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CATHOLIC, Vol. 57: 29, July, 1992
Steps of Faith
By Father John Powell, SJ.
York stockbroker Bill Wilson realized that he was a hopeless
alcoholic. In the hospital on medication, his depression
and rebellion were strong.
had flirted with faith before, but now he was screaming,
"I'll do anything, anything at all! If there be a God,
let Him show Himself." God did come to Wilson. That
was his conversion moment. He never doubted the existence
of God and never drank alcohol again.
Wilson teamed up with Dr. Bob Smith of Akron, Ohio, and
together formulated the now famous Twelve Steps of Alcoholics
Anonymous (A.A.). This program succeeded with alcoholic
men and women to such an amazing degree that it is now used
in other groups: Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous,
Adult Children of Alcoholics, Troubled Couples Anonymous,
and so forth.
is clearly a "spiritual" movement that can serve
us, no matter what our problems may be.
stated, the 12 steps begin with an admission of our powerlessness,
acknowledgement that a Power greater than ourselves can
restore us to sanity, and a decision to turn our wills and
lives over to God.
comes a searching moral inventory, and the honest admission
to God, to ourselves and to one other human being of the
exact nature of our wrongs. Then, we ask God, by grace,
to remove all our defects of character and our shortcomings.
comes a list of everyone we have harmed, and we are asked
to make amends to all of them. The Tenth Step asks us to
continue to take a personal inventory and admit whenever
we are wrong. The final steps counsel us to seek through
prayer and meditation the enlightenment of God's will and
the empowerment to do it, and to share our spiritual awakening
with others, by word and by deed.
though I am not an alcoholic, I decided to try these 12
steps. I immediately came to understand how they demand
fearless honesty and a persevering act of the will.
remember once standing next to Sister Ignatia, supervisor
of of the A.A. Ward at St. Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland,
as an alcoholic man was being admitted. The poor fellow
is not going to make it," she said wistfully.
you look at a person and tell whether they are going to
make it?" I remember gasping. "Oh, no," said
Sister Ignatia, who had an active role in the founding of
the A.A. Movement. "It is rather by listening to what
he is saying."
poor man was in strong denial. "1 don't have a problem,"
he was mumbling. "1 can take it or leave it."
movement is not for all who need it,'! Sister said, "but
only for those who need it and want it."
then, it has been my constant prayer: to be honest, to turn
my life over to God, to continue an inventory of my life
and my deeds, to make amends to those whom I have hurt,
and to share my own awakening with others. The Twelve Step
Program is much like everything else. It works if we work