TEMPERANCE SUNDAY 2008
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH, DUNGANNON
SUNDAY 3RD FEBRUARY 2008
I have just returned from the Holy Land – the land where Jesus lived and died and rose from the dead for love of us. It was my great privilege to celebrate Mass for all of you at the Holy Sepulchre – the tomb where Jesus lay dead before rising in gloriously on the third day.
It was on a mountain in the Holy Land that Jesus spoke those words which we have just heard in the Gospel. They are called the Beatitudes. Beatitudes means ‘Blessedness’ ‘happiness’. It is generally accepted that Jesus is speaking about himself in that Gospel. How would it sound if was read like this: ‘Jesus is happy and poor in sprit and in fact’. The kingdom of Heaven certainly belongs to him. Jesus is gentle and those who are gentle like him will inherit the earth’.
· Jesus mourns with those who are in sorrow because of tragedy or loss or grief. Jesus hungered and thirsted for what is right.
· He always did and said what was right. Jesus is merciful to all who turn to him with confidence.
· Jesus is pure of heart and his vision of God the Father has never been dimmed or grown dull or been muddied by the filth of this world.
· Jesus is a peacemaker and he wants to restore peace between us and God.
· Jesus was persecuted for saying and doing what was right but he remained happy through it all. He knew that he was doing what his Father wanted him to do.
Today, on this day of prayer for Temperance we take time to consider what temperance is all about. There is a right way and a wrong way of handling the good things of this world. To live well in this life you need to be wise and fair. You need to be brave and balanced. That balance we call ‘temperance’.
Since I was here last I got a new title, that of Cardinal. The word ‘Cardinal’ comes from the Latin word for a hinge. A hinge is a joint or mechanism for hanging doors onto doorposts or onto a wall. So Cardinals are people apparently who join various doors to the main building which is the Church.
There are also such things as Cardinal virtues as well. They are good qualities and there are four of them which are considered so important that they are compared to hinges. They help to keep our lives hanging together. In this life we all need to be wise, we need to be fair to each other, we need to be brave at times. We need to be balanced and moderate. So these special hinges help us to hang in and hang on and hang together.
We need balance in life. We need moderation – not just in our eating and drinking but also in our language. The Ulster Council is giving out armbands today with the letters N F L – National Football League but also they stand for ‘No Foul Language’.
I was recently told that in Accident and Emergency Departments of some hospitals there is a notice saying that ‘no abusive language towards the hospital staff will be tolerated’.
Apparently people arrive into these departments looking for care and attention and proceed to abuse the nurses and doctors. No civilised society worth its salt would stand for that. We need to get a few things clear in our minds. Our life and our health are goods that have been entrusted to us by God and so there is an obligation, first and foremost, on each one of us to look after and take care of our health.
Each one of us should look after our own health and safety first of all. How? -By providing for ourselves food, clothing, housing and recreation and medicines when required. We are not talking about bodily health only. Health of mind and soul are even more important.
One of the great threats of both bodily and mental health is Intemperance – the misuse of drugs, especially of the most powerful drug of all – alcohol.
There are many kinds of stimulants – intoxicating drinks, tobacco, coffee, tea and cola are all stimulants. As we all know, when used in moderation, they can add great flavour and enjoyment to life. But let me quote the words of a moral theologian on this: “Temperance in stimulants in a strong obligation than temperance in eating”. The reason is that stimulants damage health more easily and they can lead to addiction. This holds especially for tobacco and still more for intoxicating drinks. Then he goes on to say: “Abuse of alcoholic drinks has too often destroyed the happiness (and the health) of individuals and of families”.
Today we give thanks to God for the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association who set good example, who encourage others to be temperate and moderate and who warn us against the dangers. Of course they also make reparation for all the harm that misuse of drink and drugs does.
We, here in Ireland, have an unfortunate history of misuse of alcohol. The experts warn us that there is a time bomb coming down the line in the form of health hazards to our young people if their drinking habits don’t change but nobody seems to be listening or to care. We say we love our children and our grandchildren. We are as honest as our actions. If we are honest, we will act now. Some say young people misuse alcohol to overcome shyness. Shyness can come from shame – shame that exists because people are being blamed all the time. We need to praise young people for their good qualities and not to be constantly criticizing them. People sometimes drink too much because they have a poor image of themselves or lack confidence. We need to help them build up their confidence and see that they are not junk that they have plenty of good qualities.
What a great gift it would be for children if we would be the generation, brave enough, to promote and work for an attitude of culture of moderation rather then excess in our use of alcohol. That is the key. We need to change attitudes. Attitudes will only change if we value balance and moderation. If we see that absence of moderation and intemperance are really monster that threaten our lives and our security.
I have come to the conclusion that grannies have great influence. I was in my old school – St Pat’s, Cavan – last Friday evening. Several of those big, brawny Breffini boys came up to me to have me sign prayer cards for their grannies.