Cocktails and Christ: Both in Moderation

“How could I drink the wine at Mass, then drink the cheap vodka in my dorm room and not feel guilty?”

By Juliana Neves, Loyola University

My history with spirituality has been filled with twists and turns, and like wine, it’s definitely an acquired taste.

When I went to college a couple years ago, I learned that my school is known for two things: The Bible and the bars. I go to a Jesuit university, which like many others, promotes certain mantras that every student is encouraged to live up to. Here are a few:

1. Cura Personalis – Care for the whole person.

2. Magis ­– To strive to be more.

3. Men and Women for and with others.

4. Strong Truths, Well Lived.

5. M.D.G. – For the greater glory of God.

Inspirational, right? I wasn’t very religious or spiritual when I went to college, but those quotes made me feel warm inside (and no, that wasn’t the whiskey talking). They definitely gave me motivation to work hard and made me feel that my work, both personally and academically, was for the greater good.

As I mentioned earlier, my tiny Jesuit school is known just as well for its bar scene. In the city, it’s not hard to find bars that will turn an eye to an “Under 21” ID. I would bet (with all the money that I don’t have as a college student) that most bars near my university are only standing because of the revenue they get from freshmen on Thirsty Thursdays.

How I Reconciled My Faith and My Drinking

Now I’m not here to promote any sort of illegal activity, but the reality is that most college students drink (at least once) during their time at college. As much as administrations hate to hear it, drinking and the drinking culture are a part of most college experiences.

When I arrived as a lowly freshman, I felt tension between the values my school asked of me and the culture it forced upon me. How could I drink the wine at Mass, then drink the cheap vodka in my dorm room and not feel guilty?

First, I had to rediscover my spirituality. As hippy as that sounds, I had to. I came to college being nagged to go to Church and praying to God only when I was up shit creek and desperately in need of a paddle. That’s all religion was for me. It was a chore and was definitely not something I expected to continue once I got to college.

So, as many students do their freshmen year with classes, I tried new things. I saw a poster for an alternative type of Mass and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s called Hopkins Mass, named after one of our dorm buildings.

At 10pm on Sundays, student run the show in a dorm lounge. I felt weird being encouraged to come to Mass in pajamas, but when you’re listening to Kendrick and hearing a priest talk about “Inside Out,” it seemed like anything went.

I found a community of other students who didn’t need the spectacle to be spiritual. They wanted a simple connection to their God. As time went on and mass started to become something I looked forward to, I began to develop a unique relationship with God.

I continued to connect spiritually through campus retreats, modern forms of prayer (which are more like having conversations) and reflecting, lots of reflecting. It’s been about a year and a half since I started this journey and the question of drinking was one of the first I wanted to solve.

I and many other students felt drinking and spirituality were polar opposites.

You couldn’t be spiritual and a drinker at the same time. I’m not supporting alcoholism, but you get what I mean.

Anyways, I really struggled with this. I felt guilty when I went to parties Saturday night and then Mass Sunday night. Over time, I came to learn you could do both, but there were some key things to remember.

Everything Is Okay in Moderation

Besides hard drugs and murder, most things are okay in moderation, and I’m not just talking about drinking. Spirituality and religion have to be in moderation too. As much as you want to live each day as a saint, you can’t.

Just as you shouldn’t shotgun until you black out, you shouldn’t constantly feel like you have to be praying. There are times for fun, just make sure you’re not going to do something that you are going to need penance for.

Drinking Doesn’t Mean Getting Drunk

Following up on my last point, drinking doesn’t and shouldn’t mean you are getting piss drunk every night.

A glass of wine or a couple beers on a Saturday night will by no means send you to H-E-double hockey stick.

Drink to Make Good Times Better, Not Bad Times Good

I often see people wanting to get the most drunk when they are sad about a breakup, or frustrated about failing an exam. Red flags everywhere!

If you’re upset or angry, drinking won’t solve anything. At best it’ll make you forget about your worries for a while, which sounds good until you have to face those problems with a hangover.

If you’re upset or feel like you’re missing something in your life, search deeper than the bottom of a shot glass. Maybe you need to improve your spiritual life. Take time to reflect on what’s truly going on when you’re sober. Maybe meditating or praying daily could help with that urge to drink after a tough day.

Sunday Morning is More Important Than Saturday Night

I’m not trying to push my Christian faith on anyone, but I’m trying to create a metaphor. Yes, college parties are a great time, but they aren’t the most important thing. It should not be your priority.

Hate to burst peoples’ bubble, college isn’t about partying, it’s about learning. If drinking is getting in the way of your studies, your friendships or your health, you probably should reprioritize. If you can keep healthy relationships and academics, have a beer on me.

What you believe in (or if you don’t believe in anything) is entirely up to you. As I have developed a greater understanding and appreciation for my own spirituality, I have come to believe that as long as I am living for a greater good, whether that be in my relationships, my academics, my hobbies and my prayers, a drink now and again isn’t a bad thing. In my personal opinion, I think God occasionally enjoys a whiskey on the rocks, when he’s feeling cool.