“No animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness — or so good as drink.”

G.K. Chesterton nailed it. In excess, alcohol consumption is destructive. In moderation, sublime.

St. Paddy’s Day joviality was just upon us, and, though somewhat dampened by coronavirus, it was fitting for Catholics (of the Irish and Irish-loving variety, especially) to mediate on our intake of Guinness and all varieties of beer, vino and cocktails.

Catholics need not be teetotalers. We know Jesus’ first public miracle was transforming water into wine, not the other way around. At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, taking the wine and declaring it to be his blood. Monks have brewed beer for centuries, and there are patron saints of beer and wine.

Yet recent figures are sobering. A new study, which looked at mortality data from the National Center for Health and Statistics, found the number of alcohol-related deaths more than doubled between 1999 and 2017.

Of course alcoholics may need to abstain altogether. But for those of us who do drink, here are some questions we can ask ourselves in light of church teaching and this data.

Are we truly drinking with moderation?

St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that when you intentionally get drunk you are also intentionally giving up your free will and your ability to be rational, both of which constitute sin.

Are we imbibing with discernment?

At the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus made wine that was superior to what was served previously. He seems to have appreciated quality. Don’t be a beer or wine snob. But savor your IPA rather than chug it.

Are we drinking in community?

For Catholics, communal drinking and eating always have been part of church life. The Acts of the Apostles, for example, speak about gathering for meals.

So rather than drink in isolation, drink with friends and be a true friend — listening with attentiveness and care.