Author shares advice on ‘drinking like a saint’

TAYLORS—Around 50 parishioners from Prince of Peace Church received a quick lesson on how to properly enjoy alcohol, along with a history of spirits and their ties to Catholicism.

Michael Foley, a Catholic theologian and associate professor at Baylor University, told his audience that it is essential to differentiate between “drinking” and “drunkenness.”

While doing research for his book “Drinking with the Saints: A Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour”, Foley said that in order to drink like a saint and “enjoy alcohol the way it was meant by God to be enjoyed, one must first drink with moderation.

“The Bible condemns drunkenness. It does not condemn drinking in moderation,” Foley said. “On the contrary, (the Bible) treats it as a normal and actual part of life, from the Passover meal to the wedding at Cana.”

Drinking in moderation is “obviously the moral and responsible thing to do,” he said.

Foley cited research that shows the health benefits of restrained alcohol consumption. He also revealed Catholicism’s role in the history of drink, including the perfection of beer by medieval monasteries and their breweries, the invention of whisky by Irish monks, and the introduction of wine into Southern California and elsewhere by the Franciscans.

“All the new-world wineries were started essentially by Catholic missionaries,” Foley said, because they needed the spirit as part of Mass celebrations in remote, under-developed places.

Missionaries had to bring with them the knowledge of growing wheat for making the bread, and vineyards for making the wine.

In addition to books on responsible drinking, Foley has published approximately 200 essays on topics ranging from sacred liturgy to contemporary culture. On the latter topic, he notes that moderate consumption helps promote conversation.

“To me, drinking isn’t about the pleasure of drinking, per se, but about friendship and camaraderie, and good conversation that helps good friendships,” he said, a practice that builds on itself through the gratitude and recollection typically on display at weddings.

Consider the drinking that goes on at a wedding, he noted, where multiple generations gather to celebrate not only the newly married, but also reflect on the lives of the families joining in the celebration.

“They remember a great chain of love, and they raise their glasses in toasts to the newlyweds and to God’s gift of marriage,” Foley said.

Foley also said moderate drinking promotes merriment, which leads to intergenerational fellowship, a precept often missing in today’s social circles.

“One of the reasons why we don’t have as much merriment in our society today is that we don’t have as many intergenerational celebrations,” he said. “Real merriment is a gathering of people of all ages, celebrating together.” 

Foley was invited to speak as part of the parish’s Ordinary Splendor series, which is now in its third year under the direction of Angela Calabro, director of Catechesis and Evangelization. The series invites authors, artists, musicians and others to share their God-given talents with parishioners.

“We were looking for an event for St. Patrick’s Day and I have read (Foley’s) book,” Calabro said, adding that it is spring break for many so the event was timely.