Sunday, April 13, 2014

Resources for Palm Sunday

I don't have time to post a great deal today, but I wanted to at least point you in the direction of some resources that you could use to learn something new about Jesus' amazing entrance into Jerusalem and the great mysteries of His Passion. I also threw in a few activities for children (why not, right?).

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it. And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!"
-- Mark 11:7-10

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In the Hands of St. Joseph

Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I have always looked to St. Joseph for the strength to be a good and chaste man. He is, after all, Mary's "most chaste spouse," and as the father of Jesus and the protector of Mary he is an ideal model of what it means to be a responsible husband and father. I hope to live as he lived: chaste, responsible, strong, courageous, skilled, loving, manly. I am so thankful that, in giving me my middle name, my parents made him my patron. I have done the same with my own son (Dominic Joseph), so that he will always have the intercessory power of St. Joseph to guide him and protect him.

Here are some articles on St. Joseph. Learn what it means to be devoted to him and to live the sort of life that he lived:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Short Biography of "The Apostle of Ireland" for St. Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick was born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387 AD. When he was 16, he was captured by pirates from Ireland and sold into slavery there. For six years, he tended the flocks of his master. While a slave, he prayed 100 times a day and the same every night. Regardless of the weather or the time, in the woods or on a mountain, he was always praying.

Providentially, his time in captivity became a preparation for his later work as bishop and evangelist. He learned to speak the Celtic language, and, because his master practiced Druidism, he became very familiar with the religion that he would almost single-handedly replace with Catholicism among the people of Ireland.

A vision of an angel compelled him to leave his master and flee to England, where he studied at a few monasteries and eventually became a priest. With St. Germain he preached against the Pelagian heresy. Together they performed many miracles and converted a great number.

The Pope, so impressed by Patrick, sent him to Ireland to convert the Irish people to Christianity. Before Patrick set out on his mission, he was made a bishop. When he arrived in Ireland, one of his first acts was to visit his former master, pay the ransom owed him, and give him a blessing and forgiveness for his cruelty as a master.

On several occasions, Patrick met with violent opposition by the Druid chieftains. When one of them tried to kill Patrick with a sword, Patrick make his attacker’s arm immovable and did not relieve it until the attacker pledged obedience to Patrick. He eventually converted his attacker and every Druid chieftain and king who sought to kill him.

Everywhere Patrick went, he converted people by powerful preaching and miracles. He also formed several parishes and dioceses throughout Ireland. He ordained priests, healed the sick, expelled demons, and brought the dead back to life. Through boundless prayer and severe penances he sought the salvation of Ireland. He continued until his death to visit and watch over the churches he had founded throughout all the land.

Patrick is the one who first used the shamrock as a tool for teaching the Trinity. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, a prayer he composed on the morning of a great victory over paganism, remains to this day a popular Catholic prayer. He is called “The Apostle of Ireland” because of his tireless evangelism in that land, and is one of the Church’s greatest saints.

For more about St. Patrick and the conversion of Ireland, see the following resources:

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Resources for Ash Wednesday and Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. So as to enrich your mind and answer any questions you may have about this season, I have constructed the following Q&A, as well as a list of resources with which you can learn more.

I will be updating this post often as I find more articles to add. If anyone has any questions, just let me know.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q #1: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: From the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, we read:
  • ASH WEDNESDAY. The first day of Lent. Named from the custom of signing the foreheads of the faithful with blessed ashes. Its date depends on the date of Easter. In the early Church, public penitents were liturgically admitted to begin their penance on this day. And when this fell into disuse, from the eighth to the tenth centuries, the general penance of the whole community took place. This was symbolized by the imposition of ashes on the heads of the clergy and laity alike.

Q #2: Why put ashes on your forehead?
A: From the EWTN liturgical calendar, we read:
  • The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Jesus made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).

    In the Middle Ages, the priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

    As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven.

Q #3: When we put a cross of ashes on our head, aren't we disobeying the words of Christ when he said, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven"?
A: These words of Christ come from His advice on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (the three duties of Lent) in Mt 6:1-18. His main point is that these forms of piety should not be done so as to receive glory from men. The purpose, instead, is to give glory to God and to grow closer to Him.

It is true that when we put ashes on our head, we will definitely "be seen by men." But, that is not why we do it. We do it because it is a reminder to us and to the world that we come from dust, and to dust we shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). We should always keep the fact of our mortality and our contingency at the forefront of our mind. We live holier lives when we inform all of our decisions by the simple truth that we all must die. The cross itself is a symbol of the death of Jesus Christ and of our own necessity to die to self so that we may rise with Him to new life. As the answer to Q #4 has already stated, we also put ashes on our forehead because ashes are a symbol of mourning and penance.

