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DIGEST, Vol. 19(4): 29-33, February, 1955
can make it more practical and specific for Catholic alcoholics
By D. Joseph Michael
Look at those guys out there. Kneeling. And they've got
a statue on the table!" And when she looked , Gert,
too, saw the
group of five men kneeling around the table in a private
room of a small cafe in downtown Minneapolis.
was a Sunday morning in August, 1947. Strange sight for
the two waitresses. Strange sight to anyone who might have
in on this scene: five men kneeling in prayer around a table
which they had placed a statue of the blessed Mother. But
seemed nothing at all strange in it to the five who were
earnestly begging the Mother of God to assist them in their
terrifying struggle against alcoholism.
the words of the founder of the little group, the men
were "very much determined to become saints because
they had lived
like devils and wanted no more of that life." They
nucleus of Calix, an organization formed for the spiritual
development of alcoholics.
might be asked why these men had not tried Alcoholics
Anonymous. They had. In fact, they were all active members
organization. But, to quote the founder of Calix again,
fellow gets into this thing - this business of laying off
liquor - one thing is certain: you just know that you can
take another drink. I knew that I would have to break away
everything that was evil - not just booze. And so as a Catholic,
felt sure that my salvation lay in Mass and Communion. And
have to learn more about my Catholic religion so that I
practice it better."
wasn't a question of abandoning A.A. It was simply an
attempt on the part of Catholics to carry out that 11th
the A.A. program as perfectly as possible. This step reads:
sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with almighty God, as we understood Him, praying
knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that
Catholic would seek to improve that contact with God by
practical means afforded him by the Church.
is no conflict with A.A. In fact, assurance came from
one of the co-founders of A.A., after his examination of
constitution and by-laws, that there was complete harmony.
specific definition of Calix is that it is a membership
men, who, recognizing common problems, and earnestly striving
improve their spiritual well-being, are joined together
To interest Catholic men with an alcoholic problem in the
virtue of total abstinence.
2. To promote the spiritual development of the alcoholic.
3. To strive for the sanctification of the whole personality
4. To promote the group reception of Holy Communion by its
members once a month.
5. To conduct a spiritual hour for all members and guests
the monthly Communion breakfast.
6. To conduct and promote attendance at an evening Holy
once each month.
7. To have a Mass offered once each month for the intention
8. To provide a chalice, or other religious article, for
the service of the Church, as a memorial to each qualified
on the occasion of his death.
did Calix get its start? In the late summer of 1947, a
small handful of Catholic men, all alcoholics, had a special
interest in one of their number, and were casting about
to help him win his oft-lost battle. One of the number,
as usual at the 6:15 Mass, felt that this particular fellow
alcoholic could best carry out step 11 there, before the
and with the help of Him who was Mercy itself.
this man (call him Bill) left Mass, he gathered about
him that morning the five or six who were interested in
friend with the problem." For several weeks, as a group,
made it to an earlier Mass, and prayed for their friend.
success was won. Nov. 11 of that year, then called Armistice
marked the beginning of an armistice between John Barleycorn
weary, but now heartened fighter. And that armistice is
Bill, and indeed all his group, realized that the
armistice would remain in effect only as long as the victor
remained firm in the practice of his faith. He would have
abstain totally, and he would have to seek and use the grace
God. Bill dropped around to see his pastor to discuss the
possibility of a society, within the framework of the Church,
expand the practice of close spiritual cooperation among
striving toward total abstinence.
pastor's support paved the way to episcopal approval of
society to be known as Calix. A constitution was drawn up
submitted to the archbishop. His Excellency added suggestions
emendations to the text before him, and at length approved
constitution and its by-laws.
the meantime, Bill and his buddies decided to make it to
Mass each Sunday, receive Holy Communion, have breakfast
and then spend some time discussing what they could learn
spiritual life from books and pamphlets. It was at one of
meetings in the private dining room of a cafe that Gert
fellow waitress peeked through the sliding serving door
spotted the five grown men on their knees before a statue
refuge of sinners.
approval of the archbishop, Bill's pastor turned over
the facilities of the parish to Calix. Place was made in
organization schedule for attendance of the members of Calix
a.m. Mass on the first Sunday of each month. One of the
the parish staff was appointed spiritual director.
the monthly Mass, the members receive Holy Communion as
individual members of the congregation, not as a group.
