Address by Bishop Éamonn Walsh at the launch of the IBDI booklet of prayers and reflections for those affected by addiction – Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
• I welcome the statement by Minister of State for Primary Care at the Department of Health, Alex White, regarding the practice of marketing of alcohol: “The biggest concern is marketing that is visible to children and young people.”
I welcome comedian Des Bishop’s gentle, humorous yet effective highlighting of Ireland’s destructively unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Few in Ireland need go far down the family tree to find relatives who have or had a very destructive relationship with alcohol that affected the lives of their nearest and dearest. When children are victims the damage can be incalculable.
In 1996 the World Health Organisation stated: “All children and adolescents have a right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of Alcohol Beverages”.
Untold stories we already know
‘Tara’ tells her primary school teacher: “I am ashamed to bring my friends home as I don’t know what state my mother will be in drink or what mess the house will be in.” What a weight on such young shoulders.
‘Andy’ was six weeks out of treatment when he telephoned on Friday afternoon at 4.30pm: “Can we meet Eamonn, I am desperate and on the drink.” I suggested that we talk when he was sober, to which he replied: “I can only talk when I am drinking.” He insists that we meet in a city centre pub. As Andy looks at his pint he says: “It is poison, it’s killing me, I asked my friends to shoot me but they refused. Can you help me? I hate myself. I am no good.” A week later he phones again to tell me that his GP has a new drug that has worked with ‘heavy drinkers’ allowing them have two or three a few times a week and not want for more. Andy has a long journey ahead. It will be a while before he can be a father to his daughter again.
Many of us are familiar already with these stories: it could be of a family member; a friend or colleague – only the names need to change.
Prayer booklet for addiction
The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative new pocket book of prayers and reflections is a reflective resource to give hope, support and the will to carry on, to all who are struggling with misuse of drugs/alcohol, their families, those in treatment, recovery and denial.
Temperance, balance in life, change of heart begins within. This booklet is an aid to inner reflection. It invites us to go into our inner room and “ponder God’s Word in our heart.” Gradually through reflecting on God’s love for each one of us, a person can regain their self-respect and begin “to let go, let God.” Day by day “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” comes alive.
The Psalms speak to every mood and life’s happenings. They are the distilled faith-filled prayers that have stood the test of time. This one speaks to the person that feels that they are in the gutter and have reached “rock bottom”,
‘Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck,
I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold’ (Ps:69).
I asked Paschal to write a reflection to help people affected by alcohol/ drugs. The following was among his prayers and reflections:
My faith waned when life strained
My faith left when I lost hope
My faith in you was all but gone
Until I realized it was you who helped me carry on
This booklet may serve some to open wide the “door of faith” (Acts 14:27). In a world of noise, reflection on God’s Word and meditation, allows us to hear the gentle promptings of God in the depths of our heart. It means more of “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”, rather than listen Lord your servant is speaking.
Through listening prayer, the temperate mind and heart gradually emerges. It was through this reflective prayer that Isaiah took courage and faced his fear and sense of inadequacy.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
Whom shall I send? Who will be my messenger?
I answered, ‘Here I am, send me. (Isaiah 6:8)
In his Apostolic Letter to launch this current Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI, in urging the opening of the “door of faith”, said: “It is possible to cross the threshold when the Word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace.” (Porta Fidei, par 1)
The listening prayer releases the “transforming grace” for those struggling with the misuse of alcohol/drugs and other addictive behaviours, those affected and people who see such needs as not their concern.
Marketing of alcohol to young people
But what can any of us do? We can join forces and say enough is enough! The time has come for society to no longer stand idly by allowing conditions and practices continue which will expose our young people to a life of unnecessary misuse of drugs/alcohol.
I welcome the statement on 4 February last by Minister of State for Primary Care at the Department of Health, Alex White, regarding the practice of marketing of alcohol: “The biggest concern is marketing that is visible to children and young people.”
Society needs to find imaginative ways of protecting children from being used as drinks advertisements on sports jerseys. Only a strong public determination will enable legislators to tackle the many vested interests which gain from this and similar practices.
We all need to put our shoulder to the wheel and add real weight to the Minister’s pledge to address minimum pricing for alcohol products and to curb gradually their corporate sponsorship in sport.
The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative is a cross community support working in over 250 parishes involving over 1000 volunteers, to assist parishes and communities to address the challenges of alcohol/drugs misuse which affects every quarter of the country.
This prayer book and reflections is intended as a pastoral and spiritual resource that is available through contacting The IBDI, Columba Centre, Maynooth, Co Kildare, or can be ordered through the website www.irishbishopsdrugsinitiative.com.
Notes for Editors
• The above picture taken outside Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin for the launch of Prayer book for those affected by addiction includes: Bishop Eamonn Walsh, vice-chair of the IBDI, Ms Patricia Conway, chair of the IBDI, Mr Jim Donnelly, in recovery from addiction
. Photographs from the launch are available from the Catholic Communications Office 00 353 (1) 5053017
• Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of His public ministry, and ends as we begin the Easter Triduum, celebrating the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday
• The ‘Pastoral Response to Substance Misuse’ is an initiative of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. It was founded in 1997 and currently supports over 250 parish projects with over 1,000 volunteers in responding to alcohol and other drug misuse. The chairperson of the IBDI is Patricia Conway, vice-chair is Bishop Éamonn Walsh, Auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin, and the national coordinator is John Taaffe. See www.irishbishopsdrugsinitiative.com
• Substance misuse and addiction can result in a spiritual loss for a person who may become disconnected from self, loved ones, and God. One of the goals of the Pastoral Response is to help individuals reconnect: with self, loved ones, and with God. When the life of one whom we love is at risk, and when the quality of life for those close to that person is threatened, we have a Christian responsibility to respond in a supportive and loving manner. Our initiative today seeks to help those affected by addiction to fully reconnect, and the IBDI has published the new prayer and reflection booklet as a resource for those who may need it.
• In 2007 alcohol-related problems in Ireland were estimated to cost €3.7 billion – every seven hours, someone in Ireland dies from an alcohol-related illness (Alcohol Action Ireland).
• With the support of the IBDI many parishes have become self-sufficient in the challenge to prevent drug use. The community mobilisation initiative operates across religious denominations within the thirty two counties and does so in partnership with statutory and voluntary bodies. This cross community support works to assist local parishes and communities to address the challenges of alcohol and drug misuse throughout the country.
• The work of the IBDI involves four key areas:
1. Information / awareness (Parish Prevention Pack)
2. Education / Training (Peer 4 Peer Education Programme)
3. Alternative activities to alcohol drug use ( Youth Café)
4. Support for families and those affected (A/A, N/A, Alanon, Family Support, Advocate for policy change)
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444