Every once in a while, the fact that I am living in the so-called “Bible belt” is brought home to me. This past weekend our Catholic parish in a little town called Diboll south of Lufkin where I live celebrated the 16th of September—the Mexican Independence Day since most of the parishioners there are from Mexico or are children of Mexican natives. Last night I got a phone call from a young man who is interested in becoming a Catholic. He was born and raised in this area in a Baptist family, and attended Mass at the Diboll parish even though he doesn’t speak or understand Spanish.
He called to ask me for an explanation of why there was BEER at the party on the church grounds in Diboll. He was somewhat scandalized to find beer on Catholic Church property. Being from New Orleans, I found it interesting that he should react so strongly to that fact. I pointed out to him that Our Lord’s first recorded miracle was to change somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water into very good wine. We find the story in the gospel according to Saint John, chapter 2. So I assured him that had Our Lord been physically at the Mexican party in Diboll, he would have had a beer or two. His answer was that yes, but Jesus produced non-alcoholic wine!
I found it interesting that this young fellow—he’s only about 23—would have been so indoctrinated with Bible belt theology that he finds some moral evil in the use of alcohol, even in perfectly acceptable moderation. He has enrolled in an RCIA program to prepare for entrance into the Catholic Church, but is having trouble with the idea of the Church allowing beer at a church gathering. I went on to tell him that I enjoy a cold beer with one of our good New Orleans shrimp or oyster poor boys, and wine with a good meal. Then he said to me, “Do the Sisters at your monastery drink wine and beer?” I said no, but the Sisters in Europe do, since it is so common throughout society there.
He told me that his family thinks of us Catholic priests as being evil because we drink alcoholic beverages on occasion, and they think us unnatural because we don’t marry. Of course, Our Lord didn’t marry either, but that was different. People here don’t say things like that to me out of courtesy, but evidently it is common talk among themselves. So you see, the mentality that enforced prohibition upon our nation back in the ‘20s and caused so much lawlessness and organized crime is still with us—at least in this part of the Bible belt. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.