Adam Jablin, Hanley Center Alum
This is what I personally learned at Hanley Center on July 14th, 2006. I still use these lessons to this day to encourage, inspire and connect others to get clean and sober. Many people I meet get the experience and the strength, but they never truly get the HOPE. Enjoy my experience!
As I walked into the chapel and meditation center, I heard soothing music playing in the background.
The light-blue and white walls provided a bright environment. Through the skylight, a sunbeam shone directly onto a Recovery Bible sitting on a wooden bookstand. The floor was made of beautiful light-colored cedar. The room smelled of roses and vibrated with peace. It could seat thirty people comfortably. Behind the bookstand was a small entrance hall that led to Father Ron’s office. I stood outside and looked at my watch: 12:55 p.m. Never keep them waiting, Adam.
I read the name on the door: (MSGR) Ronald Beshara, STL, JCL. Underneath, his title was given: VP, Mission & Spiritual Care.
The door opened, and an elderly female patient walked out.
Father Ron, with his New York accent, said, “Come in, Adam.”
When I walked in, I saw that Father Ron was tall and had brown eyes and light brown hair. Although probably in his sixties, he looked in his late forties. I chalked it up to good, healthy living. He rose from his chair and walked around his desk to greet me.
“Wow, look at those muscles!” He embraced me warmly and then felt my left arm.
“You work out a lot, son. That is fantastic. It will help you in your recovery.”
He had sealed the deal. I loved him.
I looked around his office at the posters of dolphins and butterflies. Father Ron explained that he loved dolphins because they’re spiritual animals that represent harmony and balance. The butterflies represent growth because of their sensational metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to growing wings to finally gaining the strength and courage to break free and fly away.
“Take a seat, Adam, please.”
I chose one of the two chairs in front of his desk.
Rather than going back behind his desk, he sat down next to me and studied me for a few moments, seemingly deep in thought.
Finally, he said, “Do you have a close relationship with a higher power, whom I refer to as God?’”
“Father, I’ve been searching. I was Bar Mitzvah’d. I’ve studied Kabbalah, the Tao, Buddhism, Jesus’s teachings, parts of the Koran, all types of new age literature. . . I want to be close to God. I’m just not sure how.”
He scrunched his eyebrows and squinted. “Tell me more.”
“Well, growing up, religion was confusing. There’s just no way around it—Santa Claus and a Christmas tree are cooler than a menorah and a dreidel.”
Father Ron belly laughed.
“My whole life, I’ve read spiritual books, and . . .”
I stalled, licked my lips, and swallowed hard.
“I don’t speak of this often, but my great-grandfather, Harry Jablin—my Poppa Poppa—was a spiritual and holy man. He was given the honor of lighting the eternal flame at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. And then there’s my favorite story, about my great-grandfather and the Pope.”
“The Pope?” Father Ron’s eyes sparkled.
“Yes!” I clapped my hands. “My Poppa Poppa was given a gift of honor. Archeologist friends of his discovered parts of the original Wailing Wall in Jerusalem during a dig. For his good works with Israel, the Masons, and the Jewish community, he was bestowed one of the five sacred stones found. The Pope knew of the excursion and asked to bless one of the stones. My great-grandfather offered his stone and flew to the Vatican City in Rome. He was escorted to Pope John XXIII, and the two men got along like old, dear friends. The Pope, at the papal blessings, blessed the stone in front of millions of people gathered outside his balcony in St. Peter’s Square. He asked Poppa Poppa if he’d like to join him. ‘But I’m not of your faith,’ Poppa Poppa said. “The Pope said simply, ‘I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use the blessings from two old men.’ My great-grandfather followed the Pope onto the balcony and gave a blessing in Hebrew as the Pope blessed the giant audience. There is a documentary on Pope John XXIII that captures the whole encounter.”
“That’s incredible!” Father Ron pressed his hand against his heart.
“Thank you.” I sighed with satisfaction.
“You mentioned books you’ve read.”
“I own a small library of them. You see, I always wanted a strong connection to God, but no one religion or one way made any sense to me.”
“I understand.” Father Ron tilted his head. “Do you pray?”
“No. Well . . . I did pray in Sunday school—Hebrew school—but the prayers were in Hebrew, so I didn’t really understand them. Also, all the prayers were about only Israel, which is smaller than the state of New Jersey, where I grew up, so it confused me.” I showed my palms and shrugged.
Father Ron laughed. He crossed his legs, slowly leaned toward me, and gently touched my arm.
“Adam, do you see that mark I left on your arm just now?” he asked.
I stared at my arm, looking for a physical mark.
“No, Father, I don’t.”
“Please, look again. Look deeper.” There’s that word again—deeper. Deeper Adam, deeper. I stared at my arm, still seeing absolutely nothing.
