Synod on Family and the Threat of Alcoholism Today

Baptiste-Mapunda-2014By Fr. Baptiste Regina Mapunda (M.Afr), Wa Diocese-Ghana
Pope Francis’ convocation of the marriage and family synod is timely as the institution of family is facing many difficulties today. The modern understanding of the Church is now described as “the first school of love and life” the source of life for every human being. Saint John Paul II in his encyclical “Consortio Familiaris” points out that “the life of every human being passes through the family.” The question at stake is how has this family today become the birthplace of every one of us?
This institution which is very fundamental to our life, Church and the society at large is facing a lot of threats for the time being from married people themselves, families, Church teaching on marriage, addictions, financial hardships and good parenting among others. The convocation of the upcoming synod on marriage and family is a clear sign for me that the Pope understands the sufferings and struggles of families today which need the attention and healing from the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit “go to every house and announce the Kingdom of God, eat and drink but don’t forget to heal the sick” (Luke 10: 1-12).
The situation of our families today is calling for great care and good pastoral ministering as well.  Evangelization of families poses a huge pastoral challenge in our modern Church today all around the world. The family has become a place of “evangelization and healing” to put in the language of Jesus Christ who became flesh through Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:14). The Church cannot afford to avoid families today, because they are the ‘domestic or first Church’ that prays and live together’ united by the love of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Reflecting upon the challenges that face families today one cannot fail to notice the big threat that come from alcoholism. Today alcohol is found in many families as sometimes our families act as a bar, alcohol is found in our religious houses, parish houses, formation houses, in offices, in our car boots and even in our pockets. It is to say that alcohol is cunning, powerful and baffling. Alcoholism is a reality and has become normal to our life. But in truth alcoholism is an addiction better described as a sickness by the medical department and the alcoholic anonymous fellow men and women. While alcohol sounds a beautiful beverage to be consumed but experience teaches us that alcohol must be taken sensibly and without excess. Medical and recovering alcoholics have testified that ‘too much consumption of alcohol is harmful’ it actually leads into sickness and ultimately premature death.
Alcoholism becomes an addiction due to the fact that in finally analysis it becomes a physical and psychological dependence on psychoactive substance which is alcohol. When it becomes an addiction alcohol is able to alter ones brain and behavior without the awareness of the person concerned. This is where alcohol becomes a suffering to many couples and families. It brings madness and creates dysfunctional families and societies around the world.
It is important for the synod members to understand that alcoholism is the most common of all the addictions because it coexists with human beings, yet alcohol kills many family members silently. In fact alcoholism is a human sickness which has no race, religion or a continent to be referred to like Ebola or malaria. Often than not, alcoholism is described as a disease of progressive nature characterized with denial. An alcoholic denies that he drinks too much; he denies that his or her life is in a mess and so forth. Salvation comes only once one accepts his sickness.
To most families very often when faced with an alcoholic family member the question is always ‘what can we do’ to help him or her? What can the Church do to help addicted Christians today? The first thing is to get proper information about the alcoholism as a sickness. As a communicator I think that through  advocacy and effective communication only can this demon  called alcohol  we have to live with can be efficiently caged. Without accurate information of this killer disease of alcoholism and the inherent dangers of alcohol will continue to violently rape and destroy our families which is the foundation of our Church and the society at large.
It is in this sense that alcohol has become the worst enemy of our families today, the Church and the world at large. Alcohol is causing suffering, pain, family stress, crime, marriage breakups (divorce), incest, rape in families and society, violence, fatal accidents, dysfunctional families, bad parenting and breeds immoral behavior in the society. Finally alcoholism creates irresponsible and alcoholic citizens who will die prematurely.
All in all, the question is what can the Church do to save the deteriorating situation before it is too late. It is here that the notion of ‘smelling the sheep’ notion of Pope Francis must be put into reality.
This upcoming synod on marriage and family is the proper place to look critically into this problem of alcoholism. What are the felt effects of alcoholism in our families and the Church of today? Is the Church close enough to the people (families) to be able to discuss, give advice and render help to the suffering members? Are the Bishops and priests well informed about this acute problem that eats up their Church members? I believe that the Church can be of great help to render help and treatment to the suffering family members today if it takes seriously these issues.
Catholic Church can wisely adapt the (AA) Alcoholic Anonymous program in parishes as a pastoral method to help the addicted Christians. In Europe and America the presence of AA is already there it is a matter of finding the healthy way of integrating it into our family healing ministry in a parish. I would like to  believe that Jesus’ ministry is basically of healing as he put it rightly himself that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and that  he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor and healing the broken hearted” (Luke  4:18-19). I believe that among the broken hearted are the suffering alcoholics.
It is my belief that if Catholic Church will advocate the use of the 12 steps of the Alcoholic Anonymous as the recovery program for suffering family members it will be of great advantage. This program is a spiritual program that believes in higher power which is God in finally analysis but as you understand Him in your heart. Alcoholics Anonymous is described as a” fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to overcome their  alcoholism.”
Finally let us continue to pray with the Holy Father and the whole Church for the success of this upcoming synod on marriage and family in October 2014. In a more practical way the Catholic Church needs to establish what I call ‘family healing ministry’ and apply as a pastoral tool in the evangelization of the families today. In a special way let us pray for the flourishing of the healing ministry in our Church today as the focal point in the ministry of Jesus Christ using the serenity prayer:
“Oh Lord grant me the Serenity to accept the Things I cannot Change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to Know the Difference, Amen.”
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One thought on “Synod on Family and the Threat of Alcoholism Today

  1. Pingback: Jubilees of confreres who were or still are in SAP – 2015 | Missionaries of Africa – SAP Province

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