Basically, we do not do our deeds to be seen by men, like the scribes and Pharisees did (cf. Mt 23:1-7). Our boast is not in ourselves, but in the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1:31).


Q #4: Why is there no holy water on Ash Wednesday (or throughout Lent)?
A: While many parishes are known to remove holy water during Lent, this is in fact not allowed. From the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we have the following correspondance:
  • Prot. N. 569/00/L
    March 14, 2000

    Dear Father:

    This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

    This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

    1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
    2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

    Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    [signed]
    Mons. Mario Marini
    Undersecretary


Question #5: What is Lent?
Answer: From the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, we read:
  • LENT. The season of prayer and penance before Easter. Its purpose is to better prepare the faithful for the feast of the Resurrection, and dispose them for a more fruitful reception of the graces that Christ merited by his passion and death.

    In the Latin Rite, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for forty days, besides Sundays, until Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday occurs on any day from February 4 to March 11, depending on the date of Easter.

    Originally the period of fasting in preparation for Easter did not, as a rule, exceed two or three days. But by the time of the Council of Nicaea (325) forty days were already customary. And ever since, this length of time has been associated with Christ's forty-day fast in the desert before beginning his public life.

    According to the prescription of Pope Paul VI, in revising the Church's laws of fast and abstinence, "The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of Great Lent, according to the diversity of rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely" (Paenitemini, III, norm II).

    Besides fast and abstinence on specified days, the whole Lenten season is to be penitential, with stress on prayer, reception of the sacraments, almsgiving, and the practice of charity. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon lengten, lencten, spring, Lent.)

Q #6: Where did we get the word "Lent"?
A: From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we read:
  • Lent: short for Lenten, from Old English lencten "spring," the season, from West Germanic *langa-tinaz (cf. Old Saxon lentin, Middle Dutch lenten, Old High German lengizin manoth), from *lanngaz (root of Old English lang "long") + *tina-, a root meaning "day" (cf. Gothic sin-teins "daily"), cognate with Old Church Slavonic dini, Lithuanian diena, Classical Latin dies "day." The compound probably refers to the increasing daylight. Church sense of "period between Ash Wednesday and Easter" is peculiar to English.

Q#7: Why is Lent 40 days?
A: Lent is 40 weekdays because in Scripture we see that a time of 40 typically precludes a new birth or renewal of some kind. Noah was in the ark 40 days before life could begin again on earth. Moses was on Mt. Sinai 40 days before he brought the people the 10 Commandments. The Israelites wondered in the desert 40 years before entering the Promised Land. And, of course, Jesus fasted in the desert 40 days before beginning His ministry. So, following in their footsteps, we spend 40 days in preparation for the resurrection and the life that Easter brings.

Q#8:
Why do Catholics "give something up" for Lent? Is this something I'm required to do?

Beyond fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on every Friday during Lent, Catholics will often choose something to give up, or refrain from doing. While not strictly required, this is a good way to embrace the penitential character of the season.

Some people take this opportunity to overcome bad habits, like biting your nails, or smoking, or cursing. Others will give up something they enjoy (like ice cream, or television, or Facebook) in order to have a small sacrifice to offer to the Lord. Whatever you do during Lent to unite yourself to the “Suffering Servant” is a good and laudable thing. One should also keep in mind that Lent is just as much about taking on positive actions (like prayer, alms giving, works of mercy, etc.) then it is about the negative actions of avoiding things.

Q #9: What does it mean to "fast"?
A: From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we read:
  • fast (v.): Old English f├Žstan "to fast" (as a religious duty), from Proto-Germanic *fastejan (cf. Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, Old Norse fasta), from the same root as fast (adj.). The original meaning was "hold firmly," and the sense evolution is via "firm control of oneself," to "holding to observance" (cf. Gothic fastan "to keep, observe," also "to fast"). Presumably the whole group is a Germanic translation of Medieval Latin observare "to fast."
From Colin B. Donovan, STL, we read:
  • Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Q #10: What does it mean to "abstain"?
A: From Colin B. Donovan, STL, we read:
  • The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

    On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

    During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.).

For more on fasting and abstinence, see Life in the "Fast" Lane.


RESOURCES

Ash Wednesday:

Lent:

Stations of the Cross (a popular devotion during Lent):

My Blog Posts

Some of these posts were not originally written for the season of Lent, but they still pertain to the spirit and themes of the season and what we struggle with as we prepare for the Resurrection of the Lord.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, February 22, 2014

For the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

It may seem odd to celebrate an inanimate object, but there is in fact a very good reason for today's feast day. The phrase ex cathedra, which we use in reference to the pope's infallible prerogative, means "from the chair." So, the chair of St. Peter represents the authority given to him and to his successors by Jesus Christ. It is also a symbol of unity and orthodoxy, since it is in communion with the pope that Christians are united in faith and practice.

