Tuesday, February 11, 2014


A couple of months ago, I received a little book: I Live Now, Not I, It's by Fr. Patrick McNulty who was born in 1931 and has lived for many years as a full-time member of Madonna House.

Fr. McNulty quotes Gerald Vann, O.P., [from The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God]: "Pride will never learn what Christianity means until it has gone down into the darkness, until it is left naked and helpless and without resources and so is thrown back into the arms of God...If we were wise we could learn this for ourselves. But we are stupid; and sometimes God has to force it on our attention..."

Fr. McNulty learned this in what I gather was middle age. He'd lived through the "revolution" of the sixties and seventies, he'd been a priest for many years, he'd had a full, rich--or rich enough--life.

And then he hit a wall.

So Fr. McNulty went to the Sinai Desert and repaired to a cave.

He writes:

"I don't know what I expected to find out there in the Sinai desert in a mountain-cave miles from any other human being, and if at first I was deluded into thinking 'the Lord called me' for great and holy things, that delusion was defunct in less than 48 hours. By then the first wave of terror had swept over me to remind me that here I was in a place where I had no defences at all. I suddenly realized that it was not only my soul I could lose out here but I could also lose my mind as well. Then what?"

Now that is the metaphorical desert of the alcoholic who, after untold, indescribable suffering, has finally realized that he has NO DEFENSE WHATSOEVER against the first drink. And once he has the first drink, all bets are off. The craving kicks in for more, and more, and more, and it's anybody's guess when, or if, he'll stop at anything short of jail, the nuthouse, or the grave.

"A wave of terror swept over me to remind that here I was in a place where I had no defences at all."
That's actually the place of every human being against the powers of darkness; it's just that not every human being has the courage, and/or is more or less forced by circumstance, to face it.

"I suddenly realized that it was not only my soul I could lose out here but I could also lose my mind as well. Then what?"

Read the book and find out!


  1. That's why Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P., preaches about the spirituality of the Twelve Steps. He is the only priest I know who does this, and he is wise and funny and brilliant. In case you haven't heard his CDs, here is a link: http://www.12-step-review.org

  2. Exactly Heather! But I get so tired of failing. And Laraine, I think I listened to Fr Emmerich's cd's every day for a year whenever I was in my car. He's great; I'm a slow learner.

  3. Slow Learner could be the title of my autobiography...or at least another blog post...
    And yes, I was in touch with Fr. Emmerich a few years ago though have not listened to his CDs. Will try to check them out, thanks so much to both of you...

  4. You are describing the path to holiness. We all have a path, and it almost always involves suffering, but is purifying. The more we see of ourselves, the more we see our sin. This causes suffering, too. It is the path to holiness.

  5. Yeah Heather we're all in the same boat. Listened to fr pat when I became a friend of Madonna house, he has been there in the pain. Also fr Walter Ciszek in his ordeal . I look forward to the day I let go and Trust . It's good that you can share some of this brokenness . Hope the sun el come out tomoro....

  6. It can be very frightening, humbling to realize that we can do nothing at all on our own, especially overcome the many lies we are told and have come to accept instead of the One Truth. What a gift that you are able to experience this sense of powerlessness and have a sense of hope with it. Becoming holy and the road to sainthood does not allow people to remain sissies for long. Knowing how prevalent alcoholism is and dealing with the effects of it in my family have also taught me the power of the Twelve Step Program and the necessity of people who are pulling for us in addition to a perfect, loving Father to guide us.
    I went to college in a town where there was a Madonna House, and I went to visit a few times, and often saw the women who lived there at local parishes and events. I think you’ll enjoy your time there. I’d like to make a poustinia someday, but I haven’t yet.
    Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom as you grapple with the challenges of living out the Catholic faith.

    1. You can always can always make a poustinia at home in a quiet room !

    2. Denis, I would if I could. I so desperately need one. My husband has been out of work since Labor Day, so here's home doing job search stuff, and they're working on the roof of our building and our kitchen ceiling has been leaking, so I have a hard time managing even to get a few hours of quiet in our two bedroom apartment.

  7. So much truth in what you say, Heather! I have also experienced so many frustrations when I think that I have "conquered" a weakness, an attitude... and I am feeling good and then... I fall again. But, fortunately, in those moments I remember that it is the sick that needs God, that God is my merciful "doctor" that heals me gradually with trust and love.


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