Tag Archives: Grace

19 July, What is Theology Saying? XIX: The Eucharist 6, A Call to Simplicity

winchester crucifixWhen Jesus began his ministry he didn’t expect it to lead to this – it wasn’t the goal of his mission. What he challenged us with was totally radical – the way of non-violence, of not needing someone to blame. His death reveals both the compassion of God and the reality of sin. Faced with Jesus, his contemporaries, chosen as hearers of the Word – panicked. The Gospels don’t present the leaders as particularly evil; they used arguments we are still using ourselves – prudence, common sense, self-defence… This is why sin is so appalling, showing how our normal and accepted ways of living are so corrupt that they crucify the innocent – legally.

Some would argue for a proper distinction to be made between religion, politics and social living. Jesus didn’t invite people to be poor, but to be poor in spirit – detached enough from whatever possessions to notice the poor man at the door. There is no love for a hungry person which leaves the person still hungry – it is pointless to show how much is being spent here and there – when the poor remain unfed, unclothed and unhoused. The very point of the Eucharist is to free people from the oppression of such evil. It is naïve to think we help poor people simply by becoming poor ourselves. Our call is to simplicity – simple means uncomplicated, and is not synonymous with easy.

We come to the Eucharist to be involved in ways of everyday living that will bring change. We have the gift of the Sacraments to help us do this. It is easy to miss the point of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by seeing it as a very special ceremony celebrated in but distinct from everyday living. There can be no intimacy with God without seeking the well-being of others – we are told the Second Commandment is like the first; which cautions about eating and drinking unworthily – 1Corinthians 11.27.

Grace is not a commodity God has to give to those who do what they are told to do. In fact, it is not something – it is relationship. It is an invitation to intimacy along with the gift of courage to say yes. Grace cannot be seen but gracefulness can, in heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. We can love our own family to the exclusion of others, likewise for one’s country – but such is not love since love knows nothing of exclusions. Love means openness – no matter who no matter where. See this expressed in the way the local folk in Germany turned out to welcome the migrants. This is Eucharist beyond the table. We relate to God as community, because it is only in community [no matter how small] that relationships happen. We have little experience of covenant relationship with God when so many human hungers go unnoticed.

AMcC

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12 June: What do the Saints know? III, Faith

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The Theological virtue of faith

What is the act of faith for St. Thomas? What is the nature of this kind of ‘knowing’? What does faith have to do with connaturality?

St. Thomas insists on the divine initiative here, as he does with all the theological virtues. Theological virtues are gifts of God. He says, “Faith is from God moving man inwardly by grace” (II.II.6.1). So faith is established in the soul by a divine infusion of grace. I love this teaching on the “infused” aspect of faith, because, that is how faith has come to me.. Faith is not something that I just decided to have one day. Nor is faith something that I have because some told me I ‘ought to’ have it because it is ‘good for me’ – like eating your vegetables. In my experience, I began to have real faith (as opposed to just going through the motions of faith) because of something that happened to me – a conversion experience, if you will. For me, faith was a gift that was a response to that other, more fundamental gift of God. Faith was a way of saying thank you to God and of acknowledging that he was now so real for me that everything else was real only in a secondary sense: because it was sustained by the Real reality, who was God. And this experience held a divine imperative – inwardly compelling and joyful – that summoned me to, you might say, ‘cultivate’ my faith and make faith a habit of existence. Cultivate is a weak word, though. My experience was more like being picked in one place and put down in another – in a whole new country! It was a change in the nature of existence; it was existence in a new ‘place’ on a new level. ‘Cultivating’ my faith means coming to know and understand this place, this level. As St. Thomas says, it has all been the gift of God, moving me inwardly by grace.

The idea of faith being a ‘place’ a ‘new country’ is expressive of the way God infused the gift of faith into my soul. For others, another image might be better. Perhaps it was slower for you, a bit by bit experience. Gentler, perhaps. Maybe it was through suffering that Faith was given and deepened. Maybe you have always had faith. Maybe you lost it – or thought you did – and then re-discovered it somehow. It might be helpful to meditate on the way you have found faith in your life – or it has found you – before we go on to explore the subject further.