Of course, the pope can always explain things much better than I can. Benedict XVI devoted his General Audience catechesis of February 22, 2006 to explaining the celebration. It is worth reading in full [translation by Whispers]:
  • Dear Brothers and Sisters!

    The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It comes from a very ancient tradition, chronicled at Rome from the end of the 4th century, which renders thanks to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his successors. The "cathedra," literally, is the fixed seat of the Bishop, found in the mother church in a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and is the symbol of the authority of the Bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," the evangelical teaching which he, as a successor of the Apostles, is called to maintain and pass on to the Christian community. When the Bishop takes possession of the particular Church entrusted to him, he, wearing the mitre and carrying the pastoral staff, is seated in the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and pastor, the path of the faithful in faith, in hope and in love.

    What was, then, the "cathedra" of St. Peter? He, chosen by Christ as the "rock" on which the Church was built, began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The first "see" of the Church was the Cenacle, and it's likely that in that room, where also Mary, the mother of Jesus, prayed together with the disciples, a special place was reserved for Simon Peter. Successively, the see of Peter became Antioch, a city situated on the Oronte River, in Syria, today in Turkey, in that time the third metropolis of the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. From that city, evangalized by Barnabas and Paul, where "for the first time the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11:26), where the name Christian was born for us, Peter was the first bishop, so that the Roman Martyrology, before the reform of the calendar, also provided for a specific celebration of the Chair of Peter at Antioch. From there, Providence brought Peter to Rome. Therefore we have the road from Jerusalem, the newborn Church, to Antioch, the first center of the Church recounted by the Pagans and still united with the Church which proceeded from the Jews. Then Peter came to Rome, center of the Empire, symbol of the "Orbis" -- the "Urbs" [city] which expresses the "Orbis" [world] of the earth -- where he concluded with his martyrdom his course in the service of the Gospel. For this, the see of Rome, which received the greatest honor, is also accorded the honors entrusted by Christ to Peter to be at the service of all the particular Churches for the building up and the unity of the entire People of God.

    The see of Rome, after this movement of St. Peter, became recognized as that of the successor of Peter, and the "cathedra" of its bishop represented that of the Apostle charged by Christ to feed his flock. This is attested to by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, for example St. Iraneus, bishop of Lyon, but living in Asia Minor, who in his treatise Against heresies described the Church of Rome as "the greatest and most ancient, known of all;... founded and built at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul"; and then: "With this Church, for its outstanding superiority, must be accorded to it the Church universal, the faithful in every place" (III, 3, 2-3). Tertullian, a little later, for his part, affirms: "How blessed is this Church of Rome! For it the apostles poured out, with their blood, the whole of doctrine." The chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only its service to the Roman community, but its mission of watching over the entire People of God.

    To celebrate the "Cathedra" of Peter, as we do today, means, then, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the good and eternal Shepherd, who wishes to gather the entire Church and guide it along the way of salvation. Among the many testimonies of the Fathers, I'd like to report that of St. Jerome, who wrote in a letter of his to the Bishop of Rome, particularly interesting because it makes an explicit reference to the "chair" of Peter, presented it as the sure grounding of truth and of peace. As Jerome wrote: "I decided to consult the chair of Peter, where is found that faith which the mouth of an Apostle exalted; I come then to ask nourishment for my soul, where once was received the garment of Christ. I don't follow a primate other than Christ; for this reason, I place myself in communion with your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on this rock is built the Church" (Letters I, 15, 1-2).

    Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, can be found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, Bernini's eldest work, realized in the form of a great bronze throne, held up by statues of four Doctors of the Church, two of the west, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, two of the east, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius. I invite you to stand in front of this suggested work, which today is probably decorated admirably by many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry which God has entrusted to me. Raising our gaze to the alabaster window which opens over the Chair, invoking the Holy Spirit, may he always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to all the Church. [Applause] For this, and for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart.

For more on the Chair of St. Peter and papal authority, see the following links:For articles that I have written about Peter and the Papacy, see the Church Authority and the Papacy entry from the Topical Index.

