Preparations are being finalized for the Delaware St. Mary Festival, which will be held on our parish grounds Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18. It is open to the public and becomes a wonderful venue to gather amongst the entire Delaware community and beyond, to enjoy one another’s company as well as the offerings that are being provided. This includes carnival rides and inflatables, children’s games, live entertainment, silent auction, good food and drink, and even a casino.
Rather than continue to promote this happening for the rest of this column, I would like to offer a Catholic perspective on the last two items mentioned on the promotion list; drink (which includes alcohol) and casino. It becomes somewhat dicey to step into these waters, as it comes off that we are peddlers of vice. To advertise that we are offering beer and wine, as well as inviting people to games of chance, flies against a higher ground of not encouraging behavior that will lead us into temptation and sin. It does seem to place us in a rather precarious position, as how can you encourage drinking and gambling and still maintain an allegiance to knowing, loving and serving God?
First, the understanding of our Catholic faith does not consider drinking or gambling intrinsically evil. With respect to the former, it may be easier to find Scriptural references that support a benign treatment of the consumption of alcohol; more specifically, wine. In Psalm 104, it reads: “You raise the grass for cattle and plants for our beasts of burden. You bring bread from the earth and wine to gladden our hearts.” Or in Isaiah 25, it states, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and pure, choice wines.”
Also, we can turn to the Gospel passage of the wedding at Cana in which they have run out of wine, and Jesus performs his first miracle of changing water into wine. You would think that he should have cut them off from continued consumption rather than providing more and even at a higher quality.
On the other end, there are a number of passages that do come down on drunkenness. The letter to the Ephesians, in Chapter 5, Verse 18, states, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the spirit”; or in Paul’s letter to the Romans he states, “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness (Romans 13:13). Many other passages can be cited that come down hard on over-imbibing.
In our faith, we are called to exercise our free will and cooperate with God’s grace. We can use, but shouldn’t abuse. We can enjoy, but are called to live in a spirit of temperance of knowing when to say when. For some, one drink is one too many.
With respect to gambling, traditional Catholic teaching maintains that it is morally acceptable when all of the following conditions are met: 1) the money or possessions wagered are not needed to support one’s family or fulfill other just obligations; 2) a person participates freely; 3) the revenues derived from gambling are not used to support any illegal or immoral enterprise; and 4) the games of chance are operated fairly (Pennsylvania Catholic Conference).
I believe that those conditions are met at the festival, though I cannot speak for everyone participating. My hope is that people play more so with the intent of giving to the cause rather than winning. It is a minor source of our revenue and it provides for some an avenue of engagement.
The festival is well-patrolled and good will dominates the behavior of those in attendance who recognize, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”