John McQuirk.

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admonish us. "It was not I that arranged and set
in order the wondrous structure of your members;
it was the invisible hand of Him Who made heaven
and earth," said the mother of the Maccabees to her
children. We are what very few stop to think of,
or put a value upon, until they come to suffer or ail :
till then they seem to be unconscious of their various
faculties and physical organization. We have brain,
heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, liver, bladder, etc.,
all necessary to our existence. It is only when peo-
ple begin to suffer in some of these that they learn,
apparently, for the first time, that they have them.
Now, then, there is nothing more destructive or fatal
to any of them than alcoholism. There is no disease
that may not be brought on by it ; some of the most
frightful are its direct fruit : cancer of the stomach,


cancer of the liver, the various ailments of the kid-
neys, the impairment of the heart, weakening and
softening of the brain, which is the direct lodgment
of whiskey, while the stomach is the proper recep-
tacle of solid food. I do not say that all diseases
are induced by alcohol ; but I do say that there is no
form of disease that may not be the result, direct or
indirect, remote or proximate, of the habitual use of
alcoholic drink. There are certain elements in the
blood that preserve its purity and repel disease or
contamination. Alcohol intoxicates these, cripples
their efficiency or entirely destroys them : leaving
the blood exposed to the insidious poison or over-
mastering power of the worst disease germs ; tuber-
culosis in the lungs, fevers in the stomach or intes-
tines, every malady seeking its proper haunt. The
victim of alcohol, deprived of the virtue and vigor
of blood which inherently belongs to it, and which
would preserve him, falls an easy prey to all these
deadly assaults. The blood saves him or the blood
destroys him.

People go mad. Why? There may be other
causes; but in countless cases it is the result, if not
of drunkenness, at least of other diseases that were
induced by drunkenness ; drunkenness seems to be
the prolific mother of all. It dethrones reason in
man, and when he is bereft of reason — his essential
prerogative that makes him what he is — he becomes
but abeast; no, not a beast, for it is such by natural
condition and the scale of being assigned by the
Creator; but a man deprived of rationability by in-
toxication, falling from his proper level of being,
stops not at the next scale, but becomes a monstros-


ity in his own order, and is degraded lower than a
beast. Once reason is gone, passion holds sway
over the whole body, and impels it to vice and grat-
ification; above all other vices, it drives it to im-
purity. And this is a sovereign cause of madness.
For all this the drunkard is responsible; for vice is
responsible not only for what evil it does directly,
but for that which it does indirectly — for the con-
sequences or fruits of crimes.

Look at that young man of thirty or thirty-five
years of age in one of our hospitals stretched upon
the bed of death. Why is he dying, leaving behind
him his young wife, and, maybe, three or four chil-
dren, a burden upon the community ? Will you say
that it is the will of God? No; it is not the will of
God ; He has nothing positive to do with it ; it is
even against His will. Just as souls are damned
against the will of God, so men die prematurely
against the will of God. Of course He allows it;
He allowed sin in the angels who fell from heaven ;
He permits it among men. This man has taken his
life in his hands ; by his habits of intoxication he has
brought himself to an early and premature death;
these habits have probably produced consumption,
or disease of the kidneys, or, it may be, the disease
with which he is now^ on his deathbed. His wife and
children are left a charge upon the public, and a pub-
lic that is by no means too anxious or ready to under-
take it. Ask one of our Christian families to provide
for even one of these children thus left, and you will
soon learn how little charity awaits those deprived
of their God-given protectors. The orphan asylum
is the only resort left ; and in the actual state of


destitution and frozen charity among people, it is
hard to see what could be done without these homes.
If circumstances were otherwise, and if charity were
what it in some places is, there would be no need
of such institutions for orphans. There are no or-
phan asylums in Australia; and yet the orphans are
not allowed to suffer; Catholic families take them
into their bosoms, and treat them as their own chil-

