St. John Chrysostom with some … unusual advice

Today in the Ordinary Form calendar it is the feast of St. John Chrysostom (+407).

I would guide your attention to a little attended to Letter of Pope Benedict XVI about St. John Chrysostom.  I wrote about it here.

Also, I will share one of my favorite quote from the saint, so venerated in the East, as in the West.

This is from Homilies on the Statues 1,7:

Paul is not ashamed, and does not blush, after the many and great signs which he had displayed even by a simple word; yet, in writing to Timothy, to bid him take refuge in the healing virtue of wine drinking. Not that to drink wine is shameful. God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretics; […] For [Paul] does not simply say, “use a little wine;” but having said before, “drink no longer water,” he then brings forward his counsel as to the drinking of wine. And this expression “no longer” was a manifest proof, that till then he had drunk water, and on that account was become infirm.  But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favor of you all,  in return for this my address, and speaking with you; which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city  [i.e., blaspheming against God by saying that wine is evil.]. And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels! For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God. […]

So, there it is.  St. John has taught us today that, should anyone say we shouldn’t drink wine or that it is bad for us or wrong or evil, strike him on the mouth!

Let us all know how that goes.

Happy feast of St. John Chrysostom!

May I suggest nice bottle of wine with supper tonight?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ezra says:

    St John Chrysostom, patron saint of ecumenical dialogue.

  2. teomatteo says:

    I’d give my eye tooth to have heard that homily! POW!

  3. Random Friar says:

    My doctor actually did tell me to cut out alcohol — period. However, I like my doctor and my freedom. I’ll call on prudential judgement and let this one pass. AFAIK, my doctor is neither heretical nor a quack.

  4. Random Friar —

    Alcohol in general is not harmful, especially in moderation. Alcohol to a specific person with specific health problems, or in bad quantities, or of a bad and noxious variety, can be harmful. Obviously the homily was addressing the general case.

    And believe me, if you lived in pre-modern times (or in a bad part of the modern world), I guarantee you’d be better off drinking wine or beer rather than impure water. It really would be for your stomach’s sake! This is probably why Muslims with bad water end up drinking so many boiling-based drinks, like extremely hot tea and coffee, or kefir/yogurt-based drinks that don’t go bad (or are already as bad as they’ll get… heh).

  5. Dr. Eric says:

    This is a little gross, but here goes: I had a patient who was so constipated that she had to use an enema every 4 or 5 days to ~ahem~ go. Anyway, she told me that it happened 27 years ago after she quit drinking- she’s a Baptist. The first thing I blurted out was that she should start drinking, just one beer or something per day- and that St. Paul told St. Timothy to not drink only water but to have some wine for his stomach. She said that she acknowledged that, but if she started having a little beer or something it would ruin her testimony to people.

    Her daughter was in my class from kindergarten through high school and she was oh so very wild, ifyaknowwhatimean. Perhaps if this woman wasn’t so reactionary and puritanical her daughter wouldn’t have been so rebellious.

    Anyway, I gave her some medicine and we got things going, in a hurry. ;-)

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    By the way, I can’t wait to start punching out some Fundamentalists.

  7. James Joseph says:

    Thank you Padre Z.

    Here in my Utah city of 100,000+ where it’s 2% Catholic (and maybe 4% Christian), one would think that verses and words like this from the Early Church and Scripture would be interpreted sensibly…. nuff said.

    I love that Timothy Letter. Mayhaps I hold it dear for self-ish reasons.

    That reminds me… I still have meatballs made with red wine in my refrigerator.

  8. Random Friar says:

    @Suburbanbanshee: I know, just continuing the levity…

    Believe me, no doctor, considering my health history (nothing scandalous, I assure you), would allow me to drink. My system is overtaxed enough. I take but a small sip at Holy Communion. I do miss a good beer or wine, but I would probably miss my present health more.

  9. RichardT says:

    I have to see a liver specialist next month, and I am worried that he is going to tell me to abstain from wine (and red meat). But I shall try praying to St. John Chrysostom. A timely reminder, thank you Father.

    P.S. – Stephen Maturin would feel right at home; if it’s what my doctor thinks it is, the cure is weekly blood-letting.

  10. APX says:

    Are you suggesting I should go punch my Mormon friends??? Granted, they get more on my case about drinking coffee than wine.

  11. Tom T says:

    And this from St. John Chrysostom who was emphatic on this point. “You greatly delude yourself
    and err, if you think that one thing is demanded of the layman and another from the monk; since
    the difference between the them is whether one is married or not, while in everything else they have the same responsibilities……Because all must rise to the same heights; and what has turned the world upside down is that we think only the monk must live rigorously while the rest are allowed to live a life of indolence. A man is not defined by whether he is a layman or a monk, but by the way he thinks.” Pax

  12. AnAmericanMother says:

    Didn’t St. Nicholas, of all people, haul off and slug Arius at Nicaea?

