Every person’s deeply rooted desire to be happy attracts particularly intense temptation from Satan, the greatest enemy of human happiness.
His strategy of temptation is designed to create in a person the conviction that happiness and a positive self-image depend on unlimited sensual pleasure and emotional experiences. That is one of the most insidious and dangerous of lies, because in a person’s life, the most important thing is love and maturing in love, and not concentrating on the unbridled consumption of bodily pleasures and sensations.
When nothing is limited, the experience of pleasure becomes the principle goal of life, transforming it through uncontrolled lusts, which degrade and diminish a person in subjugation to egoism and the destruction of his capacity for selfless love, which lead him to deep spiritual harm and various forms of slavery — through alcohol, nicotine, narcotics, sex, pornography, etc. Only God, who is love, can calm the desire for unlimited happiness which is encoded into every human heart.
The Cenacle community, which has fifty-six houses throughout the world, including three in Poland, testifies powerfully to this truth of God’s love. This community is made up of young people who have plumbed the depths of drug addiction. One of their best known housesis the Cenacle house in Medjugorje. Residents of that house testify to pilgrims who visit there that it is Jesus Himself who heals their spiritual wounds with His love and frees them from all their addictions. Living in a brotherhood where the most important aspect of life is prayer combined with intense physical labour, they have only to open themselves to the action of His mercy. There is no medical treatment of any kind at the house. There are no psychologists or psychiatrists. The only therapy is Jesus’ love.
Recognising that they can’t have contact or love for Jesus without prayer, they have all-day adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament in their chapel. Addicts who have tried a variety of hospital treatments have come to the programme when, on leaving hospital, they only succumbed again to the entrapment of addiction. From the medical point of view, these are the hopeless cases,who have no chance of recovery. However, where medicine offers no hope, Jesus’love is bringing miraculous totalhealing. It doesn’t come from any kind of magic. The essential thing is the agreement and cooperation of the individual through prayer and work, as well as a minimum threeyear stay in the community.
One of the biggest problems is the decision to enter the programme. Addicts will resist treatment for a long time, as long as they have money for drugs and food. In this situation, their parents play a very important role. Sister Elvira, the foundress of the Cenacle, gives them the following advice: “Throw him or her out of the house, so that he or she can’t exploit you any more”. If the parents can’t find within themselves the courage to tell this to their addicted child, there is little chance that the addict will decide to undergo the treatment. When the addict finally decides to enter the community, he/she can come for an orientational visit either alone, or with his/her parents. Acceptance into the community depends on a commitment to obeying all the rules. From that moment on, the community takes full responsibility for its new member.
At the beginning, a new resident will be assigned to a caretaker, a socalled “guardian angel”, who is also an addict, but who will already have been in the community for a longer time. His duty is to care for the newcomer at all times. This is particularly important in the early period of the stay, when the urge for a fix is still strong.
For the first eight months, newcomers can’t have any contact with their parents or friends. This is so that they can start to stand on their own feet. Only after this initial periodcan they go home for a couple of days. The daily regimen is very demanding. Right after waking up, everyone meets in the chapel to pray a decade of the rosary on their knees. Later there is a time of meditation and Holy Mass. Everyone is required to pray, even those who may have an aversion to prayer and contend that they don’t believe in God. They are told: “you have to pray, and we will believe for you”. After a short period of prayer, it turns out that the unbelievers are converted and start to treat prayer as essential to life.
Where medicine offers no hope, Jesus’ love is bringing miraculous total healing
After breakfast starts the heavy physical work in the quarry. In the afternoon, everyone meets in the chapel again to pray the second decade of the rosary and for adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. After lunch, there is a short break, and then a return to work. In the evening, they pray the third decade of the rosary and meditate on a text from the Holy Scripture. The whole day is filled with prayer and work in the fraternal community. There is no television or radio, and they can’t go out without a special permit. There are strictly enforced rules forbidding them to buy any food or clothing. This is meant to be a practical expression of complete trust in God’s providence. Hence, they eat and wear only that which has been given to them by outsiders. They experience the miracle of God’s amazing providence daily through their complete trust in Him in His care for them in even the smallest things. This is an obvious sign of God’s role, which strengthens their faith and trust. This is how, through prayer and hard work, these enslaved young people open themselves to the action of Jesus’ love, which miraculously heals their wounded hearts and frees them from the slavery of drugs.