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles....pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, February 14, 2014

Resources for St. Valentine's Day

Love and St. Valentine's Day
St. Valentine's Day Activities
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Immaculate Heart of Mary
The "Mother of All Peoples" website has more articles on the Immaculate Heart of Mary than I could possibly list here without losing a week of my life, so I suggest browsing that website for more information on this topic.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, February 06, 2014

For the Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions

To your average American, the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki are probably not very well known. But, their story deserves to be told, especially on this their feast day.
When doing research for this post, I came across an animated short called 26 Martyrs, which I then discovered will serve as a companion piece to a feature film called All That Remains. I was very impressed by both. Their respective trailers are below:





Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, January 31, 2014

For the Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest


As a catechist, I have a special place in my heart for St. John Bosco. He is one of the premier models of what we are called to be as teachers of the Faith. Bosco had a very Christ-like ability to draw all people to himself (even the rowdiest street kids) so as to change their lives and convert their hearts to Christ. The boys under his care loved him so much that they couldn't stand the thought of doing anything to disappoint him, and they knew that all he wanted for them was that they live good and holy lives.

What we learn from Bosco's approach and methodology is that the person of the catechist is just as important as orthodox teaching. You can have all of your facts straight, but if the children don't see that the Truth is something that enlivens you and informs every decision that you make -- if they don't see that you are committed to the very salvation of their souls -- then they won't give your words any more than a passing thought. Street kids know when they're getting fed a line. They know who the phonies are, the teachers who just clock in for their 9 to 5 and could give 2 cents about them. In St. John Bosco they saw someone different, someone who truly loved and cared for them.

If I could only have half the passion, zeal, and charisma that St. John Bosco had ...

St. John Bosco, "Apostle of Youth" ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

RESOURCES:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor

[The following list is far from comprehensive]

About Him and His Works:
Works by St. Thomas Aquinas
For more works by St. Thomas Aquinas, see Thomas Aquinas' Works in English and Bibliography

I leave you with Fr. Barron's words on this towering figure of Catholic philosophy and theology:



St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and the Church's greatest theologian ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, January 27, 2014

Drink Your Wine with a Merry Heart: What the Bible Says about Alcoholic Beverages

I haven't engaged in a debate in a while, so this has been fun. I am currently discussing with a Protestant friend of mine what the Bible says about drinking wine. He is of the opinion that it is forbidden. I believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that drinking wine with temperance is permissible.

Now, other people chimed in on this (it happened on Facebook, after all), but I'm only interested in presenting my exchange with him. That said, I will be providing his words to other people that also happened to bear upon the points I raised. I think this is the best way to present his side as faithfully as possible without belaboring this post with so many different voices. His words are indented and italicized.
This is a fantastic article. I'm not judging anyone who drinks...but if you're a believer and you drink, at least read this article. It's one of the most balanced I've read on the subject because it's not coming from a spirit of judgement. The last line says it best..."the question really isn’t CAN A CHRISTIAN DRINK? Rather, it is: SHOULD A CHRISTIAN DRINK?"
[. . .]
There was a time in my life when I drank. I'm not condemning anyone certainly. But the bible says to flee even the 'appearance' of evil. So that's a pretty high standard.
[. . .]
the Greek text bears out that the wine that was drunk in those days was non-alcoholic essentially. Never mind the fact that Jesus, Who is the Word of God made flesh (John 1) would never do something that violated that word...that would be sin and Jesus lived a sinless life.
[. . .]
Not to mention the fact that there are probably 50+ scriptures that instruct us that [the different types of wine found in the Bible] are harmful and we should abstain. I've studied this out out of curiosity (English, Greek and Hebrew) and to me it's pretty clear.
[. . .]
I would rather err on the side of caution for my sake and the sake of others. But again, I'm not going to judge you if you decided differently. In the end, it' s a decision that's between you and God...but it's something that most definitely can affect someone's decision to accept Christ or not.

If I could add my own 2 cents, Jesus and the Apostles all took wine to drink at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:27,29). The Son of man came “eating and drinking” (Lk 7:33-34). As for the OT evidence, the prophet Nehemiah commands the people to drink wine (cf. Neh 8:10). The sacrifices that God required often included wine as a drink offering (cf. Exo 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5,10; 28:7,14). The Psalmist says that God gives man plants so that he may make from them "wine to gladden the heart of man" (Psa 104: 14-15). In Proverbs we receive this counsel: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress” (Prov 31:9). Wine is even used as a symbol of new life and of the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind (cf. Isa 25:6; Amos 9:14; Zech 10:7).

