FR. FLATLEY — The Twelve Steps to Freedom


Shortly after I arrived as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City, a parishioner approached me and asked if I.C. could host an AA meeting at the parish.

Of course, I said yes.

Actually I was surprised there was not one already in place, as there is a long and hallowed history of Catholic Churches hosting AA meetings in their basements.

Many religious scholars believe that AA may very well be judged to be the greatest spiritual movement of the 20th century.


A story about an old timer in AA reveals that after many years of suffering in isolation, and putting his wife and children through hell because of his alcoholism, he finally found the courage to go to his first AA meeting.

At the meeting, he spilled his guts. He told this room of strangers all of the things that he had always tried to hide from others, convinced that if he ever truly revealed his darkest secrets, people would reject him.

When he had finished, they all gave him their telephone numbers and invited him to call them.

In fact, some of them said, “Call me, I would love to have lunch with you sometime.”

The Twelve Steps of AA were written for alcoholics as a path of recovery, when all else had failed.

In short time, thousands of people all over the world were turning to this spiritual program to heal from a spiritual malady.

Soon, the spouses and children of these alcoholics adapted the Twelve Steps so as to help them.

For many years, the family members of those suffering from the disease of alcoholism suffered from the effects of the disease as well, and they needed a path of healing too.

Hence the program of Al-Anon was born.

Soon thereafter, these Twelve Steps were adapted again ... this time for those poor souls struggling with addictions and compulsions of other kinds ... around food, drugs and gambling, and the list goes on.

In time, those suffering started to replace the word alcohol in the first step with words like drugs or food, or gambling or compulsive sex.


Many folks in Twelve Step Programs will state that they are not religious. In fact, the program teaches that a person does not have to believe in “God” but rather, only in a Higher Power, or a “God of their own understanding.”

A saying in AA goes like this,There is a God and it is not you, if you can believe that, you’re on the path to recovery.”


One thing is for certain, a spirit of healing is at work. It is now millions of folks around the world who have found a way to rebuild their lives.

By joining a fellowship with others who are also willing to share their experience strength and hope with each other, willing to work the Twelve Steps of a spiritual program, and believing in a power greater than themselves, they find recovery.

They find a new way of life.


There was once a Trappist monk, renowned around the world to be a wisdom teacher, who was shown the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This monk had been cloistered for decades and had never heard of the Twelve Steps.

He read them through very slowly, paused and reflected, and then read them through again, very slowly.

He exclaimed, “These steps are a path of humility ... they are a path to freedom!”

Fr. Flatley, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City, is moderator of spiritual formation for the Jefferson City diocese.