Nineteen years ago today I went 24 hours without a drink of alcohol, a hit off of a cocaine pipe, a pull on a joint or gulping down a pill to 'even me out'.
I have, since May 4, 1992, put 19 of those 24 hours together - one day at a time.
During this journey, I have fallen in love and been conned out of money. I have acted inappropriately at meetings and have had to make amends for that behavior. I have hated and loved and liked, been sad and happy and lonely. I have gained weight and lost weight, quit smoking, started smoking and quit again (one month today!). I have, most importantly, returned to The Eucharist and Holy Mother Church.
My decision to do so came after a dilligent search for what was true in Christian worship. I never considered myself anything but a Catholic, even during those years of pagan living and foolish, horrifying choices that reigned havoc on my soul and my body. However, I had never explored the Church's claims of being the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ until 17 years ago.
What I discovered astounded me.
Thanks to the internet, much of what was once available only to scholars and theologians with an 'in' is now available online for all the world to see. I began to read, to study and discern.
I had never read the Early Church Fathers - didn't even know what that term meant, in all honesty - because I had always assumed their writings would be too difficult and lofty for someone like me to understand. I don't read and write Latin, Greek, Aramaic...shoot, sometimes I can barely read English. How could a reasonably intelligent but woefully under-educated girl immerse herself in the writings of Origen or St Justin Martyr or St Ignatius of Antioch? How could you expect someone like ME to read St Augustine? St Thomas Aquinas? St Bernard of Clairvoix?
Are you kidding?
Well, guess what - these people, while on earth, were primarily concerned with TEACHING the FAITH. So people like me are not much different than the people they were writing to (and for) back then..and once I found that someone else had done the hard part (the translations) for me, I was able to plunge into a sea of theological debate and scholarship that is breathtaking.
And what I found astonished me.
Simply put, I discovered that if a Christian from the year 70 A.D. were to walk into Big Valley Grace in Modesto on a Sunday that Christian would not know what the heck was going on. But if that same woman or man were to walk into 9am Sunday Mass at St Joseph's, they would (after a couple of minutes) know exactly where they were and what was happening around them.
For almost 2000 years, the basic liturgical structure of worship ordained as right by the Apostles of Jesus Christ has been preserved in The Church.
Oh sure, we have added prayers and music and some rubrics for how to say and play. We have added 'the bells and smells'. But the basic structure of the most powerful prayer on the planet has not changed since our ancestors celebrated The Eucharist in the bowels of the copper mines of Palestine, hiding from their Roman Slave Masters.
The readings of the 'lives of the Apostles and of Jesus Christ'.
The 'breaking and blessing of the bread'.
The 'participation in the Lord's Supper'.
The 'collection for widows and orphans'
The 'sign/kiss of peace'.
I also discovered that if I did not accept the fact that simple bread and wine was TRANSFORMED into the actual, true FLESH AND BLOOD of MY SAVIOR, then I was not in union with all those Christians who had died defending that very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity from those who would desecrate and destroy Our Lord. To reject The Eucharist is to reject Jesus Christ. To reject His Church is tantamount to rejecting He who founded it.
I distinctly remember throwing in the towel at that point. I went to Confession and came Home.
Since that time, because of the grace received through the Sacraments of The Church, I have been able to maintain both my sobriety and my participation in the 12 Step Program that initially brought me freedom from the bondage of self. I am a better daughter, sister, aunt and friend.
I have my moments - I don't like everyone. However, I am trying to love everyone.
I am so grateful for all I have gone through in 19 years, even the bad times. Especially the bad times, I guess. I know that without pain there is no growth, and without suffering there is no redemption. As Father Corapi would say, Good Friday always comes before Easter Sunday.
And today I can welcome the Son Rise with a clean and sober heart.
Thank you, Lord, for my life today just the way it is: I would not change a thing, even if I could!