Category Archives: Me

The Future of the Four Last Things Blog

I have spent much of this past month discerning the future of “The Four Last Things Blog.” Originally it was to be an auxiliary to Sober Catholic but focusing on the specific subjects of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell (the four “last things” we are all going to face one day), rather than general recovery topics from a Catholic perspective. Purgatory, too. Although that isn’t a “Last Thing” as it precedes Heaven. This was because these subjects are rarely covered in Twelve Step meetings. However, despite the good intentions, I haven’t really done much. I never intended to blog extensively here at “The Four Last Things” anyway, but I had hoped to delve somewhat more into the various topics, even wandering off into metaphysical speculations and other randomness, as well as any possible grief recovery blogging. There are just over 150 posts which averages to nearly 18 a year. A lot are repetitious ones from prior years on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, cemetery visits and devotions and the like. But, “I never intended to blog extensively anyway” when combined with a slacker-blogger attitude has resulted in the blog being essentially undeveloped.

More activity has been found on the blog’s social media Pages on Facebook and Google+. I might keep those. That’s part of the discernment. I could just as easily post Four Last Thing’s material to “Sober Catholic’s” social Pages in the future, I just don’t know. It might be better to just consolidate. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a way to export content from a Facebook or Google+ Page and import that content into another one. There are points to continuing the Pages or deleting them (or consolidating them into “Sober Catholic’s” if that’s possible.)

So, given that the stated purpose of the blog was to bring a focus onto the Four Last Things as they are mostly ignored in the real life rooms and online universe of addiction recovery, and as this blog’s publishing has fallen way short of that desired goal, I think that the most reasonable solution is to combine “The Four Last Things Blog” into “Sober Catholic.” Relevant posts can be published there, and in case I feel a need to blog on matters such as death, dying and the afterlife but without the recovery aspect, those posts can go on “Paul Sofranko’s Blog.” At any rate, “Four Last Things” type posts will be far more visible than they are now, continuing to exist in the post-shutdown afterlife 😉

So, the possible plan for shutting it down will be to export the blog’s file, then import that file into Sober Catholic. This file includes all posts, comments, categories, tags and media. I have to manually transfer blogrolls and sidebar widgets; one of the latter, the “Find a Grave” widget, will go to “Paul Sofranko’s Blog.”

But for now I’ll just post this here for now and think about it. One historical sidenote: way back before I self-hosted my blogs they were on Google’s Blogspot servers; I decided once to delete “the Four Last Things,” then changed my mind and resurrected it. So, there’s been some doubt all along as to whether this is a worthy standalone effort. However, it has been in continuous existence since 2010.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Happy Ninety-ninth, Mom

My Mom would have turned 99 years old today. Born January 20, 1916, she married my Dad on April 15, 1937 (before that became Income Tax Day here in the USA) and she passed away November 7, 2005. In between she served the Church in her capacity as a teacher’s aide. and later secretary at the parish school. Oh, she also raised 5 kids. I was the fifth. Mom and Dad needed to practice on the first four before they got to having me. 😉

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Death is gain

The Second Reading from Today’s Mass for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philiippians:

Philippians 1: 20C-24: “Brothers and sisters:Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

via USCCB.

This is one of the two essential “missions” for this blog. One being to discuss certain things that don’t get much traffic in Twelve Step meetings; the other is a way to express my yearnings for the afterlife.

The latter is by no means a suicidal wish for I will remain on the Earth for as long as God wishes to keep me here.

But I do long to “depart this life and be with Christ,” for that is truly better. But, unless I am mistaken, I feel that He still has plans for me in this life, plans I continue to discern and carry out to the best of my ability. Which quite often seems very insufficient.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

November 7th: a Death and a Rebirth, Part 2

Earlier today I wrote Part 1 of this post.

This “rebirth” part is difficult to write, as the birth pangs were years-long, torturous and the result (which is still developing, in a way) was inconceivable at the beginning.

The rebirth was in essence that of a “new me” slowly being born. Not in the born-again context of Evangelical Christians but in that a large part of me died when Mom did, and out of the ashes of that life a new person arose.

The symbolism of this was apparent when I went through grief counseling and I discovered major parallels between that and alcohol recovery work. Just as I am being reborn during my recovery from alcoholism, so I was experiencing a rebirth in trying to establish a “new normal” without Mom around.

The “new normal” is a term in grief work which means that you have to establish a new rhythm to your life without the deceased in it. The dead person was a part of your life, and that person is no longer in it in a physical manner. A part of you is now missing and somehow you have to account for the missing piece. How will you go on living now? What will pass for “normal?” What will the new “ordinary life” look like and how will you get there?