Alcohol is the fruitful cause of every kind of
disease, and consequent shortness of human life. If
you want to shun disease, if you want to live your
apf>ointed term, avoid intoxicating drinks. Nor is it
enough to avoid mere intoxication. Do not imagine
that the evil effects of alcohol are confined to excess
in its use, amounting to drunkenness : they go far
beyond that : they are found in its habitual use,
which is itself a danger, even when there is no en-
croachment on the line of moderation, as you maj
call it. The continual use of alcohol threatens dan-
ger to soul and body : to the soul ; for, if not already
a mortal sin by causing drunkenness, it easily be-
comes a proximate occasion of drunkenness, and
from that the fall is quite natural, if not necessary:
while to the body, it undermines the health and ren-
ders it an easy victim to every kind of disease; so
that the attacks which to the non-drinker prove
trivial and which he easily casts off, and escapes
uninjured from, become to the drinker malignant
and deadly attacks. The continual use of alcohol
destroys the sac which encloses the stomach, wastes
the kidneys and brings on diseases peculiar to them.

It was once more frequent than it is now for doc-


tors to advise patients to the use of alcoholic drink.
And sometimes even those not sick, but in normal
health were advised to take a little stimulant every
day: a Httle before and after meals; it was good in
the morning to carry you on to dinner; and a little
at dinner to help digestion ; and a little before going
to bed to induce sleep. I have known persons to fol-
low this regime, and in the end they died drunkards'
deaths. They did not confine themselves to the lit-
tle ; the little grew upon them, and became a much ; a
habit was gradually formed ; it grew by what it fed
on. Easily and soon formed, it was not easily laid
aside, and never overcome. Many a miOther owed
her premature death to habits thus formed on the
suggestion of those whom she looked to for guidance
in her illnesses. I know a man who many years ago
was counseled by a physician to take two ounces of
alcohol daily, upon the plea that a man of his phy-
sique needed that amount of stimulation. He never
adopted the evil counsel, and lived a healthy life,
and died at a good old age. The doctor after some
years was found lying with his face in the gutter
and his mouth soaking in the mud. He had probably
taken some of his own medicine, he had taken his
two ounces a day, augmented, doubtless, by what
his increased infirmities required, forsooth. If it
should happen that any physician or anyone else
should give you advice to any use of alcohol, unless,
perhaps, in case of pneumonia or some ailment when
stimulation is necessary to keep up heart-action, just
advise him to get out and give his doses to the dogs ;
and these will refuse to take them.

How about beer, I will be asked by those who


want to strike a compromise, and who do not wish
to give up all alcoholic potions. Beer is about as
bad as whiskey, and, in a respect, it is worse. For,
you are more or less on your guard against whiskey,
knowing its terrific power; while beer is insidious
because of its supposed harmless effects. Yet, beer
in the long run, and sometimes even after a very
short run, will rot the kidneys out of you. In every
glass of beer, particularly in this cursed lager beer,
there is a sediment that produces a thirst which calls
for more; and more demands still more, and this
continues until you may easily become inebriated;
while this last state is being reached, your organs
are being destroyed. Whiskey rings a fire bell by
which you may readily be alarmed, if you will; beer
gives no alarm, and you perish in the conflagration.
There is no need of liquor of any kind. If you make
up your mind to abandon whiskey, make up your
mind to extirpate the evil, root and branch, and in
every degree: give up beer as well.

All the highest faculties in man are weakened, if
not destroyed, finally by the steady abuse of alcohol.
It blinds the understanding, it distorts the imagina-
tion, blunts the memory, which being an organic
faculty, depends upon the phantasms which in turn
are supported by the body; but, above all, alcohol
destroys the will. It is the will that makes the man :
without it, he is no man. So long as the will is un-
impaired, a man, with God's grace, may rise from
any depth of sin and moral degradation. But whis-
key so enslaves the will that the victim drunkard is
better fitted to crawl on all fours than to stand up-
right as becomes a rational being. Few wills can


stand against the habitual abuse of alcohol; the
bravest and strongest go down before it ; and seldom
does anyone break its bonds and rise from it. You
all have known slaves of rum who tried again and
again to reform, and still relapsed. I have one in my
mind going around this neighborhood for years. He
was a man of good disposition, docile, gentle, con-
genial; his friends said he injured no one but him-
self; but he ruined himself, it was owned, with a
terrific vengeance. He had contracted the infernal
habit of drink when born, or, to speak the truth, he
was born with it ; and it remained with him to his
dying day; continually rising and falling; swearing
that he would never drink again ; declaring that he
had no taste for it; that he preferred a glass of
water; apparently confident in his strength when
sober, but as soon as the glass was presented to him
he weakened, he was overcome. His will had lost
its power, — the will that gives power to a man, that
keeps him away from vice, that keeps him steady to
the cause of virtue.

