Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Addiction affects the lives of almost half of Americans in the US. According to the recent numbers 1 of 7 adults suffer from at least one addiction, and 46% of Americans has a family member or a friend who battling addiction from addiction. It’s important for us to understand first what is an addiction, how it impacts the brain function, so that we can understand better those who are struggling.
There are two very important brain activities that are affected with addiction, they are the limbic system and the cortex. The first is responsible for our basic survival instincts. Whenever we perform essential activities to stay alive, such as, eat, drink, rest, care of the young, the brain reinforces the behavior by releasing dopamine. This hormone gives the sensation of “feel good” or pleasure. The memory of such feeling of reward is recorded in our brain, so that we can seek it again. This is our survival hardwiring. The second, the (pre-frontal) cortex, regulates our decision making and it controls our impulses. When a person has an addiction, whether substance abuse or something else, the addictive activity activates the same dopamine process from the “survival center”. The problem begins when such activity is repeated, it can “hijack” the usage of our brain to the point that it will change/rewire the brain, to make it believe that the addiction is a prime need for survival. By hijacking the brain, the addiction will change our decision making and control our impulses, so that the person is no longer making rightful decisions. It can even substitute or even “eliminate” the survival activities. One can say that it’s not logical or rational, that’s because the brain is no longer capable of making the right decisions or holding the impulses because of the hijack. As a consequence, the body will require more and more of the addiction in order to activate the same level of reward or pleasure that it would be natural for the person. All of this process also harms the brain tissue causing further consequences. This is a very simplistic explanation of the process of addiction. More could be said about the neurotransmitters that are not “enticed” with simple things after addiction, being necessary for greater pleasures.
Once we grasp a little the process of addiction, we understand a little better the struggle that people go through. The person may have made a willful decision to engage in such behavior, but the addiction will eliminate the will power to come out of it. More often than not, the addiction itself causes much pain and shame for the people more for not being able to come out of it or to stop. They would love to come out of it, but many times they can’t. So how can they be helped?
Although it’s a modern discovery, starting in 1950 and really growing in the 90’s, the study of brain disorder and substance abuse has developed a lot ever since. There is treatment out there that helps the brain to be healed, and the brain activities will no longer be hijacked by the addiction. Studies report that although a very large percentage of the population suffers from addiction, only a small fraction seeks treatment. Another element is also the shame or the stigma about addiction or substance abuse. In all treatments, family support is always the greatest ally in this battle. That’s why we as Catholics are called to step up and support not only those suffering from addiction, but also those around them. It’s not a matter of judging, bashing people, but recognizing that it’s a very difficult battle. I would like to invite those who are available to pray for those struggling with addiction in our next 24hr adoration over Labor day weekend (Sunday September 5th from 6pm – Monday 6pm). I would also like to invite those available to participate in the Candlelight Vigil this Tuesday August 31st in observance of Overdose Awareness Day. It starts at 6:45pm with a slideshow memorial and the event itself will start at 7:30pm. It will take place in front of the Walker building, but in case of rain, it will in the Lower Church or Meehan Hall. Let’s remember and pray for 2,104 people who died of overdose in Massachusetts this past year out of 93,000 who passed in the US. Let us ask our Heavenly Father to have mercy and them and may Mother Mary console their families and their loved ones, and May St. Monica whose feast day was Friday give strength to all mothers whose children struggle with addiction.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have asked Deacon Chuck to help our much needed Pro-Life ministry to get restarted. This week he is sharing with us an important way in which we can help protect lives. Soon there will be more initiatives to help the cause.
Campaign to Reverse The Roe Act
Greetings, sisters and brothers of our Immaculate Conception Parish community! Earlier this year, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a pro-death abortion law (the Roe Act) which is one of the most radical in the country. In addition to other horrific provisions, this law removed the legal protection that had been provided for babies that were born alive despite having been targeted for death in abortion.
Our goal is to enact a new law to restore the protection for babies born alive. This will require the statewide collection of 80,239 signatures on a petition in the fall of 2021 and then letting the people vote on it in the fall of 2022.
The MA Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions is teaming up with other organizations such as Massachusetts Citizens for Life, ReNew MA Coalition, MA Family Institute, and the MA GOP in order to successfully conduct this signature drive campaign. The name for this combination of groups is the Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition. Its volunteers will be here to collect signatures on this pro-life petition. The petition states: “Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, shall be taken to preserve the life of the child born alive.”
Per the requirements of the state constitution, the actual signature drive can only take place beginning on or about September 10 and will end on November 17. You are urged to sign this petition. We’ll arrange to have tables for signing set up at the entrance of the church to facilitate this process. And please consider volunteering to help in the signature gathering effort. In this regard, see Deacon Chuck (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) or send an email to Tom Harvey, Chairman - MA Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions, at: email@example.com
You’ll hear more about this important initiative as we approach the campaign date. Stay tuned for these updates, and thank you immensely for your support!
