DRINKING and TAVERNS

(Taken, for the most part, from the writings and sayings of St. John Vianney, the great Cure D' Ars.)

Drunkenness is a great sin. It is a disgrace in the eyes of men. The conversion of the habitual drunkard is difficult. Many people are prone to make light of this vice and excuse the same. We will attempt to show the enormity of this vice and the folly to make excuses for it.

It is beyond the power of mortal man to describe the full extent of the havoc wrought by this vice. Probably because it is so widespread, there is too much tolerance for this evil. We cannot be indifferent to the loss of good name, health and most of all, the loss of salvation for the unreformed drunkard. The Holy Ghost tells us the drunkard should learn moderation from the beasts. What a disgrace to human nature if the beasts are held to us as examples. This sin of alcoholism does not abate with advancing age. Drunkards are not easily reformed. The Council of Mayence holds that the drunkard transgresses all the ten Commandments.

St. Paul in the Holy Bible, assures us that the drunkard will not enter into the kingdom of heaven; drunkenness, therefore, must be a great sin. Some would use the excuse that alcoholism is a disease. If drinking is a disease:

  1. It is the only disease contracted by an act of the will.
  2. It is the only disease that requires a license to propagate it.
  3. It is the only disease that is bottled and sold.
  4. It is the only disease that requires outlets to spread it.
  5. It is the only disease that produces revenue for the government.
  6. It is the only disease that is habit forming.
  7. It is the only disease that produces crime.
  8. It is the only disease that is permitted to be spread by advertising.
  9. It is the only disease without a germ or virus and for which there is no corrective medicine.
  10. It is the only disease that will condemn you to eternal separation from God in Hell. (Gal. 5:21)

Let us consider what St. John Vianney had to say about taverns: "Was it not in those houses that dancers congregated and men forgot their duty?" He tackled this enemy from the outset, nor did a holy indignation allow him to mince his words. He made his own the phraseology of St. John Climacus, in order to strike the harder: "The tavern," he exclaimed, "is the devil's own shop, the school where hell retails its dogmas, the market where souls are bartered, the place where families are broken up, where health is undermined, where quarrels are started and murders committed."

"The innkeepers", he used to say, "steal the bread of a poor woman and her children by selling wine to drunkards who spend on Sunday what they have earned during the week. If he wishes to escape eternal damnation, a priest may not and cannot absolve innkeepers who, either at night or during church hours, serve those drunkards wine.

The ruthless struggle of St. John Vianney against the taverns was successful as they were all closed down in his parish. This yielded some unexpected results. The plague of pauperism abated. "There were very few destitute persons at Ars itself." says M. Pertinand, the schoolmaster; "by suppressing the taverns, M. le Cure had eliminated the main cause of poverty."

M. Vianney knew that God was blasphemed in the taverns. For a soul penetrated with such profound reverence for the holy Name, the mere thought of such a thing was unbearable. And yet he experienced the sorrow "of hearing blasphemies issuing from the mouths of the village children who scarcely knew the Lord's Prayer." So successful was the Saint's campaign against cursing and swearing that even expressions that were merely coarse he did not shrink from mentioning them in the pulpit gradually vanished from the vocabulary of the people of Ars. In their place, they would recite the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, or formulas such as "How good God is! Blessed be God!"

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