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Catholic bloggers love their wine — in moderation, of course
BY ERIC SCHESKE
October, and that means harvest: corn, wheat, hay, pumpkins. Most importantly
for me, it means grape harvesting and stepped-up wine production.
Catholics traditionally love wine.
It’s the centerpiece of their liturgy on Sunday mornings and, often, the
centerpiece of their dinners on Saturday nights. A Catholic editor once told
me, “All good Catholics drink.” He spoke those words at lunch, while drinking
Pepsi, so it was no drunken bombast.
He meant it, though I think it’s
fairer to say, “A lot of great Catholics have loved wine.”
Read about the early 20th-century
Catholic literary revival that biographer Joseph Pearce has chronicled so well.
The wine flowed freely — so freely that you might think it was the fuel of the
revival. G.K. Chesterton drank it, Maurice Baring balanced glasses of it on his
bald head, Hilaire Belloc practically drank a barrel of it during a walking
pilgrimage that he recounts in The Path
Chesterton and Belloc
loved the stuff so much that contemporaries claimed that they had misheard the
Creed and thought it demanded belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Alcoholic Church.”
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn
that Catholic bloggers write about wine. A lot. My own blog, The Daily
contains no fewer than 50 references to the vine and dedicates every Friday to
Surf around and you’ll find that
wine admirers flood the Catholic blogosphere. They
love the fruit of the vine, the work of human hands, often citing Jesus’ first
miracle at the Cana
wedding feast as proof of wine’s goodness.
Take “Kenny” at The Sleepless Eye
A child of Taoist parents, he’s a convert who has written a fine meditation on Cana, concluding, “God loves
wine. If he didn’t, why on earth did he create grapes?”
Kenny is also a trained bartender,
so it’s good to see that he hasn’t lost his faith in wine. People who are
around alcohol the most are often the ones who despise it. The shattering
effects of its abuse can deter the most ardent bacchanal.
The desert father Abba Moses
abused the awareness-altering substance during his pre-conversion days as a
murderer and brigand. Blogger Karen Knapp (kmknapp.blogspot.com) tells us that
Abba Moses once drank 18 pints of wine after robbing a shepherd of four rams.
I like to think that a nasty wine
hangover catalyzed his conversion to one of the greatest desert holy men of all
time. It’s not surprising that the Bible contains a dozen or so condemnations
of excess consumption, which Athanasius Contra Mundum (athanasiuscm.blogspot.com)
lays out while examining the Mel Gibson affair last summer (another unfortunate
episode in the evil of excess).
Given the potential pitfalls with
wine, it’s legitimate and even admirable for a Catholic to abstain totally. Bloggers like The Ironic Catholic (ironiccatholic.blogspot.com) have pointed out that Chapter 40 of
the Rule of St. Benedict prescribed a half liter of wine every day, per monk.
They fail to mention, though, that the same chapter promises a special reward
for those who abstain.
The thing is,
there’s a big difference between teetotalling and
Abstaining is good, as long as the
abstainer remembers that wine is good, too. If he forgets, perhaps he can
recall a few of the humorous stories that surround wine. There are plenty, like
the one about the response of the composer Brahms when presented with a fine
wine that his host, lavishing praise on his distinguished guest, called “the
Brahms of my cellar.” Brahms tasted it and said, “Better bring out your
Bloggers frequently mention the pleasure
of wine, whether it’s the blogger who recounts his
last night before entering the Jesuit Novitiate, saying that he ate good food
and drank good wine (higherplane.typepad.com);
a blogger spilling wine on a distinguished nun (southwarkvocations.blogspot.com); or
merely monologues that recount good wines, conversation, and food.
To Your Health
Wine obviously has a long history
in Catholic culture, but Catholic blogger Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti (laudatortempo risacti.blogspot.com) reminds us that
it had a distinguished career in pagan times, too, and not just among the Caligulas. He took the time to list more than 20 quotes by
classical authors, from Euripides to Horace, singing the praises of wine.
There’s this, for example, from Homer’s Odyssey: “Wine sets
even a thoughtful man to singing / Or sets him into
softly laughing, sets him to dancing.”
You can also find mundane facts
about wine in the blogosphere, like the invention of
robots that recommend good wines and cheeses to go with it (mirabilis.ca); Christian mutual funds
that refuse to invest in wine companies but will invest in companies that
donate to Planned Parenthood (cornell-catholic-cir
cle.blogspot.com); and the existence of a pro-life wine company, Bogo Wines, which I learned about at theworldimho.blogspot.com. (I should have read the Register more
carefully: It turns out this paper featured Bogo in a
Prolife Profile some months back.)
This last summer, you could’ve
even read that, like red wine, studies have shown that white wine is healthy
for you, too (mirabilis.ca again).
That’s good news, of course, but drinking wine for the health of it strikes me
as similar to living out the marital union for the exercise.
If you want wine critiquing
without pretension, check out the Catholic blogosphere’s
reigning wine connoisseur, professor Stephen
Bainbridge, at professorbainbrid geonwine.com.
Bainbridge is great, but my
sentiments are more in line with Greg Krehbiel at Crowhill
Weblog (crowhill.net/blog). He says, “In my opinion, the day you can
no longer enjoy a bottle of cheap California
wine is the day you’ve gone from ‘smart wine drinker’ to ‘snobby, stupid wine
Amen to that. And praise to the
world of wine and the Catholic bloggers who write
Eric Scheske writes from