Sometimes the drunkard is too harshly censured;
and, that too, by those who are as much sunk in other
vices as he is in drink. They say, 'Svhy doesn't he
change, and give up drink; he ought to have had
enough by this time: let him take the pledge."
But he cannot change ; he has been confirmed in
iniquity, so to speak. He may take a thousand
pledges, and he will fall when exposed to temptation,
in presence of the tempting glass. He may be
willing enough to change ; but he is no longer a fit
subject for grace, or the pledge, or the Sacraments.
He is a fit subject only for the physician; he re-


quires medicine of some kind to destroy, and utterly
uproot from his constitution the roots and seed of
this appalHng malady that holds him as one pos-
sessed by the devil. And all this comes on imper-
ceptibly; men do not mean to become drunkards or
slaves to this demon of drunkenness.

I remember a man saying to me many years ago,
''I don't care about drink; I can give it up to-morrow
if I wanted to.'' But he could not; he tried it, and
could not. I am not now speaking of men who get
drunk, but of those given to what is called its legi-
timate or moderate use. Let men who have been
addicted to the use of alcohol for a number of years,
try to give it up; and they will find that they are
held fast in its adamantine bonds and chains. "Oh,
I don't care about it," you will hear men say, '*I take
it for companion sake; I can take it or leave it."
Remark the man or woman who says that ; you will
always find that they end by taking it; they never
leave it for temperance sake. I never yet saw a per-
son who held up the glass, saying that he didn't care
about it, put it down or throw it out just to show
that he didn't care about it.

Deliberate drunkenness is, of course, a mortal sin.
A man may say that "he did not intend to get
drunk." Does he mean that he did not sit down at
the table or bar with the fixed resolve of getting
drunk? Oh, no; you were a beast or worse if you
did. "The desire came on by degrees." Yes; had
it ever had that effect before? had you ever gotten
drunk before? did you know the risk you were run-
ning in taking two or three drinks? were you made
aware from experience that touching it at all would


lead to your getting drunk? If so, you got drunk
on purpose ; knowing what your past experience had
taught you, you knew it was going to end by getting
drunk, and you still kept on : it was just as deliberate
as if done with express purpose.

Drunkenness is assuredly one of the greatest of
mortal sins, because it opens the heart to all other
kinds of passion — murder, outrage, fornication,
adultery, everything is possible to him under the in-
fluence of drink ; he is not a man ; he has lost tempor-
arily his rationability — the essential note of a man.
He is responsible for his sins committed while drunk
when he knows from experience that drunkenness
has caused them or similar sins before. Thus
taught, he is as guilty as if he purposed them.

There is no sin so dangerous to the soul, or that
so diminishes its chance of salvation as drunkenness,
and this because there is no sin that renders repent-
ance so uncertain, so precarious, or, it may be, so
impossible. How can the drunkard do penance?
how can he rise from sin, and bear fruits worthy of
penance, if intemperance has so enslaved his soul
that he has lost all power of himself? Penance is
possible so long as the will is free from slavery : but
how do penance when the will is gone? He may
get sick and receive the Sacraments. Happy then
if he only dies. I remember once praying that such
a man would die ; but unfortunately he lived, and got
on another drunk. I know not that he ever got the
Sacraments again; did he ever get another oppor-
tunity? I fear not; he died in his last debauch.
A man is a thief : it is bad ; but at least it does not
destroy his will; he may yet be penitent. A man


