Being Catholic isn’t only about going to church every Sunday; it’s about the way we live our entire lives. This includes every single aspect – even what we consume and how we consume it. I want to talk about one of mankind’s favorite things to consume: alcohol.
Sometimes it’s hard to drink, because we want to be responsible, but we also want to have fun. We know that alcohol isn’t bad, but we also know that it can easily lead to sin if we’re not careful. But how do we know if we’ve gone too far?
My Story with Drinking
As a college student, I know that there is a pressure to drink, especially if you are underage.
I didn’t drink throughout my high school years. It was a point that I wanted to make; that I could have a good time without breaking the law. It was great, my friends and I were crazy and ridiculous all the time, people would probably think that we were intoxicated.
It wasn’t until the summer before my sophomore year of college that I started to drink (which if you’re keeping track; I was definitely not of age). I’m not going to lie; it was a fun and interesting experience. I didn’t feel that bad about it, because I was being responsible. When I got back to college, I was ready to experience the party scene. I started to drink with my roommates and on my own.
My underage drinking culminated at Halloween that year, when a group of friends and I went to a bunch of different parties. It was really fun and I drank A LOT.
A Hipster’s Advice
Then I was blessed with going to SEEK2015 that winter (seriously guys, register for SEEK2017, it will be so much fun, it will change your life, and it is absolutely worth the time and expenses! Plus, I’m going to be there!). It was there that I went to a talk by John Leyendecker (who beat out our own Aly Aleigha for Catholic Hipster of the Year, which I think actually makes Aly the true hipster for getting second). He talked about drinking as a Catholic.
He said that there is nothing wrong with drinking – with him having a beer after he gets home to sit down with his family. He then talked about identifying the point where you’ve had too much; that point where it turns from recreation to sin. John said that the point of sin is when normal things start to become hilarious. Things that you normally wouldn’t find funny become something that you can’t help but laugh at. The point of hilarity is where when you should stop drinking.
He then talked about if the drinking age is a just law that Catholics should follow. He said that we should follow it, because it isn’t unjust, even if we are drinking responsibly while being underage. The law “doesn’t force anything intrinsically evil on you, it merely asks you for one act of asceticism.” He also said that if we think that it is unjust – that we have a knowledgeable conviction that the law should be changed – that we have the right to protest and start a petition in the United States. We have the ability to change the law and that we should exercise that right if we really believe the drinking age is unjust. It was on this topic when he said that if we were having trouble following the law, we should offer up drinking until we are 21 for anyone that we know who is struggling with addictions. This one talk hit me in a way that I didn’t know I needed.
A Necessary Reflection
I thought back to how confident I felt in high school that I wouldn’t drink. I looked at my habits and actions the last 6 months of my life up to that point. I realized that I wasn’t myself when I drank like that, especially at the few parties that I did attend. I was not the man that God was calling me to be when I was drinking. I would start swearing and lusting. I didn’t want to be that guy; the guy that says he’s Catholic, and then lives in a way that he knows is wrong, is sinful, and is irresponsible. I did want to be the guy that when people look at him, they say, “There’s something different about him. There’s something that he has that I don’t have. There’s something about the way that he lives that is attractive and curious. He’s a Catholic.” I wanted to be changed. I wanted to live differently.
I decided in that moment to follow John’s advice: after going to Confession as soon as possible, I gave up drinking for a year (until I was 21) and offered it up to God to help those who struggled with addictions that I knew. It could be alcohol, drugs, porn, or anything else that they were struggling with. I wanted to change others’ lives by the way I lived. I decided to love others by being selfless instead of being selfish.
This past winter, on my 21st birthday, I had my first drink in a year (a Surly Furious with my father). That year was not easy. There were so many times that I was stressed out and just wanted to unwind with a beer. During deer hunting it was especially tempting, because all of the gentlemen of the family were in a cabin, drinking. But I am thankful for all of the struggles and challenges that went along with that year.
I was in control. I was able to say no.
Every time someone offered me a drink, I would say no and explain to them why. “I’m offering up drinking for a year for other people who are struggling with addiction.” This always fortified my resolve to continue on my fast. Not only that, but I was able to bring up my faith in settings that are usually really uncomfortable to do so.
If you are underage, or even if you are struggling with drinking, I encourage you to offer up drinking as a prayer to God to help those you know who are struggling with addictions. Take it seriously, because your prayer and offering can change someone’s life, even if you don’t know it’s being changed.
May God bless you,