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Banquet for Thirty-Five Priests
Food is something that is not only necessary, but it is always tempting for human beings as well as animals. Any convention, home-coming or reunion is spiced with delicious meals prepared for the occasion. Traveling down the highway we read the Billboards, “Chicken in the Basket,” or “Sizzling steak with Apple Pie a la Mode for Dessert.” These signs are so tempting that we automatically pull up in front of a restaurant at 11:00 A.M. instead of 12:00 or 12:30 as planned. Why this starved feeling so suddenly? The eyes saw, the brain received the message, the news was carried to the mouth, saliva gathered and the whole body went into action to receive what the eyes had seen.
Did not God say in the first chapter of Genesis that he made everything? When He saw it, behold, it was very good.
As I traveled through the valleys of California, I marveled at the acres of beautiful oranges, nectarines, peaches, walnuts, almonds and layers upon layers of huge grapes. I didn’t pass by a field of strawberries without having bought a box or two. To me, the strawberry is one of God’s great miracles. I don’t suppose anyone would ever get as thrilled and excited over food as a little Nun. Perhaps one who has lived in an overpopulated China, and has never had all the food he wanted at any one time, or a Bishop’s prisoner of war who almost starved to death might crave it equally.
We Nuns were always hungry. Our one slice of bread and coffee in the morning and bowl of soup and glass of skimmed milk in the evening just didn’t satisfy the gnawing hunger.
While I worked in the kitchen, I actually stole potato peelings, slipped them into the pocket of my habit and ate them after going to bed. If caught stealing, we had to pay, even though the theft consisted of dirty, potato peelings.
Once, having stolen food, I was forced to swallow a spoonful of hot cayenne pepper. I felt as though I were on fire. Not only were my mouth and tongue burned, but also my esophagus and stomach. I felt that I had a taste of real Hell. That, however, did not keep us from stealing. The great desire for food overshadowed the fear of punishment. Some had their hands placed in a vice and squeezed. Others were compelled to lay their hands on a flat table while a heavy weight came down from the ceiling and crushed them. This was done in order to deeply impress and impregnate our minds with the consequences we had to take for thievery. We were reminded that we had signed a vow of poverty and were denied the niceties of life.
It was not an uncommon thing for priests to come to the convent by ones, twos, or even a half dozen, for the sake of confession, or retreat, or for base and lewd desires for satisfying their lusts.
On one particular occasion, thirty-five priests came for a banquet. The ham and all the trimmings arrived ahead for all the Nuns to prepare. We placed linen cloths and napkins on the table to which we added beautiful china and silver for the “most holy reverends.”
Can you imagine the aroma of that baked ham wafting through the air of that dense stifled convent? Then imagine those thin, pale hands cooking lovely dishes of vegetables, preparing salad and even dessert, but not even allowed to taste or sample any of the delicacies. Also think of the choice liquor imported for a fun and hilarious evening that would follow the supper. Laughter and smiles would replace, and drown out the sorrowful eyes. Deathly silence was broken occasionally by stern commandments or rebukes from the Mother Superior. Outbursts of revenge from a Nun being whipped, chained or hurt in some ridiculous manner sometimes disturbed the quiet.
The ham had just come out of the oven and was placed in the center of the table surrounded by other tempting dishes. The table looked heavenly to our eyes — eyes that were sunken back into our heads like two burned holes in a blanket. The priests sat down to eat. Six of us Nuns stood behind the table against the wall to serve. No, we didn’t sit down to eat. Remember, we took a vow of poverty. But, oh, how our mouths watered as we gazed upon that banquet table and served the holy fathers! Oh, for just a little taste! We were denied that privilege, too.
One Nun was overcome. Her body slid down the wall and she fell to the floor. She was merely taken away and replaced by another waitress.
Finally the meal was over. The dishes were removed, and we served the liquor. It wasn’t long until the refectory looked like a typical tavern. Tongues became thick. Obscene and filthy jokes were told. There were the “Holy” fathers, who then resembled skid-row bums drunk to excess, which made them even more repulsive and silly. Some spilled their drinks, and let the foaming liquid run off the table and onto the floor. Others lost their equilibrium and fell to the floor like debauched, drunken sots. Some vomited all over themselves, the table and the floor missing nothing within distance. There was nothing about the affair that was humorous or laughable to me. It was repulsive.
