is an INFP. (I’m being certified as an MBTI practitioner because seriously, it’s not going to hurt anything and I love learning.)

As the Latin Mass moves on, the Parish is still large, vibrant, filled with souls in need of salvation. It will do well in the new chapel with their new Chaplain, Fr. Damian Zablocki.

And that’s that. It was good to have it here while we did.

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Must We Really?

Katrina 15

I looked at the National Weather Service this eve so I could plan out some gardening ventures, and realized it’s about to be the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 💀

I haven’t written a lot about that. Except for a few posts here, and a few thousand emails to everyone getting in touch after the storm when I was one of the only priests in the area with email. Getting the Navy in touch with the Archdiocese was interesting – I went through contacts in Bolivia.

But I was too busy helping and rescuing to be typing away here. Katrina’s a rabbit hole everyone here goes down from time to time.

I’m going to look up some of the pics I took and recite a few memories and get them out of the way. It was horrible – but it was also an amazing time. Where awfulness abounds, grace abounds all the more.

If I had to do it over again, would I do anything differently? 🤨

Heck yeah! But when you don’t have to evacuate and your one of the few priests in a hundreds of square miles radius during a once in a lifetime emergency and you’re an INFP, you just do what you have to do while everyone who’s left town calls you lazy or asks you to empty their refrigerator, or check their house, or say a Mass, or get in touch with the Archdiocese, or see if their relative is still living, or meet them on a naval ship in the river, or meet the President, or give them permission to clean the debris outside of the Cathedral and a lot of other Churches because no one else in the Archdiocese is around, or give them tours around the city because they’re reporters and don’t know where they are, or pray for the soldiers in their command as they’re deeply traumatized, or go and identify bodies of those who have died. 🙄 Someone told me once that they had lost everything in the storm and I didn’t know what it was like – I had to remind them that my dad died in it.

It was a horrible time for everyone, and it’s over with and done. No need to relive any of that mess.

Scientifically, it’s fascinating. Emotionally, it’s time to admit it’s in the past.

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The Freedom Model

One of the best things I’ve ever done is something I was able to do from home during the initial Covid lockdowns, which was to study and to undertake the learning involved in the Freedom Model. The Freedom Model is a program for the treatment of addiction that relies on factual research, and completely dispels 12 Step Recovery Programs and traditional rehabs. It was started by some Catholics who were in AA and, after a decade or so got fed up with saying they were alcoholics and identifying with the former self they’d put away.

So they started doing a little research.

Now if you’re involved in a 12 Step Recovery program and it’s working for you, I’ll be clear that I’m not here to burst your bubble or change your mind. But if you need a change in your life and are concerned in any way about substance use issues, then the Freedom Model is well worth a look.

What It Is

The Freedom Model uses cognitive behavorial learning to help one realize that they can simply and easily change substance use patterns, that doing so is not impossible – it’s done all the time by hundreds of thousands of people the world over – and that it can in fact be pretty easy.

Most people who quit any type of substance be it alcohol, tobacco, drugs of choice, do so on their own. Even 12-steppers admit this when they say the steps only work once you’ve made up your mind. The Freedom Model simply points out that once you’ve made up your mind, that’s all you really need to do aside from exploring, trying, and learning new habits and activities.

Pursuing Happiness

Instead of avoiding things like cravings, detox, the seeming terror of lifelong abstinence, and the Freedom Model points out that we are going to do what brings us the most happiness in any given choice. Say you’re a three-pack a day smoker who’s thrilled with the pleasure from each and every cigarette. You may have many reasons for quitting such a habit, but you first have to confront the fact that there are things you completely enjoy about the habit. Then you have to confront the fact that there are other things you’d enjoy also, besides feeling like you’re addicted to cigarettes. Once you realize that, you can start trying new things and then make a decision based on what you really enjoy.

I quit smoking in 1997, and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. But I did it.

I just finally made up my mind and threw them out at 2:15 am one morning, went to bed, and woke up the next day to never smoke a cigarette again in my life.

And it was an absolutely horrible few months. But I enjoyed a lot about cigarettes, and learned a lot about myself too.

Alcohol and the Single Priest

Of course, Catholic Priests are single, and it’s not uncommon to have some type of alcohol at times on your own. But misconceptions about the commonality of alcoholic priests, coupled with the rumor mill and the potential for scandal, are enough to keep anyone dry.

Still, many priests joke about it. One friend said of day-drinking “Heck, that’s why I became a priest!” (It’s not really why he became a priest.) A newly ordained was joking about it so much and so often and reminded him to take care, or people would start to talk and he’d end up at Guest House.

A nearby religious community had an inside joke that if you needed some vacation time, you could drive your car into a tree and leave an empty wine bottle in it, so you’d have an instant 6 month getaway at Guest House. (Who needs that?)

