In light of today's Feast of St. Matthias, we'd like to share an amusing (and true) conversation that was (over)heard in the monastery -- several years ago -- between one of our sisters and a great friend of our community who is a devout Baptist.
Our Baptist friend was asking interesting and insightful questions about the Catholic Church. One question she asked was, "I don't understand, if Jesus says, 'You shall not make my Father's house a marketplace,' and he chased out the money changers, why you Catholics have Bingo in some of your Churches." Since we don't have Bingo here at the monastery, sister tried to reply in a general (and humorous manner). With a twinkle in her eye, sister said, "Well, you see, gambling actually has its roots in the Bible." Our Baptist friend, who knew her bible well, looked her up and down and said, "Just where does gambling come from in the Bible?" Trying hard to choke back a smile, sister replied, "In the Acts of the Apostles." Our Baptist friend didn't know whether to laugh or to take out her bible and take on sister. She didn't have a chance to decide. Sister continued, "Do you remember -- in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles -- where the they have to replace Judas, so they 'cast lots' and the 'lot fell to Matthias' ... well, that's the root of the word 'lottery' in English ... so you see, the Apostles had a LOTTERY to choose the successor to Judas ... so having Bingo isn't so bad after all." Our friend looked at sister with a big smile and repeated, "Jesus chased the moneychangers out of the temple and said not to make his Father's house a marketplace. I don't have a problem with Bingo ... or the lottery ... I just don't understand why you Catholics have it in Church. Why don't you all just hold it in the parish hall?"
We must keep in mind that St. Francis de Sales was writing during the 17th century when "games of chance" were, perhaps, not as harmless as today's parish bingo; his remarks, however, are as amusing as they are insightful:
"Such games are unreasonable:—the winner often has neither skill nor industry to boast of, which is contrary to reason. You reply that this is understood by those who play. But though that may prove that you are not wronging anybody, it does not prove that the game is in accordance with reason, as victory ought to be the reward of skill or labor, which it cannot be in mere games of chance. Moreover, though such games may be called a recreation, and are intended as such, they are practically an intense occupation. Is it not an occupation, when a man’s mind is kept on the stretch of close attention, and disturbed by endless anxieties, fears and agitations? Who exercises a more dismal, painful attention than the gambler?"