falls into impurity : it is miserable ; yet he may rise
from it and be capable of repentance ; his will is not
lost. A man may murder : it is the greatest of
crimes ; but he may yet be saved, because he may yet
do penance, as his will is not destroyed. But, the
victim and slave of beastly drink, there is no repent-
ance for him, while his will is overwhelmed ; he is
no longer a man; he is nearer the condition of a
beast, without reason. Give him the last Sacra-
ments on his deathbed, and he will relapse if he gets
the liquor; even its smell would be more than a
match for his resolution of amendment. There are
crimes apparently worse than drunkenness ; but all,
even the most heinous crimes, are less than drunk-
enness, because they may be forgiven while the man
is a man ; but drunkenness when depriving him of the
power of repentance cannot be forgiven. It is, there-
fore, the greatest of crimes because it renders im-
possible to us the grace of the Sacraments. The
drunkard becomes a beast, worse than a beast; and
a beast or what is less than a beast cannot do pen-
ance. It were fearful to contemplate, harrowing
to the soul the number of murders, suicides, crimes
of every kind and degree, committed by those who,
bereft of reason owing to their drunkenness, appar-
ently did not know what they were doing; with a
degree of responsibility to be determined by God
alone, Who sees the heart and can measure the cul-

Now, a few words on the sources of the causes
of intemperance. A primary cause, and one apt to
be overlooked except by the discerning and reflec-
tive, is that the child may be born, nay even con-


ceived, with this procHvity to drink. The words of
the Psalmist, "For behold in iniquities was I con-
ceived : and in sins did my mother conceive me,"
might well be changed to apply to many a victim
and slave of drink : "For in alcohol was I conceived."
The human seed was impregnated with alcohol; al-
cohol was in the blood, and thence passed to the
seed which comes from the blood; thus the child
had an alcoholic origin. Learn, then, to have mer-
ciful regard upon the drunkards that you meet. It
may not be so much their fault; at least in the be-
ginning. Later on it was their fault, for they could
have corrected the sinful inclination. Hence the
importance and necessity of parents, called by God
to the marriage state to procreate an offspring, being
temperate, so as not to bring a poisoned, contamin-
ated generation into the world. Just as other dis-
eases and inclinations thereto follow the child from
the parents, so does this alcoholism and the afflic-
tions that flow from it ; and among these are to be
enumerated imbecility, idiocy, insanity, epilepsy, and
other ills to which the flesh, especially when poi-
soned by alcohol, is heir. These are physical facts
attested by the whole medical school.

Another cause is the want of proper nourishment
to the body. The two most sacred ordinances of hu-
man life, the origin of the body and its nourishment
and sustenance, are the most beset with sin. All the fla-
grant sins of impurity turn upon the ordinance which
an all-wise Creator has established for the increase
of the human race : and all the crimes occasioned
by intemperance proceed from the means employed
for the support and sustenance of that race. Why


do most men drink? Usually, because they lack
strength. Why have they not got strength? Be-
cause of the lack of proper and strength-giving
food. Why is this wanting? Because they are
starved by wives who know not how to prepare it
for them. Not that there is not money enough spent.
Fine money and plenty of it spent for food, and fine
food made refuse by a woman who doesn't know
how to cook it. And yet she complains of her hus-
band drinking ! What else can he do ? he has to get
strength; you don't give it to him. Food must be
prepared properly ; you either know not how to cook,
or are careless. We hear so often the wife's la-
ment and reproach : "Oh, I can't get along with my
husband at all ; he is out all day, and when he comes
home at night he goes to the corner groggery."
But why is this? Because you don't have his meal
ready, or properly prepared; or because it was not
such a meal as a man working hard all day had a
right to ; or because you may have received him with
a scowl or a sneer; or because maybe you yourself
were half drunk or showing signs of liquor, or been
beering it, running around gossiping all day with
your neighbors ; and then made a hasty retreat home
to meet your husband, not having time to prepare his
meal. This is a frequent case; there is no exaggera-
tion in it; every priest has heard it scores of times.
Finding no meal, or maybe no proper meal, the hus-
band betakes himself to the corner groggery or poor
man's club, as it is now called by some, and he there
finds, if not something to eat, at least plenty to
drink, and a miserable relief in its glaring lights
and the reflection of its mirrors and decanters. Of


