The sin of intemperance is an inordinate desire for food and drink. There are some people who never stop eating; they resemble a mill that never stops; their life is a continual round of eating. Those who eat outside of meal times eat merely for the gratification of the palate. Every one must conceive that such continual eating or drinking is sinful, especially for a Christian, who is to imitate the mortification of the Lord and Master in all things.
The glutton, or the drunkard, is like a beast of the field, a slave to his own appetites, for he is led by them rather than by reason, or the Law of God. The consequence is that his mind becomes darkened, his will corrupted, and his heart hardened against divine grace. Of the terrible fruit of drunkenness I need hardly speak.
Everywhere you see homes made desolate, wives and children starving and naked, the most horrible crimes committed, and sinners brought to a miserable and untimely end through this accursed sin.
Ah, my dear children, pray earnestly to God that you never be so unhappy as to become victims to this vice and, in order that you may be preserved from the danger of it, practice throughout life continual temperance, or moderation in your eating and drinking. Deny yourselves now in little things, and you will acquire that command over yourselves which, with God's grace, will enable you to stand firm in after life against greater temptations.
St. Monica, the mother of the great St. Augustine, was brought up under the care of a virtuous woman, who endeavored to train her in the habits of self-denial as well as other virtues. Thus, among other excellent practices, she would never allow the little Monica to drink between meals, saying to her, "Now you only want a drink of water; but when you grow up and are mistress of the cellar, you will not care for water, though the habit of drinking will still remain." The very danger which the prudent servant had foreseen actually befell her, for as she grew older her parents frequently entrusted her with the key of the cellar, and sent her to draw wine for the use of the family. When so doing she would sometimes, out of curiosity, take a little sip, but by degrees the quantity increased, and she acquired at length such a liking for wine that she would drink whole cupfuls with the greatest relish.
Thus did she sow the seeds of intemperance, and by indulgence expose herself to the danger of grievous excess. Almighty God saw her peril, and mercifully rescued her from the brink of the precipice in the following manner:
It happened one day that the young Monica had some angry words with one of the servants. Now this was the very maid who had been in the habit of accompanying her young mistress to the cellar, and who had frequently noticed her fondness for the wine cup. In her vexation she now reproached St. Monica with her failing, calling her a young wine-bibber. The expression made the deepest impression on her mistress, who, entering into herself, sincerely deplored her fault, and from the moment entirely corrected it. Thus did her humility in profiting by the rebuke of a servant lay the foundation of her future sanctity.
Intemperance is the source of many sins, the first is the neglect of religious duties. This is particularly true of drunkards. They omit private and family devotions; they neglect to hear Mass on Sundays and Holydays. They are deadly enemies of the word of God; they scarcely ever listen to a sermon, but ridicule it. They neglect to go to confession during the year; and they let many an Easter pass without complying with their Easter duty.
One morning Johnny went to town with his father, and stayed in his office until it was time to go to lunch. Johnny had never remained downtown so long, and he was very much interested in all the books and papers and drawers and desks in his father's great office. He and his father were chums, and when lunch-time came they went off together to eat at a near-by restaurant. The waiter knew the boy's father and when he received the order for lunch asked the boy what he would like to have to drink. The waiter did not ask his father, because he knew that it was the father's custom to have a bottle of wine each day. The boy replied as he had to the other questions: "I'll take what father takes." Then his father knew that something must be done, that it would never do for the waiter to bring a bottle of wine to the boy, and so he quietly called the waiter to his side and changed his order and asked for a glass of milk. And so when lunch was brought in, two glasses of milk were set down on the table, one for the boy and one for his father and the little lad was greatly pleased that both of them should be having the same lunch; but all that afternoon after the father had gone back to his office the words of Johnny kept ringing in his ears: "I'll take what father takes." He went home in the evening, and was happy for a little while in hearing Johnny tell his mother all about his day's fun in the city and how he had the same things for lunch as his father. But that night after the boy had gone to bed, the father still heard those same words over and over again; and he remembered his strong drink and all his bad habits. At last he could endure it no longer and knelt down and asked God to guide him, and from that night on he never tasted wine again. I think that the boys and girls who can do just what their parents do and are sure that they are doing what is right and true and good and kind, ought to be happy boys and girls.
Intemperance brings about quarrels, strife, contention and murder. It often happens that drunken men quarrel and abuse one another, sometimes coming to blows, which often result in murder.
We have an example in Alexander the Great, who, heated by wine, transfixed with a lance his friend Klitus, who had saved his life, and stretched him dead on the floor. Intemperance is one of the capital sins and is the source of many other sins. We should sometimes voluntarily deprive ourselves of a certain amount of food and drink in order to obtain control of our appetite.
Charles III., King of Sweden, in his youth often got drunk with wine. Once in his drunkenness he was guilty of very offensive words towards his mother. When one of his friends reminded him of his bad conduct, he was deeply moved and said: "Bring me a bottle of wine and a cup." It was done. He then went to his mother and said: "Mother, I offended you yesterday." Then filling the cup to the brim, he drank it in the presence of his mother, and said : "That is my last cup of wine." And he kept his word.
Children, imitate Jesus and the saints; be sober and temperate, and satisfied with plain food. Your food should be to do the will of God, that the words of Jesus may be verified in you : "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled."
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921