    With apologies to Sir Winston, maybe we need less jaw-jaw and more pow-pow?

  13. Ezra says:

    This discussion reminds me of the summary of St Louis de Montfort’s career as a pugilist writted by Fr Bryce Sibley after reading Eddie Doherty’s Wisdom’s Fool:

    St. Louis was not only well known for his preaching, but also for his pugilism. During his first sermon in the village of Roussay, a group of drunks in a café close enough to be heard by the saint and congregation, were mocking St. Louis with vulgar shouts and songs. As the sermon continued, so did the rude comments, and the people could tell that St. Louis was getting angry and annoyed. After he finished his sermon and blessed the people, St. Louis walked quickly toward the men at the café who were mocking him during his sermon. They greeted St. Louis, who was a massive man with a few derisive yet humorous comments. St. Louis however responded with his fists. He struck each of the men, knocking them unconscious. Then just as Our Lord drove the moneychangers out of the temple, St. Louis began tearing up the café, overturning tables, throwing chairs, smashing glasses and breaking bottles. He then walked out of the café, over the bodies of the drunken hoodlums, and back up the street. Needless to say, he never had a problem with disruptive behavior during his homilies for the rest of his stay in that town. Another time, in the Diocese of Nantes, a dozen or so unbelieving student intellectuals set upon St. Louis one night because the subject matter of his preaching was so contrary to their ideology. Although St. Louis desired to be a martyr, he knew this was not the time and proceeded to waylay all twelve of these university thugs. The fight made so much noise that a crowd gathered, with some of the young men joining in on de Montfort’s side to end the melee. On another occasion after St. Louis remonstrated a man for being loud and disrespectful in church, a dispute ensued. The man, who was a Colonel in the army, began to laugh at deMontfort, this infuriated the saint even more, but the man would not listen to the priest and drew his sword. de Montfort again asked him to leave, and at this point the colonel began to curse St. Louis and called for the help of his troops. A brawl began in the back of the church. There were thrown chairs, much shouting, screaming women and St. Louis and the colonel bloodied and battered. The fight was eventually broken up, with the soldiers and their leaders fleeing the church.

  14. Tom T says:

    Things are getting quite violent here. Is this a way to subtly push Mystic Monk coffee for the morning after? Seriously, wine is supposed to be good for blood pressure. Pax

  15. irishgirl says:

    AnAmericanMother-yep, St. Nicholas DID slug Arius!
    Love the Churchill ‘quote’!
    Boy, that St. John Chysostom didn’t pull any punches! [yeah, bad pun….ducks]

  16. Charles E Flynn says:

    Recall that we once had prohibition in the USA, which led to a great increase in organized crime.

  17. sugarlandsteve says:


    As one who has the malady your doctor suspects (I’m hard-pressed to say “suffers from”, when compared to other disorders), 5 years and almost 5 gallons after diagnosis, I can say the following: (1) the weekly leechings come to an end fairly quickly, and then only 3-6 a year are required; (2) while I’m not a doctor myself, I know some doctors allow light alcohol usage if you don’t already have irreversible liver damage…as long as you’re faithful to your donation schedule.

    If you are diagnosed, use a blood donor center which has the FDA variance to use your blood for transfusions if you can. If you’re going to have to donate weekly for a while, better to help save others’ lives as well as your own! There’s a list at the FDA’s website.

    P.S. No leeches were harmed–or even used–in the writing of this comment or in the actual bloodlettings described.

  18. Linus says:

    For those who really have to stay away from alcohol or who just don’t like it there is a tried and true alternative and perfectly natural. Before meals you can mix a cap full or two of vinegar in an ounce or two of water or with grape juice or some other juice and drink that. And you can buy wine vinegars which you can take straight. Of course the naturally fermented vinegars found in health food stores are the best, since they contain many natural enzimes which aid the digestion. But any vinegar will ” keep you regular. ” If it does’t you better see a doctor. But at least it will give you the same benefits as wine. And after awhile you learn to like it!!!

  19. Cecilianus says:

    The Philokalia has some good advice about wine drinking. In particular, St. Diadochus of Photiki soundly condemns those who water down the robustness of their wine with junk – a 5th century equivalent of wine coolers, perhaps. He says, “not only are they harmful to our bodies, but their fraudulent and artificial character greatly offends the conscience wherein God dwells. For what does wine lack that we should sap its healthy vigour by adulterating it with a variety of condiments?”

  20. Random Friar says:

    @Ezra: St. Louis, a real life “Don Camillo!”

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