“Sorry. I see nothing. Maybe because I’m Jewish?”
Father Ron laughed and then, in an almost bubbly voice, said, “Adam, wait right there.”
He slowly got up, grabbed a handheld, portable UV-detection black light, and turned off the lights in his office. The room got very dark. Then he turned on the UV light and aimed it at my arm.
I looked down and saw his fingerprints glowing on my skin.
He sat down next to me. “I left my fingerprints . . . and, even though you could not see them, it didn’t mean they were not there.”
I felt Father Ron connecting the dots as if I knew what he would say next, but I still deeply desired to hear it.
“It’s the same way with God. You can’t see Him, but He is there, son. You have to. Are you ready?”
I didn’t blink. My jaw unlocked, and I felt as if I had entered another dimension.
“Trust. You have to trust that he is always with you, around you, inside of you . . . and in everything this universe offers. Just like when the lights go back on, you have to trust my fingerprints are still there.”
He was describing a source, an energy with an intelligence that knew exactly who I was. I felt it. My body and mind stayed within the room with Father Ron while my spirit opened its arms and finally welcomed in the light. Just because I couldn’t physically see it did not mean a Power was not there.
Father Ron turned the lights back on.
“Let us begin with prayer. First off, God knows you, Adam. You may speak to your Higher Power any way you’d like. Just be yourself. Be authentic. Talking to God is considered prayer. It is communicating with your newfound friend. So, let us use what you are comfortable with—fitness. I bet you eat a healthy diet. Three square meals a day?”
“More like five or six.”
He stood up and picked up a sheet of paper and a pen.
“Now, we are going to get you spiritually fit. I want you to have three “meals” a day of prayer to make your connection to your Higher Power big and strong, like your muscles. The soul needs nourishment, just like the body. In the morning, I would like you to say a prayer of greeting and praise—a thank-you to God for life, a new day, your loved ones, and all of creation. Also, I would like you to give an offering. Offer yourself—your talents— to God for the good of others.”
Father Ron paused and inhaled deeply.
“Add to this morning prayer some words of remembrance for the needs of your loved ones. At the end, please feel free to improvise a bit. You can even end with the Serenity Prayer.”
“I can do that, Father!”
“Meal number two: This you will do in the afternoons. I want you to practice looking for God where he reveals himself. One place is nature. Appreciate God by observing his creations and thanking him for them.”
He clasped his hands under his chin as if in prayer.
“Also, look for God in words: scripture, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, poetry, music, and inspirational quotes. In the afternoon prayer, I want you to look for people being kind to one another. Watch how people feel, react, and play when they are nice to one another. See God’s work in the act of kindness.”
I felt lightheaded. I locked my hands together tightly.
“Adam, your third and final meal for your newfound muscles is in the evening before you go to bed. First, I would like you to thank God for the gifts of today. I want you to find three reasons to be grateful. Second, ask for His forgiveness. Ask that others forgive you for stupid things you said or did, but also forgive others who harmed you. Pause and reflect on this act, as forgiveness is sacred. Lastly, ask for blessings upon your loved ones and yourself. If you like, you may end with the Lord’s Prayer or something from the Torah.”
I felt goosebumps on my arms and the little hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The room brightened, the air settled, and I felt an electric shoot jolt shoot through my body.
“Are you getting to know your brothers here, Adam?”
Brothers? I did not see them exactly that way, but I knew that something inside me was changing. I nodded.
“Good. I also see a wedding band on your finger.” He pointed at my left hand.
“Yes, sir. Wait till you meet Randi. And we have a six-month-old daughter, Alivia—an angel.”
“Adam, you are blessed. I feel you opening up. Your homework assignment, Adam, is to reread Genesis, chapter 1. I want you to write down what God is telling us about nature, himself, and us. Secondly, I would like you to read Matthew 22:34 through 40. Please find three lessons in the two commandments in that passage. Your next homework assignment is to add your name to the list for my Cenacle Retreat tomorrow night. Last, find a way to practice giving to your brothers and being of service to them. Can you handle all of that on top of your three square meals a day of prayer?”
That same feeling from my intervention had possessed me. I felt weightless and boundless. Time had frozen. I leaned in toward Father Ron. “Yes! I can!”
Father Ron jotted down some notes and handed me the paper on which he had written everything we had discussed. “Good. I knew you could. You have been chosen. You are having a spiritual awakening. Try to enjoy the ride.”
Adam Jablin is an author, speaker, Certified Life Coach, mentor, and alum of Hanley Center.
Msgr. Ronald N. Beshara, STL, JLC, was Vice President of Mission and Spiritual Care at Hanley Center. Father Ron passed on September 5, 2011, after a brief illness. He touched so many of our patient’s lives. He is both remembered and missed.
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