Shalom Tidings
Download the free app and experience a new lifestyle today!
No Thanks Get App


Sep 03, 2023 893 Deacon Jim McFadden

Circle of Love

He struggled with his son’s addiction and eventual death due to an overdose. How did he survive?

Even though I was baptized,  I was un-churched growing up. My mother and father had some serious unresolved issues with the Catholic Church, so we never went to Mass, and I was never catechized. However, I had a yearning for some kind of spiritual connection, and I gravitated towards popular biblical films such as The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, A Man Called Peter, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. They presented God in a very intriguing way, and I gradually developed a hunger to know Him on a personal level. During the ‘60s, folk singer Jim Croce sang Time in a Bottle, intoning, I’ve looked around enough to know that you are the one I want to journey through time with.”  I really wanted to ‘journey through time’ with Him, but I didn’t know how to connect with Him. 

The Winding Path

As a junior at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, I came to know an Irish Catholic family who were really into their faith. They said an evening rosary (in Latin, no less!), attended daily Mass, and strove to live a life of discipleship. Their religiously observant life was mysterious and beguiling. Through their example, I eventually decided to become fully initiated into the Catholic faith.

My parents, however, were not pleased with my choice. When the big day arrived for my Confirmation and First Holy Communion, we had a donnybrook of a family fight. Tears, angry words, and recriminations reverberated throughout the house. I remember saying, “Mom and Dad, I love you, but I adore Jesus, and I want to be confirmed. The Catholic Church feels like my spiritual home.”  So, I left the house and walked alone to Saint Thomas More Church near Lake Merced, where I received the Sacraments without my parents’ blessings. Soon after, I came across a reference from Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me…” (10:37). I knew exactly what He meant.

The Highway Off-ramps

I wish I could say that I continued to make such a deep commitment to Jesus as I entered adulthood. My initial conversion cloaked a rather superficial attempt at dedicating my life to Him. I started on the ‘Jesus Super Highway’ but kept taking these off-ramps as I chased the usual suspects of the goods of the world: the acquisitive pursuit of wealth and security, professional success and accomplishments, hedonistic pleasure, and, above all, control. Like the Tom Wolfe character in Bonfire of the Vanities, I really wanted to be the master of my universe. How did Jesus factor into the calculation? I basically expected Him to come along for the ride. I wanted to relate to Him on my terms. I wanted Him to validate the self-referential lifestyle I was forging.

Circling Back

This illusory tower built to accommodate my imperial ego came crashing down 30 years ago when our family was struggling with our son’s drug addiction. The hard fact is his addiction, and eventual fatal overdose precipitated my free-fall into a very dark, empty place. I felt that I had fallen into a very deep pit where nothing worked: my son was not coming back, and the sense of loss was overwhelming. I became totally disillusioned and realized how worthless the goods of the world are in addressing our deepest hunger for intimacy, communion, and fellowship.

I pleaded with Jesus to rescue me from the deep hole of darkness, anguish, and abandonment. I begged Him to take away my suffering and put my life back together again. While He didn’t “fix” my life, He did do something better: Jesus came into the pit with me, He embraced my Cross, and let me know that He would never abandon me, my family, or our departed son. I experienced the loving mercy of Jesus, the Suffering Servant who continues to suffer with His People, the Church. That is a God whom I can fall in love with. 

Jesus reveals the face of God to us. As Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, Jesus is “…the image of the invisible God” (1:15). Therefore, we have all that we need to be happy and joyful right here, right now. In Jesus, Who is the sole mediator between Heaven and Earth, everything fits; nothing is outside His circle of love—our Lord Jesus Christ calls us into a deeper relationship with God, with our brothers and sisters, and with all of Creation.


Deacon Jim McFadden

Deacon Jim McFadden ministers at the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom, California. He serves in adult faith formation, baptismal preparation, spiritual direction, and prison ministry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Articles