Education on the dangers of drugs and training in administering Narcan to counteract opioid overdoses aren't enough, according to three Holy Names Societies in Amsterdam.
Their members are invoking St. Michael the Archangel to battle opioid addiction.
"If he can defeat Satan, he can help us with the drug problem," declared Tom Tracz of St. Joseph's/St. Michael's/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam.
Mr. Tracz is spearheading a month-long effort in October at his parish and the two others in Amsterdam -- St. Stanislaus and St. Mary's -- to enlist the aid of St. Michael in storming heaven to combat the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Holy Names Society members will speak at Masses about the effort and then pass out prayer cards after the liturgies featuring a picture of St. Michael the Archangel and the prayer for which he is known: "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, o prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."
An anonymous donor paid to have 4,000 of the prayer cards printed. Those accepting the cards will be asked to recite the prayer every day, asking St. Michael to help fight opioid addiction.
Fellow Holy Names member Al Mancini came up with the idea to pray for St. Michael's intercession, said Mr. Tracz. Mr. Mancini works for an area drug court, an adult criminal court that provides treatment and community resources for drug offenders as an alternative to incarceration. Mr. Mancini often encounters people for whom addiction is a daily battle.
"In one month, we had four people die here" in Amsterdam of opioid overdoses, Mr. Tracz told The Evangelist. "We're just a little city."
Montgomery County ranks 16th of New York State's 22 counties in the rate of emergency-room visits for opioid overdoses. There were a dozen known overdoses in the year 2014 alone.
Invoking St. Michael isn't new to Amsterdam-area Catholics. Mr. Tracz said the Holy Names Societies began doing so during the last presidential administration, pleading for the saint's intercession on threats to religious freedom in the U.S.
Mr. Tracz believes in the power of prayer. "I've had things happen before where, through prayer, people have been helped," he noted, recalling a mysterious illness that struck his brother some years ago. Mr. Tracz asked his entire parish to pray, and the cause of the illness was discovered. His brother still receives treatment, but has recovered.
People struggling with drug addiction would do well to look to St. Michael and to God, Mr. Tracz said.
"I don't know how a person who is an atheist can live their life without [knowing] God is there to help them," he mused. "People don't get their religious education when they're growing up, and they turn to those other things."
When the month of October is over, Mr. Tracz hopes to see results from all the prayers to St. Michael the Archangel. He'd like to see "people made aware of the dangers of drugs and start to turn to God to solve their problems."
(To get a prayer card, call Mr. Tracz at 518-842-1934. Requests for multiple cards may involve a small fee for postage.)