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.
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.”
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.”
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.”