I know a professional man, married with kids, very intelligent, who has had a very serious problem for more than 15 years: he is a chronic gambler. He is very distressed by his problem. He sees going to play as an irresistible compulsive desire and wants to get out of this situation. He recognizes that it is a vice and is asking for help to get out of it, because if it continues like this, he will destroy himself and his family. What can I say to help him?
I will give you a quick answer that is by no means exhaustive. Initially, what you have to see is whether you are dealing with a “compulsive” gambler and whether this already has psychological roots. If so, any spiritual therapy should be accompanied by psychiatric support. From the spiritual and moral point of view it is necessary to try to form in him the virtue of temperance by all available means:
1) First of all, by trying to convince him of the malice of gambling, of the danger it is to his family, of the dire consequences for his soul and for the welfare of his family. He must meditate and give serious thought to this, for it must become a truth evident to him not only intellectually but also from the practical point of view.
2) Along with this, he should avoid like the plague the occasions of gambling which can include places, friends, and circumstances.
3) It is very useful to also add the imposition of punctual penances not only in the case of falling but also in the case of having exposed himself to danger or occasion of falling (even if he did not fall).
4) Positively speaking, he must be taught to make a particular examination of conscience. This is the great secret of all spiritual advancement. Every night he should examine his conscience on the points mentioned above.
5) It will be very helpful for him to learn to exercise control of the will (the virtue of temperance) in the whole field of sensuality (even in the area outside of gambling) because this strengthens his will for all kinds of temptations.
6) Finally, he will have to work on trusting in God and love of poverty, because often the gambler is a person who distrusts Providence and puts his hope in chance.
As I said, if his problem has psychological roots, spiritual work will not be enough without good therapy. But neither will good therapy be enough without the spiritual work I have just indicated.
Fr. Miguel A. Fuentes, IVE
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