A whole new country …

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11 June: What do the Saints know? II, What is connaturality?

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What does St. Thomas mean by the idea of connaturality? Does he use the word at all? How does it fit into his teaching?

The latin word connaturalitate comes easily sixty or so times throughout the Summa. And, it means what you would expect it to mean: it is not a mysterious or complicated concept. A connatural abililty refers to something that a being does or thinks which comes naturally to it, although the ability may not be an original part of its nature. It may be an acquired ability. Say, cooking! Or the way an actor acts a part. Or the ability to play an instrument well. Such abilities may feel strange at first, but eventually proficiency is achieved and the ability becomes connatural – or second nature. But, the level of connaturality we are considering here has to do not only with a set of physical abilities, or even mental ones. For St Thomas, connaturality goes much deeper, into a kind of sympathy with something (compassio is the latin term used by St Thomas), or a participation in something, a union with something to the point of undergoing what that thing undergoes, suffering what it suffers (patiens); an understanding of it from within.

St. Thomas uses the word connaturality a lot. He seems to like it. It is even possible to miss the use of the word connatural some of the time, because St Thomas uses it fairly unsensationally. But, eventually, when he begins to talk about faith, hope and charity – the famous ‘theological’ virtues – and to describe the effects of grace, he uses the word connatural again, to show that participating as fully as possible in our supernatural end – which is God’s very life – can become just as natural to us as living merely according to our natural tendencies. Here he is making a profound point, because he says many times that although we were created with an ‘inbuilt’ tendency toward our supernatural end, that end is beyond the reach of our fallen, un-graced, abilities. So, when he says that life with God can become connatural to us, it is something to notice. In fact, to my mind, whenever he is talking about the transforming power of grace, the idea of our arriving at a state of connaturality with divine things is implicit in an overarching way, even when he is not actually using the word.

The theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, are the root of all virtue for Thomas (II.II.4.7). They are at the beginning of the journey, not the end; they are our capacity for salutary action, and they fit us for connaturality with God, or better, they communicate God’s life to us. You might say that in the theological virtues, God is very ‘busy’ on our behalf, in Thomas’s teaching. Tomorrow we will begin to explore the virtue of faith.

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7 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXV: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 2. (Shared Table XIX)

800px-Caravaggio_-_Cena_in_EmmausAnd the hour of breaking bread being come, they set themselves down together, Saint Francis and Saint Clare, and one of the companions of Saint Francis together with the companion of Saint Clare, and all the other companions took each his place at the table with all humility.

And at the first dish, Saint Francis began to speak of God so sweetly, so sublimely, and so wondrously, that the fulness of divine grace came down on them, and they all were rapt in God. And as they were thus rapt, with eyes and hands uplift to heaven, the folk of Assisi and Bettona and the country round about, saw that Saint Mary of the Angels, and all the House, and the wood that was just hard by the House, were burning brightly, and it seemed as it were a great fire that filled the church and the House and the whole wood together : for the which cause the folk of Assisi ran thither in great haste for to quench the flames, believing of a truth that the whole place was all on fire. But coming close up to the House and finding no fire at all, they entered within and found Saint Francis and Saint Clare and all their company in contemplation rapt in God and sitting around that humble board. Whereby of a truth they understood that this had been a heavenly flame and no earthly one at all, which God had let appear miraculously, for to show and signify the fire of love divine wherewith the souls of those holy brothers and holy nuns were all aflame; wherefore they gat them gone with great consolation.

Emmaus: another meal where Christ  was present. 

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28 May: Happy Monday!

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What are some of the surprises that God has blessed you with today? Pray with this question and, together, let us allow our hearts to be open to being surprised by God’s grace!

Happy Monday!

Those few lines are by Father James Kurzynski, writing on the Vatican Observatory Website about a day full of good surprises. Do take up his challenge before bedtime, but also  follow this link to his surprising day. He was like a kid in an Astronomical Candy Store, he tells us, finishing with a shared meal with a friend and family.