Mass, they go to the parish dining room, where members of
parish sodality have a tasty breakfast awaiting them. The
kneel and recite aloud together the Prayer Before a Crucifx
then ask the blessing before a meal. After breakfast, the
with the dishes, and return for a conference with the spiritual
director. He explains the principles of the spiritual life
commenting on such works as Father Fabervs Growth in Holiness,
Tanqueray's Spiritual Life, or passages culled from St.
director does his best to see that the points under
discussion are pertinently directed toward the problem drinker.
Surprisingly, great interest is displayed in the matter
It then becomes the goal of the member to place what he
and studied into daily practice.
period of spiritual guidance over, the group offers a
prayer for the growth and success of Calix, and then settles
to a brief business meeting. The business meeting consists
a roll call, minutes of previous meeting, treasurer's report,
business of the day, and "secret bag" collection.
(A paper bag is
passed about the group after breakfast and each puts in
or nothing, depending on his financial status at the moment.)
members pledge themselves to assist at Holy Hour
conducted on some evening during the month. At first, it
thought advisable to hold Holy Hour at a different parish
throughout the city each month. This was to draw upon the
and experience of various city priests who would conduct
Hour. However, the difficulties of cross-city traveling
it apparent that a centrally located meeting place had to
found. Bill's pastor enlisted the aid of the director of
youth activities in the city and obtained the use of the
Youth center's chapel.
growth of the group was steady; the need and value of its
program was sensed by those who heard of it. It began to
recruits from every walk of life: professional men, business
laborers - all who share that age-old problem of a weakness
lack of tolerance for "the juice of the grape and the
drippings of the corn." Without fanfare, it has attracted
attention of clergy and laity alike, and the original membership
of five or six has grown to more than a hundred.
of Calix have grown in other cities and towns as
word is passed along that Step 11 is given a real shot in
for the Catholic by the program outlined and lived by Calix.
itself to be the back door to A.A. for many a Catholic who
otherwise found excuses to avoid the philosophy and help
members of Calix do their best to carry into practice the
corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Their interest in
work is part of their constitution. They have painted a
monastery (though it must be admitted that the Mother Superior
a moment of misgiving when she learned that a group of alcoholics
was at the door, offering to paint the weathered exterior
monastery); they have given blood as a group; they have
retreat groups; they work hard at the usual A.A. program.
this has added up to many a successful battle. More than
that, it has provided a solid basis for continued spiritual
growth. It has helped the men beyond the point of mere sobriety,
in some cases a false thing best described as a "dry
name Calix (Latin for chalice) was given to the group by
its first spiritual director. It derives its significance,
from the broader meaning of cup, but the restricted use
word in the celebration of the Mass. The members of Calix
pledged to group themselves about the alter of Christ, to
His sacrifice for them, to study ways to atone for their
done to Him. They draw from the Chalice of Salvation their
courage, their strength, their consolation, and their
determination so to live that the chalice of Christ's suffering
need not have been drained in vain for them.
chalice became the symbol of the group when the men
decided to provide for each deceased member a memorial in
of a chalice to be donated to the service of the Church
a dozen mission chapels have chalices inscribed with
the name of a deceased member.
men are convinced that just as total abstinence is the
only known relief for the man who drinks abnormally, so
conversion to Christ and to the following of Christ is the
answer for the Catholic. No use to give up liquor and cling
adulterous union; no use to give up liquor and indulge in
business practices; no use to give up liquor and follow
inclinations; no use to give up liquor and violate every
of charity. In far more than one sense of the word, a sober
re-evaluation of principles by which to live must be the
point on the long, hard road to a full Christian life.