You seem to believe that because the same Greek word (oinos) is used that every instance is the same drink. I think this is a mistaken exegetical view. Greek and English (as you all know) often do not align perfectly...hence the various translations of the Bible into English. For example we say love to mean everything from, "I love cheeseburgers" to "I love my wife". Those are obviously different meanings for the same word. In Greek, we see agape, phileo, and eros, all meaning love in its different forms. A good modern day look at this is how in the south some call every soft drink Coke. While Pepsi, Mt. Dew, etc are options, some use the word Coke as a euphemism for every type of soft drink. If we can go from one word (love) in English, to 3 words in Greek, doesn't it stand to reason that the process could work the other way as well? Isn't it possible that the Greek word (oinos) could be applied more broadly while in modern English we might parse words for different levels of fermentation (from plain grape juice to 100 year old wine)? I think that's a logical way to approach this. We have to see that Jesus would never violate God's word (and I've listed several places where the scriptures are clear about abstaining from alcoholic, highly fermented wine). Also, often times, especially in the OT, we see wine associated with the wine presses. Wine is not wine in the alcoholic sense when it is straight out of the presses. It's simply juice.

So, would you say that it was customary to drink grape juice during the Passover Meal and not fermented wine? That seems very highly unlikely to me. Also, look at Lk 7:33-34 again:
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, 'He has a demon.' 34 The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
It seems to me from this that the drink in question is the type that intoxicates a person, that has the potential to make him a drunkard.

Regarding the passages I provided from the OT, how does grape juice "gladden the heart of man" (Psa 104:14-15; Zech 10:7)? It is "strong drink" not grape juice that Prov 31:9 instructs us to give. The Mosaic Law allowed the people to purchase strong drink and even consume it "before the LORD your God and rejoice" (Deut 14:23-26). This seems strange if it was actually forbidden.

We must also remember that the whole reason why wine (as in, the fermented beverage) is a symbol of eschatological hope is because the merriment and festivity it provides is a foretaste (pun intended) of the joy that the Messiah will bring. Grape juice cannot carry the weight of this symbolic value.

One of the passages I provided in this regard was Isa 25:6 "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined." According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, the "lees" is:
Solid matter that settles out of wine during the fermentation process. In ancient Palestine, wine was allowed to remain on the lees to increase its strength and flavor. Such wine "on the lees" was much preferred to the newly fermented product. At Isaiah 25:6, a banquet of wine on the well-refined lees symbolizes God's people enjoying the best God can offer.
Consequently, this is also why the absence of this kind of wine is used as a symbol of God's judgment (cf. Isa 24:7-9; Joel 1:5-13), because it will mean for sinners the end of merriment and festivity.

I also mentioned that wine was used as a drink offering. Num 28:7 specifically says that the drink offering should be "of strong drink" to the Lord.

I think you make valid points. I can't say it changes my mind though. I still feel the preponderance of scriptural evidence points to the abstaining from (or at the very least a strong, strong caution against) alcohol. When you consider just the common sense side of how many rapes, murders, DUI's, etc. have alcohol use/abuse as an underlying cause, you can see the case against it, even if you set the scriptures aside. Also, I think it can be a deterrent to people accepting the Gospel if they see a believer drinking (this is especially in the south where we're taught from a social standpoint that alcohol should be avoided). I believe there should be a difference between the world and the church. If we act like the world, there is no separation to warrant someone looking for a better way. We're to be in the world, but not of the world. In other words, we can't act like everyone else and expect someone to be drawn to Jesus. Just my two cents.

I understand what you're saying. But, I also think there is a way to drink that allows one to still be firmly in the world but not of the world. Between the two extremes of drinking too much and none at all is the third way, what I would call the real Catholic way to drink: with temperance. For a non-believer, this third way is much more appealing b/c it reveals that, in accepting Christ, one does not have to forsake everything that brings him joy. Like you said, the Christian is still IN the world, he is just not OF the world, and the good Catholic takes this seriously. He does not drink as the world drinks, which is to excess. By drinking with temperance he still shows that he is a man set apart, and I can tell you from my own experience drinking in this way that people genuinely respect it when I say, "No thank you, I think I've had quite enough." This third way of drinking is one of discipline, but it is also one of thanking God for His many gifts.

For more on the "third way", see this article written by Sean P. Dailey, "The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking".

That said, I am curious as to what the rebuttal would be to the various passages I provided, and quite perplexed that they are not sufficient enough to change your mind. The provision from the Mosaic Law in particular seems quite unavoidable (cf. Deut 14:23-26). Oh, and if I could add another:
"Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do." (Eccl 9:7)
This whole Catholic-quoting-Scripture thing is quite bothersome, isn't it!

- - - - - - - - - -

It's been four days since my last comment, which on Facebook is, like, forever, so I imagine this is the end of it. But, if he does respond then I will update this post. For more on what the bible says about drinking wine, see the following articles:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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