Drink Like A Catholic

Drink Like a Catholic

I grew up in one of the few remaining dry counties in the country. In case you have never heard of it, that means they don’t sell alcohol there. It’s not prohibition, but you need to travel somewhere else to buy it. In that part of Texas, Baptist Christians have a huge influence on the culture that has deep roots in the Bible Belt. I grew up in a Catholic home, so alcoholic drinks were familiar. As I grew up, I came to realize that Catholics developed a reputation for their drinking. Sometimes it was good and other times it was bad.

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

Hilaire Belloc

We Catholics enjoy celebrations, and yes, we do love a good time with good drinks. This may sound scandalous to some, so we need to clarify what we believe.

 

Alcohol is a gift from God

We have to see the world through Christian eyes. We see it for the good it can provide in making us more relaxed, lubricating conversations, enhancing good emotions, and complementing and intensifying foods. Wine is an amazing drink, and I can appreciate how Jesus used it to do His first miracle to help the new young couple.

It was also the choice of our Lord to use wine as the substance to consecrate into His most precious blood that we receive in communion. It’s hard to claim that Jesus would use something that is bad for such a sacred act.

From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.

Saint Arnold of Metz, The Patron Saint of Brewers

 

If it is so good, why do some Christians think it is bad?

Alcohol is potent, and it can affect the way we behave and inhibit our reactions and decisions. Excessive drinking leads to drunkenness which can lead to many other dangerous situations. Drunkenness can lead to alcoholism and that can ruin lives. This is terrible and we should pray and care for others that have fallen into such dangers.

“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”
G.K. Chesterton

Our Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly says that drunkenness is sinful.

“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.”

CCC 2290

 

If it can do damage, why even drink?

I often hear many Christians that oppose drinking compare alcohol with sharks in level of danger, but this is not an accurate comparison. Many things in life become dangerous if abused.

God made all things good, and it can all bring glory to Him (Genesis 1:31 and 1 Timothy 4:4). Although, even good things are abused, and that is where things become bad. Food is a closer comparison. We have to eat to live, but we all enjoy rich flavor and nutrition, but eating too much can lead to an upset stomach and eventually obesity. Yes, alcohol has an additional element of risk with its more inhibiting effects on our mind and body, but the same principles apply.

 

We have to use virtue and obey the law

We must use the virtues of temperance and prudence to be responsible enough to enjoy and not abuse this gift we have been given.

Some people simply don’t like to drink, and there is no problem with that. Others simply cannot drink because of health reasons. Drinking is optional for those that are of age.

If you choose to drink, it’s important to learn how to drink with virtue and learn your limits. In many ways it’s like driving, and it is a skill that requires time and practice to learn. It’s best learned when modeled by parents to their children in appropriate ways. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the need to learn this process and it leads to problems. Those problems often convince others that there is no good in alcohol.

Drinking alcohol in moderation and with maturity can fit in line with our Catholic faith. If you’re going to drink, drink like a Catholic.

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.”

C.K. Chesterton

 

  • Trenton Henrichson

    I think alcohol tends to intensify the spirit of the reason it was consumed. In a few weeks a ministry I have been a part of will be celebrating our first year together and the blessings God has brought us. In the planning invitation I suggested people should drink wine (if they chose to). I have no qualms about that because the event was planned in the spirit of Catholic fellowship and I am fairly certain it will increase said fellowship. On the other hand I have heard of events where men set out to gather “hotties” and of course they were going to brink alcohol. These were decent men I believe but that was an inprudent decision. There was at least in-part already a lustful spirit about the event they were bound to increase that spirit. And drinking to quell a troubled spirit …well.. that’s going to make your problems worse almost every time. So I guess I’m saying prudent drinking is largely just a case of proper discernment of your own spirits to begin with. And awareness of your own abilities and basic safety.

    • http://soulpainter.com/ Cristóbal Almanza

      Great points and I agree. :)

  • Shawn Chapman

    I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.” ~ St. Brigid of Ireland

  • Mark

    The origins of certain groups of Christians not drinking come mainly from the temperance movement, which came from a standpoint of social justice. For them, alcohol at times in history has been used as a way to keep groups of people, mainly the poor and miserable, “in their place”. John Wesley also saw the taxation of alcohol as unfair to the poorest (a very regressive tax) and what social havoc it caused at times in history when alcohol was misused as a way to escape misery. Wesley and many leaders of Protestant churches were not “teetotalers” in that drinking per se was a “sin”. They just saw it as a major social problem for the times they lived and part of a larger problem they wanted to address.
    Unfortunately, this, as things are wont to do, got turned into “the Bible says that drinking is a sin”, especially for Southern Baptists. I grew up Southern Baptist and I challenge anyone to find that in there. It’s not. What happened is they forgot what drove the idea in the first place-social justice. Which is in found in scripture quite a bit. This is unfortunately what happens when people get dogmatic and forget what the dogma was for in the first place. It turns into needless arguments, unfair judgements and division. I’ve witnessed many dear Catholic friends feeling very sensitive and stereotyped about this. And Protestants getting stereotyped as prudish and silly about drinking. Truth is,nowadays most Protestants love a good drink as well! And with Catholics! It is, as you say, truly a gift of God.
    Trenton does has a great point in that it is good to know the circumstances and motivations for having drink and making good decisions in advance, Especially for young people in social situations as they are learning about life. And drunkenness is abusing alcohol and abusing ourselves, as Cristobal alludes to.
    As a sidenote to you, Cristobal, I am so glad this topic is being addressed in a sensitive way. Talking about things like this is the way to understand ourselves as people of faith and each other. As a pastoral counselor who works with the general population, I have many “unchurched” Catholic clients who do want very much to talk about these kinds of issues and sites like this are such a gift. I appreciate it and so do they. And I appreciate being a part of the dialogue that hopefully leads to greater understanding and people of faith joining their “flock”. God bless.

    • http://soulpainter.com/ Cristóbal Almanza

      I had never heard that. Thanks for the insight.

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