Because It’s OK for Catholics to Have Fun, and Even Place a Friendly Bet

Until I became a Catholic I never went to a Super Bowl party. Last night, Catholic friends invited me to two. Bob and Deb invited the Beverly CL crowd to their place, and I would have happily gone there. But Ferde had been making chili since Wednesday, and he sealed the deal by accepting a bet on the game.

A footnote about my pre-Catholic Super Bowl experience. I’m not the misanthrope that makes me sound. Until a few years ago, Katie and I and our daughters all performed together in Sunday afternoon performances of a world-famous magic show, after which we were always exhausted and wanted only to get home and crash in front of our own tube. Our theatre friends came to our place, if they weren’t exhausted too.

But back to last night’s party. It was a friendly crowd packed into Ferde and Heidi’s cozy TV room. Their daughters, Jenean and Elaine, were there, along with Marty (whom Ferde is sponsoring in RCIA), Jonathan, and myself. (Katie was in New Hampshire helping her sister move into a new home.) Father Barnes even put in an appearance at the party, though he’s the exhausted one nowadays Sundays at six, and he begged off early, after wings and a beer. When the tide of the game began turning about 8 pm, I got a text message from the padre: “Is Ferde still taking bets?” When I texted that Ferde wanted to know “your proposition,” Father sent back a sermonette that I’m still pondering: “Beware of trees with $50 bills hanging off of them.” That forestalled negotiations.

Frank’s post today refers to four virtues: mercy, pity, peace, and love. Our reading in CS Lewis this week refers to the four Cardinal Virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. These four were mostly on display at Ferde’s last night, though once Father Barnes was gone, temperance got a run for its money. It took fortitude to eat all of the tasty foods Ferde and Heidi had prepared (I had to eat three brownies as an act of charity); and justice was served because my side bet proved prudent. I had the Saints, along with a generous spread of seven points. The Saints won by fourteen.

I’ve never gone wrong taking the saints.

  • Frank

    I couldn't be happier about this come from behind win! And here is an inspirational backstory on QB Drew Brees that you likely won't hear about on ESPN,True Saint

  • Mary P.

    Well I guess we Catholics should be glad the Saints won! (This, coming from someone who was rooting for the Colts, because a long, long time ago, they belonged to my hometown!)

  • Webster Bull

    I know that my post may raise a question: Is gambling, even the low-stakes stuff of Ferde vs. Webster, a sin? Here's a citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (h/t New Advent), sent to me by an alert reader: "Gambling, or gaming, is the staking of money or other thing of value on the issue of a game of chance. It thus belongs to the class of aleatory contracts which the gain or loss of the parties depends on an uncertain event. It is not gambling, in the strict sense, if a bet is laid on the issue of a game of skill like billiards or football. The issue must depend on chance, as in dice, or partly on chance, partly on skill, as in whist. Moreover, in ordinary parlance, a person who plays for small stakes to give zest to the game is not said to gamble; gambling connotes playing for high stakes."In its moral aspect, although gambling usually has a bad meaning, yet we may apply to it what was said about betting. On certain conditions, and apart from excess or scandal, it is not sinful to stake money on the issue of a game of chance any more than it is sinful to insure one's property against risk, or deal in futures on the produce market. As I may make a free gift of my own property to another if I choose, so I may agree with another to hand over to him a sum of money if the issue of a game of cards is other than I expect, while he agrees to do the same in my favour in the contrary event."Theologians commonly require four conditions so that gaming may not be illicit."1. What is staked must belong to the gambler and must be at his free disposal. It is wrong, therefore, for the lawyer to stake the money of his client, or for anyone to gamble with what isnecessary for the maintenance of his wife and children."2. The gambler must act freely, without unjust compulsion."3. There must be no fraud in the transaction, although the usual ruses of the game may be allowed. It is unlawful, accordingly, to mark the cards, but it is permissible to conceal carefully from an opponent the number of trump cards one holds."4. Finally, there must be some sort of equality between the parties to make the contract equitable; it would be unfair for a combination of two expert whist players to take the money of a couple of mere novices at the game."

  • cathyf

    Hey, Mary P., my husband has the same reason but was rooting the other way. Every time the Saints had the advantage and the Colts did not, some comment would be made about cosmic payback for leaving town in the middle of the night.(My dad refers to this as "Italian Alzheimer's" — where you forget everything except the grudge!)

  • Allison Salerno

    @cathyf:"Italian Alzheimer's" Tante grazie for sharing that expression. It was/is an epidemic in earlier generations of my Italian-side of the family!

  • Janet

    I went to my first Super Bowl party last night, too. In fact, this is the first time I've ever known who was playing in the Super Bowl. It was great fun, especially as I was pulling for the Saints. I might do it again. AMDG

  • Anonymous

    This sounds so much better than the Heathen Christmas Party you went to with the Atheist and the CC. What happened after you brought the CC to hear the music? Is he back in our midst? I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been to revive a fallen soldier of Christ!!!

  • Webster Bull

    ANonymous 8:34: I haven't yet taken CC to hear the music. But I "heard the music" from the hostess of the party, who was insulted by my characterization of it as having nothing to do with the baby Jesus. If you revisit that post, you'll find I have cleaned it up! I need to give CC a call.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa! First of all, why would I even know that you had gone back to "clean up" that post?!! (I don't know much about blogs and didn't even know this was possible. Sorry.) Most Christmas parties have little to do with religion, but have reverted to their pagan roots of pine trees and solstice. Sadly, it is not even proper to use the word "Christmas" and we find ourselves reverting to "Holiday" instead. We go to these parties to reconnect with our friends and meet their friends. It is a time of peace, not confrontation, even though "they" are wrong. Politics and religion are not proper topics for discussion, no matter where we are in our paths. Mentioning them in conversation can bring out the worst in people and also negate what we are trying to profess. Call your CC friend and make sure he shares your experience. It has been a couple of months now, so why are you hesitant? – Angel

  • Anonymous

    p.s. You seem to be a little hostile. I hope this is only my perception of your writing and not your true feelings. Angel

  • Webster Bull

    Dear Anonymous Angel, I'm looking hard for the hostility but can't seem to find any. But then I can stand in front of the refrigerator for ten minutes looking for the ketchup, and Katie will come over and pull it out from under my nose. So I'll take your word for it! :-)

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry, it must have just been my interpretation. Since I have egg on my face, please pass the ketchup after Katie finds it. Mea culpa. – Angel

  • Webster Bull

    No, really, Katie would probably agree with you! But thank you for coming back and posting this comment!