Laudato Si’!

MMB

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16 May: A Prayer from Prison

stairs.v.e.A Prayer from Prison

Please keep in your thoughts and prayers –

all those who have left us

to rejoin society:

That they may continue

to do well

and never again

return to

Prison.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.    Anon.

Let us pray, too, for all who minister in prison, chaplains, staff and other prisoners.

Let us remember those in prison elsewhere in the world where conditions can be insanitary and dangerous. 

Lord in your Mercy, hear our prayer.

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The Latest News from L’Arche at Asha Vani in India.

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Here is more news from the L’Arche Community called Asha Vani in India.

Tension is Good?

Jean Vanier said, “Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. …Every tension, every crisis can become a source of new life if we approach it wisely, or it can bring death and division.” At Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar we have moments of grace and moments of challenge. I n the midst of tension, it is easy to feel sad, lonely, or angry (or all three). We must learn how to recognize and be present to these feelings in a healthy way. If we do not, they will begin to take joy and love from our own lives and the lives of those around us. In communities like Asha Niketan, this can be dangerous. We must use our challenges to help us practice patience, understanding, and communication. We must remember: every challenge creates an opportunity for growth; every challenge helps us to see the truth; and every challenge invites us to lean deeper into God’s love.

Bypass Update

As many of you know, we have been attempting to change the alignment of the Nandhi-Chengottukavu Bypass Road. Thanks to many efforts, a new alignment has been released that effects our community with less drastic results. We will lose land and a few older buildings ; however, we will be able to remain functioning as a community. Still, there are many persons

protesting the bypass completely. We wait to see what comes of these protests.

Feet Washing

Every year our community holds a feet washing ceremony, an important tradition upheld by L’Arche communities all over the world. This ceremony is from theChristian tradition, and imitates the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet on Holy Thursday. It is incredibly symbolic to Asha

Niketan ’s values of justice and equality. As we wash each other ’s feet, we are reminded that God created us to be equals, and to help one another as friends.

40 Year Celebration

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all those who supported and attended our 40th Anniversary Celebration on January 27th! Important messages, dance performances, musical performances, and an intentional drama made for a celebratory event. Thank you to everyone in the community for their the hard work and commitment. We recognize that the

event was not perfect, of course, but we would like to express our apologies for areas that were not considered well. Yet, the celebration aside, we are thankful to have lived a vibrant forty years of community life. Much has changed over the years, and more change is surely to come, yet our mission will remain the same : to be a sign of hope in the world that peace is possible. We will continue to be “home of hope” where people with and without intellectual disabilities can realize and practice theirgifts. And with this, we look forward to the next full and fantastic forty years to come.

Thikkodi Sports Day

On December 3rd, the community made its way to Thikkodi Beach for some friendly competition to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It was a long day full of sun, sweat, sand, and fun! Community members participated in events such as races, jumping competitions, and musical chairs. Each competition brought laughter and joy, leaving everyone feeling like a winner. Check out a short video on our YouTube channel!

Christmas and New Years

The community celebrated vibrant and cheerful Christmas and New Years celebrations.

With Christmas day came a full program which included family, friends, songs, prayer, a drama, dancing, gifts, and, of course, food. It was quite the day! New Years was a bit more relaxed with a smaller celebration between residential members on the evening of December 31st.

On Januar y 19 th we lost one of our beloved community members, Pajeesh. He shared life with us for over 18 years, and he will remain present in our hearts for years to come. His passing left us all fondly reflecting on moments, gifts, and lessons shared from his friendship. Prajeesh’s presence is deeply missed, but we know he has been welcomed into an infinitely joyful and loving community above.

Rest In Peace, Prajeesh

Happy Welcome

Over the past few months, we have said both, “Farewell” and “Welcome” to a number of community members. To those who have left the community, we wish you peace and success in the next step of your journey.

