You have heard me speak out in the past against what appears to be a culture of death in our society. This culture is sinister, often lurking beneath the surface, hiding in the darkness, so that many do not see it coming. To overcome this culture, then, we must shed light on these dark places.
Today, I want to shed the light of Christ onto the opioid epidemic that has taken hold in our society, bringing darkness and death that we must all recognize and stand together in solidarity to overcome.
In Wisconsin, we are not immune to this epidemic. According to civil authorities in our state, the number of deaths in Wisconsin due to drug overdose now exceeds the number of those that die from automobile accidents, suicide, or firearms.
Authorities and experts in the study of this epidemic tell us that this addiction is not a result of individual weaknesses or desires of the flesh. Their studies show that the majority of those addicted to heroin have also abused and have an addiction to prescribed opioid-based painkillers. This addiction crosses all age ranges, genders, ethnic categories, faiths and socioeconomic classes. We cannot judge those who find themselves addicted, and if you, yourself struggle with addictions, please do not judge yourself.
It is so very important that we as Catholics pray and work together to address this epidemic, as addiction strips not only the dignity of life from our brothers and sisters, but it is robbing them of life itself.
As missionary disciples, it is so important that we stand alongside the families of those who are dealing with the effects of a loved one’s addiction, as they, too, are in deep pain.
The impact of addiction robs the individual and family of so much. We must assure our families that they do not walk alone and that God’s love is always present. We must support and accompany them as best we can through this darkness.
When we encounter difficult situations, Christ reminds us to “be not afraid.” While addiction can be scary, we are called to overcome that fear and shed Christ’s light into the darkness. We can do this by discussing this issue more openly as a church, by recognizing the reality of this need, and helping our brothers and sisters through it.
If someone you know is struggling with addiction or you are concerned about your own addictions, do not fear sharing your concerns with your pastor. If this is something you find difficult to do, I ask that you call our Catholic Charities Department of the Diocese of Green Bay. We must remember there is no shame in seeking help, but rather as crossing the threshold to God’s healing light.
In our diocese, Catholic Charities is available through its many services, including its counseling and treatment programs, to help with some of the stressors that may have contributed to the drug abuse or to the impacts on life and relationships that are the result of addiction. If Catholic Charities does not have the professional expertise to directly assist with an issue, their staff can help by assessing the needs and find the right program and services that may be of great help.
I applaud our brothers and sisters in the Oneida Nation for engaging in clear confrontation of those who are pushing opioids and other addictive drugs or substances on their nation. Please pray, brothers and sisters, that the darkness of this epidemic be eliminated by the Light of our Lord and that his love guide us all to assist those engaged in this struggle.
Finally, to those readers who are struggling with the darkness of addiction or who have witnessed loved ones dealing with this struggle, please know that I am praying for you, and that with God, all things are possible. May Christ, the divine physician, bring healing to all your wounds and may you feel Christ’s peace that surpasses all understanding.