Notebook by Bill Heaney

We all know the old Dean Martin song in which there is a line which refers to “little old wine drinker me”. And the ancient advice to “take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake”.

The late Cardinal Tom Winning of happy memory, who enjoyed a glass with his dinner, once told me that alcohol was a gift from God and that it should be taken wisely and treated with respect.

I have been looking at the many Italian Facebook posts this week about the fabulous food and wine on offer in Italy.

It is part of a campaign to lure us to spend our holidays in beautiful places such as Rome, Florence, Assisi and – for all you Scots Italians out there – Barga, the place of your ancestry.

Some po faced people here in Scotland deplore and detest “drink”, and wine has received a bad name because it was too often linked to drunkenness.

But that was when it came in fortified form in bottles of cheap Eldorado and Vordo and in so-called “pocket rockets” much loved by poor people in deprived areas and oft mentioned in pleas of mitigation in the Police Courts.

Much in the same way as Buckfast is today, or was since it has become fashionable to drink it amongst well-heeled young people.

In The Tablet, a religion magazine, we are told by Patrick Hudson, who has the look of an aspiring priest about him, that many Italian dioceses boast an “Office for the Pastoral Care of Leisure Time, Tourism and Sport” – though it is moot whether this is a cause or consequence of Italy’s broadly-acknowledged excellence in these three fields.

Patrick tells readers that amid the sober stories and analyses of the election in Rome this week, it is reassuring that the city’s vicariate remains conscious of its pastoral responsibility for leisure time.

Giorgia Meloni - Italy - The Global Vote - Good CountryGiorgia Meloni, left, leader of Italy’s right-wing Brothers of Italy party, has become Italy’s first female prime minister after her party won a decisive victory in Sunday’s election, and a few glasses of Asti Spumante were downed in celebration of that.

The Crux news agency reports on the rather less divisive announcement that the Diocese of Rome’s popular wine-tasting course, “The Vine and the Branches”, will resume in October. Its first session will reflect on Isaiah 25:6 – “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines…”  Exegesis will be complemented by a glass of Georgian Saperavi.

And that few religious movements can be as diligent in citing scriptural validation for their cause than Catholic oenophiles – “From the Song of Songs to the Wedding at Cana”, as course advertisement notes.

However, this may strike a discordant note for those who arrived in time for the first reading at Mass in Dumbarton last Sunday.

The prophet forecast woe for “those who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp…who drink wine from bowls…the revelry of the loungers shall pass away” (Amos 6:5-7).

As economic conditions worsen – from crisis to emergency, in the view of some bishops – hours spent studying Biblical viticulture and monastic grape varietals may seem to be indolence itself.

Italians would fairly attribute such anxieties to the unhealthy north-European introspective habits which gave us the Reformation (and a raft of surprisingly un-literalist interpretations of the bibulous passages of Scripture).

The Tablet’s wine writer takes a sensibly Mediterranean attitude, instead recommending more frugal bottles for the months ahead, although some wine writers have been warning that supermarket wine in the £6 to £10 a bottle range are pretty much a waste of time.

Chateau Neuf du Pape, Amaroni and Barolo may be too expensive for some of us, but a little of what you fancy is said to be good for you.

Patrick says his only comment can be to confirm ” from tentative experience of the subject” that oenology is not for the indolent, but as rigorous as the Prophet Amos could desire.

If you see me swithering and scratching my head in the wine aisles at Morrisons, M&S or LIDL in the St James retail park at the weekend then you’ll know I have my oenology cap on. Cheers.

IT is heartening to see that some churches have condemned the government’s “unjust distribution of resources” in an appeal to churches and civil society to help those worst affected by perilous economic conditions.

Catholic and other charitable and Christian organisations including CSAN were among those who criticised the “unfairness” of the new Prime Minister Liz Truss’s mini-budget and its failure to help the poorest in society.

Christian charities are preparing for what will be a difficult winter for many families and communities.

St Augustine’s Scottish Episcopal Church in the High Street is one of them. Their food bank team, above, has done tremendous work in the Dumbarton community during the Covid pandemic and the scourge of soaring inflation.

Groceries cost ten per cent more now and heating and lighting bills have gone through the roof.

Two Catholic dioceses in Scotland have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy since 6 September, challenging his public support for fossil fuels.


Visit our online shop for Christmas cards and more

The summer holidays are over, the leaves on the trees are turning orange, and our online shop is stocked with Christmas cards!

Every day, we reach more than 2.2 million hungry children with Mary’s Meals. You can help us keep our promise to these little ones by sending one of our lovely cards or gifts.

From Christmas cards to t-shirts, and pin badges to stove sets… every purchase from our shop helps us serve nutritious school meals to children living in the world’s poorest countries.

Leave a Reply