As for our newcomers, we wish you a warm and happy welcome! Aswanth, Ragesh, and Muhammad Salmin have been welcomed as core members in our day programmes. It has been exciting to see them begin to find their place, and offer their gifts. Vishnu has been welcomed as a residential core member in Deepalayam house, where he has brought a lively and playful spirit. Additionally, we have embraced two new assistants and one volunteer. Baskar has become an assistant in Prabalayam house, where he has shown a strong work ethic, as well as aptitude for fun and friendship. Felna has become an assistant in Anandalayam house, where she has brought a positive, youthful, and patient presence to the quiet home. And lastly, we have welcomed P raveena for a short term volunteer position, and she has been a joyful, confident, and helpful presence.

It is a joy to grow alongside these newcomers, and witness their gifts being discovered and shared with our community.

Community Founder Visit

In December we were graced with a visit from Chris Sadler the community’s founder! Her presence was inspiring and eye-opening. She has a beautiful connection with many community members, and, having been involved from the community’s beginning, she offers a unique perspective on our way of life. Thanks to her visit, we were able to share in some special moments and fun activities, and also open our eyes to areas where we are in need of adjustment and growth. We are so thankful for her inspiring storytelling, constructive suggestions, gentle encouragements, and, of course, her lovely laughter!

It was so hard to say goodbye. We wish her nothing but peace, joy, and presence for all her days.

(Note : Listen to her message to the community on our YouTube page, or read the transcription below)

Cinema Outing

I n February we took a group of over 60 community members out for lunch, a small program, and a movie. Needless to say, it was quite the outing! A ll were happy to share some time together outside the community grounds, and we even managed to grab the attention of the local news! How could we not with such a vibrant group ?

National Assembly 2017-2018

In January, representatives from Asha Niketan communitiesall over India came together for a week of formation and meetings at the annual National Assembly held this year in Calicut. L’Arche International Co-Leader, Stephan Posner, his wife, Yaël Posner, and L’Arche Asia Delegate, Tim Kearney, were also present. Yaël and our own international volunteer, Parker, headed the formation for the Core Member group throughout the week. Parker said, “This was a very special opportunity. We were from all over the world, and, despite our differences, we were able to foster legitimate relationships through creating art, taking walks, singing, dancing, eating, praying, and simply sitting together. I think we all learned a lot. ” There certainly was a lot of relationship building , learning, and sitting together for everyone throughout the week. Thank you to our leaders and the staff at SRC Christ Hall who worked hard to make it a success !

L’Arche International Co-Leader Visit

With the National Assembly being held so close to home, this means we were lucky enough to receive a visit from one of the L’Arche International Leaders, Stephan, and his wife, Yaël. They stayed with us for two nights and shared some special moments with our community. One evening, Stephan gave us some words of encouragement. He looked at Lancy, our eldest community member, and said, “This man is changing the world.” He was reminding us that we change the world one person at a time by building real mutual relationships with one another. Within these relationships we experience a personal change that opens our hearts and minds to greater understanding — hopefully one of greater gentleness, justice, and love. This change then spreads out into the world as we live out our lives with this new vision and energy. Needless to say, their visit was a very memorable experience for each

one of us !

National Leader Visit

We were happy to welcome Rajeevan at the beginning of March for his annual ivsit to our community. He held meetings with all the members of the community over the course of a few days. P rasannan, a core member from Prahbalayam House, talked with excitement for many days leading up to his meeting with Rajeevan. And although not many of us can match Prasannan’s excitement for meetings, meetings with Rajeevan are never dreaded because of the sincere concern, wise encouragement, and genuine conversation he always shares. We are thankful to have had him visit, and we are thankful to have him as our National Leader.

Tour Programmes

In March we went on two tours. One group went to Bangalore for three days, where they enjoyed a stay with the Asha Niketan Bangalore community. During their stay, they visited Lalbagh Park , the local zoo and safari, the local markets, and Infant Jesus Shrine. We cannot thank those at AN Bangalore enough for their very generous welcome and hospitality. Later, an additional group enjoyed a single day tour relaxing on a local houseboat. It was a full day of time shared togetherwith scenic views and a cool breeze off the water. Thank you to all who organized these successful and joyful tours!

