Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. Hinduism prohibits the consumption of alcohol. So does Jainism. So does Sikhism. As do Methodists and Southern Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons. But Catholicism has an uncommon take on alcohol. It is not only allowed but it is celebrated and incorporated into our Faith. Timmerie spent a recent segment of Trending with Timmerie looking at the Catholic view on alcohol and five ways to drink the right way.
It all goes back to the foundation of our Church: Jesus Christ. The very first miracle of His public ministry was at the Wedding Feast of Cana when a problem arose. The reception had run out of wine. Weddings were a multi-day celebration and to run out of wine was a rather significant mistake in Hebrew tradition. Someone had to do something, so Jesus’ first miracle was to turn 90 gallons of water into 90 gallons of wine. The inception of His ministry was an act of charity to keep a wedding celebration going.
Fast-forward to the Last Supper and Jesus is breaking bread with His apostles. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus gave us His body and blood under the accidents of bread and wine, two of the most common commodities. Jesus did not prohibit alcohol but incorporated it.
And for centuries and centuries, Christians consumed alcohol both in everyday life and in the reception of the most precious Blood of Christ. Some monasteries even used to be known for their breweries. Christian tradition holds that alcohol, though distilled by man, is a gift ultimately from God. Thus, it should be respected as such and consumed responsibly. While Catholicism has never prohibited alcohol, gluttony and drunkenness are always considered wrong.
So, how do we find the balance? The culture says there’s nothing wrong with drunkenness. The puritanical religious will say alcohol is an innate evil. How do we find the middle ground as Catholics? We find the balance by realizing the distinction between using alcohol as a vehicle for “fun” and as a tool for fellowship and cooperative merriment. Alcohol is a catalyst for the process, not the engine. Our drive should come from love for our friends, family, and fellow man.
According to the article How to Drink like a Saint by Michael Foley, there are five tips for learning to enjoy alcohol as a devout Catholic who knows how to have a good time.
- Drink with Moderation. We don’t overindulge ourselves. We should not be seeking an opportunity to maximize our pleasure but an opportunity to enjoy God’s creation in the company of others. We do that by committing to a standard of moral virtue and limits. Moderation is both good for the spirit and good for the body.
- Drink with Gratitude. “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” (G.K. Chesterton) In a world of materialism often focused on the next possession, entitlement, or form of entertainment, we should revisit the bounty of blessings from God and thank Him for what we do have. Hebrew farmers used to sacrifice the best of their crops after a harvest. The least we can do is pass on that last drink.
- Drink with Memory. How can we thank God if we don’t even remember what we’re thanking Him for? Are we drinking to remember or are we drinking to forget? A wedding is a celebration of the good times that happened, the good times happening, and the good times yet to come. Foley contrasts this with the overindulgent, sinful drinking you might witness at a dive bar. People drink out of sadness, regret, and loneliness. “Such a use of the drink falls far from the fine art of Catholic quaffing.”
- Drink with Merriment. Are you drinking for “fun” or are you drinking for “merriment”? Merriment requires company, friends, family, corroboration. Fun is the superficial cousin of merriment that wishes it could give you the memories and depth of merriment. Foley points out that while merriment contains the same risks as fun, that isn’t necessarily a detriment to its cause. The floor may be the same depth but the ceiling for merriment is higher.
- Drink with Ritual. Don’t drink for the world. Drink for God. Josef Pieper encouraged people to follow the holiday schedule according to the Liturgical calendar. Without a connection to God, a celebration becomes an artificial type of holiday and our indulgence in it becomes a kind of work. And lastly, always remember to toast. A deeply Christian tradition and invention, the clink imitates the tolling of church bells to drive away demons.
Listen to the full segment below:
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