Trusting in Jesus always –
Dcn Chuck Rossignol
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The other day I heard from a priest something that struck me in a profound way. He said that “prayer is when we ask God to be with us.” It’s very interesting how he phrased that. Many times, we ask God for things when we pray, which there is nothing wrong about it, or we pray because it’s what we do, or what we are supposed to do. While it’s true that not always do we have the great disposition to pray due to distraction or tiredness, there are times that we pray with our whole heart. Prayer does not have to be the structured order that we can be used to; reciting prayers only. The saints have always described it as a dialogue/conversation with God. They even referred to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Mary very affectionately, as if they were talking face to face with them. In light of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I would like to reflect our desire to have God with us.
We were created by God in his image and likeness for heaven. Therefore, there is an innate (natural) desire to be reunited to our creator and to return where we came from. Even the philosophers from antiquity and many movies show how people always want to discover where they came from and where they were raised. Whether there is a quest to find one’s parents or the house where their family lived at a certain point, people go great lengths to achieve that. We are not much different than they in this aspect. There is a great desire inside each one of us to know our Father and where we came from. Prayer, if you will, is a glimpse of that. Maybe like looking for an old family photo with the old house in the background. When we pray, we have this opportunity to open ourselves to tell God that we truly want to be with him. It is not an automatic response such as “God bless” when someone sneezes, but there is a deeper intentionality there, where we say, GOD PLEASE BE WITH ME. Technically we ask God to TAKE US WHERE HE IS.
When we pray the Our Father, we ask God’s kingdom to come to us, or for us to be taken to His kingdom. This desire to be with God in heaven was certainly at the heart of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, she was raised going to the temple with her father, prayed the psalms with her mother, and spent time reading the scriptures. She was not training to be a Jewish Scholar, but only wanted to know God better and to be with Him all the time. Her prayer to God was not sacrificial or hard, because it was like spending time with a friend. Her whole life could be seen at this perspective, and how she endured many difficulties only to be with her creator, and to return where she came from. The feast of the Assumption that we will celebrate this weekend is the moment which God allows Mary to enter in Heaven. In the Church we call that moment the Dormitio of Mary. We say that she did not die, since death was a consequence of Original sin, which she did not have. When she fell asleep, she was taken/raised/brought up to heaven, as she asked so many times in her life.
Let’s ask brothers and sisters, with the same fervor of Mary, that God may give us the strength to go through the difficulty of life looking at what was promised to us, see Him face to face. As a person may have to deal with flight delays, problems with TSA, sitting uncomfortably on a tight airplane seat to achieve their desired destination, the same happens to us. Let’s be focused in going to heaven, that everything we do, may always be guided towards that. Let’s anticipate heaven here on earth as when we pray. Whether you come to Church for 10 minutes each day, sit in the yard, or go to a beautiful place, ask God to be with him, ask Mary to help us to do what she did, so that when God calls us to himself, we are ready to go!
May the Blessed Mother intercede for us, so that we may always be attentive to the things that are above, and one day, may merit to be sharers of her glory, Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This week the Church remembers St. Maximilian Kolbe, also known as prisoner #16770. Many might have heard about him, but I would like to share some information about his life, especially how love overcame the hatred of WWII.
Born as Rajmund Kolbe, St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe, was a great saint who did much to the Church and the evangelization of the world. Before the beginning of the war, St. Maximilian had founded a religious order, created a Catholic magazine in Poland and Japan. He even had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary when he was a young boy who presented him two crowns if he were to accept. One was white that represents that he would persevere in purity and the other red that he would be a martyr.
Unfortunately, Poland was not only the birthplace of many saints, but it was also the place of the largest Nazi concentration camp, where over 1 million people were killed, most of whom were Jews. One of these victims was a Franciscan priest who refused to be indifferent to the suffering of so many people. St. Maximilian and his four companions took 3,000 refugees in their monastery, most of whom were Jews, about 2,000.
In 1941, the friary was shut down, and the Franciscans along with the refugees were sent to the concentration camp of Auschwitz. There Maximilian continued to minister to those in need, celebrating the sacraments hidden from the soldiers and supporting the faith of those imprisoned. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry thinking about his wife and children. Unable to bear this, Fr. Kolbe stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, 'I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.' There is also people who say that he volunteered to die with the other men in order to minister those 10 men in such difficult moment. When they arrived in the place of their death, there are reports that their voices could be heard praying and singing praises to God. As the days passed, the voices started fading away, but always present.
Maximilian Kolbe, prisoner No. 16770 suffered more than 15 days of torment, before succumbing to a lethal injection of carbolic acid. He died at 12.30 on 14 August, 1941 at the age of 47, a martyr of charity.
Let us pray that God continue to bless us with the witness of many selfless men and women who love others as God has loved them, and that the love of God may always be stronger than any evil.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Pray for us.
Father Steven Clemence