A Message From Our Founder, Chr is Sadler

Greetings to you all.

Some people are kind enough to honor me with the name of Founder of Asha Niketan in Nandi Bazar, but this is not quite true. God is the foundation of all our lives. And there are many people behind me whom I would like to remember: Mr. Premanand who gave us the land, Gabriel who really helped to develop Asha Niketan in India, and Mr. Jayaprekash who was very helpful to me when I arrived in Calicut. And also Jean Vanier who founded L’Arche, and was a great inspiration to all of us.

Beside me are Subbaiyan, Gnanam, and Kanaran, and Haneefa and Unni, and also Mithran, Viswanthan, Lancy Ettan, and Remesh. I would like to say a few things, especially in honor of these four people with whom I have shared so many years.Viswanthan, who was the first of our founders to leave us from this earth, came from the mental hospital, came from a place of great degradation, and he amazingly brought to me and to many a spirit of resilience, cou rage, and joy. And Mithran, who came to us from Payyoli, and who has among many other things taught me to face my own fears. And Remesh, who struggled with inner voices and a whole history of bullying and rejection, but who taught me a lot about the funny side of life. And also how to keep dreaming and hoping . And I also want to remember Lancy Ettan whose gentleness has transformed many of us, and changed us into people who learn to listen to one another and care in the most gentle way, and then begin to treat ourselves and others with the same gentleness.

So these are the people I remember beside me as we started this community.

And now I want to remember and give thanks for all those who are in front of us. That is you. Each one of you is important. Each one of you matters. Each one of you has something unique to bring to our world. More than ever our world needs respect and healing . We need peace and joy, and the welcome of our differences. Our world needs us to be the best that we

can be.

Once Viswanthan was asked by a visitor, “To which God do you pray here?” And Viswanthan, in his inimitable capacity to be profound, said, “I do not know which God, all I know is that we pray in the light.” And a nother time he sang with h is whole heart, “Oh God, Oh God, I am here because of your love.” May our hope, our “asha,” be always

in light and in love. That’s it.

+91 49626 91620

ashacltnandi@gmail.com

Community Leader Noelia : noegrifell@hotmail.com

Chairman Dr. Sreedharan : drsridar@yahoo.co. in

ashaniketancalicutnandhibazar.org

@ashaniketannandibazar

Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar

Thank you for reading!

Want to Help?

Our community is always open to donations. At the moment we are looking for someone to donate some wooden furniture in both of our male residential homes. We have a number of

plastic chairs that are unable to withstand the daily use from community members. If you have furniture you would like to donate, or would like to sponsor new furniture, please contact our office by phone or email !

Additionally, all are excited for the coming Vishu holiday. If you arefeeling generous and would like to donate a Vishu gift to community members, we would be very excited to

accept! Core members are always in need of items such as clothing, soap, and other daily amenities. That said, all at Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar wish you a very joyful V ishu !

 

 

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18 April : A comforting doctrine: telling the truth in art. (Telling truth II)

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Edward Ardizzone was employed as an official War Artist during World War II, serving in North Africa, including El Alamein, then the invasion of Italy and the Normandy Landings. How does an artist convey the horrors and humanity of War? Ardizzone’s soldiers and civilians are human, drawn with a loving understanding of our fallen but persistently rising nature. This picture shows a scene on the beaches during the Normandy Landings and is from the Imperial War Museum, released on the public domain.

A couple of months before he had confided in his diary:

[I] have a feeling that painters should not be interested in metaphysics – should be simple people entirely absorbed in what they do. If they are big themselves, what they do is big – if little, little; but only a matter of degree like major and minor poets and not to be bothered about. A comforting doctrine for me who am feeling incredibly small at the moment.

Let us pray that sometime today we may experience the grace of being entirely absorbed in what we do: loving what we do, as Ardizzone loved his work and the humans he was painting.

MMB.

