Fr. Donald Calloway: The Catholic Church: God’s Rehabilitation Center

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By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Catholic Exchange, July 14, 2017

In No Turning Back: A Witness to MercyI recounted how as a teenager I was a total pothead. I started using drugs and viewing pornography when I was a pre-teen in southern California, got deported from Japan when I was 15, ended up being thrown in jail in Louisiana when I was 18, and entered two rehabilitation centers in Pennsylvania all before I was 20. But neither of the rehabilitation centers worked. Sadly, the statistics regarding the effectiveness of drug and alcohol rehab centers are discouraging. The reality is that the percentage of people who are successfully rehabilitated is very low, with relapse rates ranging as high as 90 percent.

In my opinion, most of the secular rehabs don’t work because they only offer a band-aid approach; that is, they fail to get to the root of the problem and eradicate it. The root of the problem is sin and the failure to conform to objective truth. So many people today are addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, etc., and they are in need of real help and real answers. They are crying out for healing, but they are not being offered true and lasting medicine.

The true and lasting way out of addiction and vice is the Catholic Church!

No Turning Back

The Catholic Church has the power to turn people who have been marred by horrible addictions and sinful criminal pasts into saints. She, the Catholic Church, offers the best medicine, the best counseling, the best of everything to heal the wounded soul. And it’s all free! The greatest “intervention” we can ever do is to help a person get into the rehabilitation center that is the Catholic Church. They might go kicking and screaming, as is usually the case, but I guarantee it is the only true way to heal the wounded human person.

Yet sadly, because there is a media-fueled hatred for the Catholic Church, some people don’t see the Church this way. Many people think that the Church is a lunatic asylum — that only crazy people belong to the Catholic Church. There is a certain bit of truth to that, I suppose, in that we are fools for Christ (cf. 1 Cor 4:10). In the eyes of the world, Catholics seem strange and out-of-step with society. But a transformation takes place in this divine rehabilitation center that changes people from the inside out; it gets to the root of the problem. The secular world can’t understand this because it’s not truly interested in transforming the human person or offering them anything more than a mundane pacifier. The world is only interested in pushing its ideology of religious pluralism, secular atheism, and self-deification. Even many “professional” counselors, psychiatrists, and mental health care providers subscribe to the notion that the Church is full of nonsense and myth. They believe that it has been created by men to oppress people and lead them into an endless cycle of moral codes. And these are the people who have been “educated” at prestigious universities and are supposed to be helping others find healing and human freedom!

So let me explain how I have come to understand why it is that so many people hate the Church and abandon her today.

God is the landowner, the farmer, if you will (cf. Mt 13:24- 30; 1 Cor 3:9; Jas 5:7). The Catholic Church is his field. Naturally, a farmer wants to make his field grow abundantly fruitful and produce a rich harvest. Every farmer desires this for his field. But what does a farmer put on the field to make this happen? There are many words I could use, but let’s stick with manure. Manure stinks. It has a horrible smell, and people try and avoid it. But the farmer and the truly wise know that it’s there for a reason.

Today, however, a lot of people view the Catholic Church as being the pile of manure, and they want to get as far away from it as they can. On one level, it’s understandable; if you are driving down the highway and smell a farm with “fresh” manure on it, you roll up the window and speed up. However, if you want to reap the fruit of an abundant harvest, you must endure the manure on the field and know that underneath all the nasty stuff is something wonderful. It doesn’t mean you have to like the manure, but you do have to endure it.

This is why a deep prayer life is so important for understanding the mystery of what God is doing in his field. The Catholic Church is not the manure, but it does have a lot of manure in it. The Catholic Church is filled with “stinkers.” But if a person doesn’t go deep in prayer, they are not going to get past the stench to understand and trust the “manure principle” of how the divine farmer produces fruit in his field. God puts manure on his field so that it can grow and, in its time, produce a rich harvest. For a while it may seem horrible, and it might be difficult at times even to breathe. But God knows what he is doing, and we have to trust him.

In my opinion, the manure in the Catholic Church today is thick and deep — at various other times throughout history, it has been very thick, too. But this doesn’t mean we flee or think any less of the farmer (God) or his field (the Catholic Church). God is doing something deeply mysterious in our days, but only those who pray will stick around during the stench and reap the benefits of the field.

Anyone who gardens might see it from this perspective: If you want a beautiful rose bush, then you have to be willing to prune it and make it into something ugly and unattractive. It’s the “pruning principle.” You don’t prune a rose bush so it remains ugly forever. If you want beautiful roses, you’ve got to prune it down to an ugly little shrub so that, in its time, it will become so beautiful and lovely that everyone comes and takes delight in its beautiful fragrance. It’s the same thing with the Catholic Church. From a distance, to a person who doesn’t have a deep prayer life, it may look like a pile of dung or an ugly, little shrub. But if you’re a person of prayer and trust, you understand that it is God’s mysterious work. Even Jesus talks about the principle of pruning with regard to how our heavenly Father makes us fruitful (cf. Jn 15:2).

So while many people believe that the Church is a pile of manure and a poison for society, it’s actually the antidote — to get the stuff that is making us sick out of our systems. That sickness is our sin and vice. The Catholic Church doesn’t apply a band-aid to our problems. It isn’t like many of the rehabilitation centers in the world today where people gather in small groups, sit around a campfire in a circle, and share sympathy stories while making s’mores, singing “Kumbaya,” and affirming each other. Such “therapy” may be “nice,” but it isn’t the answer to what really ails the person. It’s a band-aid solution to a spiritual problem.

If you want true healing, there has to be a deeper truth involved. Sin has to be acknowledged, and the full truth about life must be offered to the human person. The truth will often seem like salt on a wound, but it will heal you. The truth will set your soul, emotions, and mind free — not just free you from an addiction and make you sober. So, for example, if you still believe that you’re a monkey when you leave a rehab center, big whoop if you’re sober. After all, a sober monkey is still a monkey.

We are called to greater things as the children of God. The ultimate goal in our life is holiness! Sobriety is a fruit of holiness. If you seek first the kingdom of God, you get everything else (cf. Mt 6:33). But if you seek first the things of the world, you get nothing, not even the world.

The Catholic Church invites everyone in and helps each person participate in God’s rehabilitation center. In the Catholic Church, God offers divine detoxification where we literally get our heads checked out, receive a blood transfusion, and undergo a heart transplant. We are truly transformed in this hospital because the Divine Physician is Jesus and the heavenly nurse is Mary. But we have to be willing to submit to Jesus and trust his plan. It’s much the same process as going to a medical doctor, where you need to have the humility to let the doctor guide you.

Of course, as the Divine Physician, God knows everything that’s wrong with us. But we’ve got to tell him what we’ve done as an act of humility so that the Divine Physician (who is not going to do things against our will) is given permission to operate on us and work his wonders in our souls. Divine detox is the only way to get the poison of the world out of our systems.

Unlike the prescriptions of the world, where they go up in price, are always changing, and do not heal the soul, the prescription of Jesus never changes. Jesus is both our physician and our prescription (medication), and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Heb 13:8). He offers us himself: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Both Jesus and his sacred teachings are offered to us through the Catholic Church, and they set us free. Catholicism gets the poison out of us!


This article was taken from Fr. Calloway’s book Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest.  Used with permission.

Stained Glass source:  North American Old Roman Catholic Church