That was a hell of a party Friday night. There were five kegs of beer, tables of food, illicit (and possibly illegal) gambling and sorority girls. Very few venues can host such an event. Even our college parties lacked the panache that was present here. As my wife told her co-worker that day, she was “going drinking and gambling with the Catholics.” So there we were, at my first Alma Mater, St. Cyril’s of Alexandria, in the church basement…drinking and gambling. All presided over by the resident Priest.
There are two things the Catholic Church is really good at. The first is slathering the guilt on like peanut butter on bread. Miss church? Go to hell. Put “God” in front of “damn”? Go to hell. You get the idea. The second is drinking. And from what I have seen, all Catholics drink. We seem to take the whole “water to wine” parable to heart. The Nuns drank and the Priests drank. In fact, as an altar boy, I drank. I remember sneaking a bit of wine once during a funeral I was serving with Dave Geiger. One chore we had during the service was to take the incense holder outside and empty the burnt incense into this little trough. I guess we had figured what better way to pass those few minutes than to enjoy it with a few snorts from the Sacristy wine stash.
When I was a kid, I remember going to the Church fair. Besides the normal games of chance, there was serious card playing happening on the porch of the school. The World Series of Poker had nothing on St. Cyril’s. In fact, I remember one game finishing up on the steps of the Church. In this tradition, the annual Night At The Races had gambling on horse races that included two daily doubles (the gambling was so sophisticated the races had odds), a 50/50 that would pay over $300.00 to the winner, a Super Bowl poll and a Penguins ticket raffle. Money was changing hands like it was a black market money exchange in Moscow.
I can bitch and complain about some of the edicts of the Catholic Church, but man, they love to party. And as a priest told me one time after a friend’s wedding while I was helping him liberate a half bottle of wine in the back of the church, passing the chalice back and forth, “all in the name of the Lord, right?” I remembered my manners, “yes, Father.”