course he makes an enormous mistake in going to
the pubhc house. He will get no meal there. If he
acted wisely he would go to an eating house, and
continue going until his wife learned to prepare his
food. Instead of this, he orders drink, and goes
home drunk. Subtraction of his wages from the
hands of such a wife would have a very wholesome
and subduing effect upon her. No greater error
can a man make than that of substituting beer or
whiskey for solid food, and to acquire strength. It
may stimulate him or brace him for a moment, but
the relapse comes and with it augmented weakness.
Then comes the demand for larger doses, to be fol-
lowed by greater physical depressions. People say
that a little beer is good; yes; the littler the better.
A loaf of bread soaked in water would give more
strength and vigor than many quarts of beer. The
Italian laborer in Italy goes to his work with his
breakfast of bread under his arm. He soaks it in
a fountain, and eats it as he goes along. He is con-
tented and strong. Some men are too exacting;
many want more than they have a right to expect;
and, if they do not get it, they are tyrannical with
their wives. There should be reason on the hus-
band's side no less than on the wife's.

There is another fruitful and unceasing cause of
intemperance. You hear men say : *T don't care
about whiskey, but when you meet a friend one must
have a drink with him." I don't see where the neces-
sity comes in ; it is a custom, but an unnecessary one.
There are numbers that never ask another to drink ;
and yet they don't suffer in the esteem of the right
thinking and reflective ; they are even raised in their


good opinion. If it was only one drink diat was
partaken ; but the proper thing is for the other fellow,
next to propose a drink. That is two drinks. Then
a smoke, and the smoker as a rule, not always, is a
drinker. Cardinal Manning used to say that when-
ever he saw a man smoking, he judged him to be a
drinking man, too. Where there is fire there must
be something to quench it; so the smoke calls for
another drink. By and by reason becomes a little
unsteady; and soon, between the smokes and the
quenchers, it keels OA^er, and one of the other, or
both are drunk. It is clear that such a custom is
barbarous; there is absolutely no need for it. Nor
is stimulation called for in every fatigue; let the
fatigue alone, and it will soon pass away. Boon
companionship is the vortex of ruin to numbers; it
changes them from sober men to drunkards. I
would advise everyone to refuse the proffered drink ;
do not act as if you were born thirsty. Be a man;
refuse the cup; say you don't want it. No offence,
of course, is meant ; you will be thought all the more

There is another source of temptation, and that a
very obvious one, indeed. It is to be met every-
where; two or three out of eveiy four corners in this
city are given up to the liquor traffic. People must
indeed be very thirsty if there be need of so copious
a supply. Nor are the thirsty allowed to carry their
drought even from corner to corner; for between
corners are to be found whence they may slake their
parching. Is it possible that all these supply sta-
tions are required for the people of this town?
What fatal thirst has seized the throats of the gener-


ation now inhabiting this truly cosmopoHtan city?
Was it always so, and is it always to continue? If
so, it were far better for families to emigrate to
some soberer place, where they would be less ex-
posed to so an appalling temptation to young and
old. "I cannot rent my store because no one can
pay the required amount except a liquor dealer.
And I need so many names to get a license," said a
man once to me. I expressed my hope that he
would not succeed. The incredible numbers of these
liquor and beer pumps, owned by brewers, for the
names on the signs are mere figureheads, and through
which the brewers work off their stuff, are alto-
gether too many in this city, and out of all propor-
tion to the needs of the people, large and numerous
though they be. When the temptation is so exten-
sive and prevalent, where such unlimited facility
for gratifying it, 'is afforded, the drinking habit is'
iimm'easurably increased; particularly when these
places are fitted up with everything to whet the ap-
petite and gratify the palate of those longing for
drink. It would indeed be a public service, if public
or private philanthropy would erect on every corner
a drinking fount where men and women could drink
copiously of that fine liquid brought from Croton
Lake at so an enormous expenditure. It cannot be
doubted that many enter the liquor stores, simply
because they cannot get a drink of water elsewhere ;
yet if a man in such a place were to ask but for water
he would be regarded as a lunatic just escaped from
restraint. There are other needs to be supplied
which, under existing circumstances, can only be pro-
vided for in the same houses of temptation. In


European cities these last needs are amply cared for.
In our city the wisdom of our city fathers does not

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 43)