Fr. Paul D. Scalia: Sober Inebriation

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*Image: St. Peter Preaching in the Presence of St. Mark by Fra Angelico, c. 1433 [Museo Nazionale di San Marco, Florence, Italy]

By Fr. Paul D. Scalia, The Catholic Thing, May 28, 2023

Fr. Paul Scalia is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, where he serves as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Pastor of Saint James in Falls Church. He is the author of That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion and the editor of Sermons in Times of Crisis: Twelve Homilies to Stir Your Soul.


Poor Saint Peter. The first pope’s first Urbi et Orbi address (so to speak) begins inauspiciously. He had to start, not with a bold proclamation of Christ, but with assurances that the disciples weren’t actually drunk. “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” (Acts 2:14-15)

The scene is more than a little amusing and deserves to be included in today’s First Reading – but not only for its humor. Saint Peter touches on an ancient and essential aspect of devotion to the Holy Spirit: sober inebriation. Perhaps he should have clarified that they were indeed drunk, but not in the manner that the crowds supposed. They had that sober inebriation of the Holy Spirit that Saint Paul would later encourage: “And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) ….