It wasn’t easy. I had wanted to die. I felt that my mission in life was over now that Mom was gone. I didn’t consider myself particularly good at anything and so I thought I existed to care for Mom when she got old. I prayed for death. Not in a suicidal wish, just that God would take me home.

The Lord had other plans. He stomped on me and put the crushed me through a wine press. The fermentation process took a few years and various people came and went while seeing me through it.

And “through it” was key. You have to go through grief, work through it for if you avoid or defer it you will suffer greatly later on. Much like a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t completely clean up their past or face resentments. You refuse to deal with things, then they will deal with you.

And I trudged on, through the grief and the soul-scorching aloneness I felt.

As I said three paragraphs ago, various people came and went through my initial period of griefwork. All served a purpose and I was grateful to them. But stability was not a crowning achievement of my life in those days. I felt as if I was living in quicksand.

More, later today or early tomorrow in Part 3.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

November 7th: a Death and a Rebirth, Part 1

Tomorrow, November 7th, will be the 5th anniversary of my Mom’s death.

Today in 2005 was her last full day alive on Earth. I sensed it would be as she lay in her hospital bed not responsive to eating or drinking anything. Her energy levels just seemed markedly lower than in previous days. The day before, November 5th, she seemed brighter and more vital, relatively speaking. There was a family reunion in her hospital room as my siblings, her grandchildren and in-laws, some whom she hadn’t seen in many years gathered about.

Once the family reconnection was over, it looked as though she was comfortable with all that. She saw her people.

There was a storm in town that night, and a major power outage in the area, so I spent the night in her hospital room as the old house of hers was darkened. There was little point in staying there and the hospital had generator power, so…

If I recall correctly, she drifted in and out of sleep all night long. She was not communicative anyway.

About 6:25 AM the nurses arrived for her morning vitals and such, and I saw outside that power was restored to the town so I decided to go back to the house to wash up and have breakfast.

At 6:28 AM I leaned over her bed and told her that, along with the news that I’ll be back in an an hour or so.

And then I said “I love you, Mom.”

She softly, barely a whisper, replied, “I love you, too.”

I turned and left and went down the hallway to the elevator the the ground floor. After I exited the hallway and started to make my way to the parking lot I heard the hospital doors burst open and the voice of a nurse cry out, “Sir!?!?” I turned around and she was beckoning me to return.

In just the couple of minutes since my departure she had died.

I have the feeling that my Dad, who had died in 1995 was waiting to greet her as she went home and wanted her to himself as he escorted her to Jesus. (The fact that nurses were present is irrelevant, they were there for their job. I am family and there would be a symbolic notion for Dad wanting me elsewhere. I had been her caregiver and now he was taking over.)

So. My Mom died.

(Disclaimer: I do not mean to “canonize” my Mom. I understand that she might have spent some time in Purgatory. But due to the possibility that time flows differently in the afterlife, and we are discussing a dimension that is eternal, who knows what exactly transpired subjectively for my Mom just at 6:30 AM on November 7, 2005.

I write this disclaimer due to the common practice at funerals, Catholic and others, of automatically assuming that the deceased wind up in Heaven right away. Purgatory or ***GASP*** Hell is never discussed. Admittedly I am not open to the idea she is condemned, as she devoted her life to serving the Lord and her family.

Subjectively to her she may have spent some time in Purgatory, maybe objectively to us, if we were able to observe, hardly any time at all. Such may be the ways of eternity.

Part 2 will be later today.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Fifteen years ago today, my father died

NOTE: This is reposted from an earlier date:

On this date in 1995 my father died.

He and I weren’t very close, (“fathers and sons …”) generational and attitudinal differences separated us.

As a result, I didn’t really grieve over his death. I mean, I was saddened and did feel the loss, but I wasn’t ripped apart by his death like I was over my Mom’s 10 years later.

This relative lack of impact was aided by the fact that I was 2,500 miles away and hadn’t seen him in 4 years.

I went home for his funeral, and reconnected with the family, but when I returned home to California I continued life as usual. I had started drinking heavily to cope with life’s problems a year before (failed romance) and my drinking picked up a little more upon my return, so that may have softened the need to grieve in a sober manner.

The point of this is that although I wasn’t too close to Dad during his life, I am much closer to him now. That would seem strange to non-Catholics, but for believers with a knowledge of the Communion of Saints, that shouldn’t seem strange at all.

Death doesn’t end a life. Death is just a passage from this life to another. This life is temporary, everything “is”, and then passes away to dust and a dim memory. The life after is eternal. Whether that life is spent in Heaven or Hell depends on what you do in your Earthly life.

