Patty Knap calls herself a “born again” Catholic. She planned to be a wife and mother of four or five kids with several girls, but as life played out, she’s a single mom with two young adult boys. She counsels at a crisis pregnancy center, teaches CCD, takes online classes with the Avila Institute, and loves the beach, dalmatians, and America’s national parks. She also saves recipes in a pile until it gets big and then throws them out.
“AA restores your health and keeps you from an early grave. Calix saves your soul and puts you on the road to heaven.” —William J. Montroy, Calix Society co-founder
Alcoholics Anonymous offers incalculable support and guidance for thousands of people each year. Often the life-changing impact leads participants to seek a stronger relationship with God outside of AA.
A Catholic organization for recovering alcoholics is helping them do just that.
The Calix Society is a Christ-centered recovery support group. Calix means “chalice” in Latin.
A group of recovering alcoholics in Minneapolis founded the Calix Society in 1947, after meeting weekly at the 5:30 a.m. Mass to pray for an alcoholic priest friend. Realizing their Catholic faith was the surest path to serenity without alcohol, they founded the organization and soon affiliated units sprang up in 70 cities, even without a central office, website or literature. Today there are 33 “units,” or chapters, across the U.S., one in Ireland and one in England. Each chapter is established with the permission of the local diocesan bishop.
Calix complements and extends the recovery efforts of AA and Al-Anon through prayer and the sacraments. In addition to the support of meetings and recovering friends, frequent reception of Holy Communion, confession, personal prayer, Holy Hours, Days of Recollection and retreats foster sanctification of the whole person.
Only when the recovering person achieves some measure of sobriety is he or she ready for Calix. The “credo” of the society tells the story: “Calix is an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Co-patrons of the Calix Society are Our Lady of Recovery and Venerable Matt Talbot.
The group’s primary concern is motivating a virtue of total abstinence in Catholics with an alcoholic problem. The second stated purpose is promoting spiritual development. Association and conversation together are meant to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to each other, geared toward growth in spiritual maturity.
Five Friends on Long Island
On Long Island, a group of five Chaminade Catholic High School alumni had already been meeting to support each other in their sobriety. “It’s fairly common for an AA member to have fallen away from or even completely abandoned his faith,” one member shared. “AA has a 'higher power' or 'God as you believe God to be. It’s non-denominational and everyone understands that. Well we believe God to be Jesus Christ, and we find it’s impossible without Him to stay sober. We wanted to be able to talk about God.” The five friends approached their former school in Mineola, New York, for space for a monthly retreat, and have been meeting weekly there ever since.
The monthly meetings included reading the Gospel and praying the Rosary. At some point one of the men heard about the Calix Society, and wondered if becoming part of it could reinforce what they were already doing. They contacted the central office to inquire about becoming a local unit, and then contacted the bishop for his permission to begin in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
One member had been in AA for 14 years “but he was really angry at God,” a member said. “He'd been through some tough stuff. He hadn’t been to confession in 27 years. Over two years with Calix, he changed completely.”
Substituting the Cup That Sanctifies for the Cup That Stupefies
“I had a hard enough time recovering with God,” said Tom, who helped form the new Calix unit. “I can’t possibly imagine doing this without him, and without the Eucharist.”
Tom has been sober for 16 years and found AA helpful in correcting the character flaws that fueled his addiction, and guiding him toward a more fulfilling life.
“While AA does reference God throughout the literature and step work, direct reference to religion is not encouraged,” he said. “The ‘Higher Power’ is left to be viewed by each member individually.”
“As years passed though, I began to increasingly feel that there was something missing in my life. I knew in my heart that it was my connection to God but did nothing to confront those feelings. I believe now that it was my guilt that had never really been addressed with Him that was blocking that connection.”
Then a good friend introduced him to Calix, simply saying it was a group of Catholic AA members focused on improving their conscious contact with God. “This seemed to be worth exploring and so I attended my first meeting. I had no idea at the time that my life would change from that day forward.”
“I was a bit apprehensive that my absence from the church and formal religion would be frowned upon but that was not at all the case. I was welcomed and encouraged to share openly about that fear from the start. … I became hungry to learn more and more and found what had been missing in my life — my connection with God.
“Through the encouragement of the group, I also found the strength to go to confession for the first time in over 30 years. … The feeling of peace was overwhelming. Before long, I found myself wanting more and began to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist every Sunday. I also learned the Rosary and recite it regularly with some of the men in the group every Tuesday before our meeting.
“I am a work in progress and don’t claim to be a model Catholic, but my family and friends have noticed the changes in me and my interaction with them. Calix has filled a void in my life and I look forward to continued participation!”