Undoing 12 Step Thinking

While at times I’ve abused alcohol, I go through most of life without it. I do enjoy some wines, some cocktails. But if I don’t like something it will sit in the rectory for years completely untouched, which has prompted many a cry of “Well then you’re not a real addict!” Thank you, I never claimed to be an addict at all. Well, except for that cigarette habit.

But. Studying the Freedom Model I realized that the traditional recovery thinking that we all hear about, know by heart, and learn about constantly through tv, movies, books, seminars, government programs, etc, had invaded my mind to such a degree that I was not even aware of its influence.

At times in my life – such as in the aftermath of Katrina for example – I drank quite freely, along with most everyone else. In the back of my mind was this type of thinking that I had learned:

  • it runs in the family
  • it’s inescapable
  • it’s a disease
  • there’s no avoiding it
  • you’re going to drink until you have to go to rehab
  • then you’ll have to go to meetings for the rest of your life.
  • there is no escaping this well-trodden path
  • it is inevitable,
  • you may as well have some alcohol because you’re powerless.

The Freedom Model throws that right out the window.

You’re not diseased, you’re not powerless. You’re doing what you consider is bringing you the most happiness at the time. Once you really let go of that mindset and realize you can drink as much or as little as you want, that you’re not powerless or diseased and you can let go of the inevitability and powerlessness of things, you quickly realize you don’t need to drink at all. You may want to, but that’s a completely different story, really, and a great realization.

The entire situation comes back into its proper perspective when you claim your full freedom. Once you can do as much of anything as you want, and know that you’re not powerless, but free to choose the option to overdo it, to moderately do it, or completely leave it alone, you quickly start to realize that a lot of other enjoyable options exist and powerlessness goes out the window. We all know this in our hearts – it’s what a culture unmoored from Jesus Christ teaches that can be problematic.

It also earns one the refrain, “Well then you’re not a real addict/alcoholic/whatever!”

Fine. I’ll take it. Truth is, the choice to drink occasionally is fun. But life without cigarettes is fun. Long stretches with no alcohol are fun. Turning the cell phone off is fun. Leaving behind the internet is fun. Piles of books, long walks, gym work, piano and organ music, – seriously, why are the 12 steps the go-to for everyone?

In Others

I’ve noticed often, and you no doubt have noticed it too, that when some are caught up in substance use they start having a certain sense of inevitability and powerlessness about themselves. Their conversations and general thinking can go like this:

  • I’m a drug addict. Even worse, I’m an intravenous drug user.
  • I’m such a loser. No wonder everyone abandons me.
  • I’m going to keep using until I die or until start going to meetings. And I hate meetings.
  • But I have to hit rock bottom first, and I’m definitely not there yet.
  • Once I go to meetings I have to go the rest of my life. That’s got to happen at some point.
  • I’ll have to avoid all stress, all triggers, forever. People will have to help me do that because I’m powerless. I have no control over anything.
  • Even then I’m bound to relapse because everyone relapses and I’m such a failure anyway.
  • I may as well relapse right now.
  • I’m powerless, I have to just do this and then end it at some point.

Traditional rehabs can literally brainwash people into using more, avoiding all responsibility afterward, and expecting to relapse while they’re leading miserable lives of avoidance and powerlessness, not seeking happiness in their choices.

They can do that. And they do do that. But for some, they work – and they work well.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

The freedom model changes that. Just start asking questions.

You’re substance user, you do it because you like it, and you’re not powerless to quit. Why are you using it if you don’t like it? Why don’t you like your life right now?

Once you start asking the question “why?”, you start getting a lot of interesting answers and new ideas about things.

Starting to ask questions in general became a game changer for me during covid lockdowns. I was answering so many questions constantly it was exhausting. Once I started asking “Who?” “What?” Why” is this?” “Why are they complaining about that?”, and posing questions to people instead of trying to find an answer I didn’t always have, things started to be clearer overall. That’s a separate story. But finding freedom is empowering across the board.

The thing is – I’ve studied and had to use the 12 step method since my teen years in our family. I never fully embraced it, but it has shaped my thinking in many situations.

Put on the New Man in Christ

There must be a renewal in the inner life of your minds; you must be clothed in the new self, which is created in God’s image, justified and sanctified through the truth.

Ephesians 4:23-24

What I realized is that I had false beliefs about things. My false beliefs about substance use, in this case alcohol, were bothering me because when you really start diving into them, they don’t make a lot of sense, and I was wondering how best to answer my own questions.

I was able to clear out the old ideas, and decided to simply have some drinks from time to time if I wanted to, without worrying about it anymore. What I’ve found is that I usually don’t want to, as I’d prefer to be reading the mounds of books all about me, or pursuing some type of hobby or exercise when I’m not busy tending to the salvation of souls.