There is a connection between those of us still here on Earth and those deceased. It is called, as I referenced in a previous paragraph, the Communion of Saints . (Via New Advent.) This is comprised of the “Church Militant” (those still on Earth), the “Church Suffering” (those in Purgatory) and the “Church Triumphant” (those in Heaven). Only the souls that have damned themselves to Hell are excluded.

“Communion” implies a community, wherein the members still can relate to one another. This relation is conducted by the means of prayer. We pray to the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering for their intercessory power with God. We can somehow sense their presence (although admittedly that “sensing” may be wishful thinking).

They are there to help, comfort and console us. We are separated from them by the chasm of death, but that chasm can be crossed eventually by our own deathly passage.

I said earlier in this post that I am much closer to Dad now than while he was alive. I have grown to be much like him, at least with regard to the practice of my Catholic Faith. (I still haven’t taken up woodworking as a hobby, nor returned to fishing as a pastime, but may in time. I do enjoy yardwork, like he did, and love baseball, too.) I understand him better as the years progress and as I grow older.

To anyone who has lost a parent (or anyone beloved) to death, fear not. They are not gone from you permanently. Consider them as just having moved far away, and the distance you need to travel to meet with them again will take the rest of your life.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Today would have been Mom's birthday

Today, January 20th, would have been my Mom’s birthday. She would have been 93. She died a few years ago, just shy of her 90th. The fact that she led and lived a full life doesn’t minimize her death. (“Well, Paul, she did live a long time.”)

I miss her. I have the hope of seeing her, and other loved ones, again in Heaven.

I am trying to spiritually develop so that my yearnings for Heaven are proper, that is I desire to get to Heaven to be united with God and not just so that I am reunited with my lost loved ones and God just happens to be there, too. That takes God for granted and that Heaven is just a perpetual playground or wonderful endless happy family reunion with Christmas and Easter dinners and picnics all thrown together.

Yearn for the face of the beloved, and all else will fall into place, as well. Trust in God.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

The Four Last Things

There are four unalterable, unavoidable truths that every human must eventually face.

You will die.

You will be judged.

You will be received into Heaven or…

 … your life will condemn you to Hell.

Period. No wishful thinking will alter the above truths. They are expressly laid out in the Bible and they cannot be avoided.

“But I’m not Christian…” Yeah, so what. Non-Christian religions may have much truth in them and they may lead people to God, but only in Judeo-Christianity has God revealed Himself to us and wrote a roadmap to the afterlife and salvation in the Bible. You will be judged for what you are responsible for (more on that in a later post).

Anyway, my name is Paul, and I am an alcoholic who found sobriety from drink in the Twelve Steps of a recovery program but discovered sustained sobriety in the Catholic Church. In the course of my recovery, I thought more deeply than most other 12-Steppers of my acquaintance on the eternal verities. Death. Judgement. Heaven. Hell. The four unavoidables.

I’ve rarely heard these topics brought up in recovery meetings, except that some members presumed that they’ve already experienced Hell or went through Purgatory on Earth as a consequence of their drinking. I understood that as an expression of suffering, but I wondered about the real places , or whatever they are. That will be explored in this blog.

This won’t be your typical recovery blog, not that my primary blogging effort: Sober Catholic is normal, either. (At least by people who are used to straight up Twelve Step blogs.) This blog should also be of interest to people not in recovery but who are curious about the afterlife from a Catholic perspective. Just filter out any “Don’t drink” talk. 

Concerning not drinking, another reason why I am starting this blog is that one thing I’ve heard in 12 Step meetings is the basic conviction or feeling that once you’ve stopped drinking, that’s it. You’ve run the race and you’re “in”. That’s always bothered me. Just not drinking today isn’t enough. You may still sin (that is, offend God), and perhaps even mortally sin. There are whole other ways to screw up your life besides drinking. You may still do those. Hopefully this blog will make you aware of that and start thinking beyond “just not drinking.”  

I will try my best to present everything from a point-of-view that is Catholic, and authentically so. No pick-and-choose “cafeteria Catholic” here.

Hopefully, this will actually be fun, in a strange sort of way.  I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to to do this beyond musings and meditations on the four unavoidables and related things, using my own thinking and authentic Catholic teachings.  I have this image in my head of me going around and taking pictures of cemetery plots and using them as visual reminders. “Someday, this will be where you’ll be, or someplace quite like it.” 

I will discuss grief, a particular interest of mine. I will also talk about Purgatory, and yes, the Church still teaches that it exists. 
Anyway, take care and read on.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"