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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Breathing Under Water
Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
Richard Rohr
St. Anthony Messenger Press 09/11 Paperback $15.99
ISBN: 9781616361570

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr is founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico ( He considers the proclamation of the Gospel to be his primary call; related themes he often addresses are eco-spirituality, scripture as liberation, non-dual thought, the integration of action and contemplation, peace and justice issues, and male spirituality. He is the author of many books and regularly contributes to Sojourners and Tikkun magazines.

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by William Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith. This program known for its Twelve Steps, has liberated millions of people from their enslavement to alcohol and other addictions. At the core of its approach is a surrender to God or whatever name you want to use for a Higher Self. Equally important is regular participation in a community of others who are taking the journey of recovery. In this paperback, Rohr draws on talks he has given over the past 20 years to people in recovery. He joins Rami Shapiro, Thomas Keating, and other spiritual masters who have saluted the fellowship, encouragement, support, discipline, and wisdom of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step Method.

Rohr is convinced that this program "parallels, mirrors, and makes practical the same messages that Jesus gave us." In other words they are saying the same thing with different vocabulary:

We suffer to get well.
We surrender to win.
We die to live.
We give it away to keep it.

In 12 chapters, Rohr explores the Christian principles in the Twelve Steps. Along the way, the reader is treated to examinations of powerlessness, the imperial ego, keeping the heart space open, the surrender of our will to God, making amends, restorative justice, being responsible, the importance of intimacy, and the grace of God.


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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