When the hour became late and it was time for the Nuns to go to the chapel to pray, we were obliged to help those father confessors through the tunnel to the monastery. We carried some of them. When we arrived at the monastery, we were ordered to help undress and put to bed those lewd and unchaste priests. Of course we were watched, guarded and guided by Mother Superior’s sentinels, lest we foolishly or “accidentally-on-purpose” dropped one like a bag of sugar along the passageway. They also watched in case we attempted an escape while in the monastery.
I often wondered what God thought of such a banquet. Read His infallible word:
Prov 20:I Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby, is not wise.
Christ promised the unfaithful servant, who drank, beat and caroused, a portion with the unbelievers in Hell, in Luke 12:46. Habakkuk reads, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!” (Hab. 2:15)
Wise Solomon declared, “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things” (Proverbs 23:29-33).
Mr. Alexander Cruden, author of Cruden’s Complete Concordance, explains the conditions that existed in Palestine. He wrote,
“Water was scanty and likely to be infected. Wine and milk were therefore the common beverages. “
Paul admonished Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (I Tim. 5:23).
Peter speaks, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries “ (I Peter 4.3).
You ask, “But did not Jesus turn the water into wine at a wedding?”
Yes, He did. But you must bear in mind that the Bible speaks of new wine and old wine. Fruit of the vine and new wine are synonymous terms. Jesus gave His disciples a cup containing fruit of the vine (Mark 14:23).
He then said, “I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. “
Then in Acts 2:13, mockers accused those disciples who were filled with the Holy Ghost of being drunk on new wine. Evidently they wouldn’t drink the old intoxicating wine, for even Daniel refused to drink the king’s wine in Daniel 1:8.
Many herbalists and health specialists will recommend special diets of fruit juices, especially grape juice, to counteract stomach disorders. I have even heard of patients going on a pure grape juice diet to destroy stomach cancer.
I quoted the above scriptures to prove that the wine we are accustomed to today couldn’t possibly be the same as Jesus made at the wedding feast at Cana. In Proverbs 20:1, Habakkuk 2:15 and other Old Testament Scriptures, the word, “Wine” in Hebrew is “yahyin,” meaning fermented wine. But in Proverbs 3:10 where he spoke of wine being a blessing, and in Nehemiah 10:39 where the wine was brought as an offering to the sanctuary, the original word is “teeroshe,” meaning the freshly pressed juice of the grape. In Acts 2:13 where the disciples were accused of drunkenness and filled with the Holy Ghost, the Greek word is “gleukos,” and also means freshly pressed grape juice.
Jesus was offered sour wine or vinegar (ox-os) on the cross, but refused to drink to numb His pain.
The whole world knows what today’s wine will do to human beings. Look at the bower or skid-row in New York City where there live 30,000 drunken derelicts. Go to any skid-row section in any city and watch the winos, and then ask yourself, Did God put His approval on that intoxicating drink?
Visit the thousands of homes where children are abandoned and left to pacify in poorly lit, filthy shacks, hungry, fearful and lonely while momma and daddy are at the tavern drinking. Then go to the courtrooms and see those little children torn from their parents and placed in foster homes, or in orphanages because the parents linger at the bottle and are judged incompetent parents.
Countries consuming much alcohol became a prey to their enemies. Their boys became cannon fodder for the enemy simply because their soldiers were drenched with alcohol. France is leery of her future because her school-children drink alcoholic beverages instead of milk. Therefore, some are drunk while mere babies. Their heads lay helplessly on their school desk. They are unable to master their lessons.
Intoxication can break up a home, destroy a youth, cause blood on our highways, fill jails and prisons to overflowing and make nations to fall. And remember this: Priests and all of their boozing crowd will follow right along with the rest of the sinful drunken mobs into a place called Hell.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess: but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). Remember, “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 6:10).