Groundhog: continuation of a Catholic tradition

Drinking in moderation has long been a part of Catholic and Western culture. Groundhog continues this longstanding tradition. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

Drinking has been the center of social gatherings since ancient times. Because beer and wine were both fermented alcohol, they carried less bacteria than unfiltered water and thus prevented people from getting sick.

Alcoholic beverages are pictured in archeological findings from the Egyptians to the ancient Chinese, who called it the ‘water of history’ because its uses can be traced back to nearly every period of Chinese history. In traditional Gaelic, it is referred to as the “Water of Life.” The Italians have always held the tradition of drinking wine at meals. Even in traditional households, the children drink wine diluted with water at dinner with the adults to be a part of the family circle.

Alcohol continued to be the glue of the society in the middle ages for the same reason that it was popular in the earlier centuries — it prevented the spread of bacteria through the unclean water that was the only alternative to alcohol at the time.

The Catholic Church is no exception to the tradition of alcohol. The very liturgy of the Catholic Church revolves around the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This tradition, as everyone knows, stems from the Last Supper where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with His apostles just before He went to suffer on the cross.

The tradition of alcohol in social gatherings continues into the present.  Due to modern advancements, we now have less need for an alternative for unclean water. Thus, alcohol has become more of a pleasure than a necessity. However, drinking remains a binding force in the modern social life, even in Catholic social circles.

As a society, we generally associate the act of drinking with festivity. Catholics have held this tradition throughout the ages. “Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour” by Michael P. Foley demonstrates this connection.

At the University of Dallas, the Catholic culture mixes with the alcohol culture quite well, for those who choose to partake in both. There is, however, some taboo surrounding drinking in America because of some of the country’s Puritan and Protestant roots. This social hesitation with regard to drinking is enhanced by UD’s lack of frat houses and sororities that would normally be the foundation for a school’s drinking culture     ­— with the exception of the Mill, of course.

“For most students who drink alcohol here at UD, they don’t think about their Catholic culture, sometimes absent-mindedly, and sometimes out of guilt, for fear that it would condemn their actions,” junior Thomas Crawford said. “But what they don’t realize [is] that if they stay within ‘The Point of Hilarity,’ to quote St. Thomas Aquinas, it’s perfectly fun and even healthy.”

Drinking has, is and always will be something that sews the seams of society together through its roots in history and cultural significance, particularly in the Catholic world. The fact that drinking is an important social contract manifests itself very clearly in UD life, since it is not masked by the typical university sororities and fraternities.

At the University of Dallas, one can see a high concentration of young Catholics with access to alcohol. Yes, alcohol abuse happens occasionally, but these instances do not represent the majority of the population. Those who do not misuse the substance can recognize that alcohol has been a large part of culture throughout the ages.

So, with that …

“Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;

For our Blessed Lady’s sake, bring us in good ale.”


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