The idea of establishing communities of this kind originated in the heart of a simple Italian nun, Sister Elvira. She was able to recognise Jesus’suffering in the addicts and resolved to do something to help them. Over the course of ten years, she sought the permission of her motherhouse to take up the service of the poorest of the poor. The superiors gave permission only after ten years, because they feared that Sister Elvira wasn’t well prepared for this kind of work and that she wouldn’t manage. When she received permission, she gathered together a group of addicts, and in July 1983 she established the first community, in Saluzzo, Italy.
Sister Elvira first came to Medjugorje with a group of addicts in 1985. She noticed that the prayer of the boys and the whole community was stronger and deeper there. Her boys intuitively felt the presence of the Virgin Mary, and they didn’t want to return to Italy. That is how the Cenacle of addicts was established in Medjugorje. According to Sister Elvira, the Holy Virgin works in a very specific way here and is an inexhaustible source of evangelisation, stimulating in human hearts the growth of joyful, beautiful and chaste youth. Today, there are Cenacle houses in fifty-six countries. In these communities, addicts who found themselves in hopeless situations from the first day of their addiction are experiencing the extraordinary phenomenon of healing and a return to normal life. Here you can see how Jesus’ love lifts them from the greatest downfalls and heals them in situations that medicine sees as incurable.
The addicts’ communities provide all of us with a very eye-opening lesson. They make us aware that a person is the one creation to which God imparted understanding, free will and various talents, calling him/her to cooperation with Him through work and prayer. Spiritual growth and rediscovering the ultimate sense of living can only occur through this kind of cooperation.
Being free, however, a person may still choose to reject cooperation with God. Every wasted talent and every squandered ability feeds the deterioration of our relations with God and with other people. It’s no coincidence that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins. Succumbing to laziness, a person rejects cooperation with God, and that becomes the source of many evils. A lazy person buries his talents in the ground (cf. Matt. 25:25 ff.). The words of the Book of Revelations apply to him/ her: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15–16). Succumbing to the temptation of the easy life, he avoids effort, difficult study and work, and gives himself up to laziness; he seeks happiness in the unlimited consumption of sensual pleasures. Then he falls into spiritual illness, which leads to various forms of dependence, as well as to spiritual degradation. The addicts talk about this in their testimonies about their healing. Daily prayer and work are essential for normal human development. A human differentiates himself from the animal world inter alia in that the need for contact with God is inscribed in his nature. Without uniting with God through prayer, a person will lose the sense of living. After rejecting God, he can’t endure the spiritual wilderness, so he fills it with sensual pleasures through narcotics, alcohol, pornography, etc. Then he becomes more dangerous than even the most bloodthirsty creatures, because he is never satisfied, always aggressive and spreading destruction.
The addicts emphasise that the worst illness of current times is the crisis of faith in families. According to them, this is where the main causes of drug and otheraddictions arise. A child starts to lose the meaning of life when his parents are only concerned with material goods and completely forget about the religious and spiritual needs of their family. Or when they try to fulfil all the wishes and desires of their child, but fail at prayer, neglect his spiritual development or disregard the sacraments and the children’s spiritual upbringing. Or similarly when they don’t establish any requirements and don’t exhort him to any self-discipline and formation of his character. In this kind of environment, children’s personality becomes dominated by egoism. And this leads to spiritual and intellectual laziness, to the seeking of the easiest way to feel good about themselves — through indulging their egotistical wishes, at all costs and by the path of least resistance. This is how the ranks of egotists and sometimes very dangerous criminals are growing.
From the testimonies of reformed addicts, we see that the process for their recovery started only when they truly trusted in Jesus, clung to him with all their heart and began to open themselves to His healing love through prayer and hard work. Without prayer and dailyhard work, without perseverance, selfdiscipline, self-sacrifice and effort, it’s impossible to achieve maturity, inner freedom, and happiness.
Anyone who is addicted to narcotics, sex, alcohol or other substances should never lose hope for complete recovery. Jesus heals all those who trust in Him and open themselves to His love through assiduous, trusting prayer, along with the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist.