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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Beer and St. Thomas Aquinas

Father Schnippel has posted a wonderful blessing for beer. Yes, beer. Mmmmmmmm...beeeeer. But the Thomist in me a beer blessing... Can beer be blessed? So, since this blog is in need of levity, humor, and wit, and something for the geek, too, well, I've researched and researched and have discovered this little-known clip of the Summa Theologica that apparently was left on the editing-room floor. It was found near one of the quashed records from the early Church that proved the authorship of the Gospels (in addition to the writings of the Early Church Fathers), so, given the state of modern "Catholic" scholarship today, it's no surprise that we don't often hear of the ancient blessing of beer. So, without further ado, here's a little artifact for all you Thomists out there; let your soul be refreshed...and let temperance be your guide!

Whether the blessing of beer is proper and can be justified?

Objection 1. It would seem that the impropriety of blessing the intoxicating liquid commonly called "beer" should be obvious to one and all who aspire to living a life of sanctity. As beer can be quickly intoxicating and thus eliminate the inhibitions of properly-sober persons, the action of "blessing" the beer would seem to give license not only to intoxication, but also to limited mental faculties that lead one into sin.

Objection 2: Further, blessing beer creates a temptation and an occasion of sin. When sober, a man has the use of full reason consistent with his intellectual capacity, however, the use of beer can diminish what reason he possesses. In the diminishment of reason, one may determine that something otherwise considered to be sinful would in fact be pleasent and "good", and thus, the beer would have lead said person down a path away from reason and towards sin. Such a thing is a temptation and thus the blessing can be termed to be "an occasion of sin."

Objection 3: Further, beer is a beverage not consumed at holy events, but in bars, backyard barbecues, and keg parties for the sake of imbibing great quantities for the intended purpose of intoxication. It should not be imbibed at all, and other intoxicating liquids should also be avoided for one trying to live a life in God's grace.

Objection 4: It is scandalous to the faithful to bless beer.

On the contrary, It is written (Jn 2:3) "When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine'". Even further, it is written in reference to the 30-gallon jars meant for ritual purification, that they be filled to the brim. In this, the first miracle of Jesus (Jn 2:7), Jesus changed that water into wine for the feast, and He provided a quantity fit to intoxicate a crowd of their own volition. Thus we see that although the scriptures mention abundant wine, they do not mention beer.

I answer that, beer was not an ingredient of celebration in biblical times, however that does not imply that the invention of it is ungodly, only different but similar in effects to the predecessor which was wine.

Reply to Objection 1: Good beer was created from earthly ingredients freely given by God for this purpose. Good beer was created from especially tasty elements and was designed not for embarassing consumption but to be sipped in fellowship and enjoyed as with a good wine. The intoxicating properties are limited through the virtue of the one who consumes the beverage. Beer consumed in proper amounts does not inhibit the life of sanctity.

Reply to Objection 2: As in the reply to Objection 1, although beer can be a temptation to sin by some, it is not a temptation to sin for all. I further answer that food can be a temptation for some, but that does not inhibit our need to ask God to bless our food. To argue that beer cannot be blessed because it may be a temptation and occasion for sin is fallacious; for that point to be true, those who are tempted to gluttony must not have their meals blessed, if they eat at all! Thus, blessing beer does not enter one into an occasion of sin.

Reply to Objection 3: I answer that beer is also consumed at fine meals and at family events, taken with food, and limited in quantity. Just as wine with dinner is not automatically drunk to intoxication, thus is beer. Beer is no different from wine in this regard. To argue against blessing beer is to argue against allowing wine to be blessed with the meal. Jesus himself consumed wine at Passover and had beer been created, he would likewise have consumed beer. Yet we do not read of Christ and his Apostles drinking to intoxication at the Last Supper.

Reply to Objection 4: It would seem that it is NOT scandalous to bless beer. As we also bless food and consume it, thus we must also bless beer to be consumed with the food, for its elements too, are gifts from God, as are our friends and family. It must be observed that the blessing must call to mind right use of those gifts, which further enables us to focus on the virtues of temperence and charity, while unblessed food or beer could lead us to treat those gifts and ourselves callously. Thus, we see that the blessing of beer would not only be spiritually advantageous, but could, in fact, draw one into a closer union with God through the increased virtue inspired by the blessing. Especially if the blessing is stated in Latin.

Further, the only thing that would cause the blessing to be scandalous would be if the priest blessed the beer and then refused access to the rest of the present faithful.


Father Schnippel said...

In regard to your 'further, the only thing ... scandalous....'

I don't think that would be scandalous at all.

Adoro said...

Well, it's a good thing that you're a loyal son of the Church, and of course, I'm sure, as such, that you love St. Thomas Aquinas and would never disobey his wisdom.

So...St. Thomas says....SHARE!

Anonymous said...

Only you would come up with this post! LOL
enjoyed reading it!

Anonymous said...

Are you calling me a nerd?

Anonymous said...

Never! Absolutely not! I pale [ale] in comparison to you! (I would be the nerd of the group - I was in high school & college) LOL

You'd be foaming up there with my youngest brother & sister - never stout .... in with the 'cool' gang. Brewed with the perfection of Jesus. And with a sudzy perspective on life! This should be in the 'Guiness' book of records. LOL

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're really punny. But don't you mean P(ale) instead of Pale (ale)? LOL

Anonymous said...

That's what happens when I get out of back to back to back meetings 3 days in a row! I have 2 more weeks of this yet! Ugh! I'm just a 'hops' skip & a jump from insanity here!

And on the 'lite' side, yes, I got 'mashed' on the P[ale].


Anonymous said...

You're cut off! No beer for you!

And not meetings, either!

Anonymous said...

Awe! No Great Lakes for the end of July??? I'm so 'blue!' Should I 'wine'???

Anonymous said...

Girl, you need help. I'm going to refer you to Fr. S., who has the beer blessing. According to St. Thomas, he can help. So....go see Fr. S. And tell him I said so....


Anonymous said...

Is that like being sent to the Principal's office???

I was only sent there once in my life - and I was shaking like a leaf!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have anything to worry about. He'll just bless the beer and then withhold it from you and enjoy it immensely himself, causing you great scandal. Check out his comment above!

Anonymous said...

Oh, unless you can pun him to death, then maybe he'll release the beer.

Anonymous said...

I don't know... that sounds a little 'rocky'. LOL

Ok - going to Adoration now.

Father Schnippel said...

this thread took a serious nose dive since I commented above!

Adoro said...

What?! You don't think LM is punny?

Well...she's coming your way!

Adoro said...

Wait a minute, come you didn't say anything about the fact that St. Thoms is pretty clear about the need to share? You capitalized on the red herring distraction!

I'm so disappointed in you. Way to avoid a point..point back have to share!

Unknown said...

Adoro: I'm a late arrival at this seminar.

I happen to have a whole slug of "forever stamps" and an international air mail envelope.

What is the mailing address for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

We need to submit this draft PhD dissertation with our request to have the ecclesiastical approval of beer to be declared a dogma of the Church.

I think your future graduate theological studies will be a "piece of cake and a bottle of beer (or three)."

The Ironic Catholic said...

And THIS is where theological education gets you. (sigh, shaking head)

You think it's all about jokes, young lady?!

St Philip Neri, pray for us!

Anonymous said...

Ray ~ I'm pretty sure I don't what my dissertation to be about beer. your stamps for something more interesting!

IC ~ And..uh...with all due respect...who are YOU to have a problem with theological jokes? Hmmm....? lol

Banshee said...

Um... not to be a killjoy, but the scriptures probably do mention beer. Since the Sumerians (okay, in some cases it was more like beer soup) and Egyptians (every worksite made and doled out beer and bread) drank beer, when you read about "wine and strong drink" in the Bible, they're probably talking about "wine, and other fermented stuff like beer".

Banshee said...

I found that out by Googling, and continued Googling found this rather interesting interpretation of "cast your bread upon the waters".

And a technical article on "strong drink" as being fermented barley:

Anonymous said...

LOL, Maureen, my goodness, you're a bigger nerd than I am! (I mean that in a fun way!)

The point of this post is parody...not technicality. I think that's why this was left out of the Summa.

However, just because something "might" have been what we know as beer in the Bible, we still don't KNOW and it's not specifically called "beer". Or in German, "Bier". I'd also like to point out the the desert areas of the Middle East likely also had a fermented drink which is called "Pulque" in Mexico, but the scriptures don't talk about that, either.

(I tried Pulque in Mexico...vile stuff. But a lot of people like it. I think it's an acquired taste..or maybe requires hypnotism to MAKE one think it's good! lol!)

Anonymous said...

Hey - if the Monks can make it, it's gotta be good! (and good for you!) LOL

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Great post...though I'm a total abstinence Pioneer!

Unknown said...


Are you and George Will, the political columnist buddies?

He has an interesting bit in the Strib today on "How Beer Saved Civilization."

Anonymous said...

Ray ~ Never heard of him. I don't follow the Strib. I do burn it in my grill cylinder, though, and find the Strib is GREAT for lighting charcoal. (And it doesn't leave a lighter fluid aftertaste). lol

Banshee said...

Yes, I am a bigger nerd than you. :) I did get the joke. But I did have that sudden realization of "wait a minute, I know Middle Eastern prehistory had beer!" So I was afraid for a moment that there was a ritual prohibition of it somewhere in Leviticus... and every German cell in my body got reeeeeal worried.

Now, those cells are not only reassured, but also have the linguistic evidence that, across the Middle East, people said someone was "beered" when they meant drunk. (Or maybe they said he was "ale-ing".)

So thank you for brightening my day, both by your parody and what it caused me to discover. :)

Adoro said...

Maureen ~ NERDS UNITE! And with a name like "Fr. Schnippel" he's GOT to be a good German...must ask him. (Myself, I'm Swede, Irish, German, and French). :-)


I'm still looking for "pulque" references in scripture.....