The Substance Users all Around Us

We all know people who consider themselves addicted. Their families wait for them to hit ‘rock bottom’, so they will finally get into treatment. I wish I could send them on a Freedom Model / St. Jude Retreat to help change their minds about things.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do so.

The Freedom Model is a work in progress but has a great success rate. I highly encourage everyone to check it out if substance use of any sort is an issue in your own life, or in the life of anyone you love.

And for the record – it does not give you permission to use substances. It simply gives you the freedom to start making informed decisions about your life and to put on the new man in Christ – if that’s what you truly choose to do.

I didn’t go to treatment to quit cigarettes, I don’t go to treatment to not eat an entire chocolate cake I might bake. Regarding alcohol, it’s not that I don’t like it, as it can be a part of an enjoyable time with friends. But I don’t like drunkenness, and I prefer sobriety. It’s a simple choice. Anyone can choose it.

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The Dark Triad and Toxic Personalities

In Spiritual Theology, the landmark work of Fr. Jordan Auman, the author speaks frankly of the necessity of studying observable psyhological phenomena as we progress through the spiritual life, as we learn from those who have gone before, and as we study the writings and lives of the saints.

Thus, spirituál theology deals directly with the psychological data of the spirituál life, and in so doing it adds to the principles of moral theology the experiential or existential element that constitutes spirituál theology as a combination of speculative and practical theology. To summarize, spirituál theology comprises three elements:  (1) the psychological data of spirituál experience; (2) the application of theological principles;  and (3) practical directives concerning progress in the spirituál life with a view to Christian perfection. 

To some degree, psychology is helpful.

But like philosophy, and unlike theology, psychology can be used to justify just about anything. So you have to be careful when looking it over.

It can be useful for understanding the dynamics of the spiritual life, and especially for understanding the actions of toxic personalities, that tend to exhibit the characteristics of the dark triad – some of whom inhabit, and manipulate within, the Church freely, as most people consider that everyone involved in the Church is operating out of charity, hope, and faith. It’s not an unusual phenomenon in the least – you can check the headlines over the last few decades to give yourself an idea of toxic personalities at work in the Church.

Toxic personalities

They seek to divide, to destroy, to ruin, to control. It doesn’t matter why, as it’s usually based on their own unfulfilled wants, or evil desires. And, they know they can get away with it. They enjoy it.

Understanding Dark Traits

People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behavior—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.

While many researchers consider psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism three distinct traits with overlapping characteristics, others believe the commonalities suggest an underlying personalityconstruct that has yet to be fully understood.

How is psychopathy related to the dark triad?

Most researchers consider psychopathy—a trait characterized by a lack of empathyand remorse—to be the “darkest” of the Dark Triad, in so far as psychopaths generally cause more harm to individuals and to society than do narcissists or “High Machs.”“Psychopath” is not a mental health diagnosis; the disorder that most closely represents it in the DSM is antisocialpersonality disorder.

What is Machiavellianism?

Machiavellianism is not a mental health diagnosis; rather, it’s a personality trait describing a manipulative individual who deceives and tricks others to achieve goals. It is based on the political philosophy of the 16th-century writer Niccolò Machiavelli. Some evidence suggests that of the dark traits,Machiavellianism is most closely tied to high intelligence. If a psychologist refers to someone as “High Mach,” it means they behave in a highly manipulative manner.

How is narcissism related to the Dark Triad?

The third piece of the triad, narcissism, is characterized byexcessive self-regard and heightened arrogance. While many narcissists are merely frustrating, extreme or “malignant” narcissists can becomeemotionally abusiveor even violent when they aren’t given the special treatment they believe is deserved.

What is “D,” or the dark factor of personality?

Recently, researchers have begun to hypothesize that a single core factor—classified as “D”—may underlie many different negative traits, including those in the Dark Triad as well as sadism, entitlement, and others. “D” denotes a tendency to maximize one’s own desires at the expense of other people’s.

What is the “Light Triad”?

Researchers have recently begun to study the so-called “Light Triad” of traits:
faith in humanity, humanism, and Kantianism. The theory is often framed as the opposite of the Dark Triad, and hinges on the belief that people are inherently good and should not be treated expediently.


Via "Psychology Today", accessed August 7, 2020.

Our spirituality is based on the imitation of Jesus Christ

We do that by meditating upon his life and teachings, often through the eyes of his most blessed mother. Filled with the Holy Spirit we are able to grow in supernatural wisdom, fear of the Lord, understanding.

Do you know toxic people in your life?

How are they affecting your spiritual life?

More importantly, why are you letting them do so?

At some point, it has to simply stop.

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