Diary of a War Artist, Edward Ardizzone, Bodley Head, 1974. Worth seeking out.

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January 15: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. I.

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Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle , first companion of St Francis

THE first companion of Saint Francis was Brother Bernard of Assisi, who was converted in this wise: While Saint Francis was still in the secular habit, albeit he had already despised the world, and went about being wholly held in scorn of men, mortifying his flesh by penances, in so much that by many he was thought foolish and was mocked at as a mad fellow, and was driven away with stones and foul abuse by his kinsfolk and by strangers, yet bore himself patiently amid all manner of ignominy and reproach, as though he were deaf and dumb: Bernard of Assisi, the which was of the noblest, and richest, and wisest in the city, began wisely to take heed unto Saint Francis, how exceeding strong his contempt of the world, how great his patience in the midst of wrongs, so that albeit for a two years’ space thus evil intreated of all persons and despised, he ever seemed the more constant; then he began to ponder and to say within himself: “In no wise can it be that this brother hath not abundant grace from God”; so he called him one evening to sup and lodge with him: and Saint Francis consented thereto and supped with him and lodged.

And thereat Bernard set it in his heart to watch his sanctity: wherefore he let make ready for him a bed in his own proper chamber, in the which at night-time ever a lamp did burn. And Saint Francis, for to hide his sanctity, when he was come into the chamber, incontinent did throw himself upon the bed and made as though he slept: and likewise Bernard after some short space set himself to lie down and fell to snoring loudly, in fashion as though he slept right soundly.

To be continued. But did Francis sleep?

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January 10: Temperance IV: Our Appetites and our Reason

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Our human nature was created by God in such a way as to insure our survival as a species. The bodily appetites that deliver the most pleasure also happen to be the very ones we most need in order to keep us going on the planet earth. In themselves, they are good, as St. Thomas affirms, and there is nothing wrong with the pleasure they give. But, paradoxically, we need some moderation in these areas in order to enjoy the pleasure they give. How do we manage this?

There is very little in our secular culture to help us here. The advertising media exploits all our appetites in order to sell its products, thereby increasing our desire to posses those products and experience those pleasures, and giving us a vague feeling of inferiority if we do not. Being sexually active is presented as the greatest and most fulfilling human experience by the story-line of most films, plays and television shows. Chastity is rarely presented at all, and almost never shown in a positive light. The pleasures of food and alcohol are raised to the level of culinary art by celebrity chefs and the entire food industry. Yet, the fact that there are a rising number of individuals pursuing Twelve Step1 programs in order to handle addictions in these areas testifies to the truth that the Church has always known and St. Thomas clearly articulated in the thirteenth century. We need self-control with regard to our pleasures.

We also need to think. Our mind, our reason is more powerful than we may realise and can give us the real guidance we need. How reassuring this information is: that we have within us the capacity to direct our growth in goodness. This is nothing to do with IQ, and everything to do with opening our mind to the truth and our heart to the promptings of grace.

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The media and pop culture rely on us not thinking very deeply – and certainly not praying – so that we may be seduced by the personalities and products the media presents, and become consumers of what they sell. If we do not think too much, then our appetite for power and pleasure and possessions will move us to buy things that the businesses supporting the media want us to buy – things that will seem to feed these appetites, and give us the illusion that we, too, look like media stars and share somehow in their life of glamour and pleasure. This is manipulation on a grand scale. This illusion is something from which we need to withdraw in order to discover our true identity. We desperately need our ability to think, we need the use of what St. Thomas would call our reason, in order to live on a level in which we see through what is fraudulent and empty. Only then will we discover the joy of living in communion with God, and with what is true, and with a set of values in which temperance as a virtue becomes possible to us.

SJC

1It is important to point out that there can be a difference between addiction and intemperance, at least where drugs and alcohol are concerned. Drug and alcohol addiction is usually considered a disease which originates in a genetic pre-disposition to it. The only “cure” is complete abstinence from all substances. This is not the place to give a full description of the characteristics of addiction. I refer those interested in learning more about this to any writings on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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