With the end of the school year upon us, our little babes are completing those notoriously funny questionnaires. You know the ones: How old is your mom? “Twenty-four.” Close, 42. What is her job? “Watch Netflix all day.” Yikes, not quite. What is her favorite drink? “Wine.” Well, at least he got one right.
Reading my son’s questionnaire, I had to ask if this raw, blunt, truth telling child was innocently communicating something more than I thought? Yes, his answers made me laugh out loud and crack a funny joke, but on the inside, I knew I had to look inward. Of course, no Catholic can be against wine, given that it was the first miracle by our Savior and a central piece of the Mass. But like all good things, it can be used in the wrong way. It was high time to discern if I was becoming a wee bit too attached to some overindulgent habits. Could these four earthly pleasures actually be keeping me from the divine freedom and holiness I ultimately desire?
Wine seems to have become such an easy way to check out and “self-medicate” that we are now making innocuous names for it like “mommy juice,” and wine boxes dubbed “mommy juice boxes.” Funny for sure. But is this just whitewashing sin?
Many people drink wine as a crutch to handle life’s situations or as a reward after a long day. Wine is a gift from God for many joyous occasions. Like St. Thomas Aquinas says, “We should drink to hilarity,” not for distraction and self-medicating.
Escaping reality. It's been around since daydreaming and trashy romance novels — remember Fabio? It is obviously not sinful to catch an episode or two of a favorite British drama or baking competition. The vice comes in when the hours of watching cause us to neglect the piles of laundry or the children who may need some extra cuddles or parental direction. It can be easy to delight more in the characters on a screen than the ones in real life. It is especially very easy to stir up discontent at home with a slippery slope of shiplap and the desire to constantly redo EVERYTHING.
Salty, crunchy, chipping and dipping. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, a pint of Halo Top. These are all the foods that gives bodies a big ole dose of dopamine and make us feel all “fat and happy.” Trust me, you can find a dark chocolate stash in my closet. So many times, food is used as an award. Somehow, it is easy to think eating chocolate is going to make things better. Like wine, sometimes it can, but only in a limited way, leaving one hungry for that which really is truly meant to feed the body and soul.
I hear people all the time talk about how lonely they are. It is very true for many. The glow of the screen, the likes, the comments, the followers. It is not just the young kids who get bounced around in the rocky seas of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It can be so easy to fall into the comparison game and have peace, joy and contentment quietly stripped from the heart and mind.
The best remedy for all of these, I’ve found, is the discipline that has been used for centuries to break free from the world's strongholds: fasting. The early Church father, the great St. John Chrysostom, said that fasting “purifies the mind, calms the senses, subjects the flesh to the spirit, renders the heart humble and contrite, disperses the clouds of concupiscence, extinguishes the heat of passion, and lights up the fire of chastity.” These are the real things most of us are looking for: a life full of joy, laughter, freedom, and friendships and not empty counterfeits.
Becky Carter is a co-host of the Thriving in the Trenches podcast and a revert to the faith after 17 years away. She is also a co-founder of Helen Daily. A mother of five, she and her family live in Arkansas.